Narcissists are highly secretive. They create special compartments for their innumerable secrets. There are narcissists who lead a series of impenetrable compartmentalized private lives. Since narcissists don’t have a developed conscience it doesn’t bother them that they are continually betraying those closest to them–spouses in particular. I hear from men and woman who have been married to narcissists for years and decades who were psychologically and emotionally devastated to learn that the person they trusted the most and whom they loved deeply, cheated on them multiple times throughout the marriage. Narcissists are often obsessed with acquiring money in various forms and keeping it all to themselves. NPDs don’t “share.” Many of them have hidden cash and bank accounts that are cleverly concealed from their partners. They are masterful at “spiriting away” their assets. The spouse does not suspect this venal level of duplicity. One scenario that occurs preceding a divorce is that the narcissistic spouse will have taken control of most of the money and financial assets and hidden them through complex financial instruments or by making “arrangements” with an old business partner or some other back door means. After the divorce papers are served and the opening rounds begin, the narcissist claims that he or she has no money or assets or investments of any kind. Surprisingly, this “story” can play well during the divorce skirmishes. At times a forensic accountant is hired to analyze and trace the money and investments that have been pilfered and concealed by the narcissistic spouse. As they cheat and steal from you, narcissists are highly suspicious even paranoid that they are being taken advantage of by their spouse. They play the victim role to the hilt. They rage that the spouse has stolen what is theirs. Narcissistic personalities are psychologically delusional. They manufacture their own reality. They detest the truth, especially when it is pointed out to them. It enrages the narcissist and activates his volcanic rage. Don’t blame yourself for not picking up the clues that you are married to a narcissistic personality. They are so masterful at concealing the truth about your relationship with them. They know just when to turn on the thousand watt charm, to promise you whatever you want and to woo and hypnotize you into believing that they love you. A time will come when you have put enough of the puzzle pieces together to know that you are being deceived and hurt, that you can longer overlook, rationalize or tolerate the insidious lies, the recriminations, the primitive wounding projections. Many spouses start to research the NPD and discover that this is the person to whom they are married. Others know deep inside that this way of living is hurting them psychologically and emotionally too deeply and for too long. At this point the spouse can make a decision to stay with the narcissist or to get a divorce. Those who stay in the marriage are making a very tough choice but some men and women do this if they have children and want to maintain some kind of family. In some cases the narcissist has discarded you long ago and is already in a new, more exciting romantic relationship and is relieved to put you aside. Others say: “No more!” They do careful research, interview attorneys, obtain the tools that they need to move through the divorce process. Often this is a battle royale with the narcissist playing very dirty. At some point the gavel comes down and the formal marriage is over. I give tremendous credit to those who go through this process with courage, grace, fortitude, focus and stamina. Rediscovering your unique creative gifts, you unleash the power within– the True Self.
The narcissistic personality disorder is fixed but not static. (This post refers to male and female narcissists.) As the narcissist becomes more successful in the world, he/she activates greater and greater grandiosity, extreme self entitlement and ruthlessness. If he is at the top of his profession—finance, medicine, science, academia, entertainment, entrepreneurship, politics, media, etc. he is surrounded by a circle of people who believe that he is superior. This protective golden circle provides the high level narcissist with a continuous circulation of narcissistic supplies: adulation, praise, accolades, multiple perks, high monetary compensation.
(There are narcissistic personalities who are not successful in their professions or work who wreak havoc and destruction in the lives of their spouses and children.)
As narcissists move to higher tiers of power and influence of great reach, they become untouchable in terms of being held accountable for their personal misdeeds and treacheries. The narcissist is emboldened by his increasing reign of power, his control over others, his capacity to destroy them. He assures himself that he can make or break anyone. And often this is the case. Does it matter to him if he destroys someone else’s career. Absolutely not! This is business—hardball. Those who side with him (not knowing that they too are disposable) will vanquish his enemies. The narcissist becomes more and more ruthless and inhumane as he grabs more power and becomes more maniacally delusional.
