Potential Effects Of Being Married To A Narcissist (And How To Heal)

Updated August 18, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Are you married to someone living with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? Marriages to narcissistic partners can come with their own unique set of challenges that can leave the other person feeling isolated, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Acknowledging these possible symptoms and experiences can help you to process your feelings about the situation — and doing so is often the first step to healing. 

Below, we’re exploring four possible effects that you may experience if you find yourself married to someone living with NPD. We also explore different scientifically supported ways that you can start your recovery process.

Are You Married To A Narcissist?

What is a Narcissist?

Diagnosed narcissists are those living with narcissistic personality disorder. This disorder is generally categorized as one of several types of personality disorders. It is known by many as a mental health condition in which people might have an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy towards others. However, behind this outward appearance of extreme confidence often lies a fragile self-esteem that may be vulnerable to criticism.

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, an individual generally needs to have at least five of the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Some of the symptoms may include:

  • A sense of entitlement
  • General lack of empathy
  • A sense of self-importance
  • Being envious of others
  • Thinking that others are envious of them
  • Arrogant behavior
  • Fantasizing about power, success and perfect love, etc.
  • Having a deep need for admiration
  • Maintaining a pattern of superficial or exploitive relationships

We do want to note that many people may exhibit some of these symptoms from time to time. Just because your spouse may show some of the symptoms doesn't mean that they are necessarily narcissists. A mental health professional can properly diagnose narcissistic personality disorder.

Possible Effects: Being In A Relationship With A Narcissist

1. Low Self-Confidence

Narcissists may choose to marry those living with lower self-confidence, as they may find them easier to control.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Conversely, an individual with low confidence may be looking for an outside source to make them feel good about themselves. This can lead to a heightened appeal to the narcissist’s attempts at  love bombing — which can result in making the other partner feel incredibly special, loved and wanted. 

After this period, the partner with narcissistic personality disorder may choose to use manipulation tactics which ultimately might leave the other partner low self-confidence and self-esteem. 

This partner might then find it difficult to trust themselves to make decisions independently. 

Outside support and online therapy can be a helpful tool for both partners and those living with NPD, potentially supporting them in choosing healthier lifestyles and relationship patterns. 

2. Uncertainty In One’s Identity

An individual in a relationship with a narcissist may find they don't recognize themselves anymore. When your identity and self-esteem are wrapped up in what someone else thinks of you, you may start to lose confidence in your identity. 

The narcissist may make you believe that they always know what's best for you. When you're constantly being reminded of this, it may begin to make you feel like you don't know anything about yourself. This could lead to difficulty making decisions for yourself if you've lost your own opinions. 

Leaning into self-sufficiency and getting to know yourself again can be a helpful exercise to help you regain your confidence in your own abilities and identity. 

3. Feelings Of Confusion, Nervousness And Depression

Those who live with NPD may choose to a form of emotional abuse known as gaslighting. This can be a way that they may be able to manipulate you, restating facts and statements that are designed to make you question what actually happened. 

When an individual regularly experiences manipulation such as gaslighting, they may face symptoms of anxiety disorders or depression — such as excessive worry, nervousness, or frustration. 

Therapy can be a helpful resource, potentially allowing an unbiased and professional opinion to offer you insights about gaslighting behaviors, self-confidence, and discernment. 

4. Feelings Of Isolation

When you're in a relationship with someone experiencing NPD, you may often take your own needs to the side.  

This can be because you may feel restless or unsettled if they aren't happy; therefore, you may try to keep them content. All of this work can take time, however, which might distract you from building relationships with other important people in your life. This, coupled with a fear of a disagreement with your partner, could lead to feelings of isolation. 

If you do find yourself feeling isolated, we encourage you to reach out and rebuild your connections, both old and new. You might also choose to reach out to a therapist for support. Remaining in community and taking time for yourself can help you lay the groundwork for healthier boundaries later on. 

Getty/Halfpoint Images
Are You Married To A Narcissist?

How To Begin Your Recovery Process

Being married to a narcissist can be challenging, and it may affect your mental health. However, it's not a situation that you need to remain in. Here are some things that you can try that may help:

  1. Journaling

If you find that you have lost part of your identity in your relationship, journaling may be able to help you find yourself again. Taking the time to journal your thoughts, feelings and desires can be a simple form of mindfulness that is accessible to most. It can also help you to spend time thinking about what you want, apart from your spouse's opinion. 

The more frequently you do this, the more likely it is that you can remember what's important to you — and your true opinions outside of the relationship. Journaling may also help you identify and work through the feelings that you may have regarding the relationship.

  1. Thought Awareness 

What your spouse says doesn't have to change how you think and feel about yourself. It may help to learn how to intentionally separate any criticisms from your sense of self-worth and identity. 

A helpful first step might look like identifying the negative self-talk you may have, consciously replacing it over time with something positive.

  1. Boundary Setting

Boundaries are generally known to be important in any relationship. 

As you begin the process, it may be helpful to decide what boundaries you want to set with your partner and in your relationship, and plan ahead accordingly. You might ask yourself: What are you willing to accept from your spouse, and what aren't you? 

Once you decide this, you may choose to communicate these boundaries and then stick to them. Consistency can be a helpful focus as you work to actively establish these lines in your relationship(s). 

  1. Counseling 

If your spouse agrees to go, couples counseling can be an effective resource for improving your relationship or working through any concerns you may have. 

However, there may be a chance your narcissistic partner may refuse to go to counseling. If your spouse chooses not to go with you, you may still benefit from attending individual counseling. Individual counseling can be important in helping you to rediscover yourself and learn what changes you need to make to help build a healthier relationship.

How Can Online Therapy Support Those Living With A Partner With NPD? 

The effects of NPD can be overwhelming, whether you’re the one living with the condition or the person who is currently the partner of someone experiencing it. Anxiety disorders, depression and other co-occurring mental health conditions can all potentially cause strain in a long-term relationship. 

This, coupled with the potentially controlling symptoms of NPD can be a barrier to those seeking traditional in-person therapeutic treatment. However, online therapy provides a more accessible alternative for many, connecting individuals with a licensed therapist from any safe location via their smart device. 

Is Online Therapy Effective For NPD And Subsequent Mental Health Conditions? 

Many note that online therapy is generally known to be a helpful resource to those living with the ramifications of NPD. Recent meta-analyses have shown its effectiveness for those experiencing anxiety disorders, depression, and general effects from trauma, showing comparable effectiveness compared to in-person methods. 

These findings were corroborated over 40 separate studies, spanning over 1,000 different clinical trial participants. 


The effects of NPD in relationships can be difficult to deal with. Identifying and acknowledging your feelings and experiences is often the first step to your recovery and healing process. Online therapy can be a helpful resource to you as you do this, connecting you with licensed therapists who can offer professional, unbiased support regarding your next right step. Regain can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need. 

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