Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Generally, when we get involved with someone, we try to see the best assets they have to offer and the potential to improve in areas that are not as strong. However, some personality flaws are more than just shortcomings -- they may be signs of a genuine disorder. Such is the case with narcissistic personality disorder.
It takes a diagnosis from a trained professional to get an accurate reading of a disorder versus a character flaw. Nevertheless, it still can be helpful to learn the signs that can provide insights into the behavior, particularly if you are married and it is creating a high level of stress in the relationship.
A general feeling of superiority
The rule of thumb is that people with a narcissistic personality disorder feel and act superior to others. They act arrogant because they believe they are special. They demand attention, yet have very little empathy for others. They will often speak disparagingly of bosses and authority figures, and will call others idiots if they do not agree with their thinking.
What specifically to look for
A helpful article by therapist provides specific indicators that are cause for a red flag. These include:
- Listen to their words: They will use extremely positive (“you are amazing,” “you are the center of my life”) or negative words (“they are so stupid,” “they don’t realize brilliance when it is staring them in the face”) in regards to you or others. If you relate a sad story about yourself or someone else, a narcissist then shifts the narrative to share their own story of much worse they have it.
- Watch their actions: Narcissists will often say one thing and do another. For example, they speak highly of you with those positive words, yet then they act in ways that are quite demeaning. This includes shaming or embarrassing you in front of others.
- Think about how they make you feel: The tireless attacks on you or others can leave those around a narcissist feeling inadequate, stupid or unattractive. You feel like you cannot do anything right.
Disorders need treatment
It is important to remember that no one chooses to have a disorder. While you may feel the need to point out the narcissistic behavior, this will likely be perceived as a threat. Perhaps they will seek help or you can manage the relationship through careful planning, but at some point, the positives may no longer outweigh the negatives. Then it is time to consider separation or divorce. An attorney with family law experience will be a tremendous asset during this time of transition.