If this narcissist is a waking nightmare at work, he is hellish at home. In the private space there is no need wear his false mask. It is ripped off by the time he reaches the front door.He screams, taunts, threatens,demeans, humiliates his spouse and children. The reign of narcissistic terror is endless. He has his spouse in a psychological stranglehold. If the marriage is going badly and the spouse suggests a divorce, the decree of threat comes down—“You will be left with nothing.” “I will get full custody of the kids.” “Everyone will know that you have instigated the divorce and take my side.” “I will hire attorneys who will defeat you at every turn.”
These threats are continuous and terrorize the non-narcissistic spouse. I have been in communication with men and women who are so frightened that they feel that their only recourse is to stay in the toxic marriage. If you make “nice” with the narcissist, he will always find ways to belittle and threaten you. In some cases he has complete power over the finances, leaving the non-narcissistic spouse at his mercy. Some spouses reach a breaking point—They are in severe distress–they cannot sleep; they are on red alert free floating anxiety all of the time; their physical health is suffering; their children are enduring emotional stress as a result of the narcissist’s constant eruptions of rage, outrageous demands and ongoing cruelties and humiliations.
Don’t wait for the narcissist to change course. He knows he can control and manipulate you at any time. He is eclipsing your life–taking more of it away day by day.
Some spouses listen to a final wakeup call and take the step to sever their relationship from these highly disturbed individuals. They strengthen themselves physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually. They surround themselves with a supportive group of people who understand and care deeply about them. I have heard from many of those who made this decision and successfully severed their relationship with the narcissistic spouse. All of their efforts—well thought out and skillfully done—paid off. This was not easy. It takes great courage and an abiding confidence in the self. An essential part of this process is to learn to take very good care of yourself. Learn to heal the body and mind through practices like gentle hatha yoga, guided meditation, spending time in Nature, listening to the music you love that you find is healing and other practices that bring you a sense of growing peace and groundedness.
Some nights while sleeping we have nightmares. When we awaken the experience can be so powerful that it takes us a while to get our emotional and psychological bearings and to step out of the horrid dream. Some people find it helpful to take time to understand the language and meaning of their nightmares and other dreams.
(This post refers to male and female narcissists.)
For those who are married to a narcissist–waking life is a nightmare. Patterns of emotional and psychological cruelties prevail. Some spouses become accustomed to these patterns and live in these hell zones for decades. Others wake up and recognize that they don’t deserve this dreadful treatment, the eclipsing of their lives and the oppressive fight or flight mode they are in all of the time.
Begin by not minimizing the narcissistic spouse’s chronic cruelties and don’t rationalize them with: “He’s having a tough time.” “I am making it harder for him/her by not understanding deeply enough.” “He is more powerful than I am.” I am enjoying this lifestyle and cannot leave him/her because of this.” “My family is insisting that I stay married to keep us all together and not cause gossip.”
You have been victimized for years, even decades by the narcissist with gaslighting that makes you feel crazy; you have been blamed for everything that goes wrong so you are in a chronic state of guilt; you are criticized and beaten down so that you have no physical or emotional energy. You go through your days putting one foot in front of the other, looking at the ground beneath your feet. There is no bright sky for you, no positive expectations about your life. You are so involved with the narcissist’s psychological imprisonment of you that you don’t even think of taking good care of yourself.
When the narcissistic spouse suspects –and they are very cunning–that you may be approaching the truth about them, they initiate a change up play: “Let’s go into couples counseling.” This will not work with a narcissist since this is an unchanging personality disorder. He or she goes a few times, thinks he has you off the scent and reverts to his old abusive patterns.
A time of reckoning comes when you awaken from this sleeping/waking nightmare. You now know that you are married to a NPD, a serious disorder, a person who is exploitive, duplicitous, betraying, cruel, cold, vindictive and completely lacks empathy. In addition you are the recipient of horrendous primitive projections that are vomited on to you from the narcissist’s toxic unconscious. Sick and exhausted from this emotional and psychological putridness–you have come to a huge fork in the road.
