By Debra Whitson, Attorney, Mediator and Certified Divorce Specialist
It may have started as a fairy tale, but now you’re wondering if your prince charming (or princess) is a narcissist. Don’t beat yourself up for missing the signs. Likely there were few, if any, because narcissists can be charming, full of romantic gestures and know exactly how to make their partner feel oh-so-special at first. But eventually, something will shift. If you’re at that point, here’s how to know if you are married to a narcissist or not. And what you can do about it.
8 Signs of Narcissism
Not every jerk is a narcissist. And while the term is widely overused, you may not realize that narcissism is a relatively uncommon personality disorder. The Cleveland Clinic suggests up to only 5% of people truly have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and it is diagnosed when a person has at least five of these characteristics:
- An overinflated sense of self-importance.
- Constant thoughts about being more successful, powerful, smart, loved or attractive than others.
- Feelings of superiority and desire to only associate with high-status people.
- Need for excessive admiration.
- Sense of entitlement.
- Willingness to take advantage of others to achieve goals.
- Lack of understanding and consideration for other people’s feelings and needs.
- Arrogant or snobby behaviours and attitudes.
That said, even if your partner doesn’t meet the criteria for NPD, they may still have narcissistic traits. This may make marrying a narcissist extremely challenging, putting you in a constant state of turmoil.
How to Handle Being Married to a Narcissist
Therapy can certainly help a person with NPD. Your partner must have a willingness to change, and often that’s not the case, as narcissists typically don’t see their behavior as a problem at all. So, you’re left trying to decide if it’s worth it to stay married or leave the relationship and get divorced.
Should you choose to stay, these tips can help:
- Practice self-care – Make this a priority and regularly engage in activities that lower stress and encourage mindfulness. Activities can include exercise, meditation, time in nature, religion or any combination, as long as it helps you to renew.
- Find support – While your partner may never agree to therapy or marriage counselling, you can, and should, find support yourself. Support can be family, friends, your own therapist or even support groups of narcissists. Just knowing you’re not alone can make a difference.
- Set boundaries – This is as much for yourself as your partner. Your spouse might try to drag you into the mud with them. Remember, you control your own behavior so decide when to engage, when to walk away and how to respond to them. Then, stick to it.
- Try not to take it personally – Yes, the narcissist’s ire may be directed at you, but try as best as you can to detach yourself because, at the end of the day, your partner’s behavior reflects what’s wrong with them, not you.
- Pick your battles – Narcissists love to argue; winning is everything, but the constant cycle of battles can be exhausting and futile. Instead, decide what’s worth fighting over and what isn’t worth your time. And remember, you don’t HAVE to engage.
- Feed their ego – Yes, this is manipulation too, which you’re likely sick of, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some wins yourself! Praise good behavior, use flattery before making a request and/or let them feel like they’ve come up with the ‘right’ solution or idea, for example.
For the first half of her career, Debra Whitson was a prosecutor, and she spent the latter half specializing in Matrimonial and Family Law. She is an experienced mediator and collaborative divorce practitioner, as well as a recognized expert in working with victims of domestic violence. To learn more, visit https://whitsonlawfirm.com
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