You must be familiar with the term narcissism and you may even have come across a few narcissists.
A narcissist is often referred to as a self-obsessed person who wants to be the center of attraction in any crowd, and who always turns around the conversation to promote himself, talking about his exploits and achievements. They consider themselves above the rest – too good-looking, too smart, too accomplished, and too successful.
Narcissism is often seen in varying degrees in a majority of the population. However, it is diagnosed as such and comes under narcissistic personality disorder only in severe cases. The undiagnosed narcissists are plentiful among us and you may even end up marrying one.
Symptoms of a narcissist
Narcissism is medically diagnosed by a qualified medical health professional who follows the guidelines listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth and Fifth Edition (DSM-IV and DSM-V).
For diagnosis as a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), an individual must exhibit at least five among the nine symptoms specified in DSM-IV. These are:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
The DSM-V criteria include:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
- Impairments in self-functioning regarding identity and self-direction
- Impairments in interpersonal functioning regarding empathy and intimacy
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
- Antagonism, characterized by grandiosity and attention-seeking
The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expressions are:
C. relatively stable across time and consistent across situations
D. not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment
E. not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).
These official criteria for diagnosis should be sufficient to identify a male or a female narcissist. However, in the specific context of relationship and marriage, here are some warning signs to look out for. These include both narcissistic husband signs and narcissistic wife signs.
50 signs that your partner is a narcissist
In the initial days of a relationship, narcissistic tendencies are hard to identify. As your relationship continues and you get to know your partner better, these signs will become clearer.
Here are some hard-to-miss warning signs of a covert narcissistic husband or wife.
- You can’t feel the connection. Your partner seems distant and engages with you as and when it’s convenient for them.
- You feel as if you are being manipulated and forced into doing things you are not comfortable with. You sense a threat hanging in the air. You get the feeling that if you give in, all will be fine.
- You feel inadequate, inferior, and incompetent despite your achievements. Constant criticisms and humiliation will have a huge impact on you. You forget who you were before and lose touch with your old way of life.
- You lie and do your best to cover up what your partner is doing to you and what is happening in your life to your family and friends. You feel a lot of negative emotions like shame and guilt.
- You find yourself being gaslighted. You know that something is true but your narcissistic husband or wife brushes it aside and establishes that this is not the case. You will begin to doubt your own sense of intuition and sanity.
- You will start second-guessing yourself. Your confidence will take a plunge and you will no longer know what to believe. You will feel as if you are going crazy.
- You go silent. Because every conversation with your narcissistic wife or husband ends in arguments and fights. You feel as if you can never win. So, you may start thinking that there is no point in having conversations.
- You avoid conflicts at all costs. Even if you promise yourself that you will remain calm, they know how to push your buttons. Constant mind games have taken a toll on your mental health.
- You feel guilty. Whenever anything goes wrong, your narcissistic wife or husband is ready to point fingers at you. Initially, you may try to defend yourself. However, the constant blame game will take its toll and you will begin to think of yourself as the guilty party.
- You get the blame when something goes wrong in their lives. It reaches such an extent that you start believing that you are incapable of doing anything right.
- You feel insecure and unsafe around them. You feel as if you are walking on eggshells. Anything you say or do is a trigger for your narcissistic husband or wife to blow the fuse.
- You are out of touch with your true self. You are trying to keep things together all the time that you have no time to remember who you were before.
- You spend your entire time and energy on keeping your partner happy. If not happy, at least calm and pacified. All your decisions are made keeping this in mind.
- You are always wrong. Whenever there is an argument, which is more frequent than you would care to admit, you always end up with the blame because narcissists are always right.
- You keep giving and they keep taking. They think that they deserve all the attention and all their needs should be fulfilled on priority because they are special and superior. They couldn’t care less if your needs are not met or feel offended.
- Your desires and needs are completely ignored. Your partner doesn’t think you deserve any consideration from them.
- Your family and close friends ask you to walk out of the marriage. What you fail to see, others can understand. Even when they point at specific incidents, you ignore them.
- Your family and friends start blaming you. Your partner is so charming and convincing that even your loved ones begin to think you are in the wrong.
- You try to find excuses for your partner. You know very well that your partner is not behaving well. But you are always ready to jump to the defense.
- You may have been cheated on. Narcissistic husbands or wives are always in search of opportunities to feel special and important. Their constant flirting is a matter of concern to you, leaving you wondering.
