Trusted for 23+ Years
The Heartbreak Of Narcissistic Abuse In Relationships
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
What Is Narcissism?
You might've heard the term 'narcissism' and thought, "Oh, that's just being super arrogant, right?" but it's actually more like someone building a grand castle on a shaky foundation; the outer show is impressive, but there's deep fragility underneath that they're trying to hide. Essentially, it's a behavioral cycle of putting down and controlling others to feel better about oneself because, at the core, there is intense low self-esteem hiding under the surface. It's a huge relationship red flag.
When it comes to love and relationships, things get a bit tricky with narcissistic partners. Instead of building genuine connections, narcissists often create patterns that block true intimacy. Things get rocky very quickly if you try to bring some healthy boundaries into the mix.
Let's delve deeper into the world of narcissism, the overt and covert forms it takes, and its painful consequences for those entangled in its web.
20 Common Behaviors Of A Narcissist In Relationships
Those with narcissistic tendencies often exhibit specific patterns in relationships. While the behaviors listed below may not always be present, they can provide insights if you observe them.
1) Love Bombing
Narcissists often provide intense attention and idealization at the beginning of a relationship. During this period, they are determining their partner's needs and insecurities to later assert control. They also perceive relationships with strong individuals as a greater conquest.
2) Disappearing Acts
They may disappear from your life from time to time or give you the silent treatment to test your reaction. This is often done to make their partner miss and pursue them.
3) Rapid Commitment
Narcissists will often profess their love within a short time of establishing a relationship. They may pressure their partner for a quick commitment and make excessive demands of loyalty, time, and personal attention.
4) Hot and Cold
Narcissists often fluctuate between very romantic and abusive behavior. One moment, they may be exceptionally sweet, and the next, they are unreasonably upset. This aims to gain control and reduce their partner's self-worth.
It is common for narcissists to lie and contradict reality to have power over their partner. They often go out of their way to make their partner second-guess themselves to maintain control over them.
Narcissists often set very strict rules in a relationship that they expect their partner to follow. When their partner steps outside of these rigid expectations, they will punish their partner emotionally, physically, or both.
Many narcissists encourage or demand that their partner distance themselves from family, friends, and even co-workers to limit their freedom and maintain control over them. A narcissistic partner may keep their partner under constant surveillance to ensure they remain isolated.
Narcissists often demand that their partners give up personal interests and resources and only focus on their own needs and wishes.
Narcissists are often sarcastic and use demeaning language to attempt to make their partners feel incompetent and worthless. This can also take the form of practical jokes in an attempt to humiliate their partner.
10) Exhausting & Confusing
Relationships with narcissists feel exhausting and confusing. Partners often feel trapped in a cycle of arguments and never fully feel things are resolved. If there are times of happiness, they are short-lived.
11) Superiority Complex
Narcissists will act superior to their partners but will often present a false sense of humility to others.
12) Lack of Empathy
Narcissists are unable or unwilling to recognize and respect the feelings and needs of their partners. They often minimize their emotional needs or dismiss them.
Narcissists believe they deserve special treatment and to have their needs prioritized above others.
Narcissists often use others without considering the consequences of such actions or the pain and suffering they inflict.
Narcissists often have a high level of envy toward others or can falsely believe others are envious of them.
16) Poor Boundaries
Narcissists often disregard the personal boundaries set by others.
17) Requiring Excessive Admiration
Narcissists seek out constant praise and admiration. They become upset when they do not receive it and often punish partners who do not provide it.
18) Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility
Narcissists never acknowledge their faults or mistakes. Instead, they often project their shortcomings onto others or claim that others cheated them.
Narcissists are known for manipulating others to get what they want or to see things their way.
20) Fantasies Of Unlimited Success
Narcissists are often preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the ideal love.
Narcissism Vs. NPD
As awareness grows, there has been an increase in using terms such as narcissistic or narc on social media and the press, but before we dive into what it's like to be a partner with someone who might be a narcissist, let's get our terms straight, shall we?
Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) might sound like the same thing, but there's more to the story than meets the eye. Let's break it down.
Some narcissism is completely normal and a facet of all of our personalities. We all have a bit of a narcissistic streak from time to time. It's that part of you that experiences pride when you get a compliment or feel the sting of being ignored or criticized. It's a healthy part of being human because we are naturally wired to care about how others perceive us.
