Sometimes, when a woman has been betrayed and abused by a narcissist, she chooses to stay in the relationship.
Her reasons to stay are hers alone, and she should not be judged for choosing to stay.
With these women in mind, Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery met with Dr. Ramani Durvasula on the free BTR podcast. Together, they take a deep dive into helping victims learn how to survive a relationship with a narcissist when they choose to stay. Read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR podcast for more.
5 Tips For Surviving A Narcissist When You Choose To Stay
Often, victims feel stuck, knowing that their choice to stay is causing them harm and that the narcissist isn’t going to change – what can they do to survive and thrive when married to a narcissist?
Dr. Durvasula shares these five tips:
- Know how the narcissist operates.
- Manage your expectations.
- Know who you are.
- Set clear boundaries.
- Don’t lose your compassion.
4 Techniques A Narcissist Uses To Control
One of the most telling signs of a narcissist is that they are controlling.
As victims set and maintain clear and effective boundaries, they can become empowered to protect themselves from abusive behaviors, including control.
What techniques do narcissists use to control you?
- Deflection: blaming their partner or others for their actions, changing the subject during a conversation
- Projection: gaslighting, accusing the victim of doing something that he is actually doing, such as having an affair
- Isolation: cutting the victim off from family and friends through guilting her, shaming her, blaming her, and projecting onto her
- Generosity: appearing to be a “good guy” to others which enables him to continue his abuse
Understanding these four techniques and how the narcissist in the relationship uses them can help a woman stay grounded in reality.
Setting Clear Boundaries Will Help You Survive Staying With A Narcissist
It’s good to have boundaries, but when it comes to living with a narcissist, it’s important for a woman to know exactly what her boundaries are.
Dr. Durvasula recommends three boundaries all women should have when dealing with a narcissist.
3 Boundaries To Have For Dealing With A Narcissist
- Don’t engage.
- Don’t try to have deep conversations.
- Don’t try to defend yourself.
You’ve got to learn to totally dial it down to make sure that you’re keeping it literally to all the things you talk about is the weather, the first day of school is next Wednesday, did you see that the guy across the street got a new tractor to mow his lawn, like that’s it.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, narcissism expert
Knowing Who You Are Will Help You Survive Living With A Narcissist
A narcissist will try to engage and get his healthy wife to cross her own boundaries. He’ll also try to convince her that she’s the abusive one or that she’s the one that is unhealthy.
If a woman knows who she is and what she is about, she is less likely to fall for these tactics.
Finding a strong support group, becoming empowered through learning about abuse and trauma, and practicing self-care can help women discover who they truly are and stay grounded in reality.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Supports Victims of Narcissistic Abuse
At BTR, we understand the depth of grief and pain that narcissistic abuse victims endure.
Women who choose to stay are not weak, stupid, or naive. They deserve to be respect and supported.
The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is a safe place for all victims, whether they stay in or leave an abusive relationship. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone and offers victims a community of validation, support, and compassion.
Join today and begin your journey to healing.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I will be continuing the conversation I had last week with Dr. Ramani Durvasula. If you have not heard the beginning of this conversation, please go to last week’s episode, get caught up, then join us here today.
Before we continue that conversation, if you are struggling with a relationship where a man is exhibiting abusive behaviors like lying, gaslighting, manipulation, or you’re not sure if he is and you’re not sure if you’re crazy, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is the perfect place for you to talk about your situation.
We have multiple sessions a day in multiple time zones. It is the only place on the earth where you don’t have to explain what’s going on. You don’t have to get somebody to understand. They understand it immediately and so they can immediately help you in a really safe space.
What Tools Can A Woman Use To Survive A Narcissist?
Often a narcissistic man will attempt to deflect his own behavior patterns to the healthy partner, to his wife or girlfriend, causing the healthy woman to question whether it could be true, whether she, herself, is the unhealthy person, or if she’s abusive. Do you recommend any self-assessment tools to provide a reality check for a healthy woman?
Dr. Durvasula: Yes, this pattern of deflecting their behavior to the healthy partner reflects two things. In part, it’s something we call projection. When something is uncomfortable in us, we don’t like it, so unconsciously we’ll project it on to other people.
For example, somebody might have a forbidden sentiment, like they have a racial prejudice or something, they’ll accuse someone else of being racist when that is not at all true. We tend to project those uncomfortable, forbidden parts of ourselves on to other people. Projection is one of the key defenses of the narcissists.
Survive A Narcissist: Learn To Recognize Manipulation
Secondly, deflection is also gaslighting, so it confuses the other person. Anything that confuses someone else and denies, twists, and contorts the other person’s reality is gaslighting, which is emotional abuse. When all of that is happening, some people say, “It’s almost like my reality changed. I was getting sucked into this alternate universe.”
If you are in a truly, truly abusive relationship, we know that one of the main tools of the abuser and the controlling partner is to cut that person off from other people like from friends and family. Because one of the most important self-assessment tools for a reality check are the other relationships you have.
The people that far predated this partner, the people who know you and love you and get you and unconditionally are behind you. That you can go and check this out and say, “You know, it’s interesting, my partner accused me of (whatever it is and it’s not something you believe about yourself).”
Survive A Narcissist: Cultivate Healthy Relationships
A good honest friend will say, “Yeah, sometimes you can be like that,” or they might say, “Goodness, in no universe we occupy are you that thing. That’s so strange that this person would say that.” We all need those safe check spaces to go to.
Like I said, in a lot of these narcissistic relationships, many times the narcissist detects that there are other people around their new partner that are going to be healthy and, slowly but surely, they distance themselves from them. They say negative things about those friends like, “Oh, your friend, she doesn’t have your best interests at heart,” or, “Your sister was flirting with me,” or whatever it may be, to create mistrust in those relationships to take away that support network. But we need those faces.
