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.