Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

IMG_1299We were in a hurry. We had a lunch to attend. It wasn’t so much that time was tight as the fact that he was the one that called the shots. If he was going to get the most out of his day, doing anything for someone else was always inconvenient. We were on the highway on the way home from a lodge. He had been working at the lodge, giving a talk, and because it was such a scenic setting, it was decided that I would go along.

I had golfed with him once at the lodge and I found it too challenging for me. He had wanted to golf again, so we went out that morning. I had no intention of golfing, it simply would have taken too long, and I knew that we didn’t have enough time, so I travelled along in the golf cart. The problem was that when we were as far as possible from the clubhouse, I realized I needed to pee.

Now, this is not normally a huge problem on a golf course. There are large relatively private places where you can take care of things discretely. Unfortunately, the people managing the course seemed to be a little suspicious of two people going out onto the course and only one person paying for a game, so they kept sending people around to make sure that I was, in fact, just watching.

Each time that I left the golf cart and tried to move into an area of relative privacy, someone from the club would come by in a truck, on a golf cart or simply walk in our direction. It was not going to happen. I was not going to get a chance to pee.

When he was finished playing golf he asked me not to go into the club house for fear that it bring up questions of whether or not I had played. We were leaving the lodge right away and it was decided that we would stop along the highway. I was becoming somewhat impatient.

As I write this story, it gives me that tense feeling that I get watching movies when you see the person making mistake after mistake and you know for sure that they are digging themselves into a hole. You want to scream, “Don’t do that!” or “Pay attention!” Little did I know at the time, but I was giving him great power. He fed off of this feeling of being in control, of having someone that desperately needed him to do something for them. He started to abuse this power.

I did not recognize at the time that he was probably amused by all of this. I could see that there was a place to pull off ahead and I said something like, “There is a Tim Horton’s up here.” He drove by it. Now, this is a four lane, restricted access highway that we were on and rest stops and exits were not that common on this stretch of the road.

I got angry. He claimed that I had not been clear enough that I had wanted him to stop. Now, I was at the point where I wanted him to just pull off to the side of the road. I would take my luck on the embankment. He would not stop.” We are in a hurry.” “I may be late if we stop.” “They are expecting us for lunch.”

Then the attacks started. I should’ve used a washroom before we left the lodge. I should be clearer if I want him to pull over. I was stupid for leaving things until I was so desperate. My choices were quite limited. I was uncomfortable now to the point that I was starting to worry that I might damage my bladder. I could just pee on the front seat of the van, or anywhere else in the van.

He was smug. He was certain that he was right and that my demands were unreasonable. Then I started to scream at him. Now, he pointed out, I shouldn’t get so emotional; I was insane and acting foolishly. I knew that if I was forced to void my bladder in the van I would never live down the humiliation. I did not know, at the time, that this all made him feel superior, in control, powerful. I didn’t learn that until much later.

He did eventually pull over at a drive through and I popped out as soon as the van was moving slowly enough that I could escape. He taunted me for getting out when we were still so far from the building, but I could see that if he pulled into the drive through that there was not enough room on my side for the door to open and I would once again be trapped.

We arrived early for the lunch but I was completely frazzled. I’m sure he pointed out to people that I was just a little unstable, most of the time, and that he had just learned to deal with my mood swings.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

 

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

IMG_2802
Flowers, dinner and romance….nothing quite sets the tone like being pursued. Engagement, passion, abandonment. What? Is anything as lonely, isolating or unravelling, as being dropped like a hot potato? Did he actually get up and call the office right away? Is this really happening? He didn’t even pull on pants.

One of the hallmarks of the narcissistic personality is their ability to charm and romance a person into getting what they want. Another is how quickly that person is dropped once the narcissist gets what they were pursuing all along. This is part of what makes it so confusing. You can think back to all of the nice things that this person has done. You have memories of thoughtful acts, nice gifts, small kind gestures, and yet, you are now alone again and cannot seem to find the person that was so solicitous.

Unlike healthier relationships that are all give and take, that leave you feeling supported and loved, a narcissist does many of the same behaviours and then simply leaves. This may be emotional abandonment or physical abandonment but you are not supported and loved.

You know that you are in a relationship with a narcissist if you are often confused about what the status of your relationship is. If you have no idea what is going on and have the suspicion that you may be losing your mind, or at least having difficulty with your memory. If you are starting to feel off-balance you may feel that way because the narcissist wants you to. Part of the manipulative nature of a narcissist comes from their ability to make you doubt yourself. Most people, are not 100% sure that they are right all of the time and the narcissist knows this and uses it against you.

So, what to do? The first place to start is to try to tease out the difference between the normal ups and downs of any given relationship and the emotional swings of a relationship with a narcissist. They are superficially the same, but the intensity is different. In some cases, the narcissist needs conflict to “feel” anything at all and will cause fights just to experience the emotions that they dreg up. Another difference is how they behave in periods of crisis when you actually need them. For instance, if you come home from work with bad news, how do they react? They despise having to “give” in a relationship and needing to support you is off-putting. Often they will be too busy with something important that they must do, will find an excuse to leave or simply attack you for not handling it better and for being so needy. These are all large red flags. The gold standard of narcissistic behaviour is the compromise. They don’t. If there is a situation when you want something and they want something else and there is no way that you can both have what you want they always win. Finally, nothing is ever their fault. If they forget, you should’ve reminded them. If there are problems at work it is because of the jerks that they have to work with. If something is done wrong the information was insufficient. It is never their fault. Consider these signs. Do any or all of them sound like your relationship? If they do, you can begin to see the relationship for what it is.

