February 15, 2017

How a Narcissistic Spouse Can Affect Your Self-Esteem

When you look at the stats, almost 50% of people who marry in the US get divorced.  Now, whilst there are any number of reasons why people “fall out of love” one of the more unusual would be the effects of being married to a spouse who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder because given the patterns of behaviour which narcissists show, it is amazing that they get as far as the altar in the first place!  But they do, and their behaviours towards their partner’s makes a fool out of the hapless spouse and undermines their self- confidence too. And you know what the worst part is? Even if the spouse is a super-bright professional of some competence, they are often the last to spot it.
Narcissistic SpouseImage Credits: Flickr

Narcissistic personality disorder is a label usually applied to people who have an over developed sense of self-importance, exaggerated ideas of success, a need for constant attention and admiration plus they also have difficulty with empathy and understanding an alternative point of view.  Not an ideal life partner then.  So how to they entrap and keep their spouses?

He or she will manipulate you.

Because they are the centre of their solar system, the conductor in their life’s orchestra, they need to control people around them.  You are a mere planet, to be moved around at will.  Whilst you are in love with them, you won’t even know they are doing it and as in The Supremes’ hit they just “Keep you hanging on”.  When they control a situation, they manipulate it to make themselves look good and the truth becomes distorted so that you feel that any problems are you fault. Here are some specific behaviours  of the narcissist designed to chip away at your self-esteem:

Love bombing

When your relationship is new you will be adored, and made to feel as if you are the sun to their moon.  This stage typically doesn’t last long. As they revert to type you well may start to question what you are getting out of the relationship and just as that very thought starts to crystallise in your mind they will drop a love bomb on you  – flowers, a romantic dinner, even a trip to Vegas.  All thoughts of leaving then melt away and you feel a heel for even thinking of it.  And as the memory of the love bomb fades, you start to think it again and the cycle repeats until they, not you are done with it and want to move on the next. What can you do to combat this ? Keep a journal and try to spot the pattern.  If your self-esteem is suffering as the tap of affection is turned on an off, then perhaps it is time you bombed them and not with love!

Convinces you that you are the needy one

They are jealous by nature but are “allowed” to because that is their right.  If you display similar tendencies to them then in you it is “needy” or “clingy”.  The won’t pull their punches either.  They have an uncanny knack of being able to give chapter and verse of your faults and it will be so shocking that when you challenge it will seem churlish and for a while you will believe them. What to do ? Well before you sacrifice your self-esteem to their command,  do a reality check with a girlfriend or a family member. Alternatively, imagine you are looking at your behaviour as an outsider,  visualise it and make it seem real to you as an observer and ask: would it seem unreasonable, probably not.


Gas light was a film the 1940’s where Ingrid Bergman was convinced that she was insane by a manipulative lover who changed their environment to make her feel insecure.  The modern equivalent would probably be the book/film “Girl on A Train” (no spoilers, but do watch).  With gaslighting, A narcissist will convince you that black is white.  You will believe them that your needs are unrealistic. In the worst case scenario, they can become violent and then blame you for “provocation”.  If such a ploy is successful, then you will indeed lose your self-esteem and a lot else besides.  If you suspect this is happening to you, trust your instincts, use your phone to make a record for comparison, so that you know you are OK.

Constant references to past lovers who are somehow better than you

As part of the devaluation of you as a lover, your narcissistic partner will bring up the names of attractive women either from now or form the past.

This person although invisible and absent becomes an ever-present phenomenon so much that your relationship becomes a love triangle. Phrases like “I remember how good she was at….” Or “she never complained when I…”  Even complete strangers can be pulled into the mix. This phenomenon can be even more exaggerated as they trawl social media for past lovers or worse, people they don’t know. It’s not surprising that this is perhaps the area where self-esteem can be easily crushed

The bad news is if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are unlikely to spot it until you have suffered some abuse and damage to your self-esteem.  The good news however, that good friends, reflection and a journal can shorten the time you allow yourself to be damaged and recovery is possible.  If this description sounds like your relationships stay strong and if necessary you become the person who drops the bomb, good luck!

About the Author

My name is Alex and I am the author of TheNarcissisticlife.com. If you want to read more about Narcissism, please visit my blog where I go into debt about answering every day questions about Narcissism.

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