Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist
Narcissism is a personality trait that can make it difficult to sustain a healthy and loving relationship. Wedlock has innate challenges, which are only compounded when one spouse displays narcissistic behavior in a marriage. In fact, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can lead to severe control issues, self-centeredness, and a preoccupation with praise, leaving the other spouse feeling unloved, unsafe, or unfulfilled in their other needs.
If you suspect that you are married to a narcissist, learn the signs of this personality disorder as well as where your spouse may fall on the spectrum, how you can handle it, and whether it is time to leave.
What Narcissism Looks Like
It’s easy to slap the narcissist label on a spouse’s frustrating behaviors, but how do you know if you’re dealing with a narcissist or just a plain old jerk? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that only 0.5% to 1% of the population has been diagnosed with NPD, which suggests that true narcissists are not as common as we may think they are. The Mayo Clinic has said that a diagnosed narcissist is characterized by:
- A severe inability to cope with stress and change
- Extreme difficulty handling emotions
- The need to belittle others to feel superior
- A lack of patience without special treatment
- Feelings of total frustration with their imperfections
Narcissistic individuals tend to fall on a spectrum, meaning that it’s usually less a matter of whether or not a person has NPD and more a matter of the extent to which they have it. Some people can be “normal” for the most part, displaying only minor traits of narcissism, while others can have clinical NPD that makes them insufferable to everyone around them. The level to which a person has the disorder may depend on their current circumstances, major life changes, and time. The major points in the spectrum are as follows.
People with a few narcissistic personality traits can usually still function as healthy individuals. They can empathize with others and adapt to hard situations, but they still have times when they push the boundaries and can be insensitive, self-centered, or aggressive. In a way, this describes pretty much all of us — we all have our bad days.
Narcissistic Personality Type
In the middle of the spectrum are people with a narcissistic personality type — slightly more extreme than healthy narcissism. While it isn’t yet considered a disorder at this point, people on the middle of the spectrum come off as entitled, superior, and show a lack of regard for others’ feelings.
NPD is at the far end of the spectrum and requires professional evaluation and diagnosis. In order for a person to be officially diagnosed, they must exhibit at least five or more of the narcissistic traits listed below. If you’ve been married to a clinical narcissist for any amount of time, you know that your spouse will always put himself or herself first, and you’ll see at least five of the following hurtful behaviors on a regular and consistent basis.
- Feels that he/she is truly extraordinary
- Always dominates conversations
- Shows little concern for the feelings of others
- Always offering unsolicited advice
- Manipulates to get what they want at all costs
- Looks out for his/her own needs and no one else’s
- Makes others feel like they’re never enough
- Responds poorly to criticism
- Justifies his/her own behavior no matter how harmful
- Gaslights others to prove a point
- Always feeling entitled
- Never accepts blame
- Holds grudges
- Lacks patience
How to Handle a Narcissistic Spouse
Those with healthy narcissism tend to be more reasonable, and you can usually talk out your relationship problems with him or her and a professional marriage therapist when needed. Those with narcissistic personality type or NPD, however, are not as easy to negotiate with. These people have a harder time owning up to their mistakes and flaws and will usually blame you for any marital issues that have arisen between you.
In such situations, walk away from the unconstructive conversation so it doesn’t continue to escalate. Set boundaries between you and your partner and give yourself time to cool off. During this time, don’t respond to their calls or texts, and make it clear that you will respond when you are ready, which gives you back some control and prevents them from further domination.
A partner that doesn’t respect boundaries and continues to find ways to manipulate and control requires a marriage therapist to intervene, but a therapist can only do so much for a person who doesn’t see a problem with his or her behavior.
When You Need to Consider Divorce
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you’re dealing with a real narcissist or just a jerk. What matters is that you protect yourself from a toxic spouse’s damaging personality traits — and sometimes, the only way to do that is to leave.
If you feel that you’ve exhausted all other options, licensed clinical social worker and author Shannon Thomas advises that you don’t immediately tell your spouse that you’re ending the marriage. In most cases, the narcissist will either try to manipulate into staying or retaliate by emotionally abusing you even further. She recommends that you should first build a community of support among your friends and family so that you have people to fall back on financially and emotionally if your partner seeks to keep you emotionally trapped or becomes even more toxic.
When you’re ready to start the divorce process, we’re here for you. Divorce isn’t something Collins Family & Elder Law Group takes lightly, and our team will treat you with the utmost care and respect as we help you navigate your difficult circumstances. Call us today for a case consultation to reclaim your life from a narcissistic spouse.