3 ways to take power back from a narcissistic spouse

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2023 | Divorce

Divorcing a narcissist (or a suspected narcissist) can be tough. Narcissists have an obsessive need to be in control, and they’ll go to great lengths to manipulate a situation and undermine your efforts to break free. 

That’s why you need to take a strategic approach – and take back your life. When your spouse starts their drama, you need to be prepared. Here are four things to consider trying:

1. The “of course” method of anticipating all their antics

Your spouse knows all your sensitive spots, so expect them to attack as many as they can reach. Are you worried about the kids? Expect your spouse to accuse you of being a bad parent and demand full custody. Are you concerned about spousal support? Expect your spouse to enumerate all your failings and insist that you don’t deserve any. 

The key to withstanding their verbal onslaughts is to gain some emotional distance by anticipating it all in advance and recognizing that they’re just making a power play. In other words, you tell yourself, “Of course, he made a crack about my weight because he knows it bothers me.” It’s hard to be upset by something that you find boringly predictable.

2. The “grey rock” method of depriving them of their joy

The “grey rock” method involves becoming as uninteresting and unresponsive as an inconspicuous, plain, dull, grey rock every time your narcissistic spouse starts misbehaving.

Narcissists thrive on attention, drama and emotional reactions. By adopting a neutral and unresponsive surface demeanor, you deny them the emotional fuel they need to keep going. This technique helps you regain control by disempowering the narcissist’s ability to manipulate your emotions.

It’s important to remember that this only works if you don’t fight back when they threaten and posture. If they’re telling you that they intend to make sure that you’re penniless when the divorce is over, silently remind yourself that what happens in your divorce really isn’t under their control and shrug. 

3. Limit their avenues of communication

Narcissists are skilled manipulators who often use threats and intimidation tactics to maintain control over their targets – so put some distance between you and your spouse whenever possible. If your spouse approaches you and tries to engage you in conversation about the specifics of your divorce (or anything else), tell them that there’s nothing that can’t be said in an email, message or text. 

This not only sets boundaries and shifts the power dynamic, but it puts them in the position of knowing that everything they write could end up being evidence in court.

When you’re navigating a divorce with a narcissistic spouse, take a measured approach to their antics and realize that everything they do is designed to help them try to take control of the situation. Once you have that clearly in your mind, it’s often much easier to cope.


At The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC, our focus is relentless advocacy for our clients. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, reach out to schedule a consultation at 646-665-3903 or by contacting us online.

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Mia Poppe, Esq.

Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner