Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Narcissists often have dysfunctional relationships, including with their spouses. This article will explore how narcissists typically treat their husbands in marriage.
Lack of empathy
One of the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy. Narcissists are unable to put themselves in their husband’s shoes and understand their feelings or experiences. They may be dismissive or invalidating when their husband tries to share problems or be vulnerable. The narcissistic wife lacks interest in understanding her husband’s inner life. She is unable to provide emotional support. Her focus remains on herself.
Narcissists typically feel superior to others. In marriage, a narcissistic wife may believe she is intellectually, morally, or otherwise above her husband. She looks down on him and treats him with contempt or condescension. She may frequently criticize, insult, or belittle him. The narcissist acts arrogant in the relationship and conveys that she is too good for her partner.
Using emotional manipulation
Narcissists often employ emotional manipulation tactics to exert control in relationships. A narcissistic wife may give her husband the silent treatment, sulk, or withhold affection when she doesn’t get her way. She may attempt to provoke feelings of jealousy in her husband. The narcissist may use guilt trips, shaming, or vague threats to keep her husband in line. She exploits his emotions for her own gain.
The narcissistic wife often makes unreasonable demands of her husband and expects preferential treatment. She requires constant praise, attention, and accommodation from him. However, she shows little appreciation for his efforts. A husband married to a narcissist may feel like he can never do enough to please her. The narcissist has rigid expectations but gives little in return.
In subtle and overt ways, the narcissistic wife chips away at her husband’s self-esteem. Through criticism, judgment, and trivializing, she conveys that he is inadequate. The narcissist quickly points out her husband’s flaws but rarely offers praise. A husband married to a narcissist may internalize feelings of never being good enough. The narcissist devalues her partner.
A narcissistic wife may intentionally humiliate her husband in public or in front of others. She uses cutting sarcasm or reveals private information to embarrass him. The narcissist takes pleasure in making her partner feel foolish. Public humiliation helps the narcissist assert her dominance and keep her husband in his place.
Narcissists often engage in extramarital affairs. A narcissistic wife may cheat on her husband regularly or sporadically. When caught, she shows little remorse and blames the husband for her transgressions. She may cite boredom, criticisms of the husband, or unmet needs, but rarely takes meaningful accountability. The narcissist prioritizes her own gratification over integrity or commitment.
Gaslighting and denial
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation narcissists commonly employ. The narcissistic wife may lie to her husband, distort facts, or deny events to make him question his own sanity. When confronted with evidence, she dismisses it and insists her version of reality is correct. She projects her own misbehavior onto the husband. The narcissist rewrites history and denies wrongdoing.
Though some narcissists use sex as a tool, many narcissistic wives withhold sex and intimacy from their husbands. The narcissist builds up rejection and abandons the partner as punishment. She may refuse affection or make the husband jump through hoops to try pleasing her. The partner feels lonely and deprived in the marriage. For the narcissist, denying intimacy helps maintain a position of power.
Narcissists refuse to take accountability for mistakes and shortcomings. When marital problems arise, the narcissistic wife blames her husband, even for issues she caused herself. She positions herself as the victim in disagreements and makes her husband feel guilty for her own transgressions. The narcissist projects blame and evades responsibility.
Though narcissists feel superior overall, they are prone to outbursts of rage when they feel criticized, slighted, or insecure. A narcissistic wife may have intense temper tantrums, screaming fits, or physical violence toward her husband. After the explosive rage passes, she may pretend like nothing happened. She uses anger to intimidate and control her husband.
A narcissistic wife may exert financial abuse over her husband. Tactics can include restricting access to bank accounts, racking up debt in his name, demanding he provide luxuries, preventing him from working, giving him a strict “allowance,” or stealing money from him. She feels entitled to his earnings and assets. The narcissist uses money as a tool for domination.
Triangulation refers to bringing a third party into a two-person relationship to garner attention from the original partner. The narcissist wife may flirt with other men in front of her husband to make him jealous. Or she compares him unfavorably to an ex-boyfriend. She manufactures love triangles to boost her ego and keep her husband insecure.
How does this impact husbands?
This consistent toxic and abusive treatment takes a profound toll on husbands married to narcissists in many ways:
The unrelenting criticism, judgment, and manipulation batter the husband’s self-worth over time. He feels worthless and inadequate.
Depression is common among husbands married to narcissists. The situation fosters feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair.
Living with a narcissistic wife’s volatility, rage, and crazymaking behavior produces high levels of anxiety in her husband. He walks on eggshells.
PTSD can develop in response to the severe psychological and sometimes physical abuse of living with a narcissistic partner. The husband is traumatized.
The narcissist’s manipulation, distortion of facts, and pathological lying keep her husband in a state of confusion and self-doubt. He questions his own perception.
The husband often develops a codependent orientation to try pleasing the unpleasable narcissist. He abandons his own needs and caters to hers.
The chronic stress takes a toll on the husband’s work performance, relationships, health, and overall functioning. The situation becomes unmanageable.
To cope with the pain, the husband of a narcissist may shut down emotionally. He feels detached, numb, and unable to experience joy.
Leaving the relationship
Many husbands ultimately make the decision to leave narcissistic wives once they realize the situation will not improve. The narcissist generally feels little motivation to change. Still, leaving an abusive relationship with a narcissist can be challenging:
The husband often fears the narcissist’s reprisals if he leaves, due to her vindictiveness.
The narcissist’s manipulation has severely eroded the husband’s self-esteem and confidence, making it hard for him to take action.
The narcissist makes her husband feel guilty and responsible for the dysfunction. This can make it hard for him to leave.
The crazymaking behavior leaves the husband doubting himself and wondering if the problems are his fault.
Separating finances, property, and child custody require significant logistics when leaving any marriage.
Despite the abuse, walking away from a marriage is extremely difficult emotionally. The husband must work through grief and attachment.
How husbands can heal after leaving
Once out of the relationship, husbands who were married to narcissists can start to heal with time and effort:
Seeking professional counseling helps husbands process the abuse, rebuild self-esteem, and create healthier dynamics going forward.
Connecting with others who understand the experience provides validation and prevents feeling alone. Support groups offer perspective.
Developing strong personal boundaries protects against being exploited or manipulated again. Boundaries must be enforced.
Focusing on physical and mental self-care rebuilds the husband’s health. Exercise, nutrition, sleep, socializing, and fulfilling hobbies boost recovery.
Assertiveness skills help husbands regain confidence, express their needs, and stand up to manipulation or mistreatment.
Accepting powerlessness over the narcissist’s beliefs or choices allows the husband to let go of false responsibility and move forward.
The husband redirects attention to his own growth, needs, and aspirations – rather than obsess over changing his ex-wife.
Forgiving the narcissist to find closure frees the husband from resentment and blame. This detaches him from the past abuse.
Narcissistic wives employ an arsenal of toxic behaviors – from criticism to denying affection to financial abuse – that gradually erode husbands’ self-esteem and mental health. Leaving the relationship requires overcoming many psychological and logistical hurdles. However, husbands who were married to narcissists can heal with time away from the abuse plus professional help and self-care. Knowing narcissists are unlikely to change, husbands can then focus on their own empowerment and creating healthy new relationships.