In a relationship with a narcissist, they tend to get healthier and the victim tends to get ‘sicker’ psychologically. Often in a narcissistic relationship, the victim doesn’t realize they are in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser. Narcissistic abuse often goes undetected because the victim wallows in self doubt and tries harder to please their narcissistic partner, but to no avail. Narcissists can be insatiable and will often continue to find fault with their partner.
The irony is that it is the narcissist in the relationship who is chronically insecure. They often find ways (psychologists refer to this as defense mechanisms) to counteract their insecurities but acting in the opposite way – they often come across as very confident and may act as if they have an inflated sense of entitlement. They enjoy being the centre of attention and thrive on attention and adoration from others. This is often called the narcissists “supply”. They are unable to self soothe and need the emotional energy from others to feel good about themselves. Think of a narcissist as an emotional vampire. This is how they end up healthier whilst the victim of narcissistic abuse ends up with lowered self confidence, self doubt and increased insecurities over time.
Healthier, more balanced individuals have far more empathy than narcissists do. For a narcissist, their theme tune is “What’s in it for me?”. They can seem generous, but this will only come about if it makes them look good. They truly operate in a way that is devoid of compassion. They tend to see people as objects, fulfilling a role in their life. They don’t tend to see their partner as someone unique and loving. They look at a partner’s potential in terms of what they can get from that person. If that perosn can’t provide it, they are usually able to switch to someone who can provide what they want. Narcissists lack sentimentality.
Signs that you are in a relationship with a narcissist
Everything is your fault
A narcissist very rarely takes responsibility for their own behaviour. They will say you made them do it. As a consequence on not owning personal responsibility, they are unlikely to change their behaviour.
Narcissists tend to be quite controlling and this is due to their insecurities. They like to be top dog in the relationship and aren’t brilliant at compromising. They want things their way. They also struggle to have empathy and put themselves in their partner’s shoes.
Narcissists are inherently selfish. They very rarely do things purely for the sake of others (unless of course this will make then look good – that’s the pay off). You will rarely find a narcissist giving blood for example. If they do – they won’t be quiet about it. Everyone will know what a great individual they are for being so ‘selfless’. Narcissists rarely do things quietly and without expecting praise.
Gas lighting is a form of ‘crazy making’. They will lead you to believe things that aren’t true. They will make you doubt yourself by telling you they have already told you something when they haven’t. Severe forms of gas lighting involve intentionally changing things or removing items and then insisting they were never moved or changed. This is psychological abuse in it’s extremest form. The victim starts to doubt their own perceptions and thinks they are going mad. This is great for the narcissist as it gives them more power in the relationship.
Loving at first, then critical
Narcissists can often be very intense initially. They are keen to get you hooked emotionally becasue then they are in control. They will woo you initially and make you feel like the most precious person in the world. Once they have you hooked emotionally, they can start to relax and then the crticisms will start.
Why are you wearing that? Stand straight, your posture is terrible, you sounded weird on the phone call… it will be subtle as a narcissistic is clever and would never want to be too blatant with their emotional abuse.
Over time you become far more self conscious in an effort to please them. Understand that you will NEVER please a narcissist. There will always be something lacking no matter how hard you try. Narcissists have a way of invalidating you. Destroying a person’s spirit, their sense of self is a crime in my opinion.
None of it is real when you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. The love is not real, the intimacy is not real, the commitment is not real. It is all an act so that the narcissist can get what he/she wants and needs. And when he/she no longer wants it or needs it, they discard you, moves on and finds a new person to manipulate.
The discard phase
When a narcissist no longer needs you, you will be discarded. They can’t even be bothered to explain things to you and will treat you like you are a bother. You will feel utterly worthless and unloveable. They have the power to do this. They mess with your emotions and they do not experience emotions as a health balanced indivudual does. This may be due to factors from their childhood where they have learned not to feel.
What victims of narcissistic abuse say about staying
I didn’t leave because I thought every couple goes through this
I didn’t leave because I was so used to being put down that it became my new normal.
I didn’t leave because the abuse happened so slowly that I didn’t know I was being abused.
I didn’t leave because I was adamant on keeping our family together
I didn’t leave because I didn’t want my kids to come from a “broken” family.
I didn’t leave because I never had time to really breathe and take a step back and see the bigger picture.
I didn’t leave because I became so co-dependent that I didn’t think I could raise my kids and have a life on my own.
I didn’t leave because I honestly thought I’d hit the jackpot — they were so involved in our kids’ lives, they cooked, they did our grocery shopping, they organized all the kids activities, — albeit resentfully.
I didn’t leave because I thought he/she would be more kind once he/she got a job that they loved and that they were proud of.
I didn’t leave because I had already invested 15 years in this relationship.
I didn’t leave because I didn’t know what abuse looks and feels like.
I didn’t leave because it implied that I failed.
I didn’t leave because I didn’t want anyone to judge me.
I didn’t leave because, even though married life was so lonely, I thought it would be even lonelier by myself.
I didn’t leave because I thought surely he must have a heart in there somewhere and I just needed to bring it out. After all, why would they cry at movies?Turns out this is yet another example of cognitive dissonance at work!
I didn’t leave because I didn’t have the strength.
I didn’t leave because I felt lost.
I didn’t leave because I didn’t respect myself enough.
I didn’t leave because I thought my intuition was wrong.
I didn’t leave because I was determined to show them that love wins.
I din’t leave because I didn’t want to be a divorce statistic.
But sadly, in the process, I became a Narcissistic Abuse Survivor statistic.
Getting over narcissistic abuse
It’s a slow road to recovery. A victim of narcissistic abuse needs to rebuild themselves and put in a lot of work to feel good about themselves again. The longer the abusive relationship lasted the more damage occurs. Years of not feeling goos enough and being subtly criticised take their toll emotionally and physically.
Self compassion and self care are important and cutting contact is vital too so as not to be ‘hoovered’ back in by the narcissist.
Put yourself first, be selfish. Get counselling if you need to unpack what happened and possibly deal with trauma and/or codependency issues.
Don’t blame yourself, move on and find ways to inspire hope and faith again. It is possible.
Additional resources on narcissistic supply: https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-supply/