Narcissistic abuse comes in many forms that’s why victims have a hard time explaining the effect of narcissistic abuse to others as narcissists, quite efficiently, make themselves look like victims. So to explain your experience, understanding narcissism is important.
Written By Dr. Elinor Greenberg
- It can be hard to explain narcissistic abuse to someone who has never experienced it.
- People will have trouble understanding why you stayed after the abuse started or how you got into that situation in the first place.
- Even though you are the victim, some people may blame you or minimize your suffering.
Many people who have suffered narcissistic abuse at the hands of a mate have a very difficult time explaining their situation to people who have never experienced anything like it. They are usually asked some form of the following questions:
- What is narcissistic abuse?
- Why did you put it up with it?
- Why did you stay in the relationship for so long?
Everyone will have his or her own version of the answers to these questions. However, it can be hard to repeatedly explain what happened and why. My clients’ dilemmas motivated me to write out for them a general explanation that they could adapt to their situation, print, and hand out to their loved ones.
Note: In this post, I am using the terms narcissist, narcissistic, and NPD as shorthand for someone who qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I am using male pronouns in the example below, but this can be applied to all genders.
The General Definition of NPD: Understanding Narcissism
My partner (or ex) has a narcissistic personality disorder. This means that although he can project an image of being very confident and capable, underneath he actually feels very insecure about his self-worth.
This uncertainty makes him seek perfection, validation from other people, and high status in an effort to reassure himself that he is special and stabilize his shaky self-esteem.
People with narcissistic personality disorder lack emotional empathy. This means that my partner could not feel happy for me when I succeeded at something (unless it reflected well on him) or bad when he hurt me.
The combination of these two things—difficulty regulating his own self-esteem and having no real empathy for other people—made my partner very self-centered and preoccupied with his own needs, although he generally tried to hide this. Instead, he did his best to project an image of whatever he thought would make him seem admirable to other people.
The Effect of Narcissistic Abuse In Relationships
All of the above made him ultra-sensitive to negative feedback, easily offended, and very aggressive towards me when he became angry. At the beginning of our relationship, he was very admiring and attentive to me. I didn’t realize it, but “getting” me after courting me made him feel strong and special.
Once we were together, that wore off. He started to pick me apart and tell me what I needed to change. He became very bossy and punished me by yelling or coldly withdrawing whenever I did not do things his way.
He also blamed me for anything that went wrong, even when it was obviously his fault. I started to be afraid of him after he threw the TV remote at my head.
Things got worse as time went on. He did not care that he was abusing me (no emotional empathy) and he wanted to hurt me because devaluing and abusing me made him feel strong and better than me, which upped his self-esteem.
In essence, our whole relationship from the beginning was all about him using me to feel better about himself. By the end of the relationship, I felt like a broken confused mess.