If you are a sensitive person, it’s very likely that at some point in your life you’ll end up with a narcissist. It’s a sad truth, but we who sacrifice of ourselves for others are often more easily manipulated and controlled in relationships. For one reason or another, we also don’t always feel worthy of someone who really loves and accepts us for who we are, so we are attracted to someone who tears us apart. Someone who tells us our issues or why we aren’t really good enough, but that they ‘tolerate’ us anyway. Someone who makes us feel like ‘less than’, even though we are WAY more than enough. We are so much better than they make us out to be.
But it is in their best interest to make us feel unworthy, because then they can more easily control and manipulate us. We feel like no one else would have us, so we are lucky to be with them. At least initially. But then we wake up. Eventually. For some it takes longer than others. And some still allow themselves to be controlled by them again and again. But if you can get there, you CAN make a new start and break free of this.
I really fell into a pattern of dating narcissists in my late 20’s and early 30’s. As all my friends got married, I felt more and more insecure about my ability to find a great guy and get married. I’d always been highly insecure and lacked confidence, but it really hit an all-time high around that time and I started a trend of dating narcissists. Most of them dumped me along the way, because most of them are too into themselves, and a needy woman is too much for them to handle.
However, when I reached 32 I was convinced no one wanted me. And when a cute narcissist came into my life and wanted to marry me – I was all too certain this was my last chance at it. So, despite the fact he locked me in the car and lectured me – despite the fact he demeaned me even during sex – despite the fact that he controlled every aspect of my life and made decisions I never would have made on my behalf – I married him.
No one in my life really knew the truth of who he was. He was such a charmer. Some saw glimpses. Like the fact that when we met them out to dinner, he did all the talking and it was all about him. But no one knew the extent of what was really going on. I went from a pretty happy, social person with lots of interests, to a fairly home bound and controlled person who had a full schedule because my husband filled it up with his to-do list for me. In the later years I called myself his “administrative assistant” because I was really just at his beck and call constantly and doing what he told me to do.
How did I wake up out of this? Well I could say it was his long stints overseas while he was in the National Guard. I had lots of time to myself to gain clarity and really grew to hate him. His visits home or between deployments were very tense and unpleasant. I loved my time alone and hated when he came home and controlled my life again. I got much stronger during those times alone.
But honestly, it was a psychic reading I did (almost 8 years into our marriage) that really nailed it for me. I hadn’t told anyone about the reality of my relationship or how it made me feel, or what was really going on. But one day I went to for a reading on a whim, and she read me like a book. “Why are you married to a man you don’t love? You need to get a divorce and find your true love.” I almost fell off my chair!
I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get strong enough to admit to anyone how miserable I was, but in that moment – of someone else seeing it and telling me what I needed to do – I knew she was right. It was awesome. I went home and called him and asked him for a divorce that day and I never looked back.
How Do I Know?
The question is, how do you recognize that it’s an unhealthy relationship that you need to escape? Let’s look at some of the signs of a Narcissist:
- Superiority and Entitlement. They expect others to cater to their needs and give them preferential treatment, often without being considerate in return. In their mind the world revolves around them. They often think of themselves as a hero or heroine, and believe that those around them couldn’t live without them and their amazing contributions. A narcissist often has an exaggerated need for attention and validation. They are also very upset by inattentiveness or anytime you go against them in your views, or for that matter if you make fun of them or ‘slight’ them. This often provokes a heated argument from them, total detachment, and/or accusations that you are abandoning them.
- Charismatic, Charming, and very Persuasive. They can make you feel very wanted, very special, and very needed. However, they are really interested in you for their own gratification (and ‘interested’ is a strong word). They will never really know you, because they aren’t really interested in knowing you. They are interested only in Manipulating and Controlling you to meet their needs. As long as you are giving them all of your attention and fulfilling their desires, they will be engaging and sociable with you. But they may drop you if they lose interest or become bored – or for that matter if they realize they can’t control or manipulate you.
- Perfectionism. You can never do anything right in their eyes. Even when you try to show them you can do it, they will pick it apart or doubt that you actually did it right. They will never be satisfied. Never happy with anything anyone else does. They are hyper-critical.
- Lack of Responsibility— always Blaming others and Deflecting. You will notice that a narcissist will NEVER take the blame for something. They will NEVER apologize. NEVER admit to their mistakes. They will lash out at you and they will blame everyone else. But they will never take ownership for what they have done. They usually feel that they can do no wrong and others are always wronging them.
- Lack of Boundaries to Maintain Control. They will be in your face all the time. Manipulating and controlling you. They won’t give you the space or time to yourself that you need, because they feel they might lose control of you. And thus they will be in your space as frequently as possible, and always in your business. They won’t want you to do anything without consulting them first, whether you want to or not. You will never have a chance to really breathe, make your own decisions or even have some alone time.
- Lack of Empathy. They might say that they feel bad for someone, or about some situation someone is in, but they really don’t know how to feel for someone else. They only have concern so far as it affects them, and then their concern is how that will affect their life and their needs, or how that person or being is serving them.
- Negative Emotions. Narcissists often enjoy spreading and arousing negative emotions to feel powerful, get attention, and keep you feeling insecure and off-balance. They are quick to criticize, blame, ridicule and judge. Some are emotionally abusive and try to make you feel inferior to boost their own fragile ego.
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others”— Paramhansa Yogananda
Recognizing and getting out of an unhealthy relationship with a narcissist is so important. For many of us, it’s a hard lesson to learn when we realize what we’ve gotten ourselves into. It’s really a message about the fact that you can’t “fix” people or change them, that you are worthy and need to love yourself first or you will end up with people who ‘use’ you, and that you really need to pay close attention when you start dating someone and recognize these signs early so you can end the relationship if you see these issues (read How to Find the Perfect Partner). You deserve a partner who is as kind, giving and empathetic as you are. You deserve to have someone who brings you joy.
So, shed those narcissistic relationships and friendships (and distance yourself a bit from narcissistic relatives if you can). Look to bring people in your life who care, who are supportive, who give you space, and who understand you. People who would never manipulate you. And if you’re not strong enough to get there yet, take some time to yourself to work on loving yourself and your life. Because loving yourself enough to never put yourself in a relationship like that is key. Self-sacrifice is completely unnecessary. You must know that you deserve better and believe it. You’ll get there. Follow the light of your amazing heart.
A book that you might like is POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse: A Collection of Essays on Malignant Narcissism and Recovery from Emotional Abuse by Shahida Arabi