Everything a narcissist does is to benefit himself (or herself–just insert the pronoun that works for your situation). He doesn’t even see others as people, so there is no need to treat them accordingly. This doesn’t change in regard to who they marry. So then, who does a narcissist marry?
There are two schools of thought regarding who a narcissist marries. One says a narcissist will marry someone who is successful, independent, intelligent, and beautiful. The other one says that a narcissist marries someone who is codependent, a people pleaser, weaker, less intelligent, and easy to take advantage of. In actuality, the narcissist marries a blend of these. Marrying someone who is successful makes the narcissist look successful. But it can’t be someone who is emotionally healthy and relationally wise. They need someone who is codependent and less intelligent relationally so they can receive their narcissistic supply indefinitely.
Let’s take a closer look at how this all plays out.
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A Narcissist Marries Someone who Will Bolster Their Image
A narcissist needs to be seen as successful, smart, and pretty much perfect. Even if they are far from that in real life, they think they can pull it off. And one of the ways they can accomplish that is to have a smart, successful, pretty much perfect spouse on their arm. So the narcissist marries the most beautiful and smart person they can find that will have them.
The problem with this is that many successful smart people will recognize the narcissist’s issues over time and they will never marry them. The narcissist must find someone who is not emotionally adept enough to see the gaslighting, blame shifting, control, and manipulation among many other things.
People who have experienced healthy relationships growing up as well as in their adult life may not see these narcissistic behaviors at first. Kind people that are gracious and forgiving will give the narcissist the benefit of the doubt, just like everyone else. But someone who is emotionally mature will pick up on the unhealthy patterns. And they won’t allow themselves to be manipulated constantly in this way.
At first, the narcissist will be careful. He will make sure to give the unsuspecting partner nearly constant love-bombing with a little bit of gaslighting mixed in. If he sees that he can get away with the gaslighting, he will continue to slowly increase the ration of narcissistic behavior to love bombing until he finds out where the limit is. When he passes the limit, he will very nimbly cross back over into the love bombing stage until his partner lets their guard down again. This pattern continues until the narcissist figures out if he can make his move to make his partner his spouse.
When a smart, successful, beautiful person doesn’t pick up on these patterns, then they are in for an earth shattering marriage. And often, it takes years if not decades for them to realize what they have gotten themselves into. In the meantime, everyone on the outside thinks they are the most beautiful perfect couple. Which is literally all the narcissist was looking for in the first place.
A Narcissist Marries Someone They Can Easily Manipulate and Control
The other major criteria a narcissist looks for in a significant other is someone they can easily manipulate and control. This is even bigger for them than marrying someone who is beautiful and successful. The reason for this is simple. If the narcissist cannot manipulate and control their partner, they cannot get narcissistic supply. So, while it is certainly advantageous for them to have someone on their arm that helps secure the essence of status, it is only icing on the cake and not the main goal. And that is why the narcissist marries someone they can easily manipulate and control, hopefully for years without them catching on to what is really going on.
The narcissist’s dream date is the codependent. According to Everyday Health, the definition of codependency is “Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore,” Dr. Becker says. “Your mood, happiness, and identity are defined by the other person. In a codependent relationship, there is usually one person who is more passive and can’t make decisions for themselves, and a more dominant personality who gets some reward and satisfaction from controlling the other person and making decisions about how they will live.”
One of the biggest aspects of codependency is to try to make sure that everyone around you is happy and content. A codependent person will go to extreme lengths to make this happen. And this will attract a narcissist to them in short order. Any narcissist who finds a person to wait on their every need or want is a happy narcissist (if you could use those two words together; narcissists are generally not happy people).
Because people with codependency traits tend to lack in emotional health, they can go for years without realizing that the narcissist is only using them and doesn’t truly love them. Or, like in my case, they may see the lack of love, but think that if they just become a better person or spouse, the narcissist will see that and start returning the love. It puts them on a carousel that they will never be able to get off unless they recognize what is really going on and set some healthy boundaries for themselves.
I have two books on my shelf that deal with those two exact issues. They are The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope and Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.
The first, written by Leslie Vernick, does an amazing job of helping people find out if they are in a destructive marriage or just a difficult marriage. Then she gives us the best action steps to take to put us on emotionally healthy ground in both cases. It also starts with a test so you can definitively see exactly what your issues are in your relationship.
Upon understanding and implementing the steps in The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, Boundaries will help you recognize how to stand on your own feet relationally and set boundaries so people can no longer take inappropriate advantage of you relationally.
Both books will help your relationships throughout your entire life, not just your marriage. Check them out as soon as you can!
What Happens When a Narcissist Cannot Find Someone They can Control That Bolsters Their Image
As a narcissist ages, they find it more difficult to charm their victims than in their earlier days. They don’t look as good, they aren’t as quick on their feet, and they may now have enough failures under their belt that exuding confidence is more difficult. So finding that successful significant other is now very elusive.
It is at this time that the narcissist prefers function over form. After all, it was the supply they were after. While they could definitely get supply by others telling them what a great catch they have, having someone doting on them all the time is the better payoff. So, finding someone else who may not be a perfect 10 may no longer be possible, but finding someone who will treat them like royalty is a much more attainable goal.
But alas, sometimes even finding a codependent partner can become more difficult as the narcissist gets older. By middle age, many people have figured out what abuse looks like and won’t put up with the narcissist’s bag of tricks for very long. Additionally, many people have had enough experience with narcissists, including narcissistic spouses. So they can recognize it in an instant when they see it.
All that being said, there are still plenty of naive people out there that will fall for the love bombing wiles of the narcissist. If they see any of the red flags, they will excuse them away. And they will always see hope in the relationship, no matter how bleak things seem to get. And the narcissist will marry as many times as they need to in order to keep a steady stream of narcissistic supply by their side.
A narcissist marries someone who they know they can control and manipulate without them realizing what is really going on. They will say and do whatever keeps their partner from realizing they are simply a piece of property in the eyes of the narcissist. But if the narcissist can find a partner that is also beautiful, intelligent, and successful (or any combination of these), then they will feel like they are on top of the world. Unfortunately, over time, their partner will never feel the same.
It took me 4 years of dating, 31 years of marriage, and 3 years of the best counseling to figure all of this out. I am so grateful to be an emotionally healthy person now and not at risk of making this mistake again.
How about you? Are you in a relationship with a narcissist? If you think so, take this test with instant results to get a better idea of where you stand and what healing you will need to pursue.
How have you healed? What action steps have you taken to get yourself in an emotionally healthy place? I would love to hear your story! Leave your comment below, or if you don’t feel safe commenting in a public forum, feel free to contact me here.
Blessings and hugs,
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