Q. I’m living with a man I love, but am now having doubts about whether it’s a healthy relationship for me. He’s a textbook narcissist, and if you read anything about narcissists, he checks every box based on just about everything ever written.
For the most part, I accepted it, because I am confident with myself and view it as his flaw.
Every relationship has flaws. He has some, I have some.
But now I met someone else who has me rethinking my situation. It’s only infatuation and hasn’t developed into anything at all. The problem is that I’ve been looking at my relationship with doubt. And to be honest, I am afraid of being lonely — and I am afraid of downgrading my lifestyle, because it’s more economical to share housing expenses. And change is hard.
We’re both in our 50s and have been together almost 10 years.
A. Infatuation can be temporary. Your feelings for this new person will pass.
It might be more helpful to focus on the relationship you’re in. Have you considered couples counseling? Can you talk to your partner about working together to make the relationship better?
Maybe he’s a narcissist, but it’s also possible he can learn to have more empathy. I don’t know, of course, but I’m curious. Aren’t you?
Ask him to do this with you. Find out if he wants to examine these flaws and the good stuff. If he says no, go on your own.
It would be useful to get your own therapist either way. You wonder if your relationship is healthy. A professional can dig into that and help you figure out what’s really going on at home.
If you need help finding a therapist, ask your doctor. You can also call your insurance company and ask who to call.
It doesn’t sound like you want to change your life to pursue this crush, but you do want to change your life, in general. The next step is more talk — with the right experts.
Narcissism has one of the lowest cure rates of any personality disorder. Your issues of fear of being alone and economic insecurity are what you trade for accepting his behavior — which you purposely did not discuss.
It’s becoming trendy to label partners narcissists. Who cares? If you’re in a relationship with one, the more important question is: Why do you want to stay? Fear of loneliness and change for the better? The benefits of shared expenses? You need to want more for yourself. Your new infatuation is just making that clearer.
I feel for people who choose to stay in relationships that aren’t fulfilling for fear of being lonely. Being single does NOT equal lonely. It’s more lonely to live with a narcissist than it is to be independent and not have that negative energy infused into your life 24/7. In my view, “downgrading” to a smaller, more affordable home is an UPGRADE if you have less mental energy drain from a narcissist. You’re already checked out. I think you see the 10 years as a sunk cost; but life is short. Don’t sink another year or more into something that isn’t fulfilling you.
You compartmentalized his narcissism because you’re afraid of being alone (not sure how that matches with “I am confident with myself”). This isn’t a relationship so much as inertia. Maybe this infatuation is a wakeup call that there are worse things than being single again — like, continuing to put up with the evil that you know.
Evaluate the current relationship for what it is and assume if you left him you’d be on your own for a while. Don’t leave him because of a crush that may fizzle out or not go anywhere. ... Your letter is lacking details, but you need to decide if this relationship is unhealthy/abusive or not. Don’t stay with him because of financial benefits; life is short. If you would be happier/healthier without him despite the breakup being hard, then definitely break up.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.