It has been said in many circles that the only thing harder than being married to a narcissist is divorcing one. Add to that the fact that you’ve been married for 30 years and your journey is going to be exponentially harder. But with the right support, you will get through it successfully and find yourself on the other end with a thriving new life!
So, what do you need to know about divorcing a narcissist after 30 years? First, understand that it is a tremendously difficult process and you will need the best of plans and support. Learn to sift through the good and the bad of the marriage for your own sanity. Understand the dreams you are leaving behind, but also the new-found strength you will gain, healthy life you will live, and help that you will be able to offer so many others suffering and attempting to emerge from narcissistic marriages.
I spent months scouring through articles and books once I learned that I was married to a narcissist. I craved healing and wholeness. And with the support of so many people to add to my knowledge base, the following is what I learned about divorcing a narcissist after 30 years. Read on: I hope it is as helpful to you as it was for me!
Table of Contents
Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years is a Tremendously Difficult Process
First, if you have been married for 30 years or more, you are deeply committed. You did not take your marriage vows lightly. And that very fact will make it difficult if not nearly impossible to pull the plug now.
I think this was the biggest barrier to my healing. I had invested so much into my marriage. And I kept thinking that maybe at some point things would get better. But seriously, after 30 years of the same routine of narcissistic abuse, devaluation, hoovering, and love bombing, why did I think anything was going to change significantly at that point?
Many abused women AND men don’t take the needed steps to gain freedom from the narcissist they are married to. It feels impossible. And victims of narcissism try to convince themselves that things really aren’t that bad. They remember the good times when the narcissist is love-bombing. And they think maybe they are overreacting. Maybe they just misunderstood the narcissist’s abusive words or actions. And then the self blame begins. To make it worse, the narcissist’s blame shifting confirms the victim’s self blame. And then they are sure it is all their fault. They just need to do better.
Victims of Narcissism Feel too Stuck to Emerge From a Destructive Marriage
When victims of narcissism finally come out of the fog and realize the depth of toxicity they are stuck in, they feel like it is going to be too hard to get out of it. Because so much happened behind closed doors, they think nobody would believe them. My ex was a well-respected elder in our church. I thought everyone thought he was amazing. Until everything went public and so many people told me that he had said or done things to them in isolation but they didn’t tell anyone.
As it turns out, anyone that is emotionally healthy will understand what you are going through. They will even help you process your foggy thinking. And you will begin to think about your move to freedom and emotional health.
Victims of Narcissism Feel Like Their Spouse Will Destroy Them in a Divorce
Know that when you tell your narcissist spouse you want a divorce, they will threaten you, intimidate you, love-bomb you in the hopes you will back down. And when you don’t back down, they will determine to destroy you. All so they can win. They have been controlling you for your whole relationship. Why would they stop now?
Here are some of the things a narcissist will try to do to you during a divorce:
- Narcissists will be angry that they can no longer control you when you file for divorce. They realize they are losing their biggest source of narcissistic supply. And initially, they are going to do everything they can to get you back under their thumb.
- Once narcissists realize they can’t talk you out of a divorce, they will gaslight you, lie about you, and do everything they can to take you down in court. My ex actually paid to interview every top lawyer in our city in order to keep me from being able to retain them (the third lawyer I met with informed me that this is called “conflicting out” and is a common thing among exes who choose to play dirty in the divorce process). He did way more than this, but this gives you an idea of what lengths narcissists go to in order to win in court. Just realize that if you thought things were difficult in the marriage, you will have your work cut out for you in the divorce. They will not play fair. But you can, and you can still win with your reputation intact!
- Narcissists will constantly file motions and threaten to force your hand to make the process go faster or different, or just however they want it to go. They do this to show you and your lawyers that they are still running the show.
- Narcissists will lie to everyone involved in the divorce process. This includes, witnesses, lawyers, guardian-ad-litem, judges, court clerks, and anyone else you will run into throughout the process. Fortunately, they have all seen it before and will recognize it in them. I was amazed at how supportive and encouraging everyone throughout the process was for me and my children. And they all made it clear to me nearly from the start that they knew exactly what was going on. One of the best parts: having my lawyer tell me how much my ex’s lawyer disliked him. Even he saw through the act and knew what kind of person my ex was. Shortly after, my ex became his own lawyer for our custody case. I am sure that helped our case even more.
Narcissists will do much more than this in the course of the divorce. But this give you a good idea. If you would like to know more about this, read my article about Guarding Against the Narcissist’s Divorce Tactics. Another article that may be immensely helpful to you is Divorcing a Covert Narcissist: What to Look Out For.
Take a Peek at What Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years Will Start to Look Like
The fact that you have been married for 30 or more years makes all of this even more difficult. You may have spent your whole adult life with them. Branching out on your own can be very intimidating. If you were a homemaker, you have little to no career options after 30 years outside of the job market. And as much as the courts claim to be making sure you land on your feet, they aren’t. The narcissist will almost always have the upper hand here. And that is okay. You will still make it. But you may have to get a bit creative to make up for the lack of career options.
Additionally, you are likely losing the household you have worked so hard to build up over the past 30 years. That is such a hard thing to let go of, mentally and physically. It feels like a monumental failure. Change your thinking! Who knows what goodness your future can actually hold? Your home may be bigger or smaller, but it will now be filled with peace. And no eggshells to walk on!
Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years: Sifting Through Good and Bad
I mentioned above that sometimes it is hard to make the decision to divorce because it is hard to see how toxic the narcissism is when there are still good things happening in the marriage. We tend to want to hold on to those good times and and things. We think that by walking away from the marriage, we are walking away from good in our lives. It is such a hard decision.
