I Married A Narcissist: Now What Do I Do?

man in the mirror
Love, Self

10 ways to deal with narcissism. Can you handle it? Get ready to make some sacrifices...

Fast Test To Discover If Your Partner Is A Narcissist:

Go to this person, with a previously selected question or problem of yours, the heavier the better. It doesn't have to be real — remember, this is only a test.

Ask this person for his help on this challenge. And listen. How long can this person be engaged and focused only on your problem? Watch carefully to see if and when he drops the conversation about YOUR problem and begins talking about something that interests him. If you want to see flexibility, try to get the conversation back to you: "You were saying before that I could do X or Z to solve my problem. Can you think of something else I could do?"

If the person is seriously narcissistic, he will get upset with your demand and feel aggravated because you are forcing him to focus on something that doesn't affect his interests or needs. See when he drops the talk, answers the phone or just walks away.

Of course you are going to say, "Who wants to marry and live with a very controlling person, always bending situations to get what he needs: praise, admiration, obedience, etc, while ignoring his partner's needs?"

Well, sometimes we don't have the complete picture before making the marriage decision, or discover bit by bit the seriousness of the situation — one selfish decision at a time. If you are here, you need help....

Focusing on Self vs. Focusing on Others

There is no other situation like marriage that allows such an intimate view of the person at your side. It is through daily interaction that you get the bits and pieces that will compose your definitive image of your loved one. And how do we do this day-by-day task of perceiving our partner? In mediation, we use a very practical question about what motivates a person to act. We are concerned about the capacity each person has to develop and honor agreements with others.

  • Individualistic or selfish people — are more interested in pursuing his/her own individualistic goals.
  • Community-oriented people — are more interested in pursuing shared, common objectives.

Both vectors are complementary, that is to say the percent of energy directed towards self (let's say 80%) leaves only the rest (20%) to address the needs of relatives and friends around them.

So, is your significant other more interested in issues that concern him (his time, interests, money, golf game, self-esteem, sexual gratification, etc) than on listening, sharing and solving your needs/interests?

If his conversations go around his own issues ("Where are my clothes; when will I have my dinner, how can you make me look good, etc"), and rarely they focus on your needs ("How are you going to find medical attention fast?"), then you probably have a self-centered person accidentally locked inside the most community-oriented institution, that is marriage.

In other words, you married a narcissist!

A narcissistic husband is a person who operates with an inflated self-view, who constantly needs to disregard personal connections with others that could challenge his own grandiose self-view. As they are focused on how to maintain an image of self grandiosity, they have to pursue their self interests and compete fiercely with others to receive approval, visibility, and influence in the pursuit of their goals. He can even compete with you for the approval, love and company of the children, so they confirm that he is the best parent!

There is more: One of the most worrisome signs of a narcissistic husband, is that they have little genuine interest in other people's welfare,  except with regard to how others can be used. Are you being used as a prop to show the world that he can also be "happily married," or are you in a real partnership with him?

Now that you get the complete picture of your situation, living with a narcissistic husband, see what can you do to improve it. 

His Top 10 Narcissistic Traits And How To Deal With Them

  1. Exaggerating his own importance, achievements and talents: As soon as you suspect narcissism, either doing the test above or by painful experience of being always the last priority on his list, begin discounting what he says, at least by half of the claim. Remember a grain of salt? You need a bag here.
  2. Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from you and others: Learn to see this trait early on, so you don't build an expectation that all your attention has to be directed to solve his needs. If you are already in this situation of full time attendant and reinforcement provider, begin doing a systematic withdrawal, step by step. If you are married, plan to wean your husband of you as his all and everything because later, he will compete mercilessly with your children's needs.
  3. Being obsessed with self; pursuing mainly selfish goals: Train yourself to expect exactly this behavior, not selfless consideration of others' needs, and be independent in solving your own needs. If you ask, "But, then, what kind of a marriage do I have?" Your answer depends on other aspects of this marriage that can be positive for you.
  4. Setting goals that are grandiose and unrealistic: A bit of awareness is necessary here because he will dream of lofty situations that are easy to believe and are doable. Set your goals on a reduced version of the goal, and see if you can help him get there. You are balancing having him completely frustrated and upset, (because that lofty goal didn't happen) and having him a bit depressed but with something to do that promises rewards if achieved.
  5. Wanting "the best" of everything (food, cars, powerful friends, etc): At a family level, you will see this decision-making balancing between "let's get this sporty car I look so good in" and "we need a utilitarian van for the family." Do you have the husband expressing a need to have a new car each year at the expense of solving other less flashy family needs? If you really think that you are dealing with a narcissist, and plan on continuing the relationship, the healthier decision is to get control of the family money ASAP, and spend it with the focus on the family needs.
  6. Becoming easily hurt and rejected if not admired: Now, here comes reality: those grandiose dreams fail and don't become reality, and their inner childhood need for love and acceptance opens up again. This is the moment when you understand the why behind those grandiose dreams and why they are not attainable. You can protect yourself by providing him some "admiration as crisis remedy," so you don't have to deal with a seriously depressed person later. Find some positive aspect and remind him of his value.
  7. Taking advantage of others to reach their own goals: Now comes the real test of your marriage: if grandiose dreams fail, it will be because "others didn't help enough"and now is the time to use connections and family to push again for the lofty objective, realistic or not. See yourself enrolled by force with your own resources (or your parent's retirement money) to make the same irrealistic goals happen. If you have other resources, like connections, skills, property, watch that they are not forcibly applied to his pursuit of his goals.
  8. Not connected or sensitive to other people's emotions: All this selfish behavior is telling you that he is more connected with and actively pursuing his own satisfaction than caring about other people's needs or feelings. It doesn't matter that you explain your pain and share your reactions with him. He will listen only to push his own wishes. This is a bitter pill to swallow for you, because this narcissistic personality disorder is also a brain style of functioning — not your responsibility, but almost impossible to change. You need to care for yourself and be proactive in making yourself happy: take care of your health, body and feelings because you are on your own.
  9. Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation: If you persist claiming that your own resources have been squandered without your consent, and having other more important family needs to solve before with that money than his projects, you risk a lot of his own anger. Be aware that he will be angry at you, not at his own bad money management, and don't take anything he says in a personal way. Only a spoiled or hurt child talking, but what he says about you doesn't describe you, but his own frustration.
  10. Trouble keeping healthy relationships: If you decide that you want to stay married, you have to accept that you will be doing the heavy lifting of the relationship work. Connecting, supporting, understanding and being there in bad times will be your main duty. Here is where you balance his other qualities with his narcissism. If he is a genius, and you admire genius, then putting up with his narcissistic self is the price you pay. Good luck balancing your self-esteem with the keeping of such husband.

Each marriage develops in its own specific way with different degrees of selfishness/cooperation along its life. If you want to explore how to balance yours and survive with your best qualities glowing, just call me for a free coaching session.