Narcissism is a destructive element in marriage and other relationships. Its blatant self-centeredness is detrimental to the growth and maintenance of relationships. A relationship with a narcissist is never an equal partnership. The narcissist will see himself or herself as being better or more important than all others—including their spouse.
A narcissistic person usually develops relationships with others who bolster their ego-centric view of themselves. They are also typically insulting to others in order to feel better about themselves, especially when they feel their fragile image is threatened.
This is why narcissists tend to select mates who are either coveted by others—such as trophy wives—or one who is emotionally vulnerable and dependent. By selecting a spouse who is desired by others, the narcissist can brag and be envied by others. Selecting a dependent spouse gives a narcissist the opportunity to control and insult them in order to feel superior.
So why would anyone want to marry a narcissist?
They usually create a bond with their significant other by courting them with flattery and romance. Women who have been swept away by such behavior often state their husbands would have “picked the stars from the sky” or “bent over backwards” to please them. This helps them gain trust and deepen the bond with their future partner. This is done in order to secure their source of love when they engage in infidelity or become verbally or physically abusive.
By selecting a dependent mate, the narcissist enjoys the ego boost of having a spouse who faithfully waits for a hint of the attention & affection he or she received in the beginning of the relationship. This gives the narcissist the security to act as they please while their spouse is trapped by their own longing for “the good times” when they felt loved. Greater power is derived by the narcissist when withholding this kindness, only doling out small pieces at a time. The dependent mate usually experiences these rare, cherished moments only when the narcissist needs to bail him/herself out of trouble.
People in powerful positions take advantage of their situation; their choice of extramarital partner is often one in a subordinate position at work. Sexual harassment guidelines are in place to prevent this abuse of power, but a narcissistic seducer often grooms their prey with playful banter and innocuous “clowning around” to test the situation before making a move. Some narcissists easily avoid such problems when they are in a high level of authority, which further boosts their ego.
The narcissist’s ego is out of proportion and so are his or her reactions. Real or perceived disrespect or rejection brings hostile and reactionary behavior labeled as Narcissistic Rage.
If the narcissist thinks his or her spouse has flirted with someone or is likely to have an affair, the narcissist can begin an affair as a pre-emptive strike against his or her spouse to maintain the upper hand in the relationship. Narcissistic rage is fueled by thoughts such as “How dare they do that to ME?!” The narcissist is also likely to have an affair with a spouse’s relative or someone whose closeness with the spouse would make the discovery of the affair especially traumatic.
Narcissists become defensive (and defiant) when asked of their whereabouts yet control and scrutinize every action of their spouse. When a narcissist feels he or she has been defied, they can become physically or verbally threatening.
The narcissist can become abusive. Emotional blackmail such as threatening to physically harm not only the spouse but the children and pets can be common as well. When the narcissist fears he or she will be left, threats escalate and often include terrorizing statements such as “you can run but you can’t hide” to chase the spouse “to the ends of the Earth” to maintain dominance and control. The narcissist’s threats of bodily harm are not limited to the spouse or his/her loved ones. Threatening to commit suicide is also a common controlling tactic as the narcissist claims the spouse would be to blame for driving them to this behavior.
For more help with this issue, contact CrossRoads to make an appointment at 317-842-8881 if you are in the Central Indiana area. Click here for the 6th article of the Affairs series.