Narcissists are always number one to themselves and expect nothing less than perfection from their spouses. You are married to them because you fit the image at the time and must maintain it if you are going to be part of their lives. Narcissists have very strict rules for you and none for themselves. In fact they break all the rules and create new ones that are often immoral, unethical and illegal whenever it suits them.
When you are married to a narcissist you are never at peace and cannot be your real self. There are distractions–nice homes for some, trips, gifts, important people that you meet, a certain kind of lifestyle for some. But there is no authentic caring, empathy, compassion, giving, true affection or intimacy.
Many women and men who are married to narcissists have grown up in abusive families. There they learned that it was all about survival–moment to moment and nothing else. Fight or flight was the name of the game. You were hyper vigilant at all times. Some of these individuals develop post traumatic stress as a result and have nightmares, anxiety disorders, depressions and phobias. These problems are left unresolved and continue into adulthood and are still present when you marry the narcissist. As a result you are a prime victim for the abuse that he/she dishes out in abundant amounts. When the doors of your home are closed and no one else is watching, the narcissist is free to treat you like dirt–to demean you, to scream at the top of his lungs any time it strikes his/her fancy. The children cower in their rooms as the non stop screaming wind up begins and endlessly proceeds to great crescendos of unfettered rage. You are the psychological punching bag and do you take the blows. Day and night for some is an absolute hell that many will never understand.
What is often activated in you as a result of this extreme verbal and sometimes physical abuse is the residue of childhood trauma that you contain. As a result the non narcissistic spouse is constantly catastrophizing: “What is he going to do next? Will he scream and terrorize the children again? What is his next threat? Will he insist on a divorce? Will he make me believe again that I am the one who is crazy? At night in your bed as hard as you try you cannot sleep. He is next to you snoring away. You both hate and fear him (or her). You don’t see any way out of your dilemma. You worry so much that your headache or gut ache is continuous.
For some of those who are married to narcissists the time comes when you look clearly at what is happening to you and say—-No More!!!!!!! I will find a way to be free from this nightmare of a man (woman). Whatever, I have to do to sever and end this “relationship” I will find the way. This takes a lot of courage but it can be done. I have been in touch with those who have achieved this and after the struggles of releasing themselves from the man or woman who kept them psychologically bound, they are now free to lead their own lives and their children are much better off as a result.
First, recognize who this man or woman is. This person suffers from narcissistic personality disorder—a serious character disorder that is not inclined to change. It is etched in the psyche of this individual. Remember, he is always right; you are wrong. He/she rages most of the time. He is not empathic even when you have been in horrendous physical or emotional pain. He/she is about image only and the narcissistic supplies he can get from you.
Gather people around you whom you trust and can call upon. Read about the NPD. Knowledge is power for you. It will open you eyes and mind and in the end it is your ally. Create a freedom list of those things that you will do to extricate yourself from this non-marriage. While you are moving through this process, start to take very good care of yourself. You deserve this and have been deprived of self care most of your life while you always took such impeccable care of him/her.
Take time each day to quiet your mind and learn to calm yourself. This can be any activity—gentle stretching, yoga poses, listening to healing music, journaling, gardening, walking, etc. Eat well to maintain your strength and exercise in a way that works for you. Be proud of yourself and go one step at a time. Do not be judgmental as you separate from the narcissist and move into your own personal orbit that has nothing to do with him. Learn to be self entitled to inner peace, to spontaneity, to your creativity and to humor and laughter. You can do it!
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.