“The narcissist is like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. No matter how much you put in, you can never fill it up.” Who’s the first person that came to your mind after reading these wise words by Dr. Ramani Durvasula? If this makes you think of your life partner, it’s the first hint that you may indeed have a narcissistic husband. A narcissistic husband is the bane of any woman’s mental peace and of healthy relationships. He poses countless challenges with his self-centered approach toward life and love. If you’re trying to cope with being married to a narcissist, you’re in the right place today.
Over the last few years, there has been a lot of focus among psychologists on narcissism. It is not a brutal or judgmental way of describing someone. It is actually considered a major personality disorder. Narcissistic individuals are obsessed with themselves, have an inflated sense of ego, desperately seek attention, and as a result, have troubled relationships. This description is exhausting enough to read, let alone live with. Imagine navigating how to deal with a narcissist spouse!
You must be struggling quite a bit with your partner if you’re looking at the signs of a narcissistic husband. But let’s put your mind at ease by giving you some clarity on this front. We begin by outlining a few basic concepts with the help of consultant psychologist Jaseena Backer (MS Psychology), who is a gender and relationship management expert. She’s here with a few words of advice and a lot of answers to your questions about narcissistic husbands.
Who Is A Narcissistic Husband?
From a sociological perspective, the male ego has often been blamed for unhappy marriages. In many cultures, a sense of entitlement, a refusal to see their wife’s point of view, a lack of empathy, and an exaggerated sense of self are attributes used to define “bad husbands”. But all of these traits have their roots in narcissism. What a woman may peg as a massive ego and superiority complex is perhaps nothing but a mask to shield their fragile self-esteem.
Living with a narcissistic husband or narcissistic spouse entails walking on eggshells around them constantly. The slightest bit of criticism can make him blow his fuse, which is why you’re always afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. He’s supremely confident in his abilities and opinions. Such an individual will never second-guess himself and your opinions will take the backseat as he powers his way through your world with a selfish approach. Calling him self-absorbed is an understatement.
A spouse with NPD may have grandiose ideas of self-importance, they may believe they’re entitled to special treatment and will get extremely agitated when they don’t get it. On the other hand, they may also play the victim card and act as though they’ve been dealt a rough hand in life, and thus, everyone must bow down to them and treat them with all the care in the world.
Jaseena explains, “The obstacles arise because your spouse is someone you’re trying to build a future with. This is the most intimate relationship you share with someone. Marriage is the ultimate partnership. Being married to a narcissist means having to deal with their projections, gaslighting, love-bombing, etc. It becomes confusing to tackle this chaos and you might wonder, “Am I going wrong somewhere?”
A narcissistic husband may not necessarily be abusive or violent toward you, but his constant need for attention and lack of empathy for others can burn you out. The side effect of being married to a narcissist is that your own confidence can take a beating as you direct all your energy toward managing his insecurities. An accurate diagnosis of NPD can only be given out by a mental health therapist, but the following narcissistic husband signs will give you a pretty good idea of what you’re up against.
Signs Of A Narcissistic Husband
Despite their façade of confidence, narcissistic men are generally unhappy on the inside. They struggle with seeing others progress and thrive. The inner turmoil is a result of competitiveness, jealousy, low self-esteem, and a LOT of emotional baggage. Their inner conflict affects each sphere of life, including their relationship with their significant other.
Such marriages might not be terrible, but living with a narcissistic husband has its own challenges. It would be worthwhile to recognize the traits so that you can cope with the problem once you are armed with knowledge about its facets. Before you understand how to deal with a narcissist spouse, you’re going to want to know exactly what you are facing here.
Having a narcissist for a husband requires you to go into battle fully prepared. There may be useless fights at every corner, and he’s just not ready to accept any responsibility for anything he does. But before you figure out how to deal with such a person, you must ascertain that you see the signs of a narcissistic husband in him. Let’s get right into it then.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Stay Sane While Divorcing A Narcissistic Husband
1. Classic narcissistic husband signs: He needs to be in control
A husband who is a narcissist will insist on having the last word all the time. He won’t think twice before canceling plans or making new ones without consulting you. Things MUST go his way or he’ll sulk to no end. This might even lead him to micro-manage things (or you). This obsessive need to be in control at all times is a dead giveaway and is also a sign he’s trying to be dominating in the relationship.
