How to avoid choosing a charming, deceitful narcissist for a spouse

Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)
Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)

For fun, I’ve decided to publish the 2000-word first draft that I normally send to my 6 female editors, because sometimes it’s fun to let people know what I *really* think about things before my editors force me to make it sound much better and more persuasive.

We got a comment yesterday that I thought was worth a response.

Let’s start with the comment:

My husband was a Narcissist. He slept all over the county and never worked a day in this marriage. Plus, He couldn’t decide if he was straight or gay. After my son finally left home I filed for divorce. I wish I did it sooner. Now he claims to be born again and wants to stay together. When is enough, enough?

We don’t know if this woman was a Christian, was chaste, and whether the man she chose was Christian or was chaste. All we know is that the man she chose was attractive enough to easily find other women who would have sex with him despite the fact that he was married. Whatever he has, it’s something that causes women who are not married to him to have sex with him. That’s who the divorced woman chose to marry. His “charm” wasn’t from his moral character or his deep knowledge of Christian theology and apologetics.

My first response to this was to put the responsibility on the person who had chosen the bad husband. After all, I reasoned, everyone who takes a massive step like marriage is obligated to investigate who it is they are marrying.

But when I said that, I got some responses from women that said that she wasn’t responsible for her poor choice of man, and that she was an innocent victim of his magical charming powers.

Here’s Lee:

A lot of time people don’t show their worst qualities until the relationship is firmly in place, and it starts coming out slowly. It’s not always as clear cut as a woman stupidly choosing an unsuitable husband who acted unsuitable from the get-go. I mean yeah, sometimes it’s obvious early on and the woman is just stupid/ blind/broken/other. But we should be careful to not assume, and careful to not make harsh judgments from our ignorance.

If dangers like infidelity are not “obvious” then it’s not the woman’s fault that she didn’t detect it. Apparently there is no way for the woman to detect it if it’s not obvious, so she’s not responsible.

And Mary:

Narcissists are skilled at charming and persuading people that they’re really great. And they’re skilled at convincing others that their misgivings are irrational fears. Unfortunately,there are a lot of people like that. Not saying that people (men AND women, btw!) don’t just sometimes choose stupidly, for bad reasons like “hotness” and excitement. But narcissists are a whole other kettle of fish. They can come out with a completely different personality once they’ve snagged their prey.

If a bad person is “skilled at charming”, then their victim has no way of evaluating them accurately. Basically, deciding who to marry is just an activity where you talk, and decide how you feel about that person’s talk. If the person is charming, then they make you feel good, and it’s rational to marry them. A lot of women express this as “I want a man who is confident”. It’s never been explained to me how “confidence” is any evidence that the man has an ability and a past pattern of self-control and fidelity.

And Sara:

Probably because narcissists can be very charming at first and easily win people over.

[…] What I was trying to say and the article pointed out is the power of narcissists is they can put people, especially women, under a spell of sorts. They are just so slick and charming that common sense goes right out the window. They don’t think to verify all these things that seem obvious because they are so captivated.

All that’s necessary to detect a charming narcissist is “common sense”. His suitability to do husband and father roles should be “obvious” from what he says and how he makes her feel.

So, let’s take a look at some tips for avoiding these charming narcissists who can convince you to marry them just with their words and the feelings they cause.

How to avoid marrying a charming narcissist who cheats on you

Here is some advice on how to avoid marrying a charming narcissist.

1. Evaluate a person based on objective evidence instead of how they make you feel with their words

There are a lot of lies coming out of the artists, actors, celebrities, etc. in this secular leftist culture that basically say that marriage is all about you and your feelings. If you prepared for marriage by watching movies made by pedophiles in Hollywood, and listening to music made by promiscuous musicians, and reading self-help fiction written by divorced spinsters, then you are not ready to detect a charming narcissist. Marriage is a practical enterprise, with distinct roles for husbands and wives that must be performed regardless of how either spouse feels. You need to understand and evaluate what behaviors are expected of husbands and wives in a marriage, and then look for evidence that the person you want to marry can perform those behaviors.

