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How do Narcissists Treat Their Wives? Worse Than You Think!

You fall in love with the most perfect man in the world.  Well, okay, maybe not completely perfect.  But he is a-may-zing.  He loves all the same things you do.  He speaks your language in every way.  And he is so thoughtful, kind, helpful, loving.  Then you get married and realize that much of what you thought about your relationship was wrong.  Things changed instantly.  And it was probably many years before you realized that you married a narcissist.

So, how do narcissists treat their wives?   In the beginning, when they decide they want to pursue a relationship with a woman, they will do two things:  study their new target to learn what makes them tick, and do everything they can to appear like the perfect person to them.  Once they have “won their prize,” they will then start to see “imperfections” in their wife, causing them to need to “punish” them for perceived wrongs.  Finally, when it appears the relationship is nearing its end, the narcissist will then do everything they can to destroy their wife.  

There is actually significantly more to how narcissists treat their wives than the simple answer given above.  Let’s take a look at the whole picture from start to finish.

The Narcissist Finds the Perfect Person

Full blown narcissists and those who rank  higher on the narcissism spectrum will all use the three stages of narcissism with their relationships.  That first stage is when they believe they have found the perfect woman.  She says the right things, does the right things, and often looks the right way (as a narcissist gets older and realizes most of the best looking people are probably not in their age group or league, it is not as much a criteria for the narcissist).

Immediately, the narcissist will begin trying to get to know this new person.  But not in the way normal people do.  They want to know what things they can say and do to get this new woman to notice them and like what they see.  They watch her conversations with others.  And they notice what she picks up on when out and about–what catches her attention.  They watch how she reacts to what happens around her–what makes her happy, sad, angry, or scared.  And they remember every single detail they can.  Because they will use all of that information to convince her that they are the perfect man for her.

It is important to realize that narcissists don’t see their potential wives as people with feelings, dreams, and ideals for them to get to know and love.  They are merely a favorite possession to keep and use for whatever good they can attain for themselves.  So, when a woman marries a narcissist, the narcissist does feel as though they have fallen in love.  They love the meals that are cooked for them, the care that wife takes of him, the nice things she does for him, and any good aspect she brings to the relationship.

So, indeed, the narcissist does feel like he has found love and the perfect partner.  But just not because of the person she is.  It is because of the value that the narcissist can get out of her.  And he will love  her and see her as perfect, placing her on a special pedestal.  Until she no longer maintains her image of “perfection” to her narcissist husband.

How do Narcissists Treat Their Wives Once They Realize Their Wives Aren’t Perfect?

Once narcissists no longer see their wives as the perfect catch, a new dance begins.  The narcissist is now struggling with his own tug of war.  He still “loves” his wife, at least all of the things she provides for him.  But on the other hand, he can’t stand the things that displease him.  So he begins to do little things here and there to show his displeasure.  But he does them secretly.  It’s getting the revenge he needs for perceived wrongs against him while still keeping her on as his number one.

The narcissist’s wife sees these covert slights and at first thinks that surely he must not have meant to do or say that thing.  It doesn’t make sense because there is no context behind it.  And usually the behavior the narcissist throws at his wife is not related to the thing he was offended by, whether legit or not.

This dance of the narcissist being offended by something that he likely misunderstood and played the victim, takes out his revenge in secret, unfounded, and unrelated ways, and his wife being confused, often gracious and blind to what is going on can and usually goes on for years.  For me it went on for 35 years.  I just kept excusing it away.  Or realizing it was bizarre but not realizing it was narcissism.  I knew things were very wrong.  I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  Or fix it because it was so ingrained in everything he did to relate to me.

As time goes on the cycle continues.  But with each cycle, both the narcissist and his wife feel the relationship deteriorate just a little more.  The narcissist feels like he has been slighted once again (and sometimes he likely has been slighted, as not even the best wife is perfect 100% of the time).  He gets disproportionately angrier with every negative experience.  And usually can’t let it go.  So he determines to even the playing field, but usually in secretive wasy for the covert narcissist, or strong bullying controlling behavior for the overt narcissist.

To read more about understanding the mind of a covert narcissist, click here.

The wife reacts with confusion and irritation because they don’t understand what is really going on.  If the narcissist doesn’t talk about their perceived slight, their wife can’t do anything to fix it.  Then, when some retaliatory behavior comes from her husband, she doesn’t understand because it is usually something totally unrelated to what happened to upset her husband in the first place.  She is now in an impossible situation because she can’t figure out what is really going on.  For 45 examples of narcissistic behavior, click here.

