Do you believe you are married someone with narcissistic traits or tendencies? Dr. David B. Hawkins, Director of The Marriage Recovery Center, which specializes in Marriage Intensives, shares critical information about how to deal with a narcissist spouse. He shares strategies about not only coping with a narcissist, but how to utilize your marriage as a change agent for narcissism.
How to Deal with a Narcissist Spouse
Being married to a narcissist spouse can be an incredibly challenging experience. Dealing with their grandiosity, excessive need for attention, exploitation of others, and overwhelming sense of entitlement can take a toll on your relationship. However, there are strategies you can employ to more effectively relate to a narcissist spouse. In this article, we will explore these strategies and provide guidance on how to navigate this difficult situation.
Understanding the Problem
The first step in dealing with a narcissist spouse is understanding the problem itself. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by traits such as grandiosity, excessive attention-seeking, exploitation of others, and a lack of empathy. By recognizing and diagnosing these traits, you can gain clarity on the nature of the problem and the necessary actions to address it. Seeking professional help from a qualified clinician who specializes in NPD is essential in understanding the disorder and formulating a plan for healing.
Replace Criticism with Encouraging Solutions
Narcissistic individuals, like most people, are often thin-skinned and adverse to criticism. Instead of criticizing and complaining, try formulating the issues you want to address in the form of specific requests. By asking for what you need in a gentle but direct manner, you increase the likelihood of a positive response. Rather than saying, “You never help me with the kids or finances,” try asking, “Would you be willing to help me raise our children or manage our finances?” This approach shifts the focus from criticism to seeking solutions together.
Attack the Problem, Not the Person
It’s important to remember that attacking the person instead of focusing on the problem only leads to defensiveness and a breakdown in communication. Avoid blaming their character or labeling them as selfish, self-centered, or narcissistic. Instead, express your needs and concerns in a non-accusatory manner. For example, if you need help with household chores, say, “I need some assistance in keeping the house clean.” By reframing the issue as a problem to be solved collaboratively, you can foster a more constructive dialogue.
Seek Understanding First
To establish a healthier connection with your narcissist spouse, seek to understand them before seeking to be understood yourself. While it may be challenging to empathize with their behavior, making an effort to understand their perspective can create a more harmonious dynamic. Engage in open and non-judgmental conversations where you listen actively and validate their feelings. This approach can encourage them to reciprocate and be more receptive to your concerns and needs.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries is crucial when dealing with a narcissist spouse. Establish clear guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not in your relationship. Communicate your expectations and insist on respectful communication. For example, you can say, “I can listen to you when you speak respectfully to me, but I cannot engage in a conversation when you are disrespectful.” Setting boundaries helps maintain a healthy and respectful environment for both partners.
Seek Professional Help
Dealing with NPD-related issues often requires professional intervention. Consider seeking therapy or counseling from a qualified clinician experienced in working with narcissistic individuals and their partners. Engaging in a therapeutic healing process can provide the necessary support, guidance, and tools to navigate the challenges posed by NPD. Be persistent in encouraging your spouse to join you in counseling, emphasizing the importance of growth, healthy boundaries, and seeking solutions for the relationship.
Living with a narcissist spouse can be an arduous journey, but there are strategies you can employ to manage and improve your relationship. Understanding the problem, replacing criticism with solutions, attacking the problem rather than the person, seeking understanding, setting healthy boundaries, and seeking professional help are all effective steps to deal with a narcissist spouse. Remember, healing and growth require commitment and perseverance, but with the right support, it is possible to navigate the challenges and find a path to a healthier relationship.
Also read: Can intervention Change a Male Narcissist?
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.