How to identify if your spouse has symptoms and signs of a narcissist
“Narcissism” is a word that has gained popularity in recent years in describing the behavior of someone that you are in a relationship with. Many times, it is a buzzword to describe someone who is selfish or self-absorbed. Those behaviors alone are not narcissism, although they are certainly part of what it means to be a narcissist. To call someone a narcissist is a grave matter, so don’t be too hasty in determining whether or not your partner is indeed a narcissist.
SYMPTOMS OF NARCISSISM
Narcissism is a genuine personality disorder. According to psychologists, narcissism is a disorder which symptoms include:
- An inflated sense of importance. This is ironic given the fact that the narcissist usually suffers from very low self-esteem. Everything and everyone exists to serve the narcissist’s fragile ego.
- The need for a constant supply of attention. If a narcissist cannot get the admiration they crave, they will often play the victim to gain their “supply” of attention.
- Troubled relationships. Narcissists will often have a string of broken relationships, whether they are romantic relationships, friendships, or working relationships. When you have served your purpose for a narcissist, you will be excluded and cast aside.
- A sexual “cloud.” There is often sexual ambiguity or brokenness in a narcissist’s life. Abuse suffered as a child, particularly sexual abuse, is often a factor.
- Lack of empathy. There is no empathy for others with a narcissist. The thoughts and feelings of others are irrelevant. If a narcissist does seemingly show compassion, it is just that … a show to portray himself as “caring” to gain the admiration of others.
- Inability to admit wrong or ask for forgiveness. A narcissist cannot and will not acknowledge that they are wrong. In fact, most are adept at spinning a situation to give the perception that you or others are at fault. And since they are never wrong, there is no reason to ask for forgiveness!
- Trophy family. A narcissist will usually attempt to cultivate the image of a model family. His (or her) spouse and children are well dressed and always delightful and beautiful on social media. A male narcissist may be jealous of a newborn baby because his supply of attention is now directed to the child. However, he may also co-opt the child’s care, particularly if it creates the image of a loving, attentive, and hands-on dad. A wedge is driven between the child(ren) and the mother. This is one reason that the child of a narcissist will become one as well.
- Inability to handle criticism. Because of his/her tremendous insecurity, a narcissist will never be able to receive constructive feedback or complaint. Only unquestioned admiration will be received.
- Sense of entitlement. The world owes a narcissist the best of everything…unlimited access to expense accounts, dream vacations, a great wardrobe, a beautiful home, the best “toys,” etc. He/she will gain these things at the expense or impoverishment of others.
Signs of a Relationship with a Narcissist
In further considering whether or not your partner is a narcissist, see if these dynamics are present in your relationship:
- You feel alone in the relationship. Your partner pulls you away from friends and family to keep you for themselves. He/she is jealous of any other relationships that you might have, including with your children.
- Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves. (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Lack of compliments. You are complimented by your partner, but only in the presence of others. This is calculated to make him/her look good in their eyes. However, when you are alone with your partner, you are told that you are not that pretty/handsome, can’t do anything right, etc. When you achieve success or reward, there is no congratulatory celebration for you… not even a heartfelt compliment. A narcissist is unable to say, “I’m so proud of you!”
- Love bombing stops. Love bombing is probably how your partner convinced you to be in a relationship with them in the first place. A love bomb is an apparently thoughtful and loving expression or action. It is seemingly considerate of your feelings, wants, and needs. A narcissist will “love bomb” you so effectively that you can’t believe how fortunate you are to have him/her in your life. You will feel that you are a priority to him/her and you will feel loved. Once you are married or otherwise committed, however, these expressions and actions soon will stop.
- Attempts to make you jealous. Hints and innuendos about interest in other people are designed to make you jealous. This supplies the narcissist with the attention that he/she craves.
- Your partner is jealous. He/she is jealous, sometimes even of your child/children. No one can have your attention other than them. This is one of the reasons that you begin to feel isolated in the relationship. You are accused of flirtations and even affairs. When others admire you or compliment you on your achievements, your narcissistic mate becomes angry and jealous.
- “Confides” in your family. A narcissist may pre-empt any conversations that you might have with your family about your relationship. He/she will say something like, “You know, (your name) has been acting really strange. I’m concerned.” Attempts to portray you as mentally or emotionally troubled are meant to appear to be the caring spouse/partner to your family, to control what they think about you.
- Controls what others think of you. Simply stated, if a narcissist cannot control you, he/she will control what others think of you. A narcissist will change the narrative, even lie, so that they are the victim or hero and you are the villain. They will do this particularly when they sense that you are pulling away or resisting their control.
- Criticism of your skills. Nothing that you do is good enough. You are not a good parent. You don’t make enough money. You don’t know how to ________ (fill in the blank).
- It’s all your fault – always. Through the narcissist’s techniques of gaslighting and constant abuse, verbal and otherwise, you have begun to believe this is true. You are a bumbling idiot and are fortunate that your partner even stays with you. You screw everything up.
Diagnosis of this personality disorder is rare. Fewer than 200,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Most experts agree that the condition is chronic (lifelong) and cannot be cured. Some believe that talk therapy (psychotherapy) can help, but the person with the narcissistic personality disorder would need to admit that there is a problem. This is not likely.
What can do you do if your partner is a narcissist?
- Get help for yourself. You could very well be codependent in this relationship. Ask yourself, “Why am I in this relationship?” and “Why am I staying?” You will never change your partner, but you can heal and grow yourself.
- Draw appropriate boundaries. Once you establish healthy boundaries, no one, not even your partner, should be allowed to violate them.
- Ignore the insults and the put-downs. This is difficult but more manageable if you don’t buy into them. Tell yourself the truth, even in your mind, when attempts are made to tear you down. With each verbal assault, say to yourself, “That’s a lie. The truth is______”. Fill in the blank with the truth about who you are, even if you don’t fully believe it yet.
- Get some healthy relationships. Cultivate friendships with people who are healthy and safe for you. This may be difficult, but it is essential not to allow yourself to be isolated.
- Get out! This could be your only healthy option. Abuse is never okay, and, unfortunately, abuse is often part of narcissism. It can take the form of verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, and even spiritual abuse. (Some narcissists are “hyper-spiritual” as a way to further control others. “This can’t be God’s will. According to the Bible, you are supposed to ________.” They fill in the blank with whatever fits their current manipulation of you. This is totally contrary to the nature of God, who is love. It is ironic how quickly they drop the spiritual act once it doesn’t work for them! ) If children are involved, they need protection from the effects of a narcissistic and abusive parent, and you may be the only one who can protect them.