Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work with a Narcissist

Marriage counseling with an abusive or narcissistic spouse is not a good idea. I tried it. You may have, too. It simply gives the abuser another venue to blame, abuse, and project. 

Declining to participate in something that is more hurtful than helpful is a healthy boundary-3

I dreaded going to marriage counseling. But thought I needed to go. I went prior to filing for divorce. I went after filing for divorce. I hoped the therapist would be able to do or say something to change him. That never happened. I also went because I wanted to “prove” to my church and our friends that I was doing everything I could to try to make the marriage work. That wasn’t worth the pain I had to endure.

“When there is no safety and no sanity, joint counseling is ineffective and often dangerous. If he can’t see his part or take responsibility for his own wrong thinking, beliefs or attitudes, everything ends up being the wife’s fault and her responsibility.”

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Weekend Wisdom – An Abusive Man’s Anger

“The abusive man’s problem with anger is almost the opposite of what is commonly believed. The reality is:


One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you – as will happen to any abused woman from time to time- he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are.  Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed. You may develop physical or emotional reactions to swallowing your anger, such as depression, nightmares, emotional numbing, or eating and sleeping problems, which your partner may use as an excuse to belittle you further or make you feel crazy.

Why does your partner react so strongly to your anger? One reason may be that he considers himself above reproach.  The second is that on some level he senses- though not necessarily consciously – that there is power in your anger. If you have space to feel and express your rage, you will be better able to hold on to your identity and to resist his suffocation of you.  He tries to take your anger away in order to snuff out your capacity to resist his will. Finally, he perceives your anger as a challenge to his authority, to which he responds by overpowering you with anger that is greater than your own. In this way he ensures that he retains the exclusive right to be the one who shows his anger.”

Excerpt from Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? p. 60-61.

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Weekend Wisdom – Conflict with an Abusive Man

I’m really enjoying Lundy Bancroft’s book Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?  I wish I had read Bancroft’s books about 3 years ago. This is a person who gets what you are going through and validates your innermost feelings. There is something very healing about feeling validated on this journey.

I frequently felt like people didn’t understand the destructiveness of what I was going through as a Christian woman dealing with an abusive man.  (And still go through post-divorce.)  A well-meaning friend said she viewed it as a “communication issue” while another quoted scripture that “God hates divorce.” When you read Bancroft’s book, you feel validated that someone else absolutely understands the anguish and craziness you are going through due to his abusiveness.

Here is a daily excerpt from the book, titled “How Do I Make Conflicts with Him go Better?”

“You have probably noticed that I haven’t written about how you can resolve conflicts with your partner more constructively.  That’s no accident. I don’t believe that a woman can make things go better with a controlling or abusive man by changing how she argues with him.  Some people may say that you should bring things up with him in a very diplomatic, non-demanding manner, almost like you’re asking him a favor.  Others will tell you the opposite: that you should be firm and no-nonsense with him, setting clear limits and boundaries about his behavior. You may be advised to talk just about how you feel, so that you don’t sound like you are criticizing your partner.  Some people believe that you’ll reach him more successfully if you give him lots of reassurance that you love him and that you’re just trying to make your relationship go better.

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Weekend Wisdom – Verbal Abuse is Destructive

“I wouldn’t really call what he does ‘abuse.’ I mean, it’s not like he hits me or anything.”

Have you ever found yourself saying something along these lines?  Many people believe that “abuse” only refers to physical beatings, the kind where the man leaves the woman with bruises on her body and swollen eyes.  And they are badly mistaken.

Verbal abuse takes a huge toll on a woman, especially when it is combined with other injurious behaviors, such as controlling her or cheating on her.  The put-downs, the humiliation, the ridicule — all of these can attack a woman’s soul deeply, sometimes more deeply than assaults do.

What are the key messages that verbal abuse sends you?  His vicious words tell you that you are beneath him.  He sends the message that you have no value. His insults and rejection work to convince you that you are not worthy of love.  His verbal attacks teach you that everything you do is wrong.  His arrogance and demanding treatment make you feel stupid and incompetent.

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10 Things To Do Before You Separate or File for Divorce from a Narcissist

Writing-Pen-PaperDivorcing a narcissist is the fight of your life. While going through a divorce is not easy for anyone, when the person you are divorcing is a narcissist, it can be an absolute nightmare. The day you file the paperwork, it’s “game on”.

A Forbes article by Jeff Landers on divorcing a narcissist accurately describes what to expect.  “Do not expect a narcissist spouse to be cooperative or go away quietly. During a divorce, narcissists can be manipulative and exploitive, feeling neurotically entitled to get whatever they want. Narcissists blame everyone else for their problems, and because they are so self-centered, even while bullying their spouses they often perceive themselves to be the victims. True narcissists believe they are above the law and feel that the rules do not apply to them, making them notoriously difficult to deal with. It is common during a divorce for narcissists to:

  • refuse to provide financial information and documents
  • refuse to negotiate
  • refuse to listen to their own lawyer
  • defy court orders
  • use the children as pawns

Because they are so competitive, narcissists love the adversarial nature of the legal system and excel at manipulating it to their advantage.”

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What is Emotional and Verbal Abuse?

I knew something was wrong in my marriage, but after years of abuse, it was hard to understand exactly what was going on and even more difficult to communicate it to others or try to get help.  Emotional and verbal abuse left me in a fog; I doubted myself, I felt terribly hopeless and I didn’t trust my instincts.  I thought if I just worked harder, or didn’t bring up certain topics, or explained things more clearly that my spouse would “get it”.  He would be nicer.  He would stop being so mean.

The Seriousness of Emotional/Verbal Abuse

Emotional and verbal abuse in a marriage can be difficult to understand and identify, but it is extremely destructive and causes great harm to the person in the relationship.  In this type of abuse, the abuser uses actions and words to maintain power, control and domination. They  have an intense need to stay in control of their world, to impose their belief system on their spouse, and win at all costs.   Abusers may use various “tools” to dominate; these often include rage, contempt, constant criticism, manipulation, intimidation, blame-shifting, defensiveness, stonewalling/withdrawal, mocking, putdowns, hostile humor, jealousy, lying, twisting the truth, threats, gas-lighting, the silent treatment, and/or different forms of passive aggressive behavior.

The temptation is to minimize this type of abuse because there are no bruises.  DON’T!  This type of abuse can be every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse.   Those who haven’t experienced this often find it hard to understand.  However,  as Christians, we should all understand how damaging this type of abuse is when we look at scripture and read that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Or read how reckless words damage our soul the same way a sword damages our body (Proverbs 12:18). We are told that “healing words give life, but dishonest, perverse, lying words crush the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 AMP).  As Steven Tracy points out in Mending the Soul (see Helpful Resources page), almost half of the sins identified as the ones God particularly hates are verbal: a lying tongue; a false witness; one who spreads strife among brothers  (Proverbs 6:16-19).     He explains that this is because words have the power to encourage and give life;  but in the case of verbal abuse, Satan uses this God-given verbal power to curse and destroy life.    It is a perversion of God’s plan for our lives.   Continue reading