For example, if the behavior is fidelity, then the person should be able to demonstrate chastity and self-control during the courtship, and produce references from past girlfriends / boyfriends, and have written about chastity and self-control using research sources to explain the connection between premarital sex and marital instability. If you’re choosing with your feelings, and you haven’t done an analysis of marriage roles, and partner abilities, you’re headed for a disaster.

Just so you know, when I said this to some of the pro-irresponsibility, non-judgemental women I know, their response was to laugh in my face at the idea of asking someone’s previous partners about whether they were chaste and self-controlled. And this is why people are taken by surprise by the charming talk of narcissists. Feelings-oriented people today laugh at the idea of doing any evaluation, preferring to rely on their feelings. A lot of the failure to choose wisely is just down to people not understanding how the world works, then trying to manufacture a psycho-babble rationalization of why they screwed up.

When you’re hiring someone, you do a job interview, you test their skills, you contact their references, you do a drug test, a credit check, a criminal record check. And you have other skilled people sit in on the interviews and tests, in order to make sure that the person can really do the job they are being interviewed for. The marriage evaluation should include everything that the job interview includes as a minimum. Marriage is at least as complicated as choosing to hire someone for a job. If you aren’t doing the bare minimum of evaluating their education, career and finances, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

2. Learn what it takes to make morality rational, and then determine if your candidate is capable of being moral

Because marriage deals so much with moral obligations, it’s incumbent on you to read extensively on moral issues. You yourself should have developed worldview (through study and debate) that rationally grounds the minimum requirements for moral values and duties: 1) free will, 2) consciousness, 3) objective moral values, 4) objective moral duties, 5) a divine judge, 6) life after death. Why? Because doing the right thing isn’t something that you always feel like doing. When doing the right thing goes against your feelings, you will need to have a reason to act against your own self-interest. And that reason is going to be because the world is the sort of place where morality is real, and independent of your feelings, where you are a free moral agent, and where is a divine judge and an afterlife.

At the center of the ability to rationally ground morality is the ability to know God is real rationally, and to defend his existence using objective evidence and logical arguments. If you don’t know whether God exists based on logic and evidence, how will you evaluate whether someone else knows it? If you can’t rationally ground doing the right thing when it goes against your interest, then you won’t be able to know how to ask questions and investigate in order to decide whether someone else is moral or not.  Marrying someone who doesn’t believe in a moral lawgiver and a moral judge after death is as prudent to going into a city dump eating all your meals from what you find there.

In the specific case of fidelity, it’s important to remember that some people have goals and an understanding about how poor choices right now will make those goals more difficult to obtain. It’s easy to say that you want your spouse to be faithful. But what’s really needed is to measure what they are really trying to achieve in life, and whether they understand how infidelity would affect those plans. If you can’t see from their past decisions that they KNOW that 1) marriage and family are important enough to sacrifice for and 2) that they understand and apply the research that shows what decisions helps to make a marriage last (e.g. – no premarital sex), then, they don’t really have the goals and the information that you want in a marriage partner.


I have to end this post with the reaction from my friend Lindsay, who is one of my reliable advisors. She responded to Lee and Mary above with this:

There are ways to avoid marrying a narcissist, addict, abuser, or other bad man. However, most women don’t know how to evaluate men because no one ever told them what to watch for or that they need to focus on long term character traits and not ignore red flags. They have been actively encouraged to follow their hearts and indoctrinated in this view since they were small children. That doesn’t mean they are without blame, but they have also been let down by their families, friends, and society as a whole. Women need the eyes of family and friends on the men they date to help them see problems they might not recognize and warn them. But too often, family and friends are too uncomfortable saying something and think they are supposed to stay out of it. Our society has broken down and women do not have the protections they need.

Lindsay probably has the best and most successful marriage of anyone I know. She did everything right that I tell young women to do. Multiple STEM degrees, debt-free, years of private sector experience, married a virgin as a virgin herself right in the middle of her 23-27 year window, and is now a homeschooling mother of 3. Perfect, and did a thorough evaluation of her perfect husband Doug. Doug had done enormous amounts of work demonstrating through actions and achievements that he had the character and skills to be an excellent husband and father. Anyone who evaluated him beyond the surface level of talk and feelings and “confidence” would have found a gold mine of husband and father capability. Capabilities which are now on display in their marriage.

