Narcissistic Abuse in Relationships
Have you found yourself wondering if your significant other is a narcissist? Are you suffering from narcissistic abuse? This article explores narcissistic tendencies and indicators of narcissistic abuse. Keep reading to learn more about the red flags you need to be looking for.
What is narcissism?
Everyone knows that relationships have ups and downs. But should relationships be a struggle? My last relationship was one doozy of a roller coaster ride. At a certain point I found myself googling different things to try to wrap my head around everything and try to get a better understanding why I was putting up with things that in the past I never would have. Who was I? What was happening to me?
This path led me down looking at a TON of articles about narcissists and narcissistic abuse. I found some great information along the way. Articles and blogs I found about the subject had me thinking, “omg, I’m not alone” and “yes, that’s exactly what happened to me”! The goal of this article is to share some of the information I found and point you towards some resources you can use as well as you navigate your own complicated relationship.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition that causes people to have an inflated sense of self-importance. They tend to lack empathy for others, have an excessive need for admiration, unable to handle criticism, and … can be extremely charming. It’s often thought that picking out a narcissist is easy because they will be severely arrogant. While that’s true for some, not all of them will show you to be obscenely arrogant.
A narcissist has the inflated sense of self-importance, but they use that to mask the low self-esteem they actually have. It’s like at some point in their life they decided to cover up the fact they think poorly about themselves by over inflating their own ego. Also, research shows that most narcissists are men. In this article I might refer to the narcissist as “him/he”. That’s because it’s both my experience and the gender it usually refers to. However, be aware that in your situation it might not be a man.
One thing that I’ve noticed in my research during my last relationship is that a lot of people don’t realize right off the bat that they’re with a narcissist and dealing with narcissistic abuse. A narcissist is good at what they do and you are constantly in a state of confusion and uncertainty. I’m not saying that these individuals are bad people. In my opinion, I don’t think they even realize what they’re doing. I also believe that most would argue against the fact that they are a narcissist and that what they put you through is narcissistic abuse.
As a victim of narcissistic abuse, it impacts you in so many ways. In my experience, it greatly impacted my mental and physical health. It was so shocking to me because I’ve always been a very strong and confident woman. But this experience left me feeling inadequate, ashamed of putting up with it for so long, and conflicted over whether or not it all was a result of my own failures. Even after the relationship was over I was still dealing with the aftermath of it. Many months later when I was in my next relationship, I found myself always expecting the same narcissistic abuse. It was really hard to get out of the mindset of expecting failure, disappointment, and abuse.
Narcissistic abuse is not always an obvious “abusive” treatment. Friends and family won’t necessarily see it. You might not see it until looking back at the relationship afterwards. However, there are some things to look for if you’re trying to determine if you are dealing with narcissistic abuse.
Signs of narcissistic abuse
This is possibly one of the most obvious forms. Verbal abuse doesn’t always mean you’re dealing with a narcissist, but it is one of their go-to tactics. If you call them out on the game they’re playing with you and your emotions, they might resort to verbal abuse in an attempt to put you back in your place. They could call you crazy, shame you, or bully you. They want to shift the blame and/or embarrassment to you so they don’t have to accept it.
The narcissist already has low self-esteem and is self-loathing, so they want to push it off on you so they can continue in their delusion that they are great and it is you that has the issues. In my experiences, they truly convince themselves that everyone else is the issue and that they are the innocent bystander. I find that the yelling and verbal abuse helps them sweep the real issue under the rug. You’re so focused on the verbal abuse you don’t see yet what is truly happening.
The narcissist I dealt with also developed an alcohol addiction during our relationship. I later found out during research that a lot of addicts are also narcissists. Some of the mental health issues go hand-in-hand with the two disorders. Both addicts and narcissists find themselves lying…a lot. I feel that lying is at the core of all of the abuse tactics narcissist use.
When my ex finally got a handle on the alcohol addiction I thought things would improve. I thought the lying would go away. Boy was I wrong. The lies continued as did the other narcissistic abuse patterns. It’s like they can’t help but lie about things, even things of zero importance. They will lie about who and what they are just to make themselves more “likeable”. Looking back at my relationship, I realized that my ex lied about who he was from the very beginning of the relationship. He lied about things so he would seem like the PERFECT match for me. For example, he lied about also liking my favorite dish (pho). However, on our first date I noticed that it was obvious he’d never had pho before.
At the time I ignored it and just took it as him trying to impress me. Now I know that wasn’t it. He was lying and manipulating me to create an image of himself that he thought I would find most desirable. Once a narcissist has you hooked they will continue to mix lies with honesty to ensure they keep you in their trap. Their lies come easily and are so convincing. I often found myself wondering if my ex ever felt guilt for his lies. But the truth is that he didn’t because he lacks empathy for others and only wants to feed his ego.
