Unless you have been married to a narcissist, it is very hard to explain what it is like. In the beginning, you start to realize that something is off, but you can’t put your finger on just what is happening. You can’t seem to make yourself understood, and no matter how hard you try, nothing ever seems to work to make the relationship better. 

Narcissistic abuse often doesn’t leave evidence compared to physical abuse. The abuse is subtle and sinister. Often there is no other witness to your reality. Living with a narcissist is lonely and scary. 

I was married to a narcissist for just under four years. Even in that short time, we had gone to three different counselors, but it did not take me long to realize that he did not play fair. There was no feeling of resolution. No arguments really ever ended. There was no good faith. 

Emotionally connected adults argue. It’s normal to argue. During an argument, it’s also okay to get emotional. Both people get to speak and be heard. Then a compromise is attained that is applicable to both parties and life goes on. When you are married to a narcissist, there never is any compromise and your reality is manipulated, diminished, and outright denied. 

In a narcissistic relationship, you may hear the following in an argument:

  • You’re overreacting!
  • You need help. 
  • I didn’t do that. 
  • You are a liar. 
  • You must be confused again. 
  • You’re upset over nothing. 
  • Just calm down. 
  • You’re so dramatic. 
  • It’s your fault. 
  • You twist things. 
  • You’re so sensitive. 
  • I never said that. 
  • Stop imagining things. 
  • I was just joking. 
  • You’re remembering things wrong. 

This is called Gaslighting. It’s the intentional twisting of your perception of how things happened. 

Over time, this wears on self confidence and self esteem. If you are being told over and over that what you feel, hear and see isn’t really happening, there is no other option then for you to become anxious, stressed out and feel like you are going crazy. These are the by-products of narcissistic abuse. 

If you are married to a narcissist, my suggestion is to get out as fast as you can. At the very least, you need to assess whether or not staying in the marriage is a healthy choice for you; most of the time staying is not in your best interest.

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How To Communicate With a Narcissist

Because narcissists will justify their own behavior, no matter how costly or harmful it may be to others, when it comes to dealing with communication, effective negotiation is not possible. The best you can do is not engage. 

I read a quote recently that said, “never defend yourself to a narcissist. They already know you’re right. They just want you to go crazy trying to prove it.” Before I knew what was happening in my marriage, I could not understand why I couldn’t make my points clear, or why he seemed to not understand me. I finally realized that he did understand and he was intentionally trying to create chaos and pain.

It is best to completely cut off all communication with a narcissist, but if you must have communication, I would limit it to email, text, and in person ONLY if there is a third party present. Communication any other way will not go well.

  • Realize that any conversation you have with a narcissist is going to go the direction they want. Unless you are in front of other people, the narcissist will shape shift the conversation to how he/she wants to control you. Nothing that you try to do will ever change this fact.

There is no easy way to communicate with a narcissist. Defending yourself is pointless as the conversation will continue to spiral. Narcissists cannot take responsibility for any of their actions and will continue to turn it back on you. 

If these tactics don’t work, and they rarely do, let the narcissist know you will no longer be involved in the conversation and walk away. Eventually it became easy to walk away. Once you know what they are doing, you can’t “unsee” the tactics they use. And honestly, at the end of my marriage, and years of abuse, I just didn’t have the time to waste anymore. Eventually the narcissist will understand that you are not playing and won’t be controlled. 

Delay Responses

The beginning of a narcissistic attack is difficult and jarring. I remember feeling unsteady and scared when he would unleash his narcissistic anger. His anger was unpredictable and it would make my body shake all over sometimes. If at all possible, do not engage; it is what they want. Come up with a system or plan to help you at those times. Be careful, though, because physical abuse is almost always preceded by verbal abuse and sometimes not responding can escalate their anger. I got really good at determining when I needed to go into survival mode, but these episodes solidified my decision to divorce. 

Narcissistic Ex Wants Me Back

If your narcissistic ex wants you back…don’t do it. Honestly, if you do not have any children with your ex, you should not have any communication with them at all after the relationship ends.

A key component to narcissistic behavior is they want the illusion that they are special and wonderful. So they can have a family and a “friend” on the side. When this illusion breaks apart, the narcissist often tells the wife they’ve changed their ways and want to come home.

As wives are often used to the manipulation and it has become normal, we want to believe our husbands. Trust is what a relationship should be based on, but be leery of these hollow words. They don’t want you back. They are testing the waters to see if they can still manipulate you.

If you choose to go back, be aware that their behavior will be fine for a day or a week, but without the hard emotional work to change, their behavior will shift back to manipulation. This is the core behavior of any abuse. Abusers have to be kind some of the time to keep the victim coming back.

Change Won’t Happen

Being married to someone with narcissistic personality disorder is a serious situation. Few people can navigate living with a person with this problem and come out in one piece. A true narcissist is incapable of having a healthy, intimate, interpersonal relationship. They do not have empathy. Staying with a narcissist does not imply strength, but rather, denial. They will not change.

In the beginning, I tried everything I could think of to help our relationship. With a narcissist this never works. Everything I tried to do was undone, and there was no mutuality, collaboration, or cooperation.  You should take your losses and go on your way.

When divorcing a narcissist, the focus needs to shift from their needs to your needs. The way to heal is to move away from the abuse and toward a future you want to build for yourself. 

Sharing Custody

Sharing custody with a narcissistic parent is nearly impossible. Essentially there is no co-parenting as that implies cooperation between parents. My advice is to do some research into parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is the best way to diminish unnecessary conflict between parents. Your attorney can help you put this parenting plan into action.

Custody Evaluation

I personally have never had to go through a custody evaluation, however, narcissists are known liars and will twist the truth to substantiate their needs any chance they get. Documenting every interaction helps. Keep an ongoing journal and if possible audio or video of any abusive behavior from your ex-husband. Get yourself a good lawyer who understands Narcissistic Personality Disorder and let them help you. In my experience the legal system is slow and flawed, but following the law is the only way to truly be free (if that is possible) from narcissistic abuse.

Navigating parenting with a narcissist is an ongoing difficult situation that is heart-wrenching; however, there is much research on the subject.

Some suggestions:

  • Honesty:  Be honest with your kids. Talk frankly and matter-of-factly in a way that is age appropriate.
  • Education:  Teach your kids about manipulation.
  • Role Modeling:  Always take the high road; be a good role model.
  • Self-Care:  Be healthy and take care of yourself.
  • Validation:  Validate their experience and let them know that their feelings are real. 
  • Managing Anger:  One angry parent is enough. Learn ways to express anger in healthy ways. 
  • Safety: You need to be their place of safety. 
  • Reflection:  Let your kids know that you can empathize with their experiences. 
  • How to Love:  Show your kids how to love and teach them what love is and how it is appropriately shown. 
  • Grieve with Them:  It is a terrible realization when you learn that your parent cannot see you for who you are. Help your kids; let them know that you understand. 

Narcissistic parents are damaging to children. Do all that you can to protect them from narcissistic abuse.

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