February 5th, 2024
“Is my husband a narcissist?”
I hear this question allllll the time from my clients.
And I get why — because they desperately want to make sense of their partner’s crazy-making behavior. They’re searching for something concrete to latch onto that explains why they feel so damn crazy.
Since you’re here, I’m thinking you can relate…
Maybe your partner makes you feel like everything you do is wrong — Every. Single. Thing.
Or maybe they make you feel guilty or afraid when you don’t do what they want you to do.
Or maybe they’re constantly twisting your words and using them against you.
You’re already searching for answers, so you know something isn’t right. You’re just not sure what… Is he a narcissist? An abuser? A bonafide sociopath? What gives?!
So many of my clients crave this information. And if you’re also trying to figure out why your partner behaves the way they do, an unofficial diagnosis can provide the validation you need in order to understand your experience, and then — here’s the KEY — move forward.
Last year, I was deep in research mode on this topic as I wrote my book.
And I’ve had a change of heart on the term narcissist. I used to believe it was overused — that everybody was somehow divorcing a “narcissist.”
But after learning more about how narcissists are created — through the media, politics, and a culture that generally celebrates narcissistic behavior — I’ve changed my mind. They really are all around. We’re just becoming more aware of the signs as a collective. And that’s a good thing.
And I’ve also learned the term “narcissist” has quite a few layers. This realm of diagnoses is — well, nuanced.
So I’m here to share what I’ve learned in hopes of shedding light on your particular situation — and to arm you with information that empowers you to move forward and take control of your life.
Let’s dive into the specifics…
What is a narcissist?
To understand the definition of a narcissist, you need to first understand that it includes a broad spectrum of behaviors, ranging from people with narcissistic traits all the way to full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.
In between, there are benign narcissists, who are self-centered, but they aren’t as harmful or insidious. Then there are malignant narcissists, who will exploit and cause harm to others for their personal gain.
Everyone on the narcissism spectrum can be referred to, in general, as a “narcissist.” However, in order to be explicitly diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder — or NPD — someone must meet at least five or more of the following criteria listed in the DSM-5:
- Has an inflated sense of self-importance and will overstate their achievements and talents. They feel superior and grandiose and expect to be treated as such.
- Is obsessed with obtaining unlimited power, money, beauty, and love.
- Only associate with high-status people because they believe they’re “special” and unique.
- Needs constant admiration.
- Feels entitled to special treatment and that everyone must comply with their wishes.
- Exploits others for personal gain.
- Doesn’t have empathy and will not acknowledge or understand the feelings and needs of others.
- Is jealous of others while believing others are jealous of them.
- Behaves arrogantly.
For someone like you — who is likely an empath — this kind of behavior goes against everything in your nature. You specialize in making people feel big and amazing — but this is the complete opposite. A narcissist needs to make people feel small in order to validate their existence and identity.
You may be racking your brain trying to figure out why on earth someone would behave like this. Narcissists are the way they are because of childhood trauma. Their deep wounding created a fracture, and in order to fill that void they developed a ravenous need for supply — a dependency that demands special treatment and validation to constantly feed their ego.
Narcissists have no internal sense of self, so they have a desperate need to feed their fractured ego through others. They’re essentially manufacturing their sense of self from outside of themselves. This cripplingly low self-esteem is what drives them to harm the people in their lives.
And no matter where they are on the narcissism spectrum, all narcissists abuse. But it’s important to note that not every abuser is a narcissist.
What is an abuser?
Both abusers and narcissists are created — i.e., influenced in some way throughout their life to behave the way they do. Where narcissists are created by childhood trauma, abusers are created by social conditioning.
In other words, they feel entitled to women’s bodies because that’s what the world and the media have told them is right. They demand unending adoration from women because they’ve learned they can’t call themselves a successful man without it.
Simply put, abusers harm women because their culture taught them it was normal — not because they suffered intense wounding in their childhood.
What is a sociopath?
Where a narcissist abuses because of their insatiable need for supply, a sociopath abuses because they have no remorse and zero fear of consequences. Their notorious lack of empathy drives them to use everyone in their life without any regard for their feelings or well-being. They simply DO NOT CARE.
And, unlike narcissists, a sociopath’s self-esteem is quite high — however, they ARE aware that their abuse isn’t okay. They’re able to turn their abusive behavior on and off like a light switch — hiding it from the outside world and using it only in private to control their targets. Narcissists do NOT have this same ability. Their abusive behavior is ever-present, no matter where they are or who their audience is.
The “diagnosis” doesn’t matter.
So it doesn’t necessarily matter what my definition of a narcissist is. If any of these descriptions sound familiar to you, that is literally ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. Don’t waste any more precious energy trying to figure out exactly what category of abuser your partner falls into.
Instead, look at how they’re making you feel. Observe the effect their behavior is having on your mental health. On your body. On your LIFE.
Don’t stay fixated on your partner’s diagnosis — that keeps you stuck and focused on them, love.
And my personal mission is to help you get UN-stuck, recognize your power, and move forward from this devastating cycle.
So I’m going to challenge you to do something to help you do just that.
Fair warning: this usually feels reeeallly uncomfortable at first, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to take back control of your life.
Are you ready? Now that you have a better understanding of your experience, I know you are.
So here it is, my best advice:
It’s time to take the focus off of your partner and turn it on yourself.
Because I know, deep down, you’re probably wondering…
Do narcissists ever change? Do abusers ever change? Do sociopaths ever change?
And the answer is — while change is possible, it’s incredibly difficult and takes years of hard work. And abusers are only willing to do this work if they’ve lost something they really value: YOU.
Don’t fall into the trap of staying around because you’ve heard he might finally change one day. Until he’s lost you, he won’t have any reason to do the work — which means you’ll have to stay GONE until he proves his commitment — and that his internal work is genuine and lasting.
Yes, this takes years. And during that time, don’t continue to subject yourself to ongoing abuse. You deserve to take up space and step fully into your power — and into a more fulfilling life.
That means getting grounded in who you are. It means healing codependency so you don’t continue to play into the abuse cycle.
I know that feels scary and isolating right now. I know you need support, clarity, and guidance to get you to your next chapter in one piece.
That’s exactly why I created Grit & Grace, my intimate community coaching experience for women contemplating, going through, or recovering from divorce. I invite you to build the confidence and purpose you’re craving — alongside me and a community of women supporting you, holding space for you, and cheering you on.
Click here to reserve your spot in the Grit & Grace cohort and get access to a powerful combination of direct coaching and sisterhood — designed to empower you to move through this season of upheaval with clarity and grace.
The textbook and precise definition of a narcissist doesn’t matter. It is a spectrum. And if you’re being hurt by a narcissist, something needs to change, because they never will.
It’s time to start healing, love. We’re here for you when you’re ready to take the next step.