When Adult Children Of Narcissists Marry Each Other

When children grow up with narcissistic parents marry, it can be incredibly challenging.  Usually, either one person is a narcissist & the other isn’t, or one is trying to heal & the other prefers staying in their dysfunction.  The last scenario seems to be the most common. There isn’t a lot of information available on the topic, which is why I opted to discuss it today.  It happens pretty often & people in this situation know how to handle it!

When you learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be so incredibly freeing!  That’s how it is when you learn truth, though.  Not everyone sees it that way, however.  The truth isn’t always pleasant or easy, so many folks prefer to avoid the ugly truth in favor of pretty lies.  The pretty lies are easier & preferable to some people because they’re what is familiar.  Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt.  Sometimes it breeds cognitive dissonance in the adult children of narcissistic parents. 

That cognitive dissonance can be incredibly difficult to live with for someone married to a person who prefers to avoid it whenever possible.  When you see the truth so clearly & someone you love avoids it like the plague, it is so frustrating!!  You just want them to wake up & see the truth, but they won’t.  Instead they continue to tolerate their toxic parents abusing them & even you & your children if you have them.  They also will fight you on this topic, even if they aren’t normally disagreeable.  If you complain about their parents, they will tell you things like it’s your problem & to leave them out of it.  If this kind of thing doesn’t make you want to scream, nothing will!

I prayed about this behavior recently when it came to mind & God showed me some things.

While this behavior feels intensely personal, it isn’t.  It’s about them, their dysfunction & self preservation.

When a person has a spouse that loves them & a narcissistic parent, the spouse is the safer of the two people.  In this situation, the adult child knows someone is going to be angry & they will suffer for it.  In their minds, the spouse is the safer one.  They’ve had a lifetime of knowing just how incredibly cruel their narcissistic parent can be, so they do their level best to avoid their anger & cruelty.  It’s safer to deal with the anger of a loving spouse than a narcissistic parent, so they choose (albeit unconsciously) the safer of the two people to anger.

Unfortunately for the spouse, this means that their dysfunctional mate is going to put them in some pretty awful positions.  They’ll expect their healing spouse to tolerate whatever the narcissistic parents dish out, & when the healing spouse doesn’t, arguments are going to happen.  Even if the narcissistic parent in question is the healing spouse’s parent, the dysfunctional spouse most likely will be upset if the healing spouse is setting boundaries or even severs ties with their parent.  The dysfunctional spouse is going to minimize, excuse or even deny abusive behaviors.  This can be so difficult because the healing spouse wants to heal but also wants to have a good relationship with their dysfunctional partner.  Sadly, the relationship can only be so good while one is dysfunctional & the other is trying to heal.


If you’re in this position, you will need God’s guidance on how to navigate this situation.  He knows so much more than you could possibly know so let Him help you!  And, pray for your spouse to see the truth & be able to handle it, too.  That is what someone in that position truly needs!

Also always remember that your spouse’s reactions aren’t personal.  They’re about that person’s dysfunction.  Keeping that in mind will help you to be less hurt & angered by their behavior, which will in turn help you to deal with the situation more effectively.

Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries!  Just because your spouse is fine with being abused doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it.  Protect yourself & if your spouse is angry about it, that is that person’s problem.  There is nothing wrong, bad or even un-Christian about protecting yourself!

When you must discuss your spouse’s or your narcissistic parent with your spouse, try to keep your emotions under control.  Any anger shown on your part could make your spouse become very protective of the parent in question, which will start a fight between you.  Avoid it as much as possible by remaining calm when discussing parents!

Lastly, don’t give your partner an ultimatum to choose either you or their parent if you want to stay married.  Those who do that usually lose their spouse.  The one given the ultimatum feels their spouse is being manipulative, which naturally pushes them away & towards the parent.  Don’t put your spouse or yourself in that position.  If you end up wanting to go your separate ways, find another way to discuss it. Ultimatums end in anger & make the situation worse.

I wish you the best!

12 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

12 responses to “When Adult Children Of Narcissists Marry Each Other

  1. Cynthia, your first sentence seems like an understatement. This couple would have more than the usual set of challenges to overcome. Each couple brings their unique set of experiences to the relationship, but to bring similar bad experiences would seem to be hard to build trust, unless they are incredibly open and reflective people who learned how not to act from watching their parents. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is incredibly challenging situation to be in for sure. I’ve been married 23 years as of today to a man with narcissistic parents. You’re right, it does make it hard to built trust, especially when one isn’t as open to healing & reflective. But, that all doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make it work, either. With God all things are possible. It also takes wisdom, logical boundaries & accepting each other where each person is.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. My husband and I both grew up with at least one narcissistic parent. Although we have been married for 17 years, he never met my parents and I never met his. Both of our fathers had died long before we met, and my husband’s mother died shortly after we were married. I went no contact with my mother soon after that, so we never had any problems with our narcissistic parents being in our lives.

    I did not know that my husband’s mother was a narcissist, until we had been married several years. He never talked much about either of his parents, so I had no clue. I did find it odd that my normally tender hearted husband did not seem to grieve at all when we got the news that his mother had died. But at the time, I put it down to the fact that we all show our grief differently.

    We had been married at least five years, when we were standing in line at a store one day, and a woman in front of us was behaving like a royal Bitch, with a capital B. She was treating her husband, her teenage children, and the cashier like they all needed to get down on their knees and worship her. My husband turned to me and quietly said “That woman is behaving exactly like my mother! For a minute I thought it was her!”

    A few years after that, when my husband’s adult daughter had some financial trouble and we invited her to live with us while she got back on her feet, she told me enough stories about her paternal grandmother that there was no doubt in my mind she was a flaming narcissist. So, no wonder my husband has had problems with women in the past! Thanks to a lot of therapy, starting early in our marriage, the fact that we both grew up with narcissistic mothers hasn’t been much of a problem for us. But it certainly explains his lack of grief when his mother died.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow.. what a story! It sure does explain his lack of grief!

      That’s wonderful you both have faced things though rather than head rocketing into denial like many do. It seems like you have a wonderful marriage 🙂 I’m so happy for you!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Aww, thank you. Our marriage isn’t without its problems, but overall, it is a good marriage. We almost didn’t make it through the first couple of years. Thanks to us both getting treatment for our respective PTSD issues, we made it. My husband’s recent cancer treatments set him back some emotionally, but he is now seeing a new therapist for EMDR, and that seems to be helping a lot.

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        • That sounds like a perfect marriage in my book. By perfect I don’t mean without any issues, always in perfect harmony, etc. I mean you both accept responsibility for your own issues & work together. That is a wonderful thing!

          So glad hubby is doing better emotionally! How is he physically?

          Liked by 1 person

          • My husband is doing better physically, he has more energy and strength than he did right after the radiation treatments. The best news is that his oncologist believes the cancer is completely gone! Now he is waiting to see his cardiologist to find out if the cancer treatment has adversely affected his heart. From what I can tell, I don’t think his heart suffered any damage. But we will know for sure next Thursday.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up with two very abusive controlling narcissists and my husband’s father was one two. Our marriage has been such a huge struggle from day one. My husband is one now himself. I don’t deny I have my own traumas that probably contribute but I have been working with a therapist for a long time and have learned so much about what is normal relational behavior and not…that is where I learned the reality of both my parents and husband. It’s a challenge for sure.

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