Eight Mental Abuse Tactics Narcissists Use on Spouses


By Christine Hammond

Have you experienced intentional exploitation by your spouse? Regularly endured insults mixed with rejection and alternating with affirmation? Feel manipulated into doing or saying something out of character? Then you might be experiencing abuse.

But is it really abuse without bruising?  Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse by a narcissist can be difficult to spot.

It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the narcissist to mean that you disapprove of them in some way. You try to explain that wasn’t your intention but they are off on a tirade which ends in you feeling like you are losing your mind.

How did this happen? Here are several favorite narcissistic mental abuse tactics:

  1. Rage – This is an intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing (remember the wire hanger scene from the movie “Mommie Dearest”). It startles and shocks you into compliance or silence.
  2. Gaslighting – They lie about the past making you doubt your memory, perception, and sanity. They claim and give evidence of your past wrong behavior further causing doubt. You might even begin to question what you said a minute ago.
  3. The Stare – This is an intense stare with no feeling behind it.  It is designed to scare you into submission and is frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
  4. Silent Treatment – They punish by ignoring you. Then “lets you off the hook” by demanding an apology even though you aren’t to blame. This to modify your behavior.  They also have a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
  5. Projection – They dump their issues onto you as if you were the one doing it. For instance, they accuse you of lying when they have lied. Or they make you feel guilty when they are really guilty. This creates confusion.
  6. Twisting – If you confront your narcissistic spouse, they will twist it around to blame you for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their behavior and insist you apologize to them.
  7. Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic is for the narcissist to make you fear the worst such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Then they refute it and ask you for something you normally would reply with “No”. This is a control tactic to get you to agree to do something you wouldn’t.
  8. Victim Card – When all else fails, the narcissist resorts to playing the victim card. This is designed to gain your sympathy and further control your behavior.

Don’t let your narcissistic spouse get the best of you by using these tactics. Instead memorize these maneuvers, remain silent when they are being used, and end the conversation as soon as possible. This will keep you from being a victim of mental abuse.

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