Narcissists like to treat their loved ones amazingly well when they are in the public arena. But behind closed doors, it is a different story. Narcissists get away with years or even decades of abuse because they are so sneaky about the way they do it. Often, even their victims don’t realize they are being abused until many years later! So, how then, do narcissists treat their aging wives?
Narcissists treat their aging wives increasingly badly as their marriage passes over time. They expect physical perfection, and have a continuing sense of entitlement that their aging wives cannot live up to. They will also “punish” their wives for not behaving as they demand as well as giving them the silent treatment if they don’t perform as expected. The level of coercive control against their wives is staggering. Aging wives of narcissists are essentially prisoners in their homes.
There may be the rare occasion that a narcissist realizes what they are doing to their aging wife and will turn things around to improve the relationship. This is incredibly rare, however, and will only happen if the narcissist sits at the lowest end of the narcissism spectrum. For the vast majority of narcissist with their aging wives, the following will be the typical situation.
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Narcissists Still Expect Physical Perfection From Their Wives
Throughout most of my marriage, I was a size 3-5 (American). My then husband would tell me on a regular basis that I needed to stay there. I had 8 babies. And for most of them, I did indeed stay small. But as I got older, it got harder to remain slim. It wasn’t the babies that made me gain weight! As my weight crept up and I got up to a size 8, he would constantly tell me that I needed to watch my weight and slim down because once I turned 40 it would be too late and I would not be attractive anymore. Huh?
We divorced when I was 52 years old. And obviously by that time, he couldn’t tell me I had to stay skinny. But the expectation was there throughout the marriage. Right up to the end. When 40 came and went, he made it clear that I still needed to do everything humanly possible to slim down.
Aging male narcissists are already fighting their own image in the mirror. They can see the decline. And even with a ton of money, they can’t bring back their youthful looks. I think a lot of the frustration and anger they feel from that causes them to put even heavier expectations on their aging wives. So they put impossible expectations on them.
Even if their wife remains incredibly graceful and beautiful, it is often not enough to please the narcissist. They will always see the flaws and need to improvement above the good thing they already have. And short of perfection, they will be reminded constantly that they are not measuring up.
It is of utmost importance that his aging wife look amazing in public. She must be dressed well, hair and makeup done well, and everything has to be perfect. Otherwise, people may think that he has a less than perfect wife and is not able to “do better.”
Unfortunately, this rule does not work both ways. He does not keep the same standard for himself over time, as he realizes that the job is so much harder to keep up with as they age.
Narcissists Sense of Entitlement Continues to Grow
Narcissists treat their aging wives as though they owe their husband everything. When women get married, they often sacrifice so much for their husband and children. They find fulfillment in establishing and caring for their family. And it does, sincerely, bring them great joy to see their beautiful family.
But in the case of a narcissistic husband/father, the wife is expected to continue to give until there is nothing left to give. And then give even more than that. The primary reason for this is that the narcissist becomes so used to the wife giving so selflessly (but not always perfectly–even the best wives fall short), it becomes the expectation. They aren’t grateful for it, they expect it to be the norm.
Often, sacrificial giving is the norm for a wife. And when her husband shows appreciation for it, the wife doesn’t feel taken advantage of or irrelevant. But when it becomes the expectation without anything in return, it is a miserable existence.
If the wife becomes tired and doesn’t keep up with all of her husband’s expectations, life becomes unbearable. He will make sure that she understands how he expects her to behave. Especially if other people are seeing what is going on. He has to be seen as the most respected husband.
Narcissists Will Give Their Wives the Silent Treatment if they Don’t Live up to Their Expectations
Narcissists treat their aging wives as though they don’t even deserve to be spoken to if they don’t bend at the narcissist’s slightest demands. He expects to be listened to, respected, even worshipped. And if she falls short or even disagrees with him, there will be hell to pay.
If she dares to argue with him about something, even if she can prove she is right, it will not bode well for her. She is expected to always agree with everything he says. Ironically, even he may realize he isn’t right, but because he wants to be right, she must agree with him to make it so.
I remember one day, my ex really wanted to retire from the military and become an owner of a car mechanic shop. But he was incredibly bad at business deals, to the degree that our household suffered losses from the fact that he would give more away than he could afford so he could look like a generous and kind man. There were years we went without because of these “deals” he would do. The thought of him owning an actual business that would be our livelihood scared me to death.
So when he brought it up, I suggested there may be a better fit for him in another area. And boy, did he go ballistic. He was so angry that I didn’t tell him what a good idea it was and that he should do exactly that. And then he proceeded to tell me that that is what I needed to answer him so he could go on to do it.
It was a point of contention through the rest of our marriage. I would try to explain to him that it is better for me to be truthful than to watch him do something that destroys our lives. His answer was always that if I said what he wanted to hear, we could pretend until it became what he wanted. I could never convince him that the world does not work that way. And neither do healthy marriages.
And that leads us right into our next point.
