It’s not that there are absolutely no red flags that suggest someone is a narcissist before getting married; it’s just that they manage to hide it exceedingly well until the papers are signed.
The truth is, during the dating stage, narcissists often act like perfect partners. They are equal parts doting, as they are independent; they encourage your friendships, goals, and so on. Every now and then, you might get a flash of something deeper – a loss of temper over someone innocuous perhaps – but it’s normally not enough to set off the warning bells before saying I do.
Getting married and having children brings a greater degree of interdependence and more demands, which doesn’t sit well with an egocentric narcissist.
Could your partner, in fact, be a narcissist? Here are some of the signs to keep an eye out for.
Unfortunately, many of the things that first attracted you to your dearly beloved, such as a big personality and assertiveness, could be deeply rooted in the characteristics that fuel their narcissism. Not all of the signs of narcissism are super obvious, and many may actually have you questioning whether you’re the problem and not your partner. Look out for these narcissism signs:
Friendships come and go and unfortunately, some simply don’t survive life’s big changes, such as marriage and babies. However, if you look around one day and realize that your life is filled with severed ties and your closest friends are no longer around, then it could be time to take a break and assess what’s happened.
Narcissists are masters at isolating their spouses from their friends. They manage to do this through a slow and methodical process so that it’s hard to pick up on. Bad-mouthing is a common narcissistic behavior, and they will go out of their way to argue about why they don’t like a certain friend and demonstrate to you that they have done wrong in the past.
In fact, narcissists are so good at this that they can even make you begin to question your friendships and why you enjoy those people in the first place. This is particularly true for your friends that are able to see your partners’ true colors.
What does gaslighting actually mean? Well, it’s where an individual will use behavior or words that will make you question, doubt, or confuse your own reality and perceptions. If there were a number one rule in the narcissistic playbook, then gaslighting would be it.
Your narcissistic partner will typically say things like, “You’re being paranoid,” “I never said that!”, “You just forget everything” “Why are you always so on edge?” “Can you not take a joke?”, “Will you ever let go of the past?” and “You’ll never find someone that loves you like I do.”
These kinds of statements and questions make you question whether you were ever right in the first place.
Before you said your “I Dos,” chances are that your partner was sugary sweet, and you received what felt like an endless amount of flattery. After marriage, however, this tends to shift in the other direction dramatically, and compliments completely dry up when you’re on your own.
In fact, your partner might go overboard when you’re with other people. By complimenting you in front of friends, family, or colleagues, it gives them the opportunity to pretend to be a good partner. This will go against whatever complaints you share about your partner later on, as others have only seen how nice they are to you when you are in public.
Moreover, they may even lay the compliments on thick to other people in your orbit. This makes those around you like your spouse while systematically feeding into your own securities.
Narcissists like to be in control, and they need to buoy their own egos while fueling their partners’ reliance and insecurities at the same time. One way they do this is by purposefully making you jealous, such as talking about an ex all the time or flirting with others in public.
This could begin to make you doubt your own feelings and you start to become afraid that your partner will leave you for someone else.
Narcissists love to place blame on everyone else’s feet but their own. If you’re married to a narcissist, you will feel criticized at every turn, no matter how you try to appease them. They tell you that you aren’t dressing sexy, so you put on something nice, and then suddenly you’re dressing too sexy and trying to cheat, etc.
Parenting skills are a particular area where criticism is received too. Narcissists will use their own inflated ego to get out of much of the child-rearing duties by being far too busy with work or making money. They then go out of their way to criticize how you are bringing up the children and how their behavior is a direct result of what you’re doing wrong.
If a narcissist has been unable to isolate you from certain friends or family, they will use these people to their advantage. They will often make an effort to ensure that they confide in those close to you to get a head start. They will tell them that you’ve been acting strange, you’re out of sorts, or complain about how you’ve been treating them.
This means that when you come to confide to the same people, they could already have a twisted perception of what’s going on in your home and believe that you are in the wrong.
A signature move from narcissists during the dating phase is to drop ‘love bombs’ on their partner constantly. This means that they are making grand gestures, such as surprise holidays, constantly buying you gifts, and telling you how special you are at all times.
However, once a narcissist has you in a marriage, these ‘love bombs’ not only dwindle to almost nothing – if they do come along, they usually have strings attached. For example, your spouse surprises you with a night out at a beautiful restaurant, but this means you’ll either have to dress or talk a certain way, or you are fully expected to give them the type of sex they want at the end of the night.
If your partner really is struggling with a narcissistic disorder, they are willing to admit it and they are willing to put in the work of a professional to help, then this is a marriage that might be possible to save.
That being said, most studies indicate that a narcissistic person won’t change their behavior and that it’s most likely to lead to an unhappy, unhealthy marriage in the long run.
Whether you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and you are looking to leave a narcissist, or you have already left a narcissist, it’s important that you get the help you need for the trauma that you have likely endured.
At Naked Recovery, we deal with a huge variety of traumas from all walks of life, and we have created specific programs to deal with individual traumas. The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program is a structured and supported four-month program to support healing and recovery from those who have suffered trauma through a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality traits.
Contact us for more information on The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program or any of our other specialized trauma programs.