Why Marriage Counseling is Dangerous if One Spouse is Narcissistic

By Nancy Virden (c)2020

“When you are down, eat ice cream.” This, eager advice my son received from his overweight friend. There are healthier solutions to a down mood, of course. I know the traps of self-medication by route of the refrigerator. Perhaps you do too.

Similarly, the common advice to spouses in troubled marriages is, “Go to marriage counseling.”  This is such an adamant expectation that when the grapevine spread the news about my separation from my husband several years ago, two women (who barely knew me) called in anger. “Are you a woman of integrity?” “Did you even try?” 


Narcissism is on the rise and in general, misunderstood. Narcissists are commonly known as selfish persons who think only of themselves. It goes much deeper. Narcissists are expert manipulators.

A woman I met once went to a reputable therapist. She took her narcissist husband. In the first few minutes, her husband had won over the therapist who turned to her and said, “You have to stop being so controlling.” Seriously? She went home with a narcissist who now had more ammunition to use against her.

Narcissists will use whatever means is available to beat down the spirit of his wife: spiritual abuse (“You have to submit to me”); verbal abuse (“You are a b—-“); gaslighting (“You are crazy”); physical abuse (“I’m sorry- don’t tell anyone”); silent treatment/neglect (“I’ll let you know when I need you”); glazed eyes when the victim-survivor tries to share her joy, sadness, or news (“You talk too much”); siding against her in front of the children (“calm down”) and always, always blame.

I’ve met or heard about many such victim-survivors. Publicly, both narcissists and victim-survivors wear masks; narcissists do for pride’s sake and victim-survivors for preservation. There are high prices to pay for exposing a narcissist. If in public is the only time the narcissist acts pleasantly toward his wife, she is not going to want to jeopardize that. In public is where she is safe.

Marriage counselors

Marriage counselors are understandably eager to put together what has been torn asunder. However, that eagerness may miss the masks. Trying to fix what is not fixable (because a narcissist does not see a reason to fix himself or herself), depletes a victim-survivor even more. It feeds an irrational hope for the relationship. I am not talking about disappointing marriages, and one would expect a marriage counselor to have this knowledge. It is apparently a rare yet brave therapist who points out the truth.

Today’s Helpful Word  

Proverbs 16:19-22

Better to live humbly with the poor
than to share plunder with the proud.
Those who listen to instruction will prosper;
those who trust the Lord will be joyful.
The wise are known for their understanding,
and pleasant words are persuasive.

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it,
but discipline is wasted on fools.


Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.



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