How to Deal With a Narcissistic Husband

Three Parts:Knowing When the Relationship is UnhealthyDealing With Your HusbandTaking Care of Yourself

Narcissists are people who are self-centered, have an inflated sense of their own importance, a constant need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy. Usually these people have a fragile self-esteem and are vulnerable to criticism. If you are married to a narcissistic husband, hopefully this article can help you resolve or manage your husband's behavior.

Part 1
Knowing When the Relationship is Unhealthy

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    Determine if your husband is selfish. Narcissistic people are generally extremely self-centered, thinking only of themselves. They have inflated egos and crave attention and admiration.[1] They are highly self-absorbed and are always looking for ways to be the best or successful. Because of this, the narcissistic husband may not love you as much as you love him. He may care more about his needs and interests while not caring about yours at all.
    • They lack empathy towards others, unable to put themselves in other people's shoes or understand and care about what other people are experiencing.[2]
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    Decide if your husband is overly jealous. Narcissists are so obsessed with getting ahead and gaining admiration that they get jealous of other people's accomplishments. This can lead to possessive or even abusive behavior.
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    Ask yourself if your husband is manipulative or controlling. Narcissistic husbands can try to control their spouses by isolating them from friends and family, which forces the spouse to be dependent on the husband. They can also try to control and manipulate their spouse by not showing her affection or attention.[3]
    • Some narcissistic husbands can resort to verbal and emotional abuse. They might make you cry or feel bad as a means of control.[4]
    • They might also resort to tantrums in an effort to control and manipulate their wife.
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    Determine if your husband lies. Narcissists use lies to manipulate their spouses. They tell half-truths or their highly incorrect version of the truth so they don't have to take responsibility for anything. Many times, the blame gets shifted to the spouse.[5] This is unhealthy for the spouse because they end up with all the blame, responsibility, and guilt.

Part 2
Dealing With Your Husband

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    Talk to your husband. Because you are married, you should be able to talk openly and honestly about issues that arise. Remember to keep a level head when you talk to him. Be sure to strike a convincing tone, and explain to him in a non-confrontational way that you are unhappy with the direction your relationship is headed. Avoid accusatory tones and words; narcissists don't deal well with criticism.
    • Tell him how his selfishness makes you feel. Try saying something like, "I need to talk to you about your selfish behavior. It hurts me because..." If you are afraid he is cheating or spending too much time with other women, say, "You mean so much to me; I hear you talking to her and I'm scared I'm not enough for you." If your husband says hurtful things, tell him, "Your opinion means the world to me; when I hear you talk to me that way I feel so small and worthless in your eyes." Try not to yell angrily at your spouse. Openly discussing your hurt and fears is a more effective communication technique.[6]
    • Think about your husband's reactions and moods on a scale from 1-10. If he is angry or upset at a level of 3 or higher, wait before suggesting therapy. Mentioning it when his emotions are high will be counterproductive.
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    Ask questions to understand where he's coming from. Asking questions is a technique that will flatter him because it focuses the conversation on him.
    • Paraphrase what he tells you to show that you are listening when he talks. This also helps keep him in the center, which may help you move to your concerns later.
    • Mirror what he says. If your husband says, "I feel that no one appreciates what I do," respond with, "I know exactly how that feels. That must be very difficult and hurtful."[7]
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    Use the term we instead of you. When pointing out his faults or suggesting a marriage counselor, use "we" instead of "you." This gives the illusion of a shared responsibility and blame instead of making it seem like all his fault, which may cause a negative reaction in a narcissist.
    • Instead of saying, "You hurt me by being selfish," say, "We hurt each other because we sometimes think more about ourselves than each other."
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    Frame everything so it's about his benefit. Narcissists rarely care about anyone else's needs. To get something you want, make it seem like it's about him.
    • If you want to go to a friend's house for dinner, don't say, "I want to go eat dinner with Bob and Julie." Instead, say, "They really love you; they'd love to have you at dinner."[8]
    • Convince your husband that doing things for you reflects well on him. Say something like, "By helping me clean the garage, you show everyone how good you are at taking care of me."[9]
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    Approach marriage counseling carefully. Many narcissists are violently against the idea of therapy, so you have to think carefully about your wording when suggesting it. Making it seem like a shared problem, that there are things you both can work through, may encourage him to agree to seek counseling with you. Take responsibility for your actions instead of pushing it all on him.
    • For example, say, "I'd like to see a therapist to figure out how we can communicate better and enjoy each other's company more. I want to work on ways for us to work better in our relationship so we can both get what we need." This keeps the tone non-accusatory.
    • Commit together to attending multiple sessions. This is important because one session will probably not be enough. Instead, shoot for 3-4. Your counselor can help you decide this.[10]
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    Consult a relative or a trusted friend. Consulting a relative or a friend could help you deal with your husband. They also might be able to tell you how long this problem has been occurring. Has he been like this since he was an adolescent? Or is it a recent development?
    • Talk to family members or your husband about his past. Are there things in his past you two can work through that might help alleviate this problem?
    • Ask the friends and relatives what they have done in the past to deal with your husband. They might have more experience than you.
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    Try to find the root of the problem. Men have insecurities too, and sometimes they may make up for it sometimes in disagreeable ways. If the narcissistic tendencies are recent, try to find out what happened that made him start acting like this. Step into his shoes to figure out why he's hurting.
    • For example, if he's injured, or you've just gotten a recent job, he might feel like he isn't adequate enough. Thus, he may be trying to direct attention to himself.
    • If your husband says, "My life isn't where I hoped it would be," respond with something like, "Maybe not, but we have a lot of good things. We can work on the things you aren't happy with." Then, point out the good things in your life and relationship, then help him make a list of things you can work on together to change.
    • If your husband has been hurt or injured, tell him, "Honey, I know you are not quite at 100% right now, but that doesn't make you less of a person/man," or "My new job doesn't affect the way I view you. You provide more than just a paycheck to this relationship."
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    Find out if your husband is willing to change. If your husband is willing to change, there might be a way for you two to work through the problems. If your husband is not willing to change, there may not be any hope to make the relationship better.
    • Talk to him about his behavior and see how he reacts. You can start with being honest, by saying, "I feel that I am being taken for granted and this relationship is more about you than me." However, this might not work for serious narcissists. Instead, start the conversation with flattery and make everything about him. Say, "You are such a great provider and strong presence in this relationship," and then go into your concerns carefully.[11]
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    Give him little rewards. Sometimes, trying to get a narcissist to do things takes a bit of work on your part. Try a reward compromise to encourage him to help you. This helps you change his expectations from him getting everything he wants to him getting what he wants while you get what you want too.
    • If you want him to mow the lawn, tell him you will do something for him after he mows the lawn. For example, "If you mow the lawn for me this weekend, I will cook chicken wings and a cake for your poker game next Tuesday." Make sure the reward is after the task. That way he starts to understand he needs to help you before getting rewarded.
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    Give him attention. Your husband is your partner and deserves to feel loved. Giving him attention does not mean feeding his ego. Spend time with him, tell him you love him, decide on activities to do after work or on weekends together. Text each other through the day. This kind of attention should please a narcissist because you are paying attention to him.
    • Spend half an hour or forty five minutes together each night talking about your days. To make sure he listens to you, say, "We each can spend half an hour talking about our days," or suggest switching back and forth between stories.
    • When choosing activities on the weekend, frame things where he is the center of attention. If you want to go to the movies, say, "I know you want to see that new movie, why don't we go see it?" If you'd like to go on a hike, say, "You look like you could use some stress relief; let's go for a hike."
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    Be patient. Remember that large-scale behavior changes always take time. Don't expect an immediate change. Continue to be gentle, compassionate, understanding, and loving.
    • Set an example of humility to counter his narcissism. Don't be sarcastic or show false humility.
    • Be honest as you assess his progress. Is he making an honest effort to change? Is he still treating you badly? Is the relationship worth continuing to give so much of yourself to?

