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Ways to disarm a narcissistic husband

Stating the obvious here – no one needs to maintain a relationship with a narcissistic husband. My point in writing this blog is that many do to stay and are left with no direction when experts respond with a ‘leave’m or else’ proclamation. As therapists we know better than that. Many partners stay and there is information we can give them to make life easier.

Try the grey rock method

What is “grey rocking”?

Grey rocking is the art of not reacting to provocative behavior or words. It is not about containing your anger – most narcissists can smell simmering rage and will increase provocation til you react. It is about a non-response because you recognize it has nothing to do with you – you observe it as you are watching tv. You don’t assume you can impact the script of a tv series and know the actors would behave the same way whether you are watching or not – they are following a script. When activated many narcissists respond in predictable ways that reflect their past, not who you are or what you did. Your job in that situation is to not respond, to go about doing what you are doing as if they just made a comment on the weather. If your narcissistic husband asks, you can let them know you heard what they said but don’t go past a one word/or few words as possible response.

How can someone implement grey rocking when dealing with a narcissist?

The narcissist’s provocative behavior and words often wears down a narcissist’s loved ones. Significant others often talk about feeling “on” all the time and being unable to relax as they are on high alert for the narcissist being unhappy. The loved one feels they are “on call” and must ‘fix’ the narcissist’s problems to prevent the narcissist’s wrath. Grey rocking frees the loved one from the on call/fix cycle – they are no longer responsible for another’s feelings or reactions. Narcissists crave attention and focus as if it is the air that sustains them. If the provocative behavior ceases to achieve the listener’s focus the narcissist is forced to choose between maintaining the behavior or getting their attention needs met. By repeated experience the narcissist is given an opportunity to behave differently and explore if they can get attention in a more prosocial way.

How can this help / what’s the point?

The listener lets go of the responsibility for controlling the narcissistic husband. They can be less drained and carry less resentment. Often narcissists do not attempt more pro-social interaction styles unless they see it as to their benefit. Grey rocking inspires the narcissist to try something different in order to maintain attention.

At what point should someone try the grey rock method?

Often those married to narcissistic husbands have a higher than healthy threshold for bad behavior. Spouses of narcissistic husbands were often trained in childhood that their needs did not matter and to give others in an unbalanced way. I would strongly suggest the spouse of a narcissistic husband explore in their own individual therapy how and why they ended up in this relationship. Do not wait until you feel you have reached your limit to practice a new skil, particularly grey rocking as it takes a lot of self control to pull off. Pick one behavior that is perhaps annoying as opposed to upsetting to start practicing grey rocking. This response needs to be built up like a muscle. Start small. After you have practiced your non response on smaller rifts utilize grey rocking on a consistent behavior that provokes you.

Try accepting the narcissist as is

If you have decided you want to maintain your marriage with the narcissist husband one must let go of the expectation for the narcissist to be different. The exhaustion many loved ones feel with narcissists is due to the effort they put into trying to get the narcissist to see their point, acknowledge the error of their ways and change. Just stop. Most know that narcissists can move mountains when motivated. Let them find their motivation.

Significant others can want narcissists to change so desperately in the hopes they can have the loving relationships they see in others. They can spend hours trying to craft the perfect response that will allow for the narcissist to see the light. This is not your job. You cannot force another to have a moral conviction or desire for another way of living. Do not compare your relationship to others relationships as it will just cause despair. Choosing the route of acceptance also means your spouse will not meet your needs in a balanced way. You will be limited in how you connect and share with the narcissist. Establish and nurture friendships and partnerships that can meet your emotional needs rather than expect the narcissist to change. I would also strongly suggest nurturing hobbies that give you joy and practice them often. This can be a tall order for the spouse of a narcissist since they have learned to bury their needs in service to the spouse. It can be counterintuitive to focus on what you love after ignoring those needs for so long. The path to less resentment and more joy lies in finding your interests again.

Strive to connect with your narcissist husband over mutual interests and activities. Think about times when you connect the most to help you think about when to connect.

Don’t allow yourself to be the audience for destructive behavior

Narcissists crave attention. If you are being treated disrespectfully, leave the room, building, go on an errand – do what you need to do to separate yourself.

Don’t announce you are leaving or why as that can be an invitation to escalate conflict. Do not respond to the rash of nasty texts at all. I would recommend you erase them as soon as they show up and do not read them – they don’t matter.. The narcissist will figure out why when you are consistent enough.

Ever hear of the extinction method for kids where you ignore their negative behavior? This is the adult version of that response. To keep your attention he will have to consider more prosocial behavior. They are capable of writing an appropriate text or having a polite conversation – they just have to decide that is what is needed. Give them the opportunity to make the decision.

Develop a tolerance for disappointing your narcissistic spouse

Many narcissistic husbands expect if they get upset at their spouse, their spouse will appease them. Make a little noise, throw out a few accusations, sprinkle in some references to their childhood and bam, my wife does what I want. I am not kidding here – I have worked with narcissistic husbands that have bragged about this equation as if they discovered a cure for cancer. Wives need to not play ball. You need to learn to say no, no thank you, that doesn’t work for me, and I won’t be doing that. It will be hard. Your narcissistic husband will probably increase the intensity of their mantrum in hopes that you will cave. Notice the reaction but do not match the intensity – rather stay calm. Refrain from trying to make your spouse feel better or make amends for your no. Just stand in it. This will be hard and at times feel unnatural if your go-to response is to appease. If it feels unnatural that is okay – new responses often feel unnatural in the beginning.

Word of note – I do not believe husbands have cornered the market on narcissistic behavior. I am simply addressing narcissistic husbands as my clients often have relationships in the past or currently with narcissistic husbands.

If you are interested in more information for navigating and recovering from narcissistic abuse schedule a consult

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