Note: in all truth, this is something that men do even more than women. Men choose entirely on appearance, they dirty themselves up with unchastity as if that has no effect on their ability to evaluate a woman properly, they read next to nothing about feminism and divorce, and then they cry and whine when the bad woman they married cleans them out in divorce courts. My recommendation to men is that they spend more time on education, career, finances, morality and Christianity, and less time getting drunk, watching sports, and having premarital sex. Get yourself some good advisors and get started early on evaluating young women for the roles of wife and mother. If they haven’t prepared for marriage like Lindsay did, dump them immediately, and move on to the next candidate.

21 thoughts on “How to avoid choosing a charming, deceitful narcissist for a spouse”

  1. “If you prepared for marriage by watching movies made by pedophiles in Hollywood, and listening to music made by promiscuous musicians, and reading self-help fiction written by divorced spinsters, then you are not ready to detect a charming narcissist.”

    Preach it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The ” atheistic” part omitted from my agreement with you, I agree women ought to take more responsibility and not cry helpless victim whenever they made a poor choice! It’s where that whole #metoo hysteria started! Infantilizing women into helpless victims, little children in the presence of an unethical man is detrimental and greatly insulting to women like me, who do take accountability for her choices! They’re really implying men can mentally overpower women, which sounds pretty anti-feminist to me! They just want to escape the responsibility the radical feminists get when they take on more freedom and less dependency!

    Know the signs, and red flags, and act accordingly. What really infuriates me is when battered women stay out of cowardice and put their children in harm’s way! Completely unforgivable, and a failure as a mother! You’re not a victim, but an enabler! Women need to not rush into relationships, before your partner shows his true colors! See what he’s like in the “worse” part of “for better or for worse” before marrying him for life! Don’t cry helpless victim after the fact you married a jerk, and don’t settle for one. I’m not a proponent of divorce at all, but one rare case I endorse it is in cases of abuse and cruelty, which break the marriage vows and release you from your oath as you did not vow to be abused emotionally or physically. Get out and make wiser choices! I’m glad i had a father figure to guide me in what a man should be like towards women. So many women don’t and become dysfunctional enablers looking for a father figure!


  3. “…sometimes it’s fun to let people know what I *really* think about things before my editors force me to make it sound much better and more persuasive.”

    There is something to say for the refreshing honesty of this post. My wife and I often play editor for each other, and it really helps make sure what we write comes across the way we intend. But sometimes getting it straight and unedited is great. This is one of those times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I edited it now, and it’s nice now.

      Thank you so much for letting me be me and not beating me up, even if you disagree here and there, or maybe with it entirely. I have all these wise female friends overruling me and editing me because they they always let me be me, and their goal is to improve what I write and what I say so that IT IS MORE EFFECTIVE. They’re not trying to shame me or stifle me, they are trying to improve me so that I have an impact. And the truth is, I don’t know what I am doing all the time, and that’s why I let them have this advisor role. I just change whatever they want without question. And you can see that the finished product is still quite mean.

      For the last mean post that I wrote, the one with the best worldview wrote to me and said “What happened to the first draft? I liked the first draft better, why did you change it?” This is a very successful woman who has the best Christian worldview of anyone I know, man or woman. So it’s great to keep wise women close to you. They know a thing or two and they will save you from being stupid.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “If a bad person is “skilled at charming”, then their victim has no way of evaluating them accurately. Basically, deciding who to marry is just an activity where you talk, and decide how you feel about that person’s talk.”

    What, no algorithmic checklists as you systematically question each other about your deep values, worldview, aspirations, and tastes to determine whether or not you’re going in the same direction? I bet they don’t even think to ask the other person what they would do if WWIII started and how they would survive it…

    I think the problem is a lot of people never got the idea to make thorough evaluations, and they didn’t naturally have a mindset to analyze and evaluate things. Very easy to get lost there. Way too easy. It’s freaky.

    But it’s also true some people just gotta be called stupid from time to time.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh my goodness. She was trying to decide between marketing and psychology??? And she settled on sociology!!!!???? Aaaaaagggh!

          And then she moves to NEW YORK to work? The cost of living there is astronomical!

