How to deal with a narcissist spouse

How To Deal With A Narcissist Spouse

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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How To Deal With A Narcissist Spouse

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:

Grandiosity

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.

Delusion

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.

Entitlement

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.

 

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6 comments

  1. This must be a huge challange to deal with but as i read what it is and signs of it and how to deal with it im sure everyone can support their partner and get trough it im glad i havent had to deal with this before or even now everyone handle situations different and im not always one to approach a situation the right way.

  2. This must be hard for both couple but am sure through support and help they can concur this situation

  3. @lynne I don’t know where the first half went LOL can we delete this?

  4. Here is my full post 🙂

    @Lynne – I wish I had read this article more than a couple of years ago.

    Before I met the father of my child, I met a man who had so many of the above mentioned characteristics. I was sucked in hook, line and sinker. While we were together just over three years, to be honest if I year of that was good, it was a lot and the remaining 2 years was probably the most lonely of my entire life.

    We met and he was extremely charming, always saying the right thing at the right time, always making me feel good about myself. Couple that with sending flowers to work at least once a week, with thoughtful messages, I stood no chance.

    I’m an extremely outspoken person, so when the honeymoon phase was over and I started to notice certain things (and dare mention them) things got really ugly. He used to leave work, go out and switch off his phone for example, I would be worried about him lying in a ditch somewhere for hours. When he eventually got home sometimes after 12am, it was always my fault, that I had trust issues and I make mountains out of mole hills and so on and so on.

    Like I said before, I have never experienced living with someone, sharing your life with them – yet feeling so alone. I turned to food and started eating emotionally. Needless to say I ballooned in size.
    Eventually I started improving my argument with examples of what he was doing and why it may be wrong or how it could hurt the people involved (it wasn’t always just me, friends and family were included), to which he got creative and spun it this way – Because I was unhappy with my weight and therefore not happy with myself, I was lashing out at him. I mean come on!! This was a response to an argument I still remember like it was yesterday. He had a little one and that weekend was our weekend with him. I had made plans with a friend of mine to go and have a braai as their little one was about the same age as his. When I suggested it, the response I got was “You know we can’t do anything as you know we have so and so this weekend”. Honestly I think I saw red and completely lost it as the little one wasn’t a burden to have and didn’t mean that we had to put our lives on hold. I couldn’t believe it!!! And then to have my weight thrown at me being told that THAT was the real reason I was so upset. HELLO…. Did I miss something??? Needless to say that weekend, the little one and myself went on our own and had a marvellous time 😛

    Soon after that – I moved out. I moved into my own place with a very dear friend of mine and finally got back on track – lost those KG’s id piled on, started seeing my friends again and right when I just started to feel myself again. Guess who decided he’d made a mistake.
    I was sucked in yet again with promises of change and and and.
    I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the second time round was even worse than the first. Pushing the unhealthy (in my situation) eventually lead to abuse (just once but believe me it was enough) and I left. I vowed to myself never again.

    I know this is an extremely long post and I can promise you I’ve left out the saddest details but the message I’d like to get across is that if you ever find yourself in a position like this, please just remember that it can happen to the strongest of women. Accept the fact that somehow you landed up where you are, not because of a weak character but purely because of a bad decision, but it’s what you do to GET OUT that counts. Don’t ever let anyone make you believe that you don’t deserve better!! xx

    • I know exactly what you mean @tamara737. I am now in a healthy relationship, my marriage… but until I met my husband I was in abusive and destructive relationships from the age of 14 years old until 29 years old.

      So yes I know how painful and hard it is. People that have not been in that situation often cannot comprehend how someone stays in an abusive, destructive or unhealthy relationship but you get stuck in a rut. I know that I did.

      I spent a long time being lonely and depressed, I was in a very dark place. The thing is that you start feeling so bad about yourself that you start believing that you don’t deserve any better.

      Anyway I am glad that you are out of that relationship and I am sure you learned a lot too. It takes a strong person to leave and sort your life out!

  5. Exactly @lynne – Couldn’t have said it better myself – You definitely get stuck in a rut, believing this is as good as it gets. I sympathies with women who are stuck in unhealthy relationships because its not as easy as just packing up and leaving like most people think. For me, its realizing that you have to get out, building up whats left of you (in my opinion this is the hardest part) and then leaving. then there’s the stigma, I feel women do not talk enough about issues like this!

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