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Marriage is, ideally, a partnership. If one individual in the relationship is abnormally self-involved, it can create damaging effects. The effects of narcissism on marriage can include emotional abuse and a lack of trust and communication. Jealousy, infidelity, and parenting or professional conflicts are also very possible.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an officially recognized mental disorder, with possible symptoms, including a lack of empathy, exaggeration of accomplishments, entitlement, and an excessive need for attention and admiration. Abusive or lax parenting often creates the conditions for narcissism development, as can a naturally oversensitive temperament.
A lack of empathy and an exaggerated sense of self-importance may hinder the individual from admitting faults, so the narcissist may blame his or her partner for problems and issues that are shared or solely the responsibility of the narcissist, such as intense jealousy. This shifting of blame is one of the main manifestations of narcissism in marriage counseling sessions. It can create resentment or a lowering of self-esteem in the spouse, which can ultimately create great damage to the partnership. If the narcissist refuses to admit his or her disorder and seek help, the damaging effects of narcissism on the marriage may become long-term and permanent.
When the focus must always be on one partner in the relationship, this can create further resentment and self-esteem issues for the non-narcissist. The spouse may also become an enabler to the narcissist's self-centered attitude, which will likely lead to further emotional drain. Further, one partner's need for constant adoration or praise diminishes the honesty and trust that is key to maintaining a healthy partnership. The narcissist may begin to seek this self-affirmation outside of the marriage, in which case infidelity can become an issue.
In some cases, the narcissist who lacks empathy and concern for others may become a manipulator. His or her wants and needs overrule the wants and needs of everyone else, including the spouse. This could create the conditions for emotional abuse, or can lead to more specific problems like money troubles and budget-busting. Such behavior can also carry into the narcissist’s job, creating professional consequences that then facilitate more economic and personal strife. Social relationships forged by the couple could suffer a strong blow as well.
If the marriage includes children or plans for children, then the effects of narcissism on marriage may escalate. The non-narcissist partner may find himself or herself assuming the bulk of parenting duties. In addition, the narcissist’s behavioral patterns may carry over into interactions with the children, and this may prove ultimately damaging to the child’s psyche.
A marriage to a narcissistic spouse may or may not be salvageable. Emotional abuse can have a lifelong effect on the afflicted individual, and this abuse may sometimes evolve into physical abuse. When a union is not a balanced and true partnership, all parties involved suffer. The chances of the survival of the marriage are greatest when the narcissistic individual recognizes a change is needed and takes steps to ensure that change occurs, such as treating the personality disorder with professional counseling.
I have been married to a narcissist for almost 37 years. I have always wondered what was "wrong" with him. It was a never-ending job to try to please him; everything I did was criticised.
The kids or I would get the blame for all of his problems whether we were present or not. Our kids are 33 and 31 now and he is still trying to control them. I left him six months ago and he is still trying to control and manipulate me also. I learned about narcissism about a month ago. I felt like I was reading the story of our lives.
My husband fits the description of a narcissist to a "T". Since then, I have been reading everything I could to learn more about this mental illness. My next step is divorce.
He is threatening to destroy everything that belongs to me if I don't come back, but I have to get out of this for my own health. I am on a fixed income, but I have to figure out a way to afford an attorney and cut these ties forever. I pray that God will see me through this trying time. He has already gotten me this far, so I have faith He will be with me the rest of the way.