There is a particular story that I hear so often. A girlfriend will come to me in tears, hurt and baffled, wondering why her relationship with the amazing man she met not so long ago ended after starting with such a bang and high expectations. I often hear the words “soulmate”, “charming”, “attentive”, “man of my dreams”, “swept me off my feet…” and so on.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist… What is it like?
First, it’s everything you have ever wanted. However, your Prince Charming soon turns out to be a villain, and seeks out to destroy you. He begins needing endless attention and validation. Nothing seems to be good enough for him. You find yourself constantly tiptoeing around him, and receiving nothing but blame and criticism from him. He gets angered easily and his anger quickly develops into rage that he expresses by being verbally or even physically abusive.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is like being with someone who needs constant praise. They take everything personally because underneath their ‘perfect’ image of themselves there is profound self-loathing. The narcissist hates themselves for being the way they are, that’s why they need constant attention and approval.
Narcissists are extremely sensitive to everything they perceive as a critique. Anything less than a flattery hurts their ego and they quickly become defensive and burst in rage. And that is not what real love is. You can never feel safe while being in a relationship with a narcissist. They will destroy every ounce of self-esteem you have and get you to question everything, even your sanity.
The narcissist is obsessed with himself. He only looks for his needs. He lacks empathy and therefore, you will always feel alone and not understood with them. You will not feel loved. This arrogant creature will destroy your life and your will to live.
If, however, you think that by doing everything the narcissist wants and not making them angry they will eventually come to their senses and start loving you and taking care of you – you are mistaken. The narcissist is incapable of being in a healthy and loving relationship. That’s why their relationships are short-lived, because they stop pretending and they immediately move on to the next victim.
Getting in a conflict with a narcissist is excruciating and painful. You will never get what you want from it, let alone a compromise or an apology. The narcissist will hurt your feelings and will never apologize. In fact, he will make you feel as if you are the one who should be apologizing to him. That’s how destructive they are. They are the most terrible partner to have a relationship with.
Narcissistic Abuse: Effects
Narcissistic abuse is any type of emotional and psychological abuse where the abuser lacks empathy, is cruel with their words, and is using any types of tricks and actions to manipulate the victim and make them feel as if they are losing their mind. The effects of narcissistic abuse vary from mild to severe depending on how long the abuse was going on. Here are the effects of narcissistic abuse:
Depression and Anxiety
Many survivors from narcissistic abuse suffer from anxiety and depression. They have an intense fear of meeting new people and being in a relationship again. Feelings of panic and feeling attacked and disoriented are common to people who have experienced narcissistic abuse. Many people who were abused by a narcissist also feel worthless because they have spent months or years being told they are unworthy, stupid, or useless. They have been manipulated and gaslighted for so long that they have developed depression and may even have suicidal thoughts.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Almost every survivor from a narcissist has developed post-traumatic stress disorder, meaning, they are always on alert, panicking, and looking for signs of danger. Their fight or flight response is always turned on. They feel like they need to constantly protect themselves, always looking out for the abuser.
Loss of Sense of Self
Victims of narcissists completely lose themselves in the process. They lose their self-worth, their confidence… everything. They can’t recognize themselves in the mirror. Feelings of shame and embarrassment are also present and they can’t help but feel insecure about themselves.
Inability to Forgive Themselves
After being manipulated, gaslighted, and abused, many victims of the narcissist find it hard to forgive themselves for allowing the narcissist to destroy them like that. They feel as if though they deserve the abuse and how they were treated because apparently “they don’t deserve any better.” They also feel that there is something inherently wrong with them because they can’t believe that the person who was supposed to love them and take care of them almost destroyed them.
Headaches, stomachaches, or any kind of body aches. Also, survivors of narcissist report having trouble sleeping and having nightmares. Lack of focus and concentration are also common symptoms.
Emotional lability (sudden mood swings, irritability, aggression, boredom…), feeling as if you are stuck in a never-ending cycle with their abuser, trust issues, social anxiety, abandonment issues (fears that people will leave you or betray you), people pleasing, etc.
What is a Vulnerable Narcissist?
Vulnerable narcissism is a condition that is harder to identify. It is a type of narcissism, however, vulnerable narcissists are more introverted and therefore, most people get confused believing they are struggling with severe anxiety or having a bipolar disorder.
So, how can you identify a vulnerable narcissist? Vulnerable or covert narcissists are just the opposite of regular narcissist, but equally toxic. They struggle with their feelings and tend to lose themselves just so they can be accepted by other people.
A vulnerable narcissist needs constant attention and it is a turn-off for others which lead to dissatisfaction, blaming others, and displaying angry and hostile behavior. This type of narcissist is obsessed with their own self and so they are blind to the feelings of others. In fact, they use other people to console them and boost their self-esteem. They use people for their own selfish purposes.
Finally, if they don’t get an ego boost or worse, they get declined in a relationship, they take the rejection so bad that it triggers feelings of shame and rage in them.
To those who have never experienced narcissistic abuse, victims of this type of abuse seem to face an easy decision: walk away or stay in the abusive relationship.
But, the truth is that leaving a long-term toxic, abusive relationship can, in fact, be more difficult than leaving a positive and harmonious one. The reason for this is that narcissists are very skilled at manipulating their victims and playing mind games. They’re also able to hide their true colors and deny the abuse through scapegoating and gaslighting. As a result of this, their victims have trouble determining if the reality they’re experiencing is really abuse.
