Being the victim of a narcissistic smear attack is not fun. Rather, it is an intense campaign designed to humiliate an opponent while simultaneously elevating the narcissist. It requires quite a bit of skill, manipulation, and persistence to successfully pull one off. But for the victim, it can be a shocking and damaging experience.

In an unwanted pending divorce situation, narcissists will frequently smear their spouse to others while begging for reconciliation. At work, a narcissist might slander a person they believe to be a competitor for a promotion to ensure their success. Or a narcissist’s insults can tear apart the best of friends so they can step into the damaged relationship as a hero.

Depending on the situation, a narcissist will use all or some of these six smear tactics. Remember, a narcissist’s greatest fear is to be embarrassed by having their insecurities exposed. Therefore, they will use whatever tactics are necessary to preserve their superior self-image.  For explanation purposes, the pending divorce situation will be utilized to further clarify smear attacks. Understanding how a narcissist smears others is essential in preventing the attack from further damage.

  1. With Friends. During a night out with friends, the narcissist makes passive-aggressive comments about their spouse. This is done to see which friends might be sympathetic towards the narcissist. Then the spousal remarks escalate to sarcastic, demeaning, and even humiliating observations. The spouse usually reacts either by shrinking away from the friends or lashing out verbally towards the narcissist. Either way, the narcissist has won their point as the spouse has only affirmed the derogatory statements further isolating the spouse from their friends.
  2. With Family. One of the goals of a narcissist is to quarantine their spouse from the support of family especially when said family doesn’t like the narcissist. They begin this by smearing the spouse’s family to spouse claiming that they are dysfunctional and have a secret agenda to not see them happy. Then they charm the family and claim the spouse is dysfunctional while seeking out incriminating background information to be used against the spouse later. This pits the spouse against their family and vice versa adding to the segregation.
  3. At Work. When a spouse works, the narcissist views their employment as a threat to their authority and influence. Therefore, they are constantly looking for ways to tear down their spouse’s work place as well as the spouse’s ability to work well. Any and all injustice that the spouse reveals is highlighted and retold in an exaggerated manner. The narcissist makes comments about work taking advantage of the spouse and is quick to point out narcissism in the spouse’s boss or other employees. This is done to create a hostile environment for the spouse at work. Sometimes, the narcissist will even contact employers/employees of the spouse under the guise of “helping” but it only stirs up trouble for the spouse.
  4. With Neighbors. The charming ability of most narcissists is remarkable as they easily transform from angry spouse inside the house to perfect neighbor outside. This flawless performance is the ideal groundwork to emphasize their spouse’s overreactions. They will claim their spouse is crazy by siting some visible tantrums while minimizing their contribution. Then they will even instigate their spouse to anger, draw them outside of the house, and place the whole episode on display for the neighbors. Any and all efforts made by the spouse to explain their behavior come off defensive and subsequently deceitful.
  5. At Court. A favorite smear tactic of narcissists is the abuse of the court system. There are excessive law suits with little to no grounds designed to intimidate and scare their spouse into submission. During a divorce proceeding, it is customary for them to bury their spouse in unnecessary and irrelevant paperwork, constant resetting of demands, and going back on agreements made during mediation. If there has been a medical or mental diagnosis, the narcissist will exploit that for their own purposes as well with no regard for the privacy of their spouse.

Knowing how a narcissist does a smear campaign is essential to discovering how to counterattack one. The next step is anticipating the slights beforehand and then avoiding the obvious traps of overreaction, anger, embarrassment or fear. Once the narcissist knows their attacks have no effect, they retreat.

Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Couselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.