In healthy marriages, couples easily move in and out of intimacy. There are periods of time when the two individuals allow themselves to merge physically and psychologically, and other periods of time when the two people are encouraged to be separate, autonomous individuals. No one person controls the other partner, but rather there is mutual support. The couple values each other’s differences and tolerates each other’s shortcomings. There is an implicit understanding that the marriage becomes richer when the membersʼ individuality is nurtured.
Marriage to narcissists is much different. Control is the key component in these relationships. Narcissists need their partners to admire and pump up their fragile self-esteem. They long for a complete merger with their spouse. Their partner’s autonomy and individuality is consumed by the narcissist’s need. Only the narcissist’s goals and desires are pursued.
The person who marries a narcissist learns to submit. This person is under scrutiny and is frequently criticized. There is constant pressure to please the narcissist. This individual’s purpose is to bring admiration to the narcissist by behaving in an acceptable manner. The spouse exists for the narcissist’s pleasure. After all, narcissists do not choose their spouse because they love this person, but because narcissists love the way this person makes them feel. This is not a mutually reciprocal relationship.
Narcissists’ sex life is often in trouble. They are poor lovers, since they are inattentive and inpatient. Real sexual intimacy often is too risky, making masturbation and pornography an attractive option. The narcissist’s spouse, however, interprets this preference as personal rejection. After a period of time, these relationships can become platonic. Trying to pursue sexual intimacy feels too painful and wrought with psychological landmines.
Why would people submit themselves to such a difficult situation, such as marrying a narcissistic individual? In the next article, we will briefly explore the attraction to narcissistic people. We will also address how to get help if you think you are married to a narcissist.