Jaseena says, “A dominating personality is one of the preliminary signs. The approach is something along the lines of “my way or the highway”. Needless to say, this is very problematic. You have to accommodate another person’s needs and wishes into your scheme of things. That’s just how relationships work.”
2. A narcissistic husband puts you down
One of the major narcissist husband traits is that he will be incredibly disrespectful to you. A narcissistic husband will speak to you in a condescending manner, subtly or obviously. It will be very evident that he disrespects you; even his compliments/appreciation will be backhanded. In other instances, he will try and take credit for your achievements. Here’s a classic statement – “Look how well you’ve done under my guidance.”
It’s one of the classic narcissistic husband traits. Everything you do right, it’s because of him. Everything he does wrong, it’s because of you. Did he forget the car keys on his way out? “Why didn’t you remind me to pick them up?” is the first thing out of his mouth.
3. He is charming and overtly sexual
Yes, this might sound like a great trait but that’s because a narcissistic man has a lot of confidence in himself; he exudes charm and his prowess may result in great sexual chemistry. But, it’s just an exercise to stroke his own ego. His smooth ways might get off-putting after a while. The fascination wears off and you see him for what he really is, an egotistical person. This is one of the most subtle narcissistic husband traits.
4. The support is selective when you’re living with a narcissistic husband
You might feel like he really stands by you. Sure, he might. But only on certain occasions – the ones that reflect well on him. He will come to your networking dinner, not because he is proud of you but so that he can make an impression on others. The word you’re looking for is “self-serving” and that trait comes abundantly in a narcissistic spouse. It’s awful to deal with a narcissistic husband because he is willing to make an effort as long as the outcome is in his favor.
5. What are the signs of a narcissistic husband? He has a sense of entitlement
How to live with a narcissist husband is all about navigating the man’s constant sense of entitlement and lack of concern for you. In his “I, me, and myself” world, he expects you to adjust as per his whims and fancies. Does he plan to take you out for dinner? Chances are, it’ll be a restaurant he loves, a cuisine he enjoys, and a time that’s convenient for him. This is a classic case of being married to a narcissist. Your romantic dates are overshadowed by his self-conceit.
Jaseena explains, “A wife is always on the compromising end in such a marriage. Because he’s so sure of his place in their relationship, the entitlement means that his default setting is his preference, the spouse’s views are hardly taken into consideration.”
6. Narcissistic husbands love conversations…about themselves
Your husband listens to your problems but makes them about himself. He likes to hold the attention of a crowd, but only so that he can brag about his own achievements without paying heed or compliments to anyone else’s. You feel unheard in the relationship because he’s not very interested or involved in your life. On the rare occasions that he does listen to you, there’s a distinct lack of empathy. He’s his favorite, and there’s not much you can do about it.
Related Reading: What To Do If You Think Your Husband Hates You?
7. He does not fulfill his promises – Narcissistic husband traits
This is one of the defining traits of a narcissist. One of the reasons why it is so challenging to survive a narcissistic husband is because he rarely keeps his promises to you. It may not be deliberate, but he just does not think it’s a big deal or that following up on his promise is a decent thing to do. The concept just does not exist. To make himself feel good, he’ll promise you the moon, he’ll tell you all he’s going to do.
But when it comes time to back it up with actions, he’s falling far behind. This classic sign of a narcissistic husband might create trust issues for you in the marriage. Not following through on promises repeatedly has far-reaching consequences and can lead to an actual breakdown of relationships.
8. Your problems are seen through his prism
Say you face a terrible situation in life – getting fired, losing a loved one, or some embarrassing situation involving a relative or friend. You need support in this vulnerable state, but what does your husband do? He wonders how it will affect his reputation or his life.
Even his solutions might be filtered through that prism of self-interest. Putting you first is not on his agenda. And since dealing with a passive-aggressive narcissist husband won’t exactly be your priority when it’s you who’s in need of support, it’s going to lead to a lot of arguments.
9. Why is being married to a narcissist so hard? Others’ opinions are important to him
Since a narcissist has an overriding need for approval from others, he might not value your choice or opinion on matters. After all, you are already in the bag and he doesn’t need to impress you anymore. On the other hand, it matters to him what neighbors, bosses, friends, or acquaintances think.
Your husband’s people-pleasing antics must have gotten on your nerves at some point or the other. Jaseena says, “He will seek validation from his social circle. This is taxing for the other spouse because his efforts are seldom channeled toward the marriage. A person feels emotionally neglected when the narcissistic husband’s focus lies on winning over others.”
