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.

The Show Must Go On…

We have all heard the phrase, “the show must go on.” But the ones who really understand it are those people who lived it by being stuck in a toxic relationship with a Narcissist. When you find that you need to put on a show whenever your partner is around, that is big sign that you are being controlled by a narcissist.

I am now three years removed from being submerged in a suffocating marriage with a narcissist, however, when I think back to what I went through and how I felt, I had an epiphany. I distinctly remember whenever my ex walked through the door, I had to prepare my 3 year old and 6 year old to treat their father a certain way in order to stall their father’s bad moods, suspicious antics or lecturing behavior.

I found myself telling my children that “Daddy’s going to be coming home soon and they better smile, and give him a big hug” and I would plead with them to be on their best behavior. I quickly learned that we had to go through this role playing because in the past, if my narcissist were to come home and we were all doing something other than waiting there to greet him with smiles on our faces and our full attention, he would be offended and feel that we “did not appreciate him.” He would then go on a pity trip and lecture us, scold us and say that we did not love him, etc. It was ridiculous, but true. It would put a dampener on the rest of the evening and we all walked on eggshells.

So, I would find myself trying to prepare my little actors to put on a show for Daddy. A show that would hopefully, delay the narcissist’s antics for a later time. But it was never for long. The children and I were always in survival mode, just waiting for the next little thing to set him off.

During the marriage, I didn’t actually see what I was doing, or how his behavior truly affected us because when you are living it, it can be difficult to see through it. However, now that I am safely away from my narcissist and in a healthy relationship full of mutual respect and adoration, I can easily see what lengths I went to in order to try to protect my children from their narcissistic father.

If you find that you need to be anyone other than your true self when your partner is around, that is not a good sign. Be aware that all of life is not a stage, or at least it shouldn’t have to be. My advice as someone who has lived through it, lower the curtain and walk away and it is best to ignore the curtain call, let the narcissist get the bows he craves from someone other than you or your children.

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!!!

Realizing You Have Become Stronger After Enduring Narcissist Abuse…

Now that I am safely divorced and apart from my narcissist, I feel more invigorated by the day. I am on a path of discovery that I couldn’t comprehend one year ago. It is somewhat true what they say about “time healing all wounds.” Although time does help, it does not heal if you do not look within yourself to discover how deep your wounds have been inflicted.

It was shocking when I put some time and distance between the painful experiences I endured to recognize just how miserable and controlled I was living day to day. I was not living, I was merely surviving at best. I was incredibly altered when I married that man. Every day was a torment. He never asked me how I was sincerely, nor did he care. I had to repeat myself like a parrot because he never listened to what I had to say, unless he realized that he could save it up and twist it somehow to use against me later. A narcissist has no interest in you or anything you care about, because all their minds can wrap around is their own. They have no capacity to truly love, they are merely an empty shell of a human being.

Now that I am done with that part of my life, I have been focusing on my wants and my needs for the first time in almost a decade and it feels so wonderful! I hardly ever think of him, unless it is to remember he is calling to talk to the kids. I don’t waste my thoughts on him if I can help it, he does not control me anymore. But it is interesting how his abuse can still haunt me over the simple things I do now.

When I find my mind jumping to a moment where he would abuse me in the past, I experience a great wave of appreciation that I don’t have to endure it anymore. It hits me like a jolt, then I try to push it to the side and move on. I used to hate when these moments jostled me, however, now I take a second to be grateful for them because I no longer have to live under his rule. These moments solidify my fortitude.
I almost relish it when he tries to upset me know, because I just laugh and shake it off. He has lost his power over me and he knows it. He has not tried to upset me as much either because he knows he doesn’t have the same effect on me that he used to. One time at the pick up of the kids, he was talking to me about something that upset him and I looked at him and casually threw my head back and laughed. He looked at me stunned and confused. I wish I could have taken a picture of his reaction because it was priceless.

What I am trying to say is that the longer you are away from your narcissist and go “no contact” as much as possible, the better you will begin to feel.  As the days and moments slowly pass after you have left, only then can the wounds finally have a real chance to start the healing process. With this distance, you will be able to look deep into yourself and figure out what parts are missing and what parts you need to repair.  With time, you will get to the point where the narcissist’s actions annoy you rather than upset you. You will be annoyed that you didn’t see through his or her antics sooner, you will become irritated that you used to let it bother you so much in the past. When you get to this point, you will realize how much stronger you are now. It is a wonderful and powerful place to be! This is YOUR time, relish it!

