Marriage to a narcissist is an exercise in frustration. Narcissists attempt to manipulate and control everyone in their life using gaslighting, lying, triangulation, and other devious tactics. They also often cheat on their romantic partners, and they can sometimes discard them with little explanation. With all of this, it’s natural to wonder if your marriage to a narcissist can possibly be saved.
It won’t be easy to save your marriage to a narcissist since you will both have to work hard. It requires the narcissist to strive to cultivate empathy to reduce their narcissistic tendencies. You’ll have to establish and maintain strong boundaries and make good use of your social support network.
Marriage requires teamwork, and narcissists aren’t big on helping anyone other than themselves. To save your marriage to a narcissist, you’ll need to get a commitment from them to work hard, and you’ll have to do the same. Read on to learn more about how it is possible to save a marriage involving a narcissist, but it’s a bumpy road all along the way.
How Can You Save Your Marriage to a Narcissist?
The biggest problem for saving a marriage involving a narcissist is that narcissists externalize blame. They don’t understand how their behavior impacts other people, and so they don’t think they are doing anything wrong, ever.
Helping them recognize how their behavior affects you is one of the biggest hurdles to saving your marriage. You will constantly have to force your partner to put themself in your shoes.
For example, if your narcissistic spouse says something like, “Why can’t you be more like my friend’s spouse who is always cooking special dishes for him,” you might respond by asking them how they would feel if you asked a question like, “Why don’t you make more money like my friend’s spouse?”
By turning their own words back around on them, it’s possible to help the narcissist understand how their words affect other people. Another thing you’ll need to do is make sure your narcissistic spouse understands how critical the situation is by being direct about why you’re not happy.
Let them know exactly the kind of treatment you don’t like, what kind of change you expect, and the consequences of not changing. Of course, you can’t expect an immediate change, but you can make it clear that if change doesn’t happen, the marriage will not survive.
It’s also important to create strong boundaries that you consistently enforce with regard to bad behavior. If the narcissist is stopped in their tracks, they will eventually stop trying those tactics.
How Should You Modify Your Behavior?
When you do see improvement in the narcissist’s behavior, be sure to let them know you noticed and appreciate it. That will give them encouragement to continue making progress. As psychologist Samantha Rodman notes, “ If there is even a small move in the direction of understanding the spouse’s point of view, the marriage has the capacity to improve.” So make sure you take note of those small movements.
It’s also helpful that you make sure you’re modifying your behavior as appropriate. It’s easy to fall into a pattern where you expect them to act a certain way and you react without giving them a chance to do something different. If you really want to save your marriage, you need to also make contributions by adapting your own behavior to be less reactive.
It’s also often true that after you get to know someone well, and particularly if they exhibit problematic behavior, you stop some of the loving behaviors you used to do when you were first falling in love. To save your marriage, you want to try to revive those loving behaviors.
You might suggest a date night, lovingly touch them from time to time, and all the other small gestures that show someone you’re still in love with them. That’s important for any relationship, but it’s crucial for a marriage involving a narcissist.
What are Some Things You Can Do Together?
Again, marriage requires teamwork, so want to make sure you make time for each other on a regular basis. This means quality time where you’re giving your undivided attention to each other.
It’s also helpful if you can come up with ways to show each other all the things you like about the other person. While narcissists are famously self-absorbed, they do often choose spouses they admire because they feel they enhance their status.
For that reason, there are things they like about you, and you also feel in love with them. So make it a practice to tell each other about those things that each of you found admirable about the other.
It’s also a good idea to get away from time to time with just the two of you. Narcissists typically love to have many people around them given that many are extroverted. But if the two of you can get away someplace where you can focus on each other, that will help improve and renew your relationship.
If you both are truly committed to saving your marriage, another important thing to do is to work with a couples counselor. This is someone who can objectively observe you two together and make suggestions for improving your communication styles.
Neither of you should go into therapy expecting that the therapist will side with one of you. That’s not their job; instead, they work to help both of you communicate your needs to the other. This is an important part of saving a troubled marriage.
How Should You Respond to Narcissistic Rage?
Anyone who has been around a narcissist for any period of time has likely seen their explosive rage. They use this as an intimidation and distraction tactic to keep you off-guard and dissuade you from questioning them.
Narcissistic rage doesn’t always involve physical abuse, but it can. Of course, you should never tolerate physical abuse as this can easily put your life in danger. If your narcissistic partner is physically abusive, you should leave immediately and report any injuries to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Even if narcissistic rage does not result in physical abuse, it is shocking and emotionally abusive. It is not a healthy way to communicate with your spouse. Therefore, your response should be to immediately leave and refuse to talk to your narcissistic spouse until they can talk to you in a calm, collected manner.
Because the narcissist is using this tactic to confuse and distract you, if you leave when they explode, they will see that it’s not having the effect they desire. They will stop using it eventually if it doesn’t get the results they want.
This is also something you should share with a couples therapist so that they can help you both find more appropriate ways to communicate your frustration. There are better communication strategies, and an objective observer is a good person to help you implement them.
There are things you can do to save your marriage to a narcissist, but it will require a lot of work. Because the narcissist has to recognize they are part of the problem, they often don’t do what they need to in order to make positive changes. That’s why it’s likely that you won’t ultimately be successful, but if they do put in a genuine effort, it is possible.
If you have a narcissistic spouse who is making an effort to save your marriage, you’ll need to read this article about what you can do to help them heal. It has valuable information about how you can encourage them to make improvements.
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