15 Signs Of Being Married To A Narcissist And How to Cope

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Being Married To A Narcissist

“The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism,” said psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his popular book The Art of Loving. And he was right. With their immense self-importance and the need for someone to stroke their ego, we wonder if narcissists can truly love anyone at all, let alone their partners. We also wonder what being married to a narcissist might feel like. After all, being made to feel like a lesser being by one’s own partner must be painful.

In this article, we have tried providing you answers to some of your burning questions about staying in a marriage with a narcissistic spouse and the effects of being married to a narcissist. With the help of our expert psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples counseling, we will also jot down a few tips to deal with a narcissistic spouse. So, let’s not waste time and dive straight in…

15 Signs Of Being Married To A Narcissist

How do narcissists treat their partners? A 2016 study suggested being married to a narcissist makes your relationship worse over time. So, it is likely that such a relationship may not exhibit signs of narcissistic abuse at its onset, meaning prominent narcissistic traits may take some time to manifest themselves completely. This leads to an increase in marital dysfunction and a decrease in marital satisfaction.

Unfortunately, the study was solely on narcissistic wives, also showcasing the fact that men perhaps get away with a lot of such traits easily, because a man being controlling and narcissistic is perhaps, to some extent, accepted by the male-dominated society.

A Reddit user had a similar experience and claimed, “I was married to a narcissist and didn’t realize it until I left him.” Her husband apparently controlled her in every step, from why she “folded the towels wrong” to why she was “putting groceries away wrong” or having some quality “girl time”. So, it is crucial to get to know the traits of a narcissistic husband or wife before things get out of hand. Listed below are 15 signs of being married to a narcissist:

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1. They are charming, initially

One way to comprehend the personality of the narcissist is to be doubly aware of what they are capable of right at the beginning of the relationship. Nandita says, “Early on in the marriage, they will pay you a lot of attention. They will be charming and generous, and do everything in their power to win you over. So, you’ll see some glaring examples of narcissistic behavior in the initial days of your marriage. For instance, a narcissist is likely to:

  • Take you out on expensive dates
  • Pamper you with surprise gifts, roses, or jewelry
  • Book luxury vacations with you
  • Shower you with their constant admiration and attention and spend quality time with you

2. You’ll see a slow shift in their behavior

One example of narcissistic behavior in a relationship is that once the relationship progresses and the narcissist has won you over, you will find the charm receding. You will instead see them indulge in haughty behaviors, with little concern for their partner’s feelings. Nandita says, “There is likely to be a marked shift in the behavior of the narcissist, and they are likely to stop pleasing you often.”

Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship

3. You’ll notice criticism and devaluation

Along with the subtle shift in behavior, you would find them slowly becoming your biggest critic, but not healthily or constructively. Nandita says, “They will start criticizing or devaluing you at the slightest inconvenience, and that’s when you know you’ve married a narcissist, as this is a classic case of narcissistic abuse.” So, you would often find your narcissistic partner:

  • Ridiculing you in front of others
  • Judging and passing snide remarks on your dress sense, your looks, your interests or your career choices

4. They show typical narcissistic cycles of criticism and charming behavior

The most interesting part of a narcissistic partner is that they won’t stop at devaluing you. They will continue to alternately value you and then demean you, keeping you hanging for those precious few moments when you’ll feel they love you. Only in this case, they don’t.

Nandita adds, “So, during these confusing narcissistic cycles of behavior in your marriage, you may wish to protest when they’re not treating you right, but as soon as they start breadcrumbing you little positive acts of love, you will be hooked on to them and wish to keep them in your life, making it difficult for you to escape the narcissistic abuse.”

Related Reading: 11 Tips To Deal With A Narcissist Boyfriend Smartly

5. Their self-love is evident

Another example of narcissistic behavior in a relationship is that even if narcissistic romantic partners pretend to love you or care about you, all they care about is themselves. In fact, grandiosity and narcissism go hand in hand. So, don’t fall for that sweet talk they engage in just before they need you to do something for them. This is just romantic manipulation.

Nandita adds, “All a self-centered narcissist wants is for you to feed their ego. So, every little act of theirs is directed toward that, without any concern about how their behaviors affect their partner. You will also find that most of their conversations revolve around them.”

It’s always about what a brilliant student they were in school, what a well-paid job they have, and how people admire them. They love to brag about themselves, and it’s always about their achievements.

6. Their sense of entitlement is ‘over the top’

Nandita says, “Another sign of narcissistic behavior in a marriage is a narcissistic partner’s sense of entitlement.” So, narcissists tend to believe that everything and everyone exists for them and to cater to them.

In such cases, it’s not a big deal for them if you cook their favorite dish for them or deck up in sexy lingerie for them. They aren’t overjoyed or grateful for it, because they feel it’s your duty to make them happy and satiate their ego. They won’t appreciate you or your efforts. In fact, this is one of the typical traits of a narcissistic husband or wife.

signs of being married to a narcissist
Narcissists have an inflated sense of self

7. They don’t offer emotional support

Nandita believes, “In long-term marriages, partners need both emotional and physical fulfillment for complete relationship satisfaction. And a narcissist is the first one to opt out of offering any emotional support to their spouse. In fact, they lack empathy.” So, you may not find a narcissistic partner listening to your emotional rants or offering you some pep talk or emotional conversations when:

Related Reading: 9 Things To Be Mindful Of When Arguing With A Narcissistic Husband

  • You’re down with an issue at your workplace
  • You’re having a tough time dealing with the illnesses of your aged parents
  • You’re just having a bad day and are overwhelmed with life in general

8. They don’t accept responsibility

One of the toughest of all narcissistic marriage problems is that they will just not accept any responsibility for their actions. This is also one of the prominent examples of narcissistic behavior. Nandita adds, “A narcissistic partner will blame you for anything or any issue that occurs in the relationship. They are never sorry and won’t ever apologize for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.”

So, it’s your fault if your marriage is falling apart for his flirtatious ways, because hey, you probably couldn’t keep your man or aren’t attractive enough. It’s your fault if your finances as a couple are dwindling, because you should cut down on your expenses, and your random visits to the parlor or the mall aren’t as essential as his expenses.

9. They fish for compliments

Nandita says, “A narcissistic person, even if he is married, is a sucker for compliments.” So, a simple “Hey, you’re looking gorgeous” from a friend can go to their head and make them think they are the most attractive person in the world.

Even a married narcissist wouldn’t stop being flashy on social media or at social events, because their ego needs to be fed by random compliments. They thrive on validation but aren’t overjoyed when they get compliments, because they believe they deserve to be complimented. They may even flirt around to feel special, as narcissists and cheating go hand in hand.

Related Reading: 13 Distinctive Traits Of Female Narcissists Revealed

10. They love gaslighting

Gaslighting features on top of the list of narcissistic relationship abuse patterns. Gaslighting is when someone makes you doubt your own sanity with their manipulation and lies, just to shift the blame on you. This is one of the most prominent narcissistic marriage problems.

And it could be about something as simple as you forgetting to collect the kids from school when your narcissistic wife clearly hadn’t informed you that she would be busy with her friends that day. A gaslighting narcissistic husband may invite his parents over to stay at your place for a month, and then blame you for overreacting to the sudden inconvenience.

More on Narcissism

11. They manipulate you

A narcissistic wife or husband treats you like a toy and manipulates you quite often for their gain. So, if you’re in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, you will end up catering to their every need, without even realizing it. For instance, they might label you as a “loser” or as someone who’s “needy” to devalue your needs and project theirs instead, just to get their way. So, you may be too scared to protest even if you find them flirting around, lest they leave you or you appear too emotional and needy.

Related Reading: 25 Gaslighting Phrases In Relationships That Kill Love

12. They may give you the silent treatment

One of the deadliest weapons in a narcissistic marriage is the silent treatment. So, whenever they don’t get their way, their fragile self-esteem takes a hit and they push you to work according to their whims by giving you the silent treatment. They may even resort to other similar narcissistic relationship abuse pattern tactics, such as slamming a door shut, moving to the other room, and ignoring your points of view with smirks or shrugs.

13. They threaten you

More often than not, a narcissist may threaten you for not aligning with their whims or needs. So, if you see a narcissistic partner threatening to leave the relationship, to limit your access to their money, or to stop letting you meet your friends, unless you do something for them, you know it’s time to leave.

One of my friends, Rita, was in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. Her husband was too engrossed in his own career and social status and treated Rita like an appendage to accompany him to social events. He would often ridicule her for gaining weight and threatened to leave her often if she didn’t lose weight. Rita eventually ended up being divorced, as the emotional abuse had taken its toll on her mental health.

Related Reading: Exposing A Narcissist – What You Should Know

14. They exaggerate

One of the narcissistic traits is that they are always ready with their exaggerated accounts. Interestingly, the exaggeration is always positive when the narration is about them, while they’re usually negative when they’re about others. So, a minor inconvenience to them will be exaggerated as a major flaw.

