They’re afraid of making waves or mistakes and being authentic. Used to seeking external validation, many become pleasers, pretending to feel what they don’t, and hiding what they do. By reenacting their family drama, they believe their only choice is to be alone or give up themselves in a relationship.
Often adult children of narcissistic parents are depressed, have unacknowledged anger, and feelings of emptiness. They may attract an addict, a narcissist, or another unavailable partner, repeating the pattern of emotional abandonment from childhood.
Healing requires recovery from codependency and overcoming the toxic shame acquired growing up in a narcissistic home.
Partners of Narcissists
Partners of narcissists feel betrayed that the considerate, attentive and romantic person they fell in love with disappeared as time went on.
They feel unseen and lonely and long for emotional connection. In varying degrees, they find it difficult to express their rights, needs, and feelings and to set boundaries.
The relationship reflects the emotional abandonment and lack of entitlement they experienced in childhood. Because their boundaries weren’t respected growing up, they’re highly sensitive to criticism and defenseless to narcissistic abuse.
As their relationship progresses, partners admit feeling less sure of themselves than they once did. Uniformly, their self-esteem and independence steadily decline. Some give up their studies, career, hobbies, family ties, or friends to appease their partner.
Occasionally, they experience remembrances of the warmth and caring from the person with whom they first fell in love—often brilliant, creative, talented, successful, handsome, or beautiful.
They don’t hesitate to say that they’re committed to staying in the relationship, if only they felt more loved and appreciated. For some people, divorce is not an option.
They may be co-parenting with an ex, staying with a spouse for parenting or financial reasons, or they want to maintain family ties with a narcissistic or difficult relative. Some want to leave but lack the courage.
Narcissists use defenses to hide their deep and usually unconscious shame. Like bullies, they protect themselves through aggression and by wielding power over others.
Malignant narcissists are maliciously hostile and inflict pain without remorse, but most narcissists don’t even realize they’ve injured those closest to them, because they lack empathy. They’re more concerned with businesswoman flipping off businessmen eating perceived threats and getting their needs met.
Consequently, they aren’t aware of the hurtful impact of their words and actions. For example, one man unbelievably couldn’t understand why his wife, whom he had long cheated on, wasn’t happy for him that he had found joy with his paramour.
It was only when I pointed out that most women wouldn’t be pleased to hear that their spouse was enjoying sex and companionship with another woman that he suddenly grasped the error of his thinking. He had been blinded by the fact that he’d unconsciously sought his wife’s blessings because his narcissistic mother never approved of his girlfriends or choices.
Narcissistic abuse can include any type of abuse, whether physical, sexual, financial, mental, or emotional abuse. Most often it involves some form of emotional abandonment, manipulation, withholding, or other uncaring behavior.
Abuse can range from the silent treatment to rage, and typically includes verbal abuse, such as blaming, criticizing, attacking, ordering, lying, and belittling. It may also include emotional blackmail or passive-aggressive behavior.
Not many narcissists enter therapy unless they’re pressured by a partner or suffer an extreme blow to their image or self-esteem.
However, even if the narcissist refuses to get help or change, your relationship can markedly improve by changing your perspective and behavior.
In fact, learning about NPD, raising your self-esteem, and learning to set boundaries are just a few of the many things you can do to significantly better your relationship.
©Darlene Lancer 2017