Now you are fully awake! You are taking action. Read about the true nature of the NPD in-depth to become fully educated. Find an excellent family law attorney who will be your true advocate maneuvering these rough waters to your freedom. Become highly informed about your financial assets and who is controlling them. Do not share anything you have learned with your narcissistic spouse. Never confront a narcissist with his or her diagnosis. This will inflame them and ring the alarm that you are planning to get out of the marriage. This can cause you undo distress and can begin a process of their concealing assets from you and planning their counterattack. You want to catch them as off-guard as possible.
Practice taking very good care of yourself. Find healing modalities that work for you including guided meditation, acupuncture, exercise that works for you, gentle hatha yoga, listening to music that is healing, spontaneous writing, spending time in Nature, etc. These practices become part of your daily life and your lifelong healing.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Narcissists are consummate actors. Almost everyone believes them. This is not surprising. They have been rehearsing and perfecting stellar performances all of their lives. If they are grandiose narcissists they take over life’s stage. They thrive on attention, adulation, praise and power over others. (I am speaking about male and female narcissists.)
I have watched them hold forth during social events. They cannot stop talking about themselves, their accomplishments, successes, their net worth, their business conquests, their treks throughout the world. They are thrilled with themselves—higher than a kite.
There are covert narcissists who use the mask of humility and self effacement who do not put on these florid displays. Nevertheless, they have the same psychic structure beneath the quiet façade.
Narcissists are very engaging and we are attracted to them easily and quickly. They know how to play people; they are experts at the pursuit. It is not surprising that women and men fall romantically so hard for them. The narcissist has decided that he/she has picked you as his marital partner and you are mesmerized. He paints a compelling picture of your lives together and you can’t say “No.”
For a while after the marriage and for some spouses, a longer space of time, you believe that this person truly loves you. You trust and love this individual. .
Small cracks begin to appear in the relationship. You catch him in lies. His temper flares often and you feel the full impact of his volcanic rage. He manipulates you through humiliation and intimidation. Your stress level mounts; you become frightened and anxious. You keep trying to make the marriage work. He betrays you over and over again. Finally you realize that the marriage is irretrievably broken and you must get divorced. This recognition can take decades.
You take the high road and agree to making a settlement, even to participate in couples therapy. He sabotages these efforts. The narcissist does everything he can to wear you down, even to make you ill so that you will have nothing including your health when he is finished with you. He will make sure that you are conquered and ruined. That is his intention. This sounds extreme but I have seen these psychological and financial assaults on the part of narcissists too many times during divorce to know that this is true. It is part of their psychopathology. They must always win at all costs.
Be ready for the dirty divorce. Make sure that you understand the psychopathology of the narcissistic personality in-depth. Hire an excellent attorney (Interview several if necessary) who is your true advocate, who understands the complex manipulations and dirty dealings of these personalities and is never intimidated. Make your plan skillfully in advance of any papers being served. Make sure you know the financial picture clearly and are keenly aware of all of the assets and their locations and have access to them. Do not share any information about your plans with anyone except a very trusted friend or relative. Make sure that you have the funds to carry you for a while if the final proceedings are delayed. Some narcissists love to drag out this process to wear you down and out so that you will make a quick settlement.
Above all, take very good care of yourself. Make sure that you get the sleep that you need and deserve. Do activities that keep up your stamina. Choose a form of physical exercise that works for you. Some individuals benefit from gentle yoga practice, guided meditation and other healing practices. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Look forward and know that the time will come that you are evolving and living freely and experience deep inner peace. You are entitled. Appreciate the lovely person you are.
Narcissists have a sinister side, especially if they want something that you have and you refuse to comply. This becomes very ugly during the severing of a marital relationship. Many non-narcissistic spouses who have been treated abominably still want to believe that when it comes to ending the marriage, the narcissist will be civil and fair just for the purpose of watching you exit quickly. The plays are opposite–Bring on the army of shark-toothed lawyers and go for the jugular. To protect yourself, study and research in-depth the true nature of the narcissistic personality including examples from real life. Get to know this personality profile intimately. It will be a strong reminder when you start to bend or buckle to the narcissist’s tricks, tactics, strong arming techniques and charm offensive.
