If you have a narcissistic husband, you know how heartbreaking it is to think you’ve finally found your perfect mate only to find that it was all a charade. He was so wonderful, loving, and supportive during the early stages of your relationship, but soon he showed his true colors. He became overly critical, and it has become clear he is only concerned about his own needs. But can he change? Can he once again become that Prince Charming you fell in love with?
Because narcissists don’t believe they ever make mistakes, it’s unlikely they will change. Why would they if they are always in the right? However, narcissistic tendencies do decrease with age, and if a narcissist is willing to change and be open-minded about their condition, change is possible.
If you have a narcissistic husband, it is very important to understand what the chances are that he might be willing to change. You also need to know what it would take for him to make positive changes. Let’s take a look at these concepts so that you can make the best decisions for your situation.
Why Do Narcissistic Husbands Resist Change?
Narcissists of any kind resist change because it would mean admitting they are fallible. This is not something the narcissist tolerates very well. Narcissism develops in childhood as a result of trauma, and the child constructs a false self-image infused with grandiose ideas of superiority.
Their own identity can’t support such grandiose claims, and therefore, they need other people to provide them with external validation to prop up their self-esteem. Part of their false identity involves the concept that they cannot make mistakes because of their superiority.
They live in almost constant fear that the truth will be exposed, and the world will see that they are, in fact, not superior at all. They will be exposed as a worthless person. That fear is so great that they will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent it.
This is why they feel they can’t admit to any mistakes. That risks exposing their flawed, true self. That’s why they won’t take responsibility for any mistakes they might have made. They would rather divorce their wife and find someone else than admit their mistakes in the marriage.
This is what you’re up against if you’re hoping your narcissistic husband will change. One thing to be aware of is that there is no amount of love you can give them, no words kind enough or persuasive enough to repair this damage.
The only hope for change lies in intense, long-term therapy. You cannot change your narcissistic husband; only he can. It is important you recognize that so that you are fully aware of what might happen going forward.
Knowledge is power in this situation, and you need to be aware of what it takes for your narcissistic husband to change.
How Can a Narcissistic Husband Change?
Research shows that people do become less narcissistic with age, but those changes are dependent on a number of specific factors. Certain career factors like being in a supervisory position are associated with smaller decreases in narcissism.
Additionally, people who had more unstable relationships in their life and who were healthier had smaller decreases. Ironically, people who are more narcissistic as a young adult are more likely to be in supervisory positions when they reach middle age, and they are more likely to divorce by that same time.
So, in some sense, the narcissist is setting themselves up for smaller decreases in their narcissistic tendencies. This is particularly true for men who already receive encouragement to display narcissistic characteristics that can get them promoted. Moreover, they are often encouraged to do things socially that are incompatible with a happy, stable marriage.
That being said, your narcissistic husband may show some decrease in narcissistic tendencies as he gets older. As psychologist, author, and narcissism expert Elinor Greenberg points out, however, “Not all narcissists can change. They have to be very motivated and willing to self-reflect. But if they are, it is possible.”
That means that if your narcissistic husband has recognized that he does have a problem and is willing to work on it, therapy can help. In fact, therapy is the most effective path for change.
What Kind of Therapy Can Help a Narcissistic Husband Change?
The programs that are most successful include individual, group, and family therapy. To achieve real change, the narcissist must be willing to commit to ongoing, intensive, long-term therapy.
Therapists don’t generally attack the narcissist’s condition in an open or aggressive manner; rather, the best approach is to use caution and deliberate sessions that won’t push the narcissist too far, too fast.
The most effective therapy programs for anyone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are those that apply cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the narcissist replace those grandiose distorted concepts they infused into their false self-image with positive and more realistic ideas.
Psychodynamic therapy helps the narcissist analyze their past experiences so that they can understand how problematic relationships in their life have helped create unconscious assumptions. They also examine how these assumptions and other ideas they have developed over time tend to support narcissistic attitudes.
Finally, family therapy helps a narcissist understand how their behavior affects their family and other individuals in their life. It also involves their loved ones in the healing process. If the narcissist commits to these therapy approaches, real change is possible.
How Can You Support Your Narcissistic Husband as He Tries to Change?
There are a number of things you can do to help your narcissistic husband as he tries to change. The first thing is to support his therapy by making the time for him to do it and engaging in the family therapy portion of his treatment.
It’s also important to try to communicate with your narcissistic husband in a healthier way. Choosing to engage in your own therapy may assist with this so that you can identify ways you may be triggering his narcissistic injury. It’s not your fault, but there may be healthier ways to express your needs.
Helping him complete any at-home exercises or giving him the time and space to do those is also helpful. If you need to tell him something, take the time to think of how you can tell him in a more thoughtful way that reflects your feelings rather than by blaming him for acting badly.
Staying calm when he triggers you can also help, and toward that end, you’ll want to work on your own emotional triggers. Helping him heal also means healing yourself. If you have codependency or enable his bad behavior in any way, it can help for you to get support through groups like Codependents Anonymous.
It’s also important to acknowledge when he makes improvements. Telling him that you noticed can give him the motivation to keep going. You’ll want him to know how much you appreciate it.
A final way to support him is to remember all the reasons you fell in love with him at the beginning of your relationship. This can give you the motivation to keep going.
Narcissistic husbands don’t change very often, but real change is possible. Your husband will need to recognize his role in problems within the relationship and make a long-term commitment to do the work it will take to change. You can help by supporting his therapy and getting support yourself.
Part of how you can help him is by getting a handle on your own emotional triggers. My 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you identify and heal your emotional triggers so that you won’t be triggered when your husband tries to use them against you. This guide is free and I will happily send it directly to your inbox when you click on the link here.
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