Personality disorders are more common than you might think. By some estimates, over 9 percent of Americans have a personality disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the most commonly misunderstood. This can be a very difficult disorder to deal with in spouses. But is possible to provide healthy support for a narcissistic spouse without sacrificing your own well-being.
With the right kind of support and the desire for positive change, your narcissistic spouse can change their behavior for the better. Read on to learn more about how to support them through this process.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is associated with arrogant, grandiose, or selfish behavior. People with this disorder often don’t show empathy for others and have a false idea of their own importance.
Narcissistic individuals have a strong desire to be admired. They may even have delusions about their own intelligence, beauty, or level of success.
These traits often only start to surface in early adulthood. It is possible that your spouse did not exhibit narcissistic behavior when you first became a couple.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that occasional narcissistic behavior does not mean someone has a personality disorder. People need to show these traits consistently in different situations to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. For example, they might be arrogant and difficult to deal with both at work and at home.
This disorder can have a unique effect on relationships. Narcissists tend to believe they are better than other people. They will try to establish relationships with others that they feel are also superior.
This association with others can be an attempt to boost their self-esteem. Although narcissists may seem to think very highly of themselves, the reality is that they often have shaky self-esteem underneath the layer of self-importance.
These types of people will not take criticism or feedback well and do not like to lose. Any sort of criticism can feel more painful to them than to someone without this disorder. They look for high levels of admiration in order to counteract these insecurities.
How to Tell If You Have a Narcissistic Spouse
If you suspect your spouse has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it’s important to learn about this disorder and carefully evaluate the situation. These disorders can have serious consequences, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions.
Also, always keep in mind that the only person who can diagnose someone with a personality disorder is a licensed mental health professional.
If you suspect your spouse shows signs of this disorder, it’s important to have them meet with a professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker to get a diagnosis.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
These signs and symptoms will tell you whether a meeting with a licensed professional and your spouse is needed.
- Preoccupation with delusions of power, beauty, intellect, or other valuable traits
- Exaggeration of self-importance
- Belief that they are more valuable or special than other people
- Need for excessive admiration and attention
- Desire for and expectation of special treatment
- Lack of empathy for others
- Intense envy or jealousy of others’ possessions or accomplishments
- Belief that other people are envious or jealous of them
- Arrogant attitude and behavior
There are also more subtle ways that this disorder may show itself.
For example, if your spouse was surprisingly likeable when you first got together, this can actually be a sign of a narcissist. They will go the extra mile to impress you since they want you to believe they are as wonderful as they think they are.
Ways to Show Support for Your Spouse
If your spouse shows the above symptoms and is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over.
Many people learn to manage their personality disorders effectively and have healthy relationships in spite of this added challenge. However, it often takes a great deal of support from a spouse, family members, and a therapist to make this happen.
If you have a narcissistic spouse, these three ways of showing support will help things go better for them – and you.
1. Discuss Their Desire to Change
To effectively support your narcissistic spouse, they have to be willing to do their part and work on changing their behavior. The best way to start supporting them through this process is to talk about it.
However, this isn’t a conversation you need to have on your own. Instead, start by suggesting that you see a couple’s therapist together. A trained mental health professional will know the right way to facilitate the conversation.
Of course, many people are not open to therapy, whether they have a personality disorder or not. But therapy is a crucial part of working with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, so you should start by helping your spouse seek out help.
2. Avoid Shutting Down
When faced with all the negativity that a narcissistic spouse can throw at you, it’s tempting to shut down and retreat into silence.
However, your silence won’t help them change their behavior. Instead, you need to learn to share your feelings when your spouse does something to hurt you.
When you withdraw from your partner, it will further trigger the insecurities that narcissists already have. By communicating openly with them, you can help keep those insecurities at bay while also letting your spouse know what you need.
3. Avoid Angry Responses
It can be tempting to respond to narcissistic behavior with anger. Although that’s a very natural response, it does nothing to help you and your spouse.
Replace anger with calm, rational approaches to telling your partner how you feel. This doesn’t mean you should hide your emotions, just that you should be careful to express them in the most helpful way.
For example, instead of verbally attacking your partner when they do something hurtful, clearly explain to your partner how their behavior affects you.
A partner who genuinely cares will want to avoid hurting you, in spite of the personality disorder they must work through.
Having a narcissistic spouse is a major challenge. However, when both partners have genuine love for each other, it’s a challenge that can be overcome.
If you suspect your partner has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it’s important to start using these steps today. You can avoid adding to problems in your relationship and move toward recovery instead.
Part of this process is learning more about this disorder. We have answers for many of the most common questions about Narcissistic Personality Disorder – read more here.