The first two weeks were wonderful: she cooked me food after I got home from work; we watched television in his bed; and in restaurants he would tell me that he felt lucky to be sitting across from me. It was easy to fall in love with him. All of this follows the cycle of narcissistic abuse, according to licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD: “At first, you can expect blitzes of love, intense interest, and grand gestures.” And according to psychotherapist Jack Worthy, LMHC, who focuses on personality disorders, at the start of a relationship “a narcissist can feel intoxicating,” and the very distinguishing qualities of a narcissist are what can be attractive. “Grandiosity can feel like charisma; entitlement can feel like ambition; callousness can feel like assertiveness,” he says.
In the early stages of courting this type of person, you are inside the “narcissistic bubble” and focus on the positives. “You’re telling them how amazing they are and they’re rewarding you for seeing their specialization,” says Worthy. But this won’t last. “Eventually, you will stop reflecting back to them the perfect vision of themselves. and it will burst the narcissistic bubble,” he adds. “You will have criticism, a request, a difference of opinion.”
When that happens, a narcissist may withhold warmth and affection or become judgmental and judgmental to get you to comply again. At that point, he will be forced to choose between his integrity or the relationship. So the hallmarks of a narcissist will shine in a negative light, taking the form of narcissistic abuse, which is emotional abuse characterized by narcissistic manipulation.
Welcome to my emotionally abusive relationship with a narcissist.
Not long after we started dating, my ex got used to invalidating my feelings. He refused to take responsibility for his actions and blamed me for everything that went wrong. When he tried to tackle something, he would trick me or manipulate me into letting go of whatever problem he had. Over time, such manipulation can cause someone to lose their sense of self, their autonomy, and their ability to make decisions. Enter: low self-esteem and codependency, which together make leaving a toxic relationship difficult, to say the least.
Still, we broke up several times, but at his behest. The first time it was for a silly thing: a photo of him on my Instagram Stories that he didn’t approve of. The second time it was because he accused me of needing constant validation of his commitment. But every time my ex was close to me while we were apart, he kept hugging me or massaging my neck for a few seconds. When he asked him, he said that it didn’t mean anything, that he didn’t want us to get back together. However, her occasional outbursts of affection continued, enough to keep me going for weeks.
He often told me that I would not find anyone better than him, that no one else could handle me, that he was the only person who could be with me.
Now when I look back I see a lot of evidence of narcissistic abuse. He often told me that I would not find anyone better than him, that no one else could handle me, that he was the only person who could be with me. This type of language can lead victims of narcissistic abuse to stay in the relationship for so long because they become emotionally dependent on the narcissist and are led to believe that they are not good enough for anyone or anything else.
Narcissists also project a lot of their insecurities onto their victims, which I eventually found out. My ex is a decade older than me and it bothered him that I was successful in my career at a young age. He often made me feel bad about my professional milestones. Once, I was excited to tell her about a great meeting I had with a major magazine. He rolled his eyes and walked away saying, “I don’t care, it’s just fancy people doing fancy things.” He often wondered why he couldn’t be happy for me, but I finally realized that he was rooted in envy. Once, in a conversation with me and another person, he said that he was jealous that he was living the life he had always wanted, in a city that he loved and enjoyed working for.
I also learned that narcissists are conversation killers. Every time he had something exciting to share, he kept talking about it, not even asking me how my day went. But I wasn’t allowed to talk about my passions or good news without him noticing my joy.
While there may not be a way to prevent such situations from manifesting in a relationship with a narcissist, there are ways to recognize and heal it.
How I found my way out and saved myself from narcissistic abuse
After six months of therapy during which I detailed accounts of my relationship, I felt confident that my ex was displaying toxic narcissistic behavior and was, in fact, not unworthy, but a victim of his abuse. There were times when I still believed that it was all in my head and that I was the broken one. But that’s because he was so used to that blame-and-blame dynamic that he took over the relationship.
I also realized that part of the reason I was having trouble getting out of the relationship was due to my limited understanding of what narcissism meant and how it presented itself. Because of this, I was unable to identify my ex’s toxic and abusive behaviors.
I used to think that narcissism just described someone laser-focused on themselves, but now I know it’s so much more. Since then, I’ve learned terms like “narcissistic rage,” which explains my ex’s yelling during our last argument as he punched a wall and banged on a table.
I also learned about the narcissistic need for control after we broke up and I started dating other people. At that point, she realized that she couldn’t control me anymore, so she made sure that I knew that she was also dating other people as a ploy to try to hurt me. “Apparently, a narcissist can’t resist showing you that he’s up to the task, that he’s in control and you’re not,” says Worthy.
However, there is a silver lining to what I have endured: I have learned to listen to my gut and trust my gut. Now, I encourage my friends to run for the hills when the red flags appear. Because if your intuition tells you that you deserve much better, you do it and you should listen to it. And when in doubt, talk to a therapist or other mental health professional.