In the discourse around narcissism—a personality type characterized by traits like selfishness, lack of empathy, and a high need for admiration—the focus is often on men. However, this personality disorder isn’t gender-specific. Being married to a narcissistic wife is as challenging for a man as it is for a woman to live with a narcissistic husband.
However, when you deal with their unrealistic demands and tantrums under the pretext of “I guess that’s just married life,” it isn’t going to end well. If you can recognize the signs of a narcissistic wife, it may help in defusing the inevitable tension that may arise in your marriage.
With the help of emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief and loss, let’s take a look at the signs of a narcissistic wife and how to deal with such a situation.
What Is A “Narcissistic Wife?”
Narcissistic abuse is damaging to a relationship, and whether the cause of it is a man or woman does not matter. At their core, the behavioral patterns remain the same; the three “E”s as psychologists term them: exhibiting an addiction to feeling superior, lacking in empathy, and being exploitative.
“Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance,” says Pooja. “It has nothing to do with one’s marital status or gender, but it is about the personality of a person. A deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others are all common signs,” she adds.
As Pooja points out, this personality disorder is not gender-specific. Hence, the question “what are the characteristics of a narcissistic woman” will yield an answer that can be applied to men as well. Also, this is not to say that narcissistic women have no good qualities. They can be charming, confident and loving too.
While these qualities may have attracted you to her initially and led to the marriage, an overdose and an extreme sense of narcissism are revealed only when you start living and interacting with her closely. When you see tantrums galore, passive-aggressive behavior that could include stonewalling in your relationship, disproportionate episodes of anger lasting for hours in response to insignificant triggers, know that you may be experiencing the effects of being married to a narcissistic wife.
The sooner you’re able to realize what it is you’re dealing with, the sooner you’ll be able to figure out what you need to do about it. The first step is to understand and recognize all the narcissistic wife traits.
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What Are The Signs Of A Narcissistic Wife?
Understanding narcissistic wife traits might be useful simply because they can show up in the most unexpected of circumstances. The worst part is you may even try to shrug the irrational behavior off as something that happens in a marriage. The effects of being married to a narcissistic wife include coming to terms with hostile treatment that you shouldn’t be going through in the first place.
You might be angry and confused over your (not so) better half’s reactions to situations. If you often find yourself questioning, “How do I survive a narcissistic wife?”, then the first step toward that is noting down her attitude and behavior, and assessing whether they reflect the classic signs of narcissism.
1. She will be fiercely competitive
A healthy sense of competition is good, but a narcissistic wife will be constantly in competition mode, be it with her co-workers, friends, or other women. Everything turns into a competition, and the casual game nights on Friday don’t end up being the most “fun” experience ever.
She wants to be the center of attention and may have an insatiable desire to be the prettiest and most successful woman in a gathering. One thing is for sure, she is definitely a female with expensive tastes. What the narcissistic wife views as special, she wants it reserved only for her – be it the latest Birkin or Fenty beauty makeup kit.
That’s obviously on account of her wanting to appear as the most successful woman everywhere she goes. Regardless of gender, the signs of a narcissist often include them extravagantly spending on themselves to fulfill their heightened self-importance.
2. Signs of a wife with vulnerable narcissist traits: She may compete with her daughters
When the mother struggles with a lack of empathy, grandiose ideas of self-importance, and a belief that they’re entitled to special treatment, it might not be possible to build healthy family dynamics. Sometimes mothers who are female narcissists end up competing with their daughters as well. Especially when the daughter is coming of age, there can be subconscious, subtle jealousy that can turn into resentment over time.
She may, of course, wish the best for her daughter, but at the same time secretly envy her youth. A wife with narcissistic traits might even know it’s unhealthy to be jealous of her own kin, but their never-ending competitive nature may result in such tendencies. Incidentally, they may pass on these traits to their daughters too and the latter may turn out to be vain and superficial like their mothers.
3. She is incredibly defensive
One of the foremost qualities of a narcissistic wife or husband is their inability to handle criticism. Each of us probably knows someone like that, a person who doesn’t take too kindly to any criticism about themselves, but a narcissistic wife will take it to the next level and let her disdain be evident.