Protecting yourself is a step-by-step process. Begin by determining whether or not you are happy right now with your life as it is. This seems like a broad way to look at things, but narcissists affect your entire life. This is way bigger than your relationship. If you are often confused, lonely, angry or questioning your sanity how many friends do you think you’ll have? What is the quality of those relationships? How well will you be performing at work? Will you be able to find the energy to engage in your hobbies, passions or interests? Are you content with your life? If yes, you are done. If no, go to the next step.

Start taking notes; as often and as many as possible. Be honest, NEVER exaggerate. This becomes important when you are reviewing them later. If you make a promise to yourself to record what actually happened and how you actually felt, it is your truth. This is how you remember things. It may not be the “truth” but it is how you experienced it. Part of the power that the narcissist has is that they know that you cannot be completely sure of yourself and they occupy that space like ice freezing in a crack, expanding until a large hole is left where your confidence used to be. Now you have a tool to protect yourself when they start to rewrite history or say things that make you question yourself.

Also, it is common to underestimate how awful something in the past felt. By promising yourself that you will never exaggerate, you can revisit how you actually felt. It will surprise you to see how differently you remember the bad times. The mind has a way of forgetting the bad parts of our lives, to some extent. It will be harder to tell yourself that it is not as bad as you imagine because you wrote down how you actually felt at the time.

Record the good times and the bad. Try to make notes about what preceded the bits that you like or did not like. The purpose of this is to see if there is a pattern. In a healthier relationship, nice time together is followed by a sort of after glow. You had a great day together and now you are content, perhaps at work or doing what you do in a day. In a narcissistic relationship, time spent together is used as a way to meet their needs, whatever they were, and now you are not needed. There is no “after glow” you are now ignored. They may not have even spoken to you before you left the house. You have no idea what you have done to make them so distant. Fights may spring out of no where. Romance is always in pursuit of things. Keep as many notes as possible, because if you try to discuss these concerns with your partner they will deny the patterns, rewrite the sequence of how things happened and make it about you, not them. It is never their fault.

Observe their behaviour with this question in mind: What do they want right now? This is a powerful question because it helps you see them for the manipulators that they are. If wine and a good dinner have ended in romance in the past, decide to not engage this time. What happens? If they are trying to start a fight, notice how they are purposely pushing your buttons. Why can that suggestion give them so much power to make you feel defensive? Isn’t that an old issue that was never resolved? Why are they bringing that up now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? Repeat it when you are in good and bad situations.

Make peace with the fact that there are good aspects to the relationship. Yes, you would not be with this person if all you saw was the bad. Know that there are people in the world that you can share good times with that do not also destroy your life and your self-confidence. When a narcissist is charming, they are very charming. It is normal to be attracted to someone that treats you so well. It is normal to want to be loved. It is normal to find many things that you like about this person. That is OK.

Understand that part of the pathology of narcissism is that they do not love the way that others do. They do not have the emotional attachment to you that you do for them. They may: want you around, like what you can do for them, enjoy having sex with you; but they do not have the same bonds as you do. This gives them all of the power. You need them more than they need you.

So, there you have it. You have identified that you are in a pathologic relationship. You realize that you do not like how it is affecting your life. You have noted the patterns and the manipulations. You have learned how to maintain your sanity. You understand that this is who they are and despite promises they will not change. You know that they do not love you as you love them. Now, you have to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Martha Beck coaching in ways that are meant to help you get out of places in your life where you are stuck.

Leaving the Narcissist

Why Were You With a Narcissist?

Leaving the Narcissist

IMGP4728Should I stay or should I go? This is not an easy question for those of you living with a narcissist. True to their nature, these people are able to woo you the way you like it best, so it is difficult to move away. They are exceptional at knowing how to make you feel the way that you want to feel. Unfortunately, they can make your life a living hell as well.

If you have had enough of the emotional drama, the swings in your relationship, the unpredictability from moment to moment and the soul crushing doubt that can descend when your confidence has been undermined, it may be time to develop an exit strategy. This, of course, is not your only option. Even though these people are highly pathologic and difficult to be with, you may decide to stay. They can be very charismatic people and you never get bored. Either way, the tips below can help you cope with your situation and may or may not be your ticket out the door, if you do decide to leave.