For instance, if you end up cooking a dish and they think it’s too spicy, they might act as if they have fallen sick after having the dish and blame you for making them ill. Likewise, they will go ga-ga over that one compliment they may have received from a friend at a social event. They might make it seem as if they had stolen the show at the event.

15. They displace their negative emotions

It’s not true that narcissists don’t feel. Of course, they do. They are humans too. So, how do narcissists treat their partners when they themselves feel angry, sad, or depressed? Well, when narcissists tend to feel painful or negative emotions, they displace them or transfer them to others, usually to people around them, such as their partners.

In case you are married to a narcissist, they might try to degrade you and make you feel ashamed of yourself, if they feel shame. This will, in turn, destroy your mental health.

Infographic on signs of being married to a narcissist
15 signs of being married to a narcissist

Ways Being Married To A Narcissist Affects You

Now that we know what to expect from a narcissistic partner in a marriage, you may be wondering how such a marriage can affect you. After all, it’s not easy being with a person with an excessively inflated sense of self and a habit of degrading others around them.

Look at the account of one Reddit user, for instance. He states, “I went from being a confident man to being someone that’s not confident, has low self-esteem, always wants to please people, is chronically feeling lonely.” And this person claims to have been married to a narcissist for 6 whole years. Well, this is how abusive a narcissist can get, and such marriages can really destroy your identity in the long run. Here are some long-term effects of being married to a narcissist:

  • It will make you lonely: Nandita says, “There will come a point in your marriage when you will feel lonely because one of the characteristics of a narcissistic spouse is that they are unlikely to connect emotionally.” Plus, they will manipulate you to stay away from your family members and friends. This loneliness might leave you with a void, and you may feel as if you’re in a marriage without a partner
  • It will destroy your self-esteem: This is what Nandita calls “the biggest downside” of being in a marriage with a narcissist. All the gaslighting and the blame-shifting will eventually corrode your self-esteem. This is the worst form of emotional abuse that one can come across, and you will always feel scared to react or make your voice heard. This could lead to irreparable mental disorders too
  • You will find yourself walking on eggshells: Narcissism and codependency go hand in hand. In fact, a marriage with a narcissist may have a parent-child dynamic, where you’re constantly scared you will offend your partner and that they may leave you for good. This constant anxiety may take its toll on your mental health condition and lead to serious mental disorders

Related Reading: 7 Signs You Have A Covert Narcissist Husband And How To Cope

  • You will find yourself pleasing them always: Nandita says, “One of the glaring characteristics of a narcissistic spouse is that they can show extremely manipulative behavior to meet their needs. So, you will end up pleasing them and catering to their well-being.” As a result, your own needs may not be addressed or may be neglected altogether, leading to major mental health issues
  • All conversations will turn into arguments: One of the long-term effects of being married to a narcissist is that it will have no open and honest conversations. Nandita adds, “All critical conversations, demanding them to mend their ways, will end in arguments, as narcissists hate to accept anything negative about themselves.”
  • You will be emotionally exploited: As a partner, a narcissist’s frequent lies, where they need to conceal the truth to manipulate you for their selfish needs will make you feel emotionally exploited. Nandita says, “Destroying you emotionally will only make a narcissistic partner feel good and will feed their ego, leaving your mental health condition damaged forever.”
  • You may be physically abused: There’s been a detailed study on the impact of narcissistic rage on domestic violence. Emotional and verbal abuse can very well progress to physical violence, if a narcissist is short-tempered too

How To Deal With A Narcissist Spouse — 7 Ways To Cope

With all said and done about the impact of a narcissistic spouse on your marriage, it is also true that cutting off a narcissistic family member, especially a life partner, is extremely difficult, even if you see all the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder clearly. Moreover, your loved ones might just tell you to adjust with them, since arguments and conflicts are a part and parcel of all healthy relationships.

Additionally, Nandita says, “Before labeling your partner as a narcissist, you must observe the typical narcissistic traits and recognize visible signs of narcissism. Understand the narcissistic relationship pattern. You can only think of coping with narcissism if you’re sure they’re a classic narcissist.” So, wondering how to survive being married to a narcissist? Listed below are 7 ways that tell you how to deal with being married to a narcissist:

Related Reading: Are Narcissists Capable Of Love?