“A narcissistic wife or person would generally be defensive because they see themselves as perfect and don’t see or perceive that there could be something wrong with their behavior. They often blame their victim and, in their heads, consider themselves a good person who means well and is certainly not an emotional abuser,” says Pooja.
As a professional, they can be a nightmare to work with. In a marriage, they can be impossible to have a conversation with. If you are arguing with your narcissistic wife, do not expect any honesty or willingness to listen from her. She can’t tolerate criticism, even if it’s constructive or kind. You will have to break through her defenses to make her see reason. Yes, being with a narcissist can have a negative impact on you.
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4. Classic sign of a narcissistic woman: She will be overly concerned with appearance
An obsession with looks and the desperate need to portray a fabulous image to the world is a classic narcissistic wife sign. These women (and men) seek approval from the world though they may give off a vibe of being supremely confident. They thrive on validation, and garnering it from all sources even through superficial means is one of the easiest ways to get their fix.
If your wife takes an inordinately long time to dress up and likes to hoard makeup, jewelry, and clothes beyond reasonable limits, it is a possible sign of narcissism but can also be the stereotyped feminine interest in beauty. Perhaps it’s a sign that she’s also an insecure woman, something a lot of narcissists have in common.
Of course, this sign in itself doesn’t warrant you asking the question, “Is my partner a narcissist?” since your spouse can just have an interest in looking her best without necessarily being a narcissistic wife. However, when this trait is coupled with a bunch of the other signs of a narcissist that’s when you can ask yourself those questions.
5. She loves materialistic things
Designer clothes, cars, handbags, and jewelry, she can never have enough of these. In pop culture, these qualities have often been glamorized (think Kim Kardashian and her fame-obsessed family), but in reality, the effects of being married to a narcissistic wife can leave you with a slimmer bank balance.
Apart from the effect on your bank balance, she may further facilitate her insecurity issues by trying to mask them with the purchases she makes. Narcissistic wife traits often feature insecurity, and a Gucci jacket or Hermes bag may alleviate some of the symptoms but won’t cure it. These materialistic things validate her insecurity and give her a false sense of being worthy. She wants to be the object of everyone’s envy.
5. A wife with vulnerable narcissist traits will be jealous
A narcissistic wife is jealous of other women, your friends’ wives (especially if they are high achievers), your family (if they don’t give her enough importance), and the world in general. This happens because narcissist behavior entails them assuming that they’re entitled to special treatment and attention no matter where they go. When the spotlight isn’t on them, they get jealous and may even want to leave the situation.
Even if she doesn’t leave in the middle of it, you can be sure she’s going to have a lot to say on the drive back. Do you see her having endless gossip sessions and kitty parties? Basically, she loves to get together with her posse of friends and talk about people behind their backs. It’s a way of proving she is superior to others.
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7. A narcissistic wife loves drama
Since narcissists love hogging the limelight and feeding off the reactions of others, drama is one of the terrible effects of being married to a narcissistic wife. The female narcissist is known to indulge in dramatic histrionics. When she has to defend herself if called out, she will constantly hark back to the past, often adding more details to the memories than there originally existed.
Her penchant for involvement in drama will always be a feature in your marriage, and it’s one of the clearest signs of a narcissist. Even if things started off as a normal conversation, they will be dramatized to the point where she will probably accuse you of berating her or any other sort of mental or even physical harm, since narcissists also frequently act like the victim.
8. She loves pitting people against one another
Ever wondered why the fights between your mother and your wife may have increased? Or why your friends and relatives have problems with her? One trait of female narcissists is that they have a predisposition for animosity toward friends and family members.
They may carry tales about one person to another, often embellishing their stories with drama and gossip, knowing fully well that it will trigger a problem. Apart from being a sign that this person lacks empathy, it could also be a sign that your wife is manipulative.
9. A narcissistic wife uses her sexuality to her advantage
To be fair, male narcissists often play on their supposed charm and good looks to get things done. But a female narcissist also uses her sexuality to take advantage of men. If you notice your girlfriend indulging in inappropriate flirtatious behavior to get attention, watch out.
