Have you ever looked at the person who’s the life and soul of the party, overly generous, provocative, confident, compassionate, raconteur, entertaining and the type of person you think – wow I’d love to be like them! Or even worse – wow I’d like to be with them!!
Well hang fire because you’re probably looking at a narcissist.
Behind that ball of energy and magnetism (which attracts lover and friends like moths to their light) there may be a dark and troubled soul.
Narcissists suffer from a very fragile, even broken, self esteem that can’t handle the slightest criticism.
They are described as:
“Someone with a mental condition in they have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others”
What it boils down to is this: all that Hoo Haa is the mask of someone who is very damaged.
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But Specifically, Why Is Narcissism A Problem In Relationships? Because It’s All About Them.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is not easy.
In my own personal experience I was always dealing with the question should I stay or should I go? And it was the love VS pain, fear of abandonment, anger at being controlled or being ignored.
Meanwhile, the narcissist lived in his own world (even though he lived with me) in which he demanded excessive attention and admiration, dreamt about the perfect job with power and glory and truly believed he was the chosen one.
Narcissists are emotional unavailability and not emotionally intelligent, highly critical, demand constant attention, provocative, exude extreme confidence and the most self important people we’ll ever meet.
At the same time they have a distinct lack of empathy for others yet constantly engage themselves in troubled relationships. Narcissists expect special favors from other people believing they deserve exceptional treatment because they are ‘special and different’.
The Narcissistic Legacy
Whilst all this is happening, the partner’s self-esteem and confidence plummets. Consequently, frustration and hurt become a normal pattern all of which is unhelpful in any relationship.
Narcissists generally speaking find relationships difficult and unfulfilling. Their primary commitment is to themselves not to the relationship. It may appear that they listen to you but they only listen to themselves.
One clue as to whether your partner is a narcissist is if you change the topic of conversation, they may become defensive or get angry when you talk about your own stuff.
The relationship with my narcissist was at best entertaining and at worst a juggernaut that destroyed everything in its path. I was young and naïve and believed that maybe it was something I was doing wrong or it was something I wasn’t doing right.
I spent every day trying to communicate with him but it was like banging my head against a brick wall.
It was only in hindsight was I able to understand that I was trying to make a relationship work that was unworkable.
If you aren’t strong, as I wasn’t, it’s easy to take too much responsibility on board for trying to make things work.
Every day I sank into negative emotions like:
Shame about not feeling good enough
Anger at myself for not saying the right thing
Guilt for saying the wrong thing
Isolated because I was in a relationship where I couldn’t be myself
Afraid to express opinions
Fury at being manipulated
Lonely because there was no intimacy
Exhausted at trying to love someone who was unlovable
Constantly sought approval
After the relationship finished I had a breakdown. I’d spent 4 years trying to make myself fit into what I thought another person wanted. That was four years of feeling all of the above and it was no wonder that I hit a rock bottom.
It was definitely the worst time in my life. But do you know what? I’ve never had any relationship that took me down that road again. I had to straighten out my codependent self that was willing to take such abuse from another person.
Here’s A List Of 4 Reasons Why Narcissism Is A Problem In Relationships.
1. It's all about them
They suck up all the air in the room because when they talk it’s mostly about them and if you engage with something about something else, they quickly revert it back to them.
They know more than you, they are more interesting, they talk about everything in their life and what they’ve done. They tell you what they are thinking about and they are not very interested in what you are thinking about.
Narcissism has been called a disorder of the ears. The absence of any listening skills turns the focus of every conversation back on to them.
It doesn’t matter how you feel about it because it’s all about their issues. It’s as if your feelings were erased with the delete button. Your role is to support them and do what they want: be like a P.A.
2. They play the blame game
A narcissist will take credit for everything turning out the way they planned it.
That is, of course, until it goes wrong.
If anyone criticizes them or asks them to take responsibility, they won’t. It is not possible for a narcissist to take responsibility because they must maintain the façade of perfection.
