Being married to a Narcissist is the loneliest place on earth.
At our XO Marriage Conferences, Ashley and I love doing a “meet and greet” where we sign books, shake hands, give hugs, and hear the stories of people who have been impacted by the ministry. Many of those folks hugs us with tears in their eyes and tell us that this ministry has saved their marriage and changed their lives. Those kinds of stories keep us going!
At one of our events a woman had tears in her eyes for other reasons. She explained that she had been married to a Narcissist for almost twenty years and that the marriage had finally ended. She was heartbroken and had courageously come to the conference to learn how to heal and prepare for a healthy marriage someday. We’ll never forget her words as she reflected on her former marriage, “When you’re married to a Narcissist, no matter what you do, it will never be enough for them. Being married to a Narcissist is the loneliest place on earth.”
In the work we do as part of the team at XO Marriage, we’ve encountered couples facing nearly every imaginable marriage problem including infidelity, in-law drama, miscommunication, and countless other stressors. Perhaps the most damaging and emotionally exhausting of all marriage issues is when a spouse realizes they’re married to a narcissist. This woman’s story is sadly not unique. We’ve received many messages from others in situations like hers. Perhaps you’re in one of those situations right now. If you’re wondering whether your spouse (or maybe even you) might be a narcissist, this article will share a few telltale signs.
First off, we need to define Narcissism. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
Those with this disorder often grew up in an environment where life felt chaotic and out of control and they developed a self-focused survival mechanism that allowed them to disregard the feelings of others for the sake of self-preservation. Over time, as this self-focused way of living solidifies, the Narcissist will become a master of manipulation, gaslighting, and being careless with the lives and hearts of others.
Narcissism is different from selfishness. All people are selfish to some degree, but a Narcissist is selfish on a very unique level. Here are three signs that someone is exhibiting narcissistic behavior in marriage:
- A Narcissist will make themselves either the “hero” or the “victim” in every story. They’re never the one to blame, because they never truly take responsibility for their actions or faults.
- A Narcissist will perpetually inflate their own life, their dreams and their problems to be more important than anyone else’s (including their spouse).
- A Narcissist will consistently display a lack of empathy towards others (including their spouse).
If you believe you’re married to a Narcissist, the bad news is that Narcissists rarely change. Most of these marriages end either in divorce or in a lifelong struggle with the healthy spouse trying in vain to change the narcissistic spouse. That’s the bad news in very blunt terms.
The good news is that nothing is impossible for God! With that hope in mind, here are a few things you can proactively do if you are in a marriage with a Narcissist:
- Pray! There is power in prayer. God will use your prayers to grow your faith, to change your perspective and possibly to change your spouse’s heart.
- Establish healthy boundaries. Don’t be a doormat for a Narcissistic spouse. That will ultimately hurt you and hurt them too. Be strong. Put loving but firm boundaries in place to let them know you won’t stand for abusive or manipulative behavior.
- Seek professional counseling. A trained Christian counselor will help identify the narcissistic behaviors and their expertise combined with your experiences will make it much for difficult for the Narcissist to “rewrite history” and gaslight their way out of taking responsibility.
If you’d like to start a conversation with someone about how to navigate the road ahead, we encourage you to reach out to our team at www.xomarriage.com/help. You might also benefit from listening to our Naked Marriage Podcast episode entitled “I’m Married to a Narcissist” where you can access here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwtirC5RHw).
We are praying for you! Don’t lose hope. God is with you in this struggle.