Another dark ploy is that narcissists contact your relatives, in-laws, friends and anyone who will listen to broadcast blatant lies about your character. This doesn’t happen in all instances but it is remarkable the lengths these malicious individuals exceed to trash you, put you at fault and lead others to believe that you are “crazy”; you need immediate psychiatric help; you have always been unstable, etc. Even people whom you have trusted —family members—can be flipped to the narcissist’s side, especially if he/she has influence over them and deep pockets.
To successfully deal with these complex and stressful situations as you move toward divorce, be sure you hire an attorney who is not only an expert in family law but who is exceedingly savvy about the ruses, tricks and ploys of the narcissistic personality disorder. Your attorney needs to be highly professional but fearless in facing this relentless cruel and destructive individual. An excellent attorney in these situations must be like ultra-marathon runners. Regardless of any obstacle placed in front of them by the narcissist, they are undaunted. Their perseverance is golden.
A narcissist (male or female) will wage a custody battle for the sole purpose of trying to psychologically and financially decimate the former spouse. For the narcissist, revenge is sweet. It’s where they live in their delusional treacherous minds.
Surround yourself with individuals whom you can trust completely and who believe and understand the horrible ordeal you are going through. Be good to yourself. Know that you hold the truth. You are very wise. If some others around you don’t believe your life story, don’t associate with them. Don’t talk about your personal life. Be protective of your privacy. Another dirty offensive is to make you look “crazy” . This is so cruel and sadistic. Know that you are the sane one who is holding the truth. You are entitled to be treated with respect. You deserve it. Pay close attention to your intuition. It will always reveal the truth to you and help you to maintain a sense of steadiness and calm.
Classic narcissists, larger than life, bombastic, charismatic to some, sail through life in the fast lane—always moving to their next cascade of narcissistic supply. If they are very successful they have more opportunities to be adored, praised and rewarded handsomely in this current world of rampant pathological narcissism. Those at the top of their game don’t do the hardest work. They have adoring followers, psychologically dependent individuals, hangers on, at their beck and call.
If you have narcissists in your family, I am sure you are too keenly aware of how they demean you and/or ignore you or both. If you are having a difficult time and you share this with them, they completely ignore what you are saying or they wonder what is the matter with you that you have caused such trouble for yourself. “Is there something wrong with you that you have so many problems?”
Some of the most cruel, cold human beings I have known are classic narcissists. Since they have no internal psychological consciousness or a well developed conscience, they move swiftly and smoothly through their professional and personal lives with ruthless abandon. They choose partners whom they can dominate and control. They ignore their children or choose only those who will become their living ego supplies—little narcissists who will grow up to be just like them.
Do narcissists care about you if you are their child, spouse or sibling? Not so much or not at all. They are too taken up with themselves to give any energy to your life with its many painful twists and downturns.
Narcissists are peripatetic –They always have their engines running. They go from one project to the next–one trip to the next—one acquisition to the next–one full makeover to the next–one partner to the next, etc.
They get a kick out of running circles around you. You are depressed or very anxious or going through a period of loss, confusion, financial distress, etc. You share some of your deepest issues with the narcissist and there is no response. It’s as if they are unable to hear you—literally. They jauntily move along in the conversation to tell you about how swimmingly their lives are going, how busy they are, what they are achieving and don’t forget–“their successes” (There is nothing wrong with success in the world. Here I am talking about all out bragging when the other person is going through a very tough time and needs to be heard). I find this kind of interchange to be nauseating and cruel. On some occasions the narcissist wonders out loud about what is wrong with you that you can’t overcome your problems. After all they did!
Remind yourself that you are genuine and that having psychological pain is part of a life that is lived authentically with real feelings and deep caring for others as well as oneself. You are not deluded. You do not brag about yourself. You are highly empathic and care deeply about the feelings, the problems and the suffering of others–family members, friends spouses, etc. You are the opposite of the narcissist.
Give yourself credit for being a true individual who is growing and evolving. Know that this is a process that takes time and effort and that you are moving toward developing a stronger, expanded true self. (The narcissist is a false self that leads his/her entire life in delusion.) There are others who are real whom you know and will find.
Let the narcissistic world twirl by at ever increasing speeds as it goes nowhere.
Stay with your path and your rhythm. Practice self care. Access and use your intuition for direction and validation of the truth.
Maintain distance from narcissists, especially in your personal life. Don’t engage with them at all and if you must, keep it short and detached.
Focus on your creative inspirations, your spiritual life (if that is your choice), the boundless beauty and comfort of Nature and a few human beings who want to share their lives with you. Learn from one another; help one another.
You have felt the ever sharp knifing through your body innumerable times if you are married to a narcissist, the son or daughter of a narcissist or sibling of a narcissist. Narcissistic rage is always on a boil within this person. It explodes at full force without provocation. He/she is filled with charm, magnetism, grace, conversation that moves so skillfully—yet when you are alone, in private the dynamic changes 180 degrees.
Now he is rampaging through the house–yelling, screeching, howling like a person gone mad.If you are the child of a narcissist you remember too vividly how close your narcissistic mother got to your face, her eyes gone wild, her mouth fully open, your nervous system quaking–you telling yourself: “This time she is going to kill me.!” Being on the receiving end of a narcissist’s primal rage feels like imminent death. But you don’t die and wish you had because the primitive sound does not stop. It feeds on itself. You run and the narcissist pursues you in the house. You can’t get away. It’s like a recurring dream that haunts you every night.
Finally, this round is over for now but you know that it will return. The monstrous tone, the menacing look in the eyes, the body that feels like it will strike and flatten you will come again. That you know—but not when and there is the terror. There is a dreadful unpredictability about these seizures of rage. As a result you are awaiting annihilation. Your nervous system is on vigil, in fight or flight mode at all times, even when you are asleep. There is no inner safety, no secure place in your mind and body where you can go when this human Vesuvius erupts.
As an adult who is healing from the narcissistic parent, spouse or sibling remember that you are entitled to change the way you feel inside. You did nothing wrong. You were victimized by a highly pathological human being. None of this is your fault. You could not have nor can you now change this person.Tell yourself each day that you are entitled to lead a life that offers you peace, security, a feeling of steadiness inside. The body/mind is prepared to heal. Be receptive to this process. You may find that excellent psychotherapy, gentle hatha yoga, forms of meditations, healing relationships, using your creative gifts, music, Nature and all of the ways that you intuit will make you whole. Gather your faith and hold it close. Do the work of healing every day. You deserve this inner peace.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
There are many individuals who lead their lives in indefinite holding patterns in their relationships with narcissists–spouses, mothers, fathers. They suspend their days waiting for the narcissist who has caused them extreme emotional and psychological harm and horrible suffering, thinking that there will be some justice–in effect, waiting for them to fail, to hit a bottom, even to die. This is not going to happen in almost every case.
I have heard from adult children of narcissists who insist on maintaining deeply painful relationships with a narcissistic mother or father because they fear being cut out of the will or estate. They pray that the clock will run out on this parent who has caused them emotional distress and intolerable pain since early childhood. Don’t play the waiting game.
The bell often doesn’t toll for narcissists in terms of whether they become very sick and die. I have seen too many instances in which it is those around them–their children, siblings and spouses who fall ill and become very sick. In many cases it is the extreme stress that they have borne for too many years that has finally broken them. I have heard too many of these life stories and they are very painful.
Narcissists, if you give them the opportunity and they are hell-bent on it, will make you sick–literally. They use people to the max, including their spouses, children and siblings. If you are married to a narcissist and become ill, they will replace you with someone else. You can take that one to the bank.
Narcissists move adroitly to their goals–never stopping to help anyone but themselves. They may strategically donate money to the right entities or become phony “do gooders” but this is all part of re-enhancing their image of themselves as the “great compassionate man or woman.”
Living with a narcissist over a period of time can make you ill. I have heard and read too many stories of people who have been down this treacherous road. Some have regained their health. Others have pulled themselves back from the brink.
I see narcissists all around me who are thriving physically. I see other individuals who are struggling on every level to maintain their health and well-being. Does that mean that narcissists do not become ill or that they do not fall upon bad times? Of course not.
You life must come first now. You have been through the narcissistic wars of childhood if you had these impossible parents and if you doubled down and married a narcissist, it is time to change this life pattern which is deleterious to you.
