Sometimes the symptoms of narcissism don’t really show until after the I Dos. Here’s how to know if you’re really married.
1: You feel lonely
Losing some friends after a major life change (marriage! a baby!) happens to everyone, but if your life is now full of broken ties, it’s time to pause and reassess. “After marriage, narcissists slowly and methodically isolate their spouse from their friends,” says Christina Dorazio, MD, a psychologist who practices individual and couples therapy in New York City. For example, your loved one might go out of their way to start an argument about why they don’t like your friend. (Bathing others is a very common narcissistic trait, notes a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.) “They can be so good at it that it even makes you question why you were friends in the first place.” said Dorazio. This is especially true for friends who are “over” your narcissistic spouse’s behavior.
2: You are being gaslighted
Why don’t you take a joke? I never said that! Why are you always so angry? You are paranoid. Why don’t you let go of the past? No one will ever love you like I do. These questions and phrases are often standard issue with narcissists. “It’s all part of gaslighting,” Durvasula said. This is where the individual uses words or behavior to mislead or doubt your reality. “I have never seen a bitter marriage,” says Durvasula.
3: This is what praise looks like
Before you get married, there is a lot of opportunity for your current partner to flatter you. (Narcissists know how to provoke.) But after I Dos, that usually changes drastically. Now, compliments will only come when you are with others. “It allows the narcissist to look like a great husband to other people, and then contradicts the complaints they share about him,” Dorazio says. Another form of flattery: While compliments directed at you may be rude, a narcissist may also offer compliments to others in your orbit. “They do it to feed your insecurities,” Dorazio said.
4: It sounds like your partner is trying to make you jealous
In addition to complimenting others, a narcissist may also glowingly talk about their ex or flirt with someone in front of you. This is not an accidental or innocent misstep, but a strategic move designed to provoke envy, according to a 2017 report in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Researchers note that narcissists do this not only to fuel their own insecurities, but also to increase their self-control and/or self-esteem.
5: There’s also that jealousy
Jealousy is not uncommon when an infant enters a narcissistic household, says Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., professor of counseling and higher education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. “A narcissistic partner may resent your investment in child care, so he or she may insist that you focus on the marriage rather than the child.” However, this is not universal. In fact, some narcissists only focus on babies. “These narcissists may see the child as an extension of themselves, so they co-opt the child and leave you out for attention and family involvement,” says Degges-White.