I tried to search for an answer to this that put a positive slant on the narcissistic husband. I looked through numerous posts on various platforms, and in all of that searching, I could only find one that argued it is possible for a narcissist to be a good husband. What’s more, the author of that post basically said that for your narcissistic husband to be a good husband, you have to change your attitude! So here’s my answer.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, a narcissist does not make a good husband. He may have some good qualities and deep down, there is a wounded child, but he is not able to think beyond his own needs. He can’t express empathy or love, and he fears intimacy. That doesn’t make for a good husband.
If you have a narcissistic husband or are considering marrying one, you’ll want to think long and hard about if this is the right relationship for you. Narcissists are, as their name implies, self-absorbed, but that doesn’t really express what that really means for their spouse. Let’s take an in-depth look at what most narcissistic husbands are like, why they’re like that, and what at least one person believes can help them improve.
What Kind of Husband is a Narcissist?
People with narcissistic personality disorder take selfishness to the extreme. The narcissistic husband, like any narcissistic spouse, is concerned mainly with his own image. Everything he does is geared toward maintaining an image of perfection and superiority.
As a child, the narcissist became filled with shame and self-loathing. They came to believe their true self was hopelessly flawed. As a result, they buried that true self and replaced it with a false self-image that they imbued with grandiose ideas of superiority and perfection.
This is the wounded child crying out for validation, and while this is sad, the result of this failed identity development is that they need other people to almost constantly validate them. They can’t live without that steady stream of adoration known as narcissistic supply.
Of course, no one in their life can really give them that in a satisfying way. No matter how much you flatter or prop up the ego of a narcissist, it will never be enough. That’s why the narcissist is constantly trying to manipulate everyone in their life. They need that flow, and they’ll do almost anything to get it. That’s why they are so charming initially and to people with whom they are not close.
For a child growing up in a society that sometimes encourages narcissistic behavior among males, the combination of charm and the damaged identity mechanisms means that the narcissist can achieve success both professionally and in their personal life. But they also often hurt people in the process, particularly their spouse.
The narcissistic husband often demands perfection from his spouse who he expects to boost his image and support him at all times. Privately, he is frequently very critical of the person he supposedly loves the most. He also is never able to consider his spouse’s needs.
How Does the Narcissistic Husband Act?
The old movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde probably describes the narcissistic husband the best. When he needs his spouse or fears they may abandon him, he will often turn on the charm to ‘hoover’ them back in.
This is a very effective strategy given that they can be very charming. Narcissists learn from an early age that they have to use charm to manipulate people, and it’s a talent they cultivate. Many people who have had narcissistic romantic partners describe believing that they had found their soulmate.
But when the bloom comes off the rose, it falls away hard. The narcissist goes from the kindly Dr. Jekyll to the monstrous Mr. Hyde in a millisecond. As they start to show their true colors, their victim often has problems reconciling the two personas. They keep thinking that their Prince Charming will come back if only they do or say the right thing.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen, and the narcissist’s spouse ends up walking on eggshells to try to keep the peace. They have to live with a double standard because what applies to the narcissist does not apply to them. The narcissist expects to be treated with respect but doesn’t give respect.
The narcissistic husband also never apologizes, and of course, there is no empathy. They cannot put themselves in your shoes and understand how their actions or words might hurt you. You simply can’t expect that. He also won’t listen to your thoughts, dreams, desires, or point of view.
Will a Narcissistic Husband Be Faithful to His Spouse?
This is another question where the answer is usually no. Because narcissists need attention yet fear intimacy and because they love it when people are attracted to them, it’s very common for them to cheat.
They are particularly susceptible to flattery, and when someone is flirting with them, they respond in kind. It’s easy for one thing to lead to the next, and before you know it, they are having an affair.
Because they don’t have empathy, they don’t understand how hurtful infidelity can be; that is, they don’t understand when it’s happening to their spouse. Should their spouse cheat, however, it’s a different story altogether.
That’s why narcissists are typically extremely jealous. A cheating spouse can signify there’s something deeper wrong with the relationship. It can indicate that there’s a flaw, and this is not something the narcissist can support.
If their spouse cheats on them, it destroys that perfect image they’ve struggled to cultivate for so long. They see their own infidelity as something they are entitled to, but their spouse is supposed to adore them so much that they would never think of cheating.
Can a Narcissistic Husband Change?
The short answer is that it’s possible, but not likely. Yes, if a narcissistic husband is able to admit he has problems that need to be resolved and commits to long-term, intensive therapy, it is possible to reduce his narcissistic tendencies.
The problem with narcissism is that change is not very likely. Narcissists can’t admit there is something wrong with themselves. That would be a grave threat to their false self-image. It would mean they are not perfect or superior.
Therapy can help a narcissist, but getting them to go and really dedicate themselves to doing the word is almost impossible. It also takes a lot of work on the part of their spouse. It can be very difficult to deal with the unpredictable emotions the narcissist will experience as they go through the therapeutic process.
While they can change, these are the reasons why it’s unlikely they will. As their spouse, you should never go into the relationship thinking you will change them. You can’t love them enough, say enough of the right things, or do enough of the right things to change them.
The only person who can change a narcissist is the narcissist themselves. While you can support them as they go through this process, you can’t make them change. If you find yourself thinking things like, “If I just love him enough” or “If I could just say the right thing, he would really change,” it’s time to get out.
Accepting that you can’t change him is the first step, then you can decide if this is the right relationship for you.
An Unconventional Argument
I did find one woman, a life coach named Laura Doyle, who does offer things the spouse of a narcissist can do to get Prince Charming back. She is married to a narcissistic husband and claims that changing her attitude and actions helped reduce her husband’s narcissistic tendencies.
She argues that you should go back to treating your narcissistic husband the way you did when you first met him. In other words, treat him as if he is that same charming man he was when you first met him, and expect him to be just that.
Her point is that perhaps you’ve also changed how you interact with him, and that is undoubtedly true. She writes, “If your bias is that he’s going to be a cold, self-centered jerk, then guess what you’re going to experience more? If your bias is that he’s a loving, thoughtful, giving husband, then guess what you’re going to experience more?”
While it is true that everyone changes, and of course, you should take responsibility for your actions in the relationship dynamic, the truth is that this tactic won’t change the underlying condition your husband has. Still, if you really want to stay with him, this might be worth a try.
I would argue, however, that you should temper this with strong boundaries and plenty of time for self-care. You should also not tolerate any abusive treatment nor should you dish any out. If that can work for you and your husband, it might work for keeping your marriage together.
Most of the time, narcissism is not compatible with a happy marriage. The characteristics of a narcissist make it very difficult for them to be what most people consider a good spouse. They are self-absorbed, manipulative, and controlling. It might work to change your attitude, but you also need to protect yourself. One way you can do that is to recognize and defuse your own emotional triggers so you can prevent their abuse.
I’ve developed a helpful guide for doing just that. It’s called the 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers, and it’s free. If you click on this link now, I’ll send it directly to your inbox. It will take you through the steps to recognize those triggers and defuse them by healing your old emotional wounds.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel