Your Partner: The Narcissist

According to Greek myth, Narcissus was a handsome man who, upon catching a glimpse of himself in a pool of water, became obsessed with it and promptly drowned. The moral of that story–“Get over yourself”–is sure to be completely lost on narcissists, named after Narcissus for their intense and all-encompassing self-obsession; I’m sure you know one or two.

Beyond common usage, narcissism can refer to the very real, very specific Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or NPD). This is a mental disorder characterized by an overinflated sense of self-importance paired with a fragile ego. This is the person who criticizes you, but flies off the handle when you even gently suggest they have an area in which to improve. This is the person who needs constant validation and admiration. This is the person who lies to get what they want, including to gain other people’s attention and positive opinion. Sound like your partner?

Spotting a Narcissist
These are warning signs that you’re dealing with your garden-variety narcissist:

  • He has an exaggerated sense of importance and entitlement.
  • She’s abusive or patronizing to waiters, and blames it on having low blood sugar because she’s so hungry.
  • He oversells his achievements in order to impress.
  • She has unrealistic ideas about her own intelligence and/or beauty.
  • He wants to be famous.
  • He has bouts of depression, caused by feeling underappreciated or rejected by people who should respect him more.
  • Swimsuit photos or gym photos on Instagram.
  • An inordinate amount of selfies.
  • She routinely selects friends who are less attractive than she is, so she can take a starring role in those relationships.
  • She sees herself as an exception to basic rules of society, like not cutting people off in traffic, or not paying for anything.
  • He fakes cancer.
  • She fakes a pregnancy.
  • He takes advantage of other people with no remorse..
  • He can’t remember what’s happening with you. Your life events are not even on his radar.
  • Envy and gossip are a big part of her general conversation.
  • He buys you gifts on clearance and pretends he paid full price.
  • She tells you how much she spends on gifts for you and other people.
  • She gives you detailed accounts of her dreams, never clocking the look of polite boredom on your face.
  • He creates dramatic moments of which he is the centerpiece, victim or hero.
  • He has trouble enjoying and engaging in the happiness of others, for example at a wedding or when someone gets a promotion.
  • Every conversation somehow turns into a conversation about him or her: his goals, her needs, his strengths, her complaints. They struggle not to talk about themselves.
  • You find yourself rolling your eyes a lot.

Does any of this sound familiar? If this list rings a bell with you,


Why it’s horrendous to be married to this person:
Narcissistic tendencies affect a broad range of personal and interpersonal situations, including and perhaps particularly marriage. Generally people with NPD don’t seek treatment, and believe their problems–even if they continually run into the same problems over and over–are due to other people’s failings, including yours. This makes narcissists prone to cheating, conducting online affairs, and being abusive partners.

The bottom line is that narcissists don’t put the needs of others ahead of their own, making them ineffective at everything from sex to parenting. If what you’re saying can’t be reframed to be about them, they aren’t listening. They likely have unreasonable expectations of you, and they probably believe they deserve something amazing from a life partnership despite the fact that their main contribution to that partnership is bitching.

On the whole, you can expect your life to go thusly: Your narcissist will exhaust you in a cycle of emotional seduction and psychological abuse over many years, repeating the pattern until you’re so self-doubting that you can’t even consider leaving them. “I am the best you can expect to ever get,” is the relationship mode of the narcissist. “Help me, love me, admire me, need me, respect me, desire me, thank me”—these are the endless demands, voiced or unvoiced, of a narcissistic partner. Unless you’re Kimye, you don’t deserve to spend the rest of your days feeding that monster. I want to help you get the hell out, while maintaining your assets and what’s left of your dignity.

The truth is, I enjoy taking narcissists down. I’m like a superhero of sorts, with the superpower of being completely unaffected by your partner’s emotional manipulation because I have seen it all before, and I am going to help you win your divorce.


James J. Sexton