Navigating a long-term marriage is no easy feat, but when your spouse is a narcissist, the challenges can seem impossible. Despite the potential for emotional turmoil and abusive behavior that may arise from being married to someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), some relationships endure for decades.
You might wonder how this is possible and what factors contribute to these enduring marriages. In this blog post, we’ll dive into key aspects of narcissism in marriage, discuss why narcissists often stay married for so long and provide insights on coping strategies for those involved in such unions.
Keep reading to learn about navigating these complex and sometimes toxic relationships.
How long can a narcissist stay married?
Narcissists can stay married for surprisingly long periods, but they usually don’t last due to the toxic nature of their relationship.
In a narcissist-victim marriage, the victim often becomes codependent or enabling, which allows the narcissist to stay in power and keep the marriage together.
Unfortunately, this dynamic often leads to an unhealthy and potentially dangerous situation that only worsens with time.
Narcissism And Its Impact On Marriages
To understand narcissism, it is essential first to recognize that it originates from a mental health condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
People with NPD exhibit an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy. They often engage in manipulative behavior to maintain their idealized image and satisfy their own needs.
The term “narcissism” stems from the Greek mythological tale of Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in the water and met his demise due to his inability to pull away from admiring himself.
This ancient story highlights the self-absorption common in those with narcissistic tendencies today.
For example, they may dominate conversations by constantly referring to themselves or exaggerating their accomplishments and successes while minimizing those of others around them.
Understanding this essential facet—self-centeredness—is vital when examining how narcissists navigate long-term relationships such as marriage since they focus on preserving their ego at all costs rather than fostering genuine connection and intimacy.
Characteristics Of Narcissistic Spouses
Narcissistic spouses have several unique characteristics that can make being in a relationship with them challenging.
They tend to be excessively self-centered and lack empathy for others, making it difficult for them to understand their partner’s feelings or perspectives.
Narcissists often feel entitled to special treatment and may become angry or hostile if they do not receive it.
Narcissistic partners are also prone to manipulation and gaslighting, which involves distorting reality in ways that cause their partner to doubt themselves or question their own sanity.
This behavior can lead the non-narcissistic spouse to feel like they are always walking on eggshells around the narcissist.
In addition, narcissistic partners frequently abuse emotionally, including belittling, criticizing, and invalidating their partner’s feelings. They may also use threats of abandonment or coercion to control their spouse’s behavior.
All these factors contribute significantly to an abusive relationship with a narcissistic spouse.
Common Reasons Why Narcissists Stay Married For So Long
Now that we’ve discussed the characteristics of narcissistic spouses let’s examine why some marriages involving narcissists last for many years.
1) Fear Of Abandonment And Rejection
Many narcissistic spouses stay in their marriages because they fear abandonment and rejection.
They cannot bear being alone or losing control over their partner’s life, so they hold the relationship as tightly as possible.
This fear can lead to emotional manipulation tactics that keep their spouse trapped and powerless.
For example, a narcissistic husband might constantly criticize his wife’s appearance or belittle her abilities to make her feel insecure about leaving him. He may also use false promises and empty apologies to regain her trust after mistreating her.
Over time, this behavior can erode a person’s self-esteem and leave them trapped in an abusive relationship.
2) Need For Control And Power
Narcissists have an insatiable need for control and power. They believe they are superior to others and should always be in charge.
In a marriage, this can manifest in the narcissist making every decision without considering their partner’s thoughts or feelings.
The need for control can also lead to emotional abuse, with the narcissist using manipulative tactics like gaslighting and blame-shifting to maintain dominance.
Financial control is another way that narcissists assert their power over their spouse. The narcissist may refuse to let their partner work or manage the finances, leaving them financially dependent on them.
This dependence makes it difficult for the victim to leave the marriage, as they feel trapped without financial resources.
Ultimately, the need for control and power in a marriage with a narcissist can be incredibly damaging. It leaves little room for compromise or healthy communication and can cause immense emotional harm to both partners.
3) Social Status And Image
Narcissists are often preoccupied with their social status and image. They may stay married to their partner for a long time because they fear that getting divorced will make them look bad in the eyes of others.
Narcissists must maintain their reputation as successful, happy, and accomplished individuals, so they will do anything to avoid public embarrassment or humiliation.
For example, if a narcissist is running for political office or holds an important position in society, they may choose to remain married even if they’re unhappy. This is because divorce can ruin their chances of being elected or re-elected due to negative publicity.
Moreover, narcissistic spouses value how others perceive them more than what goes on behind closed doors. They want everyone outside the home to see them as perfect and put-together.
In reality, though, many people with this personality disorder struggle deeply within themselves due to insecurity and low self-esteem – which feeds into the cycle of manipulation within relationships.
4) Emotional Manipulation And Gaslighting
Emotional manipulation and gaslighting are common tactics of narcissistic spouses. Gaslighting involves making the victim doubt their own reality or perception, leading to confusion and self-doubt.
The narcissist may tell lies, deny events or conversations that took place, or blame their partner for things they did not do.
Emotional manipulation is another tactic used by narcissists to control their partners. This involves manipulating the emotions of their spouse to gain power over them.
For example, a narcissistic spouse may use guilt trips, silent treatment, or emotional blackmail to get their partner’s desired attention.
Both emotional manipulation and gaslighting can devastate the victim’s mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Despite the narcissist’s attempts to maintain power and control in a marriage, there is hope for those suffering from narcissistic abuse. With help from a qualified therapist, victims of narcissistic abuse can learn to recognize and remove themselves from the cycle of manipulation.
Coping Strategies For Surviving A Narcissistic Marriage
- Seek support from a therapist or counselor: Research shows those who seek therapy for issues related to narcissistic abuse tend to experience significant psychological benefits like improved self-esteem, reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, better assertiveness skills, and greater resilience in dealing with future adversities.
- Practice self-care and self-love: Taking time for activities that make you happy such as exercise, reading, or being around friends who care, is essential in a narcissistic marriage. Loving yourself is not selfish; instead, it boosts confidence and resilience against the effects of abuse.
- Set clear boundaries and communicate effectively: Setting clear boundaries and communicating effectively with your partner is essential to survive a narcissistic marriage. This includes being firm about what is acceptable in the relationship and establishing “I” statements instead of blaming or attacking your partner.
- Develop a support system outside of the marriage: It’s essential to build a network of supportive individuals to help navigate away from abuse. This includes contacting friends, family members, or professionals who can provide emotional support and guidance.
- Consider ending the marriage if necessary: If you find yourself in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship with a narcissist, it may be required to consider ending it. This decision can be tough but essential for your mental and physical health.
Staying married to a narcissist can be a long and difficult journey. Emotional manipulation and gaslighting are common tactics used by narcissists to gain control over their spouses.
The effects of narcissistic abuse can be devastating, leading to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. However, there is hope for those suffering from a narcissistic marriage.
With help from qualified therapists and the right tools, victims of narcissistic abuse can learn to cope with the situation and work towards a healthier relationship.
You deserve to be happy and free from abuse. Remember, help is available – you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Related: The Narcissist and Second Marriage