Given the narcissist’s manipulative, abusive techniques, you might be wondering how they can manage to stay married. Many narcissists are married for years despite their bad behavior.
Narcissists are very difficult to live with for any length of time. They are constantly trying to manipulate you and make you dependent on them so that you won’t leave. It’s a toxic environment, and yet, many narcissists are married for a long time.
It’s not surprising they are able to get a romantic partner because they can pull out the charm when they are motivated to do so. They often shower a new love interest with support and praise. Red flags usually arise before the wedding day, but by that time you’re hooked.
When they start showing their true colors, it’s not uncommon for romantic partners to make excuses for their narcissistic love. Still, it’s usually not until they’ve got you right where they want you that they show you just how bleak those colors are.
How They Get Married
There are a number of reasons why the narcissist is able to get married in the first place. It’s surprising just how convincing their false self can be.
One of the most effective initial characteristics of the narcissist is their charm. This is what takes you in when you first meet them. They can be so supportive. They shower you with compliments. They are so interested in everything you’re doing.
That’s part of what attracts you to them, and it’s often why people stay with a narcissist. They can’t believe the change when they show their true colors.
The charm a narcissist is capable of displaying far excels that of the average person, and it’s very effective at catching your heart. Unfortunately, it’s not real.
The narcissist uses that charm to become your perfect person, and they know that they only have to project that fantasy long enough to get you to marry them.
Why Do You Stay After You See Their True Colors?
After they have captured your heart and gotten you to marry them, you begin to see changes. Usually, this occurs fairly quickly after you’ve tied the knot, but it’s easy to quickly get caught up in the cycle of abuse they throw at you.
The Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse
After the narcissist feels they’ve got you and you can’t get away, the abuse cycle begins. The narcissist begins to demean you, gaslight you, and use other techniques to manipulate you.
At first, you might make excuses for their behavior, chalking it up to stress or some temporary issue. You don’t realize that their behavior will not change; that this is who they really are.
When you get so fed up that you finally think about ending the relationship, that’s when the charm you knew in the beginning reappears. The narcissist can very effectively use that charm to convince you to stay. You convince yourself that they really are that good person you fell in love with in the beginning.
After you decide to stay, the narcissist slowly begins to once again show their true colors. Psychologists often refer to this repetitive cycle as hearts and flowers since the abuser often follows their bad behavior with flowers and seemingly heart-felt apologies. Don’t be fooled, however, because the cycle of abuse starts anew. With each repeat of this cycle, it becomes more difficult to break away from this destructive and toxic behavior.
Power and Control in the Relationship
First They Take the Power: As you go through the years being married to a narcissist, they begin to use manipulation to chip away at your confidence. They also begin to isolate you from your family and friends. It starts with jealousy that you’re paying attention to someone else, even if it’s only a friend. They may accuse you of having an affair.
In your desire to assuage their fears, you see your friends less and less. The narcissist also employs gaslighting to make you question your own perception of reality. This causes you to doubt yourself and maybe even blame yourself for any incidents that occur. It also makes you feel like you couldn’t live without the help of your spouse, and that’s exactly what the narcissist wants.
Then They Take the Control: Once a narcissist has effectively made you feel disempowered, the next step is for them to assert their control over you. This is another reason why they can stay married for years. They start manipulating your behavior so they can get you to do what they want, and what they want is for your sole focus to be on supporting them in any way they want. It’s an exhausting, powerless way to live.
After years of being controlled by your spouse, it can be almost impossible to break free. It’s even worse if they are physically abusive. The effort to get away may seem insurmountable to you because your narcissistic spouse has been consistently weakening you through the years. They do that so you will not be able to leave because they need you to be there, supporting them, adoring them, and validating them. It’s a sad way to live for both of you, but it’s often very effective for the narcissist.
The truth is that a narcissist never stays married out of love or respect or even compassion. It’s also because of their manipulation of their spouse that they are able to keep them around. They may even resort to force because they are so frightened of losing that external validation.
What’s worse is that the narcissist is unlikely to change: they can’t show empathy, and they have no compassion for your situation. You want to believe they love you, but the truth is they simply need you as an extension of their own ego.
Their focus cannot be on you; rather, you must always be focused on them. If you are certain you want to stay with a narcissist, you have to understand how to set boundaries so that you can find fulfillment in your life without their help. Should you decide to leave them, you need to know what to expect of their behavior.
You deserve a better, happier married life than what a narcissist can give. While there are ways to help a narcissistic spouse heal, that only happens if the narcissist is able to see that they are the root of the problem. They have to want to change because you cannot change them.
Despite all their efforts at manipulation, many times narcissists don’t stay married. To learn more about how they feel when their spouse moves on, check out this blog article, “How Do Narcissists Feel When You Move On?”
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