Survive A Narcissist: Get A Good Therapist
Another place a person can get that is in therapy. If you have a good therapist, that good therapist will give you the reality check. If you’re go into therapy and say, “This is what happened, and it confused me.” A good therapist will walk you through and say, “That’s not been my experience of you.”
It’s having these kinds of unconditional accepting spaces, where your reality is not being twisted. That can be very useful. Ultimately, though, what I want for everybody is that they have within themselves a space where they know who they are.
A Woman Who Knows Who She Is Can Survive A Narcissist
The challenge with narcissistic relationships is that narcissists prey upon vulnerable people. People who aren’t cynical. People who actually have been hurt in the past, so they believe the party line that was given to them in childhood. People with histories of trauma.
All of these groups are more vulnerable to narcissists because they, themselves, are still doing their own work on themselves. That’s not at all meant to be blaming the victim, it’s just it’s a vulnerability. It’s just like people whose parents are addicts are more likely to be addicts. It’s genetic.
This isn’t genetic as much as what we learn. They know, because as soon as they see that somebody is not falling for their game, they’re going to get out pretty quick. Narcissists are uncanny at figuring out who a good target is and running with it.
I think that that’s another thing that’s so important, especially for young women, to do the work of knowing who they are and what they are about. The problem is, many people start dating and getting into relationships long before they do that kind of inner psychological work, so they’re building the airplane in the sky. You’re learning about yourself while you’re in this relationship and this relationship is actually twisting your reality.
Narcissists Will Buy Their “Good Guy” Image
Anne: What would you say to women who are worried about their abusive husband spending time with unhealthy people around him? So, they’re like, “Ugh, I don’t like it when he spends time with his family or these friends because they just support this entitled mentality that he has.” What would you say to women like that, who are actually attempting maybe to isolate their abuser from the system that enabled him to be an abuser?
Dr. Durvasula: It’s an interesting idea because, obviously, these enabling systems around this person are adding fuel to this person’s fire, right? There is no dissenting voice. They are empowering him, they are enabling him, and he gets away with it, and this can happen.
Anne: I’m just going to interrupt you, in some circles they’re called “flying monkeys,” right?
What Are “Flying Monkeys”?
Dr. Durvasula: Yeah, but flying monkeys, to me, are also people that the person enlists at the time the relationship ends. The flying monkey model, to me, is like—let’s say a marriage is falling apart or someone is breaking up. The narcissist will then go and poach everyone. Even the people close to their partner, their friends, other family, and say, “Hey, did you know that she cheated on me?” “Hey, did you know that she was doing this?”
They bring everyone over to their side, and then they’re all doing the bidding. Like, “What are you doing? Why are you breaking up with him, he’s such a great guy?” “Well, why did you do that to him? Of course, he’s hurt.” That kind of thing. They enlist people.
Survive A Narcissist: Stay Grounded In Reality
I think that the people around them before that kind of rupture happens are just merely their enablers. One of the classical models of the narcissistic person is they are often very generous because they use money or invite people on trips, or they buy the round of drinks at the bar. That’s their way of keeping people close. It’s a lot less effort than having to actually listen to people and people never want to kill the golden goose, right.
They’re like, “He’s a good guy. He buys the drinks.” That doesn’t make him a good guy, that makes him somebody with a lot of wasted money in a bar, but they then fall for that thinking, “Oh, well he’s a nice guy because he buys the drinks.” Then, they can find a lot of people who enable them. It could be their boss, it could be somebody who is very powerful in a small town, it could be any number of reasons.
A Narcissist Doesn’t Change By Changing His Friends
The fantasy, though, becomes, “If I could just get this abusive, controlling, hostile, difficult, unempathetic guy away from his enablers, he’s going to turn into a nice guy.” That’s a fantasy. That’s absolutely a fantasy.
Because, even a person in the midst of any group of people, if they’re good and solid, that goodness and that solidness will shine through. Maybe not as brightly as it would if they were around good people, but a person who is just not a nice person is going to be not a nice person. These people make his voice louder but getting him away is not going to silence that voice.
Anne: Yeah, it also made me think, as I went through that, that this is—because after his arrest he was “free” to hang out with whoever he wanted, because he had a no-contact order and he couldn’t talk to me and I couldn’t influence him at all.
Survive A Narcissist: Understand That He Is Irrational
Then, from a safe distance, I was able to observe who he chose to hang out with. He was just choosing to hang out with people who I thought were super unhealthy and abusive and just people I would never want to be around. That’s who he was choosing to be with when he had all these options.
That helped me realize, “Wait a minute, why am I trying to get someone who is acting this way away from other people who act this way, when that’s really who he wants to be with? I just need to let him be free, fly.” I even told him that at the very end. I said, “Fly, go, go do what you want,” and he refused to leave. He wouldn’t leave the home, so that was fun.
Choosing To Stay With A Narcissist
You acknowledge that some women may not be able to walk away and, for them, managing expectations can protect them from individuals and the effects of ongoing abuse. Can you expound on managing expectations and how it can protect a victim from ongoing abuse?
Dr. Durvasula: There are so many reasons why people can’t leave narcissistic relationships. Financial reasons, cultural reasons, they have children, religion, fear, anxiety, and that they still actually love the elements of this person, they want to be married. Even on some of the good days are enough, they want that person around.
All of these are valid reasons and I, nor anyone else, can stand in judgment of that. In this group, though, I’m not counting people who are victims of severe psychological, emotional, or physical abuse. Obviously, that’s an entirely different game where safety becomes everything, but in your garden variety narcissistic relationship there are a lot of reasons why people stay in these invalidating spaces, all of them valid.
