That’s what the narcissist would have you believe, the question is do you? When you become involved with an abusive person, whether she or he is personality disordered (narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorder) or just your garden variety self-absorbed bully, it’s quite common to cede your life over to them. Eventually, you find yourself consumed and hyper-attuned to their needs and emotional states while ignoring your own.
You may come to believe that you’re being selfish and unloving if you don’t tap dance and tiptoe around the narcissist and cater to them on demand. Long term exposure can warp your beliefs about yourself and relationships, that is if they weren’t warped already by parents who share similarities with your narcissist or borderline partner.
In order to remain in a relationship with a narcissist, you have to buy into their narrative, at least to some degree. Spend enough time in an abusive relationship and it’s likely you’ll shut down and detach as a way to cope. Otherwise, the cognitive dissonance would be too unbearable. If it’s selfish for you to put your needs ahead of hers, why isn’t she being selfish when she puts her needs ahead of yours every single time?
If you’re considering ending your relationship, but are struggling with guilt, obligation, fear or the misguided belief that what you have with this woman or man is “love,” please consider the following questions.
Do you believe that the narcissist’s or borderline’s wants, needs and feelings are more important than yours? That their hopes and dreams are more meaningful than yours? Especially when they typically do little to nothing to pursue their dreams or grows tired of the sustained effort and abandons it or dumps the work onto someone else? Do you believe their fears and grievances are more legitimate and in greater need of immediate redress than yours?
Do you believe it’s your responsibility to cater to the narcissist’s petulant whims and unreasonable expectations and soothe their temper tantrums whenever they want attention, feel frustrated or diminished in some way? Do you understand why you continue to stay with someone who makes you miserable? With someone you believe is so crazy, enthusiastically mean and likely personality disordered that your Google searches led you to this website?
How do you think you’re helping by staying with someone that believes you’re the source of their misery? If you’re each the source of each others unhappiness, then what’s keeping you together? Narcissists and other abusers enjoy hurting and blaming others for the consequences of their poor choices and bad behavior. What’s your deal?
Do you see how crazy the whole dynamic is?
If you’ve spent some time researching these issues, you’ve undoubtedly read several articles explaining that personality disorders like BPD (borderline personality disorder), NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), HPD, (histrionic personality disorder) and sociopathy are extremely treatment resistant and are likely to worsen with age. Yet, you persist in wishful thinking and remain in the relationship while you become a shell of a person.
The path to happiness and peace isn’t found moving toward this person. It’s in moving away, far away, from Crazy and her abuse. Healing and making yourself “crazy-proof” means facing and accepting some hard truths — about yourself most of all.
There are some websites that claim practicing “radical acceptance” is a healthy option for the non-disordered person and part of the disordered person’s recovery process. I agree. It is pretty radical to accept that you’re doing something noble by tolerating the abuse of a significant other or family member who behaves hatefully toward you on a regular basis with no remorse, or at least not enough remorse to stop behaving hatefully toward you.
Perhaps sacrificing your own needs and rights became a source of pain-pleasure for you as a child. Were you required to stop being a child in order to get your parents’ love? Did your parents invalidate your feelings and tell you cruelty and indifference are love? Maybe making another person happy is one of the only things that make you happy, particularly making a person happy who is incapable of being happy.
Do you see the futility in that? Do you see it is its own form of craziness? Each of us is in charge of our own personal happiness. It comes from being at peace with ourselves, not from making someone else jump through hoops or demanding sacrifices — and definitely not from being the hoop jumper and sacrificial goat.
You may hope that if you can make your narcissistic abuser happy it will fill the void left by the love you didn’t get from your parents — then everything will be okay and go back to the way it was during the honeymoon or love bombing stage. Oftentimes, abusers will tell you that very thing.
It’s a lie. And deep down you know it.
By this time, the narcissist has shown you her or his true self. There’s no going back.
Yet you stay and continue to participate in your own misery. You tell yourself you made a commitment or that they wouldn’t be able to live without you (a grown, able-bodied adult) or it goes against your religious beliefs or that this is as good as it gets. Maybe you don’t want people to think you’re a bad guy or gal, or that you’re a “quitter” if you leave. Or you rationalize tolerating the abuse because of the financial impact of divorce and the kids. These should be your only two concerns because they have real world consequences.
Everything else is social programming and most likely leftover garbage from childhood.
It’s the residue of childhood magical thinking. The undying wish that if you’re strong enough, attractive enough, smart enough, generous enough, pleasing enough and self-sacrificing enough that mommy or daddy will see that you’re special and deserving of love.
Narcissists and other abusers can be crafty.
Part of their sick, intuitive genius is getting others to believe we’re to blame for their cruelty, and that we’re responsible for all their emotional needs, many of which they can’t even identify. You know someone’s done a real number on you when you apologize for things you didn’t do and for the nasty things they do to you and others. By the time you reach this point you may believe the abuse really is your fault. You’re so turned around you reason that allowing yourself to be humiliated, lied to, manipulated and exploited will prove how much you love the narcissist and will win back their affection and respect.
Please read this last sentence again. This is just backwards thinking. No one loves and respects a doormat, especially not a narcissist.
If you truly want a shot at happiness, in other words being at peace with yourself, you need to stop focusing on the narcissist and start focusing on you.
Who are you when you’re not focusing almost exclusively on another human being? Do you know how to take care of you? How to make yourself happy in a way that doesn’t involve making another person happy? After being hypervigilant in tending to the narcissist’s constant pressing emotional needs, do you know what your needs are? Have you ever known what your needs are?
These are the questions to ask yourself if you want peace and happiness. By doing so you can break the pattern of relationships with abusive and disordered people.
When you’re comfortable with who you are and don’t require others approval in order to feel good about yourself, the narcissist loses whatever power they have over you. Healthy people with intact self-esteem don’t sacrifice happiness and self-worth for someone who repeatedly tosses away your best efforts and heart like an entitled child who’s grown bored with her or his newest toy.
No one else can give this to you. No one else can do it for you. And you can’t find it in another person. You have to feel and face things you’ve been avoiding and find it within yourself. It’s hard work, but isn’t it worth it? Aren’t you worth it?
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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