But, like everything, balance is key. Narcissism becomes unhealthy when that tiny spark becomes a roaring flame of self-obsession, and people can get hurt.
That being said, just because someone has moments of being a bit full of themselves doesn't mean they have a personality disorder like NPD. Think of narcissism as a sliding scale or spectrum, and we all fall somewhere on it. So, let's jump into the deep end and explore when it is unhealthy.
Examples Of Extreme Narcissism
- Craving constant admiration or validation.
- Lacking empathy.
- A strong sense of entitlement over others.
- Manipulative behavior.
- Fragility in the face of criticism or overly defensive.
- A lack of intimacy and only superficial relationships.
- A grandiose sense of self-importance.
- Frequent jealousy and competitiveness.
- Constant fantasies of unlimited success, power, or attractiveness.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) possess a distorted perception of the world. Their way of experiencing interactions with others isn't grounded in reality, and they struggle to recognize when they've done something wrong or caused harm. They struggle to accept reality and typically seek ways to escape from it. It's not usually a conscious choice; it's their brain's way of trying to protect them from emotional distress.
Imagine living in a world where you hurt others but are oblivious to your actions. You only notice the reactions of those you hurt. So, in your eyes, it seems like everyone is unjustly cruel to you because you can't recognize that you're the cause of the pain.
Additionally, those with NPD feel entitled to their behaviors and reactions to people. Their innate belief is that they're the victims, have done nothing wrong, and are justified to act the way they do. To someone without this distorted reality, the narcissist's actions seem irrational. But for them, it's the way things should be.
NPD is a clinical diagnosis recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. NPD is not just about someone having an inflated ego; it's a deeply ingrained and debilitating condition.
It is defined by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following criteria:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance and may exaggerate achievements, expecting to be recognized as superior without any basis.
- A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes they are 'special' and unique and can only be understood by special or high-status people or institutions.
- Requires excessive admiration. Has a sense of entitlement with unreasonable expectations.
- Is exploitative, taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
- Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or projects that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
For a clinical diagnosis of NPD, these patterns must be consistent across situations and cause significant distress or impairment in the individual's functioning.
Furthermore, they must be developmentally appropriate and after adolescence and are not due to other mental health conditions, cultural differences, or substance use.
Some narcissists will show impulsive or compulsive behaviors, where they might impulsively seek attention or make rash decisions to maintain their self-image, which can cause others as well as themselves highly negative consequences.
Personality disorders, like NPD or even Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), embed themselves into the very fabric of an individual's nature, making them incredibly challenging to treat. Ask any therapist, and they'll probably nod in agreement, telling you how intricate and demanding treating such disorders can be.
5 Challenging Types Of Narcissism
The following are examples of the different ways narcissism can be expressed:
1) Overt Narcissism (Grandiose)
This is the most recognized form of narcissism and is the type that thrives under a glittering disco ball of attention but wilts like a flower at the faintest shade of criticism. They ALWAYS need to be the life of the party, waiting for those 'you're amazing' compliments to roll in. And, if they don't? Cue the drama!
Narcissists think of themselves first and feel they always deserve the best. They get upset they're not admired or complimented enough.
In relationships, they will act superior, saying things like:
- "You're lucky to be with someone as special as me. No one would care about you if it weren't for me."
- "Why would you even talk to your friends about our problems? I'm the only one who really understands you."
- "You're always so sensitive. Can't you see I'm just trying to help you be better?"
- "It's not my fault you feel that way; maybe you should work on your self-esteem."
2) Covert Narcissism (Vulnerable)
Ever met someone who's sneakily fishing for compliments without making it too obvious? Let's chat about the covert narcissist. These folks are pros at using tactics like playing the victim or other forms of emotional manipulation to be the center of attention.
Instead of flaunting their greatness, they will subtly remind you of it in less obvious ways, such as seeking reassurance without openly seeking praise. This way, they can manipulate you into feeling obligated to comfort and validate them. They often mention their sacrifices, implying that they deserve special treatment, or they play up how someone has harmed them and should receive sympathy.
In a relationship, they might play the martyr, saying things like:
- "After all I've done for you, this is how you treat me?"
- "You're going out with your friends again? I guess some people just have different priorities."
- "I've been feeling so neglected lately, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to burden you."
