Disclaimer: I am neither a therapist nor any other sort of mental health practitioner. That being said, I’ve heard the term “narcissist” frequently from various divorcing clients — always about the other person. These accusations led me to do some research about identifying narcissistic behavior in someone else and, of course, how to cope with that behavior. And for purposes of this article, please note that the term “narcissist” describes a pattern of thinking and not a person.
If you think you may be living with a narcissist, here are a few tell-tale signs:
Your person is quick to anger and issue blame.
Your person doesn’t listen to another point of view.
Your person believes that rules only apply to other people.
Your person doesn’t apologize.
Your person is resistant to change.
Psychologists agree that the underlying issue for narcissistic behavior is a lack of self-esteem. Contrary to the image narcissists portray to the outside world, their self-perception is more important than anything else. As a result, narcissists generally lack empathy so they’re perfectly okay with sacrificing your feelings in order to bolster their own image . My clients often point out their partner’s lack of empathy and raise the concern about how that behavior affects the children. It can frequently contribute to the end of a relationship and more significantly, the kids may grow up thinking that narcissistic behavior is normal. What’s worse is that they may even gravitate toward it in their future, adult relationships. The potential for this truly terrifies some of my clients, and is often the driving force for choosing divorce.
Do you think you are involved with a narcissist? Do any of these signs resonate with you? If you’re unwilling or unable to run away, here are some tools to help you manage the situation.
- Create a life for yourself independent of your spouse. Take a class, start a book club, listen to audio books, or tutor someone else’s kids.
- Educate yourself about this behavior. There are literally thousands of books on the subject, so pick one or two and start reading.
- Forgive yourself for enabling your spouse to continue this behavior. We are all works in progress, and I am a firm believer in treating yourself gently.
- Deny your spouse access to your inner thoughts. Your dreams cannot be dashed if you don’t communicate them.
- Have some empathy for your spouse. It’s not easy to live with constant self-doubt, insecurity, and frustration when others disappoint you.
- Find support. Whether you search “spouse of a narcissist” on Facebook, or make an appointment with a therapist or spiritual advisor, remember you don’t have to go it alone.
- Trust yourself. This is the most important tip of all because well-intentioned people will tell you to leave. If you’re not ready, or leaving is simply not an option, nobody knows better than you what’s best for you.
And if you need to vent, please reach out to me. I’ve been told I’m a good listener.