First was the announcement of the separation, and then came the news of the child that was the result of an affair. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former body builder, movie star, and California’s former Republican governor, and wife Maria Shriver, announced their separation on May 10th, 2011. One week later, Mr. Schwarzenegger, admitted that he had a child with a member of his household staff. Deceit, betrayal, and shame; these are just some of the feelings that a spouse who has been a victim of affairs might be experiencing. Schwarzenegger is just another political or public figure to announce being unfaithful to his spouse.


What is Narcissism?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is listed on The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.  A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early childhood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.

Narcissism is characterized by a sense of entitlement, feelings of grandiosity, a tendency to seek the attention of others, and interpersonal conflicts. Narcissists have a tendency to exaggerate achievements and express entitlement to recognition without having earned it. Here are some of the most common characteristics of a narcissistic personality type:

  • feelings of being superior
  • exaggeration of talents
  • grandiose fantasies
  • self-centered or self-referential behavior
  • need for attention and admiration
  • arrogant and proud
  • high achievement


Being in a relationship with someone that might be demonstrating narcissistic personality type can leave you feeling that what you have to say or do is not important, your needs are never addressed and it may leave you feeling lonely. Here are some tips on how to handle this type of relationship:

  1. Stop criticizing and start encouraging solutions. Putting a label of narcissist won’t help anything, nor will criticizing them for atrait in their personality. Instead of criticizing, isolate specific behavior you wish to change and discuss the behavior with your partner and work together in changing the behavior. Be positive and use your energies in solving problems.
  2. Next attack the problem, not the person. Choose a particular aspect of the narcissistic tendencies of your partner to work on the problem with you. For example, if you don’t feel heard, ask them to practice listening techniques with you. Practice listening and paraphrasing to encourage empathy.
  3. As Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Make sure you are truly listening to your partner, ensuring he or she feels heard. Then you can ask them to listen to you. Show them the respect they desperately need and they will be more likely to show it back to you.
  4. Set healthy boundaries. When your partner in your life tries to manipulate what you say, carefully stop them. Do not allow them to twist your words, set healthy boundaries.
  5. Finally, seek professional help. A little bit of narcissism in a relationship can be toxic, making it difficult to have conversations. The narcissistic individual is likely to be very sensitive, over-reacting to minor criticism and becoming overly aggressive in response to these criticisms. Professionals can help you build a safe environment where issues can be managed and resolved.



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Marta Rocha

About the Author: Marta Rocha is a Mental Health Counselor. Marta is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Marta Rocha is specialized in the areas of Marriage Counseling, Family Issues, Stress Management, Leadership Training, Anxiety, Depression, Sports Psychology, Grief, and Substance Abuse & Addictions. Marta Rocha has 12 years of experience in sales & marketing, advertising, promotions, management, and professional development. Her professional affiliations are with the American Counseling Association, and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

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