Having a loved one who often acts narcissistic, or is diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, is not always easy, but we can find ways to work through it. A therapist can be an amazing ally in finding support outside of your relationship in order to do what is best for you. Within therapy you may be able to grow and overcome challenges within your relationships, as well as begin to understand ways to put your own needs first, identify stressors, or even improve sleeping habits.
Before you got married, you may have been warned that marriage is hard. However, if you’re married to a narcissist, that statement can be even more true. The challenges in a relationship with a narcissist are unique from other relationships. But it doesn’t mean that your relationship can’t work. The tips below can help you learn how to interact with a husband who has a narcissist personality disorder, and how an online therapist can help.
What is narcissistic personality disorder?
A narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a type of personality disorder that is diagnosed by mental health professionals. Somebody that is living with NPD can come across as being extremely confident. People might find them arrogant. And one study found that narcissists tend to outperform others, not because they are smarter but because they are resilient and determined.
According to Mayo Clinic, common signs of narcissistic personality disorder include:
These symptoms make it difficult to be married to a narcissist. You may also find yourself a victim of narcissistic abuse because of these behaviors. This includes things like name-calling, gaslighting, manipulation, lying withholding, and isolation.
Narcissistic abuse is a form of psychological or emotional abuse. The effects of it can be long-lasting if you’re unaware that it’s happening.
Tips on how to deal with a narcissist husband
1. Make a decision
The first thing that may help you in being married to a narcissist is acknowledging that there’s a possibility that your husband isn’t going to change his behavior. If you’re continuing to stay in the relationship only because you think that this is going to happen, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of heartaches. Because one of the symptoms of NPD is having low self-esteem and struggling to take responsibility for any wrongs, it’s not easy for a narcissist to recognize their behavior and make a change.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t stay married to your husband, but it can help to understand that if you want things to look different in your marriage, you will most likely be the one that needs to make a change. The only person’s behavior that you’re able to control is your own. If you’re counting on your husband to be the one to improve your relationship, you may quickly grow frustrated. And while it might not seem fair that you may be the one making the majority of changes, that is sometimes what’s required if you want to work on improving your relationship when you’re married to a narcissist. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good marriage; it just may look different than what you might have expected.
2. Learn to recognize the triggers
When dealing with a narcissist husband, it can also be helpful to learn to recognize the things that seem to trigger their insecurities. Because narcissists tend to be secretly insecure, this is often what triggers them to act out in anger or other negative behaviors. Once you learn how to recognize these triggers, it can help you to either avoid them or be prepared mentally for the struggle that they may be having.
One common reason why many narcissists end up reacting in rage is low self-esteem. Because narcissists tend to be hiding their insecurities, they have a hard time coping when someone points out something that makes them look like they don’t know what they’re doing or talking about. When this happens, a narcissist may react by belittling those around them in an effort to try to feel better about themselves.
3. Build your own self-esteem
Narcissists struggle with being empathetic to other people. And because they see themselves as superior to others, they tend to knock other people down and insult them. They may engage in emotional abuse and verbal abuse. These are all reasons why it’s important that you learn how to build your own self-esteem, without counting on your husband to help you do this.
He may have been very flattering and charming at the beginning of your relationship, but over time his true colors most likely started to show. There may be times in your relationship when he does say things to build you up. But this behavior tends to be like a roller coaster, and you may find that it’s not long before he’s the one trying to make you feel bad about yourself. This is an unfortunate cycle that exists in many narcissistic relationships.
If you are choosing to stay with your husband, it’s important for your own mental health that you learn how to establish healthy self-esteem despite his behavior. You cannot rely on your husband to build your confidence and help you feel good. Because narcissists tend to be silently struggling with their own self-esteem, your husband may be unable to help you with your own.
4. Look for ways to help your husband build his self-esteem
While it’s not your responsibility to help your husband boost his self-esteem, you may find that it’s beneficial to do so. It may help you to remind yourself that he’s most likely not acting negatively towards you because of anything that you’ve done; it’s more likely because he’s hurting and insecure.
If you notice things that he is doing well or things that you appreciate about him, it can go a long way to mention those things to him. Not only will this help to build his self-esteem for the moment, but it can also help remind you of the things that you love about him.
5. Establish clear boundaries
Setting boundaries in any relationship is healthy, and in a relationship with a narcissist, it becomes even more important. Your husband is likely to want to take control of everything in the relationship. It’s important for you to think about where your boundaries need to be set in order to protect your mental health.
Some examples of boundaries that you may want to set include:
These are just a few examples. It’s important that you think through what’s important to you and what’s important for protecting your mental health when establishing boundaries. It’s also important that when you set boundaries you make them clear, and that your husband respects them. He may try to make you feel guilty or like you’re doing something wrong, but it’s important that you stay strong and stick to your boundaries, or else he may not learn to respect them.
6. Build a support system
It’s important to keep a good support system around you. It can be common for a narcissist to isolate their spouse from family and friends. Your husband may want all of your attention and may become jealous if you are spending time with other people. You may find that he is constantly criticizing your friends and family in an effort to get you not to spend time with them.
When you are not connecting with a support system, it can become easier for your husband to control more of your life. And it can become harder for you to recognize the wrong behaviors that he is showing. It’s important to have a support system even if it’s just a few people that you can turn to when you need it.
7. Get counseling
If you’re married to a narcissist, it can be very helpful to meet with a therapist. If you’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse, you may have a hard time recognizing that the behaviors showing up in your marriage are not acceptable. Or, you may find yourself going back and forth from wondering if it’s a problem or if you’re just making a big deal out of nothing, to realizing that his behavior is harmful.
A therapist can help you work through the questions that you may have, help you work on building your self-esteem and confidence and teach you strategies to help strengthen your marriage.
You may find that your narcissistic spouse does not want you to attend therapy. They are most likely happy with the way the relationship is going because they have more of the control in it. This can make online therapy like that offered by BetterHelp an effective option. You can talk with a therapist from anywhere that is comfortable and works for you, instead of having to go into a therapist’s office.
While it may feel a little discouraging to know that there’s a chance your husband’s behavior might not change, you may find by using the tips above and with therapy, that you still notice improvements in your relationship. And most importantly, improvements in your own well-being.