If you’re reading this, you have probably been involved with someone who seems self-absorbed, manipulative, and needy. He or she may have a sense of self-importance or need to be known. Approval from others may be especially important. This person likely can’t see things from your perspective. It may feel like he or she is unable to show empathy or understanding. To the narcissist, relationships tend to be superficial and exist to meet his or her needs. They may be entitled and/or attention seeking.
When you are in relationship with someone with these traits, you may often find yourself being blamed, compromising your own values for the sake of the other person, and/or doing anything and everything to maintain that other person’s happiness. You may find yourself feeling like everything is your fault or that there is something wrong with you. You may be told that your needs are not important or that you are always overreacting. In the process, you begin to lose yourself in that person. Everything you do or say has to be in agreement or alignment with your partner, otherwise you are wrong. It’s as if disagreeing is asking to start a battle, a fight. If you disagree, you are made to feel stupid, small, and insignificant, so you agree. You agree, to keep the peace. Suddenly, you aren’t sure who you are anymore.
To someone who has not experienced this type of relationship, the above may not make much sense. You may have friends or family members who question your judgment. They may say things like, “You deserve so much better, how did this happen?” “How did you get yourself caught up with someone like this?” Then you start to question your own judgement. How exactly did this happen? When you step back and you look at this other person’s behavior, it doesn’t make sense, yet you love him or her. Truly, you do. Others in your life may wonder how you can possibly love a person like this. What they don’t know is that it didn’t start out this way.
Narcissists are often extremely charming and charismatic. Upon first meeting an individual with narcissistic traits, you may find yourself captivated by them. He or she was funny, flirtatious, and fun. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay this way. Those moments become few and far between. Before you know it, he or she becomes controlling, manipulative, cruel, and selfish. People with narcissistic traits want to be around people who inflate their egos. This is because at their core, narcissists are deeply wounded individuals who have very low self-esteem. They don’t know who they are and they often experience self-loathing. For that reason, they use others to make themselves feel better. Because of this, empaths seem to be magnets for narcissists. They are attracted to extremely caring and kind nature of empaths or HSPs. Empaths make narcissists feel good about themselves.
Maybe you’re still in this relationship or maybe you are not. Maybe you decided to leave the relationship or maybe the person left you. If you are still in the relationship, you may be hoping that someday this person will change. Unfortunately, people usually don’t change without doing some deep personal work. So what now? What can you do to heal?
Whether you are still in the relationship or not, here are some concrete steps you can take towards your recovery:
- Remind yourself that it’s okay to have feelings and needs. Narcissists often tell their partners that their feelings do not matter or that they’re being overly sensitive or overreacting. You have feelings for a reason, learn to notice them rather than trying to shut them off. Remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for what you need.
- Set boundaries. You may have forgotten how to do this or you may have never learned this in the first place, but boundaries are key to any healthy relationship. If you do not want to do something, that’s okay. You can say, “No.” Make a habit out of practicing this useful skill. You may even become addicted to saying, “No,” once you realize that you can!
- Allow yourself to have your own thoughts. It’s okay to disagree with people. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s okay.
- Be kind and gentle with yourself. Often narcissistic abuse involves belittling, ignoring, and being made to feel small. You may even hear yourself repeating your partner’s words to yourself. You may question your own thoughts. “Am I overreacting?” “I’m being too sensitive.” “I shouldn’t feel this way.” When these thoughts come up, tell yourself something kind to combat this negative self-talk.
- Get out your resentments. Write a letter (one you will probably never send) and get all of your feelings and resentments out. A narcissist is usually not able to tolerate any sort of criticism or perceived criticism, so you may never get a chance to have a healthy conversation where you can explain the impact the person had on you. Write something to them, completely unedited. Whatever you need to get out, write. Make sure not to send this unedited copy!
- Allow yourself to grieve. This relationship wasn’t all you thought it was. You may have idealized this person, but he or she hurt you. Allow yourself to feel that.
- Work on rebuilding your sense of self. What do you like to do? What are things that bring you joy? What do you believe? You are now free to have your own thoughts, feelings, and interests! It may take some time to figure this out, so be gentle with yourself.
- Self-care. You may have spent a lot of time preoccupied with another person. You likely neglected your own needs for someone else’s. Do something nice for yourself. What’s something you can do each day that fills you up?
I offer trauma-informed therapy for survivors of narcissistic abuse. I'm located in Brentwood, Tennessee. If you're ready to heal from Narcissistic Abuse, call me today to see if we're a good fit to work together. There is hope and healing available.