Narcissism makes intimate relationships difficult at best. If you are dealing with a narcissistic partner, you may well relate to the phrase, “for a narcissist, every day is his birthday.”
Emotional Abusers & Narcissism
While not every abusive person (also known as sex addict or pornography addict) has diagnosable NPD, many, if not all, have narcissistic personality traits. While these traits can make the beginning of the relationship incredible and traumatically bonding to the partner of the abuser (known as love-bombing), these same traits make the relationship unbearable eventually, sometimes very quickly into the relationship.
The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
Often, these relationships follow a pattern. Many women are told that the relationship is following the sexual addiction cycle, however, it is usually actually following the cycle of abuse, or the Cluster-B Personality Disorder cycle of:
- Idealization (love-bombing; you are the most perfect person in the world/hottest woman in the world, I will do whatever it takes to be with you, I will change whatever I need to change to be with you, I will call you all day and text you every second of the day)
- Devaluation (why are you so clingy? why are you eating again? Stop asking me so many questions. I just need some space. Sometimes I just miss my ex-wife… she was more fun than you. I never said I was going to change – you made that up. You are crazy.)
- The discard happens when your partner relapses into sexually perverse behaviors;
- Physically abandons you and/or your children;
- Abuses you (though abuse happens in all three stages – at the ‘discard’ stage, the abuse is usually more intense and pronounced).
Narcissism & Your Abuser’s Behavior
While this cycle is happening, you are also having to deal with:
- someone who is obsessed with himself
- daydreams often of wealth and power
- cannot self-reflect
- uses others as tools to get what he wants (including his own children)
- turns others against you to make himself look/seem better
- chooses to have zero empathy for you and your feelings
Narcissism Victims Can Protect Themselves
So how in the world do you cope with this?
In one word, boundaries.
In Doctor Ramani Durvasula’s book, Should I Stay or Should I Go, she paints a very realistic picture of marriage and partnership with a true, diagnosable narcissist: should you choose to stay, your relationship will need strong boundaries. You will need to have a strong support system to take your good news and your bad news to because your partner will never be able to provide the love, empathy, excitement, and support you deserve. You’ll require physical space to yourself because your partner will need a break from the constant gaslighting and undermining. It will also be necessary to emotionally detach because your partner will never make relational decisions; he will always make self-centered decisions.
Boundaries Protect Victims Who Stay Or Go
If you decide to leave the marriage, you will still need plenty of support and self-care. The abuse will not suddenly stop once the divorce is final, especially if you have children with the abuser.
Now, if your partner is not a full-blown diagnosed narcissist, but does display traits, you will cope in a similar way: set strong, high boundaries. As he responds with “believable behaviors over time” . And no, two weeks doesn’t cut it. “Over time” means at least two years of non-abusive behaviors, then depending on current behaviors, slowly assessing the situation, consider if it’s safe to begin to allow your partner to enjoy the gift of sharing your life with you again.
How to Know if Your Husband is Changing
You will know if he is changing by reading Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That. BTR advocates for women to set boundaries in place so that if they choose to wait and see if their partners will become safe, they are not putting their lives on hold and putting the abuser at the center of their universe, but living full and meaningful lives brimming with growth while giving their partner the chance to engage in the 13 steps of change.
BTR.ORG Group Sessions Support Victims of Emotional Abuse
BTR.ORG Group Sessions offer community, support, and validation to women all over the world. Attend a session today.
I have been searching the Internet for a very long time for a triumphant story regarding something similar to my situation. My ex-husband is a pure sociopathic narcissist, and he has been abusing me for 20 years.
I didn’t know it because of the love bombing and all of the other crazy making and so I started researching it and seeing my therapist, and then he began to abuse my daughters just like he was abusing me and that really was profound but yet I stayed and still tried to work with him because I didn’t really know he was a narcissist yet.
In the end, I finally had to get help having him move out of the house because he refused and was enraged and obviously I am going to now take away his secret life that he so easily was able to have with me basically caring for the children in the home while he traveled.
