Narcissism is one of the most difficult personality traits to deal with and arguing with a narcissistic husband the biggest challenge for his partner. Not only are narcissists abusive and difficult, but their personality modification also relies on them being extremely sure of themselves. Self-obsessed, they believe they are never wrong. This makes them closed to any introspection and self-criticism.
The last thing they want to hear from someone is that they might be wrong, or worse, in need of help. This eliminates all scope of self-improvement for a narcissist. As a result, their partner is always pushed to make adjustments. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who never backs down in an argument, who never sees your point of view, who never compromises, you have most probably been dealing with a narcissist.
Counselor Ridhi Golechha (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in counseling for loveless marriages, breakups, and other relationship issues, spoke to us on this issue and offered her insights on how to recognize a narcissist, why are they the way they are, and what to keep in mind when you find yourself arguing with a narcissistic husband.
How Do Narcissists Act In An Argument?
Recognizing a narcissist, or recognizing narcissistic tendencies in your partner is the first step to self-preservation. Ridhi says, “A narcissist is always in the mood of self-obsession and desires to seek attention and appreciation from the people around them, without showing any empathy toward the other person.” People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder usually show the following signs:
- Extremely boastful
- Overly sensitive with fragile egos
- Exaggerate their achievements
- Pretend to be superior to others/ Look down on others as inferior
- Have a lack of empathy for others
- Show manipulative behavior
Ridhi does clarify that while “it is human nature to be selfish and boastful to a certain degree, a narcissist definitely takes it up several notches”. She mentions several narcissistic bullying tactics to make it easy for you to understand your partner’s patterns. When arguing with a narcissist partner, watch out for these red flags:
- Narcissistic Rage: Narcissists tend to show rage in two ways. They may either explode in anger, scream, yell, or show violent behavior. Or they may resort to passive-aggressive behavior such as using sarcasm and simmering resentment or giving you the silent-treatment
- Word Salad: What they say doesn’t make sense. They will throw random words and phrases at you. They will talk in circles rendering the sentences incoherent in an attempt to move the goal post
- Gaslighting: They might go into complete denial about their behavior. They try to convince you that you do not know what you are talking about
- Narcissist blame shifting: They try to manipulate you by attacking you back. They might remind you of your past mistakes, real or invented, to make you the bad guy in an argument
- Moving the goal post: They will employ any of the above tactics or other methods to deflect attention from their misbehavior. The moment you reach the point you were trying to make and hit the goal, the goal post is moved to something else
Narcissists’ bullying tactics are fairly easy to recognize. You may also look at your own emotional feedback system to gauge if who you are dealing with is a narcissist.
- Do you tiptoe around them?
- Are you always apologizing to them?
- Do you feel scared?
- Are you always criticized?
- Do you demonstrate low self-esteem behavior?
- Do all fights lead to you doubting if it was your fault?
If you have ever wondered, “Do narcissists like conflicts?”, this should have answered it. Your response to these questions is an indicator that you must learn how to deal with a narcissist husband. To be able to do that, you need to understand where this behavior stems from.
Why Do Narcissists Like To Argue?
Narcissists have very low self-esteem and fragile ego. They get easily disappointed when expected importance is not given to them. This brings us to the more important question – but why? Why do narcissists like to argue? Understanding this might help you look at the person objectively and understand a narcissist’s weak points and argument tactics. This will allow you to take control away from them and learn to respond to a narcissist husband:
1. Their narcissistic behavior is out of their control
The behavior of a narcissist is literally out of their control and can be managed only by the intervention of a licensed clinical psychologist. A narcissist in an argument fights with concentrated energy, fixated only their current emotions. This is one of the biggest reasons why narcissists can’t maintain intimate relationships. They lack what is called object constancy or object permanence.
Object constancy is the idea that something exists even when it cannot be seen or sensed by you. Humans, in the natural course of development, acquire this ability. From a psychological point of view, what this means for a narcissist is that, unlike other people, they are not able to hold on to their general positive emotions about their relationship while feeling negative emotions such as hurt, anger or disappointment.
Ridhi says, “If narcissists cannot sense love in the moment, they forget that it existed. Which means that every fight or every disagreement for them is a potential breakup.”
