It’s easy to fall in love with someone that has narcissistic tendencies. They’re charismatic and know how to make you smile and laugh. Because they care deeply about public perception and appearances, they tend to present themselves fashionably. The confidence they project also makes them attractive. These personality traits are likely to help them achieve a degree of professional success. Thus their financial stability makes them even more appealing. But someone with narcissistic tendencies is very different from someone with a narcissistic personality disorder.
Psychologists and psychiatrists describe the combination of a selfish, callous worldview with narcissistic traits as the development of a Dark Triad. These professionals define the dark triad as a character disorder because this grouping of personality qualities causes negative impacts in romantic relationships, family dynamics, friendships, and the workplace. The spouse of someone with narcissistic tendencies can negotiate the inevitable issues which arise in marriage that enables both parties to be satisfied. Tendencies are not a pathology. Tendencies respond to treatment with mindfulness practices and cognitive behavioral therapy. That capacity to negotiate and adapt is not possible for the spouse married to someone with a narcissistic personality disorder.
The spouse of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder will soon find that the good times which influenced their decision to get married become far less frequent. Being wedded to a narcissist means that conflict and manipulative behavior become a defining feature of the relationship. The constant private disruptions to the core emotional state inevitably bleed into their personal and professional life. Both experience degradation in quality.
Complex evaluation criteria and assessments used by mental health professionals are most appropriate for determining if there is cause to categorize someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. And yet by assessing three simple indicators, it is possible to determine if it may be true of your partner. What follows are the three key signs that you have married a narcissist. Following the definition of the signs are descriptions with example experiences. In close, I share the two options for exiting this type of toxic relationship.
You Increasingly Feel Alone: Sign #1 You are Married to a Narcissist
Psychological studies have shown that “narcissistic behavior is thought to be prompted in part by a belief that other people are inferior, uninteresting, and unworthy of attention”. In the context of marriage, this means that one partner will consistently share comments and convey nonverbal cues that function to create a divide between you and your friends and family. The rationales presented can vary widely. Perhaps that ‘other’ person is too opinionated. Maybe they are not successful enough. Or they could be from your “wild, single days” and now act as a negative influence. Whatever the pretext, the resolution is the same: isolation.
Sometimes narcissists may even attempt physical rather than psychological efforts at controlling with whom you speak. Actress Evan Rachel Wood gave testimony to Congress that described how her narcissistic partner physically prevented her from speaking to family and friends. Not all people with narcissistic personality disorders will manifest their need to control their partners in the form of physical abuse. However, exerting influence to constrain your social circle is a definitional feature of someone whose personality has aligned with the Dark Triad.
Does your spouse consistently speak negatively about your friends and family and encourage you to reduce the time spent with them? If so, consider contacting a divorce attorney rather than attempting a simplified dissolution of marriage because this is an indicator you are married to a narcissist.
Your Perspective Is No Longer Validated: Sign #2 You are Married to a Narcissist
Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will distort the truth, deny the validity of their spouse’s emotional state, and insist that they adopt their perspective. Written by an unknown author, The Narcissist’s Prayer succinctly describes the interpersonal dynamics of being in a romantic relationship with a narcissist as follows:
That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.
Frequently shared on online message boards devoted to helping people cope with traumas caused by narcissist partners, the poem highlights how narcissists are incapable of accountability. The narcissist is so emotionally fragile that their partner carrying a divergent interpretation feels like a threat. Their response to this perceived threat is to compel their lover to a mold that matches their own.
Do you find that voicing divergent interpretations of events leads your partner to deny, denigrate or disregard your viewpoint until it matches their own? If so, consider speaking to a divorce attorney rather than attempting a simplified dissolution of marriage because this is an indicator you are married to a narcissist.
Your Partner Has a Split Personality: Sign #3 You are Married to a Narcissist
Due to their ability to flatter and elicit positive attention in public, narcissists come off as charming. They are often the life of the party. They are infectious as they are so adept at reading social cues. While narcissists thrive in the limelight, when not around the people they wish to impress they behave differently. The praise they voice in public disappears and gets replaced with critical commentary. Their cheerfulness in social settings is a stark contrast with joylessness at home. They thrive on pleasing people they want validation from. If you married someone like this for a time it was you. But soon they move on.
Do you find yourself heaped with praise and affection in public, but are treated with indifference in private? If so, consider contacting a divorce attorney rather than attempting a simplified dissolution of marriage because this is an indicator you are married to a narcissist.
How to Get Out of a Marriage with a Narcissist: Correction or Separation
If your spouse isolates you from the people you love, invalidates your worldview, and you sense they have a split personality then it is likely you married someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. In such a case there are only two paths of action that will lead to emotional relief: correction or separation.
There are no medications that treat personality disorders, so a professional mental health practitioner is required. To correct the behaviors that cause inter-personal conflict is no easy task. In one-on-one and group therapy sessions a variety of therapeutic models will be applied to help narcissists alter their value system. The goal of such work will be to alter their personality such that they value other people. Unfortunately, narcissists are so notoriously resistant to therapy that few psychotherapists specialize in their treatment. Worse yet, some narcissists will exploit their therapy visits as a new cause for manipulation.
Separating from someone with narcissistic personality disorder entails engaging the services of a divorce lawyer. Divorcing a narcissist can be very difficult because of their manipulative and self-centered personality traits. Dr. Mark Banschick describes in Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Your Children how most people experience crisis. Most people use their past experiences to develop their sense of fairness in a marriage. Because narcissists do not think with this paradigm, divorce is not likely to be an amicable affair. Psychological case studies describe narcissists as having a “game-playing love style”. Even if you have often given yourself above and beyond in the past, it will not matter to them.
After deciding to end your marriage with a narcissist, one of the first steps you must take is to realize that your spouse will not feel empathy for you. It is beneficial to attend support groups with people that have gone through similar experiences during the process of your divorce and after. These strangers are likely to have a better picture of your experiences than friends that have spent time with you two as a couple.
Most importantly, you want to obtain the services of a legal professional that will advocate on your behalf and ensure your interests are protected. When well-informed professionals are involved in the separation process, it reduces stress and the opportunity for volatile encounters. It also diminishes the opportunity for you to be a target of manipulation.
Who to Contact for Help Getting Out of a Marriage with a Narcissist
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