Chris Of MAFS Was A Textbook Narcissist. A Psychologist Explains How To Pinpoint The Emotionally Abusive Behavior Of One.
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The way “Decision Day” works on the Lifetime series Married at First Sight is that the couples, who’ve been married for eight weeks, have to gather in front of the same experts who put them together to decide whether or not to stay married or get a divorce. Those are the two and only options. There has never been a “I need more time to make a choice” or “I’m undecided” — until Chris Williams.

During Season 12’s Decision Day episode, Chris, who struggled to even get through the first week let alone eight of them with wife Paige Banks returned to say at the 12th hour that he cared for her and found himself conflicted as to what to do. This, from the same person who decided weeks prior that he had no fight left to give his marriage because his emotionally exhausted wife wouldn’t answer his phone calls when he rang. It was a stance that was obviously confusing to the experts, but also extremely bewildering and jarring for Paige. She went from being sure she wanted a divorce, to finally feeling validated by the husband she prayed about. She was considering staying married as his ex allegedly had a miscarriage and there no longer seemed to be obstacles in their way.

The move was yet another example of Chris’s narcissism, which he displayed all season. He was manipulating Paige so that she could uplift and embrace him in the way that she always did despite the disrespect, the news of his ex allegedly being pregnant, the abandonment by not moving into their marital home, and more.

“Manipulation is a tactic of a narcissist,” Kathleen Isaac, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City tells ESSENCE. She says that narcissists in romantic situations, like Chris, have little empathy or regard for the feelings of their partner because they’re so focused on themselves.

“Someone who has narcissistic personality disorder is someone who is only focused on themselves and kind of satisfying their needs. So in the relationship, they will use whatever means they can, and usually it’s emotional manipulation in order to get their needs met,” she says. “That can look like undermining the other person’s agency and authority by playing on their lack of self-esteem or playing on their empathy to paint themselves as a victim.”

Narcissists get a leg up on their romantic partners by initially showing themselves to be loving. In flashbacks from their wedding day, we see Chris telling Paige that he will take her as she is because he has to as her husband, showering her with praise to allow her to let her guard down. Letting that guard down allowed her to feel comfortable consummating her marriage multiple times the night of their wedding and morning after, only for Chris to begin to be distant — literally. He left her worried as he stayed away from their hotel room for hours, later claiming he was dealing with his hurt over the fact that he was not attracted to her.

“Usually they start off being really great, really loving and that’s how they can lure you in. In order to maintain that sense of ‘I’m the best and most important,’ they’ll start to shift after a while and start to mistreat you and then gaslight you into thinking nothing’s wrong,” Isaac says. “They’ll do little things that upset you and then will gaslight you by making you question if you’re crazy and if you’re the one who is overreacting. It can be both subtle and overt.”

A common criticism of Paige by viewers was that she stuck around and tried to work through everything, despite her husband’s own lack of commitment to the process and unkind treatment. But Isaac says a hesitancy to leave as the partner of a narcissist comes from the emotional rollercoaster, or emotional abuse, that’s been endured.

“Because they lured you in the beginning by being loving, it can be sometimes hard to let go of that. So you give them chance after chance and think it’s worth sticking it out. But it’s emotionally abusive, and for the person put through it, it can be really confusing for them to sort out their emotions and and feel empowered to set boundaries because the narcissist will violate all sorts of boundaries,” she says. “They’ll push whatever boundaries you have because you’re supposed to just let them do what they want to do because they’re so important and so powerful. They need to maintain that sense that they’re powerful, so they’ll kind of bully you into doing whatever they want you to do. In a more covert way, that’s where the manipulation comes in. They’ll do it in subtle ways that make you start to question your reality and make you start to doubt yourself so you’re never really sure. You don’t stand up for yourself as much and by the time you do, they argue you down or paint themselves as the victim so that you end up feeling bad like you did something wrong. It’s a real combination of things that can leave a partner feeling pretty helpless and unable to get out of it.”

