What it's like with a narcissist. Does this feel familiar?

Narcissism has a variety of different manifestations, depending on the individual at hand. However, regardless of the specifications, a person who becomes involved with a narcissist in a personal relationship will suffer deeply. In the beginning, the narcissist will be incredibly charming and know just what to do or say to create the perfect balance to lure you into being with them. You will believe that you have finally found a truly amazing partner. They make you feel special while helping you out and show stability in their feelings and in their own lives. It is a fine art to a narcissist, the subtle dance of having someone fall in love with them, and in getting what they want in general. It is likely that they will even convince themselves that they truly love their partner, making their falsehood exceptionally difficult to spot. As long as they haven’t quite caught their partner they are humble and caring, showing strength of character with sensitivity to another’s needs. However, the moment they know that the other person is fully theirs, they become quite cold and critical.

A narcissist will start to hold their partner’s feelings hostage. The more the partner needs them, the more they will keep their feelings to themselves. They will criticize their partner’s every action, whether this is done directly or by offhanded comments. The partner will start to feel like they can never do anything right, that everything they do will be scrutinized by the narcissist somehow, in some way. They start to doubt themselves and all that they do. Their self-esteem starts to wither away slowly, due to being chipped at little by little as the months or years go by. The narcissist enjoys making the other person feel guilty for any perceived slight or wrong-doing, even when these were honest mistakes. There is a sense that the narcissist is always better, higher somehow in position, than their partners. They have a very hard time apologizing as well, as they believe that they are always right. They would prefer to find a flaw in the way the conclusion was made than to admit they actually did something incorrectly.

Usually the partner will feel as though they are walking on eggshells with the narcissist and make every effort to appease their partner. They second guess themselves at every turn. However, every once in a while, the narcissist will push their partner too far and when the partner finally starts to feel angry or perhaps extremely depressed and miserable, the narcissist will start to behave as though everything is fine. They will be helpful again, charming, and things that they would be critical about will suddenly not matter to them. They know that the relationship is on the rocks, and this is not what they want in the end. So they will act like they did in the beginning when they were trying to win the person over in the first place. As soon as their partner is back into the relationship once more (this can be a few days or a couple of weeks), the narcissist starts again with the criticisms, the condescending tones, and the withholding of affection.

A narcissist does not feel comfortable being truly open with their partner. They feel better keeping control on the relationship by making the other person feel more emotionally invested than they are. The narcissist may even feel that they do love their partner, but they actually only love what their partner does for them or how they fit into their lives, how they make them look to the outside world, etc. They will wear a strong partner down into the ground until they are as weak as the narcissist made them out to be. There is no winning with this kind of person unless they are able to get professional help and work on themselves and their behaviors. The narcissist will place blame on their partner at every turn for something going wrong, but will never admit to making a mistake themselves. And if they do, they are usually trying to gain something by doing so. They actually believe that they didn’t do something incorrectly, there was something that forced their hand to act as it did and it is somehow not their fault. Never their fault. Always some outside reason or because their partner did this or that. They can play at acting humble when it suits them, but only when they want something. They are very manipulative.

This person has a serious lack of empathy. They do not care that their partner is suffering from illness, having a hard day, or any number of things. Unless they can somehow find a benefit to showing their partner support, they simply will not do it. They do not actually care about what their partner is feeling at all, only what the situation will do to them. And they act accordingly.

In one sense, the narcissist is not completely to blame for their predicament. Narcissism is usually formed early on in a person’s life as a reaction to bad parenting styles. There are two main reasons why a person forms this disorder, one is due to a narcissistic parent who is overly dependent and indulgent with their child, and the second is due to an abundance of harsh criticism from the parent and withdrawal of emotional support. The child forms a complex where deep down they feel ashamed of who they are. They may act like they think they are the best of the best, but inside they actually hate themselves. They are miserable and bitter, ashamed of themselves. They are so worried that they will be outed as incapable or unintelligent, somehow lacking and deserve no respect at all. This makes them want to show no weakness and only gain from milking others in every way possible. However, nothing anyone does will ever be good enough for them in the long run. It will always be less than perfect in their eyes.

They have trouble remembering the good things about their partners and will instead focus on what the person has done “wrong”. Wrong in their eyes, anyway. Little things. Tiny, insignificant things that would normally be ignored, will be either directly, or passive-aggressively shown to the partner as “wrong”. There is never a way to satisfy this person’s ego. No matter what the partner does, it will never be quite right. It might take a partner who has been in a relationship with a narcissist years to gain back their self-esteem and stand up tall again. The best thing to do is to leave the relationship as fast as possible. There is no winning here. Unless the narcissist can come to terms that they have a disorder, and be willing to get professional help to remedy this, it will always be an uphill battle that cannot be won.

For more information on narcissism, have a look at these websites and articles:

Psychology Today - Overview of the topic as well as what this person is like in relationships.

Prevention - Symptoms in spotting a narcissist.

HelpGuide.org - An overview of the topic.

Psychology Today - Ways to help a narcissist get better.

When overcoming an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.

Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!


Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kasiakraut/

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