5 Ways to Heal in Your Relationship with a Narcissistic Spouse

5 Ways to Heal in Your Relationship with a Narcissistic Spouse

5 WAYS TO HEAL IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSISTIC SPOUSE

By Amanda Idleman

Marriage is the foundation of our families, homes, and communities. The marriage relationship greatly impacts our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. When this relationship is strained, we suffer. Even when we have wonderful spouses, they will never be perfect, so grace and forgiveness are vital to keeping this relationship healthy.

When our partner becomes unsafe due to their own limitations, trauma, hurts, or other unhealthy patterns of behavior, a part of creating a healthy space for this relationship includes strategic boundaries. While we are called to love each other with God’s love, we are not called to enable our partners to abuse us emotionally, physically, or in any other way. God’s word enforces boundaries, which is true regarding our marriages. Healthy boundaries around how we treat each other are necessary to serve God faithfully as a couple.

The bottom line is that we can love well while protecting our own well-being. A part of loving well includes guarding your heart from continued hurt, pain, bitterness, and more. Ultimately we cannot be responsible for changing others, and healing starts in our own hearts. Only God can do that restorative work in their lives. Prayer is a great place to begin the journey toward health if you find yourself in an unsafe relationship with a partner that has a narcissistic personality disorder.

What Is Narcissism?

We all are narcissistic. In its healthy form, it’s a sense of self-worth or self-love. We are each wired to protect our minds, bodies, desires, wants, needs, and more.

When narcissism becomes unhealthy or pathological, it grows into a sense of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a constant need for praise and attention. Our desire to serve ourselves trumps our sense of care, love, or compassion for our partners.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of several types of personality disorders. NPD is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. A key part of this disorder is that behind this facade of abundant confidence lies a fragile self-esteem vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, spiritual life, school, or financial affairs. Those that struggle with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and they may be difficult for others to be around.

5 Ways to Work Towards Healing in Your Relationship with a Narcissistic Spouse

Woman in a therapists office

1. Pursue Your Own Emotional Health

Chances are that if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you may have some personal wounds that need to be attended to. It’s very hard to offer forgiveness, empathy, grace, and understanding to someone from whom you are carrying an unresolved wound. Pursue your own health, and find a trusted mentor or counselor to help you unpack the ways the interactions with your spouse may have added stress or an improper view of yourself. You need strength, hope, and confidence to be able to approach your loved one in a healthy way. Counseling may also help you unravel lies that you may believe about yourself due to this unhealthy dynamic and identify how to prevent yourself from being codependent with a self-obsessed partner.

A woman praying, The Joy of Loving God with 'All Your Soul'

2. Pray for Your Relationship

From a Christian worldview, deep, lasting healing and change happen when the power of the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives. Only God can break the chain of sin and death that are at work in this world. Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

When we bring our hurts to the Lord, we don’t even need the “right” words. He knows our needs and is able to intercede on our behalf. God is able to repair the things that feel impossible, and as you come to Him, you will find that he begins by changing your heart first.

woman and man couple holding hands sitting talking looking serious, how to respond to spouse doubts

3. Set Healthy Boundaries

Anytime you face an unhealthy relationship, setting proper boundaries is vital. Some examples of healthy boundaries include allowing space for your autonomy to avoid codependency. Your spouse’s issues are not yours, and while you care for them and want them to find health, you are not in control of them and their choices.

Show empathy and allow space for everyone’s emotions. Your partner’s feelings and struggles may feel unreasonable, but trying to empathize with where they are coming from helps bring tenderness to your relationship.

Determine limits that work for your relationship. Maybe certain topics are off limits without a counselor to mediate, or it could be that you practice verbalizing your personal emotions in order to avoid miscommunication, or more extreme boundaries could be necessary if the person you love is truly unable to pursue healing.

4. Depersonalize Your Interactions 

4. Depersonalize Your Interactions 

One of the huge struggles that come with being in a relationship with someone struggling with a mental illness is that they don’t often have the full ability to control their actions, which can be very hurtful to those closest to them. It’s helpful to remember that their actions result from inner turmoil and are not necessarily about you. They may be projecting onto you long-term hurts that have nothing to do with what you have done or your existence in their life. This is not an excuse for bad behavior but rather is a way to help build empathy and understanding in your own heart when you are processing things that can feel very hurtful.

Couple arguing

5. Avoid Engaging in Arguments

Those who struggle with narcissism lack the ability to see the point of view of others. Engaging in arguments with a narcissist only leads to hurt and frustration. Often if you engage in an argument, you may find that they attempt to rewrite history, twist your words, and invent facts to support their side of the story. Stepping into a conflict can be like walking into quicksand. Wisdom says to avoid these kinds of toxic interactions. If you find yourself facing an argument, take the opportunity to step away and avoid getting entangled in a very difficult conversation.

James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

If you are struggling to find the wise way to heal your relationship, go to God, he is faithful to show us the narrow way forward. Enlist the help of trusted pastors, mentors, friends, and counselors. Healing this vital relationship is worth the work. May God make a way forward for you and your marriage.

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