A narcissistic wife will cost you everything. Not just money, but your time, your other relationships, your energy, your health, your sanity and in some peoples cases, even their lives.
I am going to assume here that you suspect or you have realized that you are married to a narcissistic wife, you have read the 23 ways to spot a narcissist and she ticks all the boxes and you have read stuff about how to deal with her. And therein lies the problem.
Some of these ideas you have already tried for months or even years and they haven't worked and some of the ideas are just way out there. There are other things that you physically or mentally just cannot do and it makes you feel like a failure because you have been led to believe that you should be able to do them. There are even suggestions about how to adapt and change yourself but these things only put the responsibility on you and you know deep down that you are not the problem, she is!
If this is the situation you are in, then read on...
in order to understand the damage a narcissistic wife does, it's important to know something about the dynamics of a narcissistic relationship. This may start out like a normal, healthy romantic relationship but there are significant differences that allow the relationship to veer off into very dangerous territory. Most of these differences are hidden from the male victim at the outset and when they do become obvious to him, often only years later, it's very difficult for him to separate for reasons that will become clear shortly.
The first thing to realize is that typically the narcissist will create a bond very quickly with their target. They shower their target with compliments, praise, gifts and especially attention. They make the target feel very good about themselves and about the narcissist. There are constant messages about liking the target and about about having many things in common with the target. This is important because people like those who are like themselves, so when the target realizes that this woman has similar interests and is actually interested in him, it's very easy to go along with what is happening and get involved in a relationship with such a person.
The narcissist will also be offering the target what he wants, too. It could be company, somebody who understands him, somebody to party with, the offer of a stable relationship, family, children and so on, business opportunities, and a whole host of other things. The target often says that he believed that he had found the perfect woman. She appeared to be everything he wanted, providing what he desired and offering him the life of his dreams.
There are a couple of significant points here. The narcissist is deceiving the target totally with the image of themselves that they are presenting. The narcissist has manufactured a personality that seems to be the perfect match for the target. The narcissist is acting, fooling, conning. The person or personality that the target falls in love with does not actually exist. It is pure deception.
The second thing is that the toxic relationship typically moves very fast. While it is true that in normal, healthy situations couples often have things in common that help bring them together, the narcissist is lying about such things to speed things up. The narcissist will also typically 'reveal' things about herself to make the target feel that it's ok to reveal things about himself. This also strengthens the bond between 2 people. But once again, the narcissist is telling lies about herself.
Many of the lies involve a sad story about her past, whether it's a difficult childhood, bad treatment at the hands of an ex or some such thing. This is called the pity play and the idea is that the narcissists know that if they can elicit pity from a person, they are well on their way to controlling them. We are social creatures and by nature we look out for others. Once the narcissist elicits pity from you, you are somewhat driven to want to take care of her and help her out.
The target will typically feel very strongly for the narcissist after such treatment, very strong attraction, love and even euphoria. These strong emotions means that the target does not think very rationally or logically but rather they are making decisions emotionally, and as we have seen these emotions are very heavily manipulated and controlled by the narcissist.
The target, being high on love, will have no sense of anything wrong, even if friends and family point out that what is going on is not normal. (The same thing happens when someone is recruited into a cult. In fact, it's useful to think of a marriage to a narcissistic wife as a cult of two people where all the attention is given to one member as opposed to fifty or a thousand.)
The target believes that the new woman in his life is wonderful, fantastic, sexy, marvelous and so on and will probably not be able to see any faults whatsoever. The narcissist is setting the stage for controlling the target because once these initial impressions are in place, it is very difficult to shift them.
She will be leading him along, with rewards when he does what she wants and punishments when he crosses her. It's not unusual to get married very quickly in situations like this because the narcissist wants a commitment as quickly as possible.
I have been using the word target up to now because basically the narcissists are predators and they go looking for prey. They choose a person that they think will be easy to capture and they set to work on them. They present themselves as the ideal partner in order to trick the target into getting involved. No-one willingly starts a relationship with an abuser so the abusers have to hide their true nature up front in order to capture prey. This is the very start of the abuse, but it is completely hidden from the target. The lies, the deception and the emotional manipulation are flat out abusive, but the target is blissfully unaware.
When the narcissistic wife knows she has some level of control, she starts with the bad behavior. This can be small things or big things. But the target, or rather the victim at this stage, excuses it away because it is out of character, they are so in love with this great woman, every body has bad days, or some such thing.
But the bad behavior increases.