It will be everybody else’s fault and especially yours. The closer, the more loyal, the most loving and the most attached the narcissist is to you, the more blame you are going to get. This is because the narcissist knows you won’t abandon them therefore they can afford to throw the most blame your way.
It’s called the Narcissist Injury
It’s described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the diagnostic framework that Psychiatrists use when diagnosing mental health patients) as:
“Vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”
Trying to reason with a narcissist when they feel criticized is like trying to pet a distressed lion when it’s backed into a corner.
3. They don’t obey the rules
Narcissists believe they are special and different. They push in front of the queue, think they’re entitled to the best seats, kick up a fuss until they get them, cheat if they don’t to ensure they do. And, they have lots of affairs.
Rules are not their business!
They feel entitled to break them.
No matter how hard you attempt to comply with their rules, you will never get it right because they will alter - but you won’t know that. The narcissist won’t update you that they require you to behave differently or want different things done.
At the start of a relationship a narcissist can appear to want emotional intimacy by telling you they want to know you, be with you, be your best lover and be in constant contact with you. It can feel like you are the ‘very special one’, different to anyone else they’ve met, ‘the one’ they’ve been looking for.
You felt safe, wanted and loved. Intimacy comes quickly. They tell you that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them.
Until you break the rules.
Perhaps you didn’t hear the phone ring all you didn’t respond to the text they sent. Before you know it they are angry, feeling betrayed and pondering ending the relationship!
Now they don’t want to see you and use emotional abandonment as a punishment.
They said they trusted you and you’ve broken that trust. Their real narcissi self starts to appear through the cracks.
4. They don’t receive feedback very well
Although narcissists have an inflated view of their own importance they can quickly deflate with negative feedback.
They get angry easily and retaliate by offering ‘helpful’ criticism of the other person. They feel so threatened by someone criticizing them that they will cut out people who challenge them. They criticize others but they can’t be criticized.
They also believe when someone is sharing their feelings they are actually criticizing them.
As crazy as it sounds, the narcissist will think that your feelings must be about what they have been doing. Even if what you are talking isn’t anything to do with them e.g. discussing your work, the narcissist will still think it’s about them.
If you have an argument with a narcissist, they will blame you for making them angry. It’s almost impossible to get your point across because they won’t listen.
What they will do is say that you didn’t listen to them, you criticized them, you’re trying to control them, you are wrong and you need to apologize.
They will then come back oozing charm and seduction, trying to seduce you back into their arms.
“I’m only angry because I’m frustrated that you’re not seeing it my way but I know I’m right and I know we can get through this if you would also take in my point of view.”
Who Do We Become When We Are In A Relationship With A Narcissist? A Confederate.
A narcissist can’t continue to act out their grandiosity without our help. We are ‘the confederates’; the ones who keep the narcissist’s self-glorification going.
We help balance out the power of the narcissist; as the narcissist seeks more power, the confederate takes on more of the victim role.
This continues as the narcissistic bullies the confederate until one day the confederate snaps and takes on the narcissist’s traits. They behave like the narcissist with threatening behavior ‘I’ve had enough of you’ then, shocked at what they’ve done, retreat into a quivering victim.
When the narcissist sees that the confederate has become wounded, they play on it and increase their bullying so they feel even more powerful over the confederate.
The Confused Confederate
If you are the confederate, you may be so focused on your trauma and pain that you are unable to see where the destruction is coming from. You may think you are to blame. You begin to ask yourself where the lovely person you fell in love with has gone?
You may feel so insecure, lost and emotionally drained out that it’s you who seeks help.
Certainly, those of us who find ourselves in narcissistic relationships need to find out why we would tolerate the behavior of the narcissist. It’s an interesting question because no intelligent person would actually walk into this kind of relationship.
Even if we leave the relationship, if we don’t dig deep and discover why we are drawn to a narcissist in the first place, we will probably end up unwittingly seeking a narcissist in our next relationship.