Survive A Narcissist: Maintain Realistic Expectations
If you’re going to stay, though, then you’ve got to maintain realistic expectations. By that, I mean you’ve got to recognize that this is not going to change. This pattern is how it is. Do not expect that, all of a sudden, if you lose 25 pounds, they’re going to be happy. When your kids are grown and out of the house everything is going to be happy. If you kept the house a little cleaner, it would be happy, he gets a promotion, he’s going to be happy.
Nothing is going to change. This is who this person is. This is who they were when you met them, and this is who they are now.
Survive A Narcissist: Expect that It Will Get Worse After Having Children
A lot of narcissistic relationships get worse after you have kids. Some people will say, “We were kind of going along and then we had kids. Then it got really dark.” You’ve got to remember, for a narcissist, a kid coming along, kids are inconvenient, they’re noisy, they’re messy, they’re demanding, they are magnificent, but the fact is they’re demanding. For a narcissist that feels not only like a competition, they’re not always the greatest source of narcissistic supply and they pull the partner away.
That’s often why a lot of narcissistic relationships start changing, and not to mention a woman who has a child, her body changes. There is a period of time where it’s not what she wanted it to be and, unless she has lots of resources, she’s not going right back to her pre-baby body, ever, quite frankly. All of those things can make it complicated.
Survive A Narcissist: Manage Your Expectations
In terms of managing those expectations, this isn’t going to change. This is it. You are going to live a life devoid of empathy. You are going to live with someone who is arrogant. You are going to live with someone who is rageful. You are going to live with somebody who’s constantly needing validation.
What that means, then, is that you know that they are going to insult you. You know that they’re going to invalidate good news. When you get a promotion, they should not be the first person you tell. You call your people. You call the people you trust and love and who will be thrilled for you.
Call a few of them first, and then, and only then, you can tell your partner, “Oh, by the way, I got a promotion.” They’ll insult you, “Oh, that’s just a new title with no more money,” or “Who cares?” or “That’s not even that important of a job.” But, by then, you’ve already heard good things from the people who matter.
Survive A Narcissist: “Learn Not To Engage”
You’ve got to learn not to engage. You’ve got to learn to totally dial it down to make sure that you’re keeping it literally to all the things you talk about is the weather, the first day of school is next Wednesday, did you see that the guy across the street got a new tractor to mow his lawn, like that’s it.
The conversation can’t go any deeper than that. If you want deeper conversation you need to do it with other friends. People close to you. People you can trust. You have to engage in radical acceptance that this is how it’s ALWAYS going to be, much like the managing expectations.
You have to get out of patterns like defending yourself. Many times, people in relationships with narcissists are always explaining themselves. “No, no, no but actually remember. Remember when?” No! There is no defending. There is no explaining.
You’re never going to win at that game because narcissists argue like lawyers. You can’t win, so don’t bother. There is no defense. They like the argument for the sake of argument so don’t argue with them.
Survive A Narcissist: Set Clear Boundaries
Set clear boundaries. Have the topics that you won’t talk about. If you do have to spend a lot of time with your narcissist, create a little bit of a detox period for yourself. Do something that’s pleasant for you whether it’s a meditation, a book you like, exercise, something. But understand that, sadly, once upon a time you made a choice, or a choice was made for you, that wasn’t good for you and, for reasons that are important to you, you’re choosing to stay in it.
But to choose to stay in it with realistic expectations is very different than maintaining unrealistic hope that one day this is going to get better. This is like being in Chicago in the dead of February and walking outside in a bathing suit. You’re going to freeze to death. You know that. You live in Chicago, it’s February. You always wear a heavy coat.
This is the equivalent of pulling on your coat when you know that the weather is going to be cold. You know it, so you prepare for it. You don’t walk outside in a bathing suit. It’s the same thing with a narcissist.
Anne: That makes total sense. I so appreciate you taking the time to come on the podcast today, and also, I want to thank all of our listeners who come and listen and who are so supportive of what we do here.
Words Of Wisdom For Staying With A Narcissist
Is there anything else you want to leave our listeners with since all of the listeners at Betrayal Trauma Recovery are in a relationship with a man who may not necessarily be narcissistic but with problematic behaviors and they’re going through really difficult things? Is there anything that you’d like to leave them with?
Dr. Durvasula: I would tell them that, “You know what, no matter if you’re stuck in this relationship or you can walk out, please don’t lose your compassion in this.” It can be so easy to become so hardened by this and so hurt by this that you don’t allow other loving spaces to occur in your life.
Survive A Narcissist: Surround Yourself With Loving Friends And Family
I don’t mean finding a new partner or finding a lover, I mean friends and family and people close to you. These relationships, people put so much of themselves in it that they get tunnel vision.
Sadly, we tend to give 90% of ourselves to the most toxic people in our world and then give the 10% to all the good ones. We need to flip that math. Give 90% to the good people and give whatever is left over to these really difficult toxic people.
I think a lot of people blame themselves for these situations. The fact of the matter is, we do not do good jobs, not as educators, not as a society, not as parents to teach our daughters to choose healthy partners.
People tend to replicate their early cycles over and over again. People with authoritarian, cold, distant, abusive, admiration, validation-seeking, unsatisfied parents tend to choose that in their partners. So many people didn’t get that lesson so, yeah, they threw themselves into these relationships.
“It’s Often A Heavy Legacy To Carry”
It’s often a heavy legacy to carry, but you don’t have to lose the best of yourself because you’re in this. I think that we all have broader shoulders than we think, and you can carry this burden and see it for what it is. Find meaning in that suffering and cultivate the other meaningful parts of your life.
Anne: Thank you so much, Dr. Ramani. I appreciate your time. Again, I will leave all these links to the things that we talked about in the article available on our website.