 

 

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.

Learning About Who I am and What I Want Now…

One lesson that I am learning after leaving my narcissist, is of the importance to understand who I am and what I want out of life. It is so liberating to remove the dead weight he placed upon my shoulders of his wants and needs. I am now free to focus on me for the first time in a long time. I still put my children first in most instances, but I also realize how important it is to “put my oxygen mask on first” or else I wont be any good to my children.

I am discovering how much stronger I am now that I am away from that unhealthy relationship. I have learned the hard way, that I would much rather be on my own than suffer in a narcissistic relationship, where I was very much alone anyways. Because narcissists lack the ability empathize, he had no capacity to emotionally support me, he just latched onto me and sucked out my energy much like a leech or a Dementor in Harry Potter.

Another lesson I have learned is that I do not need a man in my life to be happy. First, I need to be happy with myself and happy on my own. Which I joyfully feel that I am finally at that point. I am really enjoying this time for me and for the chance to discover who I really am. I have been given an amazing opportunity for a job that I never imagined I would get. I am delighted to find that I have an aptitude for it. It is a challenge that I am now up for and it is great to be able to get out of the house and be around other professionals and utilize my schooling to help contribute to society. It gives me more purpose when I get up every morning. I feel as though I am part of something bigger now. I also put my children into a small private school and they are really enjoying it, which is a huge step for me because I had dreams of continuing to homeschool them through their young years. However, I had to adapt to the life of a single mother and those who fail to adapt will eventually succumb.

There have been so many changes in the past year that I can barely wrap my head around it, but these changes have been welcomed blessings. Everything has been falling into place since I took back my life and left my narcissist, much better than I could have ever dared to dream. I am even on track to build my house, which is something I have always dreamed of doing someday. It is funny that in order to achieve that dream, I have to do it on my own, not when I was married. Better now than never, and it will be all mine without the narcissist’s approval.

It is an amazing feeling to know that having a man in my life wont define me anymore. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do not fantasize about becoming some crazy cat lady and dying all alone, however, the thought doesn’t scare me so much anymore either. If there is to be anyone that I chose to share my life with, he will have to be amazing and be a compliment to who I am now. I strongly feel that I will not settle for anything less. I am not desperate to find someone, because I am content with my life and who I am becoming.

Sure it would be wonderful to find someone someday who honestly loved me for me, everyone yearns for that, someone who truly has your best interests at heart. But I don’t really know if that is possible this day and age. My past relationships have not proven to illustrate that as a feasible outcome. Maybe I am jaded after coming out of a train wreck of a marriage, however I feel that many people are just out to use you for their own selfish needs. After emerging from a smothering narcissistic relationship, I realize just how important it is for each party in a relationship to have their own hobbies and life, which ultimately makes each more interesting and gives you more to talk about. Then you have the things you do and share as a couple. It is not healthy for a couple to “do everything together.” Whoever wants to be a part of my life will have his work cut out for him. I once read that you should make a list of what you want to find in your future partner because it increases your chances of success the next time around.

So, here it goes… if I could place an order for a perfect partner, he would have to be someone who has much in common with me, I will no longer shift who I am to make a man happy. He will have to like to travel, but also enjoy relaxing at home. A man in every sense of the word, strong and solid, who makes me feel safe and appreciated. Someone who is capable, kind, and honest. Someone who appreciates nature and being outdoors. Someone who can teach me new things, and brings out the best in me. Someone who likes to cook nice dinners, but also enjoys dressing up once in a while to go for a fun night out. He will have to be smart, but not a smart ass. Confident, but not cocky. Humble, but not meek. And lets not forget someone who can make me laugh, for I dearly love to laugh! A sense of humor is so important in life. I know these qualities I look for in a mate seem contrary, but life is about balance, it is not good to be too much of anything for a variety of reasons. There must be an equilibrium. I am finally finding out who I am and I never want to lose myself in someone ever again.

So in a nutshell, who am I?  I am a woman who looks forward to every day now.  A dreamer who has yet to lose hope.  A believer who sees all I have accomplished and knows that I have the strength to carry on.   A survivor and a woman who has lots of love left to give, and I will give it to my family and to myself and to anyone who endeavors to be worthy. And what do I want?  I want to always remember that what I went through has molded me into who I am.  I am stronger and smarter for it and I know now that it all happened for a reason.