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A relationship, let alone a marriage with a narcissist, is bound to be stressful and toxic. To make matters worse, they cling to the marriage like it is a life raft. You’ll likely be the one initiating divorce proceedings to get rid of them.
The reasons why a narcissist won’t divorce you might blow your mind once you discover the selfish motivations behind their unwillingness. But the big question is “why?”. Why won’t they let you go?
Initially, you may feel as if they truly love you. They may even try and convince you that you’re the best thing they ever had. Don’t fall for their love-bombing tactics.
Holding on to the marriage has nothing to do with loving you and everything to do with your partner’s selfish needs. To them, you represent one thing – narcissistic supply.
I’ll explain what that means as we examine 13 fundamental reasons why they refuse to divorce you and why it's so hard to divorce them.
What Is a Narcissist?
A narcissist is someone who is self-centered and in love with the grandiose image they created of themselves. Deep within, they have a chronic feeling of emptiness. They use people to keep inflating their self-image and avoid ongoing feelings of insecurity.
In addition, they display a pattern of behavior or personality traits that lead to unhealthy relationships. The traits are noticed in people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and have been singled out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As explained below, the acronym for narcissistic traits spells out ‘SPECIAL ME‘:
- Sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with power, control, success, and beauty
- Entitled (believe they deserve special treatment)
- Can only associate with people who have status or fame
- Interpersonally exploitative for their own benefit
- Arrogant and self-absorbed
- Lack empathy
- Must be admired and validated
- Envious of others or believing others envy them
Why Is It So Hard to Divorce a Narcissist?
Narcissists create superficial relationships and treat people and relationships as means to an end. Since their need to keep the benefits of the marriage clash with your need for freedom from the toxic marriage, divorcing them often turns out to be a nightmare.
They will latch onto you for as long as possible, not for love, but for the narcissistic fuel they get from you, including any of these:
13 Selfish Reasons Why Your Narcissist Spouse Is Resisting Divorce
Overall, narcissists get their needs (narcissistic supply) met by dominating, controlling, and manipulating their partners. They are known to use a psychologically manipulative tactic called gaslighting, which is also a form of emotional abuse.
They also lie frequently and oscillate between love-bombing their partner and discarding them. Having done all that throughout the narcissistic abuse cycle, which is a common theme in a marriage to a narcissist, they still won’t divorce you.
Let’s turn our attention to the REAL reasons behind their refusal to break up. Rest assured, it has nothing to do with how much they care for you. They lack empathy to feel for you and are too self-absorbed to notice your needs.
#1. To Maintain Control
The need to be in control is an innate part of a narcissist’s personality. Letting you go will mean no longer being able to dominate and control you. Allowing you to divorce him will prevent him from continuing to manipulate you for his selfish gains.
Subconsciously, he doesn’t want to end things even if he initiated the divorce. Your spouse will likely do everything in his power to drag out the divorce for as long as possible.
After the marriage is dissolved, he’ll still try to control you directly or through other people. These third parties are called ‘flying monkeys’.
#2. To Preserve the Narcissistic Supply
Your spouse is so preoccupied with her own needs getting satisfied in the marriage, she completely ignores yours. She can’t see the marriage in disarray and the relationship is toxic. Her sole focus is getting a steady supply of attention, admiration, money, sex, or whatever type of fuel you provide in the marriage.
Chances are she’s getting fuel from a secondary source, usually someone she’s romantically invested in. It could be one or several external partners she keeps in her back pocket as ego boost supplements.
Narcissists usually activate their secondary source of fuel when they’re not getting sufficient attention, validation, or sex from you.
#3. To Avoid Shame
Public shame is one of the things that damage a narcissist’s ego. Consider it a tip in case you’re planning on making a narcissist miserable. Narcissists present a perfect image of themselves to the world. They’ll do everything to maintain the image and avoid shame.
Divorce is a public matter and can tarnish their image if unfavorable things about them appear in the divorce records. Therefore, they’ll view divorce as a threat to their reputation and a shameful event they will do just about anything to prevent.
#4. To Keep the Drama Going
Individuals with NPD thrive on drama. The need to lie, deny, shift blame to you, and make you feel crazy using gaslighting tactics. Sometimes they’ll goad you into reacting emotionally, so they could label you as someone who is unhinged. Triggering a reaction from you, good or bad, also satisfies their need for attention.
Your spouse may take the drama to the court by making unsubstantiated claims against you to delay divorce proceedings and further aggravate you.
For example, accusing you of being an unfit mother, knowing very well it’s untrue. The court may have to investigate those claims if you’re filing for custody of your children.
#5. To Get Revenge
The narcissistic abuse cycle is a weapon used to reel you in and kick you out as the narcissist sees fit. Even if your husband doesn’t want the marriage anymore, he may try to keep it alive solely to punish you.
Regardless of how good your intentions are, a narcissist’s ego gets wounded by the mildest criticism and all the wrongs they imagined you committed. Filing for divorce creates a deep narcissistic injury and is likely to cause a type of anger called narcissistic rage.
By stalling the divorce, your husband can continue putting you through the abuse cycle and take revenge!
#6. To Hold Onto Assets
Chances are, your wife doesn’t want to lose the financial benefits of being in the marriage. The benefits could be assets such as the matrimonial home, other shared properties, or shared bank accounts. She’d rather suffer through a highly toxic relationship and home environment than agree to divorce.