Dr. Durvasula: Wonderful, thank you so much.
Anne: We always love to hear your questions and your comments so please leave a comment below.
Until next week, stay safe out there.
So helpful to read and hear about all these helpful ways to live w a narcissistic spouse …. I didn’t know for 28+ years of being married .
I wonder if you can refer a therapist who specializes in NPD in Chicago area to help me heal ?
I have been searching for sometime but w very little luck …
I recommend scheduling an individual session with any one of our coaches for women recovering from narcissistic abuse. They’re incredible and you can meet with them online from anywhere:).
Do you know of a therapist in Minneapolis/Minnesota? TIA!
Since most therapists don’t understand this type of abuse, we recommend scheduling an individual session here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery! Our betrayal trauma specialists are the most highly trained, and will help you navigate your situation.
These are difficult lessons I am learning after being gaslighted by my husband (whom I am with for 29 years and have 5 children with) and his “best friend” (whom I thought was my friend) for 10 years . Can you recommend a therapist on Long Island ?
We recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our trauma specialists to process the effects the emotional and psychological abuse have had and what steps to take.
Thanks for educating me more on how to deal with a narcissist husband.I can completely relate to every single point.I cannot get out of this relationship for the sake of my kids but living in this emotional abusive relationship is traumatic.I have been insulted, looked down upon and my confidence is shattered to pieces.I feel broken and not able to gather the pieces.
I’m so sorry. We are with you! Hugs!
This is so helpful. I’ve been married 11yrs and been dealing with this for a long time. I’m just now starting to research what kind of man I married. We have 3 kids. I don’t want to leave bc I love him, and he says he wants change. Praying and speaking with his parents is helping me a lot.
Hi Nyne I just read this article as well as your comment. I am also in this same type of relationship. It has been absolutely the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in my life.
I wonder also if you can refer a therapist who specializes in NPD in the Long Island area, (Nassau County) to help me move forward. I too, have been searching for sometime but with very little luck … Thanks.
Have you considered a Betrayal Trauma coach? Perhaps you could start there? Click on that link to schedule:).
Thank you so much for this article. It has been informative and helpful. I have only recently discovered that my husband and his mother have been applying various techniques to emotionally abuse and disrupt my life, for several years. I have two kids and have chosen to stay in the relationship for them.
Thank you for this knowledge and information… I’ve been with the most sever Narcissist on earth!
He’d come home from work 15-18 hours after walking out door 0445 AM.
Had zero connection with 2 sons! Did not want any relationship with them… only sought Praises and Glory from work and church ….
Help ! I need counseling in Oviedo or Orlando, FL area
We recommend scheduling an online individual session to heal from the emotional and psychological abuse you’ve experienced.
I have been in this relationship for 28 years. I knew I was not the problem after being confused with manipulation for more than 10 years. Thus was do confusing because his mother was running the show for a long time while he was behind the scene putting more fuel. Yes, I am with aware of the danger of cohabiting with this toxic person, but I see that he will do everything to mess the children up if I leave. Espcially with kids involved, the divorce will keep him busy trying to satisfy his ego. He knows that this children are so dear to me and he will do anything to make me misserable. He will pull them away in just to see how miserable I will be come. He is such a jerk, an empty vessel. Thank you for putting up the article.
The good news is that I see God turn down his evil plan each time he mounts them up, and God cares about this children and will continue to give me the strength until when and if it is time to call it off.
When you’ve been married along time and now finally realize he’s a narcissist, but you still decide to stay in, how do you manage sleeping arrangements?when he’s been in an angry or abusive stage, I don’t feel like crawling in the same bed at nite. And, what about sex in general? I hate to give it up, but when he’s been abusive, unkind, etc., and the. 5 hours later he wants sex, what am I supposed to do? Sometimes being celibate seems like not a bad idea. Any tips??
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Have you considered scheduling a session with one of our coaches to discuss whether or not you should set boundaries around sex with your narcissist husband? Click on that link to see our scheduling options.
Dear Anna C S,
I wish very different for you! It is such a draining experience. Since he doesn’t care, as long as he is working (and not out cheating), sadly it is likely best that you and your sons don’t have to deal with him much.
Since the virus I, my sweet 7yo son, and my abusive husband have been home all the time 🥴🤯. And now I not only have to hold my own with the emotional abuse, but I also have deal with my sweetest boy starting to treat me the same way daddy does. It is super painful and scary. Luckily I used to be a child psych nurse cause I am trying so very hard and strategically to cut this off at the pass on a daily basis.
Before our son was even born, he was brushing me off most of the day, screaming at me almost every night, and then wanted to rub up on me every morning like nothing had happened. It was tortuous (cause I was already pregnant and with a chronic illness that cause me to have to leave my job). Super manipulative and disgusting! Once I had a little baby, long term insane pain do to botched delivery, no help from him, and my chronic illness – I beyond reached my limit. I def could not get any sleep next to him cause he had just been chewing me out and avoiding the rest of / my side of the conversation by going to sleep!?! I was so angry at him that I just could be relax enough to fall asleep.
I kicked him out of the bed and he has been on the couch / in the guest room / in his own room for 6+ years. For many years he was pushing sex super inappropriately based on his other behavior each day – sometimes I would give in cause he was just exhausting and not taking no for an answer and threatening to leave us with nothing and I am too sick to work, maintain a home, and care for our son. It never worked for more than moments and I was ten times as pissed when his behavior was bad right away after because I had allowed him to abuse me. He only stated to get better very painfully slowly over time when I completely shut him off of sex.
