How to help a friend who is involved with a Narcissist…

I was recently asked by a concerned reader how to help a friend that she was sure was married to a narcissist. Unfortunately, she probably will not like my answer because it is not a quick fix. It is a slow progression of help which I will get into further on, but first a little background into a typical victim’s mindset. These matters are extremely delicate, as the victim in a narcissistic relationship has been brainwashed into believing that they somehow deserve the bad treatment. They believe that everything the narcissist does or says is actually their fault.  As a result, the victim’s sense of self is obliterated, their strength has been sapped to the point that they willingly take the abuse and have normalized it.  They believe it is the best they can expect. Victims are actually fooled into believing that they are lucky to have the abuser! (Like Stockholm Syndrome)

Usually, the relationship between a narcissist and a victim is that of the “pedestal and the pit.” I discussed this tactic in another blog. This is the situation in a relationship where the narc will place his victim on a pedestal and treat her like gold, then the next moment, knock her down into the pit of mistreatment. It disorientates the victim to the point of confusion. This is a vicious cycle that never stops during a narcissist relationship.  After undergoing this dizzying cycle of ups and downs, the feeling of being in the narc’s good graces again and sitting on top of that pedestal feels so relieving to the victim after being in the “pit,” it is addicting.  As a result of this torment, the victim will do anything to please the narcissist.  She will find herself ignoring the bad in the relationship and only focusing on the good in order to pull through day by day.  So, she makes excuses for him, hoping and praying that things are going to be different. But things NEVER change. It is a sad truth. You cannot FIX a Narcissist!

So, back to the question of “How to help a friend who is involved with a narcissist?”

First, you can help your friend the most by sitting down with her and explaining your concerns and why you are worried about her.

However, after being married to a Narcissist for 7 years myself, I am aware of how proficient your friend will be at making excuses for her husband’s bad behavior.  I was, I go into that topic more in this blog post.  I covered for his bad behavior for numerous reasons. One of those was because I began to believe I didn’t deserve better (as I mentioned above). Also, I wanted to live in the fantasy that our marriage was grand, I didn’t want others to know what he was really like.  I was afraid of casting a light on his horrible behavior and that would mean that I needed to finally do something about it. (Which I knew would be the most challenging task of my life.)  Additionally, I made excuses because I shared children with him, and in my mind, I used to believe that divorce was the worst thing you could do to a child.  However, now I realize that staying in a terrible, abusive marriage only teaches your children to become apathetic and perfect victims, or it teaches them to become narcissistic abusers themselves.

Second, after showing your friend some material on narcissist behavior, you must tell your friend that because you care about her, no matter what, you will be there to support and encourage her whenever she is ready to seek help.
What helped me was when my narc had a earth shattering tantrum in front of my parents that I couldn’t cover up, and I had no possible excuses for.  That moment, my concerned parents offered to take me and my children 3 hours home with them that day. I declined out of fear.  But it got the wheels turning in my mind, and when my mother told me that she thought my husband was a Narcissist.  I began to google everything I could on the disorder because I had no idea what that really was.  In my research, I discovered that my husband had all the markers of it and it changed my mindset.  Learning about narcissism opened my eyes to seeing how I was living day to day and forced me to take a good look at how I permitted him to control my life.  In another blog, I discuss these 13 big signs that proved I was in a relationship with a narcissist.  It was like a blanket of darkness finally lifted and I began to see him for what he really was. I had started figuring out what had been nagging me our whole marriage.  But, the point is, I had to figure it out myself.  My Mother planted the seed, she tried to pull me out of this relationship, but I was not ready to go. I needed it to be MY choice, on MY time. Then one day after endless research online and in books, I finally hit a point, where my fear of staying outweighed my fear of leaving.

Third, you must be patient with your friend.

It will take time, but you cannot just rip her away from a bad relationship. It will backfire and she will end up going back to him and cutting all ties with you.  If you plant the seed, it will begin to grow in her mind and she needs to learn the truth herself.  Looking back, what mattered the most to me during my revelation was knowing that my Mom and Dad were there to support me and to help when I was ready to leave.  I am very thankful for that.