MANIPULATION AND GASLIGHTING
The lying rolls over into manipulation and gaslighting. So..you catch him in a lie..what does he do? Looks you straight in the eye and continue to lie to you and twist it around to how it is YOUR fault that he lied.
My ex would make plans with me and then constantly cancel at last minute. One time when he cancelled last minute (yet again) I brought up the fact we had plans. He first tried to argue that I was wrong and my memory was incorrect. Gaslighting me into thinking I was wrong is what he always did. However, this time I showed him the texts where we had made the plans the previous week. His response was to throw it in my face how horrible of a person I was to show him the texts where he made the plans. And then ignored me for days for being so cruel to him. How dare I call him out on his lies?!
This example was gaslighting AND withholding/neglect/isolation. Gaslighting often leaves you confused as to what has even happened and you start taking on the blame yourself. You start doubting yourself and wonder if you’re being too sensitive and question your own judgement. When dealing with constant gaslighting over a long period of time, you might start to feel like you’re always walking on eggshells. Because with gaslighting, everything wrong THEY do will come back on you and what YOU did wrong.
The abuser will use lying to gaslight you. They will say things like, “that’s not how it happened” or “you aren’t remembering the situation correctly” even though you now remember every single thing that comes out of their mouth. Why are you remembering every single thing that comes out of their mouth? Because you’ve started over-analyzing everything they say. They will often call you crazy if you argue against some lie they’ve told you. I was told “you’re acting crazy right now”. If you try to calmly talk about an uncomfortable situation with them after you’ve caught them in a lie or they’ve done something to hurt you, they will try to steer the conversation away to something else. They will shift the blame to you whenever possible. Now instead of them being the one at fault, they’ve shifted the scenario to you and YOU being the one at fault.
In my example above, after my ex tried his usual “go-to” of gaslighting, he had to resort to withholding love and affection in the form of communication. He also did this OFTEN. It could be days or weeks. For some it can last months. Silent treatment like that is always a form of mental abuse. It is okay for a couple to need some space or time to think. But in a healthy relationship it will be done by communicating with your partner and telling them you need some space to think so you don’t say something you’ll regret.
iSOLATION AND LOVE BOMBING
Eventually my ex would end his silent treatment to me and resume our communication because it was now time to fill his cup back up. What cup? The “boosting his ego cup”. I was his narcissistic supply and the means to make him feel good about himself. Remember, narcissists have low self-esteem. They need you to help boost their own self-importance and ego. (Side note, there’s probably more than one of you boosting his ego cup. They do not have empathy for others and you’re feelings are irrelevant.)
After my ex would isolate me by withholding any communication, he would move into the next phase of abuse in the form of love bombing to make sure he could hook his claws back in. There would sometimes be big grand gestures to show how much he loved me. Declarations of love and how amazing we are together. Promises to never make those same mistakes again and will do better and be the person I deserve. Big plans for our future together and all the things he looks forward to doing together. The narcissist goes back to their sweet and charming self that you first fell in love with.
The silly part… you are HAPPY for all of this love bombing! It’s like they now have become your drug of choice. The cause and healer of your pain. This pattern is often referred to as a “trauma bond”. After experiencing it I can admit that it is real. It’s explained that it happens because their abusive pattern of idealization and devaluation causes a spike in serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline when they switch to love bombing after a period of abuse (such as isolation/gaslighting/etc).
There were a ton of Instagram profiles dedicated to narcissism and abuse that I stumbled upon that at the time really helped me. Some of them just made me feel better to know I wasn’t the only one and that I wasn’t “stupid”. There are plenty of articles, links, and psychologist studies online that you can find that discuss narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
During my research there was one lady I stumbled across on YouTube that I really liked. Her name is Dr. Ramani Durvasula. She is a licensed clinical psychologist that is on a mission to demystify and dismantle the toxic influence of narcissism (http://doctor-ramani.com/). Her YouTube can be found here. I started out by devouring so many of her YouTube videos. I was desperate to understand more about why I accepted what I did in my relationship. Even though my relationship with my ex was over (and for good this time), I went and purchased her book on Amazon titled Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist. (click here for link to book). I really loved this book and it was so insightful into both my narcissistic ex and myself. It’s worth a read in my opinion.
Even today when I look back at my experience I cannot believe that all of his abuse tactics worked on me and why I dealt with it. However, I now know that I am not alone in this and understand why it was so effective on me. And if you’re going through something similar, you are not alone either. While I’m no longer dealing with narcissistic abuse, I am so glad to have a better understanding of what I went through and to have the knowledge of all the red flags to look out for. I truly hope this article helps you as well. Get out before I did.