Here’s why narcissist deflates happiness of his or her partner…
Why so many partners with NPD ignore or sabotage their mate’s successes.
Written by Dr. Elinor Greenberg
I am often asked some version of the following question: “Why can’t my mate ever be happy for me when I have a success, or when I am pleased about something? It seems like every time I feel great and try to tell my mate about it, instead of joining me and saying something complimentary, my partner says or does something that deflates me.”
This type of insensitivity is common in relationships where one partner is extremely self-involved, competitive, or envious. It also can be a red flag for something more serious. People who routinely deflate their mate’s happiness often qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. When this is the case, it can be an early sign that more active abuse will occur later in the relationship.
Note: I am using the terms narcissist and narcissistic as shorthand for someone who qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
Here is a typical example:
Barry: I am beyond happy. I just discovered that I passed my licensing exam with flying colors. I am thrilled. I got one of the highest grades!
Jill: Did you bring the car in for servicing like you said you would?
Barry: Wait! Don’t I even get a “Congratulations, I am happy for you”?
Jill: We all knew you would pass. What’s the big deal? I need the car tomorrow. You promised you would take care of it.
So, why does a narcissist deflates your happiness? It is usually due to some combination of the following reasons:
1. Narcissists lack emotional empathy.
A lack of emotional empathy means that seeing someone else—even a person that they claim to love—excited and happy does not make them feel good inside. Narcissistic partner could not care less, which makes him or her careless with their words.
In the above example, Jill has a narcissistic personality disorder and is not capable of sharing her mate’s joy. It actually does not even occur to her that supporting her mate’s good feelings would be an appropriate response.
2. Narcissists suffer from “one-mindedness.”
This means that people with NPD can only see things from their own viewpoint. Not only that, they see all other points of view as wrong. They always want their partner to be on the same page as them: their page. Whatever they are focused on at the moment is on their mind much more important than anything you care about. It is out of this one-mindedness, narcissist deflates your happiness.
From Jill’s narcissistic point of view, nothing could be more important than her priority of getting their car serviced immediately. As it is the most important thing to her, she literally cannot understand how something else could be a priority for Barry. The only conclusion that she can reach is that Barry is wrong.
3. Narcissists are competitive.
Narcissists are always comparing themselves to other people. Their shaky self-esteem can make it painful for them to see other people succeed. They may brag about their partner’s success to other people as a form of narcissistic supplies. However, praising their partner face-to-face can make them feel as if they are admitting that their partner is somehow better than them.
Jill has a hard time being supportive of anything that might make Barry think he is better than her. She cannot grasp that Barry is not competing with her. But this will not stop her from bragging to her friends about how smart Barry is and that he passed with one of the highest grades. In fact, when Jill tells the story, she will claim that Barry actually got the highest grade of everyone.
4. Narcissists suffer from envy.
It can be hard for people with NPD to applaud their partner’s successes because they wish it were them getting the praise. Narcissistic partners are likely to experience envy whenever someone else does something special. This is why your partner narcissist deflates your happiness.
Jill is very conflicted about every success that Barry has in life. On one hand, she enjoys the financial fruits of his successes, and on the other hand, she wishes it were her having success and not Barry. Barry’s joy stimulates her envy.
She thinks: “Why does he get to be happier than me?”
5. Narcissists are hierarchical.
You can think of a narcissistic partner as having an immensely tall invisible ladder in the mind. That ladder only has room for one person at a time on each rung.
It represents status on those attributes the narcissist considers very, very important.
There are only two places other people can be on this ladder vis a vis the narcissist: above them or below them.
Narcissists idealize those above them on the ladder and devalue those below them. If someone on their way up in status tries to be on the same rung as the narcissist, there will be a dominance fight initiated by the narcissist until one of them becomes the clear winner. The winner gets the rung and the loser goes down a rung in status.
Every time Barry has success, he moves up the status ladder in Jill’s mind. He and she are still quite close in status. This automatically stimulates Jill’s fear of being surpassed, which then leads her to unconsciously ignore or devalue Barry’s achievements.
When the narcissist’s partner has a win or even just finds something besides the narcissist extremely pleasurable, it is a potentially threatening situation for the narcissist. It can arouse envy, fear of being surpassed, a potential loss of the mate’s own dominant status, or simply be seen as unimportant.
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