There seems to be an epidemic of narcissism in the world today.
Or maybe we just know what to call these people now. Or maybe the victims are just speaking out more. Or maybe it’s because I deal every day with women who are in difficult divorces. Whatever the reason, narcissists seem to be everywhere.
According to the DSM IV-TR, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is diagnosed in between 2% and 16% of the population in clinical settings (between 0.5-1% of the general population). And of those diagnosed, most (50-75% of all patients) are men.
So, a lot of women out there are realizing that they are married to a narcissist.
How do you know if your husband is a narcissist? In an article in “Psychology Today,” Professor Preston Ni identifies these as the 6 most common traits of narcissists:
1. Frequent Lies and Exaggerations: Lying is a narcissist’s default. He will lie quicker than (and as easily as) telling the truth.
2. Rarely Admit Flaws and Is Highly Aggressive When Criticized: He truly thinks he’s perfect. He can not admit any fault or mistake, and completely loses it if someone tries to point one out.
3. False Image Projection: He is always trying to make people believe he is something he is not. Also he projects his own shortcomings onto you (or others).
4. Rule Breaking and Boundary Violation: Parking regulations, speed limits, express check-out lanes, due dates…these are all for other people, not him. Yet he’s quick to reprimand anyone else who breaks one of these rules.
5. Emotional Invalidation and Coercion: If his constant, vicious ridiculing of you makes you upset, then you are overreacting! Also, if you refuse to do something out of your integrity, perhaps lie to someone for him, he will belittle your beliefs and pressure you to the point where you finally give in.
6. Manipulation—The Use or Control of Others as an Extension of Oneself: Ever heard of the term “flying monkeys”? These are the people the narcissist has duped into believing everything he says, and they will do or say anything he tells them.
Does any of this sound frighteningly familiar?
Even though these characteristics are pretty sure to alienate everyone around him (especially his wife), the thing the narcissist fears most is abandonment. Makes no sense, right? He acts in a way that pushes you away, but can’t bear the thought of your leaving him.
Being married to a narcissist is a soul-crushing experience. You are a captive audience for his slow-drip form of torture: his constant and pervasive criticism and belittling of you wears away at your self-esteem until you become a mere shell of a person.
There is no drug to cure narcissism. And good luck getting him to agree to therapy: he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He believes the rest of the world is crazy for not seeing things his way.
Even if you got him into a therapist’s office, he wouldn’t accept any of the advice the therapist might offer, so it’s just a waste of money.
And if you think living with a narcissist is bad, can you imagine what happens when you do the single thing that most frightens them? But that’s what you must do: leave.
So, you can understand why I see a lot of women who are in the process of leaving a narcissist. It’s a horrific experience, and you need support. But not everyone will understand what you’re up against. Most people have not experienced what you have and would probably not even believe it if you told them.
You need a support system that understands the beast. Others who have been in your shoes. People who’ve figured out strategies to “outsmart” the narcissist so he can no longer victimize you.
It will be long. It will be hard. And it will drive you to the very brink of insanity. But it will be worth it because you will finally be free.