2. Their past could be a narcissist’s weak point
A narcissist may have a past that led them to develop these tendencies. Their toxic behavior could be a result of toxic surroundings that they had to endure in the past, possibly during their childhood when they were not given enough attention. How you were raised affects relationships tremendously.
Ridhi says, “When a person has been in a toxic relationship in the past or grew up in a toxic environment, they might develop narcissistic tendencies to protect themselves. This can even happen when a person has been over-pampered, over-cared for, and over-protected.” When you find yourself dealing with a narcissist husband, this knowledge might help you handle volatile situations better.
3. They think they are always right
For a narcissist, every disagreement leads to an argument. Since they do not back down, always want to have the last word, and never compromise, every discussion is a ticking bomb waiting to go off. They anyway feel superior to everyone around them, which is why they refuse to bend.
A relationship between any two people can’t exist without any friction. And when one of those two people is this ill-equipped to come to an amicable middle ground, it is bound to lead to successive episodes of disappointment, frustration, abuse, and victimization for the other partner. But if you are mindful of a few things when arguing with a narcissistic husband, you might be able to save yourself a lot of pain and agony.
Related Reading: 11 Signs Your Man Has Anger Issues
9 Things To Be Mindful Of When Arguing With A Narcissistic Husband
Now that you know who is a narcissist and understand a bit about what causes them to behave the way they do, you can take appropriate measures in responding to your toxic partner and protect yourself from long-term emotional hurt and scars. Ridhi recommends the following tools and techniques to protect your own emotions and save your time and energy when handling a narcissist in an argument:
1. Manage your expectations or make a decision
Ridhi says that you must realize that you have an option. She urges that you acknowledge that there’s a possibility that your husband is not going to change his toxic behavior. “If you’re in the relationship only because you think that he is going to change, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of heartache,” she adds.
You must take help in gauging the toxicity in your relationship and if it is worth all the effort you are going to put in. So, make a decision. If you decide to carry on a life with a narcissistic husband, the suggestions that follow might be helpful for you.
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips On How To Deal With A Narcissist Spouse
2. Establish clear boundaries
Ridhi puts a lot of emphasis on the need for boundaries for your mental well-being. She says, “Your husband will likely want to control everything in the relationship. You need to think about how to set emotional boundaries in order to protect your mental health.” She also shares several specific suggestions.
“You could let your husband know that if he begins to call you names, the conversation will be over and that you will walk away,” she explains. Another example of a boundary could be prioritizing having alone time with your support network, friends, and family. With a warning that your husband may not like it when you spend time with friends, Ridhi adds, “Isolation can be a form of emotional abuse and it’s important for you to have a strong support system in your life.”
3. Don’t tell him he’s wrong when arguing with a narcissistic husband
A narcissist’s moral gauge to understand right and wrong is heavily askew. Since the personality rests on an exaggerated sense of self-importance and righteousness, a narcissist believes they are always right. Inevitably, it becomes pointless to tell them they are wrong.
When you argue with your narcissistic husband, you are essentially telling him that he is wrong. Ridhi says, “If you want to smooth things over, do not expect to defeat him by trying to make them realize who is to blame.” Instead, do what follows in the next point.
4. Empathy may help you de-escalate an argument with a narcissist
Since narcissists tend to thrive on attention, employing empathy when arguing with a narcissist can be a helpful strategy. Ridhi suggests, “Respond to a narcissist husband by telling him that you understand and empathize with how he feels. Additionally, instead of using You or I, use We. Narcissist blame shifting is common, but they may react well if you use “we” language.”
When your narcissist husband feels he is understood, his defense guard may drop for a moment and you might actually have a chance to be heard. Employing empathy when responding to an angry narcissist may lead you to have a completely different experience.
5. Do not take the bait when arguing with a narcissist
“When arguing with a narcissistic husband, expect him to say provocative, abusive, and nasty things because they are wired to do so,” warns Ridhi. This provocation can be active or passive, for example, if they give you the silent treatment, don’t feel pushed to respond. If you get into an argument knowing what you might face, you tend to be less reactive and more in control.