- "It's always about your feelings, isn't it? What about how I feel?"
3) Antagonistic Narcissism
This person is always in competition mode, constantly striving to "win" against others. They're not just content being great on their own terms; they feel a need to push others down. In a relationship, they may constantly compare their successes to their partner's while always needing to one-up them.
- "I can't believe you only managed to run a mile today. I did three miles in record time."
- "You think your day was hard? Listen to what I had to go through. It makes your challenges look like child's play."
- "You finally finished that book? I read it ages ago and understood it way better."
- "I can't believe you're celebrating that small achievement. When I was at your stage, I was already leaps and bounds ahead."
4) Communal Narcissism
This is someone with a sort of a savior complex where they make sure you know how passionate they are in helping the community or a cause, but in reality, they are doing it for praise and recognition.
While there are true-hearted angels out there genuinely sprinkling kindness, these folks want to be seen as the most caring and compassionate people, just for those gold stars we used to get in school. Especially when you see it on their social media, it makes you ask yourself: Is it altruistic passion or just a photo op?
In a romantic relationship, they might frequently remind their partner of all the "good deeds" they do, expecting endless praise in return.
- "You know, not everyone would spend their weekends volunteering at the animal shelter like I do. I just care so much. I hope you realize how lucky you are to be with someone so selfless."
- "Everyone can see how much I contribute, and they obviously appreciate me more than you do."
- "It's so hard being a beacon of hope for everyone."
- "I wish you'd acknowledge more often how much I give to others. Most people would kill to be with someone as caring and committed as me."
5) Malignant Narcissism
Imagine someone who not only loves the mirror but also secretly cheers when their partner is down. That's the darker side of this sadistic form of narcissism. This person not only thinks they're better than everyone else but also has aggressive tendencies and enjoys the pain and suffering of others. It's a type of narcissism combined with antisocial traits where they relish seeing their significant other upset or hurt.
- "Everyone else agrees with me because they all think you're crazy."
- "I don't know why you're crying. It's pathetic how weak you are."
- "Why can't you ever do anything right? It's like you purposely try to make me angry."
- "I enjoy watching you beg for my affection. Maybe if you weren't so needy, I'd give it to you."
- "Nobody will believe you. They all know I'm the better half in this relationship."
The Skills Of A Narcissist
Ever wonder how some abusive people have that magnetic pull that keeps you so intrigued? Let's uncover the allure of narcissists and their sneaky tricks to attract partners and keep them from leaving them.
Narcissists (sometimes called narcs) can have a sort of magnetism and be incredibly charming. They can be so enchanting that they can captivate people easily, even when some of their flaws are quite obvious. They build an emotional connection, often rapidly, which can be both confusing and intoxicating. Their charm and compliments, however, often serve their own agenda.
In addition, they can make you feel incredibly adored, especially at the beginning of a relationship. They can even 'love bomb' you with excessive affection, attention, and gifts, making you feel incredibly special to them.
Narcissists can make you feel like you are on a drama-infused roller coaster with intense highs and lows. This can easily create an addictive cycle for many partners who feel they cannot exit the rollercoaster relationship safely or with ease.
Have you ever felt like you're walking on eggshells in a relationship? Enter narcissistic partners who are quite adept at eroding your self-esteem, leading you to doubt your worth. This can lead partners to feel that they would not be worthy of finding another partner who would treat them better.
Narcissists find it nearly impossible to self-reflect; they primarily project and deflect. Thus, when you try to set a boundary or state facts they do not like, they will typically attack you from a place of insecurity about things they don't like about themselves.
Narcissistic partners are often skilled at inauthentic mirroring, which is when they seem to reflect back your deepest desires and dreams. This form of imitation often makes you feel like they understand you in ways others do not.
When manipulating you in this way, they say the things you most want to hear, and by seeming to be the 'perfect match,' they can secure the loyalty or admiration they most desire.
Manipulating Your Emotions
Those who are narcissistic are quite skilled at manipulation, often born out of a means to protect their ego. They can do this through gaslighting, where they make you doubt your own reality, or they might skillfully twist narratives, making you or others the villain. This goal is to deflect responsibility and garner validation, admiration, or sympathy.