Part 3
Taking Care of Yourself

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    Establish a strong presence in the marriage. Make a place for yourself in the marriage. Take some control over things, whether it is money, the house, sex, or something else. Narcissistic people often think they are the most important person in the relationship; make sure that your husband knows you are as important to the marriage as he is.
    • Have humor in some of the situations. If your husband thinks he's perfect, use humor to dispel that notion. Help him see he's not perfect, the best, or the center of the universe. Let him know instead that he's important and that you love him, but other people are important, too.
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    Remember that you are worthy. Most narcissistic people feel entitled to superior treatment; he might think, "I deserve special treatment because I make the money and pay the bills." Nothing gives him the right to treat you or anyone else with disrespect.
    • Be aware that by confronting your husband a host of other problems may surface. Set a few ground rules and stick to them. Always set a time-out signal; you both may need time to calm down before continuing a discussion. If this doesn't help then go for counseling before it gets worse.
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    Take back your confidence. Narcissistic relationships can negatively impact your confidence. Start building it back. Use that confidence to handle the situations your husband throws you, use it to stay strong when he lies, and use it to stay calm when he may not respond well to your attempts to talk.[12]
    • Find hobbies. Part of gaining confidence in yourself is making yourself feel important and significant. Learn to sew, take a dance class, start running, or start writing. Do something that makes you happy.
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    Learn to walk away. When your husband loses his temper because something doesn't go his way, remember this is just a way to control you. Walk away, leave the room, leave the house, or roll your eyes. This lessens his power over you, which empowers you instead.
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    Create a support system. You will need a support system since your husband is not giving it to you. This system can consist of friends, family, or mental health professionals. They can help you stay confident, strong, and feeling worthwhile.[13]
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    Consider leaving the marriage. If the relationship has gotten to the point where it is abusive, more than you can handle, or detrimental to your emotional and mental health, it might be time to separate or get a divorce.
    • Be assertive if you want to a divorce. When talking to legal counsel, refrain from getting emotional. More than likely, the narcissist will be emotional, so you want to present a collected persona. Present the facts as you explain your husband's behavior without being angry or holding back. Be honest and factual.
    • Present patterns of behavior. Be careful calling your husband a narcissist because the legal counsel may not know what that means. Instead, show the lawyers his narcissistic behavior.[14]

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Categories: Marriage Issues