That’s the reason why it takes a great deal of strength, effort, professional support, and validation for a victim of narcissistic abuse to become fully empowered to leave the relationship and embark on their healing journey not as victims, but as survivors.
Here are 5 reasons why victims of narcissistic abuse stay:
1. Leaving a relationship with a narcissist is a decision filled with anxiety and fear.
When ending a healthy, positive relationship, you know that the other person isn’t going to stalk you or threaten you since you left them. You know they aren’t going to verbally abuse you or wage a “smear campaign” against you since you left them first. You know they’re going to respect your boundaries as well as need for space, and leave you alone after the breakup.
But, due to the manipulation, gaslighting, scapegoating, deception, and constant put-downs that a victim of narcissistic abuse endures throughout their relationship, they may doubt whether leaving the relationship is the right thing to do. They may think that the reality they’re experiencing isn’t really abuse. And they may fear, too, that the next victim of the narcissist might be treated better than they were, which just confirms their own sense of worthlessness which was instilled in them by the malignant narcissist.
2. Leaving a relationship with a narcissist would mean that the victim has to face the trauma they’ve suffered.
As a result of the psychological and emotional trauma they’ve suffered, victims of narcissistic abuse may attempt to minimize, rationalize, or deny the abuse in order to protect themselves from the pain of the bitter reality that they are experiencing.
So, instead of ending the relationship, victims of narcissistic abuse choose to stay since this allows them to still focus on the good parts of the relationship, such as the occasional compliments and even sex, while protecting themselves psychologically from having to face the pain of it.
3. They begin to perceive themselves the way their abuser did.
The put-downs and derogatory comments narcissists subject their victims to instill a pervasive sense of worthlessness in them. They make them perceive themselves as weak, incompetent, and worthless.
In addition to this, narcissistic abusers know how to make their victims beg for their attention and love. They know how to make them seek their validation and approval. And all this makes the victim think that they must struggle to win a love that will never be selfless, honest, or unconditional. It makes them think that they should be grateful to the narcissist for being with them, although they’re not good enough.
4. Society passes judgment on victims of narcissistic abuse for staying in an abusive relationship.
A lot of people who have never experienced narcissistic abuse think that they have the right to pass judgment on those who have. How could she/he stay? Is she/he sure it is truly “abuse?” Why didn’t she/he end the relationship the first time the narcissistic abuser hurt them? they ask.
Well, this victim-blaming leaves victims of this kind of abuse feeling judged and isolated. It leaves them feeling like the abuse was their fault. It makes them think that no one cares about them or tries to understand their situation. It makes them stay in the toxic relationship, since they’d rather stay than leave it and then speak out and risk being judged, stigmatized, and shamed.
5. They aren’t ready psychologically to leave the relationship.
There’s no such advice that can convince someone who is in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser to leave them until they feel that inner transformation themselves and make a firm decision to put an end to the abuse and say to themselves, “I have had enough of this. I’m better than this. And I deserve something so much better than this.”
Until they’ve made this decision consciously, there isn’t much that other people can do to make them change their minds apart from offering them their understanding and support.
How to Leave the Narcissist
1.Don’t give them another chance. Don’t believe their flattery.
Oftentimes when leaving a narcissist, it takes more than 5 times to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist behind. And that is because the narcissist will try to lure you in, especially if you were the one to leave them, so that they can dump you instead. They want to be the ones doing the leaving because everything needs to be how they want it.
If, however, the narcissist doesn’t want you to leave because they still haven’t found another supply, they will probably turn all sweet and loving, pleading you to come back and telling you they will change. Of course, they are lying. So, you can expect that if you go back to them, their treatment will only get worse.
So, don’t risk giving them another chance. Because you can never know when in those another chances your 9 lives will be gone.
2. Don’t inform them that you are leaving.
Stop yourself from telling the narcissist you are leaving them. You shouldn’t inform them that you want to end the relationship with them because the narcissist will either start love bombing you in order to keep you stuck to them through trauma bonding, or their behavior will become dangerous for you, and they may even become physically violent.
So, leave in silence and never look back.
3. Reconnect with you family and friends.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist means being with someone who will cut you off from your closest friends and family. They will isolate you in order to keep you bound to them. They may have even told you lies about them because they didn’t want anyone to be close to you.
That’s why it is so important for you to start reconnecting with your family and friends. Explain to them what has happened to you. Tell them about the abuse and ask them to help you. I am sure they will be there for you.
4. Don’t just leave the narcissist – stay away from them.
Even though you have left the narcissist, you may be tempted to get back to them when real life strikes you. When you are all alone in your home, our brain is prone to making us remember the good times we spend with the narcissist while blocking all the bad things they had done to us.
So, that is why it is crucial to not just leave them, but make sure that you stay left.
5. Remember that you have been on a rollercoaster.
It doesn’t matter how many chances you give the narcissist, the end result will always be the same. You will end up heart-broken. And every heartbreak will hurt more than the last.
Therefore, remember the rollercoaster you had with the narcissist. Would you want to experience again the ups and downs with them knowing that it will never lead to a stable and calm ride?
Do yourself a favor and jump off from it. And never, ever look back.