My husband drives me crazy. He goes back and forth between acting like a victim and a hero. One moment he complains of getting a raw deal, then the next he brags about all he has done for our family and me. Both extremes drive me crazy. I don’t think he can see himself clearly. Can you help?
A woman recently shared the story of how her entire family walked on eggshells around her Narcissist husband, always fearing to upset him. They didn’t make too much noise, didn’t make too much of a mess, didn’t use bad manners at the dinner table, all to keep peace–peace for him. When anything was disrupted, it disrupted him. Subsequently, you can imagine that he felt victimized when things didn’t go his way.
“Isn’t this irrational?” you might ask. Yes, of course it is. But a Narcissist didn’t wake up in the morning and decide to become self-centered and demanding. All of this has taken place insidiously and no one has yet to stop it. Thus, a Narcissist will continue to feel victimized and subsequently angry when things don’t go the way he believes they should go.
Incidentally, in talking to Narcissistic men whose worlds have come crashing down, many do have the capacity to feel troubled over the kingdoms they have created. All of their demands make sense to them. They are often living with the demands as well, pushing themselves to perform at high levels. They must also adhere to inner standards of perfectionism.
“Does he also see himself as a hero?” you ask. Absolutely. Because your husband is working so hard to support the family, he feels put out and sees himself as going above and beyond the call of duty. Most Narcissists believe they deserve praise and admiration. They rarely get enough to satisfy their cravings. Subsequently, they remain irritated and may even look beyond their marriage to satisfy them.
Are they heroes? No, not really. Narcissists are often hard-working men, high-functioning and deserving of recognition for what they are doing. However, because of longstanding vulnerabilities, they never feel fully satisfied. They feel like victims and heroes at the same time.
Let’s now shift to what you can do to bring balance to your marriage and possibly help your husband have healthier, more realistic perspective. Here are my thoughts:
Bring clarity to your thinking. It is easy to feel as though your head’s spinning when you interact with a Narcissist. Because your husband is so convinced of the “rightness” of his viewpoint, if you aren’t careful, you can enter into the fray and spin along with him. Don’t do it. Step back and gain clarity in your thinking. Do this by sufficient quiet time, reflection, prayer, and support.
Respect the feelings of your mate. Beneath the judgments and self-righteous declarations, your mate has legitimate feelings. He feels what he feels, and you can tune into those feelings and validate certain aspects of them. You don’t have to subscribe to everything he says, but you can find something about with which to agree. Listen carefully and ask questions to understand his deeper issues.
Share feelings, not judgments, with your mate. Share your deepest feelings with him and ask him to empathize with your viewpoint. Gentleness in sharing is key. Go slowly. Watch him to be sure he is staying with you emotionally.
Set boundaries. Gently let him know which of his requests you can attend to and which ones you cannot. Even when saying no, do so with respect and dignity. Just as you would like him to speak honorably to you, ensure you do so with him. Ephesians 4:29 is our guidance for speaking words that are wholesome, able to “build one another up according to their need.”
Reinforce those boundaries. Boundaries must often be guarded and reinforced. Much of life, in fact, pertains to knowing what we must do to remain healthy.
Get expert counsel. We often need expert counsel to help us know, honor, and reinforce our boundaries. It is quite likely that he, too, will need assistance at knowing his values and how to respectfully honor them. Expert counsel can help you both fully attend to each other so that neither slip into feeling victimized or heroic.
In summary, I’m outlining a very delicate, intricate dance. Know that it will be a challenge to do it effectively. You will likely trip and fall as you practice this dance. Keep your eye on these steps, however, and I’m sure you will make good progress.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions. Contact me at . To read about our programs, check out www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.