I hesitate to use a pathologizing label, but underneath the so-called narcissistic personality is definitely shame and the paralyzing fear of being ordinary.
If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people's choices. If I feel good about my body, I don't go around making fun of other people's weight or appearance. We're hard on each other because we're using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.
When we're looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, is able to bend and, most of all, embraces us for our strengths and struggles.
Normally, when someone we love is turning away from a struggle, we self-protect by also turning away. That's definitely my first response. I think change is more likely to happen if both partners have common language and a shared lens to see problems.
Cynthia P. Schneider