In summary, there is no magic bullet to getting a friend away from a narcissistic relationship.  It is a process that they alone have to be ready to undergo.  The victim must be armored with knowledge about the narcissist’s tactics before they begin to walk through that door.  That is where you come in, be there for them, and they will never forget it, even if they seem to ignore your concerns at this point.  I discuss how I made my escape in this blog post.  To an outsider, it can be hard to understand why someone would stay in a toxic relationship, but unless you go through it, it is impossible to understand it.    Just try to be sympathetic with your friend because it is such a drastic undertaking to break away from an abusive relationship that the victim must be in a fully committed state of mind to make it happen.  If they are only “sort of” ready to leave, that wont be enough to succeed in escaping.

If they understand that they have people in their life who love them and will be there to support them, that can make all the difference.

Winding up the Year…Merry Christmas!

 

Well, one year has passed since my divorce decree was signed by the judge. What an amazing anniversary! I cannot believe how far I have come in that small amount of time. Last year, I was raw and unsteady, worried about the future. Now, I am strong, safe and excited about what adventures await me. My perspective has made a dramatic shift during these past twelve months. Since I have two children with my Narcissist, I cannot escape him totally. However, I have room to breathe and a say in my life. He still makes visitation difficult because that is one of the last ways he can exert any amount of control over us, however, I pick my battles. This is the first Christmas without my children, as they are with him this year. It feels odd for them to not be with me tonight, but I focus on the following weekend when we will be together celebrating our Christmas.

I have been so busy with work and being a single parent that it can be hard to find time to write down my thoughts. I really need to make time because it heals my soul, as corny as that sounds. This year, I have been enjoying my new career, I feel that I make a difference in my community. I am so thankful too that my children love their school and even got to participate in their first school play, something they never got to do when I was home schooling them.

It is strange how looking back, I was so terrified of the future. The thought of leaving my narcissist was so scary. I remember feeling depleted. He beat my confidence down so severely that I felt that I would have nothing to offer the world once I left him. He made me feel weak, inept, and dependant. That was all due to the emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse that he put me through all those 7 years. I felt like a child in his presence due to his continuous lectures and mistrust. I even had to ask his permission if I wanted to go visit my parents, which I hardly got that opportunity to do without him. I could do nothing right in his eyes. Which made me try even harder to please, as strange as that sounds. His paranoia and temper tantrums made me walk on eggshells trying to hold the family together and I would lie to myself daily thinking that it was either my fault somehow or that maybe he would miraculously stop the abuse. But the day I learned about narcissist abuse, it all changed, and I took that brave step forward to stand up for myself and for my children and to boldly step into the unknown. I realized that I would rather jump off the bridge that was crumbling down around me and take a chance at swimming to safety, no matter how far away the shore may be. I once said in a previous blog that “when the fear of staying outweighed my fear of leaving” I had no choice.

My coworkers have made comments to me that I apologize too much. It is true, it is habit. Narcissists do that to you, make you sorry for even breathing. But I am a work in progress. Instead of saying phrases like, “Sorry I am late,” I rephrase it and say “Thank you for your patience.” This is a subtle change that makes a big impact on your confidence. I find that my happiness is at an all time high. I wake up every day with gratefulness and purpose now.

I am looking forward to this New Year for many reasons. I am excited that my house will be completed soon. I am looking forward to making more happy memories with my extended family. I have even met someone special who treats me so well. It’s good that I have been alone for almost two years now because I had lots of time to reflect on what kind of person I would want in my life and so far, he ticks every box. He is calm, kind and thoughtful. He makes me feel so special! When I think of him, it brings tears to my eyes because I now see what I have been missing out on those seven years I spent with my narcissist. I see what a healthy relationship should be. Full of trust and mutual respect, thoughtfulness and feeling safe to be who I am.

I have high hopes for the future now and I wish that for all of you! You deserve to be loved, you deserve to be respected and appreciated for the amazing person you are. Don’t let anyone mistreat you, even for a moment. Life is way too short for that.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Narcissists treat you like a child

When I was a little girl, I remember thinking that “I cannot wait until I grow up because then I can make my own decisions without always being told what to do!” Well, now that I am a woman in my mid thirties, you would think I had been living the childhood dream of ultimate freedom. However, up until one year ago, I was not. I finally put my finger on it! My narcissist treated me like a child at all times. He continuously questioned my choices, making me overly cautious and dependent upon his opinions. I felt like he knew better, not just because he persistently said that he did, but also because I was always wrong in his eyes. When narcissists continuously abuse you to think that you cannot even make the smallest decisions without their input, your confidence and sense of self is stripped away and your inner voice becomes childlike.

