Being married to a narcissist is a traumatizing experience because narcissists get married for all the wrong reasons. Marriage is supposed to be about commitment, companionship, emotional closeness, growth, trust, and many other meaningful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissists aren’t capable of honoring.

The only reason that narcissists get married is because being married gives them access to an unlimited amount of narcissistic supply. It allows them to collect large amounts of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, regulate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, soothe their fear of abandonment, and even create children they can live vicariously through.

This article is a thorough exploration of all the different reasons that narcissists get married so you can have the information that you need to better protect your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations from the narcissist in your life. 

We’d also love to invite you to join the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform, a safe space that we have teamed up with mental health professionals to create to provide those affected by narcissistic abuse with the ongoing support and education needed to protect themselves and heal from narcissistic abuse!

There are plenty of resources inside the platform that can help your process and overcome the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that being married to a narcissist creates! But for now, let’s dive into the different reasons that narcissists get married!

Narcissists Get Married for the Narcissistic Supply That Comes with Marriage

Underneath their grandiose public persona, narcissists have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they work day and night to suppress. It is an impossible task because narcissists don’t possess the emotional intelligence needed to manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of emotional regulation. 

Some of the unhealthy forms of emotional regulation that narcissists use are projection, narcissistic rage, and scapegoating! They have also been known to rely on maladaptive behaviors such as substance use, gambeling, and avoidance.

So, instead of relying on healthy forms of emotional regulation, narcissists use validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, also known as narcissistic supply, to protect their emotional stability from their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. To do this, narcissists rely heavily on a manipulative technique called mirroring. 

In the narcissistic realm, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about a specific person or group of people. They then use this information to create a falsified identity that others can relate to. This, combined with other manipulative behaviors (e.g. future faking, love bombing, breadcrumbing), manipulates others into seeing the narcissist as the “perfect” person for them. 

Did You Know?

When narcissists use mirroring, future faking, the devaluation phase, and breadcrumbing (a.k.a. intermittent reinforcement) it creates incredibly addictive trauma bonds that take years to break! Our article “Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction” has more information about this topic!

What does this have to do with the reason that narcissists get married? 

To construct a falsified identity powerful enough to manipulate others into believing in it, narcissists must first mirror society. Meaning that they construct a falsified identity out of what they believe society values most. 

Generally speaking, marriage is one thing that society values most. So, part of the reason that narcissists get married is because they want to “fit into” society. The other side of a narcissist’s motivation to get married is that being married gives them a significant amount of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, also known as narcissistic supply.

A woman getting married to a narcissist

Through manipulative/abusive behaviors such as financial abuse, gaslighting , love bombing, baiting, narcissistic rage, trauma bonding, and many others, narcissists are able to manipulate their spouses into becoming viable sources of narcissistic supply for as long as the narcissists remain in power and control of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations of their spouse.

If Narcissists Get Married to “Fit Into” Society, Why Are They So Abusive Towards Their Spouses? 

A question that often gets asked is, “Why would narcissists use marriage to ‘fit into’ society, but then treat their spouses horribly?” It is a fair question because society doesn’t value abuse and manipulation. So, it seems that narcissists are sabotaging themselves by being abusive to their spouse. 

Well, the reason that narcissists gravitate towards marriage but aren’t capable of honoring the commitment, companionship, emotional closeness, growth, trust, and many other meaningful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that comes with marriage has to do with their upbringing.

We have a thorough exploration of a narcissist’s childhood upbringing in our article How Are Narcissists Made, but it is believed that narcissism originates from an abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.  

This belief has a very broad spectrum of possibilities that could range anywhere from primary caregivers who are physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.) to those whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries).

Nonetheless, this type of environment prevented the narcissist from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

It also caused them to develop many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they’re incapable of managing through healthy forms of emotional regulation because of how emotionally incompetent their childhood upbringing made them. 

So, what do they do? 

They do exactly what we mentioned earlier in this article, they mirror society to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they couldn't get from their primary caregivers. The problem that they run into though is that they are so emotionally stunted and immature that they can’t look past society's superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior.

This causes them to build their identity out of the most superficial, trivial, and materialistic forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as narcissistic supply.

This is the worst possible thing that they could have done because this approach to constructing a sense of self leaves them even more emotionally stunted and immature than they were to begin with! 

With powerful painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as feeling inadequate, unlovable, unwanted, worthless, and weak lurking beneath their surface, their emotional stability is constantly being compromised.

To avoid being crushed underneath the weight of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, narcissists use the falsified identity that they created by mirroring society to suppress them deep within their psyche.

This causes them to develop extremely fragile egos that get triggered by the slightest contradictions to their grandiose public persona (e.g. being told “no” could cause them to experience a narcissistic injury). When they experience this contradiction, it triggers all of their suppressed painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, compromising their emotions stability. 

