Help!  My Narcissist Husband Makes Me Feel Trapped

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated May 2, 2022

Finding that special someone, falling in love, and getting married is an exciting time.  For some people, each new day is an opportunity to dream big dreams and make happy memories.  However, when happily-ever-after turns into a nightmare of narcissistic abuse, victims often feel trapped.

Do you feel like there is no way out of your relationship? Are you married to a narcissistic person?  If you are unsure, a trained mental health professional can assess your loved one and diagnose your partner as having Narcissistic personality disorder. Identifying your partner with this disorder should only come after a trained professional has given that diagnosis. Learning to identify the signs of narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic personality traits and how to protect yourself from narcissistic abuse is an important step to begin promoting and protecting your safety and physical and mental well-being.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by a pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, a lack of empathy toward others, and an excessive need for admiration.  While having self-confidence or wanting to be acknowledged by others is normal, people with narcissistic personality disorder take things to extremes.  According to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is a publication by the American Psychiatric Association, when a person displays five or more of the following characteristics, he/she is considered a narcissist.

  • Narcissists appear to demand admiration and respect from others. They are preoccupied with other’s opinions and become easily offended if they are not given the recognition they believe they deserve.
  • People with narcissistic personalities have a sense of entitlement. They believe if they want something, it should be theirs, even if they haven’t done anything to earn whatever it is they want.
  • Narcissists show little, if any, respect to others. Their disregard for authority figures is often evident by the ease with which they break the rules and show no remorse.
  • A person with a narcissistic personality has self-confidence that appears “over-the-top.” They believe they are unique and that people who are not their equal cannot understand them.  Narcissists generally surround themselves with people who are professional and well-educated as it feeds their egos to be surrounded by such “high quality” people.
  • Narcissists are charmers. In the beginning, a relationship with a narcissist can feel like a fairy tale.  A person with a narcissistic personality will make his partner feel like the luckiest person in the world.  You may think to yourself, “How did I get so lucky?” or “I never knew life could be so great!”  Narcissists are very skilled at using charm to get what they want.  However, the charming personality is all too soon replaced by subtle hints of narcissistic behavior that eventually becomes more and more pronounced.

Characteristics Of A Narcissist

When narcissistic behaviors begin to emerge, it can feel devastating.  Learning to recognize traits of narcissism is important so you can know when and how to seek help to protect yourself.

Some of the most common characteristics of a narcissist include:

Conversations Are “One-Sided”

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who constantly changes the subject or makes the conversation all about them?  Narcissists love being the center of attention.  Conversations with a narcissist will make you feel like nothing you say or feel is important.  At first, a narcissist may change the subject in such a covert way that you don’t realize it.  However, with time, the repeated behavior will become more brazen, and it will become evident that he has no regard for your thoughts or feelings.

A narcissist’s constant need for attention feeds the all-about-me syndrome that is characteristic of narcissistic personality disorder.  A person with narcissistic personality disorder truly believes that the world revolves around them, and they expect constant, often excessive admiration and attention and to have things their way.

No Boundaries

The person with narcissistic personality disorder shows no concern for other people’s boundaries.  In fact, they often show deliberate disregard for their partner’s feelings and desires.  Narcissists feel no guilt about breaking promises or canceling plans that don’t serve their own purpose.  They may borrow money from friends or family with promises to repay the loan but never follow through.  These behaviors often result in the narcissist having few real friends and having fragmented relationships with family.

Easily Angered Or Frustrated

A narcissist who doesn’t get his way is much like an adult version of a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum.  When things don’t go their way, they become easily frustrated.  Behavioral and emotional outbursts are usually a narcissist’s response to any criticism, even if it’s meant to be constructive.  They are often impatient and can become angry easily if they are not given the attention they think they deserve.

Very Envious

People with narcissistic personalities tend to obsess over beauty, status, success, and power.  If someone else has what a narcissist can’t seem to obtain, they begin to exhibit extreme jealousy.  Although the narcissist is the jealous one, they usually accuse the other person of being jealous of them.  This behavior may be directed to acquaintances and family alike.

No Middle Ground

A person with narcissistic personality disorder sees things in black and white, or positives and negatives.  There is no middle ground.  In a narcissist’s eyes, every person is a winner or a loser.

The Master Manipulator

Under normal circumstances, most people would say that they can tell if someone is trying to manipulate them.  A relationship with a narcissist is very different, though.  Narcissists can be very sly and underhanded when it comes to manipulation.  As previously mentioned, fear tactics are a major ploy that narcissists use to manipulate others, especially their partners.

No matter what the situation, the narcissist will always find a way to be the victim.  If the narcissist is questioned about behavior, he will likely say, “Why do you always insult me?” or “Why can’t I ever do anything right?”

Belittling is another common form of manipulation that narcissists use.  It doesn’t matter if the narcissist is at home or in a public place, if he feels the need to belittle you, it will happen.  To add insult to injury, they usually try to cover up their behavior by saying things like, “Oh, come on! You can’t take a joke?” or “Why do you have to take everything so personally?”

Delusions Of Grandeur

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they are superior to everyone.  They generally do not view anyone else as their equal and often believe that others will never measure up, no matter how hard they try.  This delusion makes it virtually impossible for a narcissist to experience real, unconditional love.