Thankfully for Paige, and for viewers, after experiencing some doubts and some tears on Decision Day, she realized that she needed to be done with the marriage.

“Just for my emotional, mental health, I think I need to go ahead and not stay married,” she told the experts and Chris.

It was the first move Paige had made in her marriage to really stick up for herself and her well-being, as for so long, she moved based on the whims of her husband, whose behavior left her often “feeling confused and feeling rejected.” To remind you of that behavior, we’ve highlighted a few of the glaring examples when Chris manipulated his wife to meet his narcissistic needs.

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Having Paige Meet Mercedes

The only reason Chris wanted Paige to meet the woman who was carrying his child (allegedly) at a time when their marriage was in shambles was to make himself look and feel like someone who had these two beautiful women vying for a place in his life. However, that wasn’t the case. Not only did Mercedes say she wasn’t interested in getting back with Chris at that moment, but Paige put him on blast for having unprotected sex not only with his ex, but also with her and bailing on his responsibilities as a husband.

Sleeping With Her While Simultaneously Abandoning Her

His lack of attraction to her was allegedly enough to send Chris into a crying fit during their honeymoon, but that didn’t stop him, even during the many ups and downs they had, from sleeping with her almost nightly without protection. He used the fact that they were married, that she believed in idea of wifely duties and fulfilling the needs of her husband as a woman of strong Christian faith, to play with her mind by constantly sleeping with her but not committing to her.

Bailing on the Marriage Because of Paige’s Phone Habits

Chris had a gripe with being encouraged by expert Dr. Viviana Coles to try and make his wife feel cared about by checking in with her, calling her during the week. He felt that such an action was unnatural, and he didn’t want to be forced to do anything. But when it came to him, when he did decide that he wanted to call Paige, if she wasn’t available when he called, he took that as rejection. So, as revenge, when they would get together to hang out, he wouldn’t have much to share in regards to conversation, saying if she didn’t have anything to say when he called, he didn’t have anything for her during their meetups. Letting him know her every waking moment wasn’t spent looking for his phone calls and that she too worked and had a life, Chris responded by saying they should break up.

Telling Her How He Feels Only on the Fly

Whether he was whispering it in her ear in front of the experts, meeting up with her after breaking her heart yet again to tell her that he’s afraid of falling in love with her, Chris always found a way to make Paige second-guess her decisions to get away from him. It would usually work. She would see his change of heart as a chance for a fresh start. By Decision Day though, she realized that fundamentally, they weren’t the same kinds of people and she needed to run for the hills.

Making Himself a Victim of His Own Actions

When Chris found out he was allegedly expecting a child, it was a total hit to Paige — like a Mack truck hit. However, she never really got to deal with her own devastation as she had to coddle Chris and keep him composed as he went off on other MAFS participants who questioned him and supported Paige more than they did him. Feeling judged more than embraced left Chris in tears and in rage, and with Paige left to run to his side in moments when she was the one who needed the support.

Trying to Overwhelm Her on Decision Day

It’s one thing to finally tell someone that you realized you blew a good thing. It’s another thing to play with their emotions, again, to pretend you want to leave a door open for reconciliation. Chris said himself that he came into Decision Day with his mind made up, but all of a sudden he got on camera and decided to affirm her, and when she supported him as he cried about his ex’s miscarriage, because Paige is an empathetic person, he claimed he saw a side of her that made him want to give things a chance. He planted that seed, which then had an impact on the way she was thinking, and barked about how they couldn’t be forced to make a decision on Decision Day. He even asked production to take off her microphone as though he was going to whisk her away to manipulate the situation further. Dr. Viviana responded by saying he was trying to play everyone in the room, which he was. Why wait until the last second to say all of these things and to want to work on your marriage? He could have called her weeks before instead of performing for the cameras on the final day. But Paige realized she couldn’t take his word to mean anything, because if his ex hadn’t had a miscarriage, leaving them with no reason to stay connected and him with no one to emotionally leach off of, would he really be feeding her those sentimental lines? Of course not.