There are plenty of articles about how to heal after divorcing a narcissist but what if you want to try to keep your marriage intact without losing your mind?
That’s actually much more difficult than the divorce route. It is certainly do-able but it is going to take time, dedication, and a thick skin on your part. Make sure that you count the cost and understand what you are signing up for.
I am a firm believer in the importance and seriousness of marriage vows. When I divorced my ex after 30 years I did not do it lightly. Truth be told, I only filed because he told me he was not coming back, we weren’t going to work it out, and he would file when he could afford it. I had a vision of this thing dragging on for years so I filed. It was the right thing for my children and myself.
You will need to weigh your situation and decide what is best for you and your children.
It Will Never Be About You
You are signing up for a relationship where you will be invisible.
A narcissist doesn’t realize that they are narcissistic. They only know that they are important and of course everyone is vitally interested in everything they do! They never question whether they might be a bit self-indulgent but they will quickly let you know that you are being self-involved when you are not focused completely on them.
A narcissist can’t be empathetic. He does not want to get involved in your emotional life. He does not have the ability to read between the lines or even take a hint. He may come home from work and find you sobbing into your coffee and he’ll ask what you’ve made for dinner and when it’s expected to be served.
If you want to stay married to your narcissistic spouse you’ll need to accept that.
Changing the Dance
Obviously you can’t keep going the way you are. You are going to have to make some changes and you might as well know that your narcissistic husband is not going to be happy about them. Remember, he is in control now and he likes it that way. When you change the way you respond to him he will be confused, frustrated, angry, and willing to do whatever it takes to regain control.
Don’t try to change everything at once. You’ll just become overwhelmed. Make a list of the five most important things that need to be changed and then choose one of them to begin with. You can probably handle changing one thing every month to two months. Once you’ve changed something you have to stick with it no matter what. Any back-peddling on your part will totally negate everything you have done. Don’t change anything until you are ready to move forward without looking back.
Setting boundaries and enforcing them isn’t easy but it is necessary.
- When he begins to criticize you tell him very calmly that you will not be talked to in that way and leave the room.
- When he blames you for something refuse to accept the blame.
- When he requires you to do something for him when you are exhausted learn to say no.
Begin to honor and respect yourself. It’s been too long since you felt that you were as important as he is.
Stop Covering for Him
When you’re married to a narcissist it becomes normal to put yourself last, to become a martyr, to accept his bad behavior, and even to cover it up so other people, and even the kids, don’t notice it.
He believes it’s your job to make him look good and you have probably been doing that for decades. You will need to learn to allow him to deal with his own consequences.
My ex-husband is wonderful with people on a casual basis. He was in sales and he could talk to anyone as long as it wasn’t on an intimate, daily basis. When it came to communicating with family and even close friends he needed me as a translator. I have since realized that the correct title was not translator but enabler.
Once we got divorced his relationship with most of the kids took a nose dive because of his inability to connect with them on their level. He was fine as long as they were doing things he enjoyed but he did not enter in to their world without my help. His inability to communicate with them and engage them has alienated them.
Guess who is being blamed for that?
Learn something new. You can get personal satisfaction out of doing things that you enjoy.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User:photopin
Get Reacquainted with Yourself
You have to give up your desire for his affirmation, his attention, and his affection on your terms. There can be no expectations. If those thing happen they will always happen on his timetable.
Begin to do things that make you happy. Get a haircut, change your makeup, get a massage, take a class at the local community college, or do some other activity that allows you to meet people with similar interests and goals.
In other words, create a life that does not revolve around him. This may seem counterproductive but it is important that you have your emotional needs filled somewhere. Getting an A and a really difficult psychology test might do that for you. Creating a perfect vase in pottery class, or finally being able to hold that tough yoga position can feed your need for personal satisfaction without getting it from him. We already agreed that it isn’t likely to happen, right?
You have to learn to love yourself, to see yourself as valuable, and to nurture yourself. Be a little self-indulgent because you are the only one that will.
Remember You Have a Choice
Whatever you decide to do it’s important to remember that you have a choice. You aren’t trapped with him, you don’t have to stay, and you aren’t stuck there. You are choosing to stay and if things become unbearable then you can choose to go.
When I divorced my ex-husband it was a shock to almost everyone. I had covered things so well for so long that no one really knew there were issues. Those that knew about the problems kept encouraging me to stay, to cover for him, and to enable him to continue in his treatment of me and the kids – all in the name of being a good, submissive, Christian wife.
When I finally did file for divorce, even though I had a biblically acceptable reason (infidelity), I was ostracized and criticized. It was more hurtful than the separation from my husband – I expected that sort of treatment from him.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I lost every friend I had except two women who stuck with me through thick and thin and just loved me no matter what. I had to leave the church I had been associated with for two decades. All of a sudden I had no one to tell me what I should do, think, or feel. I had no one to perform for, to impress, or to make myself valuable to.
I was free. I was totally free to be myself (just as soon as I figured out who that was), I was free to question my beliefs, my lifestyle, and my tastes. I couldn’t have done those things if I had remained married.
You’ll need to do what I did with the added tangle of maintaining a relationship with your narcissistic husband. Seeing a counselor on a regular basis can be just the help you need to figure it all out.
Need a sounding board in the meantime? Join First Wives World today and become part of this vital, caring community of other women, like yourself, who will listen with understanding.
*Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: mysza831