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Narcissists and Marriage: The Complete Picture

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC

One of the biggest hallmarks of those who suffer with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the inability to relate to others on a personal level.  So it would seem counterintuitive that the narcissist could actually marry.  How would they find a spouse?  How could they stay married long term?  But, believe it or not, narcissists and marriage is actually a common pair.  But how?

Narcissists and marriage is a problem that has occurred pretty much since the beginning of time.  Of course, it wasn’t called narcissism.  Instead narcissists were referred to as fools, selfish, or prideful. They were even called whitewashed tombs by Jesus in the Bible!  When we think about narcissists and marriage, as a general rule, we tend to think about how they find their poor spouse, how long it will last, how many times the narcissist marries, and what the divorce rate is among other issues.

Let’s take a closer look at the details of narcissists and marriage.  Buckle up!

Who Does a Narcissist Marry?

Concerning narcissists and marriage, they do not marry someone because they fall in love with them.  They marry them because they have compared you to all of their other options and you are the one that will provide them with the most narcissistic supply.

I actually knew this about my ex husband before we were even married.  But I thought I wasn’t worthy of being truly loved.  I thought I had to earn it.  And I was determined that I would be such a good wife that he would fall in love with me.

So, how did I know?  First, we dated for 4 years before we were married.  He would spend some time with me, tell me he loved me, and say all the right words to make me feel like we were in a good relationship.  But then he would start hanging around with other girls and ignoring me.  And then he would “dump” me as though I meant nothing to him.  No explanation, no discussion.  Just he was done and moving on.

He would come back months later and apologize profusely.  Then he would convince me to take him back.  “This time will be different.  I will love you forever.”  This happened a few times.  And I just chalked it up to immaturity.  He would grow out of it.  And he would see my devotion to him.  And he actually did.  But not in the sense of reciprocating that love.  Just in how much more he could get out of me than all the other girls.

When we were engaged, he told me that he chose me because I was the most loyal to him.  Nothing about love, companionship, or relationship.  I should have seen it then and there.

Shortly after we were married, he said marriage was easy and he could be successfully married to anyone.  I still didn’t understand the depth of those words until I was sitting in a counselor’s office 25 years later.

Why do Narcissists Get Married so Fast?

There are a few reasons narcissists get married so fast.  First, once they know who it is they want to marry, they have no patience.  They see what they stand to gain–status, trying to avoid the perceived stigma of singleness, someone to control, someone to serve them.  And they want all of that now.  No need to wait!  They need their narcissistic supply now!

Second, the narcissist needs to make sure they are married before their potential spouse sees behind the mask and chooses to walk away.  Once they are married, the spouse will likely spend a lot more time and energy trying to repair the relationship rather than before the marriage, when they still have the option to leave before things get really bad.

Third, if they can convince everyone around them that they are the doting spouse, then it is worth doing  it sooner than later.  Everything tends to be about the narcissists public persona.  The more they can shape people’s impression of them, the sooner they want it done.

Fourth, if the narcissists get married so fast because if they are previously divorced, this will allow them to show the world that the problem wasn’t them.  “See?  I can still be married!”  Unfortunately, the new spouse won’t realize what hit them until much later, and then it will be too late to just walk away.  In my case, my narcissistic ex married his next wife a mere 6 days after we got our divorce papers.

Note what I did not say here.  The narcissist does not marry quickly because they are eager to share the rest of their life with their significant other or because they feel like soul mates.  That is because the marriage will have nothing to do with actual relationship.  Although, I can guarantee they will say all the right words to get the unsuspected new spouse to jump on board.

How do Narcissists Treat Their Wives?

