Family Law

How to deal with a narcissist

An article by Katie Chew, Senior Associate

How to deal with a narcissist

Navigating a family breakdown can be one of the most difficult experiences, but even more so if your ex-partner has narcissistic tendencies.

Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are more likely to suffer relationship breakdown, and they are more likely to thrive off and have a desire to perpetuate conflict during the process. It is not uncommon for some or multiple narcissistic traits to be revealed during the breakdown of a relationship or marriage. Many individuals experience controlling and exploitative behaviour from their ex-partner, or have to deal with an ex-partner who lacks empathy. When dividing up the finances, it could manifest itself as a complete disregard for any principles of sharing assets in a marriage, seeing matrimonial assets as ‘theirs’ and theirs alone.  Gaslighting is also common feature in cases where one party exhibits narcissistic traits, and highly prevalent in cases in which domestic abuse has occurred within the relationship.

When it comes to dealing with children, a narcissist may be trying to use the children as a means of attempting to manipulate or control their ex-partner, having no regard for the importance of protecting children from the conflict. This can make co-parenting incredibly difficult. Some even fear that the children are being coached to act in a certain way to the benefit of the other parent, or being manipulated by focussing purely on fun and treats for the kids, while the other is  left to deal with the every-day parenting. Placing children in the middle of the adult issues in this way can be extremely harmful.

What can help?

Limiting the opportunities for your ex to attempt to manipulate and control or otherwise create conflict, will be key. Having a family law solicitor acting as an external third party to help shield you from direct interactions in negotiations can help to protect you in this way.

When dealing with co-parenting and children issues, a very detailed parenting plan or court order can assist by dealing with multiple scenarios and preventing perceived ‘loopholes’ - (consider things like spelling out how holidays are managed and arranged, what provisions there are for contact with the other parent during this time, how handovers are dealt with etc.) -  and this will inevitably reduce the need for direct contact which can lead to conflict in front of the children. Simple things like handovers taking place at school rather than on your doorstep can be sensible adjustments with a significant benefit.  

Likewise in financial negotiations, a very tightly controlled financial order may be required, with clear deadline and consequences for any breaches.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, proper legal advice and support from a family law specialist solicitor is essential. If you find yourself in a position of having to deal with a narcissistic ex-partner do not hesitate to contact Katie or any member of the team by email at