          Bad, bad, bad, bad decisions. However, at least she is telling her story to warn others about making the same decisions.


          1. More to the point on the bad decisions, she has $200K of student loan debt…BIG red flag. And while she is warning others, yes, I didn’t see anything of her taking responsibility for her choices. She launched a GoFundMe page to pay her debt and complains about working so much. I’ll check again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.


      1. o.0
        That’s insane. Also insane that the poll they linked to indicated only 35% of couples have detailed financial discussions before they marry or live together. (Wonder what the difference is between just married couples vs. cohabiting…)


        1. One of the problems with cohabitating, studies show, is that cohabitating couples tend to “slide” forward into commitment rather than “deciding”.



          The idea here is a little scary: We believe that some people marry someone they would not have married if they’d never moved in together. They got inertialized too soon. That gets to why my colleague Galena Rhoades and I have predicted and found (over and over again) that couples who wait to cohabit until marriage—or until they have clear, mutual plans to marry—report, on average, more marital happiness, less conflict, more compatibility, and so forth.iv Those couples are less likely to be prematurely caught in inertia.

          For some individuals who made it harder to break up before deciding on a future with their partner, cohabitation probably decreased their odds of happiness in marriage. To be clear, I am sure that there are many people who move in together before having clarified anything but who do fine in marriage and/or life together. It’s just that the risk is greater in this group than in the other group, and it makes sense why that would be the case.


          Newer study:


    1. I don’t understand why people don’t want to get to know each other, and they just rush into sex and move in together based on whatever can be known from appearances.

      This doesn’t work!

      Anyway, your hypothetical questions are good and will reveal a lot about serious the person is about thinking about what ifs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t understand it either…but from what those types seem to be operating from…it’s basically so they can get some short term pleasure and emotional validation. However it does cost them dearly in the long run because it’s a series of sexual acts with no firm foundation in marriage.

        Marriage is not easy…but I would think those times you unite the pleasure and emotional validation with the chance to create a child would be a decent reprieve from the day to day grind marriage can be.


  5. Well the first charming narcissist went after the first woman…it’s almost like they are a weakness to women who want to believe their lies.

    And it doesn’t surprise me the women with that thing called common sense don’t fall for it. They must have a good father, mother, brothers, and teachers.

    ‘Anyone who evaluated him beyond the surface level of talk and feelings and “confidence” would have found a gold mine of husband and father capability.’

    Yes, but many women have to overcome the worst emotion they could ever feel…boredom to find that out. Because responsible guys don’t want to take unnecessary or pointless risks in life to feel thrills…that’s how they are responsible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so true:

      “Yes, but many women have to overcome the worst emotion they could ever feel…boredom to find that out. Because responsible guys don’t want to take unnecessary or pointless risks in life to feel thrills…that’s how they are responsible.”

      I have seen this so much, people treating relationships as entertainment in the prime of their lives.


  6. “All that’s necessary to detect a charming narcissist is “common sense””

    But as we know common sense isn’t that common.


  7. There are many tips to bad behaviour. Can they easily blow money with no thought.

    Do they buy worthless things and are they lead broke despite making ok money. An easy sign of poor money management.

    Do they treat people one way to their face and then tell you all other things about them begins their back. That is not to bad once in a while if they are warning you about a dangerous person but if they do that for almost everyone they are two faced.

    You piece together consistencies on their behaviour with all people to see if they frame how they treat others depending on how they like them. If it does change then know they may change how they treat you after marriage.

    It isn’t that hard but many don’t want to conceive there are flaws in these people

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘It isn’t that hard but many don’t want to conceive there are flaws in these people’

      Everybody has flaws…what seperates people is whether or not they are aware they have flaws which require God’s mercy & personal self-control to mitigate them or they think have none and nobody can tell them they have any.


  8. I heard a preacher in the mid-1990’s mention as a typology of Genesis 3 that the Devil/the serpent in Genesis 3 deceived Eve first, to get to Adam: thus the preacher suggested that men’s Achilles’ heel was seduction and women’s Achilles’ heel was deception. I filed that away to mull over.

    In any case, over the years, there are any number of ways to try to attract a spouse. Obviously for men, one could use wealth to ‘bait’ a potential spouse, but one’s chances of finding a high quality spouse based on this is very low. (There’s a high noise-to-signal ratio, so to speak.) We could think of this in terms of two end-points and fill in-between: say, 1) someone like Elon Musk to 2) a reasonably middle-to-upper-middle-class man with a good career.

    For #1, obviously lots of women would love to be with Mr. Musk. If things go badly, they could divorce and be set for life. Obviously Mr. Musk is pretty discerning since his romantic life is not all over the news/tabloids.

    Or for #2, middle-to-upper-middle-class men are usually sufficiently savvy not to marry gold-diggers and I’ve heard many stories of such people who generally don’t disclose what they earn, what assets they have, etc.

    In other words, such men are trying to marry women for love, who would love them through the thick and the thin, through times of plenty and through times of need, and not to attract women based on wealth.

    And there are plenty of narcissistic women out there too. I’m glad not to be dating and to focus my energies and attention to one lady — but I had a pretty highly attuned set of detectors which would set of all kinds of alarms if there were issues or if there was any evidence of skubalon/skubala … (and yes, it does help that I took a bunch of psychology classes including psychopathology).

    For women, they can attract men based on sex, but this too causes a high signal-to-noise ratio. Sure, lots of women can be convinced that “all men want is sex.” (Obviously this is the wrong kind of bait or lure.)

    And yes, if a woman (and assumed non-Christian woman) wants to have sex or puts herself out to have sex, she’ll have a lot of men who desire to do this. However, there’s an inverse correlation between quality and quantity.

    Thus it is important to hone one’s own discernment skills.

    I’ve found discerning on character to be most important, because character is the least easy to fake. It’s easy to be suave or even projecting confidence or “seem like a nice person.” Even very good salesmen are excellent in making great first-impressions or being able to control their body language. A person’s patterns of behaviors and the consistency of choices belie his or her true beliefs and thus character.


    There’s also a quote sometimes attributed to Abe Lincoln (paraphrasing):
    You can fool all the people some of the time,
    and some of the people all the time,
    but you cannot fool all the people all the time

    Not only does God give us our biological families, but God gives us the church — brothers and sisters in Christ — who can be great in assisting us with discernment and can help teach discernment. For instance, one of my male friends (he is a staff worker with a campus ministry although not Ratio Christi) was also at seminary in the M.Div. program, and a lady (in a different program) took a liking to my male friend. Several of us (both men and women) observed that the lady had a ton of issues and steered him away from making an unwise choice. He married a couple years later to a much better choice.

    If used properly (i.e., not to make your friends jealous, not to one-up them, not to have a source of drama, etc.), introducing boyfriends/girlfriends to a set of godly Christian friends is extremely helpful. (Fortunately for me, I was usually a lot more stringent and discerning than my group of Christian as well as non-Christian friends, both men and women, but I worked out a dynamic with them that they would give me feedback and/or concerns if they discovered any.)

    As I’ve talked about in the past, a friend of mine got married some number of years ago and he was his wife’s first (and obviously, only) boyfriend. In our conversations, he revealed that she had had a difficult relationship with her alcoholic non-Christian father and became a Christian in her late teens. Her mom and dad had been divorced much earlier on. My curiosity was piqued — how then was she able to overcome such great odds? How did she choose my friend (who isn’t tall — something like a 5′ 6″ Chinese-Brit male and this was an interracial marriage, who is nerdy, etc.)?

    He revealed that she became a Christian and sought out wise, godly, mature Christian women as friends, including Kathy Keller (as in Tim Keller’s wife). They assisted in her spiritual development and she slowly developed good platonic relationships with godly Christian men. When this lady was in a good place emotionally and spiritually, she asked her friends how to discern a good Christian man to date and they also advised looking at long-term behaviors. (Of course, in secular cities like New York, someone who is a regular churchgoing male is already in the very small minority and already showing some degree of commitment. If you add on 1) regular small group/Bible study attendance and/or 2) steady commitment to informal or formal ministry, and 3) why one is committed to these, and 4) discerning on dreams, one can figure out a lot about a person.)

    To find her ‘prince,’ do women need to kiss many frogs? No.

    Liked by 1 person

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