Narcissists Control Their Aging Wives Increasingly Over Time
Narcissists treat their aging wives like a prop that is there only to improve his appearance to the world. And in that vein, he must make sure his wife does everything that she “needs to be doing.” She must say the right words, do the right things, buy the right things, decorate in the right ways, do the right activities, look the right way, smile the right way, and on it goes.
The narcissist has a picture in his head of the way his life MUST look. And his wife is part of that equation. He has a picture in his head about how they will interact with each other and with the world. And she must live up to that ideal. If she doesn’t then she is failing him and making him look bad. He can’t allow that. The narcissistic shame will rear its ugly head.
So, the only way for the narcissist to make sure that life goes exactly the way he needs it to is to control everything his wife says, does, and is. This essentially makes her his personal prisoner. She can’t make her own decisions unless they align perfectly with his or rise above his ideals.
There are times that it doesn’t feel like control because the wife gets latitude in ways that will make the husband look even better. There were a few jobs I did that brought in great money for us. And he loved that because it made us look better. When I did church ministry, he loved it because it made us look like “better Christians.” When I dressed well, he would compliment me because he needed me to keep doing it to look good to the world. I was his trophy wife. In every way. And I was his prisoner, his doormat, his servant. I existed solely for him from the moment I said, “I do.”
Narcissist’s Rules for Their Aging Wives Don’t go Both Ways
Unfortunately, for as much effort as I put into our marriage and family life, I got very little in return. He would do things with us when it made him look like a better husband or father. When he knew people were watching. But the rest of the time, it didn’t matter. Our kids begged him to spend time with them, but he would only get angry with them and tell them he was fine if they pressed the issue.
In later years, he even stopped going out with our family friends for family days. His absence became very noticeably. But he didn’t care. He was now more selective in who he cared to impress. If they were mutual friends or my people, he didn’t care. At this point, he only cared about how he was going to impress the people in his world in the ways he wanted them to see him.
He did have a few exceptions to this. He still needed to be seen as the perfect father. So, while he didn’t work in that area around home life or with our family friends, he would always posture in church. We would have to be early, set perfectly in our row like the props he thought we were. The kids had to be incredibly respectful to him and everyone else at church. (Realize that I agree our children should be respectful and kind to all they meet–it was the cultish, Stepford Wives type behavior that creeped me and the kids out). They had to be dressed perfectly. And if the kids started to gain any weight, he would even tell them they needed to look better.
He would also offer to coach the kids in soccer and basketball. But he always put the other kids on the team above his own so they and he could look sacrificial and giving to everyone else. He also never practiced sports or spent any time with his kids outside of the official practices and games. It was all for show. And so many people fell for his act during those practices and games.
As Long as Their Wife is Submitting to their Desires, The Narcissist Will Think Their Marriage is Perfect
By the time our marriage came to an end, he was angry. Actually for the last 10 years he was angry. I no longer lived exclusively for him. I no longer made him the center of my universe. I never should have to begin with.
He turned me in to two different pastors to make me “obey better.” When that didn’t work, he dragged me to counseling. Our counselor now calls that the “best worst day of my life” because that’s when people found out what he was doing behind closed doors and his abusive charade ended.
But what he said in many of those counseling sessions still stays fresh in my mind to this day. He said that until I stopped treating him like the king he thought he was, our life and marriage was pretty much perfect. The day I said I would no longer make him the center of my world, he first begged me to just pretend everything was fine and keep doing it. And then he got very angry when I refused.
It was a major focal point in counseling that he felt things were perfect when I was giving him all I had and not getting much in return. But it was a point he refused to see as a problem. He was the head of his household. We owed everything to him. It had become his expectation. And anything less was unacceptable. He literally said that all the time.
It was at this point, that the counselors (by this time there was a team of counselors because he was not responding well to any of them and was becoming increasingly angry and belligerent) and I realized that there was no repairing of the marriage. It was over unless I was willing to go back to being his doormat. That wasn’t happening. And within 3 years, we were divorced and he remarried 6 days later. She has no idea of his past or what happened. And I have no idea how much of a prisoner she is to him. But I do know he is still trying to control me and our children through the few avenues he has left in his responsibilities to us after the divorce. And eventually she will see everything for what it is.
How a narcissist treats his aging wife is generally worse than ever. They become angrier, more demanding, and less forgiving over time. And the more time the wife spends with him, the more she is worn down, often to the point she feels she cannot escape. I was one of the lucky ones. I got away and the courts saw his narcissism on display very clearly. To this day, the only child of our 8 that spends time with him is our youngest, who is obligated to through the court system. But he only has to spend 3-6 hours a week with him and no overnights or visits to his new home. And most of of those visits are way less than the court ordered time. Which is fine with us.
How did things work out for you or your loved one who was married to a narcissist? Did he become milder, or did he become angrier and more demanding? How were things handled? Are you still working through the process? I would love to hear your story. Please feel free to comment below.
Hugs and love,