A recent article in the Huffington Post went viral when the author, Lindsey Ellison, described how to engage with a “narcissist” after divorce. Basically to disengage. Detach. Stick to basic information if you have to have contact.
Hundreds of comments suggest that many people are familiar with this dynamic.
What is narcissism?
A terribly inflated ego or sense of importance. People who believe the world should revolve around them. Who are impatient and critical. Who lack empathy. Will blame you for all problems. Who, if you are not for them, believe you are against them. And you can be cut off at that point. Or hear frequent threats to do so.
There is massive insecurity underneath that persona.
When that is a persistent way of interacting with others, it is termed “narcissistic personality disorder”. More men have it than women. We don’t know why.
Not all jerks are narcissists. They may share some of these traits. For it to be considered a personality disorder, the person has to treat most everybody like this.
What are the reasons men treat their partners badly?
1) He may be narcissistic.
2) He could be sociopathic. Sociopaths lack a conscience. He hurts others just because he can. And does not care.
3) He could be an addict. An alcoholic. Or have another addiction that governs his moods. Addicts don’t take responsibility for their actions. He will blame you instead. He may be addicted to sex, porn or other substances. Meth users are horrible to be around.
4) His behavior could be learned. He may have seen his father treat his mother cruelly. May have been abused himself. He was taught it was okay to demean women, with a rigid belief in a male-dominated, authoritarian culture.
5) He could be depressed. Depression can be converted by many men into agitation and anger. Especially if the onset of poor treatment can be tied to some kind of loss.
Abuse is still abuse. No matter what the reason. You can get stuck trying to “understand.”
The person themselves has to accept he has a problem. That’s not going to happen with true narcissism or sociopathy. It’s difficult in the other three as well.
The answer is to disengage from the battle that has more than likely been raging between the two of you. Perhaps a quiet one on your part. But ongoing.
You are not going to win it.
5 Commitments To Yourself If You Love Or Have Loved A Narcissist.
1) Don’t get stuck arguing with him about how you are a good person. That you want to love him well. Detachment and non-emotional engagement is the only way.
2) Confront the demeanment you have soaked up. Challenge the words he has called you. If you are depressed, get help.
3) Take responsibility for being attracted to the narcissist’s initial charm. The over-the-top attention you first received. You were somehow swept up. You didn’t view it as possessiveness. You didn’t see warning signs that were more than likely there.
Maybe because of your own shaky sense of worth. Maybe because you feared or were tired of being alone.
If you recognize your part of the dynamic, it is more probable you will be able to detach from what keeps you stuck.
4) Realize how your strengths are manipulated. A narcissist will seek out partners who pride themselves on taking responsibility. Who are conscientious and work hard to please. To love perhaps to the point of denying how abusive things are.
He will manipulate that. Use it against you.
5) Decide that you can tolerate that the narcissist will always blame you. And let others know just how horrible you are.
There will be no healthy closure.
Then you can begin the process of believing in yourself. Valuing who you are. What you stand for.
If you stay in the relationship, you can use these commitments. It is likely that the narcissist will escalate his controlling behavior if you do. Just be prepared.
If you leave, things will likely also get worse. For a while. His rage at being called on the carpet will likely boil over.
If there are children involved, it is particularly painful. You are likely to watch them go through a similar process where they begin to realize what the narcissistic parent is unwilling, and incapable, of providing. It is very difficult to watch. It is highly likely that intervention, other than steady and consistent support of your child, will only escalate your past partner.
Whether you stay or go, you have options.
It is going to be hard.
Please get some support.
If you see yourself in this post, there is an excellent book, “Disarming the Narcissist” which might be helpful to you. For anyone experiencing abuse of any kind, the classic “The Battered Woman Syndrome” is a must read.
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