When I was married to my narcissist, I lived in a state of constant frustration. I was frustrated at not being heard, I was frustrated at never being right, I was frustrated that I could not make a normal, healthy choice about my life without his “permission.” He had overwhelming control over every aspect of my life. I even had to ask him for his consent to visit my parents, or go to the store, or even to the bathroom. If I didn’t, and I started to walk out of the room, he would shout at me “Where are you going Mommy?” Then I would get irritated after being so micromanaged in every instance that I wanted to scream!

The reason that the narcissist treats you like a child is because s/he is threatened by you. You outshine them in every way and they know it deep down because narcissists have low self esteem despite the fact that most display an overabundance of confidence. It is just for show. The narcissist chose you to be their victim because they thought that you were a valuable asset to their image. They were so impressed by your amazing qualities, they wanted to capture you and bottle you up in order to keep you all to themselves. Then they chip away at all those qualities that drew them to you in the first place because they are intimidated by you. You are their property now.

Looking back, I still remember the sick, sinking feeling I endured when I knew my narcissist was displeased with me. Which was a daily occurrence. I felt like a child who was in trouble with it’s parent and was awaiting the punishment that was sure to follow. I wouldn’t treat my own two children like he treated me, I respect and trust my children and love them for the wonderful individuals that they are. That is how love should be, unwavering and forgiving. It is sad but true, if you are involved in a toxic narcissistic relationship, get out! They will suffocate your soul and reduce you to a fraction of yourself.

Ways to Recover from a Narcissistic Relationship

There are many ways to cope with the abuse that has been done to us. Those who have been the victim of narcissistic abuse have two options. To stay a victim or to become a survivor. I chose the latter. I am only 7 months out from a nightmare with my narcissist and I still have to deal with him because we are going through a drawn out divorce battle with children, but I have been making little discoveries of what has helped me along the journey to rediscover myself and I wanted to share those with you. Please feel free to comment and add any that have helped you.

First and foremost,

Go NO CONTACT, unless you have children with one, then go as little contact as the court will allow.

Adopt a theme song. This sounds funny, but it really works. One of the joys of breaking free from my narcissist has been the rediscovery of my love of music. I had let my love of listening to music drift from me when I was with my narcissist. He robbed the joy from my life in many ways. Now, I find myself listening to upbeat music again that makes me look forward to future. My theme song is “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. Each time I hear it I can’t help but dance.

Pick a new perfume or cologne. A scent is a powerful thing, when a person chooses an aroma it is extremely personal to their tastes, and by applying it to their body they are sending it out to the world as an extension of who they are. Everyone has a favorite perfume or cologne. But the other day, I tried something new and I couldn’t believe the effect it had on me! It did not remind me of “me with him,” it was like I put on a fragrance that was just all me, now. It instantly added a boost of confidence as if I were going through a metamorphosis and becoming something more beautiful without him.

Make a list or two or three. This list can be what you learned from your last relationship. It can be what you are looking for in the next relationship. Or it can be what you want to accomplish in you life during the next 5 years. But a list is helpful because it allows you to identify your priorities, you weaknesses, your mistakes, your strengths, your goals. Seeing your thoughts down on paper can jog your mind into making it happen.

Listen to old music that you used to listen to before you met your narcissist. This helps you to remember how you use to feel, it helps you regain strength and confidence of who you used to be. You begin to uncover who you really are, not who he or she made you into.

Take care of yourself, without guilt! Get your hair done, get that pedicure or massage. Just do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t forget to eat well and try to work some exercise into your daily routine. Even if you start small, it pays big dividends in your self confidence and health.

Take a trip on you own. I am working on making this happen. Someday, I dream of going to Ireland or Scotland. I have heard that traveling by yourself is an amazing way to soul search. I don’t have the money or time to do this now, however, even just spending a day by myself without the internet or phone can be nourishing. In my case, it will have to do for now.

Read good books that interest you. It is so comforting and healing to let you mind escape the present and focus on bringing a story to life in your thoughts.

Do things that your narcissist forbid you to do when you were with him or her. In my case, that is pretty much anything.

Believe that you CAN!

Meet with old friends, or make new ones. You may be surprised at the response of old friends if you try to reach out to them. I was.

Talk to a support person, join a group or find a therapist who specializes in recovery from narcissistic abuse.

