How to set boundaries with a narcissistic husband

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When your husband is a narcissist, one of the most difficult things in the relationship is setting boundaries with him.

I’ve seen a few friends struggle with this, and I’ve also seen the effect on their mental health it has had.

But though it wasn’t easy, and with the help of mental health experts, they have found ways to set boundaries with their narcissistic husbands.

I know there are many other people like them that are going through the same thing — if you are on this page, chances are you are one of them.

So I’d like to share the wisdom my friends have gathered to try to make this path a little easier for you. 

Here are 14 ways to set boundaries with a narcissistic husband. 

1) Understand the kind of narcissism you’re dealing with

To set boundaries with a narcissistic husband — or any narcissistic person for that matter — is understanding them.

Narcissists tend to exhibit particular behavior, but some may focus more on particular actions over others. These are typical aspects of a narcissistic personality: 

  • He feels entitled to the best 
  • He feels superior to others
  • He is self-obsessed and admires himself excessively 
  • He lacks empathy for others
  • He tends to be jealous 
  • He often seeks attention
  • He puts high importance on beauty and power

In practice, this can mean he shows the following behavior in your marriage:

Once you understand his tendencies and behavior inside out, it will be easier for you to find the best strategy to set boundaries with him. 

In addition to defining his patterns, you can also consider these questions:

  • What does he want most?
  • What’s his background?
  • How does he treat others?

It’s useful to remember that a narcissist’s actions come from a place of emptiness. He tends to appear overconfident, but deep inside he’s probably insecure and emotionally weak. That’s what every mental health practitioner I’ve asked about this topic has told me, at least.

A narcissist will never admit this, though, it’s something he hides deep inside himself. 

Try to approach him with a sense of empathy. He isn’t being narcissistic on purpose or because he chose to be that way: it’s a disorder that makes him that way. 

2) Set your boundaries in a calm way

I know from the stories of my friends that dealing with a narcissistic husband is challenging, to say the least.

There are days when they called me in tears, or were at wit’s end and blew up at their husband. 

Anyone can understand this. You are only human, and there is only so much you can take.

Here’s what my friends have shared has helped them most in similar situations.

Try not to deal with setting boundaries when you feel at your most emotional. There’s no better way to get a narcissist riled up than talking to them in a hostile way. So though your anger is completely understandable, it’s also making the problem worse for you.

Remove yourself from the situation until you can calm down. Once you have, approach your husband with kindness, but firmness. State your boundaries calmly.

For example, you can say in a calm voice:

“It’s frustrating for me to listen to you when you use this tone. I’m going to leave now, but I am open to coming back to this discussion when you’re able to talk to me in a more respectful way.” 

Remember that good boundaries include consequences. You must know what you’re prepared to do if the boundaries are ignored, and follow up on them. So when you say the above, actually leave the conversation, or hang up the phone. Otherwise, your boundary will lose credibility.

This will protect yourself emotionally from your narcissistic husband, and also teach him that he can enter the conversation again only if he changes his behavior. 

3) Be prepared to continually remind him of your boundaries

Here’s what one of my friends shared with me over coffee once:

“It’s not that I struggle to set boundaries. He even follows them — for a while. The problem is that eventually he stops, and I’m back to square one. Over and over again. He’s pushing me until I break.” 

Unfortunately, this is something narcissists can do. They wait until you loosen your grip on boundaries, so they can slip through the crack. 

When you set boundaries, make sure you stick to them and follow up with them each and every time. 

Don’t loosen them up because of good behavior. They will quickly learn that they no longer have to respect your boundaries, and it will be harder and harder to set them each time. 

4) Emotionally detach from him

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not thinking of trying to separate from your husband. You might have kids with him, or you want to give your all into making things work before you consider that option.

Many of my friends with this experience wanted the same, and that’s totally fair.

Don’t take this tip as me trying to convince you of the opposite — in fact, my friends have shared it’s what helped them perhaps the most to keep going. 