Once we were separated, and I got him out of the house, me and my two daughters who were 16 years old, and 12 years old at the time we’re ready to have a safe and healthy home again, and I thought it was over and then he served me with divorce papers stating I was neglectful and abusive and unfit, and that I abandon him. After he promised me, we would have a simple divorce with a mediator, and he would be fair. And now, three years later, we are finally divorce almost one full year, and separated for over three years, and my children have become completely alienated from me. They are now almost 20 years old and 15 years old.
I listen to my lawyers and we hired an evaluator appointed by the courts and a parent coordinator and we continue to be in a worse predicament. We were given joint legal custody, and within four months after he moved out of the house, my youngest daughter began questioning me with lies that he would share with her, and when I would not entertain the conversation because it was not fair to her, and, it just made her stressed and anxious. She began to see me less and then she never came back home to me. And that was over two years ago to date, my 15-year-old acknowledges the abuse and the manipulation and her isolation but I still cannot get her to leave his home, and sadly my 19 year old, who was the 20 year old soon has completely changed and it really speaks to me the way he does.
Both of my daughters do not have a relationship but they live under the same roof and it’s very abusive, verbally emotionally and mentally and there’s not much I can do about it. No one is helping me and everyone is allowing him to continually break the court order and alienate them and it’s all proof and nothing is working except thousands of dollars I have to pay for the parent coordinator basically to allow him to continually to abuse me because he’s not coparenting at all.
So reading your article on your story was really a breath of fresh air and I’m so happy for you, but I just don’t understand how this can be so prevalent in such a debilitating abusive illegal act that is detrimental to the children and yet still it’s 2022 and still, my lawyer, and everyone else is saying just stay quiet and don’t cause any trouble because he could come back and get full custody and meanwhile I missed memories.
My children have miss traditions and I have basically been erased and now I am set with the situation. Do I take him back to court or do I have a conversation with my 15-year-old now that she knows he is abusing her and just tell her she must come with me now, but that’s taking a chance that she will revert back to him and cut me off again because he’s so strongly manipulating her and abusing her and punishing her.
I am at a loss and I am running out of time and I just wish I could find someone that would help me, it’s unconscionable how he can continue this awful behavior and abuse, and even professionals are telling me to just lay low, and my youngest will come around eventually yet no one is concerned about the immense amount of manipulation and mental anguish, and abuse that she has been living with her, which is unfair to her.
Thank you for your site and your words and your story. I will continue to follow and I will continue to research to figure out how I can stop his wrath and save my children and myself it’s just tragic and the children are hurting. They are the ones that are hurting the most. It’s just devastating .
I’m sorry for everyone out there that is enduring the struggle. For how common this is, it is shocking to me to see how the narcissistic abuse of coparent still gets no consequence and continues his wrath even though we spent a fortune on our divorce, I have no support to take him back because he has not followed the court order at all. It’s just maddening and here I am paying a coordinator a family parent coordinator again and he still doing nothing which again I’m just basically paying for more abuse. I will pray every day and hope I can get her out of that house willingly and save her and start a new life and perhaps my old lest is will come around eventually but my biggest fear is she will remain him and continue to abuse her sister along with her father verbally and emotionally. It’s just it’s unthinkable really and the truth is all of this is abuse.
Narcissistic behavior is extremely abusive. It’s manipulative. It’s demeaning. It’s degrading it’s controlling and it’s illegal. Coupled with his alienation from me and my entire family. Both girls suffer with extreme anxiety and depression. My 15-year-old has admitted she has isolated herself in her bedroom because she cannot handle the anguish from her father and her older sister. There’s no parenting going on in the house. My oldest suffers from anorexia and PTSD and she blames me for everything when she knows what her father is, and now she treats me like he does. My youngest daughter talks to me weekly and tells me she doesn’t call me because she doesn’t have privacy at the house and she doesn’t like to tell me the things that are going on because she doesn’t want me to worry and be sad.