These constant cycles with no resolution often erode the relationship to the point the couple either lives miserably and basically two separate lives in the same house, or they separate and divorce for the sake of their sanity.  And it is at this point that the marriage takes yet another turn.

How do Narcissists Treat Their Wives Once They Realize The Relationship Will Not be Saved?

When narcissists realize the relationship can no longer be saved, the real war begins.  Often by this time, even a covert narcissist is no longer trying to hid his abuse toward his wife, even if in public he is still trying to convince everyone of his innocence and the guilt that he tries to blameshift onto her.

The abuse doesn’t necessarily change, but it does get unbearably worse.  The narcissist is angry that he has lost his biggest and possibly longest source of supply.  And he isn’t going to let it go lightly.  Here are some of the ways they will act out upon realization of the demise of their marriage:

  • Increased control of their wife and children.  They know they are losing control.  Their wife and children aren’t playing anymore.  They have taken steps to get themselves to an emotionally healthier place.  And that includes not getting dragged along by the whims of their narcissist.  But the more they resist the control, the more tactics the narcissist will employ to get them back under his thumb.
  • The narcissist will lash out more in his anger.  He will not let anything go now.  And often he will make up things in his mind to “punish” his wife for.  These things can be things that he actually feels happened and twists to fit his narrative.  Or they can be totally made up, confusing everyone involved.  This is such a chaotic time for everyone.
  • The narcissist will make up random things to blame his wife for.  It is maddening, but keeping all communication documented and having constant witnesses around you to confirm the behavior will help  to make the false accusations go away and not become a huge issue in divorce proceedings.  Just know that often the narcissist is going to craft creative “incidents” that happened to him so he can look like the victim in court.
  • The narcissist will gather supporters to help “take you down” for daring to stand up for yourself.  Often these supporters (also called flying monkeys) will come from very surprising places.  One of my ex’s flying monkeys was actually our former pastor of about 23 years.  That felt like such a betrayal to me.  But many others saw what was going on because that former pastor created some bad blood among others as well.  It was bizarre.  All I could think was that he was going through some of his own narcissistic demons.
  • Narcissists will try to take custody of the children they barely had anything to do with during the marriage.  They will try to take everything away from their wife.  Even though they have invested little to nothing before.  It is all about posturing in court.  My ex tried to get joint custody of the kids at first.  But while he was filing that case, he was complaining to others repeatedly that he didn’t know what to do to keep his kids occupied for three-hour spaces of time.  He literally didn’t know how to relate to his kids because he never had before.  And now he was trying to convince the court that he was the model dad and husband and needed to take the kids.  He ended up with 18 hours a month with just his youngest son.  And he may use 10-12 of those hours in the course of the month.  That son is biding his time for the day he doesn’t have to waste that time with a dad that still doesn’t relate to him in healthy ways and doesn’t have to worry about how it interferes with his normal day-to-day life.  It would be nicer if somehow his dad could learn to relate to him well and they could develop a relationship over time.  But the continued abuse and control isn’t making that look like a good possibility.

There are so many more ways that narcissists will play dirty once they realize the marriage is over.  I am sure you can tell me even more.  (Feel free to share those in the comments below!)  But this should give you a pretty good idea of what is going on in the course of the end of the relationship/separation/divorce.

How do Narcissists Treat Their Wives Once the Marriage is Over?

How narcissists treat their wives once the marriage is over is just as horrific as when they were together.  Once the dust has settled after the marriage, separation, and divorce, unfortunately for many wives, things don’t end there.  If there are kids, involved, the narcissist  husband will use the kids to continue to control and abuse the whole family.

If there is financial support involved, the narcissist will manipulate and control the money, find every legal loophole they can to get out of paying what is right, and make finances difficult in any way they can.  All while making the world at large think he is doing an awesome job of supporting the family that he now claims to be a victim of.

The narcissist ex-husband will continue all of the previous narcissistic behavior, just from afar.  In the DivorceCare program that I lead in my local church, one of the psychologists in the videos says that if we couldn’t get our spouse to behave well during the marriage, we certainly aren’t going to get them to do that after the marriage is over.  That could not be a truer statement.

