Over the course of three weeks recently, a homicide trial presided over by infinitely patient judge Jennifer Dorow unfolded in front of the cameras in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The defendant (who also made the disastrous choice to represent himself) displayed so many traits of a narcissist, the trial videos are instructive for recognizing a narcissistic spouse. The first step is recognizing your narcissistic wife; the second step is divorcing her.

Jump to a Section

Traits of a Narcissist

Roughly 4.8 percent of the general population of American women suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), according to the National Library of Medicine. Your spouse could be suffering from this mental defect, although a convincing argument can be made that you suffer more from her abnormal behaviors.

Consultant Victoria McCooey is not a psychologist, but she specializes in helping folks divorce narcissists. McCooey points to traits shown by the defendant that are typical behaviors of the narcissist. This is not intended to be a drinking game, but see how many of these behaviors—on display in that Waukesha County courtroom—fit your spouse:

  • Repetition—A narcissistic partner may repeat a catchphrase, exaggeration, fabrication, or lie so often, you stop resisting or arguing; eventually, the repeated lie becomes an accepted part of the relationship; the narcissist is convinced by his or her own lie and assumes others will believe the same lie
  • Grandiosity—The narcissist believes himself or herself to be the smartest person in the room, no matter who else is around; making decisions and choices, the narcissist always puts him or herself first and assumes everyone else will bow to her wishes or respect her choices
  • Entitlement—The defendant and possibly your spouse always points out every instance of unfairness directed toward the narcissist; your spouse can excuse all of her own behavior (lies, disrespect, forgetfulness, spending sprees) while
  • Lack of empathy—The narcissist does not recognize the basic human value of others; everything is for the benefit of the narcissist; this can display as perpetual victimhood, refusal to apologize, an unwillingness to make up for faults or bad behavior, and a complete lack of sympathy or empathy
  • Drama—The defendant in the trial escalated repeatedly from quiet (or refusal to speak) to pounding the table, screaming at the judge and prosecuting attorneys, and continuously interrupting the judge; similarly, your spouse might ramp up every mild disagreement or commit dramatically outrageous acts
  • Word Salad—Given that narcissists think of themselves as more intelligent than everyone around them, they will spontaneously spew monologues of nonsense, their brains barely staying ahead of their tongues while hoping to overwhelm you with irrational points

How to Handle a Narcissist

In a previous column, we talked about the challenge of divorcing a narcissist. We offered a handful of tips on dealing with your narcissistic spouse, but the recent courtroom drama magnificently showed the benefits of two powerful strategies:

  • No matter the fireworks, stay focused on the outcome—Judge Jennifer Darow never once lost her temper or signaled defeat because she knew, no matter how ridiculous, pompous, arrogant, or argumentative the defendant was, the trial would eventually end; she allowed him to display every narcissistic trait to the jury and, after 17 days of disciplined focus, was rewarded with 76 guilty verdicts
  • Be more patient than the narcissist—Judge Darow’s court clerk has been inundated with gifts for the judge by fans from all over the country because she demonstrated almost superhuman patience, allowing the defendant to bluster, yell, interrupt, and carry on his courtroom antics all to no avail; do not ride the roller coaster with your narcissistic spouse

For those of you sympathetic to the judge, her unsolicited gifts may be released to her from quarantine after she handles sentencing, though ethics rules may also prohibit her from getting the gift cards, flowers, wine bottles, and other goodies sent in by admirers.

Let Her Show Herself

As amply demonstrated throughout the trial, narcissists are their own worst enemies. Consider the defendant’s first major misstep: choosing to defend himself and dismissing the public defenders. He had no understanding or knowledge of law. He had an extensive criminal background. He misspoke, was inarticulate, and gave into rage. Yet he felt himself best qualified to represent himself in a homicide trial.

Narcissists’ antisocial behavior, sense of superiority, and inability to “read a room” will generally lead to their downfall.

If your spouse carries on in public settings, let her. It may be momentarily embarrassing for you but it builds a community’s sense of who she really is. If, as part of your divorce, she wants to represent herself, let her.

Find Your Upper Hand with Experienced Divorce Attorneys

Nobody will tell you divorcing a narcissist will be easy. But living with one can be impossible. When you connect with a Virginia family law attorney, make sure to explain with examples and any evidence you may have that your spouse has narcissistic personality disorder. The divorce may be messy. The divorce may bring out the worst in her. And she may not feel like she is done with you even after the final divorce decree.

Stay focused, be patient, work with your experienced attorney, and you will have the upper hand. How do we know? Not once in this column have we said the name of the guilty man in Waukesha County. And we know that would drive him nuts.

Dealing with a narcissist? Contact us today at The Firm For Men and let us help you. You can also call our offices at (757) 383-9184 to speak with one of our experienced Virginia Beach family law attorneys. We zealously defend Virginia’s men against false accusations, unethical behavior, and even narcissistic wives.