This, of course, helps you protect your own emotions and stay calm but it also gives your narcissist husband the impression that you are not distressed. This will either make him not indulge in the name-calling any further because it doesn’t seem to work or make him sense empathy from you. Either way, it helps quiet his chaotic nerves and gives you time to get out of the argument.
Related Reading: How To Stop Arguing In A Relationship – 11 Tips That REALLY Work!
6. Be aware of a narcissist’s argument tactics
Do narcissists like conflicts? They sure do. Narcissists are skilled in employing techniques to win arguments and get what they want. This might even be doing it unintentionally since they are wired to act in self-preservation without empathizing with others. You might care about your husband deeply, but it is important to detach yourself from the relationship for a minute and see him as a subject.
This will help you recognize the tactics they use to get to you, which may include stonewalling, gaslighting, deflection, emotional manipulation, narcissistic rage, projection, and love bombing. A narcissist in an argument can use any, if not all, of these to their advantage. Take time out to study them so that you can recognize them. For example, a knowledge of common gaslighting phrases may help you take control of the situation and take power away from a narcissist.
7. Prepare an automated response beforehand for an argument
If you have decided to live with a narcissist partner, you need to be prepared to handle all that they may throw at you. The better prepared you are, the more power you hold over your own response. An automated response to their predictable outbursts can be an effective and helpful strategy. This way, when dealing with a narcissistic husband, you can put your feelings across and quietly walk out from the argument.
This not only helps in taking power away from a narcissist but also in letting out some of your frustration so that you don’t stockpile resentment in marriage. Something like: “I can see that you are upset. I think I understand how you feel. But your anger is also hurtful to me. I need to protect myself, so I am going to walk out right now. We can talk about it together when you are calm and can express yourself positively.”
8. Do not doubt yourself
Narcissists thrive on others’ empathic tendencies. Your kindness, tolerance, and doting nature are what make them depend on you for their need for a regular supply of admiration, appreciation, and love. This is not to say that you must not give them your admiration and love but be cautious of losing your hold on your perception of your own emotions.
While arguing with a manipulative partner, do not believe it when you are called “too sensitive” or “too emotional” or even selfish for caring about your needs. Be wary of similar nasty things narcissists say in an argument. Don’t let yourself be manipulated or gaslit into doubting your instincts.
9. Choose your battles
Consider this: Is it worth arguing with a narcissist all the time? Living with a narcissist husband you might be emotionally exhausted anyway. If a partner refuses to back down or compromise during disagreements, it is obviously going to lead to many altercations between the two of you.
One way to guard yourself is to pick which battles to ignore and which ones to fight. To argue with a narcissistic husband is no mean feat. So, learn to recognize which arguments are unnecessary or simply trivial and save your energy and emotions for the ones that are more important for you and your relationship. When dealing with a narcissist, use this choice to protect yourself.
- People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder are extremely boastful, overly sensitive, have fragile egos, exaggerate their achievements, look down on others, show a lack of empathy for others and manipulative behavior
- A narcissist may have a past that led them to develop these tendencies
- To deal with an argumentative narcissistic partner, you must first manage your expectation about a change in their behavior
- Other things you must do are establish clear boundaries, use empathy as a tool to get through to them and stay calm. Do not be easily provoked to respond immediately
- Do not let yourself be gaslit. And seek professional help to fix the toxic relationship with your narcissistic spouse
Learning to cope with such a relationship is not easy. But this should help you understand how your narcissist spouse thinks and why he fights the way he does. It is possible to shield yourself from the wrath of a narcissist by prepping yourself with the right knowledge and tools to help you take control away from a narcissist.
Keep in mind: Most of these points cater to adjusting to a narcissist’s needs. While it might seem unfair, this advice is meant for an individual who has decided to make these adjustments for reasons best known to them. To help you make such a decision, the personal advice of a counselor is unparalleled. Ridhi strongly suggests therapy if you’re married to a narcissist.
She says, “If you’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse, you may have a hard time recognizing that the behaviors showing up in your marriage are not acceptable. Or, you may find yourself going back and forth between wondering if it’s a problem or if you’re just making a big deal out of nothing.” If you’re looking for help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.