What are the ways that narcissists abuse their victims? Where do I begin? In my relationship, his preferred abusive tactics included belittling me, challenging me, denying, raging, lecturing, over-reacting to perceived criticism, pouting, threatening me or giving me the silent treatment. The abuse was not continuous, there were times where we got along great (as long as we were doing what he wanted to do.)
I began to notice that the abuse would occur in any circumstance where he felt like he was losing control over me or the situation. Thus, he abused me to control me. In each of these circumstances, he made it seem like I was the one at fault, that I was the unreasonable one. The abuse would continue until I apologized to him for whatever he felt that I did wrong.
Any time that I stood up for myself or asserted my opinion, (that was conflicting from his) he would abuse me. If I ever played devil’s advocate for anyone that he was having problems with at work, by pointing out how they might feel or why they may have said what they did to my husband, he would get offended and say that I was not “on his side.” He was incapable of understanding other people’s emotions and felt that people were out to get him. So when I tried to point out that it was not the case, he would get angry with me and say that I am defending them and not him. So how does the abuse start in a narcissistic relationship?
Pedestal and the Pit– Narcissists are fast movers. They meet their victim and groom her to believe that she is the most wonderful, funny, intelligent and beautiful woman in the world. The narcissist will shower love, attention and praise on its victim at dizzying speeds. They will want to commit quickly, pronounce everlasting and perfect love within a month of meeting. This early phase is called love bombing. The narcissist places its victim on a pedestal for all to see, but then after he has hooked her, he will knock her down into the pit. He will devalue her, belittle her, shame her into believing she is worthless, stupid, careless, and disrespectful. Then when he sees that he is pushing her too far, he will put her back on the pedestal so she stays put. This cycle of the pedestal and the pit continues for the duration of the relationship.
Gaslighting– Narcissists use this stealthy method of abuse to disorient the victim in order to make the victim feel like she is going mad. The term was named after the classic 1944 movie “Gaslight.” This film featured a husband dimming the gaslights of the house and when his wife asked him about it, he would say that they weren’t. He would hide items from her, then make her think that she did it. In short, gaslighting is crazy-making abuse. The victim feels like she is losing it because events are happening and the narcissist is denying anything is wrong. An example is when a narcissist hits the victim and then denies ever doing so. In my case, my narcissist would lose items and blame me for taking them. And if it was obvious that I was right about something that we had disagreed on, he would change his statement and claim that he was the one who was right, even using my exact language. It made me so furious! Gaslighting occurred daily in my relationship. He would use the toilet in the upstairs guest room, not flush, then when I would ask him about it, he would deny it was him. I know it was not me or my kids. Gross.
Projection– The narcissist projects his own feelings and insecurities onto his victim. If he is cheating on his partner, he accuses his partner of cheating. If he is lying, he accuses his partner of lying. The narcissist cannot accept responsibility for his own thoughts and actions and projects his own mental garbage onto the unsuspecting victim. The narcissist is the one who feels that he is the victim in the relationship.
Lectures– My narcissist would go on and on about whatever was bothering him that I did. He would find fifty ways to say the same thing until I would break and just accept everything as my fault and apologize, even though I did nothing wrong to apologize for. He would treat me like a child that was behaving badly. I always felt intimidated and scared of him when he would go on his rants.
Guilt trips & Pouting– Used as a way to let you know his wants and he will make you feel bad for not giving him what he wants. They commonly use “always” and “never” statements. For example, my narcissist would constantly tell me that he never felt that I cared about being intimate with him, (despite the fact that we were intimate at least 2-3 times a week! I felt that after 7 years of marriage, he didn’t have anything to complain about!) But he did not feel that it was enough. On the nights that I just wanted to go to bed due to the extreme exhaustion of taking care of my children and him, schooling and everything related to the house, he would pout and guilt trip me to make it seem like I did not care enough about him because I wasn’t giving him enough “attention.” Please! So he would keep pouting until I relented and just “did it.” I tell you, that when he would pressure me that way, I felt as if I was being raped because I did not want to have sex, but had to in order to shut him up so that I could finally go to bed in peace. And looking back, I really HATE him for that. This is an example of Sexual Abuse.
Financial abuse– Occurs when a narcissist has all the control over the financial matters in the household. In my case, he never put my name on the checking account. I asked many times if I could be on the account but he said that if I wanted cash, I had to ask him for it. (Which I never did.) He said he didn’t want me to be able to write checks and possibly overdraw the account. This so-called concern of his was unfounded because I am very financially responsible and would never do such a thing. So, I had no access to any money. We even had a debit credit card but he refused to give me the pin number. He let me use the credit cards and he would pay them off but if I was charging too much in any given month, he would make sure to speak up and let me know that I need to cut back. He was so paranoid about the money, he would check his banking, credit card statements and retirement accounts each day!
