I'm heading to the Called To Peace retreat in Asheville, NC this weekend. It's going to be a wonderful weekend of healing, rest and restoration for women. I'm so excited to be their speaker and I ask for your prayers. I'll be speaking 7 different times, some on panels, but I will need prayer for my stamina, strength and spirit to be strong and clear. If you're there, please come up to me and say hi. I'm open for hugs. I've been vaccinated.
Today’s question: I’ve been married a very short time, since December 2020. It’s been a rough transition for me, going from the single girl to married with a stepdaughter. And then two weeks into our marriage, finding out I’m pregnant. We’ve been up and down and all around. In an effort to be well, I’ve sought biblical counseling.
It was revealed to me that my husband probably has narcissist personality disorder. Which explains all the emotional and psychological abuse I’ve been experiencing. He begged me to kick him out so he could move back home to his parents. To the point where I believe he was picking fights with me to get me to do it. Eventually he left. We started counseling but he hung up on us in our 3rd session. That counselor also citing a personality disorder.
Now, he wants to move back. He believes we can put our issues in the past and “just move forward”. He doesn’t want to do counseling. Won’t get help for substance abuse, saying he can control things. All while it’s been so volatile (from him) in our separation. He says we can’t work on our marriage separated. I get torn because he’s pretty convincing and I want my marriage to work but as healthy people. How can I stay empowered to stick to my boundaries while honoring him as my husband?
Answer: I’m sorry that you have had such a painful awakening so early into your marriage. But most women on this blog would tell you that destructive behaviors and entitled thinking show up soon after the honeymoon and become patterns long term. He has a daughter from a previous relationship. You say, he’s up and down and all around. What does your stepdaughter’s mother say about their previous patterns in their relationship? I would guess, they were the same, although he probably paints himself as the victim.
Your dilemma is that you’re tempted to fall for his charming love-bombing right now. You're pregnant, scared, hurt, and want your new marriage to work. But let’s continue to look at the facts.
You said he begged you to kick him out so he could get his parents to take care of him. Now he’s ignoring his hurtful behavior toward you and asking you to ignore it too. He wants you to move forward, close your eyes, don’t ask questions, don’t seek repentance. Just move forward. Now he’s different. He abuses substances (you don’t mention what) but now he can control himself?
Really? [Tweet “If he could control himself why didn’t he do it before?”] What’s different now?
Here’s the truth. We don’t just move forward from wrong thinking, bad behavior, selfish motives and addictive behaviors. We need help and support, which he refuses. We also need to admit our wrongs and develop a specific plan so that we don’t fall into our previous habit patterns. He refuses to go to counseling. Instead he wants you to believe that he’s not that bad and he doesn’t need help. He believes that but don’t you fall for it. Your new husband has some serious problems and without long term consistent accountability and help, he will not change.
However, you mentioned that a previous counselor diagnosed him as a narcissistic. If that is true, it’s very typical of that type of personality disorder to believe they are above the rules of life or the law and don’t see any reason to change. They’re more special and therefore more right than anyone else. With that mindset, it’s highly unlikely he will change. Not because it’s impossible, but because he doesn’t believe it’s necessary. It’s everyone else’s fault and problem.
Honoring him as your husband doesn’t mean falling for his lies or enabling his destructive thinking and actions to continue without consequence. If we think of the children’s fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, was it more honoring to lie to him about his nakedness than to tell him the truth? You can honor your husband by speaking the truth in love, with respect and kindness, along with strength and good boundaries. Here’s a sample of what that might look like.
“I know you want to just move forward, but I don’t believe that ignoring the past we’ve had together will result in changes in our future. My goal is to be as healthy as I can so that I can be the mother and wife God calls me to be and the person I can be proud of. I can’t pretend that what we went through was no big deal. It was a big deal for me and for me to move forward with you I need time and accountability with a 3rd party counselor to rebuild broken trust and safety. I don’t feel emotionally safe with you and I don’t want to live with someone who is unwilling to face the hard things and work on them. I’m going to get the help I need to stay strong and get healthy. You’ve clearly said you won’t go for help, so where does that leave us?”
