If you are dealing with a narcissistic partner, you may well relate to the phrase, “for a narcissist, every day is his birthday.”
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.
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.)
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
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 will need physical space to yourself because your partner will need a break from the constant gaslighting and undermining. You will need to emotionally detach because your partner will never make relational decisions; he will always make self-centered decisions.
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, (in the words of Coach Joi) “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.
You will know if he is changing by reading Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That. Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR details Bancroft’s 13 Steps of Change as well as the “Signs He Is Not Changing”. 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 coaches are trained in many skills and coping techniques for those who choose to stay and those who choose to leave marriages with narcissists and those with narcissistic traits, including setting boundaries, gray-rock, no-contact, self-care and meditation.