When your husband is a narcissist, you need to make sure you don’t attach your sense of worth and love completely to him. 

One thing that can help is to recognize that you do have options outside of your marriage. If things get bad, you always have the option of separating, and your life does not depend on staying with him no matter what. 

But what really gives you the best emotional freedom is to work on your own mindset from within.

Though I haven’t experienced a narcissistic husband, I have come across an incredibly transformational resource while struggling with other things in my life.

I suggested it to one of my friends dealing with a narcissistic husband, and she had incredibly positive feedback for it, saying it he

She shared it with other women she knew in her situation. They too said it showed them a completely new perspective and uncovered lies they told themselves about love that trapped them in their marriage without knowing how to deal with their narcissistic husband well. 

I’m talking about a course by modern-day shaman Rudá Iandê. If you feel you could also benefit from finding a new perspective with practical solutions to dealing with a narcissist, definitely check out his transformational video — it’s free, so you have nothing to lose. 

Click here to watch the free video.

5) Name his behavior

A narcissistic husband may try out many tactics to see how far he can take some of his behaviors. 

Ignoring this, or pretending you don’t notice may just encourage him.

So when you see him doing something in a particular way, label it. This shows him that you know what he is doing, and will not tolerate it.

It can be as simple as saying something like, “It’s degrading when you tell me I can’t do things.”

6) Don’t share too much of your personal information

Though in marriage you do need to share a lot of information with each other, remember that you don’t need to share everything — and with a narcissistic husband, you shouldn’t. 

Someone with narcissistic personality disorder may use what they know about you against you, to try to manipulate you for their benefit.

Of course, some information is more sensitive than others. Be particularly careful about sharing your weaknesses, fears, and to an extent even your interests. 

If you do share these things, be on the lookout for them to try to use it to gain control over you, and be ready to stop them. 

Also let them know that you’re not okay with them sharing this personal information about you with others. 

7) Set boundaries in the bedroom too

Just because you’re married to someone doesn’t give him any right to require intimate acts that you’re not comfortable with.

Make sure you’re fine with the physical and sexual aspects of the relationship. He may try to manipulate or control you in order to get you to bend to his preferences, without much regard for your feelings.

Tell him clearly when you’re not comfortable with something, and that you will not engage in it. If he refuses to cooperate, don’t be afraid to walk away or ask him to leave.

A close friend confided in me that she struggled with this in particular. Because they were married, she felt like she somehow “owed” her narcissistic husband what he wanted in the bedroom.

But marriage in no way means undermining somebody’s respect. Your preferences and limits stay the same, and if anything marriage means respecting those things more, not less.  

8) Stay financially independent

One thing that makes setting boundaries with a narcissistic husband that much harder is being financially dependent on him.

Make sure that your financial situation is fair and that you have your own way to support yourself.

If you share a bank account, you may want to set up your own where you put aside some money. 

One woman I know did this, and she told me she felt so much more confident and at ease with herself knowing that she had a way out and enough resources to support herself if she chose to leave.

She was able to approach setting boundaries with her husband with much more self-respect and confidence, as she knew for a fact that she did not have to depend on him

If your narcissistic husband struggles with spending too much money, this could also be a good way for him to learn firsthand that he must curb his tendencies. Once he runs out of his own money, he cannot touch yours. 

9) Be true to yourself

Both men and women with narcissistic spouses say that their partner can bring out the worst in them.

If he starts yelling, it’s easy to get sucked into the fight and start doing the same. Over time, you may even notice yourself taking on some of the very characteristics you really dislike in your husband. 

This is a natural tendency: we humans tend to mirror each other. This is even more true when it comes to someone who’s incredibly close to you or who you spend a lot of time with.

But in this case, it’s good to develop resistance, and to continuously self-reflect on who you are and who you want to be, so that you don’t let your husband make you into someone you don’t like.

