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Narcissistic Partner? How to manage or leave.
In my article, The
Five Best Friends of the Abusive Man, I detail the strategies used by
narcissists and sociopaths to manipulate their partners. That article received
more comments than anything else I had written. I was castigated by some for
attributing the abuse to men and I was praised by others for clearly detailing
the offensive and off-putting behavior they were never quite able to label
I think those men who have been subject to
similarly abusive women got the fact that men too can be abused by women. I also
think that those in same sex relationships also realized that they may have a
similarly abusive partner. In other words, the article struck a nerve and was
instructive to those who live in these destructive relationships.
Once you come to understand you have been
manipulated into a relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, the question
becomes, how you manage or get out, should you choose to do so.
Key to managing or getting out is coming to
terms with the fact that you will never have closure with these individuals. You
will never have the satisfaction of them “getting it” realizing it is their
issues driving the conflict. The reason is because they are ego-syntonic,
meaning they view their attitudes, beliefs and behavior as reasonable to the
circumstances they find themselves in.
Bear in mind that as a narcissist or
sociopath, they view the world as revolving around themselves. If the world
revolves around themselves and they do things consistent with that, even if
hurting you, then in their minds they are acting reasonably. So while the
narcissist or sociopath is ego-syntonic, it doesn’t mean that they will not
get angry or retaliatory when they feel that you have thwarted or interfered
with their interests. Feeling good about oneself does not mean they feel good
about you, particularly if they view you as acting against their self-serving
interests. If they had a motto, it might be, “I am good with myself, it is you
who has the issue.”
Leaving a person who believes the world
revolves around them is like a red cape to a bull. When the world revolves
around them, your leaving triggers the fact that they are not the center of your
universe. Forget closure as they are only incensed. In undermining their center
of the universe belief by leaving, then the narcissist seeks to restore order by
assassinating your value. If you have no value, then the wound you inflict on
them by leaving is less.
Managing or leaving will require your coming
to terms with the fact you were likely seduced or charmed into the relationship
in the first place. This can undermine your confidence in yourself and cause you
to really question who you are and what you are worth. Truth is, narcissists and
sociopaths are experts at seduction and charm. Your only contribution may at
best have been being at the wrong place at the wrong time and at worst, perhaps
have been emotionally needy yourself such that you were more easily manipulated.
Either way, no one deserves the crazy making emotional and psychological abuse
that is endemic in these relationships.
Once you see this person as truly personality
disordered and that you are not deserving of their abuse, regardless of how you
came to the relationship, then you are in a position to either manage and stay,
or leave. Just understand though that the likelihood of changing your
narcissistic or sociopath partner is slim to none.
Managing or leaving will require strategic
thinking on your part. Strategic thinking will require you to find a way of not
triggering your partner’s center of the universe mentality while still meeting
your own needs. This will also require you to manage your emotions and behavior,
so that neither is used by your partner to hold you hostage or as a weapon in a
dispute over children or property.
The key is to remember your goal. Whether to
manage or leave do not seek closure and do not think your partner will ever
admit fault, except as a manipulation on their part to keep you hooked in.
Managing or leaving as peacefully as possible will mean finding a way to help
you maintain your partner’s ego as intact as possible. While this may sound
distasteful and even contrary to how you feel about the situation, managing or
leaving is not about how you feel, it is about finding a way to mitigate your
abuse and achieving your goals in view of a narcissistic or sociopath partner.
Counseling in these circumstances requires a
counselor with considerable expertise who can help you come to understand your
situation and help you develop coping strategies appropriate to your
circumstance. But most of all, while one does have to understand the
narcissistic or sociopath personality, one must learn to mange oneself in the
crazy making situation. That can be the greatest challenge and your counselor
may help you most with that.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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