The fact is that the narcissist now feels like his wife has taken so much away from him.  He doesn’t realize it was his narcissistic behavior that caused the whole family to lose so much.  And he will choose to punish them every opportunity he gets.

Fortunately, as time goes on, he will run out of things he can do to you and your family.  As the kids grow up, he won’t have as much access to you or to them.  As you learn to set boundaries, he won’t be able to break through as much.  And as you begin to live a new life, he will eventually fade far away into the background.  For the lucky ex-wives, he will just give up and disappear to find his next source of narcissistic supply.

I haven’t been so lucky yet.  My ex married his new wife 6 days after we received our divorce papers.  And he still enjoys making the kids and my lives miserable when he can.


How has it been for you?  Do you still have to deal with your narcissistic ex-husband?  Or were you one of the lucky ones that your narcissist ex faded off into the sunset?   I think for the vast majority of us, our story falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

Were you able to escape the divorce fairly unscathed or did he get away with a whole lot more narcissistic abuse in the process?  How have you been able to heal since?  What people and resources did you surround yourself with to get to a healthier place?  It would be great for you to share your story in the comments below.  Many others going through what you did can learn from your experiences and healing!

Regardless of where you are in this process, know that you can get to a place of complete healing, even if it doesn’t feel like it at this moment.

Hugs and love to you,

If you found good value in this article, I think you will love how helpful the following articles are as well!

Narcissists Destroy Who They Can’t Control

When to Stop Praying for Marriage Restoration

When is Divorce Okay in the Bible?

36+ Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist Safely

When to Stop Praying for Marriage Restoration

Will God Bless a Second Marriage?

When God Releases You From Marriage:  He’s Got You!

Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years

Do Narcissists Die Early?  The Whole Story

What Happens to Narcissists in the End?

5 Signs Your Husband Wants a Divorce and How to Prevent It

5 Signs Your Wife Wants a Divorce and How to Prevent I

Is My Husband a Narcissist or Just Selfish?

Guarding Against the Narcissist’s Divorce Tactics

Scriptural Ways to Deal With a Narcissistic Husband

What is the Narcissist Divorce Rate?

Who Does a Narcissist Marry?

How Many Times Does a Narcissist Marry?

Narcissists and Marriage:  The Complete Picture

How Does a Narcissist Stay Married for so Long?

Does Narcissism Worsen With Age?

Does a Narcissist Realize What They’ve Lost?

Do Narcissists End up Alone?

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Will a Narcissist Hurt Their Child?

Can Narcissists be Good Parents?

Can Narcissists Love Their Children?

How Can You Tell if Someone is a Religious Narcissist?

Can Two Narcissists be in Relationship With Each Other?

Understanding the Tactics of a Religious Narcissistic Father 

Dealing With the Trauma of a Religious Narcissistic Mother

When Narcissism Becomes Pathological

Will God Punish a Narcissist?

What to do When Your Narcissist Threatens You

The Bible Used as a Weapon Against You:  You Can Overcome! 

What Does the Bible Say About Abusive Husbands?

The Link Between Spiritual Abuse and Narcissism

Why Narcissists Want to Appear Godly

What Healing From a Narcissist Looks Like

Why Narcissists Love Going to Church 

How Religious Narcissists Think

Are Narcissists Evil?

Narcissistic Behavior:  What to Look Out For

Praying for Your Narcissistic Husband

Are Spiritual Narcissists Overt or Covert? 

Religious Trauma Syndrome:  How to Preserve Your Spiritual Journey

How to Navigate Religious Narcissistic Parents

What Happens to the Soul of a Narcissist?

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Can You Maintain a Relationship With a Spiritual Narcissist? 

Can Narcissists Have a Spiritual Awakening?

How Will God Judge a Narcissist?

When the Church Says to Move Back in With Your Narcissist

What Can we Say to a Christian Friend Who’s Divorcing?

Why Does God Hate Divorce? 

12 Ways the Church Helps Narcissists Abuse Their Victims

When Your Church Believes the Narcissist’s Lies

23 Reasons Why Narcissists are Drawn to the Church

What Does the Spiritual Narcissist do When You try to Leave?

When the Church Doesn’t Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

Are Narcissists Demon Possessed?

What Does the Bible say About Narcissism?

Can a Narcissist be a Christian?

Can a Spiritual Narcissist Heal?

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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