Being married to a narcissist is not easy and it may be a little while before you realize your predicament.
The term narcissist is quite often used loosely by a lot of people to describe someone that is full of themselves and egotistic. However the definition of narcissism is not about someone that is just vain or has genuine self-love. So what exactly is narcissistic personality disorder?
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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Narcissists are actually deeply insecure people. People that have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are not in love with themselves, but rather in love with a grandiose, idealized image of themselves. This allows them to avoid their deep feelings of insecurity and over time dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes develop. Very often narcissists have suffered an early psychological trauma, such as being brought up by narcissistic parents which damages them spiritually and emotionally.
Getting involved with a narcissist is easier than you think since they can be very charming, wonderful and enticing… until you don’t do what they want. At that time they then become cold and punishing. They lack empathy and are very manipulative.
How to Recognize Narcissistic Personality Disorder in your Spouse
Here are some of the common signs of narcissism that may indicate that your spouse has some narcissistic traits or is a narcissist:
This is the main characteristic of narcissists. Grandiosity is not just vain or arrogant, they have a completely delusional sense of superiority. They feel that they are “too good” for the ordinary. They only want to be associated with the elite and things of high status.
When they talk they are the best at everything they do and exaggerate (and often downright lie) about their many achievements, skills and talents. They expect everyone to give them recognition even when it is not due.
Narcissists believe that they are a notch above everyone else, they know it and they want to make sure everyone else does too.
Since their view of themselves is not based in reality, narcissists live in a fantasy world. In order to protect and prop up this fantasy world narcissists will spin incredible fantasies of their lives. Any opinions or facts that threaten this fantasy world are rationalized away or ignored.
When their delusion is threatened they react defensively and sometimes with rage.
Need for Constant Praise and Attention
Since narcissists have a need for constant praise and admiration from those around them, without giving anything back in return. They believe that because they are special they deserve to be praised and admired. Relationships are very one sided. Anyone that stops giving this much needed attention is treated as if they have betrayed the narcissist.
Narcissists believe that because they are the best they should get whatever it is that they want as it is their due. They believe that everyone must just do what they want and if anyone defies their wishes, ask for anything in return or simply stop meeting their every need the narcissist responds with a cold shoulder, outrage or aggression.
Exploitation and Manipulation
Narcissists lack empathy and do not think of or take into consideration the feelings or needs of anyone else. They view everyone else as objects – there just to do their bidding and to meet their needs. They will exploit other people to reach their goals, sometimes oblivious to the consequences of their actions and sometimes maliciously simply not caring.
The only thing that is important is the needs of the narcissist and even if you point out how their actions have affected other people they will never truly understand.
Frequent Demeaning, Bullying, Belittling and Intimidating Behavior
When anyone else appears to have something that the narcissist lacks, such as true self-confidence or popularity this threatens their delusion of grandeur. Narcissists also feel threatened by anyone that won’t do their bidding or challenges them.
The narcissists defense mechanism is to show contempt and to put the other person down.
How to Cope with a Narcissistic Spouse
All those symptoms are quite extreme and if you find that the person you have married is a narcissist you need to figure out how to cope with your spouse if you choose to stay in the marriage.
It is really important to remember that while your narcissistic spouse may be causing you emotional pain and turmoil it is not the same as someone abusing you emotionally with intent. You need to keep in your mind that your spouse has a deeply ingrained personality disorder and try not to develop hatred towards your spouse.
It is also important to realize that there is not a very high chance of your spouse changing due to the fact that your spouse is unlikely to ever recognize or take any responsibility for his behavior.
You need to find ways to keep your self confidence up and to do things that fill your needs as a person because your spouse won’t be doing any of that for you. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness.
This of course is sure to cause some marital friction since your narcissistic spouse will be expecting you to be at his beck and call, but stand firm anyway. You will need to have a thick skin.
Try and avoid arguments with your spouse, there is not much point since you won’t be able to reason with him anyway.
Look for support and purpose elsewhere because you will need it. Make friendships and pursue hobbies.
Going to a counselor can help you to work through the hurt and pain you have been through, as well as build up your self esteem and confidence.
What to Expect if you Divorce your Narcissistic Spouse
Divorce is not easy under any circumstances, especially when there are kids involved. Divorcing a narcissistic spouse will be even more troublesome. Without a doubt your spouse will take it very badly and will react with outrage which will undoubtedly make divorce proceedings troublesome.
Make sure that you are prepared for the emotional warfare and try to keep your courage, patience and resolve. Finding a good divorce attorney that specializes in high conflict divorces would be a good place to start. Your legal team can then support you through the process.