Consider what your values are, and act according to them no matter what he does. Your identity is separate from your husband’s; you are solely responsible for your own actions, and he for his. 

This is another point that the course I shared above helped my friends with a lot: the free Love and Intimacy video by the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. 

Watching it helped these women feel like someone understood their struggles to deal with their narcissistic husband, and through the course they also found actual solutions to how to set boundaries with him. 

As I’ve found too when I took the course myself, it all starts with your inner relationship. Once you learn how to love yourself, setting boundaries with other people becomes a whole lot easier. 

If you’re ready to take that journey, click here to watch the incredible free video.

10) Don’t feel the need to defend yourself 

It’s natural to want to defend yourself if your narcissistic husband tries to intimidate you or make you second-guess yourself.

But you need to avoid doing this.

Narcissists love putting people on the defense. They’ll look for and pick apart your bad qualities, trying to make you feel bad about yourself. This makes them feel like they’re in a superior position, in the role of someone judging you. 

If you’re in a heated situation and notice yourself getting defensive, pause and take a deep breath. 

You don’t need to defend yourself because you’ve done nothing wrong. In realizing this and refusing to let him make you feel bad, you keep your power over your identity, self-worth, and in the situation too.

11) Don’t show him how his behavior affects you

This tip is something I’ve heard is particularly hard when dealing with narcissistic partners.

Remember that narcissists like feeling superior, and like they have control over others. They like seeing that they have power over how others feel and act.

And sometimes, they might. If someone is being very frustrating, you’ll naturally feel a reaction to that.

But here’s something that may help: you can still feel something and choose a course of action independent of your feeling.

In other words, if your narcissistic husband is being annoying, you have a choice. You can either show him that he is annoying you, or you can choose to ignore his behavior and walk out to stop letting his behavior affect how you feel.

12) Create healthy relationships with others

A relationship with a narcissist can be draining on your energy. If you need to continue in this relationship, then you should balance it out by cultivating better relationships with others that can lift you up and help you recharge.

Seek out family members or friends who can support you and make you feel good about yourself. 

In fact, this is a good tip to follow even if you have a very healthy relationship with your husband.

It is always good to have a balance in life, and relationships are a big part of that. You should never let any person or thing become your only point and purpose in life. 

In the case of a narcissistic husband, this will also help you maintain perspective on normal behavior and a network of support when you need one. 

13) Believe actions, not promises

Narcissists are quick to promise they will change, or that they will do something for you. But when it comes time for them to follow up and actually do it, it never seems to happen.

They always have an excuse ready, or use more manipulative techniques to make you forgive them again and again.

So when you set boundaries with a narcissistic husband, measure his respect for your boundaries by his actions, not his promises.

If he says he will allow you space when you ask for it, but he constantly checks up on you or interrupts you, that’s not respecting your boundaries.

Point out the inconsistencies in his words and behavior, and let him know that he can’t get away with just empty words. 

14) Forgive but don’t forget

We are all on this planet to grow and heal, and we have all made mistakes that should be forgiven. That’s how we learn to become better people.

At the end of the day, holding onto resentment against your narcissistic husband is hurting you more than it’s hurting him. 

You should never let someone damage your health like this.

So if you’re wondering if you should forgive your narcissistic husband, the answer is definitely yes.

However, don’t forget his actions and how they affect you. Stay aware of his tendencies so you can keep the needed distance from him and make sure he can’t hurt you again. 

Final thoughts

Dealing with a narcissistic husband is no walk in the park — the experiences that my friends have shared with me have made me certain of that.

But while the path ahead may not be easy, know that you don’t have to walk it alone. Many others have been where you are now. They have made it through, and so will you.

When you’re armed with the right knowledge, you can find the best way to move forward. And you can always find others like you to support you in your journey.

This right here is an excellent place to start. Feel free to share your experience in the comments below, and connect with others who are rooting for you.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

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