Gaslighting, An Emotionally Damaging Narcissistic Trait

While any form of narcissistic abuse can harm a victim, gaslighting can be especially damaging.  It is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that leaves victims questioning their own instincts, feelings, and even their sanity.  This doubt that is caused by gaslighting gives a narcissistic partner a great deal of power.  A person who is gaslighting someone else will use negative and destructive words to spin facts in their own favor.

Gaslighting behavior usually begins very subtly.  With time, though, the narcissistic partner who is gaslighting may say things like, “You must be losing your mind.  That never happened,” “Are you sure you didn’t dream that up?” or “It’s all in your head.”

Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse that can take on several forms.  Examples of gaslighting behavior include:

  • Trivializing: The narcissist husband who is gaslighting his spouse will make the spouse’s feelings seem unimportant.  Example: “Here we go with another one of your crazy ideas!”
  • Withholding is when the abusive partner pretends that he does not understand what is being said or he refuses to listen. “I don’t want to hear this again.  It’s the same thing over and over.”
  • Countering occurs when the narcissistic spouse questions the victim’s memory of events. Even if the victim remembers accurately, he will say she doesn’t.  For example, “You’re wrong.  Why can’t you ever get the facts, right?”
  • Denial: No matter how much evidence to support the obvious, a narcissistic spouse will often pretend to have forgotten details of something that happened or deny saying things that he said to or promised his partner.  He may say, “You’re always making stuff up” or “I have no idea what you’re even talking about!”

If you aren’t sure whether your narcissistic husband is gaslighting you, consider these questions:

  • Do you constantly second-guess yourself?
  • Do you feel the need to lie to avoid twists of reality and put-downs from your partner?
  • Do you feel like you can never do anything right?
  • Do you feel confused or like you’re going crazy, especially with situations that involve your husband?
  • Do you always feel the need to apologize to your husband, even if you aren’t sure why?

The fact that narcissists use tactics such as punishment and fear to keep victims submissive can cause extreme emotional distress.  In fact, it is not uncommon for victims of narcissistic abuse to develop mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.  They may also experience signs of trauma and defense mechanisms such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, avoidance of anything related to the narcissistic partner, and lack of interest in activities that once brought pleasure.

Tips For Dealing With A Narcissistic Spouse

One of the most difficult things, when you are married to a narcissist, is learning to care for yourself and acknowledging that your worth truly is important.  It takes time and effort to make changes for your own benefit, but in the end, your physical and emotional health is worth it.

Set Personal Boundaries

Remember, narcissists don’t care about boundaries, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them.  Setting boundaries means knowing what you are comfortable with and what you are not.  It means being okay with saying no and making it clear what behavior you will or will not tolerate.  If you make a decision about something, make your expectations clear, and follow through.

Don’t Argue

Don’t take the bait!  Narcissists love to argue just so they can prove they are right, and you are wrong.  If you disagree with your husband, make it clear that you disagree and why.  Once you have voiced your opinion, be firm and do not leave the subject open for discussion.  Because a narcissist must always be right, if you disagree with him, he will likely argue until you wear down and agree with him.  This will only lead to your frustration.

Be Okay With Not Being Understood Or Accepted

As much as you may want to be understood, narcissists generally have no empathy toward others.  While superficial charm and love bombing are common traits of a narcissist, the reality is that a narcissist will not care about your motives or desires.  Therefore, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to make him understand you.  Talking with a friend, family member, or counselor can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings without putting yourself in the vulnerable position of trying to make your narcissistic husband understand you.

Feeling Trapped In A Narcissistic Marriage?

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can feel overwhelming.  Although all days are not as emotionally taxing as others, the repeated cycle of behavior may leave you feeling very confused and can cause doubt about whether having a normal life or a happy relationship is possible.

You may feel alone or wonder if there is a way out or if anyone could ever understand what you’re going through.  No matter how difficult your situation feels, you are not alone.

If you feel trapped by your narcissistic husband, it is important to get support as quickly as possible so you can begin to understand the dynamic of what is going on and begin to live a life that is free of narcissistic behavior.

When You Need Help

Having a friend or family member to confide in can be helpful.  However, if friends or family members are not an option, there are other ways to get help.  Connecting with a counselor or other mental health professional can give you a safe outlet for talking about the abuse you are experiencing and can allow you to create a plan of action focused on getting you to a safe place where you can be free from the trauma created by narcissistic behavior.

Most communities have a local mental health clinic where services are available without a referral.  For some, the thought of meeting someone face-to-face can feel frightening or even unsafe.  If you need to talk to someone but aren’t comfortable meeting with a counselor or therapist in-person, online counseling is an effective alternative to find help.  One example of online counseling services is provided by BetterHelp.  At BetterHelp, licensed, trained, and experienced mental health care providers will work with you to develop a plan of care that is tailored to your needs as you prepare to live a life free of abuse.  You can connect with BetterHelp from home or anywhere else that you feel safe and comfortable (as long as you have an internet connection).

Remember, you are not alone, and you deserve to live a life that doesn’t make you feel trapped.  Reach out today.

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