The Four Traits of a Narcissist
Is My Husband Self-Absorbed (And MORE Questions You Might Be Asking Yourself?)
Today I want to talk to you about a sensitive topic that many married women who have suffered the heartache of infidelity have needed to consider. What could this be? Before your brain starts to swirl between a million possible topics, let me tell you a story.
Years ago, I was sitting in my therapist's office, spilling the play-by-play of my week, relieving myself of stored-up word vomit. My therapist looked at me and told me that I may be dealing with a narcissist.
I went home and googled for hours. I read articles and blog posts and watched countless YouTube videos on the topic. Oddly enough, even though I now knew more than I ever thought I'd know on the subject of narcissism, I still found myself confused about many things. I also felt hopeful, as if knowing that he fit the description of a narcissist meant that there was a path forward. There was a diagnosis, a label. We could get over this and repair our marriage. He had to be a textbook case, so there had to be an answer, right?
Any discussion of infidelity is incomplete without tackling the subject of narcissism. In today’s post, we’ll be looking at specific traits of a narcissist when it comes to infidelity. Afterward, and perhaps more importantly, I want to talk to you about what knowing this information will actually mean for you, and how it may or may not serve you when it comes to healing your marriage after infidelity.
To get started, I want to emphasize that different situations bring out in us different behaviors and personality traits. What I have to share today does not mean that you should be able to define or diagnose a narcissistic personality.
Sound good? Let's get to it.
Trait #1: Self-Absorption
The first trait of a narcissist that I would like to point out is what you know as self-absorption. When self-absorbed, one considers one's feelings, ideas, and activities to trump another’s. For example, at the time one of my clients got married, she had been teaching fitness classes at the local gym. She was very well known, had a large following, and loved doing what she did. However, within months of her wedding day, she and her husband were already experiencing dis-ease when it came to her continuing to teach her classes.
Her husband did not like the idea that other men were at the gym and preferred for her to stop teaching her classes. He claimed that she didn't need the extra income now that they were married. He added that people who attend gyms are usually looking for one thing: affairs. He believed that if she continued to teach her classes that she was just asking for trouble between them. My client felt torn. She disagreed with her husband, but to keep the peace, she decided it was best to quit.
Can you see through this simple example that perhaps he considered his feelings to be much more important than hers?
Trait #2: Grandiosity
The second trait I want to introduce to you today is what we call grandiosity. When we speak of grandiosity as narcissistic behavior, we're talking about someone who has to look and be the best at everything. A person who will not allow themselves to be outdone. Years ago, one of my clients shared with me an experience she had regarding this topic.
Her husband was an avid cycler. There are many apps that allow for competitiveness these days, but my client explained to me that her husband took it over the top. He had to be the leader on the leaderboard, and if anybody beat him, he would accuse them of cheating, and then go out and ride the specific ride to ensure that he was number one.
This husband would seem to be demonstrating the behavioral type of grandiosity. These examples might seem a little out there, but if you have ever experienced this type of behavior, it probably makes sense to you.
Trait #3: Gaslighting
The third type of behavior associated with infidelity that I wish to introduce you to is called gaslighting. If you've been in the arena of betrayal trauma and sexual addiction for a long time, I'm sure you have heard this term. The term comes from a movie in which a husband manipulates his wife to make her think that she's losing her sense of reality so that he can commit her to a mental institution and steal her inheritance.
Gaslighting is very common when a couple is dealing with infidelity. The wife will find proof or evidence of something that her husband has done and bring it to him with a desire to understand. In turn, she is invited to believe that everything is fine, that the evidence means nothing, and that her suspicions are only in her mind. She’ll then question herself and her intuition.
Trait #4: Jealousy
The fourth and final trait of a narcissist that I want to introduce to you is jealousy. One of my clients was married to a man who was diagnosed with sexual anorexia. Her husband found it easier to be sexual with strangers and engage in one-night stands rather than attempt to be connected and close to his wife.
She told me about a situation in which they walked into a small mom-and-pop shop and her husband caught the man at the counter looking her up and down. She said that when she got in the car, her husband was livid that a man would look at her that way and was angry at her for the man's gaze.
Listen, I understand that some of these examples can feel a little icky or even cause you to be triggered, but I believe it's important to use specific examples to help you see what narcissism might look like. It is also important to note that not everyone who exhibits these traits is a narcissist.
Will Knowing This Change Your Course of Action?
I have some questions for you now, and my intention in asking them is purely to invoke curiosity within you. Let's say that your husband has been unfaithful and holds many of the narcissistic qualities that we've spoken of today. Will knowing this information help you find the clarity you need to rebuild your marriage and move beyond all of this? Or does knowing that your husband may be a narcissist make it easy for you to be done, to be convinced that you need to walk away? Or are his red flag behaviors still not causing you enough alarm to give you the confidence to pack your bags and be gone?
I’m willing to guess that knowing that your husband may hold some of the qualities of narcissism means nothing at the end of the day. So, instead of spending your time and energy researching what is wrong with him and hoping that he'll change, why don't we ask a different, perhaps more difficult question?
If you have solid evidence of his narcissism, why are you still with him?
This question isn't posed as a negative or demeaning question, but as a sincere opportunity to have a conversation with yourself.
I would like to offer you something now that might be hard to hear. If your husband is truly a narcissist, you will not be able to see that with clarity until you heal the emotional trauma that is fogging up your view. Believe me, after you experience emotional trauma, there is little space left for learning and comprehension. You’re sustaining a constant state of tension and hyperarousal which leaves you unable to concentrate, retain, and recall information.
Words like narcissism, gaslighting, and manipulation provide your body with more fear. These words do nothing but help maintain the freeze mode of uncertainty, panic, and anxiety. One of my clients said she read more on the topic of infidelity, narcissism, emotional affairs, and sexual addiction than she read for her entire master's degree program. She said she could have written her own 1,000-page book on this topic, and yet all of this knowledge did nothing to help her heal her marriage because she was stuck behind the walls of her emotional trauma.
To sum this all up, you can understand the traits of a narcissistic man, and perhaps your husband does fall into that category. But now what? Your emotional trauma is simultaneously demanding serious amounts of attention from your body and mind in an attempt to survive. Your compromised mind is left questioning what to do with all this information. In the end, if you truly want to remove the veil that is blocking your view and understanding, you have to clear your emotional trauma.
Now I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Please share with me if you have been given the suggestion that you are dealing with a narcissist and what it did to aid in your healing process.
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