This is a part of the need to remain in control of the current lifestyle. However, the desire could be driven by not wanting to split assets (greed), malice, or revenge.
While she’s unwilling to give you a dime, your wife may spend lavishly on love-bombing and grooming someone else to take your place.
#7. To Keep Propping Up Their Ego
Believe it or not, your narcissistic spouse selected and groomed you to be the person who will prop up their fragile ego. Remember, they inflate their sense of importance to mask deep-rooted insecurities, fake self-esteem, and the fear of rejection.
He’s like an empty shell you have to keep filling up with narcissistic fuel to keep happy. By marrying you, he essentially ‘hired’ you to supply him with attention, praise, validation, and other needs to boost his ego. Divorce isn’t only a rejection, it’s going to take all of it away.
#8. To Prevent You from Getting Child Custody
As difficult as it is to co-parent with a narcissist, it may very well come down to that, once the divorce is finalized. You may have to share custody of your children and your ex won’t play fair. As other narcissists do, expect him to try and take full custody to get back at you.
Trust me, the motivation isn’t parental love and care. They lack empathy. Sheer vindictiveness is behind the desire to take the kids away.
As if that’s not enough, your partner will take joy in getting on your last nerve by breaching orders of support, custody, or visitation handed down by the court. Narcissists hate rules and boundaries and will break them intentionally to get you riled up.
#9. To Avoid Starting Over Again
Divorce often means starting over financially and socially. This can be a daunting task for anyone, more so for a narcissist who may not have the patience or resources to start back from scratch.
This could also be the case if you’re the one holding the purse or who has the social connection. Your wife will be forced to fend for herself and will no longer benefit from your social circles after the marriage ends.
A failed marriage also means she’ll have to look for another partner to supply her with narcissistic fuel. She will have to manipulate and groom several new partners before one bites the bait and marries her.
That could take an indefinite amount of time. So, to her, it’s better to keep you than risk being single and having to rebuild life on her own.
#10. To Avoid Being Alone
Narcissists live in an alternate reality where they think you need them to survive. The opposite is true. They need you to survive.
Divorce would mean going back to being single and alone. They’re typically unable to cope with insecurities, boredom, and anxiety. You are their coping mechanism, and they will do whatever they can to keep you in place.
You’ll more than likely catch them off-guard if you blindsided them with divorce papers. They’ll panic since it’s not always easy to find a quick and adequate source of narcissistic supply.
They’ll more than likely be alone without anyone to prop up their ego. They dread this and will refuse to divorce you, at least not without a fight.
#11. To Be the One to Discard You
Relationships are a game, and their partners are a means to an end in the minds of narcissists. Taking you through the narcissistic abuse cycle over and over again ultimately ends with a final discard.
Narcissist discard means dumping you repeatedly, emotionally and/or physically. They’ll finally toss you aside for good once they conclude you can no longer meet their needs.
Divorcing you is easy at this point. In fact, it gives them a super ego boost knowing they filed first and dealt you a blow of ultimate rejection.
#12. Divorce Represents A Loss
As a narcissist, your spouse hates losing. No longer having the marriage is interpreted as rejection and a loss if you’re the one who filed for divorce.
Don’t be surprised if he blocks your attempts to leave him. The strategy may become useful if they don’t have a solid case to file themselves.
Rest assured, they won’t hesitate to leave you if they think they can take away all the assets and leave you with nothing but the clothes on your back. They won’t blink twice or care about your feelings even if you’re the one who gave them status, power, fame, or wealth.
My experience: I filed for divorce against my narcissistic ex. He convinced me to withdraw the petition, so we could work on reconciling. As soon as I withdrew the paperwork, he filed for divorce. This was all a game to him, a game of I win, you lose.
I contested and counter-filed citing other events that took place in the marriage that could potentially destroy his reputation. He withdrew his petition and allowed me to get the divorce, fearing it would end in public shame for him.
The moral of the story is don’t let your spouse intimidate and bully you through the legal system. Stand up for what’s right, fair, and just, and you will beat them at their own game.
#13. To Buy Time to Replace You
As someone who has survived narcissistic abuse for years, I think a super reason your hubby won’t let you go is that he hasn’t yet found someone as good as you. Until then, he’d rather stay in a toxic marriage and make your life a living hell than allow you to move on.
He doesn’t even have the balls to divorce you. After all, inside a narcissist is a hollow space, an empty person, who is never filled or satisfied with their partner, no matter how much good you do for them.
Even if he finds a new intimate partner, also called the ‘new supply’, it takes time and hard work to groom the individual. A new partner comes with needs they'll have to satisfy using love bombing tactics to keep the person interested.
Final Thoughts on Reasons Why a Narcissist Won’t Divorce You
Not only is it difficult to get a narcissistic spouse to leave you, it’s just as difficult trying to break up with them. Now that you know the reasons why, you can plan and strategize to safely get out of the marriage. Don’t allow your partner to intimidate you during the process.
Consider talking to an attorney with expertise in dealing with narcissistic spouses in divorce proceedings. In the meantime, check out 17 Ways to Make a Narcissist Really Fear You as you seek to get your life back!
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.