Help! I am married to a narcissist.

By Brandon Bailey

As a leader I often find myself on the other side of the table providing counselling to married couples. The assumption we make often is that people need counselling for infidelity, raising kids and finances. This is true to a certain extend but largely limited. A scenario that is becoming more and more popular these days is a cry of help from women who claims to be married to narcissist. The dictionary defines a narcissist as a person who has an inflated sense of self-importance. Individuals who are bound by their own sense of self-importance often use the people around them as fans and groupies and position those who differ with them on the minutest issue as enemies. There are generally several signs that are indicative of being in a relationship with a narcissist:

Her identity is dissolved because of the marriage

Marriage should amplify identity, confidence and self-worth. The scriptures describe the relationship Jesus has with his church as that of Husband and Wife. The church who symbolises a bride gains her identity and confidence from her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-28

"22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

When married to a narcissist the sense of identity, confidence and self-worth is lost. This process is subtle in nature and generally starts with a flawed definition of marriage. The wife is made to believe that her role is nothing more and nothing less than making her husband look like the main attraction. She cannot have her own views, she cannot make a judgment call and her husband must vet every decision she makes. He becomes the standard of what is correct, beautiful and intelligent. Whatever she does that draws attention to her in a good way is a direct attack on his person. Gradually she fades into obscurity because all she ever needs is a husband that is brilliant and she has no agenda pursuing personal success because his success is enough for both of them. Her identity, confidence and self- worth diminish.

Public Persona vs Private Person

A woman married to a narcissist generally finds herself trying to reconcile her husband’s public persona with who he is as a private person. She often finds herself protecting his image for the greater good whilst she has internal conflict because she knows who he is privately. She often finds herself singing his praises publicly, making much noise concerning him and overstating his achievements because the narcissist has a deeper commitment to public perception of him and has zero interest in the type of husband his wife must live with and the type of father his children must live with. When you are married to a narcissist the only thing that ever matters is public perception and you portray the role of a happy and God-fearing woman so well because you cannot dent the image. You are under pressure 24/7 and failure to acknowledge him publicly is dealt with in the harshest ways because you are made to believe you are an inferior wife compared to other wives and you are failing dismally in your assignment as a “Helper”. A clear sign that you are married to a narcissist is that you are always conflicted in your spirit as to the public persona of the man vs who he is privately. A narcissist husband will train you in how to behave publicly with him and around him and how you must promote him, you are gradually becoming less of a wife and more of a promoter.

You are the one who triggers his outburst

Narcissist takes no responsibility for their outburst and will make you feel guilty for their emotional outburst. They are deeply manipulative in how they handle incidents and the chances of you hearing “I am sorry” is almost zero. You often apologise for fights you did not start, often shouldering the blame for matters that could have been dealt with in a more beautiful way. Narcissists are the ultimate spin doctors and you will find yourself agreeing to what you did not do. In a relationship where everything that goes wrong is put on you, you are in serious danger.

How do couples deal with this?

  1. Couples must derive their identity in Christ and not a false system of flattery build into marriages; 2 Corinthians 5:17 “17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
  2. Couples must be vulnerable and transparent with one another. It is not a cardinal sin to say to your partner that you doubt who you are as a person at any stage in your life.
  3. Not everything is manageable certain things calls for deliverance and not management. Certain character traits are demonic in nature and often we seek counselling where we should seek deliverance. Deliverance is healthy, not evil. How do you know you dealing with a demon? Denial! When we live in denial it is demonic because demons never blow their cover.
  4. Systems of accountability: When we have neutral people speaking into our relationships, it helps. A couple that trust nobody with their private struggles is setting themselves up for failure. Find someone you can trust with a conversation.

Marriage is beautiful and marriages can work. At the core of a working marriage is the development of a Christ-like character. If we work on ourselves, working on our marriage becomes easier. Sometimes we have to change our character to rescue our marriage, it is possible.