Nine Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist—and What to Do About It

From a story on by  Holly Pevzner headlined “9 Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist—and What  to Do About It”:

It’s not that there are no red flags that signal narcissism during dating, it’s that many of the tell-tale traits of narcissism become more pronounced after getting hitched. “With marriage—and parenthood—there’s more interdependence, more demands,” says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: How to Survive a Relationship with a Narcissist.

Some of the same things that attracted you to your partner, such as confidence, assertiveness, and a big personality, may actually be the same characteristics that fuel their narcissism. Not all of the signs are obvious either, and some may have you wondering if you’re the problem, not them.

#1: You Feel Isolated

Drifting apart from some friends after a big life change (marriage! babies!) happens to everyone, but if your life is now rife with severed ties, it’s time to pause and reassess. “After marriage, narcissists often isolate their spouses from their friends through a slow and methodical process,” says Cristina Dorazio, Ph.D., a psychologist who provides both individual and couples therapy in New York City. Your significant other may go out of his way, for instance, to make an argument as to why he doesn’t like your friend. (Bad-mouthing others is a very common narcissistic behavior, notes research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.) “They can be very good at this, even making you start to question why you were ever friends in the first place,” says Dorazio. This is especially true for friends who are “on to” your narcissist spouse’s behavior.

#2: You’re Being Gaslighted

Why can’t you take a joke?  I never said that! Why are you always so angry? You’re being paranoid. Why can’t you let go of the past? No one will ever love you like I do. These questions and phrases are often standard issue with narcissists. “This is all part of gaslighting,” says Durvasula. Here, an individual uses words or behavior to cause you to doubt and confuse your own reality. “I have never seen a narcissistic marriage in which gaslighting did not happen,” says Durvasula.

#3: Praise Looks Like This

Before you were married, there’s a good chance your now-spouse heaped on the flattery. (Narcissists know how to woo.)  After the I Dos, however, that often shifts dramatically. Now, the compliments may only arrive when you are in the company of others. “This allows the narcissist to look like a great husband in front of other people and contradicts any complaints you might share about him later,” says Dorazio. Another flattery twist: While compliments directed to you might fizzle, a narcissist might instead lay it on thick to others in your orbit. “They do this to feed your insecurity,” says Dorazio.

#4: It Feels Like Your Partner Is Trying To Make You Jealous

Beyond praising others, a narcissist may talk glowingly about an ex or flirt with someone right in front of you. This is no accident or innocent misstep, but a strategic move designed to make you feel jealous, according to a 2017 report in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Beyond stoking your own insecurity, researchers note that narcissists do this in order to wield control and/or to buoy their self-esteem.  

#5: There’s This Jealousy, Too

Jealousy is not an uncommon reaction when a baby joins a narcissist’s family, says Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of counseling and higher education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. “Narcissistic partners can become resentful of the time you invest in childcare, so he might begin to insist that you focus more attention on the marriage than the child.” This, however, is not universal. Some narcissists, in fact, dramatically shift their focus solely on the baby. “These narcissists may see the child as an extension of themselves, so they co-opt the child, leaving you on the sidelines in terms of attention and family involvement,” says Degges-White.

#6: Your Parenting Skills Are Criticized

“Narcissists often blame any perceived ‘bad’ behavior of their children on their spouse’s lack of parenting skills,” says Dorazio. Adding insult to injury, narcissists are often not as involved as their spouse in raising children in the first place—and they often use their career as an excuse to bow out of responsibilities. “In fact, if the narcissistic husband is the sole provider or earns more money in the marriage, they’ll often use that as a counterargument to not taking care of the children,” says Dorazio.

#7: They “Confide” In Your Family

Narcissists are, by definition, self-involved folks who lack empathy. So it’s no shock that you’d likely turn to your support system to complain and commiserate about this type of behavior. The catch? Knowing very well that you’d likely do this, a narcissist may talk to your family and friends before you get the chance to. “A narcissist may say he’s concerned that you’re a bit ‘off’ lately,” says Dorazio. “Because, if he confides about your problematic behavior first, he takes the heat off himself.”

#8: The Signature “Love Bombs” Dwindle

When dating, you were likely overwhelmed with signs of adoration, like constant love notes, flower deliveries and surprise gifts. (This is what it feels like to be swept off your feet, you thought!) After marriage, however—poof—it all stops. “You’ve been conquered through marriage, so courting with ‘love bombs’ is no longer needed,” says Dorazio, noting that these extravagant displays can often return, however, but only when your spouse wants something from you. “For example, if you’re surprised with a trip, you may be expected to show your gratitude in a very specific way, like dressing a certain way while on the trip or being available for sex whenever your spouse wants,” says Dorazio.

#9: They Admit It!

A study of more than 2,200 people found it’s actually pretty easy to ID narcissists. You simply need to ask them the following: To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” And you need to define “narcissist” at the same time, noting that it means egotistical, self-focused and vain. Researchersrelayed that the reason this works is that those who are narcissists are almost proud of it.

How To Deal With Your Narcissist

“Narcissists typically don’t perceive their behavior as a problem. Instead, they feel that they’re perfectly fine and others have problems,” notes Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of counseling and higher education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. Here some tips on wading the treacherous waters.

  1. Argue this way. Narcissist cannot be wrong, making arguing with them close to impossible. “So it’s smart to find a way to convince your partner that the ‘right answer’ or the ‘right thing to do’ was their idea,” says Degges-White. “This way, you can compliment them on what a great idea they had to solve the issue.”
  2. Ignore insults. Insults are bait. A narcissist wants you to take them, react to them, and engage in a fight. But if you refuse to play, a fight can’t happen.
  3. Ask yourself questions. It’s likely a good idea to reflect on any unconscious reasons you may have chosen to be with a narcissist. (A therapist is great at helping you navigate this.) Once you start to understand your motivation, you’ll have more clarity as to what you need.
  4. Foster other healthy relationships. Turn to friends, family, a therapist—any supportive individual who can offer you the respect and sounding board to help with your emotional health.

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