My narcissistic husband and I fight constantly and when I told him that he needs to decide one way or another if he is interested in staying in our marriage or leaving he said he wanted to leave. We have small children and I don’t want to raise them separately. I love my husband but I resent him so much that I don’t show him love even when I feel it. I have found him to be dishonest in the past and I often ask him questions to test whether or not he is telling the truth. I feel like he is a narcissist and I don’t know if we can repair this marriage even though I would like to. Can you help?
Thank you for your email. It is confusing and scary to be constantly fighting, yet is quite common if you don’t have the tools you need to stop the vicious cycle. When couples become aware of why they are fighting and what they can do differently, negativity can be stopped. In terms of your husband’s actions, people often resort to unsavory behavior when they are feeling unsafe and disconnected as their primary goal is survival and protecting oneself at all costs. He is most likely capable of different behavior if your relationship were in a state of health and connection.
The continued resentment that you feel which you say prevents you from displaying the love you have, does not help the situation as it allows for the negativity to fester and prevents any positive energy that could break the cycle.
Finally, pushing him by asking questions to see if he will tell the truth may only backfire. Many people that lie do so because they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth. If you are very reactive, he may hide things from you to avoid facing your wrath. While it does not justify lying, it is important to know that lying is many times a defense mechanism and is not necessarily pathological. If he felt safe to be open and honest with you without excessive repercussions, you may find him to be more transparent.
I see you are quite conflicted as you say you love your husband, want to work it out, and don’t want to raise your children separately. I believe that if you both could commit to learning how to create more emotional safety with each other, and become more aware of the root cause of your conflict, you would have more hope and be able to attain a more connected relationship.
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Because this is the best way to begin creating that emotional safety, we host private marriage intensive retreats.
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We hope to meet you soon!
Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin