If you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, you know that it’s complicated. Narcissists are difficult to get along with, and because of their poorly developed sense of self, they have problems expressing emotions that make them feel vulnerable like love. That usually doesn’t bode well for most marriages. Their self-absorption and propensity to cheat are a few other reasons why they usually don’t stay married for very long, but how many times, on average do they marry?
There has been relatively little empirical research into narcissism’s effect on marriage, and so there aren’t any stats. The behaviors associated with narcissism aren’t optimal for maintaining a marriage. Marriages involving a narcissist frequently end in divorce, so they likely marry several times.
If you’re married to a narcissist, you’re probably very interested in how their personality disorder might affect your marriage. It’s vital to understand how NPD affects behavior and how that behavior might affect your marriage. Let’s explore the reasons why most marriages involving a narcissist are not likely to be successful.
Why Do Most Narcissists Marry More Than Once?
When narcissism develops in childhood, the child fails to develop a strong sense of self. They construct a false self-image they use to interact with the world; however, this is not a true identity structure and cannot support their self-esteem.
The narcissist needs other people as sources of external validation to prop up their self-esteem. That’s why they come to see close relations as extensions of their own identity. This includes their spouses. As a result, they develop high expectations for these close relationships.
They believe, for example, that their spouse should be able to intuit the narcissist’s needs. The narcissist also expects them to focus solely on those needs to the exclusion of their own needs. Of course, that’s unrealistic, but the narcissist can’t see that.
They put extreme pressure on their spouse to do whatever they ask, and when their spouse fails to live up to these high expectations, the narcissist begins to devalue them and criticize every move they make. This often causes the spouse to leave and the marriage ends.
Even if the spouse doesn’t leave, however, the narcissist has already begun preparing for an eventual discard. This typically means they begin searching for a replacement. That’s why they will usually cheat on their spouse.
If the relationship survives these behaviors or the narcissist’s affairs are not discovered, the narcissist can become bored with their spouse or feel they have gotten everything they can from them. If that happens, the narcissist will discard them.
Once they are free of their old spouse, they focus their charm on the replacement with whom they’ve already been having an affair. They frequently end up marrying them, and the cycle starts anew with this ‘replacement’ spouse. This is why narcissists marry several times.
How Do Narcissists Treat Their Partners?
While there are many things a narcissist does to emotionally and sometimes physically abuse their partners, perhaps one thing they don’t do that can negatively affect their marriage is what is known as partner enhancement.
Partner enhancement means you see your romantic partner more positively than you see yourself. Most people overestimate their partner’s qualities in the early stages of a relationship. In colloquial terms, you see your partner through rose-colored glasses.
Over time, you tend to see them more realistically, but you may still see them more positively than you do yourself. You might also think their qualities make you a better person.
For the narcissist, however, they tend toward self-enhancement. They see their own qualities as more positive than those of their partner. This is another problem in maintaining a long-term relationship.
Research indicates that couples in which both partners see their partners are more affable than themselves have more positive relationship outcomes. Those who see themselves are more affable experience poorer relationship outcomes.
That makes sense because if you don’t see your partner as having qualities that are better than your own, you may not see a need for them in your life. While the research wasn’t specifically aimed at narcissism, other studies have shown that narcissists are self-enhancers which would predict poorer relationship outcomes.
While it is possible for narcissists to have long-term relationships, it depends more on their partner than on the narcissist’s behavior. It’s also definitely not the most common outcome for marriages involving a narcissist.
Do Narcissists Ever Have Long-Term Relationships?
Narcissists can sometimes have long-term relationships. While that may seem surprising, it is possible depending on several factors.
Of course, one of the main factors that determine the ability of a narcissist to have a long-term marriage is their spouse. If the spouse is able to get past bad behaviors such as cheating, they may be able to forgive the narcissist and keep giving them the supply of adoration they require.
That means they are still of value to the narcissist, who will then be more likely to keep them around. Remember that for a narcissist to keep someone around, they must be useful in some way. This is also what keeps the person interesting to the narcissist.
One kind of spouse that is more likely to stay with a narcissist is people who are codependent. People who are codependent ignore their own needs in favor of what their abusers need and want. That works out great for the narcissist.
Another type of person who may stay with the narcissist is, surprisingly, an empath. Empaths are incredibly sensitive, caring individuals who are able to sense the emotions of those around them. They are able to see the traumatized child inside the narcissist, and they want to help.
That’s why empaths will often stay with a narcissist despite the abuse. They simply care about other people and want to help them heal. If they are aware of their abilities and if they are psychologically healthy, empaths can set strong boundaries to prevent narcissistic abuse.
If they are not, however, the narcissist will take advantage of that and can drain them energetically. Narcissists can actually do severe damage to empaths, but the reverse is also true. Empaths who have healthy coping strategies and boundaries can stop a narcissist in their tracks.
What Happens When You Leave a Narcissist?
If you do decide to leave a narcissistic spouse, they will often react by trying to get you back. It makes them feel powerful to be able to do that, but they are also very fearful of being abandoned. To lose you is to lose a valuable source of narcissistic supply.
To get you back, the narcissist turns back on that characteristic charm that made you fall in love with them in the first place. They once again seem interested only in you, and they will tell you they have changed.
This tactic of trying to suck you back into their life and drama is called hoovering after the Hoover vacuum. They may get so engaged in hoovering that they actually become a stalker. They can become dangerous in some cases.
If it doesn’t work, they will often use more negative tactics to ensure you can’t damage their image by telling others how badly they treated you. They may start a smear campaign against you or do what they can to destroy you personally and even professionally.
How Can You Protect Yourself from a Spurned Narcissist?
If you do leave a narcissist, there are several things you’ll want to do to protect yourself. These include things like blocking them from your social media feeds and from calling you. You may also want to let your family, friends, and work colleagues know that you do not want any contact with them.
You’ll also want to tell them not to give out any information about you to the narcissist. You might even need to include the narcissist’s friends in this as well. Narcissists will often use their friends to get information about you.
If the narcissist won’t give up, you may have to turn to authorities and get a restraining order against them. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes, you need to go to this extreme.
Finally, you need to be aware that even years after the relationship has ended, the narcissist may show back up in your life. Being prepared is the best thing you can do to ensure you won’t have a problem with them again.
While there are no hard statistics on how frequently narcissists remarry, they do have difficulties maintaining long-term relationships. The nature of narcissism is such that the partners of a narcissist often don’t feel loved or appreciated. While it is possible for a narcissist to have a long-term relationship, it’s more likely their marriage will end at some point.
If you’re married to a narcissist and considering divorce, you need to watch this article about how to leave them. It’s important to be prepared when you tell them it’s over.
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