Individuals who have narcissistic personality disorder use their relationships as assets that can be tapped into on a regular basis for their own gratification. The feelings and well being of the partner is not really a factor, in their avid quest to fulfill their own needs. These relationships can be highly volatile, with soaring highs and devastating lows. Narcissists can be cruel and withholding, often keeping partners dancing on a string to try to please them. Narcissistic personality disorder relationships follow certain patterns that can be very destructive and which can cause partners years of confusion and self-blame.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Relationships
Narcissists are often loud, friendly and thrive on attention. They may have a group of admirers around them, because the constant self-affirmation is critical to their self-esteem. They may also seem unemotional and tough, which reflects their inability to empathize with others. At the heart of the inability to forge equitable, satisfying relationships is their profound need to stoke their egos. Narcissists feel deeply inadequate, so they must constantly use the people around them to relieve these feelings of worthlessness. Because they are only concerned about themselves and their own well being, the partner often feels used and unloved, yet they continue to try to make the relationship work. This repetitive pattern is often a feature of narcissistic personality disorder relationships abuse.
The Ups and Downs Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships
Some in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder never know where they stand. Narcissists do not feel love like most people. Every action and displayed emotion is designed to achieve the result of feeding the narcissists ego. They often choose target partners who are attractive or accomplished. Being connected to such a catch feeds their ego, stoking their need to feel more important and admired. They are often very charismatic, and they use this quality to get close to those who can be of most use to them. Although the narcissist may seem extremely confident, they often use an exaggerated sense of self and sense of entitlement to cover their deep feelings of insecurity.
Emotional Volatility, A Part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder Abuse
Narcissists’ emotions can turn on a dime. This volatility can cause constant stress in a relationship. The narcissist must be constantly praised and admired. Any sign of criticism can be met with fury or dismissal. This on-again, off-again feature of narcissistic personality disorder relationships can be the most difficult part for partners. The lack of trust, empathy, cooperation and concern can leave the partner feeling empty and abused. In addition, the partner may feel continually used by the narcissist, who is only concerned with his or her own needs and feelings. The narcissist must always be the most important person in the relationship. Even their children exist only to gratify their egos. They must constantly work to appear to know the most and have the most. When they feel challenged by someone, they may restore their own dominance with condescending remarks. These qualities make it difficult for the family to know how to handle a narcissist on an ongoing basis.
First Stage – Over-Evaluation
The first stage of narcissistic personality disorder relationships features strong patterns of over-evaluation of the newly found partner. The narcissists train a laser-like focus on the target, praising the new partner to the stars and using their considerable charm and charisma to draw the target in closer. Their devotion will seem complete and unshakable. Narcissists draw their energy and self-worth from others, so showing off their new prize to others is an important part of their self-gratification. Although it may appear that they are completely smitten with the partner, in reality, they are unable to connect emotionally with anyone and only need the partner to achieve some other goal. Narcissists feel they deserve the best of everything, and they frequently use other people to achieve their material goals.
Second Stage – Devaluation
The narcissist’s admiration can end as quickly and intensely as it began. The partner may be left wondering what they did wrong to cause such a fast and complete change. Narcissists are easily bored and are always looking for a new target to help them accomplish their secret goals. When they are finished with the current partner, they may go silent, be away from home frequently, not phone the partner or otherwise make it obvious that they are no longer interested. In an attempt to create distance, the narcissist may constantly demean or criticize the partner. Because they cannot connect emotionally, they may often dismiss the partner’s feelings as being a sign of inadequacy. They may feel entitled to do whatever it is they wish and become angry with a partner that does not allow them to do so. All of these actions allow the narcissist to disconnect from the current partner so he or she can move on to the next conquest.
Third Stage – Discarding
The narcissist then begins the task of extricating him or herself from the relationship. The break can be quick, complete and devastating. Once narcissists achieve their material or personal goals from the relationship, they are ready to move on to the next one. They may forge the next relationship while still in the current one, feeling it is their right to do as they like. The other party in the narcissistic personality disorder relationship can end up feeling broken and without self esteem, wondering if the other party ever loved them at all or if they are lovable in any way. The partner can be left financially poorer, socially alienated and psychologically beaten.
Learning How To Deal With A Narcissist
If you realize you are in a narcissistic personality disorder relationship, you should first consider what it is that made you choose such a person. Many people are attracted to the inflated self-confidence or tough-mindedness of a narcissist. Perhaps, one of your parents displayed narcissistic traits. In many cases, people are drawn to people who love the spotlight, never considering that these individuals’ need for attention masks a deep inner void. Maybe the sharp criticism and dismissal of the narcissist resonates with your own internal self-criticism. Partners should think about why they are willing to be satisfied with a relationship in which the other person cannot provide the reciprocated love they really need.
Repairing Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships
It may be helpful to get counseling for the narcissist and for the relationship as a whole. Narcissism can be an intrinsic part of a person’s personality and may require years of therapy to change these behaviors. The narcissist may or may not be willing to do this long, hard work to change. In some cases, medication for depression or anxiety can help the narcissist deal with the negative feelings that trigger their behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful for them to recognize the negative thought patterns and behaviors that make their lives so chaotic. Partners must also understand their own part in the dysfunctional relationship and must learn to stop feeding the narcissist’s ego at their own expense.
Getting Over A Narcissistic Personality Relationship
Unfortunately, narcissistic personality disorder in relationships can have such a destructive effect that counseling cannot overcome the inherent problems. The narcissist may even feel that he or she has no reason to change. These people may feel they are perfect, and the other person is so inferior that a relationship is no longer possible. The very fact that they cannot rely on having their ego needs filled may cause them to leave. Narcissists often leave the relationship for new targets who are able to fulfill their ego requirements without complaint. The person left behind may have significant emotional damage from the relationship. The narcissist may have imposed years of negative, condescending or belittling behavior of the partner, which must be undone by careful self-assessment and forging relationships with more caring, emotionally-stable people.
Protecting Yourself Against the Narcissistic Partner
The partner must be on guard against the narcissist returning to further gratify himself from the relationship. These returns are a common phenomenon, because narcissists always feel confident that others are proud and happy to be used by them. Finding ways to prevent being drawn back into the relationship can be challenging. Narcissists are completely lacking in emotional connection with others, but they are highly skilled in “appearing” to be contrite and loving. The partner must make it clear that no further interaction or entanglement will be permitted. Partners must continue working on their own self-esteem to ensure that they do not fall into the same type of dysfunctional relationship in the future.