Control Through Dependence
Narcissists will often position themselves as seeming to be indispensable in your life, making it hard to imagine a life without them. They may create this dependence through creating a sense of shame, guilt, fear, manipulation, and other forms of abuse. It calls for one to ask themselves, is someone trying to play puppeteer in your life?
Narcissistic abuse isn't just about conceit; it's driven by a profound unconscious sense of insecurity, often born from wounding, that navigates them through a cycle of belittling others to elevate themselves. This can take various forms, so let's dive in and break it down, shall we?
- Constant criticism
- The silent treatment
- Overemphasizing their achievements while belittling yours
- Manipulating your emotions
- Lack of empathy and compassion
- Using people in transactional relationships
- Excessive jealousy
- Disregard for others boundaries
- Unaccountable and shifting blame toward others
- Humiliating or aggressive 'practical jokes'
Overt Narcissistic Abuse
Not all narcissistic abuse is subtle; it can be very explicit and violent. Narcissistic individuals won't always hide their intentions; their abuse can be very direct and aggressive.
Violence often conjures images of physical harm, but in the context of narcissistic abuse, violence can also be psychological. They can scream, threaten, criticize, mock, humiliate, discredit, and intimidate you in many types of overt ways.
While they may not throw a punch, they can physically intimate you by cornering or looming over you and preventing you from physically leaving. In addition, they may become aggressive if they don't get their way and demand you do whatever it is they desire.
They may also humiliate you through what they claim are practical jokes that are designed to demean you and put you in a compromising situation. For example, they may aggressively smash your face with cake at your wedding even if you have told them you do not wish that to happen.
Micro Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissistic relationships can sometimes be described as 'death by a thousand cuts because it's not always through blatant abuse or big betrayals that undermine the victims in these relationships.
In these cases, the pain caused by the narcissist is experienced through micro-injuries that wear you down. Little by little, you can become brainwashed by the gradual reduction of connecting to your authentic self.
Why Narcissists May Enjoy Arguing & Drama
For most of us, having a harmonious and respectful relationship is the ultimate goal. When we argue and experience non-stop drama with our partner, we will feel emotionally exhausted, and it can feel like running a marathon without a finish line. However, this isn't true for those with pronounced narcissistic traits.
Conflicts and emotional turbulence can actually be invigorating for them because it can momentarily relieve feelings of low self-esteem and emptiness. Because they don't typically empathize with others' feelings, they may even take satisfaction in seeing emotional reactions from those they manipulate.
When you find yourself deeply upset by a conflict with them, they may see this as a reward in that they can emotionally have control over you. For them, it often isn't a game of mutual understanding; it's about gaining the upper hand.
Keep in mind their actions aren't always sadistic and rooted in a desire to harm you; rather, the emotional suffering that they cause you fills a need to affirm their own significance. Furthermore, this can be intensified when you wear your heart on your sleeve and share your vulnerabilities with them, as they can see it as a way to exploit your feelings to fill their ego.
The Effects Of Long-Term Narcissistic Abuse
Those who have endured long-term narcissistic abusive relationships often appear quiet over time, even if they are naturally extroverted. Their posture might even seem to indicate psychological defeat, almost looking hunched over.
Victims seldom share personal stories or accomplishments, and when they do, it's often to the surprise of others who discover they've achieved or experienced something remarkable.
They have learned to be submissive, always ensuring the only voice seen as important is that of the narcissist partner. They have been punished by the jealousy and insecurity that underpin much of the narcissist's behavior. Over time, victims lose their voice, their self-advocacy, and even their healthy sense of pride.
Such relationships profoundly shape a person's identity. Being constantly told that your experiences and accomplishments are unimportant eventually leads to self-devaluation and can even restrain you from pursuing future achievements.
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
An emotional toll often linked to narcissistic abuse is the non-medical term 'Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.' For many, it's like being trapped in an emotional maze. You might not have all the answers or even grasp the entirety of what's going on.
You just find yourself questioning things, getting upset, or feeling a lingering sense of sadness, anxiety, or guilt for things you can't quite put your finger on.
Narcissistic abuse can easily make you question the validity of your own experiences. Did that really happen? Was it as bad as I remember?
It can make you experience some of the following symptoms:
- Feeling isolated, even in a crowd.
- Freezing up in social situations.
- Trouble making everyday decisions.
- Continuously doubting yourself.
- Experiencing unexplained physical symptoms
- Feeling perpetually restless and unsettled, like something's amiss.
