How to do Divorce Mediation with a Narcissist
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How to do Divorce Mediation with a Narcissist

Mediation is turning into the preferred approach of resolving divorces. However, is it the best choice for every divorce?

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation has innovated divorce law. Having an objective of enabling spouses to amicably resolve their disagreements in a non-confrontational environment, it has become a workable option to the narrative path of filing a divorce petition, going through the judicial process, and paying attorneys to hash it out in a divorce trial.

A normal mediation session is going to involve spouses meeting with an individual—an attorney or child specialist—experienced in dispute resolutions. Subject to where you live, mediators might require state credentials. The objective of mediation is to assist the spouses in resolving some or all of their divorce-related matters. Commonly, for this approach to be successful, each of the spouses must want it to work, and they need to be on a somewhat level playing field.

As valuable as divorce mediation may be, it is not for everybody. This post is going to examine further at some of the examples in which mediation might be more possible to fail.

Ingredients for Mediation Disaster: Abuse, Narcissism, and Highly Conflicting Personalities

When there is a chronicle of abuse. Mediation depends a lot on each spouse’s capability to communicate freely, compromise voluntarily, and agree willingly. when one spouse has a history of spousal abuse, the victim spouse might be scared to speak up and could agree to propositions because of fear or coercion. For instance, if one spouse threatens to harm the other—or possibly hurt the children—for the purpose of gaining the upper hand in the division of property, any divorce settlement contract that has been made under duress of harm, and is not only going to be unjust, but might even be non-binding when contested later in court.

If one spouse shows narcissistic tendencies. As reported by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissists usually exhibit:

  • a lack of compassion
  • a sense of privilege
  • a pattern of taking advantage other individuals to get what they want
  • an extravagant sense of self-admiration, and
  • vainness

Any of these behaviors can make mediation ridiculously challenging. How is a mediator supposed to guide spouses toward a just settlement if one spouse shows a privilege to more than allowed by law, asserts unreasonable and arrogant stances, or just declines to compromise?

The Mediation Approach

The mediation approach also heavily relies on each spouse’s capacity to hear the other spouse’s aspirations and interests—why one result may be more preferable than another. These interests are usually based on emotions and needs. Narcissists have very little compassion or desire to listen to anyone else’s needs. When one spouse lacks the fundamental skills that are vital for mediation to work, the approach is likely to result in a deadlock.

When it’s a highly conflicting divorce. Finally, if either of the aforementioned situations are presented, or if each of spouses are simply prone to highly conflicting behavior, including shouting, slinging insults, or declining to agree just to spite the other or impose revenge, bringing them together in mediation sessions might be more harmful. Spouses that quarrel at the blink of an eye are rarely prime mediation candidates.

If you’re in the midst of any of the aforementioned scenarios, it’s probably a good idea to speak with a local family law attorney, that can assist you in dealing with a combative spouse.

Customarily, in order for this approach to be successful, each of the spouses need to want it to work out, and they need to be on a somewhat level playing field.

Can Mediators Ever Help With a Highly Conflicting Divorce?

People that have these types of personalities may avoid mediation. No matter what their reason, be it conceit, a want to chastise the other spouse, or some other reasoning, they don’t view mediation as an appropriate meeting for their needs. And a lot of mediators are going to screen spouses in order to bypass high-conflict and disparaging situations.

Having said that, many will decide on mediation, specifically when they’re concerned about the expense of a contested divorce. In these situations, spouses might need to look for mediators with experience in mediation and are willing to work alongside high-conflict spouses. “Shuttle diplomacy” is a useful technique that requires having the spouses be in separate rooms throughout the mediation. The mediator then shuttles in and out, passing on offers and counter offers. This keeps the communication and conflict at a minimum, so the spouses can concentrate on their divorce negotiations, instead of each other.

If your plan to terminate your marriage with your abusive, narcissistic, or highly conflicting spouse, its wise to get a hold of a local divorce lawyer for assistance.


  1. When divorce mediation won’t work: Abuse, narcissism, and … (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

Speak with Our Mediators in Arizona Today

While the mediation process is not for everyone, it can save you money, stress, and hassle. Speak with a professional mediator to find out if it is right for you.

If you’re ready to start your consultation with Ogborne Law, visit our Mediation Consultation request page.

Ogborne Law can help with divorce mediation in Phoenix, Arizona, and surrounding areas. Our law office is located at 5020 E Shea Blvd Suite 240, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 inside the Paradise Valley Plaza.

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