Toxicity in Relationships with Narcissists
As I move through healing and grief from my relationship, I am met with more and more memories of the times where I was mistreated, where I was made to feel that I was the sole problem, rather than my ex displaying any accountability for the way that I was being treated and that that was also a true(r) problem.
I have come to understand that to be in a relationship with a narcissist is to stay often too long because of the trauma bonding that occurs.
First, there’s the love bombing stage. The moments where there is co-dependency, intense communication and declarations of love way too soon within the relationship. Later you hold onto these moments, memories of all the times that were fun and delightful. It wasn’t always like this, you later think.
This is strategic on their part. This love-bombing is about control. It is about luring you in. When they got you—it shifts—-
Then about a good year to a year and a half later the mistreatment started. But by this time, I was bonded, I loved.
This was intentional because then when you start to be verbally and emotionally abused, you are less likely to leave.
This is trauma bonding. Sort of like Stockholm Syndrome, you stand up for your abuser. You justify.
Narcissists are subtle. Covert. Discreet.
You don’t understand why you feel like crap about yourself around them some of the time and then not at others.
It is easy to say—why did you stay with someone so narcissistic? So emotionally abusive?
But, as I said—Narcissists aren’t dumb. It’s not all bad. They are strategic and manipulative. They know what they are doing.
And because it isn’t all bad, and when you care deeply about someone and are trying to make a life work, you find yourself acquiescing for peace. Especially, as an empath, you start to compromise.
Toxic people and narcissists thrive off this consideration that others have. They will latch on to empaths, those who are more likely to be self-reflexive and consider/chalk matters up to their own shortcomings.
If they can get you to do that, they can then evade accountability, gaslight, deflecting and projecting, playing the victim. This played out countless times in my relationship in very cyclical ways.
They will learn your weaknesses and points of insecurity, then they will use them against you.
Fucked up? Indeed.
Incredibly Sinister? Yes.
I have to wonder how much of it is intentional and how much of it is learned emotional manipulation as a survival tactic to use others to try to keep themselves from getting hurt.…. As many seem to develop NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) as a result of childhood trauma.
However, it doesn’t much matter, especially since the effects are much same.
My ex knew well the points that made me feel badly about myself. He quickly leaned into those points of insecurity in the pursuit to use them against me.
All of this was done to try to elevate himself—which is, of course, ridiculous because it wasn’t accurate. It didn’t build him up. Rather, it revealed/reveals his own shortcomings and insecurity. But for a small-minded and shame-based person, afraid of their own mediocrity, they were threatened by others, and people like this will resort to such tactics.
My ex’s ex wife said two things that I often sit with and consider:
“I didn’t know a person could act like that”
“They need to put you down because it feeds a deficit within them.”
Again, while I process for my own sake, I also caution and invite you to marvel with me at these statistics:
—5% - 6.2% of the population has narcissistic personality disorder—1 in 200 people. Greater rates were found among men (that seems quite obvious) compared to women.
—Narcissism is one of ten personality disorders. (Although other mood disorders may often exhibit narcissistic tendencies.)
Also, there are different types of narcissists:
There are those who they believe they are specially loved by God; others who believe themselves highly intelligent, others believe themselves to be guaranteed success in life or that they are especially attractive.
My ex had all of the above.
He really thought himself special. (Not that there isn’t inherently wrong with this—a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The problem becomes, of course, when you are not able to see the uniqueness or the special in others. Narcissists can’t/won’t. It’s all about them.)
Some are malignant narcissists, but it seems the covert kind are more common, more insidious and dangerous. These are the ones who have some social etiquette. They can mask and disguise well. In other words, they often say and do the right things, in terms of social conventions.
But—their motives are entirely rooted in selfishness. They are just better at hiding it than the malignant narcissists.
This brings to mind something a former professor that I had in college said. He was from Brazil and frequently told us that we Americans are too often told that we were special. We heard it from Barney and from our parents. And we learned that lesson well.
Though my ex was not American, I do see the inherent dangers in this, thinking oneself so special, especially if you are also not simultaneously taught respect for others, compassion and empathy.
The message that they have then translates into—I am special over (or at the expense of) others.
As I sit with all that I have learned, I think again about how little we do/can really know about other peoples’ internal monologues, their inner motivations and their roots of selfishness.
How little we really know of what motivates and dictates another’s behavior.
How different our social interactions and relationships would be if we could read the thought bubbles—as in the comics—above another’s head.