A client just forwarded this article by Sharie Stines, Psy.D to me. It was published on the PsychCentral site in July of 2016. It is excellent, and the points couldn’t have been stated any better, so I am reprinting it for anyone out there who has been struggling to stay afloat in a marriage to a spouse they consider a narcissist. Read it, see what you think, and consider your options for the future.
What to Expect When you Marry a Narcissist
If you are planning to marry a narcissist, here is a list of things to expect in your relationship. Realize that you will be marrying a person who is incapable of having a healthy, intimate, interpersonal relationship because narcissism is a characterologic disorder. Your marriage will be the most important relationship in your life; be wise in who you select to commit to. If you marry a narcissist you will be uniting with a person who does not have empathy. Empathy is necessary for sensitivity to others’ feelings and compassion. While you may not be physically hit or physically abused in this relationship, your heart will be broken 10,000 times. Even if you think you are a “strong” person and can handle it; your strength is not really strength, but rather, denial. The following list is not exhaustive, but it is informative:
- He will always define the terms.
- You will live by a set of double standards.
- You will not be listened to.
- He will never resolve a conflict.
- He will rarelyconsider your feelings; and will only do so if it serves him some how.
- He will never apologize.
- What will matter most to him is how he appearsto others.
- He will ruin all of your birthdays and holidays (probably because somehow he needs to make everything about him.)
- There will be little to no mutuality, collaboration or cooperation.
- Your expectations will be managed down to mere crumbs; to the point where you will be happy just because he isn’t giving you the silent treatment, yelling at you, or cheating on you.
- You will never win.
- Your value will be diminished to the point of nothingness in his eyes. In fact, mere strangers will hold more weight in his eyes than you will.
- He will tend tomake you his scapegoat.
- He will dump his shame and rage on to you.
- Simple conversations will become crazy-making endeavors.
- You will find yourself walking on eggshells.
- You will lose yourself because you will be trained to focus only on his feelings and reactions; never mind yours.
- You will experience the silent treatment.
- You will experience cognitive dissonance, confabulation, and gas lighting.
- You will find yourself telling a grown adult how to have normal interactions with others.
- Your relationship will revolve on a cycle: waiting – hoping – hurting – being angry – forgiving – forgetting – again.
- He will blame you for all of the problems in the relationship.
- You will blame yourself.
- He will use your weaknesses against you.
- You will experience many dramatic exits, followed by a reappearance of the N acting as if nothing unusual had ever happened.
- He will act like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.
- He will not do his fair share of household responsibilities.
- He will come and go as he pleases.
- When you try to hold him accountable he will fly into a rage.
- He will not answer questions directly.
- He will never ask you about your day and wish you to “have a good day.” He will never show concern for things that you care about (unless it’s something he cares about.)
- You will feel stuck and unable to leave him.
- You will miss him and wait for him all the time.
- He will project his bad behaviors onto you and you will project your good intentions onto him – neither is accurate.
- When you finally break because of his crazy making behaviors and the insanity of the relationship, he will tell you are a lunatic, others will think you are a lunatic, and you, yourself, will believe that you are just as bad as him (realize, there is no moral equivalence between expressing frustration and intentional abuse.)
- No one else will see it (except maybe the kids.) This will cause you to question your reality.
- The entire experience will result in trauma for you because it is interpersonal violence.
- You will begin to feel crazy; then, over time, you will begin to feel numb.
- If you go to couples counseling it will not work, and will most likely back fire on you. (Please realize you do not have a marriage problem, your partner has a mental illness.)
- You will pay a big price should you ever tell your loved one, “No.”
I could go on and on and on, but 40 points are enough for now. You get the picture.
I am using the pronoun, “He” when these problems could apply to either gender. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” description of anyone, even a narcissist. These behaviors are general and in degrees, depending on the unique personality of your loved one. That being said, it really is amazing how similar these people are. Even if your narcissist is a parent, the relationship dynamics tend to be the same as with a narcissistic spouse.
