Every couple has moments when they feel like their spouse is being selfish, but if these selfish moments are overwhelming your relationship – you may be married to a narcissist.
The word narcissism is thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a pattern of arrogant thinking and self-centered behaviour. Often these individuals are considered cocky, demanding, and even downright manipulative. There’s no doubt that such behaviour can cause problems in a marriage.
Nobody wants to be with someone who is selfish and single-minded. We take a look at the real signs to look out for if you suspect your spouse has NPD and how marriage courses may help to save your relationship.
1. Poor Sense of Empathy
Having empathy means you are deeply connected to your partner’s emotions. You have sympathy and understanding for what they are feeling. Some dictionaries even render the meaning of empathy as “entering into another’s feelings.” This definition shows just how deeply you have to be connected to your spouse in order to feel what they feel.
Empathy is great for a relationship because it leads to a positive exchange of behaviour, such as showing respect, communicating, and being kind to one another.
Unfortunately, narcissists are often missing this simple quality. Instead of taking the time to understand you and your feelings, they automatically assume that they are in the right and you, well, aren’t.
2. Bad Reaction to Criticism
Those suffering from NPD are overly self-involved. They don’t take responsibility for their actions, even in circumstances where they are clearly in the wrong. Because of this, they have strong reactions to criticism.
Anything they may interpret as a negative comment about their skills, appearance, or speech, will be met with resistance and hostility. They may even resort to blatant lighting or gaslighting, which can be mentally damaging.
3. Excessive Need for Admiration
Research shows that positive emotional exchanges, like celebrating a triumph together, boosts relationship well-being. However, when dealing with a narcissist, they’ll likely want all the attention for themselves.
Narcissists often desire constant praise and admiration – and not just from you. From friends and family to complete strangers, they want everyone to acknowledge how amazing they are. For this reason, they often surround themselves with people who are willing to cater to their need for affirmation.
This can cause your relationship to feel incredibly one-sided. It can also lead to trouble down the road. For example, your spouse may like to flirt with others in order to receive the attention that they crave. In an attempt to satisfy their desire for praise, harmless flirting can quickly turn to betrayal.
4. Have Low Self-Esteem
A narcissist is overly self-involved and often consumed by their appearance and greatness. Indeed, it is often cited that those with NPD even live in a fantasy world or have delusions of grandeur about themselves.
Their ego is big. But interestingly enough, their self-esteem is just the opposite.
Those who have NPD often lack confidence, which is why they need such constant attention and approval from those around them.
Taking marriage classes or seeking counseling may help your spouse deal with these root issues that are causing such negative NPD qualities to exist.
5. They Want Control
Narcissists believe that the world owes them, and if the world owes them, so do you.
When you first met your spouse, you probably thought they were the most charming person you have ever met. But now that you’re married, you realise your Princess/Prince Charming is more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Your partner may have severe mood swings. One moment they are sweet and sensitive, the next they will demean, intimidate, or belittle you or others to get their way.
What to Do if Your Partner is a Narcissist
If your spouse is hitting two or more of the signs listed above, there is no doubt that they are dealing with some form of narcissism. This may stem from being an only child, having unresolved emotional issues, or because of a past incident. Whatever the case, what are you supposed to do if your spouse is a narcissist?
Communicate: The age-old adage is true: communication is the key to a successful marriage. Couples must be able to talk to each other and problem-solve effectively if they want their relationship to last.
If you feel that your spouse is being overly self-involved and it’s hurting your marriage, you must speak up and address the issue at hand. Be sure to do so in a way that doesn’t make your partner feel like they are being attacked.
Take Marriage Courses: Whether you’re looking to recommit to your relationship or you want to address specific changes, marriage courses or counseling can help your marriage from snowballing out of control.
While seeing a therapist or taking marriage courses online, couples are encouraged to invest in building a strong marriage. They often learn about different communication tools, build empathy, and strengthen their relationship by learning how to resolve their differences.
Spend Quality Time Together: Having date night can do wonders for your connection to your spouse. Not only is an evening out a callback to the romance you felt when you first got together, but it also gives you time to bond and flirt without worrying about work or kids.
The National Marriage Project shows that couples who have a regular date night have healthier communication skills. They also commonly experience lower divorce rates and a boosted sexual connection.
Does your spouse have a poor sense of empathy or do they always need admiration from others? If so, they may have NPD. By attending marriage courses, you and your spouse can work on your communication skills and deepen your connection. These practices will help get you back on track in your relationship.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organisations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships.
Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage.
She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.