It took him over two years of Zero sex of any kind until I finally could say yes again without feeling completely revoked by him. And keep in mind, I said finally said yes long after he finally stopped demanding it, or even asking for it regularly. And it was not to please or appease him, I was only to be initiated by me for my own reasons. That was the only thing I could withhold from him that he actually super cared about — it seem there are very few things he does care about other than being super cold and disrespectful of me. Never forget your strength, your loving heart, and that the horrible behavior of others does NOT reflect on who you really are inside!!! ❤️❤️❤️
I have read so many on how to leave a narcissist, but just didn’t feel like the right move. It may some day … but this is the first time I’ve read about staying. After years of gaslighting, my self esteem and confidence shattered by my husband
The worst thing is he can be amazing and honestly sweet and this feeds my reason for not leaving. I seem to have created a monster by threatening to leave a few times and backing out of it. So he knows it will never happen. I can’t seem to leave.
I like many aspects of this guy and I hate many. I feel like I’m in a yoyo relationship. I look in the mirror and am shocked at how empty and sad my eyes look. His narcissistic abuse has broken me and I realize I have to rebuild myself if I’m to ever be strong enough to leave.
He has many people in his life that have lost respect for him. But he replaced them with other people who worship and admire him cause he’s like their super hero coming in to save the day by doing nice gestures for them solving their problems, etc.
Honestly the guy confuses me profusely. It feels like Jekyll and Hyde.
I have started to rebuild. I bought my house which he tried to discourage me from. I renovated it. I built a rental in the basement to bring extra income. I went on a retreat all by myself to gain strength.
But I still make him the priority and wake up thinking of him or fall asleep thinking of him of the good and bad in him. As of late, I wake up with small panic attacks thinking about how he may be gaslighting about this or that.
Thank you for podcast episode that allows me to see I’m not the only one stuck
What you are going through makes total sense. We’ve all been there. I want you to consider that the good is grooming – it’s also abuse. So there aren’t good and bad times, it’s all bad. The grooming is nice and helpful, but deceitful in it’s intent because it’s there to get you to back off. If you can summon your anger, anger is a good thing and can help you.
I completely get it. I am just discovering here too. Also, it’s been 33 years, and I do not really want to be single, we are grandparents. I want to enjoy his good days.
I am grateful for the tips you shared. My husband of 20 years has always had narcissistic tendencies but since his cancerous brain tumor and treatment it has been very, very challenging in our house. I cannot leave, I love him and so much of this is the cancer, but I need a way to survive my new life and to help my kids survive.
I’m in a 30 year marriage with four grown kids and just discovered that my husband is a narcissist. I’m so thankful for the great advise and some questions I had answered. It’s been a long road and finally I have some clearance to why his been this way for so long. My eldest son had a breakdown at 18 because of him. I forgave him, I moved on with my family & him. Also, I am still here. I wish I could have found it out early. But I will try to do the best with what I have at almost 50 it seems unlikely that I will ever get out of this thing. He did everything a narcissist does you can think of. I’ve been there and gone through it
All I can say to woman out there is empower yourself, save money and invest in a property put it aside for in case that day comes and no longer can take it. You have a nest egg and made provision for yourself to carry on. I couldn’t do but please do it for yourself and your children
Well, I met my spouse in 1987, my mother was dying of cancer and I was putting myself through college. My spouse was active in my singles group at church. I have given my life entirely to Christ. He was faithful to be at all the services etc. I did not have a lot of time to date. He had moved here because he had graduated from college and a local firm hired him. There was no family members locally.
After a few weeks of dating, he proposed to me, I thought well, he seems like a good Christian person. There was no pressure for sex and there was no sex prior to our wedding 8 months later. He convinced me to go to another state to meet the rest of his family 2 older brothers and his mother. He was estranged from his father because he had helped his mother get her divorce from him as they had an unhappy marriage for years. I met the mother who professed Christianity.
My mother died one week before my wedding. His estranged father showed up at the wedding with a new girl friend, I was oblivious to this as the girlfriend did not enter the church, if she did and I have thought about this, I think my precious father would not allow her. My father knew something was not right and would not allow a scene to be made, I had just buried my mother 4 days prior.
My husband could not perform on our wedding night.
Life went on, I was busy raising two children, one is profoundly retarded. My spouse worked his way up the corporate ladder while I raised my children. He ignored his son completely. In 2007 I caught him looking at something inappropriate on the internet? we put a filter up. 2011 I walked in on him working around the filter to look at women in lingerie. I called a mega church and spoke to a pastor on staff. I told him and I will never forget the words he said “Leave him immediately”
I said, “He is kind, and I don’t want my daughter to grow up without a father.” She was a teen.
He said to me, “I admire your faith” the phone call ended.
2017 I had a horrific D-day and my world was changed forever. I consumed everything I could on Sexual Addiction/Porn addiction. He cried, begged and I told him to get help.
He went to a local group, which was nothing but an enabling group.
April 2019 50 books read, I discovered a mistress and I made my first appointment here at btr.org with a coach who has helped me walk through this private “pit”. The key aspect I wanted to make is that she introduced me to narcissism. He is a Covert, non violent, sex and porn addict who chooses not to change. I have stayed due to medical/prescription/age. I put up boundaries however.
I have listened to the Betrayal Trauma Recovery podcast and read the articles on btr.org over and over and look to others to give me joy.
The other podcast is the one by Lundy Bancroft who explains the skills of the abuser.
No woman of any race, level of education is abuse proof from these individuals. Within the past 3 years, I discovered his father was a sexual cross dresser and sex and porn addict, both his brothers are sex addicts and his mother was not a Christian but was into witchcraft, the occult and sorcery for decades. I think it is so important to know and study the family you are going to inherit. My MIL/FIL died within the past three years and all of this came out. Educate, Educate and if you have to RUN!!!!!!!!!
