There is a man I know who believes God has ordained him to control his family. He is married to a woman who had children before they were together and it is a struggle for him to allow them to be themselves because he feels he needs to police them. His efforts include locking the kitchen after bedtime in case the teenagers want a snack and putting a block on the computer so they don’t break the Sabbath.
One time I visited his house when his younger children had been put to bed without any supper because they wouldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer before the meal. His wife disagreed and was upset that her children were in bed crying from hunger, but she felt powerless to say anything because she believed her husband was the God-ordained head of the family and she must obey him.
I can think of no worse marriage than to be married to a narcissist who thinks God wants him to control the entire family, but that’s what happens when a narcissist feels ordained by God to practice male headship.
The belief that man is superior to woman can be the first step to justify chauvinistic behavior. If God made Adam more important than Eve and he is celebrated as the leader, while she is expected to be his foot woman and water carrier, she is robbed of her God given individuality and freedom.
So let’s look through the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and see how they might fit with the mindset of male headship. A person who manifests a pattern of five of these traits in their life is likely to be diagnosed with NPD.
(For the record, I am NOT a professional and this is not to be used to diagnose someone. If you think someone you are close to has this disorder please don’t rely on your own judgment, but find a good counselor.)
1. Has a Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance
The male headship belief that man is superior or has privileges over women justifies and empowers the narcissistic mind. Religion that insists on male headship attributes the inequality to God. Jimmy Carter and the Elders (Elders of many nations) have declared that most of the abuse toward women in the world is related to patriarchy.
2. Preoccupied with Fantasies of Unlimited Success, Power, Brilliance, Beauty, or Ideal Love
Since male headship teaches that men are somehow superior to women, a woman’s dreams are not as important as the man’s. If a man has a bent toward any of the narcissistic dreams on this list, he might imagine God will help him to realize these plans.
This is not to say that God doesn’t help people, but the rationalization of the narcissistic mind tends to overlook how their goals might affect the lives of others. Narcissistic male headship allows a husband to sacrifice his family members’ best interests to meet his own needs.
3. Believes that He is “Special” and Unique
I had a relative who kept thinking he was getting visions and dreams from God that his wife and children would be killed if they didn’t follow his religious advice. Male headship narcissists often feel called by God to straighten out their grown children’s lives because they believe they are the only one who can interpret the Bible correctly.
4. Requires Excessive Admiration
Male headship basically requires that the entire family worship the father and tiptoe around his temper or bad habits without addressing them because he is the revered head of the home.
5. Has a Very Strong Sense of Entitlement
What is more entitling than being in control of the whole family with every one jumping at your bidding? Because proponents of male headship proclaim it’s God’s command, the narcissistic mind feeds further into this fantasy. Women and children are hidden and abused while the father lives like a king.
6. Is Exploitative of Others
Headship gives permission for men to use their wife or children in whatever way they want. They might use their children for labor or take their children’s money because the father owns everything and everyone in his family. The husband is the head so all things are managed by him and he has no one to answer to but God and if he doesn’t really listen to God, then there is no end to the harm he can do.
7. Lacks Empathy
According to the authors of the Empathy Trap Book, a lack of empathy is spurred on by apathetic bystanders. In a male headship family, the need to comply with the powers that be discourages family members from speaking up when one is being abused. This is not true of all male headship proponents, but if the husband is tending high on the narcissistic scale, his lack of empathy could very easily escalate into domestic violence. A male lacking empathy, who has control of his family with no accountability but himself, is a very dangerous person.
8. Is Often Envious of Others
This might or might not be true of a man practicing male headship, but it could still be another source of anger and violence which could only be exacerbated by the practice of male headship.
9. Regularly Shows Arrogant, Haughty Behaviors or Attitude
In male headship pride is often misnamed as honor. The narcissistic head of the family is threatened when an insubordinate wife or a child disagrees with him. When a man believes he is the priest of the family, he has the potential to inflict punishment and spiritual abuse on those who don’t comply with him. He might see them as rebellious and disrespectful when they choose to worship or pray differently than he has taught them and ultimately punish or shun them.
Male headship and narcissism are a dangerous mix. The combination can harm innocent people physically, emotionally and spiritually. narcissistic headship steals the freedom of the wife and children to grow into their own dreams and potential. They might struggle with who God designed them to be versus what “the head” wants them to be. Abusive male headship builds a barrier between children and God because they imagine God is just like their father.
Not all narcissists believe in male headship and not all proponents of male headship are narcissists, but wherever the two meet there is danger because male headship is truly a narcissist’s dream come true.