Do you feel like you are always second-best in the eyes of your partner? Do they always have something more meaningful in their life than you are? And do you feel like this dynamic is taking a toll on your emotional well-being? Having a narcissistic spouse that tends to neglect you or disrespect your needs can be frustrating.
Especially after a while together, narcissistic traits might appear when people feel comfortable and start putting in less effort. While being a little selfish from time to time isn’t the end of the world, having that behavior be repeated is a red flag. So, what can you do to manage this relationship? And when is it the time to let it go?
What Is Narcissism?
If your spouse is a narcissist, that means they are self-involved above all else. This behavior makes a person ignore the needs of others. Usually, narcissists see themselves as better than most. Many people can display narcissistic traits in their day-to-day lives, but that can be an issue when those traits become core values. Mainly because they are your spouse, they should protect you and your feelings.
But a narcissistic spouse would sacrifice your well-being without giving it much thought. If they show frequent disregard of your feelings, that is clear selfish behavior. They don’t understand how their actions can affect others, and they don’t care. This behavior can develop cam lead to a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In that sense, narcissism is a spectrum. Not all narcissists have NPD. Only the people on the higher end of the spectrum might suffer from NPD.
The people on the lower end are still narcissists but don’t suffer from this mental health disorder. Narcissism is not always an overt behavior. While that’s true in most cases, a narcissist doesn’t have to be honest about their true self. This behavior is not all about being loud and flashy. Recently, in-depth studies on this behavior have determined two types of narcissism: covert and overt. Covert narcissism is a behavior that can be concealed easier.
Covert narcissists are introverted and reserved. A study at NYU determined that narcissism often stems from insecurity. Because of that, even they need reassurance. If your spouse seems insecure and innocent, that might not show their true nature. It is essential to look beyond the surface. If your spouse is selfish, manipulative, self-absorbed, or displays any other similar traits, that is a red flag.
After a long time together, people can start being more self-centered than at the beginning of the relationship. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes that happens because people get more comfortable with each other. That doesn’t mean that you should let your spouse neglect you. In those cases, their narcissistic behavior can be managed.
How To Manage Your Relationship With A Narcissistic Spouse (And Signs You Should Give Up)
What can you do to ensure your spouse stops being narcissistic, and what is the point where you should give up and leave?
1. Set Boundaries With a Narcissistic Spouse
When dating a narcissist, you will eventually have to create strict boundaries to protect your needs and wants. While this might seem like it will infringe on the whole idea of romance, it’s much better to draft a clear set of rules. Otherwise, you will never get what you need to form that relationship.
Most people you date will display some narcissistic traits from time to time. Being distant, exhibiting low levels of empathy, being selfish, all these behaviors can lead to a negative relationship. And it doesn’t just affect a relationship, but it can affect you on an individual level. Narcissism in a partner can mean you have to sacrifice your well-being if you want to avoid fighting. This way, you will end up neglecting your needs. Not only that, but your partner will slowly see that there’s no need to satisfy your desires if you accept all his negative behaviors.
If you want to avoid this, you have to set strict guidelines for your partner to follow, and if they can’t follow them, set an ultimatum. Make them understand that they either respect what you need or you walk away. That’s also the best way to figure out if it’s worth staying. If he refuses to respect your boundaries, that’s your cue to leave them.
Amongst the boundaries, you can set in place are things like asking your partner to communicate more. If they want to go out after work, they should tell you instead of showing up late at night and getting mad at you asking where they’ve been. And this is just an example. Sit down with your partner and go through a list of needs and wants and what you can do to fulfill them for the both of you.
2. Don’t Make Excuses For a Narcissistic Spouse
When faced with the fact that your partner has some negative behaviors, you might be inclined to make excuses for them. Your loved one might exhibit selfish behavior, but in many cases, you will refuse to see it. That might happen for the sake of your relationship staying the same because you don’t want to enrage them, or you might have other reasons.
If you notice your partner being self-absorbed, don’t try to dig for excuses as to why what they’re doing is alright. No amount of work or other responsibilities can legitimize your partner ignoring your needs or being emotionally abusive. Beware of narcissists as they can be very charming when they need to.
If you don’t proceed with caution around them, they might manipulate and gaslight you. You risk being put in a place where you might start believing you are in the wrong for questioning them. This acceptance can let them blame you for their wrongful actions.
Instead of making excuses for them, if you notice suspicious behavior, you have to start being extra cautious around them. You need to understand that if you are on the receiving end of narcissistic behavior, you are the victim. You are entitled to having your needs met. If your partner gets mad when trying to hold them accountable, that’s a sign that you need to back away.
3. Find A Support System
In any relationship squabble, having a third party to guide you along the way can help create a channel of communication between you. And, if that’s not what you need or want, a support system can help you get out of the toxic environment and do things for yourself.
Many narcissistic people have the mentality that they’re better than others. And, if you are fighting one-on-one, that mentality can give them the confidence to tear you down. Asking someone that isn’t directly involved in the situation to act as a ‘referee’ can help you communicate better. If you want to tell them that you have certain issues with the way they act, it can help to have a mutual acquaintance of the two of you back you up. Having more people that share the same opinion will make a narcissist listen, as they will want to tweak their behavior until they are liked again. This societal pressure can give you the best opportunity to get their undivided attention and listen to you.
Even if that third party doesn’t succeed in facilitating communication between the two of you, they can help you with your emotions. Having a solid support system can help you get over a toxic relationship. Whenever your partner leaves you emotionally drained, the people you surround yourself with can help you put yourself back together.
And, if you feel that you need to let go of that relationship, a support system can help you through that.
4. Call Out Your Narcissistic Spouse
If there is something specific that you can call them out on, you should do it. Narcissists are concerned with how society perceives them, so if it’s something that might affect the social aspect of their lives, they will listen.
These are the types of people that need to understand that you are indispensable, and they can’t take you for granted. As long as you stay silent, they won’t take the time to scrutinize themselves. But as soon as you point out objective flaws they have, they will be forced to listen. It’s important to stay calm, be accurate, and state facts when addressing them.
Expect them to respond defensively when you try to call them out. Narcissists don’t want to accept that they could ever do something wrong. They will fight with all they have before they accept. They are flawed. But when they eventually do, they will be open to communicating openly.
As long as you make it clear that you are entitled to your opinions, they will have to give in and treat you as an equal. And if they refuse to listen, then you know you can’t reach them. If you call them out, and they keep being toxic, that’s your cue to leave them.
Final Thoughts On How To Manage A Narcissistic Spouse And When You Should Give Up
Dealing with a narcissistic spouse can be very frustrating and emotionally draining. In a relationship, a person who exhibits narcissistic behaviors can become toxic quickly. If your partner is a bit selfish from time to time, that’s not something you should be concerned about. Everyone can be a little self-centered sometimes. But if these behaviors continue for a prolonged period, then you might have to start being a little concerned.
If you see your partner exhibit repetitive narcissistic behavior, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on them from the start. There are ways in which you can manage these behaviors. Setting boundaries, calling them out on their mistakes, all these things can help keep negativity at bay. But, the most crucial step is to remember that you are the victim in this situation.
Don’t make excuses, and remember that their charm doesn’t make up for how they’ve hurt you. If you can’t deal with this on your own, build a robust support system to guide you along the way. If you see that your partner doesn’t agree to go along with any of these, you should seriously consider leaving them.