Thank you, Lisa!! Hugs!! I’m so glad we’re fighting this evil together:).
Oh my, me too. 51 yrs until I really learned the name for my husband’s rude detestable behavior: narcissism. 🤦♀️ So complex … not a healthy marriage!!!! Never was.
From first year of marriage, so many things I couldn’t understand or put my finger on. And of course, no one to talk to. In past month read the book Stop Walking on Eggshells which explained it all. It’s not me, as he so often tried to make it.
Went to first sound Christian counselor yesterday who totally understands narcissism, but so sad to hear, “He won’t change.” What a difficult personality disorder to understand. How can a person be high functioning and incapable of changing. But over 50 years, I experience the same inconsiderate, selfish issues over and over.
It has been 51 years. I always have waited for the caring loving person to return and the monster to go away. It’s to late for me. I am older now, emotionally destroyed. I cannot forgive myself and I don’t think the broken me will ever know joy. I dread knowing I will have this lonlyness, this emptiness until my last breath.i feel so bitter so angry almost a hate of hurting me for 51 years, but still I stayed, hoping and praying for a change that never came. I still love a part of him that is so deep inside.since 15,, he was and is my forever love. I m left asking God why?? All my cries my tears my prayers,, why couldn’t you give me a loving husband. Some happiness in my life. Why God do you hate me so??
Nyne, I feel you luv, I have been married to an ever-evolving narcissistic addict husband for 35 years, we have 4 children.
It hasn’t been easy I attempted suicide a few times, I really wanted to die he had me so unbelievably messed up and confused. I could not function at all, my children were very young and they didn’t understand they just heard us fighting all the time. My husband is addicted to so many things and it has been a red flag thing from the very start yet “love'” took over the hurt he was causing me, my parents hated him they saw right through him and was from “the wrong side of the tracks,” but like all of us we think our spouse will change.
Well, I have resolved to the fact after 35 years of marriage He is NOT going to change, in fact he has gotten worse. I do love him, he used to be good to me more so than ever before I started fighting back. I am telling you when you become so convinced at what a “scumbag” I was according to him it became believable I questioned everything I did and the gaslighting was deadly resulting in periods of amnesia, and my suicide attempts.
His biggest addiction is sexual porn peeping tom he was sexually abused by his brother and his friends as a child which he claims was quite pleasurable. My sexuality was compromised I gave in to his desires to keep him happy, but its NEVER enough. I am never enough. How can you tell your wife he is thinking of me while watching porn? I said to him ok that’s like me saying well when I have sex with some dude I am thinking of you. Am I right?
Girl bottom line is if you stay you must become stronger in who you are building your confidence in yourself and your abilities. Know he is the ONLY one who tries to mess with your mind because he is preying on you (woman). Don’t let that kill your whole day. He probably would never stand up to another male and fight them like mine won’t but he will go after me, especially after I catch him doing something that I hate, the porn that’s gone too far then lies and denies it so I get punished and blamed yadda yadda, shame on me.
But, I admittedly still love my husband and she’s awful mother who is also a narcissist who will always be in his corner for support. I need his money now he hasn’t worked in years I supported his butt for many years after he blamed me for losing the very job I got him. He was caught sleeping on the job and whatever, he felt above the jobs law so to speak. Now like everything else good just falls in his lap with hardly any effort ( which I still do not understand compared to the majority of people) and he lands this job in his element and I have a house and new car and well bills he can finally pay. I don’t have the greatest life but this is my way of getting back what he owes me and took from me. Maybe not the best way to move forward but there is so much involved I need his financial contributions now for sure. I am a believer and love the lord. I pray over this situation often. I find my supports elsewhere. It stinks but it is what it is I am a stronger person for the trials. Believe it or not I am an empath and very compassionate even for the toxic people in my life only those people miss out on have everything from me I would give them knowing now what I have walked through fire for to realize who I am.
This is a thought provoking reality check after being with someone for over 30 years and finally becoming aware after an unusually hurtful episode which left me feeling as if some spell or drug had worn off like a sudden awakening. I tried so hard to please. I didn’t know how lost I was until what seemed like the serotonin wore off and I saw how I was being treated and kept confused.
Yet to still love and hope that there really was a connection after all. However, from that point on I saw how the lies, mirroring, and deflection was the hardest to realize.
I should have realized sooner, but I had tried so hard. Thank you for sharing these insights. I am stuck living in a granny flat due to my old age farther. But I’m going to prepare myself and come to terms with the reality of what my marriage really is.
Leaving my partner is just not possible. I understand now that he when asked me to sell my car and get rid of excess furniture, they were well planned hooks.
We live in the country… on a farm actually. I used to live an hour away in a boutique neighborhood. I had friends. I had a life. I now have no family (all dead) and few friends.
He encouraged me to make his home, my home. He did lots of little things like—encouraged me to get another horse when one died last summer. He asked me to rescue and take care of 2 little kitties whose mother got hit by a car. So, now I have 2 horses, a dog and 2 kitties to think about. My horses are my business. And if I leave, I will have nothing and no means of support. I will have to give up everything dear to me. And I am 60.
Now that I am fully invested in this home…doing renovations, paying what I can. (He has money, I don’t)…its getting crazy. Every time he gets triggered (and you never know what when why or how), he tells me what an idiot I am or worse and tells me to leave…knowing full well, he is the one who suggested most everything that put me in the position of making this my home. We aren’t married and everything is his. I have no legal ground to stand on.
He tells me I am dug in to his home like a tick and will never leave. He keeps me so unbalanced and off kilter, I never know what to believe. I know I am the one who made the decision to move in. That was quite a few years ago. I cannot seem to find steady ground. This is a beautiful place to live. And he uses it all and abuses me mentally, emotionally, and verbally.