This is your time. Make the most of it. You have innumerable creative gifts and talents and dreams that you have left on hold. You can revive yourself and rediscover and renew your real self. Put the narcissist and the aftermath of these relationships out of your life. There is good news from so many individuals who have renewed their physical, creative and psychological energies and re-started their lives. You are entitled and deserving!
Making the decision to divorce a narcissistic spouse can be wrenching even after you can identify this person as a severe personality disorder who is not going to change. In many cases there are shared financial resources, residences and other possessions that will require division. The narcissist always lies about his true assets and often conceals them when serious talk of divorce fills the air. Make sure you choose an excellent attorney who understands the ruthless games of the narcissist, their no limits attitude and lack of conscience and of course their incredible acting skills. Be prepared for the plots and plans, their pity and martyr roles. Follow their assets with a microscope. In some instances forensic accountants are hired to get to the bottom of what the narcissistic spouse has hidden. After the final papers are signed and the divorce is a reality, the non-narcissistic spouse is left to put back together his/her lives.
After the narcissist the spouse who has been through an emotional and psychological roller coaster ride and has sustained great stress and trauma goes through a process of rebuilding the self. For years and even decades your life has been dictated by the controlling narcissist. In effect you were a prisoner of your marriage. The narcissist made all of the rules and you were expected to obey. Your life was overshadowed by this highly pathological human being.
Now that you are free, you may find yourself going through a period of adjusting to making your own decisions and rediscovering your creative gifts. For other spouses , they move into first gear very quickly—they are prisoners who have been waiting for the gates of freedom to open. These individuals began to bloom and thrive. They discover that they have great amounts of energy. They feel their freedom. They discover that they feel great making their own decisions. They experience joy in recovering their great creative gifts from the past and finding talents that they didn’t realize they had. This is a process of restoring your life. There is a freedom with other people. You can express yourself spontaneously, create new meaningful relationships that are supportive and healing. Some of those who divorce narcissists begin healing practices of yoga and meditation that result in deeper healing and a sense of peace. The sense of a solid self is built on a firm foundation of knowing who you are and accepting and loving yourself. There are so many reports of those who free themselves from narcissistic spouses that are inspirational and bring light into our lives.
I hear life stories every day about women and men who believed that the person they married genuinely loved them. What they didn’t know was that this individual was a narcissistic personality and that made all the difference. One of the common themes is for the non-narcissistic spouse to begin to see the psychological and emotional cracks in the partnership quite early. She/he overrides these observations and makes a greater effort to be more understanding and patient with her spouse. Inside she blames herself for letting her partner down. She takes the burden of her spouse’s severe pathology upon herself. (I am using the feminine gender since statistically most narcissists are still males–but female narcissists are growing in numbers).
There are some “good times” that are cherished by the spouse. She continues to believe that she can “fix the marriage.” She doesn’t understand the true dark nature of the narcissist. Why would she? Her assumption is that most people are genuine, honest and caring and that the marriage is a true partnership. Narcissists don’t marry—they create arrangements that work for them.
As the marriage deteriorates the narcissist makes more outrageous demands on his spouse. The bouts of bottomless rage increase. The recriminations and accusations are stepped up. If you have children, the narcissist is a father in name only. Often he portrays himself as a workaholic while he is having affairs on the side. He is a man of many identities—a consummate actor who always gets what he wants. Narcissists can exploit their partner to the breaking point. They don’t care if you are weak, exhausted, ill, depressed, anxious or desperate. They will use and abuse to the max. And when they are finished they will discard you. This can end in a very ugly divorce where the injured spouse is left with almost no financial resources. The narcissist has planned in advance and cunningly whisked them away.
Your marriage to a narcissist does not have to end this way. Identify these individuals as early as possible. Make your own plans to free yourself from them.
Make an effort to get the sleep that you need. Put yourself first. Exercise the way that works for you, do guided meditation, keep yourself strong and focused on your life for the first time. Pay close attention to your intuition. Do not override this invaluable gift. It will tell you exactly who this person is whom you married. There is an indomitable spirit inside of you that is strong, steady and sure.