Narcissists are pathologically self entitled. Their spouses are under-entitled. Some of them are treated like servants and accept these roles for decades, even at the expense of their physical, emotional and psychological health. The non-narcissistic spouse often doesn’t know that he/she is married to such a seriously disturbed human being. They make excuses and blame themselves. After all, the narcissist is always finding fault with them rather than where it belongs—on them. Narcissists pick away at their husbands and wives, causing tremendous stress. Many of these victims suffer from extreme anxiety and depression. They are jumping out of their skins with worry, wondering when the next metal shoe will drop. “When will he start screaming at me again?” Will he wake me up again tonight and go into one of his tirades?” “Deep down I hate myself because I can’t fulfill his wishes and demands.” Over and over again are the self accusations that are propelled by the narcissist’s constant verbal attacks. This is all kept very secret due to the narcissist’s obsession with his golden image.
Once you have recognized that you are married to a narcissist you have a couple of options. You can try to stay in the marriage and learn how to remain psychologically distanced and detached from this person. That is very difficult. You can carve out a life of your own if that works with the marriage dynamics. Some couples do this. They are married in name only. The narcissistic spouse has a separate personal life. For most spouses it becomes impossible for them to stay married to the narcissist. They are becoming too depressed, stressed, terrified about the next foul display of rage, constant lies, psychological ambushes and humiliations.
The spouse decides to end the marriage and get a divorce. This is scary and challenging but necessary if you want to lead the life that you deserve. Some spouses find that quality psychotherapy gives them the understanding, empathy and a plan of action that they need to move through this process. Part of what you are learning is new–self nurturing. This is the source of your movement towards healing each day. You are entitled to get the sleep that you need, to live in a peaceful internal and external environment, to build a support system of individuals whom you trust and can count on. As you move past the divorce you discover and value your unique and precious individuality. It may take time to live within this new person that you are discovering. So many ex-spouses of narcissists are relieved that now they can take a deep breath, use their creative gifts, sleep through the night peacefully, voice their opinions openly and freely and celebrate their newly retrieved lives.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.