It is an admirable goal for a Christian woman to work on becoming a submissive wife as outlined in Ephesians 5:22-33, but this sincere desire to please God and her husband can tempt a narcissist to manipulate and abuse the woman.
Narcissist predators are on the lookout for women who strive to be selfless and willing to sacrifice to care for others. I know this, all too well, from first- hand experience.
The abuse can be very subtle with the control increasing gradually over time so that the wife gradually adapts to it.
The narcissist husband and submissive wife may function well together in the beginning in their respective roles, making a home and raising a family, but as time goes on the narcissist expects more and more, and the submissive wife feels frustrated, like she can never do enough. Eventually frustration leads to depression. The narcissist is unable to love, the submissive wife feels unloved and the relationship spirals downhill.
In typical narcissist fashion, the husband blames the wife, and in her role as pleaser she takes the blame and buys yet another book on submission and tries harder, becoming more frustrated, with more downhill spiraling, rinse and repeat.
Patricia Evans, author and recognized expert on Verbal Abuse, describes wives who experience this abuse in the excerpt below.
Characteristics of the Woman Who Has Experienced Abuse
She’s a naive romantic. She believes that love, her love, will conquer all. It takes her the longest time to learn that love doesn’t excuse her partner from being accountable for their actions.
She doesn’t know when to give up and walk away.
She is a natural at guilt and apologies. She shoulders the blame for whatever goes wrong.
She takes responsibility for anything and everything.
She doesn’t believe that she is good enough. Her low self-worth, progressively lowered in an abusive relationship, means that however imperfect her partner, she still feels inferior to them. She sees that person as compensating for her own inadequacies.
Her ‘NO’ lacks authority. In other words, she is easily bullied and coerced. She may sound strong-minded, but her wants, needs, and reason never carry the same weight for her as those of her parnter.
She has little or no idea of boundaries. She has little instinct for self protection or self-preservation. Her best ‘strategy’ is often to hope that others will do right by her
She believes that she needs someone else to complete her. She does not fully believe that she can manage herself on her own and face the challenges of life.
She’s really into rescue. A generous soul, she may well yearn for a rescuer, but she can’t resist running to the rescue of anyone in distress. (This is often part of what attracts her to an abusive partner.) She’s slow to learn that the people she rescues are more likely to turn aggressive than to show gratitude and loyalty in the long term.
She believes that she is entitled to far less from her life than other people. Other people have rights, she only has wishes that she believes are probably unreasonable.
She is a generous, long-suffering person.
Patricia Evans’ website is www.verbalabuse.com
There are books and web sites full of information about the narcissistic personality, which are informative reading for anyone closely associated with one. Allow yourself to learn about the subject, since knowledge is power.
Maintain your sanity by understanding the dynamics of a narcissistic relationship. Reading about others’ experiences will show you that you are not alone and possibly provide other tips for coping.
- The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond by Patricia Evans
- The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family
- Toads, and the Women Who Kiss Them
- Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
- The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook
- The Pressure’s Off: There’s a New Way to Live
- God and Women and Feminine By Design by Dr. John D. Garr
- Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home
- Wisdom Hunter by Randal Arthur (a novel, but so good you will need a highlighter)
- Breaking the Bondage of Legalism