The writer and mom of three recently published a memoir about her tumultuous 10-year marriage, Married to a Narcissist: Enduring the Struggle and Finding You Again.
In an interview with HuffPost, McHenry said she thinks the first lady would benefit greatly from reading her book. (Though psychologists remain wary of assessing the president’s mental state based on his public statements or late-night tweets, some experts interviewed by HuffPost in the past have said that Trump’s risk-taking, attention-seeking ways are classic narcissistic traits.)
“When you’re married to someone as strong-willed as Trump, you have to stay strong and empowered yourself,” McHenry told HuffPost. “You have to resist the potential pain of engaging too much and not take things personally.”
Christine Marie, an author who has also written about her marriage to a narcissist, agrees. Below, the pair share words of advice for Melania.
1. Continue speaking out about bullying.
“People with narcissistic tendencies often use bullying, verbal abuse, grand gestures and scare tactics to try forcing you into submission. They often suffer from weak and low self-esteem, projecting their insecurities onto others, which results in bullying. Although it may seem hypocritical, I think Melania’s stance on bullying is a cry for help, and I think she wants the world to know in code what she’s experiencing, without verbalizing the exact words. She’s not going to say, ‘This is happening to me, too.’” ― McHenry
2. Show him and the world that you’re not his defender.
“Appearances are extremely important to someone who exhibits narcissistic traits. When you protected and defended your husband’s lewd comments to Billy Bush, you gave him an out. His words were offensive, but by referring to his words as ‘boy talk,’ it belittled the sexist behavior he displayed toward women. Stay above it all. Let him face the consequences of his own actions.” ― Marie
3. Stay above the fray when scandals arise.
“People with narcissistic personality traits often enjoy causing conflict and chaos and behaving wildly. They want others to react and to respond with equal reaction. Staying above the fray means not getting involved in the narcissistic drama and staying far from it. We’ve seen Melania remove herself from humiliating public situations that involve her husband, from being absent during the campaign trail to skipping out on events during the Stormy Daniels scandal. When asked about disagreements in their marriage prior to the election, she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, ‘We are both very independent ― I let him be who he is, and he lets me be who I am. I don’t try and change him. He’s an adult and he knows the consequences, and so I let him be who he is.’ She seems to recognize the need to stay above the fray.” ― McHenry
4. Protect your autonomy on social media.
“For someone who exhibits signs of narcissism, social media is the be all and end all. Twitter is Trump’s platform where he fully engages in self-promotion, and it feeds his attention-seeking behavior. The more ‘likes,’ shares and followers he gets, the more it proves how important he is. FLOTUS’ continued silence on social media, especially now with the James Comey feuding and the raid on his lawyers’ office, will go a long way toward putting him in his place.” ― Marie
5. Create your own legacy.
“This is a time for you to accept the challenges of being the first lady, apart from your husband. Make your own legacy and take this opportunity to flourish and shine away from him. You have said your platform would be cyberbullying. Why not add onto that? Some of my suggestions? Women’s empowerment, including women’s rights and issues.” ― Marie
6. Assert your independence.
“In the lead-up to the election, Melania told Barbara Walters, ‘To be with a man as my husband is, you need to know who you are …. You need to have a very independent life as well and supporting him.’ She needs to continue fighting for her independence. People with narcissistic tendencies want to be the only relevant force in your life, and choosing to stay in the relationship will mean you are constantly fighting for your independence and freedom. My message to Melania? Establish and maintain those boundaries because that’s what will help you protect your heart and soul.” ― McHenry