Also, a narcissistic wife has an inclination to have affairs with her partner’s friends or family members. They try to seek their supply of attention from their current partner’s circle. That may be due to their insecurity since they need to feel better about themselves by pursuing a secret lover and validating themselves with the attention that comes with it. In such cases, the narcissistic marriage problems wreak havoc on your bond.
10. She has a disregard for boundaries
A narcissistic wife is so obsessed with her own self, her needs, and her space that she does not have any respect for others’ boundaries. They have a sense of ownership over everyone else. Your phone won’t be your own, your personal time doesn’t exist and the things you need are mere suggestions to her, it’s always her way or the highway.
“Is my partner a narcissist?” Asked a reader from Wisconsin, adding, “every time I suggest something, she scoffs at the idea of us not doing something in the way she wants to do it. It’s like I’m not allowed to express my opinions or even exercise my wants, it’s always whatever she wants. She won’t even let me talk on the phone with my buddies because she said it gets too loud!”
They hate it when attention is focused on others and do not mind disregarding the personal space of their partner or close friends for their own selfish needs. Basically, you’ll feel taken for granted. Perhaps the worst effect of being married to a narcissist wife is that you may start feeling lonely in your marriage.
11. Signs of a narcissistic woman: She will stonewall you to manipulate you
When you have a fight with your wife, a classic way to get back at you might be to give you the silent treatment. A male narcissist may blow up in anger or become verbally abusive, but a woman may punish those she deems as having wronged her (including her husband) by withholding affection or attention. A narcissistic wife may also want to “teach her husband a lesson” by withholding sex. Both these actions can be forms of emotional abuse and may end up significantly damaging the partner’s psyche.
Now that you can confidently answer “What are the characteristics of a narcissistic woman?”, you may have realized that what you have on your hands isn’t just a generally selfish partner, but someone struggling with this personality disorder. However, it’s important to understand that self-diagnosing the mental state of your wife should never be considered an absolute diagnosis.
Though you may have noticed signs of a wife with vulnerable narcissist traits, only a licensed professional has the capability of diagnosing her with NPD. Nonetheless, the existence of the signs of a narcissistic woman does imply that there’s trouble afoot. The next step then becomes trying to figure out how to deal with such a dynamic.
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How Do I Deal With A Narcissistic Wife?
Coming to the realization that your spouse may actually be a narcissist isn’t an easy thing to accept. You may give in to anger, frustration, and feeling sorry for yourself, but know that none of that is going to do you any good. Instead of giving in to their over-dramatization of events and fighting with them, understand that figuring out how to deal with a narcissist spouse is going to require a lot of patience and work.
It may seem like you’ll never be able to curb – or even get used to – their narcissistic behavior. However, the first thing you need to understand is that if both partners actively work toward a healthier relationship, there’s no reason why you can’t get there. So what should you do to survive a narcissistic wife? A deeper understanding of the condition may help. Some other useful tools would be:
1. Pick your battles wisely
A narcissistic wife is forever ready to shift the blame to others. If you feel insulted by every barb or taunt designed to make you feel small and unimportant, you will be wasting a lot of energy. “One can clearly state that any communication that happens has to be within the limits of decency and mutual respect,” says Pooja.
“If they continue to be abusive, you could even withdraw physically or emotionally from the situation. Tell your narcissistic wife clearly that if they want your attention, they’ll have to respect your rules and boundaries. Try to establish methods of conflict resolution,” she adds.
If you’re living with a narcissist wife, you can’t give into any fight she brings up. Sometimes, it’s okay to ignore the fight and walk out of it if the basis isn’t worth fighting over. However, if the subject is something important like your children or your well-being, make sure you hold your ground.
However, we hope you understand that this doesn’t mean you should let her walk all over you. “My wife is a narcissist, so I should just assume the blame and be done with this argument” isn’t going to do you any good. Make sure you hold your ground when needed.
2. With a narcissistic wife, draw boundaries early on
As you saw, one of the biggest narcissistic wife traits is that she’ll have no respect for boundaries. It would be useful to try and recognize the signs early on and define what is acceptable to you and what’s not. “Setting boundaries in your relationship can help to a great extent. But this also depends on the nature and intensity of the effects of being married to a narcissist wife and how open the abuser is to accept that they have been in the wrong and they are ready to mend their ways,” says Pooja.
If she has a habit of putting you and your career down in an effort to praise her own, call her out. It might not always have an impact, but constantly reiteration of boundaries may lead to some course correction. Moreover, a toxic narcissist wife won’t have much regard for your personal space. She might go through your phone if she deems it fit and won’t care much about the space you asked for.
The narcissistic marriage problems may make you feel like you’re taken for granted and that you’re not respected. Make sure you let this person know that you’re not going to stand for disrespect, but it’s also important to not constantly be hostile toward them while putting your foot down.
Related Reading: How Not To Fall For A Narcissist And Suffer In Silence
3. Watch your own behavior
Are you a narcissist yourself? Often, it happens that in a long-term relationship like marriage, a wife takes on or gets inspired by her husband’s traits. If you find her to be too self-obsessed or self-centered to the extent that she ignores your needs and attitudes, do some introspection and reflect on your own behavior.
If you’ve noticed narcissistic wife traits in your spouse or if you think you might have some of those traits yourself, perhaps what’s needed is a continued effort toward improvement. Understanding how to deal with a narcissist spouse may just involve a good deal of introspection, and who knows, that might be just the thing you needed to establish a healthier marriage.
4. Use “We” instead of “I”
A narcissistic wife is all about the I-me-and-myself, but when you are approaching her, try the “we” route. Perhaps you want to make up after an argument. Since expecting her to make the first move or apologize is futile, you take it upon yourself to mend fences. Involve her in the reconciliation process and remind her of the common goals of marriage and how it hurts when she makes it all about herself.
So, instead of saying things like, “I hate it when you don’t care about what I’m saying,” try to say something like, “We don’t treat each other well, and it’s not doing us any favors.” A narcissist wife is only going to care about your marriage problems if they start to affect her negatively.
5. Do not give in to attention-seeking tactics
When your wife throws a tantrum or starts complaining, it might be an exaggeration resulting from her love for drama. Do not give in to her attention-seeking tactics all the time. Your self-worth is equally important, and it is her insecurity that is leading her to behave in an inappropriate and disrespectful way. Take time off and maybe even a break from the relationship.
When you’re married to a female narcissist, it’s important to put yourself first. If you think you need a break from the relationship for a while, so be it.
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6. Therapy is always an option
If you’ve established that you’re married to a toxic narcissist wife, meaning, someone whose self-involved ways harm your mental or physical health, it’s important to understand that this condition must require continued psychotherapy and medicine to control.
“My wife is a narcissist and the emotional abuse was harming my mental state,” John told us. “Every time she brushed off my concerns and belittled me, it ate away at my confidence a little more. Eventually, once I started taking therapy for myself, I realized it was pertinent for her to go to therapy as well. It takes a lot of effort and, frankly, superhuman patience from me, but we’re managing to work through it.”
If living with a narcissist wife has left you feeling low on confidence and trapped, approaching a mental health professional is almost a necessity. However, approach the topic of therapy with your narcissist wife very carefully. Chances are, she’s not going to respond too favorably once you bring up therapy, since she’ll want to assume that there’s nothing wrong in your marriage.
Instead of trying to tell her that there’s something wrong with her, frame it in a “we’ sentence. “We will definitely benefit from a few sessions of couples therapy,” instead of “You need therapy” can do wonders. If you’re married to a female narcissist and you’re looking for a professional mental health therapist to guide you through the road to recovery, Bonbology’s panel of experienced therapists will be glad to help you.
Dealing with a narcissistic wife needs loads of patience and very high self-worth. This might clash with your own sense of ego and you need to preserve your own energies while surviving in such a marriage. But narcissistic wife traits can be such that they may lead you to a downward spiral if left unchecked.
So, you’ve found all the signs of a narcissistic woman in your wife and would like to deal with it. Hopefully, you have a better idea of how to do that with the steps we listed out for you today.
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