- You feel ignored and neglected. In the initial days, you were the most special person for your partner. As your relationship was secured in a marriage, their interest in you waned. You feel as if you are there only to do their bidding and satisfy their needs. The love bombs just fizzled out.
- You find them unreliable. They are ready to make promises to make you tow their line but break them without any guilt. You are always unsure whether you can trust or rely on them.
- You begin to accept their controlling behavior as “normal” in a marriage. You fail to understand that such negative treatment is neither love and care nor is it part of a healthy and respectful relationship.
- You try to make them understand how you feel but fail again and again. To a narcissist, change is inconceivable as it is the same as admitting failure or they were wrong in the first place. They may even boast about their behavior and how they are resistant to change.
- You see them for who they are. The initial veneer of charm and geniality has been taken down completely and you see them in their ugliest manifestation.
- They brag about their achievements but rarely show interest in yours. When others praise you, they even try to play it down.
- They find happiness in external sources like an accomplishment at work or amassing wealth.
- They don’t seem to understand the value of love, respect, trust, or emotional connection.
- They try to twist reality and lie about what you did or said to suit their version of truth and convenience. They are far removed from what really happened.
- They invent stories to make you look ridiculous in front of your family and friends. You will find it difficult to defend yourself as you are already confused.
- They remove you from your support system. With constant humiliation and ridicule, they create doubts in the minds of your family and friends. They will no longer believe you.
- They derive pleasure by controlling your emotions. They manipulate, gaslight, browbeat, ridicule, and put you down in every way possible. It seems as if this is what they want from the relationship.
- They never say sorry even if they did something wrong. The fault lies always with you or others and never with them. So, no need to apologize.
- They think that they are superior to others. They feel that this gives them the moral authority to say or do wherever they want to. And even if they go wrong or hurt someone’s feelings, apologies are not needed.
- They never own up to their responsibilities. The reason is simple. Because someone else is always to blame. And, you are the ideal candidate for it.
- They blow hot and cold. More spells of hot and fewer colds. It seems as if they are waiting for opportunities to throw a fit.
- They continue to be charming and friendly with others. They are so good at playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In private, they reveal their evil self, while in public they are the epitome of all things good.
- They are highly critical of everything you say or do. This includes your personal choices and decisions. Even your appearance comes under constant scrutiny and criticism.
- They ridicule you behind your back. They seem to derive much pleasure in making you look incompetent and idiotic in front of others, including your own family and friends.
- They consider others lesser human beings and hence they feel entitled to say or do anything. They don’t have any guilt about talking ill of others.
- They demand sex when they feel like it. Your consent or dislike is ignored completely.
- They expect you to serve them. In many ways, they treat you like a slave.
- They demand that you put their needs before yours. They should always remain your top priority, even ahead of yourself.
- They own credit for your accomplishments and hard work. Everything starts and ends with them. Your whole existence is to make their lives happier and easier.
- They get upset when they come across well-adjusted families. They disagree with their way of functioning.
- They favor one child over others. It is mostly because the child is similar in looks or behavior to them. Or the child is more affectionate towards them.
- They become a bone of contention in your relationship with your family and friends. Either your loved ones are convinced about their manipulative behavior and think that your partner is not suitable for you. Or else, they will blame you for spoiling such a beautiful relationship.
- They give you cold shoulder and silent treatment as a means to keep you under their control. Withholding affection is a method used by narcissistic husbands or wives to keep you in check and get what they want from you.
- They squeeze you financially. Narcissistic husbands or wives withhold financial freedom to rein in their partners. They may give you less than what you ask for. In case you are earning, you will be asked to account for every dollar earned or hand over your earnings to them.
- They are earning a lot but they don’t involve you in any financial decisions. You may not know how much they are earning or how they are spending it. They are lavish when it comes to their own expenses but are penny-pinching when it comes to yours.
If you identify your partner as a narcissist, it is high time you review and re-evaluate your relationship. It is time for you to accept the fact that narcissists enjoy hurting others and never change. Continuing the relationship would be detrimental to your mental health and well-being.
If you would like to give your marriage one more chance before quitting, you should seek professional help instead of trying to set it right by yourself. Therapy and external help may be able to improve things marginally but it is up to you to take the final decision.
How long can a male or a female narcissist stay married? This must be the question you would be asking when you wake up to the truth that you are living with a covert narcissistic husband or wife. The answer is simple. It depends on you and you alone.