By Kris Algert, Sponsored content by GoransonBain Ausley, Photo by raw pixel, Headshot courtesy of Kris Algert

One of the toughest personalities to be married to, or to divorce, is the person who exhibits narcissist qualities. The word “narcissist” is in the news a lot lately, with people frequently using the word loosely to describe anyone who is boastful, arrogant, manipulative or seems to let emotions control his or her actions and reactions. Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may indeed exhibit these characteristics. However, other individuals may share these same qualities, not have a personality disorder, but still be very difficult to interact with, especially in the divorce context.

Labeling someone as personality-disordered is not as important as is identifying the warning signs that indicate a spouse may be very challenging or difficult. Also important is creating a strategy for interacting with this person during a divorce.

A spouse may be difficult to work with during a divorce if he or she tends to escalate conflict, prevent solutions, react emotionally to any criticism, blame everyone else for his or her problems, manipulate others, compete in all life situations, think only of himself or herself and fail to see any other points of view. Compounding the difficulty of dealing with this person is that he or she can be intelligent, attractive, charming, personable, successful in business or politics and accustomed to getting away with this behavior.

One of the leading experts on high-conflict individuals is Bill Eddy, a licensed clinical social worker, lawyer, therapist, mediator and president of the High Conflict Institute. He describes a high-conflict person as having some or all of the following 10 characteristics:

  1. is rigid and uncompromising
  2. repeats failed strategies
  3. is unable to accept and heal from loss
  4. makes everything personal
  5. has emotions that dominate his or her thinking
  6. is unable to reflect on his or her own behavior
  7. avoids responsibility for the problem or solution
  8. is preoccupied with blaming others
  9. draws others into disputes
  10. can look really good for periods of time (intelligent, attractive, charming, persuasive)

When dealing with a difficult spouse, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Do not mirror or engage in the same behavior as the difficult spouse.
  2. Fight the urge to criticize or call out the bad behavior of the difficult spouse. This person will take the criticism personally, cannot and will not recognize his or her difficult qualities and likely will retaliate.
  3. Do not share your diagnosis of this person with him or her.
  4. Emphasize how specific outcomes may make him or her look good to the public or co-workers, friends or family. This high-conflict personality is motivated more by how a decision makes him or her look than what benefits his or her spouse or the family.
  5. Find a good therapist who can assist with feedback and tools for communicating productively with a difficult spouse.

With the right knowledge, awareness and advice, it is possible to divorce a very difficult spouse without the divorce turning into an all-out war. Please contact me at if you would like more information about constructive strategies for divorcing a difficult spouse.

For more information about narcissism and high conflict divorce, contact Kris Algert. 



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