Those who are married to or living with a narcissistic personality are psychologically compromised if not imperiled. Your life no longer belongs to you. Your private thoughts are constantly interrupted by the delusional noise, the tantrums, accusations and ill will of the narcissistic partner. If he/she is in a bad mood you will get the brunt of his cruel projections. (This post refers to male and female narcissists). He is in constant denial about reality. He insists you view everything from his distorted perspective–how you lead your life, where you live, how much psychological freedom you have, even the activities of your days and nights can be dictated by a narcissistic spouse. It is remarkable that they appear to get away with being among the cruelest, insensitive human beings on the face of the earth. Once. they walk outside wearing their highly convincing mask they are greeted like heroes–a person who can do no wrong, who is lauded by his professional colleagues, respected by the community, lionized by his adoring inner circle.
What happens in private is totally different–and appalling. Once he enters his abode, the narcissist changes his tune. He is screaming, barking out demands, making accusations, non-stop criticisms, projecting venomous unconscious material from deep inside of him on to you. You have absolutely no peace, even when you are asleep at night. You lie there and frequently awaken and wonder if you can tolerate another day of this hellish nightmare. Many spouses of narcissistic keep taking this abuse year after year, decade after decade. They become more weary, doubt themselves more, swallow the rage that is caught in their throats, stifle tears that demand to pour, question if they are good enough. This is a dizzying merry go round type of living. The spouse is caught in the narcissist’s delusion and doesn’t understand that she is entitled to break free and get out. She sees no options of escape or the promise of a different life.
There are instances when the non-narcissistic spouse has a health crisis, or an incident occurs in which the narcissist has lost his temper once too many times and become very frightening and menacing. This is a crisis point when the spouse can see the narcissist clearly for whom he really is. At this point she asks herself:”Do I want to continue living this way?” “My spouse is not going to change, in fact he is getting worse- colder, crueler, more dismissive–”
At some point the injured spouse decides that she will sever her life from the narcissist. Often these spouses make plans in advance of the actual separation so that they can get out with out major ugly scenes and engagements with this volcanic personality. Many of these spouse report the relief they feel—they can breathe and think and dream once more. The route toward final separation can be tough but with a strong support system and some professional help if needed, this renewal of their lives does happen. They are now evolving fully, using all of their potential. They are blooming and moving forward creatively at the same time that they have found peace inside for the first time in their lives.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.