When I tell him what I want and need, he laughs at me. He knows I can’t leave … so he treats me in whatever way he feels like it. When I stick up for myself through talking, I am told, “I watch lot of movies. No woman ever talks back to a man like you do. As a man, I do not have to put up with your sh**. This is all mine. I am the king here even though the crown weighs heavily on me.”
If he is that king, then I am no better than Cinderella working for the evil step sisters.
Have you considered joining our online, daily support group for victims of emotional abuse? We’re here for you!!
I’ve been in an abusive marriage since 2002. I’m a business person and it’s reached a point I can’t raise even a dollar. I didn’t know he is a narcissist. I’m in pieces and would like to collect my pieces. No peace and no joy. I’m a strong believer, I’ve tried to pray for the joy of the Lord. Please help.
This is almost exactly me. We recently moved to a farm where I am isolated and mentally tormented.
My two boys are dealt with like slaves while his are given everything new and free of strings. He has money and tells me to buy things because he thinks the end of days are coming, then yells at me for wasting his money. I was sleeping with a gun in fear of his rages. I left. It has been 3 months, my children and I are homeless and broke.
He will randomly text me when he is not on vacation, with another woman or has friends around. All he says is he loves me but gives nothing more, not even fake promises. I have nothing and feel I will lose my children anyway to him because he has all the money and lawyers. What do I do? I love the man I married, not this monster. He is also an active addict, I have 12 years clean. What have you found to help you cope? I cry all day and struggle to just get out of bed. I have 2 friends left and they are in fear if I go back he will hurt us even more for our attempt to leave. Any suggestions are appreciated.
Consider that the “man you married” was an act to groom you . . . that will help you heal. We recommend that women join our daily, online support group for victims of emotional and psychological abuse and sexual coercion. We hope to see you soon in a session!
Wow! How life has changed when nothing actually changed. It’s bizarre yet powerful! Changing the lens of perception we view life through can suddenly change everything! I relate to so much of what has been said in the podcast and on these posts. My whole world came crashing down a couple of months ago when those lightbulb moments started. It was actually through dragging my daughter to countless therapy sessions and trying to figure stuff out that I realized her dad treats me exactly the same way as she does.
Neither of them can see it in themselves yet they each see it in the other and are disgusted by the other’s behavior! My son and I find it so incomprehensible how they don’t realize they are both manifesting the same behaviors. I am emotionally exhausted and shattered and done. They both shut me down so I have no voice. They have no empathy, blame me for everything (nothing is ever their fault), both explode and get extremely defensive if I dare mention anything different to what they want to hear. My opinions are wrong and its like they just oppose them for the sake of opposing. My feelings are ridiculous, wrong and dismissed as being invalid.
Over the years I learned how I needed to be in order to make the marriage work. Learned what I could and couldn’t say. There is little to no emotional connection, and I fill the voids with shallow conversations. My whole life has revolved around them. I am totally suffocated! More so now that my husband keeps ‘working from home’ and my daughter has dropped out if school and is doing online classes. I have no friends and my family all live in the UK.
My husband is against my family and filled my head with awful things about them to pull me away from them. He has always wanted me exclusively to himself and even gets jealous of the kids! My son is my rock, and he too is often on the receiving end of their self absorbed ways. I feel objectified by my husband when having sex. He persuaded me it was ok to have sex before marriage even though it went against my beliefs. He twisted things, wouldn’t take no for an answer and wore me down until I said yes. Which has been a repeated pattern when he wanted me to do a nude photo shoot in front of a make photographer on my own to ‘help me recover from my eating disorder’, constantly messaging me for nude photos and taking nude photos and getting me to watch a video of another couple so we would get some ideas of what to do, constantly producing new toys for the bedroom in the middle of sex but would never tell me about them or show me them just blindfolded me and used them.
He convinced me to do another nude photo shoot, but this time a couples one in a hotel with a female photographer basically doing the ‘deed’. I felt awful, violated, disgusted but went along with it to please him. He took me to a raunchy show with pole dancers as a ‘surprise Christmas present’ that I hated. Always makes me feel like a ‘prude’ if I don’t want to do any of it and always ‘persuades me’. He played a prank on me telling me the photographer wanted me to do a shoot for a porn magazine and he spent days/weeks trying to convince me to do it as they would pay me and give me a free holiday. He even drew up a contract with a letterhead from a porn mag and wrote on it the most disgusting questions re sex preferences. Eventually I said ‘look, the answer is no’ and he just burst out laughing and said it was all a big joke. He doesn’t understand why it upset me and says it was just a joke!
Every time I said ‘if this is a joke, tell me now’ he promised me it wasn’t and I believed him! I feel so stupid that none of this dawned on me before! I am convinced he must be into porn or something or has some kind of problem but he would just deny it if I asked him and turn it back on me. Since I started to wake up to this, I have gone through feeling betrayed, stabbed in the back, stupid, grieving for a marriage that was not what I perceived it to be. I feel angry, upset, hurt and always incredibly guilty and guilty for sharing my story or even suggesting he is like this. I have moments of clarity mixed with confusion and more light bulb moments.
