Relationships are made of give and take. Two people sharing the work and joy of creating a life together. In healthy relationships, both parties express their love for each other, and usually tend to the other persons needs along with their own. But some relationships are one-sided. Through childhood emotional wounding patterns such as abandonment, emotional insecurity, or unrealistic praise, people may develop narcissistic tendencies.

While a certain degree of self-esteem and self-importance is vital to be a healthy, confident person, narcissism takes self-aggrandizement to the extreme. Narcissists are people who believe themselves to be much more important than other people, and have a deep need to be admired. Their aggressive self-importance covers profound insecurity and low self-worth. Living with and loving a narcissist can be one of the most emotionally draining experiences in life. Here are some warning signs that your spouse might be a narcissist.

Puts His or Her Own Needs Before Yours (And Your Childrens)

Narcissists are characterized by feeling that their physical and emotional needs far outweigh anyone elses. The narcissists low self-esteem causes a deep fear that his or her needs will not be met. Instead of recognizing and evaluating the fear, narcissists project it into the outside world and focus solely on what will make them feels secure, even at the expense of others.

In relating, this may feel like your spouse always wants you to empathize with him or her, yet never seems to have empathy for you. You may feel like you are always listening to your spouse talk to you (or at you) about that persons needs, dreams, desires, hurts, and plans, but that your feelings are never heard.

The most egregious examples of narcissistic behavior can be displayed around children. A narcissistic parent may put his or her own needs before the childs, especially when it comes to praise, affection, and other aspects of emotional security. Narcissistic parents want their children to excel to make them look good, and may not be capable of providing the warmth and true encouragement that children need to thrive.

Feels Entitled to Whatever He or She Wants

Narcissists are masters at gaining and maintaining control of a situation. They may do this through aggression, coercion, or emotional manipulation. They both feel that they are entitled to the outcome, goods, or services that they want, and that they must have those things in order to maintain their status and happiness. The illusion of control of their external environment serves as a replacement for self-love and order in their internal environment.

They will use aggression to express their feelings, from sadness and disappointment to anger and frustration, sometimes being verbally or even physically abusive.

Narcissists will exploit others to get what they want or need, with no remorse about or recognition of those peoples wellbeing. If they desire something, they will do anything necessary to get it, even if that means interfering with someone elses work or happiness.

An Urgent, Frequent Need to Be Complimented

Narcissists never learned to cultivate self-love. So they seek external validation from everyone they encounter. A narcissist will fish for compliments in almost any situation, even if it is inappropriate, to feel better about themselves. Observe to see if your spouse seems to need inordinate amounts of praise, validation, and verbal recognition.

An Inability to Admit Mistakes

Because a narcissist has such low self-esteem, he or she may be unable to admit to fault. It might seem to you as if your spouses life depends on him being right, because at the nervous system level, it does. Narcissists sense of safety gets so warped that the idea of being wrong about something actually makes them feel unsafe. This can make narcissists self-righteous and defensive, even in situations where it is obvious that they have made mistakes or acted in ways that were not in the best interest of their loved ones.

Playing the Blame Game

Narcissists are masters at projecting blame onto others. They must cover their inadequacies and weaknesses at all costs. And they are terrified of looking at the darkness within themselves. So any unpleasant emotion, mistake, character flaw, or unskillful behavior in themselves or other people will instantly be blamed on someone else. This manifests as attack and criticism of anyone in the vicinity. The more out of integrity or triggered a narcissist feels, the more he or she will attack and blame others.

Building a life with another person is usually challenging. A lot of work goes into creating a healthy marriage. While most people can be up to the task of working together to cultivate a mutually beneficial union, people who suffer from narcissism can be truly impossible. If your spouse displays several signs of narcissism, talk to him or her about your perception. Even bringing up the idea will give you a lot of information about your spouses willingness to work with you to find healthier ways of relating.