Let me preface this subpoint by saying that while it indicates that narcissists are men, there are also narcissistic wives that treat their husbands poorly.  I expressed it the way I did because studies show that the majority of narcissists are men and also because this was the dynamic in my life.  Feel free to adjust the pronouns to fit your own case! ♥

In public, most narcissistic husbands (especially if they are covert) treat their wives amazingly well.  They will compliment them every chance they get.  And they will build them up for all to hear.  All those who know them will think she is the luckiest wife in the world because she is so loved.  But alas, this is all just an act to show the world “what a wonderful husband he is.”  And for the most part, it totally works.

Behind closed doors, however, it is a totally different story.  On the one hand, they are kind and loving to their wife.  But on the other hand, they can be mean and surly and outright abusive.  They are psychologically abusive.  And when you call them on it, they will blame you for misunderstanding or criticizing them.  Regardless of what they do to you, it will be your fault.  There will never be resolution.  And for years, you will be confused about your perception of what is going on.  It won’t make sense because of the spin that goes on everything that you try to resolve.

But then you get counseling or start talking to a couple of trusted friends, and all of a sudden, you will start realizing that it wasn’t you!  If you want to feel like someone else really understands what is going on, you need to watch this movie:

How Long Do Narcissists Stay Married?

The answer to this question has almost nothing to do with the narcissist and everything to do with the person they marry.  That is for a couple of reasons.  First, as long as the spouse is providing narcissistic supply, the narcissist is going to do what it takes to keep her there.  If she keeps putting up with him, he will keep her around because it’s easier than trying to find a new supply.

Second, the spouse often thinks that if they do a better job or can reach the narcissist somehow then things will get better.  The thought of giving up and facing the stigma of divorce is too much.  That dance can go on for decades.

Why Does the Narcissist Stay With His Partner?

Some narcissists will stay married for many years.  There are a few reasons a narcissist will stay with his partner.  Here are some of the major ones:

It is easier for a narcissist to stay with his current supply than to start over with a new one.

I know I touched on that a bit earlier, but I want to go into more detail here.  Regarding narcissists and marriage, the narcissist may even see a decline in the supply that his current spouse is giving him.  But as long as it is enough to feel like he’s getting something, he will stick with it.  The reason he is willing to stick it out isn’t because he’s grown to love his wife.  It is because if he is seen as failing in his marriage, it brings him unbearable shame.  So living with a little less supply is a better option.

Unfortunately, what will probably end up happening is that the narcissist stays married to his main supply while he gets extra supply on the side.  Infidelity is rampant among a large number of narcissists.  After all, nobody is going to tell them no when they want something.  And they will rationalize a way to get it and justify doing so.

Narcissists Stay Married to Enjoy the Status That Marriage and Family Life Bring

The very same things that encourage the narcissist to get married in a hurry are also the things that make them stay married long term.  They are seen as a pillar of the community when they can parade their beautiful wife and children out in the public square.

Additionally, while the narcissist parades his wife and children around, trying to show the world what a perfect life he lives, he realizes that to lose his marriage is to be seen as a failure.  So, he says whatever he needs to in order to smooth things over and keep the marriage going.

At one point, after calling my then husband out for the unbearable level of narcissism, he begged me to keep on pretending everything was okay.  That was probably one of the most honest and transparent conversations he had with me.  He was basically telling me without telling me that this was his method for survival in life.

The Narcissist Stays in the Marriage Because of Fear of the Unknown

With narcissists and marriage, they think of everything as a business transaction.  Is it worth it to trade one things for another?  “I’ll give you ___ if you give me ____.”  Ironically, later in our marriage, he stopped bargaining with this line.  Instead, he just gave me things and expected or took what he wanted in return for it.  I had no say in it anymore.  He was going to do what he wanted.

But regarding a narcissist leaving one marriage behind to pursue another, most will not willingly do this until the wife says enough is enough and walks away.  Then, when he is forced, he will play the victim and go find the next wife.  He will never do it of his own accord if there is any remote thought that he may not get as good of a “deal” as he has now.  And that fear will keep him married, happily or otherwise, for a very long time.

