People often think that being a narcissist means being in love with themselves. Well, that would describe almost every living creature on this planet. The mere definition does not tell you the whole story. It is the story of constant belittling, abuse, control and a many more horrors. Some women have learned it the hard way what it means to live with a spouse who is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. Not recognizing or acknowledging the signs of narcissistic tendencies in your spouse may lead to serious consequences.
Identifying Narcissistic Traits
These are the prime traits of a narcissistic spouse. They may defer in intensity from person to person.
Supreme Sense of Self-Importance - A man who is a narcissist not only thinks too high of himself, but also has a high sense of entitlement. He wants things to happen according to him. He expects compliance from his spouse at all times and doesn't hesitate to exaggerate his own accomplishments.
Need for Admiration - He believes he is "special" and is obsessed by his own success, power, intelligence, looks or any other grandiose quality he thinks he possesses. He believes that others are envious of his success in life. He would hide his deep-seated sense of inferiority by bolstering his self-appreciation.
Hates to be Wrong - He is not capable of receiving any criticism. Even a slight remark can set off his anger. He may throw tantrums if he is not getting what he wants. He will twist everything around and put the entire blame on you. A narcissistic spouse does not believe in equality, or partnership in marriage. He is the focal point of his universe. Unfortunately, as you are a part of his world, he expects you to be subservient.
Turns On the Charm As and When Required - A narcissist is basically a charmer, seducer and a performer. He will put up a great show just to win your confidence. However, the bed of roses/the fairytale romance quickly turns into harsh reality when he realizes that he no longer needs to impress you. Even though his public face may be of a devoted husband, he will slowly stop maintaining this facade in front of you.
Violent Tendencies - Such a personality often experiences episodes of uncontrollable rage. These bouts of anger include screaming, hurling obscenities and even physical violence. He may even force himself on his wife sexually even if she is not consenting to his advances. He may exert control over his dependents, be it his wife or children. He will seek to modify his dependents' behavior according to his wishes by criticizing, insulting and other means of emotional torment.
Lack of Empathy - His character is defined by his complete lack of genuine sensitivity towards others. He may not mind playacting the role of a loving husband or a doting father in front of outsiders. However, his immediate family almost never receive even his feigned sympathies.
Marriage: HIM and You
Most women who end up marrying a narcissist recount a similar tale. Boy meets girl. He sweeps her off her feet. They get married. He completely changes as soon as the show is over. His true colors are slowly revealed to the wife as she endures his criticism, insults, beatings and other forms of abuse. Sounds familiar? Any average wife would like her husband to be an equal partner in the marital relationship. However, loving a narcissist and living with one can take a toll on any woman. Years of abuse can make any woman lose the sense of her worth and make her submissive to his demands. Some women suffer in silence in the hope of rescuing him from his inner demons. However, such hopes are usually thwarted in the long run.
Being married to a narcissist is like walking on eggshells day and night. You never know what might provoke his wrath. The difference between a narcissist or a pure sadist (another type of abuser) is that the former often cannot comprehend that his actions are causing problems for others. He is too self-absorbed and self-focused to notice such things. On the other hand, a sadist enjoys to see his/her victims in pain and derives pleasure from it.
Usually, after the initial honeymoon period, the narcissist becomes critical of his wife's behavior, pointing out every tiniest detail that bothers him. This is the time when women in such a relationship begin to feel trapped and helpless, as they are still in the emotional 'hook'. Over the time, when the relationship disintegrates due to his misbehavior, the wife still feels locked inside the invisible bars of her own mind.
When Kids are Involved
Some women continue to stay with controlling, narcissistic husband for the sake of her child. If an adult wants to remain in such a relationship, that is her prerogative. However, when a child is involved, the responsibility lies with the mother to protect him/her from the narcissistic spouse. You need to know that even constant and vigilant mothering cannot save the child from developing emotional scars after witnessing bouts of narcissistic rage. The husband will treat the child as he treats you - like a tool to inflate his already blown up ego. If the child becomes an instrument to gratify your spouse's grandeur of self-worth, then he is most likely to cater his real or fake affection towards the child. If not, he will ignore or refuse to acknowledge the child as a part of his life. Both the scenarios are equally damaging.
The Escape Route
In the end, you should remember that only you can judge whether your husband can be termed as a narcissist or not. If you do decide that enough is enough and want out, don't be scared of him. You need to be strong, because he thrives on your weakness. Agreed this won't be easy, but it can surely be done. Remember, several women have gone through a nightmarish marriage and lived to tell the tale. You can also overcome it. Create a support group for yourself by involving your friends and family. Detach yourself from him physically, emotionally and financially. Bear in mind that you are dealing with a person who is incapable of taking rejection quietly. When you are confronting him, make sure that you have another person (who is physically strong) close at hand.
Take care of yourself, irrespective of whether you choose to leave him or not. Take the perspective of your life into your hands, and let go of the hurt feelings. You will learn that you are not as helpless as you initially presumed.