1. Be quick to differentiate between true and fake issues

It’s crucial to maintain your sanity amid the emotional manipulation and abuse in a marriage with a narcissist. Nandita suggests, “You must learn to find out which issues are worth your time and which are the results of narcissistic manipulation and stem from your partner’s negative behavior.” Fighting with a narcissist on fake issues can prolong your suffering.

2. Communicate

While dealing with a narcissistic relationship pattern, it’s important to make yourself and your own needs heard. Start communicating the moment you spot the slightest symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Nandita advises, “Learn to make sure all your communication channels are clear and that there’s no self-doubt.”

Related Reading: Dating A Narcissist? Here Are The Signs And How It Changes You

3. Don’t internalize hurtful and negative comments

If you’re still wondering how to deal with being married to a narcissist, well, the best way is to ignore all their snide remarks. Nandita suggests, “Learn not to internalize the sarcasm, ridicule, or barbed comments you get while fighting with a narcissist.” It’s important to be strong and keep yourself insulated against the attacks of a narcissist. So, avoid them or reduce communication when they try to degrade you.

how to deal with being married to a narcissist
You need to maintain healthy boundaries with narcissists

4. Maintain healthy boundaries

Wondering how to take control away from a narcissist? Dealing with a narcissist requires you to make yourself understood. Nandita says, “You have to make your tolerance level known to your partner. Maintain strict and healthy boundaries and communicate them clearly to your partner. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Learn to say “No” to some of their unreasonable demands and tantrums. Go no-contact for a few days, if required
  • Don’t always sacrifice your own desires to cater to theirs
  • If you don’t like a joke or a snide remark, tell them
  • Call out their selfish behavior

Related Reading: 19 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries In Relationships

5. Share your trauma with a trusted network

Don’t lose touch with your family and friends at any cost. Remember, a narcissist wants just that – to isolate you from your loved ones, so that you remain a victim to their whims and fancies. Nandita says, “Do not hide your relationship issues. Do share them with your loved ones who can provide you with emotional and any other forms of support. Also, form other healthy relationships.”

6. Develop a positive self-image

Remember, a narcissist’s worst weapon is emotionally manipulating you to believe that you exist to cater to them. They wish to make you feel guilty for caring about your own life. So, build your own identity, instead of getting into arguments with a narcissist. Do things that make you happy, join new courses, bring back old hobbies you loved, and socialize with people.

Nandita advises, “Be brave and courageous. Live a life filled with self-esteem and create a good self-image that boosts your confidence.” This is how to take control away from a narcissist.

Related Reading: 11 Ways To Tell A Narcissist Is Finished With You

7. Consult a mental health professional

Lastly, there’s no alternative to seeking support from counselors or going for couples therapy for narcissistic personality disorder if you’re still wondering how to deal with a narcissist. So, if you feel lost trying to deal with a narcissistic partner’s unreasonable demands and abusive behaviors, don’t hesitate to seek therapy from counselors. Bonobology’s expert counselors are here to help you.

Key Pointers

  • Some tell-tale signs of being married to a narcissist are that they are initially very charming, they often gaslight their spouses, and they don’t offer emotional support
  • Some effects of being married to a narcissist are that it can make you lonely, can destroy your self-esteem, and can emotionally exploit you
  • Wondering how to deal with a narcissist? You can try communicating with them, maintaining strict boundaries, and going for couples therapy for narcissistic personality disorder

So, by now, we hope you aren’t wondering what the signs and effects of being married to a narcissist are. We also hope you now know how to survive being married to a narcissist, manage their tantrums, or even deal gracefully with the arguments with a narcissist. Remember narcissistic behavior and relationships don’t make a good combination.

Surviving the trauma of dealing with a gaslighting and manipulative narcissistic husband or wife isn’t easy. Remember, it’s fine to try and repair a bond damaged by narcissistic abuse, but in the long run, you need to decide that a relationship is supposed to bring you joy. And if your narcissistic spouse’s behavior is damaging or hurting you beyond your threshold, it’s better to reconsider your bond and quit if you wish to. After all, you matter too.

FAQs

1. What is it like being married to a narcissist?

Being married to a narcissistic person is tricky, as the partner is bound to be at the receiving end of narcissistic abuse, meaning actions such as gaslighting, frequent lies, constant criticism, and silent treatment.

2. How long can a narcissist stay married?

This question doesn’t have a concrete answer. While it’s true that marriages of narcissists don’t last long because of the emotional trauma their spouses have to go through, it’s also possible for a narcissist to continue a marriage with an emotionally weak spouse who clings on to them and caters to their every need.

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