The clash between a charming outward image and the private reality is crushingly familiar to wives of Narcissistic Husbands. But what's behind the bravado?
- Is there a cure for narcissism?
- Can narcissism be cured?
- How to cure a narcissist?
- How to cure narcissism?
In the ten years we have been publishing our work online we have watched the conversation about narcissism change. In that time, we have even seen the DSM change its guidelines from, ‘no cure for narcissism’ (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) to ‘needs more research.’
Let’s make it clear that while we offer guidance and hope, we are not claiming a universal cure for narcissism.
Can Narcissism be Cured?
It’s too common a problem to be deemed incurable
Despite the name calling (and other misinformation on line), narcissism is a very common way of thinking and behaving. Narcissistic behaviour surrounds us in society and is often encouraged, in movies, by our friends and on TV.
For both women and men; selfishness, resentment and emotional manipulation can simply be signs of a marriage that is failing. Rather than represent an incurable personality disorder, they can also be signs of immaturity.
Most noteworthy, our minds are much more complex than we once thought. Science has now proven that we have brain cells in nearly every part of our body. Understanding our own emotional reactions is the only place to start if we want to form deeper connections with people.
A Cure for Narcissism = a Cure for Lack of Empathy
People once said that autistic individuals lacked genuine emotions and could never learn empathy. It was sometimes even claimed that autistic people didn’t have feelings at all.
This of course turned out to be wrong.
Likewise, we have faced an angry mob, who over the years have declared a cure for narcissism impossible. Narcissistic individuals, they claim, cannot be taught empathy either.
Similar to what was said about autistic people, this mob also claim narcissists have no genuine emotions.
Child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan and his colleagues were the first to reach a higher level of understanding which eventually helped solve the empathy problem with autism.
They discovered that autistic children would never be able to develop empathy until they understood their own emotions.
“In his years at the NIMH, Greenspan developed sophisticated criteria for understanding and defining emotional maturity and began to map out its phases.”(1)
Greenspan discovered, in conclusion, that parents needed to be involved in their autistic children’s therapy!
Similar to Greenspan, we discovered; while therapy hardly ever helped narcissistic individuals, a families involvement often made all the difference.
How to Cure Narcissism
I personally discovered Greenspan’s work, years into our own work helping narcissistic and codependent couples learn empathy by coming to understand their own emotions better.
Emotional connection makes all the difference
Greenspan had discovered that an emotional connection was necessary to ‘seduce’ autistic kids out of their inner world. Our methods were obviously somewhat different. Working with Narcissistic and Codependent Couples, we teach people, in a sense, how to ‘seduce’ their narcissistic partner out of their own inner fantasy world.
Seduce, however, may not be the best word to describe our process. Romantic love, you see, is not the lure. . .
How to cure a narcissist
A narcissism treatment plan should not single out the narcissist as the problem. Relationships do not fail in isolation.
Codependent family members need to recognise their own role in the unhealthy family dynamic. The steps in our program then use trust and the security of realistic and defined expectations (in a family environment) to help bring narcissistic individuals out of their shell.
Just like dealing with troubled children, rules and boundaries usually need to be put in place for the whole family.
Similar to working with autistic children, any potential cure for narcissism is not an overnight process. Results are not gauged in days or weeks but often months and years.
The work, however, will often be seen as its own reward. With partners and parents gaining the tremendous benefits of becoming more emotionally mature in the process.
Can narcissism be cured? In our experience the answer is; ‘sometimes and in some situations’. Similar to asking if a horse can be tamed or a belligerent child be taught manners; the answer depends on many variables.
Any potential cure for narcissism needs to begin at home
Modelling emotionally mature behaviour needs to happen consistently. It also works best between people who already have an emotional connection. The obvious conclusion? Instead of couples talking about their problems in a consultation room, the process needs to happen at home.
Psychologists and psychiatrists can certainly help with unresolved pain and confusion left over from past trauma (we have an excellent program for this here). If you struggle forming solid relationships, the trouble may not be what happened in your past but what didn’t.
Many marriages fail because one (or both) partners have never had positive role models to learn good relationship skills from growing up.
I discovered these relationship skills have everything to do with healthy emotional regulation, which is also sometimes called emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a subject I think all mental health professionals should study.
Don’t Underestimate the Problem
This does not mean we underestimate the serious nature of this problem. A person asking how to cure narcissism is a person asking how to bring love and respect to their home.
It also does not mean we think Narcissistic Personality Disorder and autism similar. Besides the lack of empathy and need for emotional connection during treatment, these are of course very different disorders. We have over the years, however, discovered NPD and autism concurrent in many families and believe that deserves research.
Most importantly it does not mean we believe love or kindness a cure for narcissism.
As with all mental illness, healthy boundaries and healthy expectations are paramount.
If you are in an abusive relationship what we do recommend, is that you make yourself aware of the latest research before taking what may end up dangerous advice. When Running Becomes a Trap.
One way or another domestic abuse hardly ever gets better by itself. The answer to how to help a narcissistic husband (or wife) is usually to help yourself first.
If you are ready to end the chaos and build a more secure emotional foundation in your home, please come visit us at www.TheNCMarriage.com and Educate Yourself on the Signs of Narcissism and Codependency in Your Marriage.
You are not alone
I hope that by sharing our experience we can help protect you from some of the mistakes that I made. I hope I can also help you avoid the bitter and nasty people I ran into online when I was first advised that my husband Steve was suffering from a personality disorder.
Even well-meaning, caring friends and family can be unintentionally guiding you in directions that are either ineffective or downright dangerous. It can seem that everywhere you turn there is a message of hopelessness.
We have information you can put to use immediately (whether you are part of a narcissistic/codependent marriage or not) to improve your marriage. Including advice on how to find the right professionals to help if either of you do have an emotional disorder. I will share the steps I took to heal our marriage even when everyone said it was hopeless.
