Is your spouse or partner perpetually unable to apologize when they do something wrong? Do they blame you for anything negative that happens to them? Are they stingy with money? Do they have grand ideas and big unattainable dreams? Most importantly, is everything all about them?
If you are reading this article and answered “yes” to any of the questions above, chances are that you have recognized signs of narcissism in your spouse or partner’s behaviors. Although this article is not going to reference official psychological diagnoses, there are common traits that people with narcissism and narcissistic tendencies demonstrate. The focus of this article will be on the traits listed below and real life examples of narcissistic behavior.
1. Do not take ownership for their mistakes/never apologize/blame others for everything negative that happens to them. Narcissists cannot face any “blow” to their ego because it attacks their feelings of superiority and sense of entitlement. I am currently in the middle of a high conflict divorce with a narcissist who was leading a double life with another narcissist for three years. Of course, he has stated numerous times that it is all my fault that he had the affair and has now moved in with the other woman and her five children. He also expects our children and I to just accept this situation, as he and his other woman are entitled to their happiness. This is obviously an extreme example of narcissism in action.
However, in retrospect, there were other examples during our marriage, mostly related to situations that he ended up in at his jobs. He got into some real trouble a few times and it was always someone else’s fault and he did nothing wrong. For example, an employee that worked under him was fired due to an incident that he was involved in as well. But I only heard his side of course, that the employee called him a “dirty dog” and accused of him of lying and using his power to get him fired. There were numerous stories similar to this one over the years. Overall, my soon to be ex husband would NEVER apologize to anyone ever. Not even our children.
2. Often talk about grand plans and projects how they will make them famous, rich, or otherwise feel powerful. Narcissists need to feel that they are seen as successful in order to maintain their ego. My soon to be ex lived in a complete fantasy world in terms of work and crazy get rich quick schemes. He would always talk about going to Hollywood because he should be an actor or model. He also had ridiculous “business” ideas like making and selling our own envelopes online (Huh? Doesn’t Mead take care of that?). Naively, instead of viewing this as a sign of a personality defect, I just always thought of him as a “dreamer” and I was the realist that kept us balanced. If your partner seems to always be coming up with ideas and fantasies that you know are unattainable, heed that as a possible warning of narcissism.
3. Lack empathy. Narcissists are unable to recognize or identify with the needs of others. That is, they are unable to put themselves into “someone else’s shoes.” My soon to be ex knew how to feign empathy because he could pretend to care but, in reality, he never reflected on anything nor provided genuine support during difficult times. He would later, after pretending to listen and be empathetic, use situations against me when we were in some sort of argument. Now that we are going through this horrible divorce process, he doesn’t even bother to feign empathy.
4. One sided and stingy when it comes to money/finances. Narcissists view money that they have or earn as their own and spend it as they wish, even in a marriage. They willingly spend other people’s money to meet their selfish needs. During my marriage, I was the breadwinner for over half of it and never thought about our finances being separate or my money and his money. Then, when I was no longer the breadwinner due to unforeseen circumstances, my husband resented every penny that he had to pay to support our family. Things were more difficult financially when I had to take a lower paying job, but certainly not dire, and every day for three years he made me feel terrible that HE had all of these bills to pay. It’s not that I wasn’t contributing at all financially. I just couldn’t carry the mortgage and everything with my salary alone any longer. However, during this time he bought a motorcycle outright and every electronic gadget you could think of from game systems to laptops to iPads. Also, this is apparently when the affair and ultimately his double life began. Narcissistic behaviors regarding money are often the most obvious signs of trouble. It is very related to the “sense of entitlement” that narcissists possess as well.
5. It is all about them. Narcissists function from the notion that it’s all about them, leaving those who are in relationships with them to question their own sanity. This was prevalent in very subtle ways in my marriage. For example, our morning routine on weekdays was very hectic with two young children (now six and eight) and, more often than not, I was the one who got the children fed, ready, packed, and dropped off for the day in addition to myself, while he would sit at the kitchen table on his laptop, eating his breakfast, making tea and coffee, packing his lunch, getting himself showered and dressed. Although it seems silly, he actually took way longer showers than me (like 25 minutes and had to listen to music when he was in there). Who has time for that during the morning rush? Oh yeah, a narcissist.
I was also in charge of arranging everything for the kids from child care, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, etc. He couldn’t tell you what size clothes they wear or their shoe sizes. During our marriage, I thought this was just how guys are. But now that we are in the throes of divorce, this selfish theme is pervasive. Perhaps the strongest example of this attitude would be that he actually is angry with ME for filing for divorce even though he has moved in with his affair partner and her five children over an hour and a half away from his kids. He feels that I should have waited to file for divorce until he secures full time employment and gets settled into his new life. Really? I think not. I now know that it is NOT all about him. It is about my two beautiful kids and I navigating a new life. Sorry, not sorry about filing for divorce when it was inconvenient for HIM.
I am still in the midst of navigating a divorce from a narcissist. The most important thing I have learned in addition to what I have listed above is they CANNOT and WILL NOT change. That is the hardest part for me to accept because, although I am free of him, my children are not.
- Co-Parenting With A Narcissist: What To Do When Your Children Are Being Emotionally Abused
- How A Narcissistic Father Can Hurt his Son Or Daughter
- The Crazy Making Ex: Bends, Twists And Projections
- 8 Things You Need To Know When Divorcing A Narcissist