- Struggling to voice or maintain your personal boundaries.
- Exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression.
- Feeling like you don't recognize yourself and wondering, "Who have I become?"
Why Do People Stay In Relationships With Narcissists?
If the signs are so clear, you might wonder why do many of us linger in relationships with those who show narcissistic tendencies? The answer, though complex, is that regardless of our intellect or emotional resilience, we all have a yearning for belonging that can overshadow our intuition of what is right for us.
Trauma Bonding With A Narcissist
Trauma bonding (similar to Stockholm Syndrome) is when abuse victims develop a strong emotional attachment to someone who abuses or harms them. It often feels confusing to the victim because it seems counterintuitive, yet it usually is a powerful reason people stay in toxic relationships.
The trauma bond often arises from a cyclical pattern of abuse, de-escalation, reward, tension building, and then abuse again. This unpredictable behavior, combined with positive reinforcement in the form of sporadic kindness and affection, can lead the victim to develop a deep, unhealthy bond with their abuser.
Example Of The Cycle Of Trauma Bonding
Matt notices that Brandy is on social media often. At first, he drops subtle hints about it, like using a sarcastic tone, "Spending a lot of time on Instagram today, huh?" Matt becomes moody, less communicative, and overly critical about unrelated issues. Brandy can feel this mounting tension.
One evening, after seeing Brandy laughing at a message she received, Matt's jealousy and rage erupt. He lashes out verbally, "You care more about your loser friends than me!" He grabs her phone, throws it against the wall, and pushes her to the floor as he storms past her.
Realizing he might have gone too far, especially if Brandy reacts with shock, fear, or tears, Matt will shift into damage control. He might say, "I don't know why you're so obsessed with this online world when you have someone as incredible as me who loves you. You should be grateful to have you love someone so much and not disrespect me."
The next day, Matt might bring home flowers for Brandy, reminding her of their good times early on in the relationship. He might say, "I want us to be like we were before." If Brandy ever brings up the incident, he might minimize it, "I was just upset. You know I'd never really hurt you."
Over the next couple of weeks, the atmosphere becomes increasingly strained again. Matt will start noticing and commenting negatively on Brandy's social media habits again. He might make snide remarks, engage in passive-aggressive behavior, or become cold and distant. Recognizing this pattern, Brandy may attempt to minimize her online presence or hide it from Matt to avoid conflict.
Eventually, another event sets Matt off, maybe Brandy posting a picture of herself or interacting with someone he deems threatening. The cycle continues, with each abusive episode potentially escalating in intensity.
Difficulty Seeing The Abusive Cycle
People outside the relationship can see the abusive dynamic more easily because they are not emotionally bonded to the abuser. It is a significant barrier for abuse victims to seek help or leave.
While the emotional attachment that trauma bonding can be intense, it does not reflect genuine love or intimacy. Instead, it is a form of manipulation after exhibiting harmful behavior by the abuser. Seeking professional help and support from loved ones can be pivotal in breaking this bond and prioritizing one's well-being.
Trauma Bonding Victims Prone To Recurrence
A trauma bond can be rekindled after it's been broken in the same relationship or with new ones. Why? Well, if the underlying issues haven't been tackled, these bonds can snap back, pulling a victim back into old, familiar patterns. This is because the cycle of kindness and maltreatment is wired in the brains of abuse victims as something expected by pre-existing neural pathways.
Knowledge truly is power in these situations. By getting educated and seeking a helping hand, whether through friends, community support, or even therapy, survivors of abuse can build a shield against returning to these harmful relationships, develop a strong sense of self-worth, and find nurturing relationships.
After separating from a narcissistic partner, one can experience a second chapter of the abuse. Many people assume that ending a relationship will automatically terminate the abusive behavior. Regrettably, this may not always be the case, especially if you must continue contact with them regarding shared interests such as children, finances, etc. Thus, in many cases, the end of the relationship can sometimes mark a resurgence or intensification of abusive behaviors.
This is because, for some narcissists, the termination of the relationship drives them to increase manipulation or exert control. They may still feel a sense of ownership and seek ways to get your attention and validation.
Narcissists have been known to stalk or coerce others to stalk on their behalf ex-partners, known as 'gang stalking.' There may be attempts to create distress emotionally, financially, socially, or suddenly appear unannounced to inflict additional emotional turmoil.
