Clients who come for help with unwanted sexual behaviors are rarely full-blown narcissists who qualify for the medical diagnosis NPD but often are demonstrating narcissistic characteristics. Common characteristics include entitlement and delusions related to minimization of impact of behavior or risk of future consequences. It’s helpful to incorporate psychoeducation for understanding narcissism and therapeutic interventions for healing narcissism into our sex addiction recovery program.
Studies show it’s the narcissism involved in sex addiction–ie gaslighting, lying, denying, blaming–that’s more traumatic to the partner than the actual sexual behavior. We work with clients to stop these behaviors immediately, even if it might take you more time to completely get a handle on all of your problematic sexual behavior.
If you’re with a narcissist, the first step is to take care of yourself. If there is physical abuse, severe verbal, emotional, spiritual, or financial abuse, or ongoing infidelity with no active recovery or repair work, then we recommend immediate separation. Only after demonstrated improvement and commitment to individual recovery should reconciliation and couples work begin. But if the problems don’t reach that severity and your partner is ready to go to work, he can change.
Craig Malkin, a Harvard Psychologist, narcissism expert, and author of the book Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists believes that narcissists can change. Most people showing even severely narcissistic traits can heal. And even become great relationship partners in the future. But keeping the status quo living with someone exhibiting narcissistic traits is toxic for everyone involved: the perpetrator, the spouse, and the children. You need intervention, and we can help.
The Karuna approach for treating healing narcissism is similar to our approach with sex addiction healing: self-awareness, mindfulness, attachment repair, parts integration, emotion regulation, impulsivity control skills.