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Have I Married A Stranger?

Do you sometimes have the sense that your partner is a stranger?  That they behave in ways that are so surprising and so unpredictable, that it leaves you wondering; just who is this person I married?  It might sound an unlikely scenario, but it’s not.  It’s very easy to get caught up in what you want to believe.

Some people thrive on being in love, they will do anything to prolong the magic of their love affairs.  They use love to cover up their emotional wounds.

How do you take care of yourself when faced with such a glittering and attractive person?

People who use love to cover emotional wounds

A client I’ll call Josephine says:

‘we got married quickly.  My friends said I was rushing but I didn’t see it like that.  I was just so in love.  We had met by chance one night at a work do.  I thought he was charming and handsome.  We were just swept up in a love affair.  It was only later.  After the wedding, after the honeymoon.  I suddenly found myself thinking, who is this person?’

Charming people, while very good company are often hard to know well

  • The exterior persona can have such an intensity about it that it is easy to get carried away with them, caught up in their exuberance.

Josephine continues:

‘the marriage didn’t last.  It was embarrassing explaining to my family.  I felt such a fool.  I had just got caught up in him and his charm.  Ignored the risks?  I didn’t even see them.’

The risks in getting involved with people like this

Sometimes the apparently delightful charm is often a veneer that covers up a deeper narcissistic wound.  The surface charm is no more than skin deep.  Your new partner puts a good show on because he or she doesn’t want to engage with their deeper wounds.  It’s fine for the wounded person to decide they aren’t going to engage with their problems.  But it becomes dangerous when other people get caught up in them.

Josephine said:

‘our love affair was so passionate that I felt it could only be sincere.  I felt safe and loved and satisfied.  But then one day, almost as quickly as it had started it was over.  It was like we had both woken up from a dream to find that we really didn’t have much in common.  The trouble was we were now married.  I felt sick.  I still do.’

When a stranger casts a spell

It is like a spell has been cast.  The attention you get from a narcissistically wounded person is intense.  It may give you a greater sense of love than any relationship before it ever has.  But really it is based on a false premise.  Your charming lover may be on the run from deep emotional problems.

Attachment theory

When we don’t get appropriate validation in our early family relationships, or when we are overlooked because our parents favour our sibling it leaves a mark upon us.  Instead of secure attachments we may develop anxious or disorganised attachment patterns.  We have not been seen and valued for who we are and that has consequences.

Ideally we will get appropriate mirroring and recognition.  A lot of us don’t.  To compensate, we develop skewed protective shields.  Our persona’s, the mask we wear, instead of retaining a plastic adaptability becomes fixed.  The charming narcissistically wounded person catches sight of a person across a room.  They notice the person looks back at them.  That may be all it takes.  They are off, sparkling, soaking up attention.

During this phase, which might last all the way to the honeymoon, everything is shiny and delightful.  But when this ends it is like both parties wake up from a spell to find they never knew each other at all.

Try to sense check the relationship; is it going too fast?

  • What do you know about the person? – are they a stranger?
  • Have you met their friends? – often narcissistically wounded people struggle to keep friends.
  • Try to slow things down – time can weaken the power of the spell
Have I Married A Stranger?

Toby Ingham

Toby Ingham is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and supervisor based in High Wycombe in England. Toby works on both a short and long-term basis with people who are trying to work through a variety of situations. Sometimes these relate to a specific event such as CPTSD, bereavement, divorce or redundancy, sometimes relating to a more general problem or behavior. He blogs on a wide range of psychological themes.

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APA Reference
, . (2019). Have I Married A Stranger?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Dec 2019
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