The victim may get upset by things but the narcissistic wife gets even more upset and he ends up backing down. Or she apologizes and promises it won't happen again, and she makes him feel good and things settle down.
But the apology counts for nothing and she is soon at it again.
And this becomes a cycle, where things seem to be going well but then she behaves badly and afterwards she blames him for her behavior, minimizes what happens or even outright denies there was a problem. She appeases him in some way and things settle again.
But the bad times get more and more and the good times less and less. During the bad times he yearns for the good times because they were so good. And during the good times, he tends to forgive and forget the bad times.
The narcissistic wife at this stage is controlling his thoughts, his emotions, his decisions making and his behaviors.
When he expresses an opinion, she ridicules it. When he decides something she makes him feel that he is not including her. When he wants something for himself she makes him feel that he is being selfish and deliberately ignoring her.
You can read more about mental abuse with lots of examples of what constitutes abuse.
The victim's behavior is modified with the rewards and punishments. His own thoughts are laughed at and ridiculed and she points out what he should believe until he begins to think like her.
The emotional control is immense. The narcissistic wife knows how to make the husband feel fantastic as well as feel horrible. She will keep him on an emotional roller-coaster so that his ability to think rationally is reduced.
She uses fear and guilt as the major emotions to control. Some men may not recognize how much fear they are actually experiencing until they are out of the relationship. Other men know that they are terrified of their narcissistic wives.
This fear works to control the thinking and decision making of the victims. It works something like this. The man has to make a choice and the first reference is what effect the choice will have on her. If one option is going to make her angry, he will probably discard it and choose something else that will be ok with her. In this way, she is influencing his decision making even when she is not around.
With all this control, the victim's attitude changes. Even the way they see the world changes. This is evidenced by the way the victim's friends and family talk about him. He's not the person he once was, he is completely under her thumb/hen-pecked/ whipped, he's half the man he used to be, I hardly recognize him anymore. These are some of the more common things that are said about men in such situations.
The manipulated and abused victim has basically undergone a personality change. Their values and beliefs have changed, they act differently, their attitude to life is different. The narcissistic wife has basically make herself the purpose of his life. The man cannot see that he is being abused. To the distress of family and friends, he will often defend her, excusing away her bad behavior. He still believes that he loves her, despite the horrible things she does and says. He may even still believe that she loves him. (Remember I pointed out that it is difficult to shift those very strong first impressions?)
This new personality is called a pseudopersonality because it is a false personality and it is imposed by the narcissistic wife on her husband. It cover overs and dominates his real personality but never actually destroys his real personality. This idea was first described in the Korean prisoners of war in the 1950s. When they returned home, instead of reverting to their previous beliefs, they remained strong proponents of communism. Their beliefs and ideas had been changed in such a way by their captors that these new ideas persisted even when they were released.
The same thing happens to a husband of a narcissistic wife. The abuser changes the person at such a profound level, the level of their identity or personality, that it's as if there is a different person present.
The pseudopersonality is programmed in various ways. It is programmed to believe what the abuser says, it is programmed to be very dependent on the abuser and it is programmed to take care of the wants and needs of the abuser.
This may sound strange or even impossible to people who have never been in such a situation, but if you were married to a narcissistic wife, you will recognize that these things do actually happen. And if your pseudopersonality is very strong, some of these things may still be hidden from you! (If you are thinking that some of these things didn't happen to you, or your case was not as severe, then it's likely that your pseudopersonality is still very strong.)
This model of the pseudopersonality is also useful in explaining some of the problems a husband of a narcissistic wife often has. For example, the husband may have been thinking of leaving for a long time. Actually doing it proved impossible though. In effect, the real personality wanted to get away from the abuser but the pseudopersonality is programmed to stay in the relationship. The dominant pseudopersonality will win out, often for years.
A man may feel that he loves his wife, but also feel constant anger towards her. He may hate her at times but feel that he has to look out for her. He may want to be with her but feel revulsion at the thought of her walking in the front door. All these contradictory things can be understood using the idea of the pseudopersonality being in conflict with the real personality.
This pseudopersonality is put in place by breaking down the real personality, making changes and solidifying these changes in place.
All the criticism, insults, belittling, name calling and so on is what destroys a person's personality. It makes them feel bad about themselves as if they are defective in some way. It makes a person doubt themselves. It tears down self esteem and leaves one feeling broken, a failure and worthless.
Then she imposes her ideas, her beliefs, her wishes and her will on him. Regularly. Repeatedly. Over and over. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.
All those arguments you have over the same thing, where you think she does not get it or that maybe you are not explaining yourself properly? She gets it, she just does not care about your side of things and she is just going to keep repeating the same things to you over and over to keep her ideas in your head.
So, briefly, a narcissistic wife pretends to be something she is not to trap a man, then she sets about deliberately changing his behaviors, his beliefs, his values, his sense of himself and his perception of reality in order to change him into something that she wants.
She makes him dependent on her in various ways, one of which is alternating compliments with criticisms.
Instead of criticizing his behaviors or his ideas, she takes the opportunity to make it about him. 'You are stupid for thinking this' and 'You are pathetic for doing that' are criticisms at the level of identity. It is very different from saying, 'that's a stupid thing to do'. In this way she is constantly chipping away at his real identity.
And then, when he can't do things for himself or make decisions any more, she then criticizes him for that. So he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. There are typically lots of these situations in a mind control environment.
All this abuse means that the victim is unable to think well. He does not see contradictions in the narcissistic wife's actions and words. He often cannot even imagine a life apart from the abuser. He thinks he will not be able to manage without her.
With all this in mind, lets look at what will and what won't work in dealing with a narcissistic wife.
There are lots of things written about how to deal with such people.
- Tell her what is hurting you and what you would like instead. These people are good at reading others. That's how they catch their prey. They size up a target, assessing wants, needs, fears, strengths, weaknesses etc, they pretend to be the ideal partner and then rope the victim in. They know that what they are doing is hurting you. That's whey they are doing it!!!
- Remind yourself that you are a good, deserving person who has value and do things to build up your self esteem. Studies have shown that people who are depressed or feeling very low, when they repeat things such as the above to themselves, it actually has the effect of making them feel worse. It confronts them with the reality that they are not like that and pushes them deeper into the downward spiral. The narcissistic wife is much better at making you feel worthless and shredding your self esteem than you are at building it up.
- Don't be afraid to share your feelings with your narcissistic wife. She already knows what you are feeling because she is in the driving seat. She is intentionally making you feel that way!
- Set limits and boundaries. Again, your narcissistic wife is such an expert in breaking down limits and boundaries that you can never hope to keep up. Any boundary you try and set is seen as a challenge. You are challenging her to a power struggle and she is not going to allow you to win.
- You are codependent and you are facilitating her. Basically, people who say this do not understand how mind control works and they don't understand the level of control that one person can have on another.
- Don't take it personally. The narcissistic wife has so much information about you that she knows exactly how to make it very personal. And she has no problem doing so!
- Think of the good times with your narcissistic wife as a way to remind yourself that she loves you.
- Learn how to manipulate her emotions and get her to bond to you.
I am not going to even comment on the last two.
By far and away the best thing you an do is leave. I know how difficult that can be, but it's still your best option. I know, there may be children, business, assets all that stuff but as long as you are with a narcissistic wife she is abusing you, reinforcing your pseudopersonality and slowing down your recovery.
Some people need to learn more about narcissism to be able to make the decision and some people need to understand mind control in order to reduce the dependency so that they can actually act on the decision to leave.
Leaving is better for you. Leaving is also better for the children. Remember they will have a pseudopersonality, too, and that pseudopersonality will make them very vulnerable to being caught by narcissists when they are older. 'Children in abusive families are attracted to abusers later in life' is a myth and it does not work like that. Narcissists spot the pseudopersonality and target it.
Leaving and undoing the damage done to you gives you the opportunity to teach the children, in a healthy environment, what was done to them by their narcissistic mother.
Which leads to step 2, get rid of the pseudopersonality. Studying narcissism and mind control with an expert is vital to get rid of this personality that your narcissistic wife imposed upon you. Remember those prisoners of war? The pseudopersonality does not disappear on it's own simply because you leave the situation. The changes were made with very strong influence techniques repeated over years and they do not sort themselves out. It takes study and effort to undo all the bad beliefs and behavior patterns that were forced on you.
Get rest and sleep. Your narcissistic wife is creating a high stress environment for you and even when she is not around you are suffering from stress. Rest and relaxation are very important in order to be able to think well and recover from the abuse.
Spend more time with family and friends. You may have to repair some relationships that were damaged because of that woman. You need a lot of help and support right now. Don't be afraid to lean on some people you can trust. Take all the help you can get while recovering from a narcissistic wife.
Did I mention professional support? Someone who understands mind control and narcissism will save you a lot of time and heartache.
Read more about the signs of a controlling relationship, recovery from narcissistic abuse, divorcing a narcissistic wife, and mind control.
Return from Narcissistic Wife to What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
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