My counselor spent many sessions working through this with me. She said that ultimately it is my decision to make. Do I want to stay and try to make things work, knowing that my then husband was not willing to work on anything to make our marriage better, or even to admit the abuse that he was actually doing right in front of the counselors at this point? Or, do I want to get away from the toxicity and create my own healthy and happy life with way more happy and good times than the few “bones” I was being thrown by my husband? After several sessions and working through how to begin my own new life, I started to see things much more clearly.
The narcissist thrives on keeping their victims fuzzy in their thinking. They know if they can keep you confused, they can keep you under their control. Once you start to be able to think clearly and independently of what they are brainwashing you into thinking, your perspective will change dramatically.
Side note: Here are a couple of related posts that may be helpful to you. Just click on them to read:
Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years Means it’s Hard to Just Start Over
Once you realize that for the sake of your health, well-being, and safety (same for your children), you will then realize that it is time to start the process of separating from someone you have spent 30-plus years with. I will not tell you that this will be an easy process, whether you are the husband or wife. There is so much history, so many memories, so much life accumulated over this time. It is likely over half of your life.
Now you must think about the following things:
- What is best for the children in terms of custody and time spent safely with each parent.
- How to divide a home that was established decades ago.
- How to keep yourself safe when your narcissist ex is likely trying to take you down in court. You must be punished for daring to get out from under their control and “ruining” their reputation as a wonderful husband, father, person.
- How to set up a new home with a fraction of the household money that you had.
- You need to separate all joint financial, social, and other aspects of your life. Bank accounts, utilities, memberships, just about everything that has been part of your life for the past several years.
- You will need to work through difficult family/in-law issues.
- Relationships with friends, neighbors, and others will also be affected.
There is so much more to this whole process. I have a free 57-page e-guide to divorcing a narcissist that I offer to those who follow my blog. It includes a checklist so you can make sure you don’t miss anything in the process. It will give you tons of tips to make the whole process easier on you. To download a copy or get more information, click here or on the book pic below:
Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years Means You are Giving up Dreams of Growing Old Together
While this statement is absolutely true, it is also true that it isn’t as much of a loss as it sounds like initially. Truthfully, you may give up the dream of growing old with the narcissist you married. But you aren’t losing that dream because you never really had that picture in your head of a beautiful life growing old together. You can grow old with your narcissist. But it won’t be the beautiful picture you dreamed of your whole life.
On the flip side, you don’t know what your future holds. While some people choose not to find another partner, other people do. And regardless of whether you find someone else and get married, you can still grow older surrounded with loved ones. Your children, grandchildren, friends, and other loved ones will be your people.
The biggest point here is that even though you may or may not have a new partner, you won’t be living in fear or walking on eggshells anymore. You will be your own person, which you should have been throughout your marriage as well!
Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years Means Gaining Strength You Never Knew You Had
When you first start the process of divorce, whether you or your spouse files, you will be incredibly overwhelmed. Nobody goes through this process as though they are having a good time. It is considered by all to be one of the worst things you can go through in life.
But, there is a silver lining. As you begin the process and start to make connections with the people involved in that process, you will realize that you are stronger than you ever thought. You will have help with every step from those that are representing or assisting you. And as you work your way through, you will start to feel like you’ve got this!
You will need that strength that you find to get yourself through because, even though you are getting the process down, it will still take a toll on your mental and physical health. While you are certainly healing emotionally, you are also exerting a tremendous amount of energy to get through this incredibly difficult period. You will have trouble sleeping, focusing, enjoying life. And you will feel like you have to keep your head down to keep working deeply as you get through it. You absolutely will have to do that. But it will be okay.
As you work your way through, you will find friends, family members, and others involved in the process telling you that they see a whole new person. People told me that I seemed truly happy for the first time. They said that I even looked different. I did lose 25 pounds in those first few months. But I also literally stood taller. My pastor told me one day that he noticed I stood taller and without sagging shoulders. And soon after that I realized how right he was when I went to reach something off the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets and no longer needed a chair or one of my super-tall kids to help me!
You will get the same feedback! And you will use that feedback to gain even more strength as you finally emerge from your divorce.
Divorcing a Narcissist After 3o Years Means You Have a Treasure Trove of Experience to Help Others Heal
I spent all of the 30 years of my marriage in children’s ministry at my church. I loved every minute of it. But upon my separation, I was a single mom, homeschooling my children, and working 14-hour shifts with hardly any days off for the first year. There was no chance of continuing in children’s ministry.
As the divorce progressed, I ended up going to another church with the blessing of my church home of 26 years. This new church had a DivorceCare ministry that could help me and my children heal. I had no idea at the time, but as I worked through the program and healed, God was preparing me to later lead that ministry in my new church. I am now well beyond my divorce and have helped hundreds of other people get through it in the best way possible. Even better: some of my DivorceCare graduates ended up becoming divorce care support leaders in their own churches! What a wonderful thought to know that I have had such an incredible opportunity to help others thrive in the midst of their grief.
And finally, this website has helped me to reach people all over the world to gain the strength they need to overcome fear and uncertainty and do what they needed to become healthy in every way when divorcing their narcissist.
In this article, I actually want to share two videos with you. The first one is from Victoria McCooey, who talks about what you need to do to prepare BEFORE divorcing a narcissist. It will go hand-in-hand very well with my guide to divorcing a narcissist. And the second video is about how a man thrived after divorcing his narcissistic wife. You will find tons of inspiration in this video as you work through what feels like very dark and difficult days. You can watch both of them right here in this article. I hope you find them super helpful!
Do you need help as you navigate how divorcing a narcissist after 30 years looks like in your own life? Have you already started the process? Not quite yet, and you need guidance on where to take that courageous first step? I would love to hear where you are at in the process and how you are moving forward! Leave a comment below or contact me here!
Blessings and hugs!