With Pastor Carol Wanjau

Every marriage goes through challenges, some less talked about than others.

Counselling Psychologist Carol Rarieya shares some information on how personality disorders play out in marriages and discusses how partners can overcome this little-understood hurdle.

Personality disorders are mental disorders in which a person has very rigid and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving. They are typically grouped in three clusters; however, we shall only look at two specific disorders: Narcissistic and Dependent Personality Disorders.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are generally described as ego-centric, grandiose and having low emotional connections. They are charming and easy-going, but are condescending and manipulative. They also lack empathy; meaning they do not have the ability to place themselves in others’ shoes.

In marriage, the disorder will manifest through behaviour such as serial infidelity, abuse, negligence and abandonment. Because they do not have empathy, narcissists do not feel remorse for hurting their partners and will in fact belittle their partner every chance they get. Doing this boosts their ego.

People with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD), generally source their validation and affirmation from external sources. This makes them people-pleasers, constantly placing other people’s needs before their own. They often have high feelings of inadequacy even when they are very accomplished. In marriage their priority is making their partner happy, sometimes to the point of sidelining their children.

When paired together these two form an unhealthy relationship where the narcissistic partner feeds off of the admiration and validation from their codependent partner, who in turn is striving to please their counterpart in the hope that they will also receive the affirmation they need. This, of course, never comes and so the cycle continues.

That being said, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Below are a few steps a person with DPD can take to help break free of this toxic cycle:

Admit first that something is wrong. The first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is in fact, a problem. As such, recognise and accept that you have dysfunctional ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Self-parent. Learn to give yourself what you lack or need. This involves giving yourself the affirmation and validation that you are looking to receive from your partner.

Create healthy boundaries. Learn what you want in your relationship and then set your boundaries. Then, communicate these to your partner. Having boundaries helps you acknowledge that you do not have control over what your partner does, but that you have full control over what behaviours you accept and embrace.

Remember yourself. People with DPD tend to focus on other people, and neglect their personal needs. However, caring for somebody else need not cancel caring for yourself. You can do them concurrently. On top of that, you cannot give what you do not have. We are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Taking care of yourself therefore, is necessary.

Pray. Come to a place of total surrender. Acknowledge that you have no control over your partner and surrender them to God. Only He can control and change anyone. Furthermore, pray for grace and the wisdom to navigate your marriage.

Should you find yourself in situations such as these, seek support and remember that God is able. Invite Him into your marriage and surrender it to Him. Healing comes when you let go of what is not within your control. There are some things, including things about ourselves that only God can change.


  • Communicate your boundaries to your partner.
  • Know what you want before you enter marriage.
  • Healing in marriage comes when you let go of what is not within your control.
  • Acknowledge that you have no control over your spouse and surrender him/her to God.
  • Do not be dependent on your spouse for your validation or emotional well-being. Learn to affirm yourself.
  • In marriage you cannot control what your partner does, but you can control what you accept.
  • Only God can change your spouse.
Carol Wanjau is a pastor at Mavuno Church and is also a Marriage and Family Therapist and Author. To listen to the full message on Depression in Marriage Part 2 on Personality Disorders, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQHiJYrkCgk