Recently, it was Family Day, and I got to thinking about all the different types of families there are: single-parent families, blended families, LGBTQ families, mixed-race families, multi-faith families.
The family that I'm most interested in these days is that of the extreme narcissist. I'll follow this post with one about the children of extreme narcissists. Right now, I want to focus on their spouse.
What makes a person marry an extreme narcissist? What makes this person stay with the narcissist, perhaps for years? How does the spouse feel in such a marriage? What personality traits might be shared by the spouses of extreme narcissists?
The extreme narcissist is a person characterized by a complete lack of empathy for other people. They feel superior to others and see people as either enabling them to get what they want or preventing them from getting what they want.
The extreme narcissist is incapable of love. They can pretend, but it's never real. They use people but they don't care about them. The extreme narcissist might enjoy what another person does for them, but they're unable to value this person or form a meaningful attachment to them.
To the extreme narcissist, everyone is expendable. People are interchangeable, depending on the narcissist's needs in the moment. To be in a personal relationship with an extreme narcissist is to never be loved for oneself.
Deep down, the extreme narcissist feels inadequate and insecure. As a result, they're tremendously touchy and easily insulted. They need to surround themselves with fawning acolytes who are constantly building them up.
The extreme narcissist needs to be admired and adored. They can't tolerate being questioned or challenged. Their spouse, therefore, must always coddle them and must never, ever make them feel bad about themselves in any way.
The extreme narcissist who has wealth or power will seek out a spouse who makes them look good to others; someone who'll boost their fragile ego. They want a spouse who'll give them a strategic advantage in their social or business dealings. They'll marry someone who's attractive, wealthy or well-connected. Better yet, all of the above.
The extreme narcissist tends to go through spouses like they go through any of their other possessions. They'll get what they need from their spouse and then trade them in for a new model, in the same way as people go for an upgrade on a vehicle.
The spouse of the extreme narcissist shouldn't expect to stick around for long, even if they're willing to put up with the narcissist's selfish or hurtful behaviour.
The extreme narcissist might be superficially charming to people outside their family but at home, they let their true, nasty colours show. They desire recognition and praise, so they'll make the effort to butter up those people who'll speak highly of them in public and bolster their reputation.
At home, they have no need to be pleasant with their spouse. The prey has been caught; the trophy acquired. The spouse of the extreme narcissist should expect neglect at best; abuse at worst.
There are two types of people who'll marry an extreme narcissist: a people-pleaser or another narcissist. One narcissist will marry another, perhaps even more extreme narcissist, to establish a mutually-exploitative and mutually beneficial relationship.
Both narcissists understand that there's no love to be found in this arrangement - which is more like a business transaction than a meaningful, intimate connection. Both people are using the other in order to facilitate their own goals.
One narcissist will choose to become the spouse of a more extreme narcissist in order to have a wealthy lifestyle, or more popularity. They desire social status, influence, fame. They'll use the money and connections of their spouse to build their own brand.
Examples of two narcissists together can be found in the coupling of a popular musician with a social media personality, or the marriage of a powerful head of state with a former model.
Problems can arise when one of the narcissists in the marriage is more extreme than the other and more exploitative. The other narcissist might become indignant and push back. Trouble will certainly ensue.
These marriages may last, if both spouses are achieving their goals and neither one is feeling put upon, but sometimes, the clash of egos can result in a cataclysmic break-up.
When two narcissists are angry at each-other, prepare to duck as the missiles are fired back and forth. To paraphrase an old quote, Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned.
On the flip side of the coin, the other type of person who'll marry an extreme narcissist is a people-pleaser. This is someone who's looking to their spouse for love and validation. They believe that by being "nice," they'll finally be appreciated and can feel better about themselves.
Sadly, the people-pleaser is attracted to people-users, like extreme narcissists. The extreme narcissist, in turn, is attracted to the pleaser, believing that this person is more likely to give them what they want, whenever they want it.
In this dynamic, the extreme narcissist exploits the pleaser until they've used them up. The narcissist then moves on to their next conquest. Often, the pleaser gets burnt out, has a mental or physical breakdown or finally gets angry at being so horribly exploited and sues for divorce.
These marriages rarely end well for the pleaser, who may never fully recover from their time with the extreme narcissist. The narcissist, however, being far more crafty and unscrupulous, as well as emotionally impervious, will most often escape unscathed.
When two narcissists marry, they deserve each-other and all bets are off, but it's sad to see the tender-hearted people-pleaser being so blatantly exploited. If you recognize in yourself any people-pleasing tendencies, be very careful about whom you're attracted to.
The last thing you want is to find yourself on family day next year being unhappily married to an extreme narcissist who's incapable of loving you or seeing you for the beautiful and valuable person that you are.
Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. March is all about creating success at work.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marciasirota