It was embarrassing at first and took a long time for us to go public with our story. But when we saw so many people suffering we decided we couldn’t stay quiet any longer.“
Don’t put off getting help
Because you have found us, I know there’s a chance that you are emotionally and/or physically in danger. I also know just how hard the first steps to a better life can be.
Your safety is our highest priority and our work will show you the safest ways forward. While giving you the chance to transform your relationship if possible.
From Kim’s Author Biography on Amazon
Kim Cooper’s career as a revolutionary author in the field of relationship psychology began after healing her and her husband Steve’s troubled marriage. When the couple first sought help and discovered the advice from most sources, including professionals, said they had no choice but to divorce, Kim determined to find another way.
The couple’s journey and struggles (and eventual victory) over their family’s dysfunction became the subject for 6 titles, including their best seller Back From The Looking Glass (now in it’s 9th edition) available now on Amazon Kindle. The testimonials streamed in and in 2009 the Cooper’s work, which began in Australia, gained popularity worldwide when the couple’s radio show “The Love Safety Net” went to number one on on Global Talk Radio in its fourth week on air.
Kim’s work blends elements of existing theories in attachment theory, boundary setting, emotional intelligence and developmental gap work into simple practical steps that are all the couple’s own.
Sometimes it takes insight from outside of the “professional” ivory tower to provide a new approach
Maria F. Rodowski MD,
Associate Medical Director,
Value Options Maryland,
Past Faculty and Medical/Clinical Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes.
“Sometimes it takes insight from outside of the “professional” ivory tower to provide a new approach. Kim and Steve Cooper have done just this … their newly released book Back From The Looking Glass, which has been evolving for over 5 years in the online arena, offers a novel approach to working through the dynamics in difficult relationships.
Kim and Steve’s ideas, presented in a concise, easy to read style, provide the building blocks for this personal growth. Despite years of training and clinical experience, I still find new insight or re-framing of something when I turn back to their materials. Their insight and honesty provide a valuable tool to anyone wishing to improve their relationships through improving themselves.”
Kim’s advice matches my 25 years of clinical experience
Author of “You Might Be a Narcissist If …”
“Kim’s advice in this book matches my 25 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist.
I am so grateful to have found Kim and I constantly refer my clients to her resources!”
Without your book, I KNOW that I would not have been able to initiate the changes that needed to happen for us to both be the adults we could really be
Our kids thank you for it
My family thanks you for it
My friends thank you for it
I work for a non governmental organisation in New Zealand, we specialise in addictions and family support. I am professionally very successful in my field and mother to 2 children and step mother to my partners daughter also.
To other people I look like I have it all sorted: the likable successful guy, the great job and nice kids. But I also knew the odds were stacked against us being a permanent family as the failure rate of blended families is very high (60% in NZ).
I don’t think I need to go into great detail on my partners behaviour – On reading your book I thought he might even be related to your Steve, such were the similarities.. the fantasies, the lies, the ego-seeking behaviour, problems with money/porn/other women being led on, the bullying and threatening me. And this guy is a Rescue Helicopter Paramedic, it defied my understanding that he had two such VERY different sides!! I used to called him Jekyll and Hyde.
We have been to counselling (individual and couple and even a tripartite set of sessions with his ex-wife!) – I have read all the ‘classic’ books on relationship building (Men are from Mars, You Can heal Your Life, the list goes on and on and on..) etc. On reading your book “Back Through the Looking Glass” I FINALLY found a perspective that acknowledged the conflicting parts of such a dysfunctional relationship. (That leaving is not an option, that my codependency was as much a part of the equation as his narcissism etc).
That was over 2 years ago. We are a vastly different couple now. Even he cannot believe how different we are to each other. I truly thought I was going to be stuck with a “man-child” for the rest of my life, and I would be just a shadow.. doing the ‘right’ things but merely existing, nothing more. I saw my mother do this… I know how it goes….
Without your book, I KNOW that I would not have been able to initiate the changes that needed to happen for us to both be the adults we could really be.
- Our kids thank you for it. (They have the family that they love)
- My family thanks you for it. (They can see their aspirations for me to succeed in life are met)
- My friends thank you for it. (My relationship no longer dominates my every waking thought, I am no longer a walking zombie!)
- My partner thanks you for it – He found your book under our bed 2 months ago and was so interested he read it!! He didn’t feel betrayed/upset that I looked for help to have a loving a connected functional relationship with him.
- Incidentally, I only received your book because I emailed you through your website and I said that I couldn’t put it on our credit card as he controlled all spending . . .
You gifted the book to me.
Without your generosity and altruism, well, none of this would have been possible.
Since things are better now and I have my own financial independence, I have recently gone on to order 2 of your other books and when I have worked through those and the challenges they set for my growth and development, I’ll no doubt order the next one that looks useful to me.
With all my thanks,
Lisa Lawrence – 2IC
Respect has become a vital part of our relationship
Dear Kim & Steve, Before this year has gone, I wish to thank you both most sincerely for helping me save my marriage.
At the beginning of this year, all seemed hopeless and my husband and I had separated under very unpleasant circumstances.
Totally distressed and unable to make sense of my husband’s behaviour,
I stumbled upon your website ‘by accident’. This, as well as your wonderful emails and podcasts helped me to gradually understand what had been going on in my marriage.
Nine months later, my husband and I are back together (and have been since May). We are both very happy and respect has become a vital part of our relationship. It has taken time and great patience to rebuild trust, but our friendship is stronger than ever and for the first time I feel he respects me for who I am.
Every day is a blessing, even though there is still work to be done.
We would not be together today if it were not for your wonderful website and positive message. I am sure many people have already said this, but please never doubt the good you both do.