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Narcissistic Partners

How to Deal with Emotionally Abusive and Narcissistic Partners

While emotionally abusive partners are capable of change, one must understand that it would take significant, Herculean effort on their part. It will also take much intervention, from support groups to counselors, to bring about real improvement. Dr. Hawkins discusses the importance of assessing the situation and intervention in dealing with emotionally abusive and narcissistic partners.

Whether they’re diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or not, having an overinflated self-regard is characteristic of many emotionally abusive partners in relationships. The disparity they cause in their relationships renders their significant other powerless and doubtful about the possibility of change and compromise.

How to Deal with Emotionally Abusive and Narcissistic Partners

In today’s society, the term “narcissist” has become increasingly prevalent, often used to describe individuals who display self-centered or emotionally abusive behavior in relationships. Dr. David Hopkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, specializes in narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and emotional abuse. He points out that the question, “Is he a narcissist?” often hides a deeper concern, which is, “Can he change?” In this article, we will delve into the complexities of dealing with emotionally abusive and narcissistic partners, understanding the importance of evaluation, intervention, and accountability in the journey towards healing.

Understanding the Deeper Question

When we label someone as a narcissist, we might be missing the forest for the trees. The real question isn’t merely about the clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but rather, it’s about recognizing and addressing emotionally abusive patterns, character dysfunctions, and immaturity in a partner.

Assessment and Evaluation

Before jumping to conclusions, it’s essential to conduct a thorough evaluation. Has your partner been assessed by a qualified professional? Do they exhibit consistent character patterns that suggest emotional abuse or narcissistic tendencies? Understanding these aspects is crucial to chart a path towards healthier dynamics.

Emotional Abuse vs. Narcissism

It’s important to distinguish between emotional abuse and NPD. Not every emotionally abusive person fits the diagnostic criteria for NPD. Emotional abuse, characterized by manipulation, gaslighting, blame-shifting, and other toxic behaviors, can manifest in various individuals, including those without NPD.

The Role of Accountability

Accountability plays a pivotal role in addressing emotionally abusive behavior. Does your partner take ownership of their actions, or do they deflect blame onto others, play the victim, or engage in manipulative tactics? Holding them accountable is a challenging yet necessary step in the process of change.

The Need for Intervention

Real change seldom occurs without intervention. For those dealing with emotionally abusive partners, seeking professional help is often the first step towards healing. Dr. Hawkins emphasizes the importance of challenging groups and dedicated programs to address deep-seated issues. These interventions help individuals confront their thinking errors, cognitive distortions, and harmful behavior patterns.

Heroic Efforts for Change

It’s essential to understand that transformation requires heroic efforts. Whether or not your partner is a “textbook” narcissist, addressing emotional abuse and character dysfunctions demands dedication and determination. The process can be arduous, and individuals must fiercely commit to change.

Accountability and the Role of the Partner

While it may seem unfair, the partner often plays a significant role in holding the emotionally abusive person accountable. This responsibility can be daunting, but it is crucial for fostering positive change. However, it’s important to acknowledge that holding the abuser accountable is no easy task, and it may necessitate external support.

The Marriage Recovery Center Approach

Dr. Hawkins mentions the importance of having a support network in place. The Marriage Recovery Center offers various resources, including core men’s groups and advanced core men’s groups, to assist in the process of change. These groups provide a structured environment where individuals can confront their behavior patterns and work towards healthier interactions.


In conclusion, the question of whether your partner is a narcissist should lead to a deeper inquiry about their capacity for change. Emotional abuse and character dysfunctions can manifest in various ways, regardless of a formal NPD diagnosis. It is imperative to assess, intervene, and hold emotionally abusive partners accountable for their actions.

Real change is possible, but it demands heroic efforts and a commitment to growth. If you find yourself in a relationship with an emotionally abusive partner, seek professional help and consider the support of groups and programs like those offered by the Marriage Recovery Center. Remember, change begins with awareness and a willingness to confront the issue head-on.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Change Your Marriage with Corrective Emotional Experiences

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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