10 Signs That Your Spouse Is a Malignant Narcissist

10 Signs That Your Spouse Is a Malignant Narcissist

You may be dating someone with crucial characteristics of a malignant narcissist, and identifying these characteristics will help you understand their behaviors and give you insight into how to address your relationship.

What Is a Malignant Narcissist?

A malignant narcissist is someone who has traits of narcissistic personality disorder as well as antisocial behaviors. Also known as pathological narcissists, a malignant narcissist has an inflated sense of self-worth, and they lack empathy for others, making relationships and friendships difficult for them.

Couple standing next to each other against a gray backdrop.

10 Signs That You're Dating a Narcissist

Dating a narcissist can be difficult and frustrating. If your hostile and overbearing spouse rules your relationship, they're likely a malignant narcissist. While the only way to officially diagnose someone is by going to a mental health professional, there are ten key signs to look for that could tell you if your spouse may be a malignant narcissist. It's important to remember that anyone could occasionally exhibit these behaviors in a relationship. The key distinction between your spouse having a bad day or being a malignant narcissist is displaying these behaviors regularly.

1. You're Dating a Narcissist if: Your Spouse Needs Excessive Praise and Attention

One of the critical characteristics of a malignant narcissist is their constant need for approval, praise, and attention. Their need for recognition goes beyond just wanting a pat on the back. If you're dating a narcissist, they're constantly seeking out attention from everyone around them, and they respond violently to criticism given to them. Their adverse reaction can be harmful to a relationship because they don't think they need to change or "fix" anything, and they believe the negative aspects of your relationship are your fault and not their own. Their response to criticism usually ends in rage and frustration because they see it as a hit to their ego. A malignant narcissist may mask this adverse reaction in public, but they become furious and offended when criticism comes from you. It's not hard to see how this could easily become a dangerous situation. If you fear for your health and safety, please, seek help.

2. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Constantly Makes Impulsive Decisions

A malignant narcissist makes impulsive decisions, especially when they think a decision will benefit them in one way or another. These decisions can often be harmful to others, and they generally have no regard or shame in breaking the rules or laws. They usually get angry when you don't want to participate in their impulsiveness and take it as defiance (how dare you not be happy about a sudden $80,000 car purchase!). They see impulsive decisions as a way of controlling their own lives and living on the edge, and these decisions often occur because they don't like to plan. If you're dating a malignant narcissist, you will have to follow your spouse's lead and go along with their impulsive decisions. This means being impulsive only when they want to be. Being impulsive now and then can be seen as a fun way to spice up your relationship but the critical factor here is hasty decisions that solely benefit your narcissistic spouse. Their decisions will likely not help you and may even go against want you want or believe.

Man looking at a woman's phone over her shoulder.

3. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Is Overly Envious of Others

When you're dating a narcissist, you'll notice they are envious of others but will try to mask it as annoyance or frustration. They might be jealous of one of your friends but will try to make it seem like they don't like them because they're annoying or have nothing in common. A malignant narcissist would never want anyone to know they're jealous of others, but they often have a hard time hiding it or covering it up. This jealousy stems from their need to be the best at everything. They may even be envious to the point of frustration towards people they don't even know, like movie stars or professional athletes. They have an intense desire to be the most accomplished and most talented and believe they should be the ones getting praise and attention, so when someone else is receiving the recognition, it drives them to extreme jealousy. It really takes the cuteness out of the Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better song, doesn't it?

4. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Is Self-Entitled

One of the most common characteristics of a malignant narcissist is their self-entitlement. They believe that they're entitled to everything, and you get the feeling that it's their world and you're just living in it. One of the most frustrating things about dating a narcissist is that they'll always believe they're more important than you and always put their needs/wants above yours. There are times in every relationship when you need to put yourself first, but what we're talking about here is the constant occurrence of your spouse putting all of your wants and needs behind their own. When you're dating a malignant narcissist, they want to make even the most minor decisions. You may constantly make decisions based on how it will make your spouse feel or react, leading to resentment in your relationship.

5. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Constantly Exaggerates About Themselves

Malignant narcissists feel the need to embellish and create stories about themselves that are larger than life. They'll exaggerate what they've accomplished, what they've seen, and what they've done. They often walk a fine line between embellishments and lies. This need to exaggerate comes from their need to be the best at everything and for grandiose living. They want to feel like they're the most experienced and accomplished person in the room, and they'll embellish their stories until they feel they've reached elite status. Dating a narcissist with this tendency can be frustrating because these embellishments may involve you. You might be at a dinner party and overhear your spouse explaining to the crowd how awesome and loving your relationship is, but they'll fail to mention any negative aspects. Then, on the way home, you'll endure an hour-long lecture about how you don't treat them right or bring enough to the relationship. The embellishments are often not noticed by a malignant narcissist, and they'll likely believe what they're telling others, even if it's not true. They take "fake it 'til you make it" to the next level.

6. You’re Dating a Narcissist if: Your Spouse Doesn't Do Well With Vulnerability

Many people feel uncomfortable when they're vulnerable, but we're talking about extreme reactions to vulnerability. When malignant narcissists feel vulnerable, they often do one of two things: lash out at those around them or retreat to severe introverted behavior and shut everyone out. They refuse to be vulnerable because it's a situation and a feeling that they can't handle. Malignant narcissists would rather lash out and cause someone else to feel vulnerable and hurt than to feel it themselves. Malignant narcissists typically choose the first option and try to hurt others or feel something else (anger/rage) other than vulnerability. This behavior can be toxic in a relationship because they don't like to discuss anything that makes them uncomfortable or vulnerable, leaving little room for deep conversations. Every relationship or friendship eventually requires deep or uncomfortable conversations. When you're dating a malignant narcissist, you may not have these conversations, and if you do, you will be the one under the microscope. This unwillingness to feel vulnerable relates to their need for self-enhancement. They believe that feeling vulnerable makes them inferior to you which is why they'll do everything in their power to turn the situation back on you. They only want attention if it makes them feel superior; anything less is avoided at all costs, mostly yours.

7. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Constantly Gaslights You

When you're dating a narcissist, you may find they are constantly gaslighting you. Malignant narcissists will ask things like, "Why are you overreacting?" or, "Why are you so angry?" after they deliberately hurt your feelings. They make comments such as, "You'll never find someone like me," or, "Nobody else will love you." Turning things around to blame you is their specialty. They have many ways to make you feel bad and know exactly what to say to hurt you the most. They'll stop at nothing to prove their point; even if it means dredging up things from the past to hurt you deliberately. They have no empathy for others, so tearing you down to build themselves up is something they do without giving it a second thought. Dating a narcissist who employs these methods is frustrating and dangerous because it can leave you questioning your worth and wondering if what they're saying is true. The truth is, it's not normal to be in a relationship with someone that constantly tears you down or negatively talks about you. It's not okay to have your spouse constantly, and purposefully, make you feel like you're crazy for the thoughts and feelings you have. Healthy relationships require patience and empathy for one another, not battling to see who can land the most jabs in an argument. Dating a malignant narcissist feels like you're losing every battle.

8. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Only Gives You Compliments in Public

Malignant narcissists want other people to think highly of them and believe they're great husbands or wives. If you're dating a malignant narcissist, you probably only receive compliments or praise from them in public settings. They like to have witnesses to their kind words, so they may save compliments for when others are around to see it. They also want their friends and peers to believe they have a good spouse or a worthy spouse, so giving compliments in public gives them a chance to show off their spouse and highlight the accomplishments that'll make them look good. They often don't even realize that this behavior has nothing to do with you as their spouse and everything to do with their ego. They also expect you to return compliments in these settings so others can see how good they are, too, and see how much you appreciate them. To the malignant narcissist, no amount of showing off or sounding like best husband/wife is EVER too much.

Sad couple sitting on a couch looking away from each other. Woman is crying.

9. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Never Apologizes

Getting a malignant narcissist to genuinely apologize is almost impossible. Apologizing doesn't come naturally for a narcissist because it shows weakness and means they have to take responsibility for something (God forbid they have to take responsibility for anything negative). When a malignant narcissist apologizes, it's typically followed by turning the situation and blame on someone else. A typical apology for narcissists looks something like this: "I'm sorry, but I only said that because you made me so angry, and it's technically true anyway." Dating a narcissist makes relationships difficult because you may feel like your spouse never takes responsibility for their actions. You'll eventually start to carry the burden for every argument or misunderstanding. It's easy to take an apology for granted, but when you're dating a malignant narcissist, you start to realize that a genuine apology can go a long way.

10. You’re Dating a Narcissist If: Your Spouse Constantly Manipulates Your Feelings

When you're dating a malignant narcissist, your feelings and thoughts are only as valid as your spouse believes they are. You may have even tried to break up with your spouse, but they convinced you to stay. They know just what to say to get you to do what they want, and they can make you believe it was your idea all along. Manipulation is in their nature, and they're so good at it they may even believe their lies at times. When you're dating a narcissist, they have a way of convincing you to do (or not do) just about anything because they know what gets to you. Malignant narcissists make promises and tell you what you want to hear that'll make you believe they're going to change. Unfortunately, these improved behaviors and promises only last around a week before returning to their typical narcissistic habits and tendencies. They have an arsenal of things to hold over your head, and they have no problem tearing you down to the ground to get what they want.

What To Do if You’re Dating a Malignant Narcissist

When you realize you're dating a malignant narcissist, it can seem overwhelming and unfair. The most important thing to remember is that narcissistic personality disorder is an actual medical condition. Their behavior is not something that comes and goes, and it's not something that your spouse can try to "work on." While your spouse can acknowledge these behaviors, it often doesn't change anything because they're not actively trying to act like this. If you're dating a malignant narcissist, you have to ask yourself if you can live with their habits and behaviors. They'll likely not change their ways or consider your needs, so you may have to do some soul-searching and think about the pros and cons of staying or leaving. Narcissists can still have very positive characteristics and traits. They can be good people with pure hearts, but they possess toxic qualities and characteristics regarding relationships. Knowing that your spouse is a good person can make the relationship confusing and challenging to understand. When you love someone, you want to commit to the good and bad of that person. Sometimes, malignant narcissists may have some remarkable traits or great personalities, but their narcissistic tendencies will likely overpower the good. Acknowledging this is important for your relationship because it can help you set boundaries and limits. You may have to consider, eventually, if the good outweighs the bad. Remember that your narcissistic spouse won't likely change their ways or treat you better over the years. They won't wake up one day and decide to put your needs above their own. That's a hard reality to accept, but you must acknowledge it for your well-being.

Couple talking with a therapist.

How To Live With a Malignant Narcissist

If you're married to a malignant narcissist or dating a narcissist, but you're willing to give it your all and live with them, you may need to have some ideas on how to handle them. There are a few ways to live with a narcissist and keep their toxic behaviors at bay while maintaining a loving relationship with them.

Avoid Public Confrontation

While it may not be possible to control the timing of every argument, try to avoid public confrontations at all costs. Malignant narcissists have to feed their egos and they crave control. A conflict in a public place can enhance this and make them more vile and malicious than usual, so others can see how they control the relationship.

Be Patient

Remember that your spouse will likely not change their ways. Being patient will take practice but may result in a better outcome than forcing your spouse to change and meet your needs. Understanding what sets your spouse off can be very useful and help you keep the peace with them.

Know Your Worth

An essential part of living with a malignant narcissist is knowing your worth. When you're dating a narcissist, it's easy to believe the lies they want you to believe. You may find yourself believing that you're not good enough or that nobody else will love you. It's essential to remind yourself, and your spouse, that you're worthy and your feelings are valid.

Consider Talking With a Therapist

Seeking out professional help can be essential when learning how to live with a malignant narcissist. Talking with a therapist will allow you to work through challenging situations in your relationship and can allow you to bring forth troubling aspects of your relationship that you may not want to talk to your friends and family about. Talking with a therapist can also provide you with more insight into successfully living with a malignant narcissist.

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