[Tweet “You can be both honoring and respectful holding onto your boundaries of what you will do and won’t do, and what you can live with and won’t live with.”] It’s not just about you anymore. You also want to be healthy and a good example for this new baby. Staying strong and firm with your boundaries is the only way forward if you don’t’ want to repeat the past. I know it’s hard when he’s love-bombing you with promises, but you’ve been there before, and it didn’t end well. Don’t do it again.
Friend, how were you able to not succumb to the love bombing and empty promises of the abuser and stay firm yet respectful with your boundaries?
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I had never heard the word narcissist until after being discard after a 40 yr. marriage, my counselor told me that I had married one. A covert narcissist. I was naive for much of my marriage and then became a shell of a person. He hatched a plan that I was mentally ill and secretly talked to my parents, sisters, children, pastors and doctors. Then I found out. He left never to talk to me again. Divorce.
It’s been 2 yrs. now. and I’ve read and know what a narcissist does and is and I was codependent. But no longer. I am a level headed, no mentally ill, witty, smart and kind woman. I love who I am and used to be before being entangled in a web.
I have been on a few dates and have spotted the narcissist and love bombing right away.
My only prayer is that God will guide me to a kind, honest man that I can grow old and wrinkly with.
I never thought I would live this life because I thought we were both very committed Christians. But God rescued me from something I didn’t even know I was going through.
When I was so broken, I mustered up enough umph to join a divorce group, an abandonment group, a grief group, got a counselor and went through two of Leslie’s programs.
I am so grateful for each piece of help along the way. I wanted to give up many times, but I knew underneath there was a strong woman that had had her power and voice taken away.
I have given No Name (as I call him) to God. I’ve asked God to give me spotty memory when it comes to what all I went through. I’ve been through the stages of grief and now I’m in the passages of living.
I am so sorry precious daughter of God.
How did you find an abandonment group?
I would end the relationship (divorce) and place the child in an adoptive home. There is absolutely no reason to stay with an abuser, none. Then I would get myself in coubseling and try to learn why I got fooled again. There is no staying well or having stronger boundaries, no one wins with a Narcissist, ever.
I respectfully disagree with the recommendations given. Trying to live or have a relationship with a narcissist is an exercise in futility. Narcissists manipulate and use people. They see others as objects to over power and control. The only way to survive an association with a narcissist is to go “no contact.”
Get out, my friend. No boundaries are strong enough; nor is any effort you make worth your time. Don’t throw your pearls before swine. Although painful to implement at this point in your life, you are better off alone. Run, run, run before you are too abused and beaten down to have the psychological strength and resources to flee.
If you attempt to implement the boundaries recommended, expect greater anger and potential physical violence. Abusers up their game when you push back. They use new strategies to manipulate you and feel entitled to punish you for your boundary. They want what they want and you are only useful to them if you help enhance their delusional agenda. Get out!
Yes. I sadly agree.
Please read the testimonies of women who stayed and prayed. Lives destroyed.
Don’t be a casualty.
Protect this baby!
I too would advise you to keep your distance from your new husband. The more time you spend married and the more children you have only make it that much more difficult to leave.
You are fortunate, in a way, to have discovered his true colors early in your marriage and also to have him gone from your home. Keep going in that direction!
I have been married for 36 years to a narcissist (not an official diagnosis, but so many of the same behaviors). I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t have the moral character to protect my children from his head games while they were growing up and now 2 of them have gone No Contact. I wish I had known at the beginning of my marriage that I wasn’t wrong to feel hurt by his verbal and emotional abuse. I wish I had known that healthy marriages don’t cause you anxiety and fear. I wish I had known that it wasn’t my fault when he abused me even when he told me it was. I wish I had known that I was a better wife and mother than he told me I was. I wish I had known that it isn’t selfish to end a marriage that is emotionally abusive. I wish I had known that what he was doing to me was considered abuse. And I wish I had had the inner strength to leave him instead of believing him when he said he was sorry and/or treated me kindly.
Get lots of good support from wise people who can help you see things through a clear lens and not through the warped lens of an abusive partner.
You have value and it’s ok to value yourself.
Amen to this. 25 years for me and a lot of horrible, dysfunctional relational patterns passed on before I got out. A broken marriage is tragic. Broken souls, so much more so. Oh to have known 25 years ago what I know now.