While victims of narcissistic abuse hope for peace after parting ways with a narcissist, sometimes this separation can merely be the new beginning of a more toxic cycle. It's essential to be aware of post-separation abuse and take precautions to protect oneself.
Types Of Post-Separation Abuse
Post-separation abuse refers to acts of violence, control, intimidation, and other harmful behaviors after separation or divorce. It's an extension of domestic violence and coercive control tactics. Here are some types of post-separation abuse:
This can range from physical intimidation, slapping, hitting, or pushing to more severe forms of violence. The abuser may use physical violence to punish the survivor for leaving or try to force them back into the relationship.
The abuser may stalk the survivor, show up unannounced at their home or workplace, and/or use electronic means to track them.
This can involve constant phone calls, text messages, emails, or other forms of communication meant to intimidate or annoy the victim.
Legal & Economic Abuse
The abuser may use legal systems to continue to exert control over the survivor, such as prolonging divorce or custody proceedings, filing frivolous lawsuits, or using child support or alimony as a means of control.
Emotional & Psychological Abuse
This is often seen in making threats against the survivor or their loved ones, spreading rumors or lies, or trying to undermine the survivor's relationship with their children or a new partner.
A narcissist may try to interfere with visitation rights, use the children to convey threatening messages, or attempt to turn the children against the other parent.
This can often be seen in withholding funds, damaging the survivor's property, or trying to sabotage their work or educational opportunities.
Digital and Online Abuse
Using social media, messaging apps, or other online platforms to track, harass, intimidate, or spread false information about the survivor.
This might involve sexual assault, rape, or other forms of sexual coercion.
Trying to cut the survivor off from their support networks, friends, or family.
Threats & Intimidation
This can include threats to harm or kill the survivor, their loved ones, or themselves.
Breaking & Entering
Illegally entering the survivor's home, car, or other personal spaces.
Damage To Property
Destroying or damaging the survivor's possessions, home, or car.
This can involve lying to law enforcement, social services, or other agencies to paint the survivor negatively or evade accountability.
Attempting to control the survivor's reproductive choices, like tampering with birth control or forcing pregnancy/abortion.
What To Do If You Are In A Relationship With A Narcissist
Dive Deep Into Education
Knowledge is your armor and light in the dark. The more educated you become on narcissism, the more you will be able to navigate it in a healthy manner, whether you choose to remain in your relationship or leave it.
Lean Into Support
Narcissists will often try to isolate you from the support of others, and giving yourself the support you deserve is a necessary and powerful tool. Share your story and feelings with those you trust and perhaps even a skilled therapist.
Know that you're not alone. Remember, you need and deserve people who can tell you, "I see you. I hear you. Your feelings are valid."
Implement Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries aren't about pushing people away; they're about holding onto your own identity. It is never too late to say, "While things may have been different in the past, this is where I now stand."
Having boundaries that protect your individual needs is a commitment to your own mental and emotional health.
Disengaging & Silence
Many victims of narcissistic abuse eventually disengage and, at times, go silent in their relationships or use the 'gray rock' method by becoming emotionally non-reactive. It's not because they don't want to speak up; it's because they have realized their narcissistic partner is delusional, and there's no rational or logical approach to address the issues.
In their distorted reality, a narcissist can never be wrong. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's essential to understand when dealing with a master manipulator. A narcissistic partner will find it nearly impossible to believe that you are not willing to accept their phony narratives because they genuinely believe that you're the one in the wrong when you challenge their skewed views. Bottom line, they believe their own bullshit.
By disengaging or choosing silence, it's not that you're letting them win or participating in a manipulative silent treatment; instead, you're attempting to protect your mental well-being, and that's a good thing. Sometimes, the best response is no response at all.
A Warning To Victims
Recognizing someone's manipulative tendencies is empowering. When you begin to step away from their games, they may feel threatened. Suddenly, you're not so easily controlled or triggered, and they sense they're losing their grip over you.
They may become desperate to keep you ensnared, relying on creating emotional ties that are difficult to break, known as 'trauma bonding.' This shift can cause their behavior to escalate. If you're experiencing this transition, it's a clear sign: you're reclaiming your power and breaking free from their influence.