Look at old pictures of yourself before your narcissist entered the scene. You will be amazed!

I moved back to my childhood home after leaving my narcissist. I was up late one night just exploring my old bedroom. Looking under my bed, I discovered a treasure trove of who I used to be. I pulled out this wooden box filled to the brim of pictures of me with old friends, travels and adventures. I couldn’t believe at who I was looking at! I was happy, confident, fun, exciting. I forgot who I use to be. I come across a picture that I took when I was up in the sky parasailing in Jamaica. I forgot that I had even done that! I couldn’t believe how badly I disassociated with myself when I was married to my narcissist. He tried to destroy who I was and replace me with what he wanted me to be. It made me sick to think that I almost let that really happen. But now I am the warpath to win myself back!

Plant your feet, find yourself again and soon you will rise up tall and strong.  You will be surprised how beautiful you can grow.  Know that you are not alone, you can win this battle too!

How to go NO CONTACT with a Narcissist When You Have Children with One

It is a widely known rehabilitative step to go “no contact” with a narcissist partner. This means to stop all forms of communication. No phone calls, no visits, give back all gift attempts or mail, cut all ties with that person completely. It is truly the only solid way to break free from the narcissistic emotional abuse and begin on the long, twisty path to healing. I sure wish I could, but you see… I have children with my narcissist.

I have to abide by certain laws of the court, maintaining just the minimum amount of contact as possible. It is a difficult situation, definitely not for the weak and weary. However, coming out of a seven year roller coaster relationship with a narcissist, I am nothing but weak and weary. So what do I do? What does anyone do? I take it one day at a time while building up my defenses.

First, you must find a support system. I am so fortunate to have my amazing parents and my brother to look to. Also, I am so lucky to have good, true friends that were always there but on the sidelines just waiting for me to come back. I lean on them to listen to my tales of woe. Just talking and writing about it has helped me so much. I find that when I speak or write about what I have gone through, somehow it is released into the atmosphere and weights are lifted off of me. I know that I will get through this, and you will too. Daily I am unearthing shreds of hope and strength that simmer under the surface for my two beautiful children. I cannot afford to fall apart. They need me…I need me. We deserve to get through this and live a life that is good and pure and full of possibilities once again.

Second, cut as many ties with your narcissist as humanly possible while staying within the bounds of the court’s requirements. But because of the children, I cannot just change my phone number, or move away. I have a chain that still binds me to my narcissist. However, I have lengthened it as much as possible. It is ironic that when we were together and my narcissist was gone for a week at a time for his work, he would never ask to speak to the children on the phone. Even when I would try to put him on the phone with the children he would say “No, they don’t make any sense when they are put on the phone anyway.” However, now that we have left him, he INSISTS to talk to the children EVERY single day. Interesting that he never cared before, but now that he has lost his power over me, he struggles to hold onto any bit of control he can grasp. He knows that it puts a crimp in my day to have to be available to put the children on the phone. He never says anything different to them, it is always “I miss you, I want to hug and kiss you.” Same old sayings the conversations lasts about 30 seconds. Then when the children do try to speak, he just talks over the them and they get frustrated. They want to get away from him on the phone as fast as possible. It is sad and ridiculous.

Third, go through an intermediary as much as possible. Anyone who was once involved with a narcissist knows how disrupting their communications can be whether text, email or phone. So, it is greatly recommended that you use any means possible to limit these stressful interactions. One resource out there that is helpful regarding child visitation schedules is an online calendar. These are nice so that you don’t have to have gratuitous contact with your narcissist when setting up visitation. A few examples of online calendars include Custody Junction, and Our Family Wizard. In addition, it can be used as a tool to help keep track of your narcissists actions and in-actions.

Fourth, stop caring about what the narcissist says. Easier said than done, I know. But now that I am equipped with knowledge of how a narcissist operates, I am much more resilient to his disparaging comments. I don’t play into his petty, pathetic hands anymore. If he gets out of line when calling to talk to the children, I just say something cryptic like “I am not going to hear this, this doesn’t concern the children” and I hang up the phone. It is actually quite liberating!

In a nutshell, going no contact with your narcissist is not a luxury afforded to those who have children with one. However, there are numerous ways to limit that contact by elongating that chain that binds us to them. With a few changes, a cast iron spirit and a strong support system, facing our future free of emotional abuse is a beautiful prospect. There is light at the end of the tunnel.