Caretaking and pleasing give them a sense of purpose and value. Because they feel undeserving of receiving love, they don’t expect to be loved for who they are—only for what they give or do. Without an independent voice, they’re generally passive, compliant, and self-effacing and believe what is said to them is true. They crave being wanted, accepted, supported, approved of, needed, and loved. They may not believe they have any rights and naturally go along or put others’ needs and feelings first, sometimes self-sacrificing at great lengths to please. Like, Echo, this makes them dependent upon the narcissist, even when their needs aren’t being filled. It also allows a narcissist to easily manipulate, abuse and exploits them. Narcissists need partners they can control, who won’t challenge them and make them feel weak. Typically, their partners accept the blame and try to be more understanding. They stay to prevent their greatest fear—abandonment and rejection and losing hope of finding lasting love―and because periodically the charm, excitement, and loving gestures that first enchanted them return, especially if a break-up is imminent.
In vain attempts to win approval and stay connected, they thread on eggshells, fearful of displeasing their partner. They worry what he or she will think or do, and become preoccupied with the relationship. They have to fit into the narcissists’ cold world and get used to living in an emotional desert
The Narcissistic Relationship
It’s easy to fall in love with narcissists. Don’t judge yourself for succumbing, because research showed that strangers’ initial impressions of narcissists for the first seven meetings are positive. They’re seen as charming, agreeable, confident, open, well-adjusted, and entertaining. Their alluring performance is designed to win trust and love, implicitly promising that their attentiveness will continue. Only later did the research subjects see through the narcissists’ likable façade.
Difficulties and conflict arise in longer narcissistic relationships. At home, narcissists may privately denigrate the person they were just publicly entertaining, and after a romantic prelude, they act totally different. Once you’re hooked, they lack the motivation to maintain a charismatic façade. As the excitement of romance wanes, narcissists become disappointed in their partner. Their criticisms escalate, and they may act distant and dismissive. The relationship revolves around the narcissist, while others are viewed merely as objects to use in order to manage the narcissist’s needs and fragile self-esteem. Embarrassed partners watch their mate flirt with a cashier, cut to the front of the line, or castigate a clerk or waitress. They must contend with demands, judgments, and self-centeredness. They’re expected to appreciate the narcissist’s specialness, meet his or her needs for admiration, service, love, or purchases when needed, and are dismissed when they don’t.
Narcissists put themselves first, and their codependent partners put them first, too. Both agree that the narcissist is great and that his or her mate isn’t and should sacrifice! This makes their relationship work . . . in the beginning. Eventually, the partner feels drained, hurt, resentful, disrespected, and lonely.
The children and partners of narcissists share Echo’s experience of feeling rejected, invisible, and unheard. They long to be seen, to have their needs met, and their love returned. Many partners of narcissists sadly pine away for years longing to feel respected, important, appreciated, and cared about. Their self-esteem suffers over time. They risk turning into empty shells of their former selves. Narcissists suffer, too, because they’re never satisfied. Even though Narcissus and Echo both long for love, Narcissus can neither give love nor receive the love Echo offers.
You have more power than you think. Discover How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, find your voice, and how to determine whether your relationship can improve. There are many things you can do to significantly better your relationship with anyone highly defensive or abusive, as described in Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Your Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People. This workbook includes a quiz for narcissism and also sets forth criteria that can help you decide if you’re considering ending a relationship with a narcissist. It’s available on my website here as a PDF, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Smashwords in formats for iPad and other devices. Email me if you’d like to join my mailing list and receive a PDF “Checklist of Narcissistic Behaviors.”
©Darlene Lancer 2018
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Written by Darlene Lancer JD, MFT
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