So, in conclusion, my advice to anyone thinking of marrying a narcissist can be found here.
But, if it’s too late and you’ve already married him, then read, Divorcing a Narcissist.
Most everyone in the world, for some time now, has been experiencing the anxiety, losses, uncertainty, and constraints of social distancing related to Coronavirus. We know we’re living in an apocalyptic scenario, we hear all the gory details on the news and from each other every day. The people who seem to be surviving best in this new “normal” are the hard-core introverts, and even they are weirded out. I am not a cryer, but have done my share in the last few weeks, so I get the trauma in all this.
However, there are also some pretty bizarre and funny things going on which I think it would be therapeutic to notice and share. We’ve gotta find some humor amidst this crisis, so I will be doing my part here to spread the word about what’s laughable and inspiring in our current reality.
“Big Night Out – Suicidal Grocery Shopping at BJ’s”
After a few weeks of this self quarantining my husband and I noticed a serious lack of freezer paper, cheese and Half and Half. We could deal with staying at home 24/7, being online 24/7 for all work and social contacts, the losses, the ongoing experience of Russian Roulette about who would die next, but no freezer paper? No cheese? No Half and Half for the gallons of coffee we’ve been drinking? No way! Besides, it was Friday night, and time to go out!
I’d heard from a few clients who are high up on the medical chain that yes, we should be wearing face masks to protect each other, but my idea to strap a huge towel around my head wasn’t so great – too much possible absorption of respiratory droplets for me while being socially altruistic. They both were adamant that glass or plastic face shields are what docs use in certain surgeries and risky situations. And yes, a motorcycle helmet would be fine. So, here I am above, following medical wisdom, preparing for our Friday night foray to get “desperately needed” supplies at BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Imagine Darth Vader walking around in front of you in a store. It was the perfect setup for social distancing! People around me probably thought I was either a psycho or someone about to rob the place, so nobody came near, even the customer service people who ordinarily assist when you’re useless at the Self Check Out line, as I generally am. It didn’t help that I was also wearing a giant scarf to seal the bottom opening of the helmet, so my hair was plastered down with sweat and the plastic shield was all fogged up from the heat condensation. Then at BJ’s you have to look for half boxes to pack your groceries in – uh oh, cardboard! More Coronavirus droplets about to pounce! My solution was to get this Big Night Out over and done with at top speed so my immune- compromised husband who was waiting in the car, wouldn’t worry that I’d succumbed to evil Covid-19. Of course it was pouring outside, and he’d parked right in front of the store, way too close to other people who were loading up their cars. He was less than 6 feet away from them, ready to help me! Of course I starting shrieking warnings at him from inside my Darth Vader getup, now soaked from the rain as well, so those people also backed off. (Handy)……….
I think the “insanity posture” may be very effective for our Covid-19 existence. It certainly worked when I lived in Manhattan, would be coming home from work on the deserted subway late at night, and approached by some menacing creep. I’ve never carried any weapon except the ability to appear totally crazy, loudly shouting out psychotic rants, which I’d witnessed at Bronx State Hospital where I’d worked on the ward with folks who were in a different state of reality. Nobody wants to screw with an insane person, so in my later middle-of-the-night homeward bound subway rides I never got mugged or attacked. Shady characters would always back off. It was my perfect New York defense. If you’re not too self conscious I’d highly recommend it when clueless people get within 6 feet of you nowadays, especially the friendly ones.
The good news is that we had our Big Night Out and now have lots of freezer paper, cheese and Half and Half. Hallelujah!
Don’t miss this next BlogTalk Radio podcast!
In this 20 minute episode I’ll share my insights about some of the common sources of holiday related anxiety and stress, and how being proactive and intentional can transform the season.
If you have a history of some really negative experiences related to the holidays, and struggle with how to make it all more manageable, even magical, then this episode is for you! I’ll help you see how some simple planning, realism, and clear boundaries can make all the difference. You’ll see how you alone, or you and your spouse may have the power to turn it all around to meaning, connection and joy.
Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046. If you can’t make this (first ever) Sunday night podcast while it’s happening, you can stream it at your convenience anytime at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager.
Hope one way or the other you can join me!
I live in New England where right now in the middle of the winter of 2018 there seems to be a massive Flu epidemic. It’s cited as being the worst in history, with people unwittingly passing it on to others who then do the same. It’s a classic case of physiologic contagion. We’re all advised about washing out hands, not sharing towels or utensils, and staying home if we have symptoms to avoid unnecessary spread of the illness which can be fatal.
But what about other forms of contagion? Who notices them and gives us tools to avoid spreading the unsavory?
Contagion in relationships is much like the Flu – if you get too close and aren’t mindful, you’ll catch, in this case, the emotional state of someone you may feel sympathy towards.
If your spouse is depressed and lolling around, if you aren’t proactive you may end up “mirroring” them with similar body language and affect. We all seek people who will mirror us accurately as a form of bonding and connection, but when a loved one is very down or anxious, you want to be careful to not take on their attitude, but instead to feel compassion, and try to provide support. It’s a fine line of difference.
If a friend is feeling hopeless about a relationship or job, you can listen and acknowledge their pain, maybe even ask if they’d like some suggestions or a reality check around their experience. But that’s different from hanging around with them and getting into long, shared experiences about how partners or jobs are unreliable, and tapping into your own negative beliefs about these things. Then the feeling and attitude has been contagious. You’ve “caught” it.
If when you empathize with a loved one by connecting with similar experiences you’ll need to also connect with any lessons you learned or things you gained from the experience, so you don’t “catch” the “hopeless bug”. You’ll need to remind yourself of anything you may have done to get past the experience to something brighter.
It may be useful to remind your loved one of their resources and resilience they’ve demonstrated in the past around these kinds of issues. You can become a subtle cheerleader for their strengths, without sounding too chirpy.
It will also be helpful to limit time spent with someone in a very dark state. You cannot help them if their narrative becomes your own, so make sure you engage in activities before or afterward which remind you of good possibilities in life. You will be a sunnier presence for them as well if you practice this.
You can then make hope the contagious feeling instead!
Do you have a friend or relative who consistently screws up, forgets things, fails to follow through, or in one way or the other doesn’t take care of their own “life business”? If so, you may be in the presence of “learned helplessness.”
Unless these people are clinically depressed or physiologically compromised, this state often has more to do with someone operating at a “youngest sibling” level, expecting that others know more, are more capable, and can assume responsibility for things. They have usually developed unconscious life “scripts” about being inept, or ignorant or incapable, often not challenging these deeply held beliefs. As a result, they lack a sense of “agency,” the courage to try new solutions, and the ability or willingness to try to act effectively on their own behalf.
Your friend or relative may make lame decisions or procrastinate endlessly, and is likely to create a need on your part to take over and rescue them. If you feel that you’re watching someone who operates like a train wreck in slow motion, and that you can’t seem to help yourself from taking over to fix things, then you may be a target of their “learned helplessness”! People who demonstrate this are usually experts at training the people around them to go into overdrive “rescue” mode. They often don’t directly ask for help, but seem to be so helpless that the people around them feel they have to take over.
And don’t be fooled – their “helplessness” is generally very powerful! They get you to take over, pay for things, organize things, make appointments, ask the right questions, and generally fix whatever problems they are faced with.
So, if you’ve been feeling exhausted in a relationship which plays out with this “parent – child” dynamic, and feel that there’s a lack of reciprocity, or that you’re pouring lots of effort down a bottomless pit, watch out! You may be feeding someone’s “learned helplessness”! Consider backing off into a more supportive or facilitative role, allowing them to struggle more directly with problems, and learn that they can direct their power more appropriately into developing solutions for themselves. You’ll be doing yourself, your friend and the relationship a giant service.
If you feel that you need help to deal with this issue in any of your relationships feel free to contact me for an appointment.