It is common for spouses to cite difficulties experienced in coping with their former partner’s extreme personality traits as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Frequently, a former partner is labelled as having a narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterised by an inflated feeling of self-importance and the desire to be acknowledged for achievements and successes. These feelings at a surface level are not intrinsically bad; however, they have the potential to be damaging to relationships when they are transposed into exhibiting extreme thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Examples of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:

  • Grandiosity and self-importance.
  • Persistent fantasies about success, power, attractiveness, intellectual superiority and ideal love.
  • Sense of superiority and specialness.
  • Wish to be admired.
  • Strong sense of entitlement.
  • Manipulates and exploits others.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Believes that others are envious of him/her and envy of others; and
  • Arrogant and contemptuous attitudes and behaviours.

While these traits can be seen in the general population, a marriage with a person with a narcissistic personality disorder will also result in a power imbalance, as he/she will always strive to remain in control to an unhealthy extent. Many who struggle with the disorder might be unaware of the impact of their behaviours and the effect they have on their loved ones closest to them. The spouse and children who are affected by the narcissistic behaviour of their partner or parent may have spent years coping with being bullied and undermined emotionally, financially and physically.

Treatment for a personality disorder 

The starting point for treating a personality disorder is that the individual with the disorder is able to recognise that they are affected. Treatment would typically include therapy, or in extreme cases medication to assist with any feelings of anxiety or depression caused by the symptoms.

It can be extremely challenging to counsel and support those with a narcissistic personality disorder due to the person’s sensitivity to perceived criticism and their rejection of the diagnosis.

Here to help

If you have concerns that your relationship has been affected by personality traits exhibited by your partner, please get in touch with a member of our Family Law Team below.

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