You might initially be attracted to his confidence.
There's a part of you that feels excited, even lucky, to be in his presence.
His charm and charisma are intoxicating.
If you're a caring, sensitive person, you don't mind offering him praise, catering to his needs, and listening to his complaints. Little do you know that your highly sensitive nature is a magnet for a narcissist.
You are willing to give, give, give, and he (or sometimes she) is always ready to take, take, take.
It can take months, or even years to realize what's happening and how this person you care about is slowly sucking you dry, manipulating you, and bullying you into doing his bidding.
It's hard to face that you've become merely a prop in this bully's one-man-show, and the only purpose you serve is to reinforce his inflated and ravenous ego.
Highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to attracting narcissistic personalities. Because you look for the best in people and work so hard on your relationships, you keep wondering if YOU are doing something wrong.
The harder you try to win love and genuine concern from this person, the worse the narcissistic behavior becomes. You don't realize you're simply feeding the monster.
Other people might wonder why you'd allow this bully into your life.
How could you not see it?
Why are you allowing him to remain?
But the narcissist is adept at winning you over with charm and entangling you with control tactics, passive-aggressive behaviors, and manipulation. They are subtle at first, but the more you put up with their tricks, the worse the behavior becomes.
Highly sensitive people aren't the only ones attracted to narcissists. Even women who know better still seem to be drawn to these characters when searching for a spouse, even though narcissists make the worst committed partners.
A study by researchers V. Tamara Montrose and Carrie Haslam of Hartpury College in England underscores the sad reality that women “wishing to get married were more attracted to the narcissistic male personality than those not desiring marriage.”
These results reinforce the notion that women are attracted to men with high status and seeming confidence even if they are emotionally abusive.
If you're stuck with a narcissistic personality who is bullying you and using you, here are some actions you can take:
Understand what you're dealing with.
Maybe you aren't completely sure if your partner or love interest is a narcissist. You know something's off, and you don't feel valued or respected in the relationship. You know it feels “all about him.”
But maybe your perceptions are off, right? Well, not so fast. Your judgment and perceptions are likely spot on, but just to be sure, here are the characteristics of someone with narcissistic personality disorder:
- They lack empathy and are unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of others, including you.
- They have a grandiose sense of self-importance by exaggerating their achievements and abilities and expecting praise when it isn't deserved.
- They have a sense of entitlement and feel they should have special treatment.
- They think you and everyone else should comply with their requests and expectations.
- They are perfectly willing to take advantage of others to get what they want.
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- They are frequently envious of others and assume others are envious of them.
- They want constant attention and admiration.
- They are arrogant, know-it-alls, and often contemptuous of people they see as “lesser than.”
- They are self-important and see themselves as unique, and therefore should only associate with high status people.
- They are preoccupied with achieving success, fame, beauty, power, sex, etc.
- They are defensive and highly reactive to criticism.
- They often react to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage.
- They ironically project their own bad traits onto other people.
- They see you as simply an extension of themselves.
Ironically, narcissists often lack self-esteem, always wondering if they are good enough. They are a strange mix of grandiose and vulnerable, balancing on a wobbly core of insecurity.
They play out their inner anxieties and low self-image by exaggerating their own worthiness and dragging you along as the built-in ego booster and servant.
Examine your own motives.
If you look at this list of traits and recognize many of them in your partner, it's time for a reality check. The occasional selfish or arrogant behavior is normal, but a pattern of these behaviors is a huge red flag that you've settled in with Mr. Wrong.
Be honest with yourself and acknowledge you have a narcissist in your life. And be even more honest as you ask yourself why. Why do you have him and why have you hung onto him?
You may have him because you were taken by his initial charm — but charm, good looks, and status aren't enough for a healthy, mutually respectful, loving relationship.
If you're doing all of the giving, praising, and sacrificing, you'll eventually lose your self-esteem and identity. Ask yourself if you're hanging on for all of the wrong reasons:
- Your ego likes having this man on your arm.
- You're too afraid to leave.
- You feel embarrassed about admitting your mistake.
- You don't know if you'll find anyone better.
- You think you love him.
Love can't exist in an environment where it's not returned, and even if he says he loves you, his words are empty if he's using and manipulating you. Don't confuse fear, ego attachment, and wishful thinking for love.
Sometimes people choose a narcissistic partner because of childhood issues. If you were emotionally abused or neglected as a child, you may be playing out your childhood drama with your partner.
If you don't feel worthy of love and respect, you might choose someone who views themselves as better than everyone else because that hyper-confidence appeals to you. Or you might choose them because they reinforce your worthless feelings by refusing to meet your needs and offer you love.
If you see this scenario as reason for having a narcissist in your life, you need to meet with a trained counselor to talk through your past abuse. You don't want to continue to repeat it in your adult relationships.
Learn what real love is.
If you've been living with a narcissist for a while, you may be confused about what real love is. You may not know what a mature, loving, mutually fulfilling relationship looks like.
You might just assume it's normal for a partner to be demanding, unfaithful, critical, and full of themselves. It's not.
Healthy relationships require compassion, empathy, and sincere expressions of love by BOTH partners. A loving partner should offer YOU as much encouragement, praise, and support as you offer him.
In a mature relationship, you have each other's backs, and you sincerely want the best for your partner, because you love them — not because it will reflect well on you.
In a strong relationship, there is equality, mutual respect, and complete trust. You don't have to walk on eggshells, wondering when the next blow-up might happen or fearing your needs will be cast aside yet again.
A healthy, intimate connection requires that both partners put the relationship first, above their own individual desires or goals. They see the relationship as the centerpiece of their lives and prioritize the vitality of it above all else.
Take action for change.
If you take away nothing else from this post, please remember this: the only person you can change is YOU.
You can't make the narcissist change his behaviors. Only he or she can can acknowledge their behaviors and take the initiative to change.
A narcissist has a fragile ego, and any suggestion by you that they need to be “fixed” will likely fall on deaf ears or foster a full-blown explosion. For change to happen, your partner needs to be highly motivated and willing to work with a counselor trained in dealing with personality disorders.
If you don't see this happening, you have two options: 1) leave the relationship; and 2) stay but try to create and stick to boundaries. I guess a third option is allowing the narcissistic abuse to continue, but you do that at the risk of your own mental health.
If you aren't married to your narcissistic partner, consider ending the relationship so you can work on yourself to become stronger and more confident. You want to build more self-awareness to make a better choice in your next relationship. It will be far less painful breaking it off with your narcissistic partner now than waiting until you're married or more deeply involved.
However, if you must stay in the relationship, you will feel more in control of your life and more powerful in the relationship if you create some boundaries and enforce them. Write down all of the bullying, manipulative, emotionally abusive behaviors your partner uses on you.
When they occur, call your partner out on them. If your partner tries to guilt-trip you into serving him, say something like, “I don't like guilt trips. You are trying to manipulate me. You'll have to take care of that yourself. ”
Even though it will feel uncomfortable, maybe even scary, you'll have to stand up to your partner and not allow him take advantage of you. Of course he won't like this, and it he may not change much as a result.
But this purpose is more to change YOU, and help you to feel less like a victim. He knows you are on to his tricks, and you don't intend to go belly up any longer.
You deserve a life with someone who loves and respects you, not someone so wrapped up in themselves that they have little time or empathy for your needs and desires. Don't let a pretty face, a charming facade, and a false sense of bravado fool you into investing your precious time and energy in a dead end relationship. See this person for who he is and stand up for your dignity and worthiness.