The Narcissist Stays in the Marriage Because He Doesn’t Want to Lose Control

The narcissist spends a good amount of time getting to know his partner and then using that information to get them fully under his control.  Once he has control, he only has to maintain that control.  The hardest work has been done.  So if he doesn’t stay married to that person, he will have to start the whole process over.  And the feeling of not being in control is unbearable to him.  Also, losing control of the previous wife is more shame than he can bear as well.

It is for this reason that a narcissist will stay in the marriage he is in for as long as possible.  He has better things to do.  He has to keep up the supply he already has.  Having to start over in the supply department will leave him vulnerable in a way he doesn’t want to be.

Do Some Narcissists Stay Married Forever?

Most of the time, the spouse of a narcissist hits their limit and realizes that parting ways and moving on is the only option to become emotionally healthy.  But every once in a while, a narcissist will stay married to one spouse for life.  This generally happens when a spouse is resigned to what their life has become or they are not emotionally mature enough to understand that they are in a bad situation.

There is one more reason that a narcissist stays married to one person for life.  And that is when the narcissist does not rank high on the spectrum and is able to see their behavior for what it is and correct the relationship.  But in this case, is the narcissist really a narcissist, or just a normal person with some narcissistic tendencies?

Narcissists and Multiple Marriages

Narcissists do indeed tend to get  married multiple times.  They cannot stand to be seen failing at anything.  The shame is unbearable.  So their solution is to hurry up and marry again.  If they can show how easily they can pick up another spouse, then they can prove that the failure of their previous marriage was due to their spouse and not them.

While we discussed above that generally speaking, a narcissist will not just leave his wife and start up with a new one, he will look for a new wife every time he finds himself losing the one he has.  How many times that happens largely depends on how long each of his previous wives holds on before giving up.

The Narcissist Divorce Rate

The narcissist divorce rate is high because most people find that they just cannot bear to live with the narcissist rule book anymore.  Once they have done everything they can do to make the relationship successful, they realize that the only thing left is to make a break for it and heal their emotional health.   Then there are the situations where a narcissist has such contempt for his wife that he chooses to discard her and start over (this is a rare case as talked about above, but it does happen occasionally when the narcissist feels more trapped with the wife than he does behind the mask).

There is no official divorce rate based on any study that has been done.  But we can see it bear out in real life.  On Quora, a lady named Leia said the following:  “100%. I was #3 for my exhusband. Last I heard, he was working on #4, and already had a side piece lined up to cheat on her with.”

That pretty much sums it up.


I was married to my narcissistic husband for 31 years.  We dated (off and on when he wasn’t pursuing other girls) for four years before that.  And he was willing to stay married as long as he was running the show and controlling me.

One of the biggest books that helped me get through my divorce was Will I Ever be Free of You?  How to Navigate a High-conflict Divorce and Heal Your Family by Karyl McBride.  It is one of the most dog-eared books on my shelf.  I referenced it constantly throughout my 3-year divorce process.  You will value it too if you are trying to emerge from divorce with a narcissist with your sanity intact.

For those of you still trying to  navigate your marriage to a narcissist, the other book that helped me tremendously was The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick.  If you have read any of my other articles, you will recognize this one because it was instrumental in helping me to see how damaged my relationship was and how to determine if it was salvagable or I needed to get to a safer place.  I guarantee it will do the same for you!

You can click on the books below to look into them and see how they can benefit you.

What has your experience with narcissists and marriage been like?  Are/were you married to a narcissist?  Do you have a friend or family member who is or was?  How did it go for you?  Did you find healing?  Are you still working on healing?  I would love to hear your story.  Feel free to comment below, or if you don’t feel safe commenting in a public forum, feel free to contact me here.

Blessings and hugs,

If you found this article valuable, I think you will also find the following articles valuable:

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?

Can a Narcissist be a Good Father?

Can a Narcissist be a Good Mother?

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 Apear 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?

How to Heal From a Spiritual Narcissist

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?

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

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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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