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It’s a story heard far too often – the relationship was a dream until the marriage, and then the true colours started to appear. Sometimes this can refer to simple things such as tidiness, leaving cabinet doors open, not separating the laundry, or leaving the bathroom light on. Other times, far more serious personality issues come through after the nuptials. Then you can feel stuck, feel you have nowhere to turn and no way out of your situation.
First, there is a difference between a person who shows narcissistic traits and someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is a diagnosable mental health condition. That said, whether you’re dealing with someone who may or may not be formally diagnosed, the signs of narcissism are the same. If you’re worried your partner may be a narcissist, here are five key things to look for:
Your boundaries are not being respected
As human beings, even when it comes to those closest to us, such as our spouses, we all have boundaries. Boundaries that should be respected to maintain a cohesive living environment, not to mention a strong relationship that you feel comfortable with. Whether these boundaries are physical or emotional, your spouse’s continued disregard of the lines you’ve drawn within your life shows a lack of respect, consideration, and sensitivity. So, what do you do if your boundaries are broken? Especially multiple times. You, of course, bring it up and take steps to clarify those boundaries. Your spouse might apologize but also might blame their boundary-crossing on you and your actions. They may also try to manipulate, causing you to question your sanity, which brings us to point number two.
Gaslighting is a term that we hear quite often, but not everyone knows what it means. A victim of gaslighting is manipulated to the point where they question themselves, their recollection of scenarios, and their reality. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and usually shows itself in the behaviour of narcissists. When your partner is consistently causing you to doubt yourself, you’re experiencing gaslighting. Examples would include:
- Denying your recollections.
- Questioning your responses.
- Telling you you’re blowing things out of proportion.
- Attempting to convince you that you’re paranoid.
- Convincing you that you are broken or damaged goods, therefore won’t find love outside of this relationship.
Gaslighting is a dangerous behaviour that narcissists excessively utilize.
Feelings of Isolation
A narcissistic relationship can lead to periods of severe loneliness. Among the many things that narcissists tend to control in relationships are various narratives within your life. You may experience manipulative tactics to pull you away from certain friendships that you once held dear. Isolation from friends and even family members give your narcissistic partner more control and lower the risk of their behaviour being identified by those close to you. This process can happen slowly, beginning with your spouse showing small signs of suddenly not liking some of your friends and asking you to back out of commitments so you will spend time with your partner instead. The build-up of these actions will inevitably result in your isolation from others in your life. At first, you may not even notice, and you are likely to question yourself when you do. Generally, the first relationships to be targeted in this way are those who may have their suspicions about your spouse’s behaviour.
Lack of empathy
Another key trait of a narcissist is an inability to express understanding of or compassion towards your feelings. This can show itself in many ways, including:
- Not listening when you’re speaking.
- Admonishing you for feeling emotional.
- Invalidating your feelings.
- Showing little interest in understanding your point of view.
- Only showing concern when it comes to issues that they consider to be important.
Empathy is one of the cornerstones of any relationship. If you’re greeted with a yawn and an eye roll when expressing something that is of concern to you, then you have an empathy problem in your relationship. A narcissist’s inability to empathize is not just limited to their spouses but also with other family members, friends, and coworkers.
Their own relationships are limited
It is not uncommon for a narcissist to be short on friendships, especially long-term ones. Some people will do a deep analysis on their partner’s existing friendships early in the relationship for this reason or others. Sometimes, a person only having friends from work or drinking buddies and lacking any genuine long-term relationships can be a big red flag. Chances are, those who would’ve been in the friendship for the long haul had reasons to leave that relationship behind. It’s important to get to know your partner and learn the details of their lives before making any formal commitment but, unfortunately, some things are not always what they seem to be.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and have growing concerns about your future, there are steps you can take to help yourself and your partner, individually or together. Most importantly, if you’re looking to speak with a lawyer with experience navigating narcissistic relationships and protecting yourself along the way, contact Gelman & Associates to speak with one of our highly skilled team members. Our phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm in order to be available for potential clients. For a discreet initial consultation, call (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-769-0737, or contact us online.
You can prove narcissistic abuse by equipping yourself with detailed evidence. You can document and keep logs of all police reports you may have filed, copies of any restraining orders, messages that the narcissist sends you via social media, and missed visitations if you share custody of children. You can also take pictures or videos if the narcissist is engaging in hostile activities, such as slicing your car tires, hurting your pet, destroying your property or belongings, or being physically abusive.
If leaving a narcissist is not an option, you should study how the narcissist operates, learn how to detach emotionally, and reset old habitual arguments. When a person is able to analyze and systematize narcissistic behavior in a dispassionate manner, it brings clarity of thought and restores emotional balance. Setting clear boundaries will help you survive staying with a narcissist.
In this kind of relationship, you will lose yourself because you will be trained to focus on his or her feelings and reactions, not yours. You will experience silent treatment, cognitive dissonance, confabulation, and gas lighting. You will find yourself telling a grown adult how to have normal interactions with others.