10. A narcissistic husband competes with you
Staying married to a narcissistic husband can be very difficult if both of you are in the same profession. Or worse, in the same office. He doesn’t mind your success but he wants to be better than you. Of course, feeling a bit jealous of your partner when they do something you’ve been trying to do for the longest time is natural.
But life with a narcissistic husband will involve him throwing a fit every time you achieve something. This desire to win the race is probably a point of contention in your marriage; if you get a promotion but he doesn’t, God help you.
11. A narcissist fishes for compliments
While self-confidence might be one of the traits of a narcissist, a school of thought suggests that they only appear to be confident. If you don’t pay much attention, they demand it. And usually, they use other people – often those who are a bit meek or submissive – to supplement their sense of self-worth. This is why you should not feed their egos with praise. A lack of attention will make a narcissist miserable instantly.
12. He wants to have the last word in an argument
Narcissistic spouse tendencies entail them always wanting to have the last word in any argument. Fights are a part and parcel of a relationship. But arguing with a narcissistic husband is an exercise in futility. As he loves the sound of his voice, he’ll rarely let you get a word in. The fight becomes a battle of egos and conflict resolution exits the picture. It is impossible to make them understand your perspective because they want to “win” the fight.
Jaseena explains, “Living with a narcissist is extremely difficult. There’s very little scope of getting through to them. You might keep wondering what has triggered their behavior. Did you warrant such a reaction or outburst? No, you didn’t. His priorities are a little skewed, even in an argument. He’s striving to give it back to you.”
13. He doesn’t have many friends
If you have a narcissistic spouse, you’ll notice how they hardly ever make any decent friends. Ask yourself whether your husband has meaningful friendships. Probably not. Narcissists have casual acquaintances with whom they can hang out or those who feed their ego. This is why a narcissist struggles with sustaining connections over a period of time. Eventually, people stop gratifying them, so they get bored of the relationship.
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14. Life with a narcissistic husband involves a lot of nitpicking
Initially, the way he picks on you might seem like a joke. But you soon realize that it’s impossible to talk to a narcissistic husband because he pokes fun at everything you say or do. It can get harrowing to live with a person who thinks they have a wacky sense of humor and is in fact a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
His jibes border on taunts, and he’s completely unaware that he’s hurting you. As a result, it gets increasingly difficult to survive with a narcissistic husband, especially when these constant taunts come from a place of condescension.
15. What’s one of the most evident signs of a narcissistic husband? He gaslights you
Since narcissists are manipulators, they may use all forms of verbal and emotional abuse to make you feel insecure, underconfident, and doubtful. Your narcissistic husband will turn the tables on you when you voice your concerns. He’ll blame you for the problem, invalidate your emotions, and play the victim.
Jaseena says, “Gaslighting is a form of passive aggression. A narcissist will keep putting his wife on the spot, blaming her for his behavior. It is one of the more obvious signs you can see. He might use gaslighting phrases like, “this happened because you did XYZ” or “you have no one to blame but yourself”.”
16. If he struggles with commitment, it’s a sign of a narcissist husband
Out of the classic narcissist husband traits, this is one you must have certainly noticed. What did I say about narcissists getting bored of people? Marriage is the highest level of commitment where things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows. The relationship will have rough patches, conflicts, and differences. Working through them requires patience and perseverance – something a narcissist lacks. There might be instances of sexual and emotional infidelity as well if you’re married to a narcissist.
17. He will never apologize – Being married to a narcissist
Taking accountability is not a narcissist’s strongest suit. He won’t admit his mistakes or apologize at any cost. How do you handle someone who refuses to acknowledge his errors? The marriage suffers when a spouse can’t assume responsibility for his actions. Unknowingly, with such narcissist husband trait, he is completely sabotaging the relationship.
18. He won’t stand for divorce
Despite your narcissistic husband’s flaws (which he won’t admit to), he will panic if you take the step of breaking away from him. Perhaps it’s his ego that won’t allow you to walk away, or he needs someone to latch on to. If you speak of parting ways, he will move heaven and earth to win you back.
An on-again, off-again relationship pattern is common to such people. This majorly happens because one of the most common narcissistic husband traits is that he believes there’s nothing wrong with HIS marriage, and nothing ever will be. Such illusions of grandeur stem from his heightened sense of self-worth.
19. A narcissistic husband has a huge ego
This is one of the worst narcissistic husband traits. His delusions of grandeur and an exaggerated sense of self, obviously result in a huge ego. Any attempt to poke it will be met with backlash. Your husband is convinced that he’s an expert on most subjects. He knows best and people should adhere to his advice.
God forbid that you try to give him a reality check because he’ll push back with greater force. When you’re navigating life with a narcissistic husband, you’ve probably never even once heard him admit that he’s wrong or didn’t know something about something. In his mind, he is the smartest man alive, and nothing he says can ever be wrong.
Related Reading: Dating A Narcissist? Here Are The Signs And How It Changes You
20. Signs of a narcissist husband: His relationships have always been troubled
You may not have realized this when you married him but have you ever tried finding out why his past relationships failed? Does he always blame his previous girlfriends for things that did not go right? Did he ever take the blame for any of his relationships not working out? I’m pretty sure he didn’t and I hope you’re seeing the pattern of blame-shifting here since one of the most common signs of a narcissist husband includes him never accepting he did anything wrong.
21. A narcissist loves giving advice
Another easily predictable trait! Since they think so highly of themselves, they love to dispense advice, solicited or unsolicited. Their two cents are more like two dollars. Does your husband also launch into a monologue about what he thinks of something? Interrupting him is pointless; the only way out is to let him say his piece for the sake of peace.
Call it mansplaining or incessant babbling, the result is the same. And what it stems from, again, is a grandiose idea of how important he is. When you’re trying to deal with a passive-aggressive narcissist husband, you must understand that in his mind, there’s no one more important than him.
Now that you’ve read up on narcissistic husband traits, it’s now time to figure out what to do about it. A few basic strategies will go a long way in helping you deal with a narcissistic husband, but you must remember that whatever it is you end up implementing, this situation requires you to have superhuman patience. You won’t go anywhere without that. Additionally, here are the 7 ways you can cope with having a narcissistic spouse.
How Do I Deal With A Narcissistic Husband?
If your husband shows more than 10 of the traits mentioned above, it’s entirely possible that he has NPD. It can get exasperating as the cracks show up in your marriage. That’s what happened with Jen and Richard. They had been married for over a decade, when Richard started drinking every day, to the point where he’d pass out. Already a condescending and self-absorbed man, his alcoholism made Jen think their marriage was definitely going to fail.
“I knew we had never been the perfect couple, but I had no idea how to deal with a narcissistic, alcoholic husband. No matter what I’d do, he’d be condescending to me, threaten to physically hurt me and drink away. After half a year of rehab, another year of psychotherapy, and a massive effort from both our ends, there’s some normalcy introduced in our lives again,” Jen tells us.
Each marriage has its share of obstacles and yours is a narcissistic husband. A little work – or a lot, in Jen’s case – from both of you can certainly save the marriage. As John Gottman said, “We repeat what we don’t repair.” So, if you keep asking yourself, ” How do I deal with a narcissistic husband?”, take a look at these tips given below:
1. Make a decision and check your expectations
The first thing to do while you’re figuring out how to handle a narcissist husband is to decide whether you want to be in it for the long haul. Can you commit to trying to make this marriage work even though you’re going to be belittled and abused for it? Apart from that, you must also ascertain whether the relationship has turned abusive, and is harming your physical or mental health.
Especially if you’re dealing with a narcissistic alcoholic husband, you must figure out if your dynamic is abusive, and make a decision about leaving or getting immediate help, be it through law enforcement, mental health professionals, or friends and family. Once you’ve made your decision, it’s important to understand that when you’re engaged in life with a narcissistic husband, you can’t expect there to be a miraculous recovery.
How to deal with a narcissist spouse then? You can’t expect him to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness once you tell him how he has been hurting you. It’ll be a long, drawn-out process, that’s going to require you to be extremely patient. NPD is a chronic mental disorder, and expecting it to disappear is only going to result in heartache.
2. How can I deal with a narcissistic husband? Seek professional help
Next, the most effective and important way to handle a narcissist husband is by seeking immediate therapy for him, yourself, and perhaps even couples’ counseling. A mental health professional is undoubtedly the need of the hour. Since NPD is a chronic mental disorder, an accurate diagnosis along with CBT or REBT is required for your partner to be able to make a change in the way he lives.
Relationship counseling has helped many couples work on their marriage. At Bonobology, our panel of experienced counselors and therapists can guide you through this turbulent time in your marriage, and help you achieve a harmonious relationship like the one you’ve always yearned for.