Silent treatment– Used by the narcissist to induce your fear of abandonment by withholding his attention and affection. When the narcissist comes around and starts talking again, you feel relief and the anxiety dissipates. I call this form of abuse “Dark and Broody.” My narcissist was a professional at being dark and broody. I knew when trouble was lurking because he would get all quiet and look like a dark storm was brewing inside of him. Then after the storm, he would come out with a secondary form of abuse like rage, threats or lecturing me. During his dark and broody stage, I would get sick to my stomach at the fear of the impending doom I was about to face.
Verbal abuse– Insults, put downs, aimed to wound the victim’s self esteem. These words cut like knives, hand crafted to strike at our most fragile self. Narcissists reach into their arsenal of the victim’s phobias, weaknesses and disappointments in order to use against them to mutilate their soul. Once, when all was calm, I asked my narcissist why that when he was upset, he would say the most cruel, untrue things to me intending to hurt me. He responded that sometimes he doesn’t play fair and that he would work on that in the future. However, he never stopped using his malicious verbal daggers on me when we had disagreements.
Rage– Rages occur when the narcissist yells and uses body language to intimidate its victim to get the response that he wants. I hated when he would fly into a rage in front of the children, which he did many times. My narcissist would work himself up into a rage when he felt threatened. He was like a tiger in a cage, pacing back and forth in the room, just gearing up for a feast. Then he would fly into a rage over some of the smallest things. One night, after book time with the children, I wasn’t responding to one of his requests fast enough and I commented that “I guess I cannot do anything right.” And he freaked out and started yelling at me in front of the kids. He screamed that I was “being disrespectful and that he deals with bitchy nurses all day and that the last thing he wants is to come home to a bitchy wife!” It was horrible. My 3 and 6 year old were scared, then my son asked me “Mommy, why is daddy yelling at you?” My heart was broken for them. I had to scurry them off to their bedrooms and I promised that I would be back to tuck them in. Then I had to go back to the kitchen where he was, pacing back and forth, he was physically vibrating, ranting loudly, calling me a bitch and making comments like, “Now I see why your ex almost hit you” stuff like that. Bringing up distressing moments of my past that were told to him in confidence, totally unrelated to our relationship, were designed to inflict pain. This is just one of the many examples I have of what a narcissistic rage can look like. Scary stuff.
Threats and manipulation– Narcissist uses intimidation, to get his victims
to do as he pleases. By using fear to control or influence is serious abuse. My narcissist would threaten to put our home schooled children into public school and send me to work if I did not go along with something he wanted to do. If I ever had any complaints or seemed too tired during the day, he would say “Are the kids too much for you to handle mommy? You are too tired to have any time to give to your husband, maybe you need a real job so that you can see how easy you have it now, and I can stay at home.” He would tell me that he came first and the children come second. I couldn’t believe it when he said that to me. What a distorted view of a family relationship. Narcissists are the most selfish creatures on the planet. Children need unconditional love and support, and yes, dad’s should take second fiddle to the children.
Tit for tat– Narcissists will do nice things for you, but with strings attached. There is no such thing as a altruistic narcissist. There is never something nice done for someone without an expectation of a return. My narcissist would attempt to buy into his co-workers good graces, at least for a while before they could no longer stand to be around him. He would buy lunch for his co-workers once a month, because he expected that they would be nice to him in return. I told him that he did not have to do such things for people to treat him well, but he believed otherwise. Then when a co-worker would have a problem with him for whatever reason, or he considered them to be moody he would ask me, why? I told him that just because he buys them lunch doesn’t mean they are going to treat him like a king every day. He couldn’t wrap his head around that notion.
There are so many ways that narcissists abuse their victims. Abuse techniques that Sam Vaknin has also noted include: “Wounding “honesty”, ignoring, smothering, dotting, unrealistic expectations, invasion of privacy, tactlessness, sexual abuse, physical maltreatment, humiliating, shaming, insinuating, lying, exploiting, devaluing and discarding, being unpredictable, reacting disproportionately, dehumanizing, objectifying, abusing confidence and intimate information, engineering impossible situations, control by proxy and ambient abuse.” (The Mind of the Abuser-Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love)
In a nutshell, narcissists are evil creatures void of empathy, they can be male or female. However, there are 3 times more male narcissists than female. If you can identify any of these methods of abuse occurring in your relationship, you need to take warning. Only you can save yourself.
Once a narcissist, always a narcissist. They never change, but that is a topic for a later date.