Keep in mind that they might engage in more overt manipulation techniques, such as guilt-tripping, projecting their behaviors onto you, or even trying to pull you back in with other emotionally charged tactics. While there's also a chance they might recognize their loss of control and simply move on, most narcissists initially respond with anger.
A narcissist will often become infuriated by your silence or disengagement, as the lack of attention (positive or negative) that they are no longer receiving will often be quite challenging for them. In most cases, the narcissist will escalate their behavior at this point, so having a plan of action that ensures your safety is a good idea.
It is important that you understand that even a narcissist who has never been physically violent may become so once they realize they have lost control over you. They may also try to sabotage you at work, through your children, through your other relationships, and more.
Remember, when navigating challenging situations with individuals like narcissists, always prioritize your safety and lean on your support systems. You deserve it.
Reflect On Your Relationship
It's time to journey inward and ask the challenging question you know you need to: Is this relationship nourishing my soul or draining it?
If the scales are tipped more toward pain than joy, it might be a brave moment to reconsider the relationship dynamics. Determining if it can be saved or if it is worth the effort is essential.
If your spirit feels on the verge of breaking, honor your truth. Your well-being, your voice, your heart matters. In this short life, it's essential to seek the path that allows you to grow and flourish on your own terms.
Find Helpful Resources
Experiencing abuse, especially from someone with narcissistic tendencies, can be profoundly traumatizing and disorienting. If you or someone you know is enduring this kind of abuse, please seek help and support.
It's common for individuals to silence their pain or feel trapped in a haze of diminishing self-worth, but I implore you to recognize this abuse's deep and insidious nature. Understand that you do not need to forgive your partner's abuse to move forward in a healthy way.
Violence is not just about physical, visible scars; it's about the erosion of your sense of self. Avoid minimizing suffering and awaken from the submissive brainwashing you have been enduring. Seek the connection and support that can guide you back to your authentic self.
Here are some resources, both online and offline, that can offer assistance:
If you are physically in danger, seek out help from police and domestic violence resources such as:
Domestic Violence Helplines:
- U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- U.K. National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Australia 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- Canada Ending Violence Association of Canada
Online Resources and Forums
Out of the FOG
A website dedicated to those who have loved ones with personality disorders, with a lot of resources about NPD.
Offers articles and resources on various mental health topics, including NPD.
Many victims of narcissistic abuse find it beneficial to work with a therapist or counselor familiar with NPD and abuse. If in-person therapy isn't accessible or affordable, consider online platforms to talk with a therapist online or by phone.
Local domestic violence shelters and organizations often offer support groups, and online platforms like Reddit and Facebook have numerous groups dedicated to supporting victims of narcissistic abuse. You can also discover videos related by using the key term Narctok on TikTok.
If you're considering leaving a narcissistic abuse situation, you may also want to consult with legal professionals familiar with domestic abuse cases. In addition, domestic violence organizations can also offer guidance on restraining orders and other protective measures.
Create A Safety Plan
Consider making a safety plan if you're actively in an abusive situation. This personalized, practical plan includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you go.
Therapy For Narcissists
It is possible for someone with a narcissistic personality or traits to get help if they see therapy as something that offers benefits. It also requires support from a skilled therapist with experience with personality disorders.
The myth that therapy can’t help people with a narcissistic personality stems from the fact that most will never acknowledge they need help. If they do go to counseling, it is often under the assumption that it is to 'fix' their partner.
When they do seek support from a therapist, they will find it very challenging to overcome their narcissistic defenses, and in many cases, they may not even realize they have those defenses. Some victims of such abuse explore partner probation which can motivate some narcissists to get help, but it is most often quite challenging.
For therapy to be helpful, narcissists have to overcome resistance to treatment and be able to identify behaviors that are causing problems in their lives. They must be willing to examine past experiences that may have led to their narcissistic behaviors and acknowledge how they affect others. They will need to work on replacing grandiose thoughts with more realistic ones and explore practicing new healthy behavior patterns.
In the face of narcissistic abuse, whether you're enduring it, escaping it, or healing from it, remember this: You are not alone, and your story, emotions, and truth hold immeasurable worth. Please never let anyone's actions or words convince you otherwise.
Your self-worth and resilience are part of your shield against such toxic behavior. This life is your story, and while you may have taken a detour from your authentic self, you can write your own ending.