As you can imagine, narcissists do everything in their power to avoid these narcissistic injuries (i.e. contradictions to their grandiose sense of self) and one of the ways that they do this is by abusing and manipulating others!

How Does Being Abusive and Manipulative Help Narcissists Regulate Their Emotions?

When a narcissist subjects you to all the invalidation, devaluation, degradation, humiliation, minimization, and other forms of manipulation/abuse that they do, they are actually regulating all of their painful thoughts, feelings, emotions. 

By subjecting you to the intense levels of manipulation and abuse, narcissists are able to figuratively point their finger at you and say to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, they are!” They are projecting all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto you so they can protect their own emotional stability. 

They are incapable of maintaining healthy relationships because their primary caregivers’ emotional unavailability, unresponsiveness, and inconsistency led them to believe that the source of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions were positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as commitment, companionship, emotional closeness, growth, trust, etc.

A simple example of this could be the golden child. Abusive parents treat their golden child really well when the golden child is acting as a source of narcissistic supply, but the second the golden child needs his/her thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs mirrored by their parents, they are nowhere to be found.

What this does is teaches the child that expressing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions is what drives their abusive parents away and excelling at something in their external environment (e.g sports, school, work) is what draws their parents in. 

This misguided belief causes them to develop into adolescents and adults who are incapable of maintaining healthy relationships, such as marriages, because they are terrified of the commitment, companionship, emotional closeness, growth, trust, and many other meaningful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come with it.

Did You Know?

Even though narcissists often seek out marriage, they are terrified of commitment! Our article “Are Narcissists Scared of Commitment” explains everything that you should know about that!

The Two Other Reasons That Narcissists Get Married

We mentioned in the beginning of this article that part of the reason that narcissists get married is because it allows them to soothe their fear of abandonment and create children they can live vicariously through. Let’s dive deeper into that.

Marriage Helps Narcissists Soothe Their Fear of Abandonment

In our article Is It Possible to Have a Healthy Relationship With a Narcissist we walk you through this entire concept, so we won’t talk your ear off here, but it is believed that narcissists have anxious attachment styles.

Someone with an anxious attachment style has a fear of rejection and abandonment, constantly needs validation, admiration, and reassurance, is frustrated when their needs aren’t met, and has a lot of insecurities. 

Narcissists have all of those characteristics but the real kicker here is that anxious attachment styles are developed through unhealthy childhood upbringings with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.

We conducted a survey among 200 survivors of romantic narcissistic relationships where we explained all three attachment styles (i.e. anxious, avoidant, secure) and asked the participants if they recognized any of the attachment styles from their own experiences with the narcissist in their life. This is what we found:
A survey among 200 survivors of narcissistic abuse about anxious attachment styles and narcissists

Again, our article Is It Possible to Have a Healthy Relationship With a Narcissist has a ton of information about this topic so be sure to check it out for more information. Anyways, part of the reason that narcissists get married is because they understand marriage is a commitment and having someone commit to them soothes their fear of abandonment. 

Marriage Allows Them to Create Kids That They Can Live Vicariously Through 

Narcissists don’t view other people as individuals with thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations of their own. They view them as objects that they’re entitled to use to get narcissistic supply. Sadly, this is also true for their children. 

It is very common for narcissists to live vicariously through their children to get narcissistic supply.

Example of a Narcissistic Father Living Vicariously Through His Son

Jacob, a narcissistic father, had dreams of playing in the MLB that never came true. He has spent his entire adult life blaming others for his failures because he can’t accept the fact that he wasn’t good enough. What he does to keep these MLB dreams alive is live vicariously through his fifteen-year-old son who is a talented baseball player. 

Jacob is very involved with his son’s career but not because he cares about his son’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations, but because he wants to get the narcissistic supply that his son’s talent creates.

If his son gets complimented, Jacob makes sure that people know he is the one who trained him. If his son gets an award, Jacob makes sure to be front and center in the picture. If Jacob gets a scholarship to college for his ability, Jacob makes sure to compare it to his own career so he can twist reality and validate his delusional belief of being a superstar. 

However, the second Jacob’s son decides that he doesn’t want to play baseball anymore, Jacob discards him like a piece of trash and goes searching for a new source of supply.

We highly recommend that you read our article “What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Father?” for more information on a narcissist’s ability to live vicariously through their children and why it works so well! Having children is just another source of narcissistic supply for a narcissist and often keeps narcissistic marriages intact for years

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissists get married for all of the wrong reasons. Being married allows them to collect large amounts of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, regulate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, soothe their fear of abandonment, and even create children they can live vicariously through. 

In the beginning of this article we introduced you to the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform, a safe space that we’ve mental health professionals who specialize in narcissistic relationships to create for those looking for the ongoing support and education needed to protect themselves and heal from narcissistic abuse.

There are a lot of helpful features inside the platform that you can use to strengthen your healing journey so we hope to see you soon!

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