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 equally challenging for a man as it is for a woman to live with a narcissistic husband.
However, when you deal with the unrealistic demands and tantrums under the pretext of “I guess that’s just married life”, it probably isn’t going to end well. If you 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 the 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. However, 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 catching all the narcissistic wife traits.
What Are The Signs Of A Narcissistic Wife?
Understanding narcissistic wife traits might be useful simply because they might show up in unexpected 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 question yourself, “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 coworkers, 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 attraction and may have an insatiable desire to be the prettiest, most successful, and is definitely a female with an expensive taste. What the narcissistic wife views as special, she wants it reserved only for her – be it the latest Birkin or Fenty Beauty makeup kit.
Related Reading: 8 Signs of Covert Narcissist Hoovering And How You Should Respond
2. She may compete with her daughters
This can be subtle, but as mothers, female narcissists can compete with their daughters as well. Especially when the daughter is coming of age, there can be subconscious, subtle jealousy. 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. We all probably know someone of the kind, 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 be generally 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 not as 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. In this way, being with a narcissist can have a negative impact on you.
4. She will be overly concerned with appearance
An obsession with looks and the desperate need to portray a fabulous image to the world is classic narcissistic wife signs. 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 achieving from all sources 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 definitely a sign of narcissism and not the stereotyped feminine interest in beauty.
5. She loves materialistic things
Designer clothes, cars, handbags, and jewelry – she can never have enough of these. In popular 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 leaner 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 Fenti bag or Gucci jacket 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 their 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 higher achievers), your family (if they don’t give her enough importance), and the world in general. Did 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.
Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
7. A narcissistic wife loves drama
Since narcissists love the attention on themselves and feed 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, adding more details to it than perhaps existed. Her penchant for involvement in drama will always be a feature in your marriage.
8. She loves pitting people against one another
Ever wondered why the fights between your mother and your wife may have increased? Or why do your friends and relatives have problems with her? One trait of female narcissists is that they have a penchant for animosity toward friends and family members.
They may tell one thing about a 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. She 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.
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. 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 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. She will give the silent treatment
When you have a fight with your wife, a classic way of getting back at you might be giving 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.
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. Anger, frustration, and feeling sorry for yourself may ensue, but know that none of that is going to do you any good. 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,” she adds.
2. Try and 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 what has been the nature and intensity of the effects of being married to a narcissist wife and how open is the abuser 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 down over your career 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.
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 being 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.
Seek a counselor’s help if needed to identify traits of narcissism. If you’ve noticed narcissistic wife traits in your spouse or if you think you might have some of those traits yourself, you can reach out to the multitude of experienced counselors Bonobology has.
4. Use ‘We’ instead of’ I’
A narcissistic wife is all about ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘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.
5. Do not give in to attention seeking tactics
A number of times 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.
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 the narcissistic wife traits are such that even professional help may not exactly lead to a complete change. What can be done perhaps through counseling is to increase awareness and hope for an improvement in behavior.