Is My Spouse a Narcissist? 

Sometimes narcissistic behavior doesn’t become noticeable until after the I Do’s. It’s possible that the traits you love about your partner, such as confidence or assertiveness, may actually be the same characteristics that fuel their narcissism. The signs of narcissism aren’t always obvious, which can leave you wondering if you’re the problem. Being in a relationship with a narcissist can become abusive, which is why it is important to recognize these traits and be aware of them. 

What is a Narcissist?

People often use the term narcissist loosely, however narcissism actually falls under the category of a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Individuals diagnosed with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for attention, and a lack of empathy for others. While these people may seem extremely confident, underneath their self-esteem is very fragile to any criticism. 

Narcissistic personality disorder can cause problems in many areas of life including relationships, work, school or financial affairs. When someone with NPD does not receive the admiration they believe they deserve, they can become unhappy and disappointed. In relationships, narcissists can become unfulfilled and even push away their friends and family.

Narcissists can present themselves as arrogant, conceited or self-entitled. They love being the center of attention, dominating conversations, or circling the conversations back onto them and their achievements. Narcissists thrive in environments and relationships that appear to focus predominantly on them, fulfilling only their needs and interests.

Symptoms of Narcissism 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, however it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of these traits to clinically qualify as a narcissist.

  • Having a excessive sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • An envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Demonstration of arrogant behaviors or attitudes

Narcissism in Relationships 

While the traits above are directly related to the personality of a narcissist, the ways that narcissistic behavior impacts a relationship vary. Being in a narcissistic relationship can conjure up a lot of fear – yet an essential ingredient to a good relationship is emotional safety. Marriages and relationships are a balancing act on their own. When you add a personality disorder to the relationship, marital issues can become further exacerbated. It can be very difficult to feel yourself when you have an emotionally difficult partner. Those suffering from a narcissistic relationship may experience the following: 

Verbal Abuse 

They use verbal abuse to intimidate others, and prove themselves as dominant and superior.

Manipulation And Gaslighting

This is the act of making someone question their own memory, their sanity, or their behavior. This is an effective means for instilling self-doubt in their partner. Narcissists will use gaslighting to flip any critiques from their partner, so that they never have to hold themselves accountable for their behavior.


Narcissists have a tendency to lie. This makes it easier to manipulate others and bend the truth. 

Withholding and Neglect

Narcissists will withhold love, affection, money, sex, and communication to get what they want.


Narcissists often suffer from feeling a lack of control, so they like to control the people around them.

Love Bombing and Isolation

Narcissists tend to shower their partners with affection and big gestures known as “love bombing”. This helps them to earn attraction, creating a sense of a stronger bond. This will later be used as a power mechanism against their partner. 

Narcissists Target Certain Personalities

Narcissists are very transactional, meaning they will only invest in someone who has something they can exploit for their own personal gain.

How to Address Narcissistic Behavior 

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, expect it to be difficult. Staying in a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely challenging, however there are steps you can take to best handle the situation. 

Educate yourself. Find out more about the disorder. 

Create boundaries. Be clear about your boundaries. This may upset or disappoint the narcissist, but that’s okay. 

Speak up for yourself. When you need something, be clear and concise. 

Watch your wording. Narcissists don’t take constructive criticism well. Try to make comments carefully and in positive ways.

Stay calm. Try not to react if they try to pick a fight or gaslight you.

Create a support system. Living with a narcissist can lead to feelings of insecurity, confusion, and self-doubt. Make sure you have a core group of people in your life that can support you. 

Bring in a counselor. Therapy won’t cure your partner’s narcissism, but it can show you ways to approach problem-solving, strengthen your relationship and assist in boundary setting. 

Marriage and Couples Therapy in St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida 

Deciding you need marriage counseling or couples therapy is a big first step. It is important to understand that the emotional impact of narcissistic relationships are real and valid. Most couples who choose therapy experience feelings of hope and success after the first few sessions. While there is no specific timeline for how long your relationship may take to mend, the team at McNulty Counseling and Wellness is here to help you get there. Contact us here or call us at 727-344-9867 to begin marriage counseling or couples therapy at our office or virtually in Saint Petersburg or Tampa, Florida.