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While a person often feels powerless when falling romantically for another person, emotions are ultimately controllable. We can't always choose who we love.
Last month, we ran a piece about the legacy of narcissistic parents from Dr. To say that the piece resonated would not quite do it justice: It hit a nerve. And prompted many follow-up s and questions, which primarily revolved around concern from readers that they might currently be dating or living with a narcissist, to debilitating effect. Below, Dr. A client comes in confused, hurt, and disheartened, wondering what happened to her fairytale romance that started off with such a bang.
Often, something much more disturbing. He needs endless attention, yet nothing she does makes him happy. She starts to feel very alone in the relationship, confused, and unmoored. Often, the dynamics play out more insidiously. You talk about an issue, and your partner relates it immediately to something that happened to him; your story fades as his takes over.
Or you and your partner disagree and somehow you end up second-guessing yourself, as if dissent threatens his very well-being. What a head-trip.
If this all sounds familiar, perhaps you, too, are living with or dating a narcissist. The big, charming personality is typical of narcissists. When they shine their light on you, it is easy to fall hard. But that fall becomes painful when other narcissistic traits make themselves known. Narcissists are hypersensitive to any perceived critique. Feedback other than flattery feels like a slight and can trigger extreme anger.
They feel deeply injured by criticism and have an excessive need for praise and admiration.
When it’s all about them: being involved with a narcissist
This is not what real love feels like. Falling in love may put you off balance, but standing in love firmly grounds you. An absolute essential ingredient of a good relationship is emotional safety—you need to feel safe to be the real you! But it is very difficult to be yourself when you have such an emotionally volatile partner. Narcissists are often arrogant, self-important, and devoid of empathy.
Narcissists see you not as you, but more as an extension of themselves.
These are the telltale traits of a narcissist
To be seen and adored for who you really are, though, is the highest form of romance. Their needs steamroll over yours. We love thought provoking movies! How could you not get that story?! From that point on, more and more pieces of my true self went silent. This exemplifies how quickly the benign can become malignant and destroy emotional safety.
Even when they say "i love you," can you believe it?
Living with or dating narcissists feels like you have to tiptoe around minefields and are constantly on guard to not set them off. Narcissists take everything so personally because underneath their grandiose bravado lurks profound self-loathing—they need to be shored up by constant external praise.
Being that perfect, flattering mirror is depleting, and after awhile, your needs become enmeshed with theirs. You lose sight of where they end and you start. You become so busy shoring up the narcissist that you have nothing left for yourself.
You tend to disappear. Meanwhile, as you are doing all that work to build up your partner, he or she may be busy tearing others down.
The classic example comes from Snow White and the narcissistic Evil Queen. Maleficent needs constant reassurance from her Magic Mirror that she, indeed, is the fairest of them all. But once Snow White comes into the picture, Maleficent feels threatened by the competition and sets out to destroy her.
In real life, narcissists need to cut down others to build themselves up. Even when you are in the glow of a new relationship, and the charm offensive is blindingly bright, watch for clues that all may not be well. If he needs to criticize others to show how grand he is by comparison, he will likely do the same to you.
Besides noticing how he treats the people around him, look at his history. Is it filled with long-term friendships or littered with relationships—romantic or business—in which he has inevitably been wronged? If he easily condemns those he ly cherished, chances are that dark light will shine on you at some point, too.
The narcissist who keeps himself elevated by putting down others eventually might become competitive even with you.
I knew that my husband needed a lot of attention, but I never realized how much, until I stopped giving it to him in the usual doses, because I was so busy caring for our baby. I could no longer be so focused on him. Our relationship got ugly fast.
Before having children you had more energy to attend to the narcissist. Some narcissists feel threatened and jealous of the attention that you devote to your kids; other narcissists use their children to feed their ego; and others are so preoccupied with themselves that they completely neglect their. Of course, all of these are detrimental for .
Can a narcissist really love you?
Disagreeing with a narcissist or working through issues is extremely difficult. In addition to their inability to see your point of view, they cannot own their stuff. Their extreme defensiveness shuts down their ability to learn, and that impinges on your ability to grow as a couple.
Narcissists simply do not make good partners. You may hold on to the fantasy that if you shore them up enough, they will eventually get around to taking care of you, too.
How to cope when you love a narcissist
The journey to discovering your authentic self requires you to get painfully honest to work through your distressing feelings. Here are some questions that can lead you to clarity and help you figure out whether you just need more tools to cope, or you really need to extricate yourself. Why did you pick him or her? Does she remind you of the way you were loved by one or both parents?
Have you just unknowingly repeated the scene of the original crime— your own childhood? Or are you trying, with your partner, to have a happier ending than you did with your parents?
Do your constant attempts to please him require a hyper-vigilance that is draining? Are you seeing things as they are, or are you making constant excuses? Do you feel like your needs are constantly overshadowed in spite of all of your efforts to communicate them? Or is there safe space for your feelings?
Are you being gaslighted? Narcissists have a tendency to deny things they said, or claim they said something else. They rewrite history. They are unaware of the impact they are having on you or others. This is crazy-making. Does your partner have a history of healthy, intimate relationships? Or is there a long-standing pattern of unstable relationships, whether romantic, friendly, or professional? How do you feel when you are with your partner: Separate and whole, or enmeshed and sucked in to their drama? Does being around your partner make you feel peaceful or on edge?
Since living with or dating a narcissist, do you feel like you are a better version of yourself? Take a moment to compare how you feel about yourself before you met your partner, and now. Is this relationship worth saving? Full-blown narcissism see chart below is hard to live with. A few traits can be manageable.