I am writing this after just reading an article written by a man who’s a marriage coach. I always like the articles he writes. He has some great things to say, and he puts them in a way that people can readily absorb. Yes, he has some sound advice for improving one's marriage.
Well, most marriages, that is.
When you’re married to someone exhibiting unhealthy narcissism who also has problems with addictions and is abusive toward you, you're not in a normal or average marriage. And while you might want to read articles such as this man’s, and then try the techniques recommended, if you do so, you’ll likely discover they don’t work.
Of course, marital therapists and coaches always say that it takes two to tango. And certainly, this suggests that both parties have some responsibility for the quality of the relationship or their marriage. But while that’s generally true, when your spouse has problems with narcissism, addictions, and abuse, it’s simply a different story. You’ve met the exception to the rule.
Do you ever watch Dr. Phil? I don’t consistently, but I try to do so at least some of the time. One message that Dr. Phil states both loudly and clearly is that when certain things are present in the marriage, they become deal breakers. Thus, while you might have stood before others and expressed vows that indicated you’d see this man through better and worse, or remain with him until his dying day, you might want to reconsider if it is the best decision to do so. You might see yourself as a person who honors vows. Therefore, you have suffered this narcissist’s abuse. But while you are being as good as your word—showing yourself to be a trustworthy person—have you ever considered that your partner is not?
He isn’t now, and he undoubtedly won’t be in the future, either. His mental disorders make this a near impossibility. Since when one suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or pathological levels of narcissism, it isn’t as if he can take a medication and then performs quite normally, you will continue to suffer his abuse. Furthermore, your children will grow up in this toxic environment, too. While it is nice to honor commitments you make—and I would typically encourage you to do so--do you really believe it is necessary when your partner is not honoring his?
Dr. Phil calls alcoholism, addictions, and abusive behavior deal breakers. He might not speak about the personality disorders themselves that so often coexist with these problems--and might be the causal factor for the other issues, actually. But then again, perhaps labeling everything exactly, or knowing what causes what, is less important than recognizing the end results. Because of those end results, and because they tend to remain consistent over time, Dr. Phil labels them deal breakers.
When you're coping with a spouse with a personality disorder—or perhaps your partner only meets some of the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but enough of them to cause severe dysfunction in the marriage—you are invariably in a relationship that puts you in harm’s way. Indeed, when you are enduring your partner’s narcissism, addictions, and abuse, you are enduring something destructive to your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Also, remind yourself that because a personality disorder such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not particularly amenable to treatment, the likelihood is your partner will never change—at least not in positive ways. Sure, you can try some of the techniques recommended for the average marriage. And while making such changes in the normal marriage might work or create a positive shift in the relationship, because of your partner’s narcissism, addictions, and abusive ways, his reactions to your changes might only exacerbate your problems.
As I read this marriage coach’s article on trust, it suddenly struck me that indeed, trust is the foundation for a solid relationship. However, in a marriage where narcissism, addictions, and abuse are present, trust simply will never be there. Again, mental health issues will cause your partner to behave in ways that ensure you can’t trust him. Furthermore, it is in your own best interest not to do so, either.
Of course, it's both emotionally painful and crazy-making to cope with a relationship devoid of trust. Certainly, you lose the predictability and stability that trust provides. This is detrimental enough in itself. But there is more to the picture than that. After all, most of us want to be trusting people. We often don’t feel good about ourselves when we don’t trust. But again, when you have a partner exhibiting narcissism, addictions, and abuse, you are put into a position where you shouldn't trust. Such a partner is not trustworthy, and to believe otherwise sets you up for further problems and hurt.
There's something else that happens in these relationships, too. When the man isn't trustworthy because basically his narcissism and addictions propel him into untrustworthy behaviors, he assumes the same thing of his partner. He projects something he disowns about himself onto her. Realize, then, that no matter how consistent you are in your own behaviors, or no matter how hard you try to prove that you can be trusted, your husband will probably act like you aren’t trustworthy. In fact, he might even angrily accuse you of letting him down regularly—when you know you've done no such thing.
Are you beginning to appreciate why Dr. Phil says the presence of alcoholism, other addictions, or abuse should be considered deal breakers?
Why should you be condemned to live out your life in a marriage with no foundation—one that can collapse and crush you at any time? Well, what Dr. Phil is telling you, and what I'll tell you also, is that quite simply, you don't have to do this. It is okay to not honor your wedding vow. It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you untrustworthy.
Remember, a relationship filled with narcissism, addictions, and abuse could ultimately kill you. While your partner himself might not do so, the stress of living with a man with these mental disorders could result in medical conditions that do.
Of course, what you do is up to you. However, wouldn’t it be nice to live life in a way where you can trust again? Wouldn’t that make life more pleasant? Also, wouldn’t it help you to better honor or live life as the person you really are--or desire to be come? And frankly, wouldn't that be a good thing?
Besides writing on narcissism, addictions, and abuse, Diane England also writes on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. If you know of someone whose partner is displaying PTSD, addictions, and abuse--since we often see this trio exist together, too--do that person a favor and buy him or her The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship today. It has been designated one of the "Best Books of 2009" by theLibrary Journal.
Universities, nonprofit organizations, churches, psychotherapists, physicians, support groups, and others seeking to purchase quantities of this book at a discount should contact Customer Service at F&W Media by calling 800-289-0963.