I have convinced him to go to marriage counselling on Friday, but he has no idea why we are going, I told him either I go for therapy on my own or we go together because I must be going crazy. He opted for going together. My plan is to ask him for honesty re does he do porn, affairs etc and to talk about the sex issues. From there, if he is honest with me I have chosen to forgive him and hope we can move forward. The rest I will put up with for now. Today I have my daughter starting therapy which I hope will help her. I have gone back to church and tonight I am going to be brave and go to a connect group from church. I don’t know anyone, but I need to start somewhere. I am reconnecting with my family and have been able to share this with my parents who have been hugely supportive. I intend to get my emotional connections and relationships elsewhere and try to get out of the pressure cooker for a break whenever I can! Small steps forward! I feel so guilty that Friday may shake his world and I keep questioning if i should just ignore it all..,
Jen! We love you. We are so glad you found us. We do not recommend that you go to couple therapy with your abuser. Confronting him when you haven’t set up boundaries will put you in danger. Have you considered scheduling with Coach Renee and setting boundaries first, and observing from a safe distance? What you’re describing here is serious sexual abuse in the form of sexual coercion, emotional abuse, and psychological abuse. You may also be a victim of sexual trafficking. The plan you suggest here seems like a recipe for two outcomes: he will promise to change but not change (groom you) and use manipulative kindness for a bit to convince you he’s changed or he will become more overtly abusive. I am concerned that this plan will make things worse for you. Please reach out so we can help you develop a plan to get you to emotional, psychological, and sexual safety.
I met with a counsellor today. She also advised to not go ahead with couples therapy as she didnt feel
It was a safe option so I have cancelled the appointment. I am meeting with her again next week to try and figure out where I go from here.
I’m so glad. That sounds much more safe:). Hugs!
So obviously there are some “good” times or I wouldn’t stay. Are you saying these good times are grooming and not real? Maybe this answer will finally help me to leave.
Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying:). Grooming, although it feels good, is abuse.
Thank you so much for your reply. I have managed to book an appointment with a counsellor this afternoon on my own to talk through tomorrow’s couple therapy session. I feel as though I may need to cancel the couples session, but need to figure out a way forward. My husband is a christian as am I. He is currently in ‘nice mode’ which makes me doubt everything. But I know thats part of how he gets his own way and starts ‘playing ball’ to get me back in his corner. I started a connect group last night from church and it was so scary but sooo good! I am just exhausted with the confusion and mixed up thinking.
It’s so hard because my parents and son are the only ones I can really talk to about this. I am working through making changes and moving forward in the best way possible. I still love my husband and as silly as it sounds I don’t want to leave him.
It doesn’t sound silly. We’ve all been there! Always remember “nice mode” as you call it is part of the abuse – it’s the way he grooms you. I’m a Christian too, and I assure you Jesus commands us to separate ourselves from the wicked. So as you consider what to do, consider how Jesus commands us to build a home of peace and safety:). Our Savior loves you and hates abuse. A truly Christian man would not use Christianity to maintain power and beat other’s into submission. So consider that your husband uses the church to maintain power, not because he actually loves peace. That is a form of spiritual abuse, and I assure you, Jesus is not happy about it.
I am in a crisis recognizing I married a narcissist some 25 years ago. I have held things together but finally caught up to me not unlike the stories above.
Hi, I have been with a narcissist for 17yrs. He needs counseling I gave up on him. We have 3 kids he needs to be better for his kids. when he’s cheating he blames me for cheating.
For victims, we recommend Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, a daily, online group for victims of narcissistic abuse.
For abusers, the only program we recommend is Center For Peace.
48 years of emotional abuse . . . living near all of his family. His mother cried and didn’t go to my bridesmaids luncheon.
I was so stupid. He was very good looking. Looks fade, and he’s been so hateful the entire time. No sex in 30 years, so mean to me. We can’t even watch tv together. He’s told me not to cook for him. I can’t bring groceries in the house. We can’t go on trips because we would be in the same car. He is vile and vicious to me. Never a kind word. But he’s so nice in public, so everyone thinks he’s amazing. Even my grown kids just can’t seem to see it.
Thank you for this useful article, but realizing some of us choose not to or are not in a situation to leave right now. I have a 1 year and 3 year old baby and am living amidst the chaos.
I found out my husband is a sex addict when I was pregnant with my second, but I wasn’t working and am in a new country where I have no family, and with covid couldn’t escape. I live in Europe.
Have you considered our daily, online support group in every time zone?
I have been with my narcissistic husband for over 25 years. It is getting worse year by year and these last few have been super bad. I have actually told him I can’t do it anymore. He is aware I am looking for a rental for my kids and our animals because he refuses to leave our home and states “no one is making me do it either”. As of right now he is setting up online counseling for NPD, his first appointment is next Tuesday. I am nervous this is just another ploy. Since he never sticks with anything. On the other hand I have been doing this for 25+ years so what is a few more month to see if it helps??? I am exhausted, broken and miserable.
Its so amazing coming across this important piece of information… I’ve been married for 11 years now to a one of the most difficult narcissists husband. I have coped and still trying. He loves his children very well and they loves him too. I can’t or i don’t want to leave because he already infected me with HIV. Were do i start from? Were do i go? Who will accept me?? Things likes dis gave me no other option but to stay. God Will surely see us through.
I just landed on this site and I can’t believe I finally found others going through the same thing I am. I have been married for 49 years to this person and never really knew what this was called!! I stay with him because we have 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren! I love him and a lot of the time hate him! I’m very sad about our life and never really knew what what wrong with him! Now I know! Thank all of you for helping me finally understand….
My stbx Narc was diagnosed with multiple things. I noticed a mental decline, changes, irritable. Major anger while driving. He says he went to psych, who are we kidding. He was probably hooking up with someone he met online.
I was done. So I packed two suitcases, left the rest of my stuff in boxes in friends garage, and flew away to another state. Wish I had done this years ago. Stay healthy everyone!
Thank you for all the above literature and tips.
I am currently married (14 years) to what I believe now to be a Covert Narcissist, with 2 children (Son with Asperger syndrome 12yrs old, and Daughter with Anxiety 10yrs old). My plan is to survive this marriage for next maximum 8 years where the kids will be able to defend themselves.
I believe by sticking to the tips above I may be ok.