She misses our puppy and I’ve offered to take our puppy over there to spend the night with her and snuggle and she actually said no because the house is so unhealthy that she doesn’t want to stress out the animals, so she just locks her self in her room every night not knowing what kind of mood her sister and her father will be in. She’s acknowledging and recognizing all of the abuse, but yet she still won’t come with me and it’s just terrible.
I have been coached by many professionals and they all pretty much say the same thing I could call the crisis center or I could call someone to go to the house, but he will lie and the likelihood of them lying for him is possible. Or worse it could get him so angry, he could punish them more or they could get angry that I did it, and then cut me off because by doing that I’m just making their life more difficult at his house.
Whether it’s silence or the look or just as she says, he acts like a child there’s no structure no rules no family unit it’s all been taken away from them. I just keep trying to figure out what to do. That is not going to hurt them back at them, or at least my youngest out of that situation and I’m on my own because all of the professionals tell me not to take them back to court because I will lose. So I sit and wait in pain worrying desperately about my children particularly my 15-year-old who has not had a friend over in two years. She has not gone to a friends house in two years in fact, she doesn’t have any friends anymore. She used to sing and dance and be the happiest young lady and now she said and constantly says your chest is tight end tells me how rude and said she feels by the way her father speaks to her and treats her and ignores her and neglects her.
I mean it’s crystal clear that she knows exactly what he is yet she won’t come and I know it’s because of whatever is going on in that house so please pray, and if anyone would like to give me some advice, I would absolutely appreciate it because despite what the professionals have told me, I still feel like I have nothing to lose, and I’m going to first start with trying to have a conversation with my youngest one more time, and just again tell her that I cannot let her stay in that abusive home no longer. Tell her that I need to take her from that house because it’s not healthy. Again a take a risk of her maybe getting upset with me but it’s the right thing to do and if she decides not to then I’m perplexed with the question if I go to court or a call someone like Crisis Line or some thing to try to figure out how I can get my child out of that house. It’s so unfair and there’s got to be something I can do.
I mean, how can this be fair? And the worst part is why doesn’t anybody care about the children they say she will be old enough soon to make her own decisions. Meanwhile, I’m like what? What about all the abuse she has endured? I just don’t understand why no one cares and after everyone I’m paying I’m still researching and figuring everything out myself it’s exhausting and debilitating, and I just keep hitting brick walls and he keeps winning.
Thank you for anyone that reads this and can relate, or would like to reply with any feedback, but just when I get strong, and I feel powerful, he continues to just squashed me and step on me and manipulate me even though I don’t live with him anymore. He doesn’t coparent he’s neglectful, and he won’t work with me with anything with regard to my children. She is quit church. She is quit sports he missed her annual physical is neglectful. She calls me when she’s sick because he doesn’t care. She said that herself but yet she won’t move in with me which told me that the manipulation is very bad and whatever is going on in that house is very bad.
I did call 911 in the Crisis Line twice, and after the police went in to the house, they told me she was OK and that their stories matched and that I had to go home she did not want to see me. Meanwhile, she called me crying hysterical with the things that were going on in the home, which is what led me to call 911 and then she lied to them, and he lied again, which tells me that she has to follow whatever he does or I guess there is recourse like some sort of punishment or the stare I mean, what do you do then when your own child is stuck in a home and she has told me that she knows what he’s doing is abusive, but yet the whole he has on her is so great that she would prefer to stay there and lied to me, and even the authorities.
I don’t understand this at all. I just want my children in my healthy home so I can start to rebuild our life as a new family unit and I’ve been erased from them pretty much it’s just so wrong. It’s just impossible that one human being can hurt so many, and just ruined our lives in the course of their future as young ladies it’s too much and I am exhausting every avenue and I’m just hitting a brick wall every time.
I just read your story, and my heart breaks for you. I don’t have any of advice, but my thoughts and prayers will be with you. A mother’s love will someday prevail.
Thanks for sharing. I’m just starting out on recovery and my daughter has endured abuse from her dad. I’m afraid that so has my son. I really hope they can stay healthy.
Prayers for your family from one sister to another