Abuse in Narcissistic Marriages

Narcissists and those with high traits of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are egocentric, which really means putting yourself ahead of others. An egocentric person puts his/her well-being and desires ahead of anyone else’s desires, including a child or other loved one. Egocentric people are self-centered, and because of this need for self-preservation, they can also become narcissists. Although a narcissist can seem very altruistic or concerned about serving the needs of others, usually, the altruism is undertaken to highlight a narcissist’s feelings of importance. Think of a person who works in a soup kitchen and posts about the soup kitchen and all his charitable work on social media to garner attention and special praise from his friends.

Abuse in narcissistic marriages is extremely common and can entail financial abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, or physical abuse (there are other types of abuse, but they generally fall within these categories). Although abuse in narcissistic marriages is common, it rarely occurs overnight. Instead, it occurs systematically and overtime. This blog is not to criticize any abuse survivor’s experience, but rather, this blog is written to help you understand how the abuse may happen and what you can do to avoid any future abuse with another partner.

My professional and personal experience has helped me understand some of the common themes and stories behind an abused spouse’s marriage. In my experience, it seems that some people can be more susceptible to the abuse, becoming emotionally, physically, or financially dependent on another. You may have grown up in an environment where one spouse takes control over major life and family decisions. You may seek another to help you with household duties. Many of us have needed others to help us if we’ve been physically too ill to manage household duties or work outside the home. For others, it’s a choice. There is no judgment, since we all have personal stories and after some introspection, can see what part we played in allowing or otherwise enabling the abuse to occur.

Many of us carry childhood traumas into our romantic relationships – such as shame, fear of rejection, or fear of failure. If that’s the case, then a narcissist’s seemingly confident nature and aloofness can trick you into believing that a spouse is invincible and incapable of failure. It may even be a relief to have others take care of household finances. But over time, that dependency can mean you are locked out of accounts, have no access to bank account information, or have no knowledge regarding your taxes. Many of my clients are unable to provide information regarding their finances and are forced to rely on expensive and time-consuming financial discovery during litigation.

Again, as we are unable to change other people, and we can only change our own situation, this blog should be a tool for empowerment to help you gain insight as to what you can avoid doing in the future. It should also help you understand how the abuse occurred, and it can help you teach others, including your children, a sense of agency and the ability to reject shame when faced with failures. I’ve seen too many men and women that perpetuate the cycle of abuse by failing to assert their self-worth. They become justifiably scared of the narcissistic partner’s wrath of anger and blame without realizing that narcissistic partners are unable to accept responsibility and blame. The narcissistic partner is all too happy to put those toxic feelings on others to avoid feeling them. When we allow others to control us and our decisions, it often empowers abusive individuals to use that as collateral so that you feel indebted to them, and furthermore, you feel that you can’t function without them helping you.


Giving control slowly to another adult over healthcare decisions, financial matters, or even household decisions, can often lead to an erosion of your boundaries and your self-agency. If you need to rely on someone else for your needs, be sure you don’t give this person complete access to your passwords or powers of attorney that you can’t easily revoke. Also, as unfortunate as it is, a narcissistic spouse may use your past against you – that you couldn’t handle your affairs and can’t take care of your children as well. I know it seems very counterintuitive, but emotional predators often prey upon those they deem weaker than them.

Instead, ask trusted others for help if necessary, or in the alternative, don’t allow complete access to your financial or other personal matters.

I write these blogs as part of my own healing and as part of my goals to help others understand that there is so much more happiness on the other side of divorce. My own personal experience as well as my professional experience have taught me that abusive behaviors are common in people with personality disorders.

Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: An attorney with experience in divorcing a narcissist can help you redirect the blame to the narcissist and help you understand that although people can fall out of love, it doesn’t happen so abruptly and silently, as it does in a marriage to a narcissist.

If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 865-7710 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. We have decades of legal experience in high-conflict divorces.

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