Related Reading: Relationship Counseling – Everything You Need To Know
3. Deal with a narcissistic husband by thinking objectively
Step outside your boundaries and observe your situation objectively. Study your husband, pick up the points where he shows the aforementioned qualities, and learn to detach. This can help protect your own energies while simultaneously grasping his situation. You’ll need a lot of empathy for this exercise; understanding your spouse’s journey will be a harrowing task.
Everyone is shaped by their experiences. Scrutinize what has affected your husband so intensely. Is there any unresolved trauma? Did he have toxic parents and an abusive childhood? Or is his psyche a result of a bad relationship? Once you’re able to find the cause, you’ll be able to understand him better.
4. Stay away from arguments with a narcissist
It is difficult, if not impossible, to shut down a narcissistic husband because of his tendency of exaggerating. Silence is better than an argument sometimes. Jaseena says, “Don’t be reactive. Stop matching his blows with equal fervor. One of you has to be mature about the situation so move ten steps away and don’t fall into the rabbit hole of arguing nonstop.”
When you’re trying to survive a narcissist husband, involving yourself in every fight he picks up is only going to cause you to burn out, and feel absolutely drained. It’s okay to choose to walk away from a fight since most things won’t be worth fighting about anyway.
5. How to deal with a narcissist husband? Take out some me-time
Living with a narcissistic husband can deflate your self-esteem because you are constantly making them feel good. Don’t allow him to define your sense of self. Dealing with his inconsiderate antics day in and day out is bound to get exhausting, do not forget to put yourself first.
Take out some me-time and some personal space for self-care and indulgence; meet your friends, pursue a hobby, or pamper yourself with something extravagant. Make sure you’re looking after your physical and mental health. If you don’t you’re only going to fall headfirst into a downward spiral. Since you’re the only one here with a sane grip on things, it’s important that you look after yourself.
6. Stand up for yourself in front of your narcissistic husband
If you have spotted the signs of narcissism during the dating phase but still decide to get married to him, it is essential to draw boundaries right from the beginning. Be specific about what is acceptable and what is not. A narcissistic husband enjoys embarrassing you or doing things that will put him in the limelight.
Don’t fall for it. Keep calling him out for disrespectful behavior and make sure he knows it’s not okay to walk all over you. For the sake of your mental peace, it may seem tempting to give in a few times and assume blame – just so the fight can end. But the more you do that, the more he’s going to assume it’s okay to disrespect you.
7. Communicate effectively and openly
When you’re trying to handle a narcissistic husband, it’s important to let him know everything that has been bothering you. Chances are, he’s not going to know how his behavior has been affecting you, so it’s up to you to make sure he knows. First things first, try to improve the communication.
How to deal with a narcissist husband? Approach the conversation in an attempt to reach a solution, not to pick a fight. Try to establish amicably the things that have been bothering you, and make sure you make him feel heard. Instead of using “I” statements, try to use “We” statements. For example, instead of saying, “When you talk like that to me, I feel disrespected” you can say “We’re not kind to each other, it doesn’t do any of us any favors when we speak like this”.
In its extreme form, narcissism can lead to depression or even self-harm; narcissists set very high unachievable goals for themselves, cannot handle failure, and are way too self-centered to consider others’ feelings. It is surely a challenge to live with a narcissistic husband, but it’s best if you take charge of the situation. Strive toward improvement!
More often than not, a narcissist marries someone who is his opposite – it is quite possible that a narcissistic husband’s wife is full of empathy and ready to take the blame on herself for things that go wrong.
Do not feed their ego. Do not take responsibility for their inadequacies. Don’t blame them – for that can increase their rage – but just refuse to blame yourself. Resist the temptation to stoop to their level during an argument. It’s difficult, but know that they are provoking you for a reaction.
If you initiated the divorce, expect a tough one. Narcissistic husbands do not like a failure and they are likely to see divorce as a failure on their part. They won’t give in easily. Try and stay calm during the proceedings because there might be a lot of nasty exchanges. Don’t defend yourself too much. It will only lead to greater conflicts as narcissists love a good argument.
Everyone is capable of change, but for a narcissist to change, he has to first accept he has issues. Nine times out of ten, the ego and the sense of self-importance come in the way. They may realize their issues, but ultimately it is they who have to take the step toward change, not you.