The starting point has to be the acceptance of the fact that things will not change. They will not change. This is simply the way that your relationship will be for the rest of the time. This is the most difficult and most important step in either staying or going. Finally letting go of the hope that the narcissist will change and do all of the things that they have promised that they will do is quite difficult. Make it your mantra. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. What I mean by this is that since the narcissist is so good at telling you what you want to hear, they will know what to promise. It does not matter to them if it is a lie or not because they lie as a matter of course. They will agree to anything, go to counselling, try new things, anything, if they think that that will make you stay. It is all a lie. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

Then you must accept them and forgive yourself. What I mean by acceptance is not the absolution of sins. It is the understanding that anything in the past, is what it is. It does not mean that it is OK. It does not mean that you weren’t hurt, that you aren’t disappointed in yourself for your past behaviour or that you would want to do any of it again. It means that you stop trying to rewrite history. Any thought process that starts with some variation of, “if things had been different, then….. ” means that you have not accepted the truth of what happened. When you find yourself wishing that your life was different, pay attention, remind yourself that you cannot change things that have happened in the past and accept the past for what it is. You know that you have been successful with this step when you stop berating yourself for your failings, you stop wishing things had been different and you feel a sense of calm come over you when you think about past events.

Start small. Accept that the narcissist forgot your birthday, or something small, and then work up to when you were really hurt by them. It happened. It is part of the past now and there is no way to change that. Forgive yourself for believing the lies and staying in a relationship that brought you so much pain. There are worst things in the world than loving and trusting. It does not make you a bad person or a stupid person. You were a loving person and a trusting person. You were purposefully misled by someone that does not care about you. It is what it is.

When you can honestly say to yourself that you know that your relationship will NOT improve, it is time to move to the next step. I detailed how to protect yourself from the narcissist in an earlier post. That post outlined keeping a journal and always asking yourself the question, what do they want right now? Moving into this observational stage is very important. It allows you to get some distance and improves your objectivity. Instead of swimming in a sea of confusion and being overtaken by waves of emotion, you can come up for air, reconnect with your sanity and see the shore.

The most powerful next step is to become less valuable to them. If you are still the person managing their lives and meeting their needs, you have value to them and they are less likely to let you go easily. When you ask yourself, “What do they want right now?” and you have a solid answer, do not give it to them. If they want a fight — agree (not to the fight!), instead of letting them pull you in. If they would like you to do something for them — don’t. Be careful here. You know whether or not they might become violent if you do not follow their rules. If you have any concerns for your safety, you are better off leaving. Some narcissists can become very violent if they cannot control you in any other way, so don’t be stupid about this. If you are in danger leave.

As you become less and less reliable and valuable to them they will begin to look for someone else. They don’t actually care about you, they only care about themselves and their needs aren’t being met so they will find a way to get them met. Expect this. Prepare yourself. Do not let jealousy pull you back into fighting for a relationship that you do not want. See it as a something you planned. If the narcissist can replace you, they will let you go without a fight and this is a good thing. You want to be replaced. The narcissist must always win and if you want to leave, you have to let them think that it was their idea.

Develop an exit strategy. Where will you go? How can you manage on your own or with the help of friends? Plan ahead. They must be the one that wants you gone or they’ll pursue you for a long time. They must win. In order to get what you want, which is your freedom, you must have a plan in place. Bide your time. When they finally have had enough with you, since you no longer meet their needs, they’ll want you gone. Agree. Go.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

One on One with Martha Beck: Should I Stay or Should I Go? MP3

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

The Chemistry of Connection

The Top 10 Signs You are Dating a Narcissist

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

IMG_1299We were in a hurry. We had a lunch to attend. It wasn’t so much that time was tight as the fact that he was the one that called the shots. If he was going to get the most out of his day, doing anything for someone else was always inconvenient. We were on the highway on the way home from a lodge. He had been working at the lodge, giving a talk, and because it was such a scenic setting, it was decided that I would go along.

I had golfed with him once at the lodge and I found it too challenging for me. He had wanted to golf again, so we went out that morning. I had no intention of golfing, it simply would have taken too long, and I knew that we didn’t have enough time, so I travelled along in the golf cart. The problem was that when we were as far as possible from the clubhouse, I realized I needed to pee.

Now, this is not normally a huge problem on a golf course. There are large relatively private places where you can take care of things discretely. Unfortunately, the people managing the course seemed to be a little suspicious of two people going out onto the course and only one person paying for a game, so they kept sending people around to make sure that I was, in fact, just watching.

Each time that I left the golf cart and tried to move into an area of relative privacy, someone from the club would come by in a truck, on a golf cart or simply walk in our direction. It was not going to happen. I was not going to get a chance to pee.

When he was finished playing golf he asked me not to go into the club house for fear that it bring up questions of whether or not I had played. We were leaving the lodge right away and it was decided that we would stop along the highway. I was becoming somewhat impatient.

As I write this story, it gives me that tense feeling that I get watching movies when you see the person making mistake after mistake and you know for sure that they are digging themselves into a hole. You want to scream, “Don’t do that!” or “Pay attention!” Little did I know at the time, but I was giving him great power. He fed off of this feeling of being in control, of having someone that desperately needed him to do something for them. He started to abuse this power.

I did not recognize at the time that he was probably amused by all of this. I could see that there was a place to pull off ahead and I said something like, “There is a Tim Horton’s up here.” He drove by it. Now, this is a four lane, restricted access highway that we were on and rest stops and exits were not that common on this stretch of the road.

I got angry. He claimed that I had not been clear enough that I had wanted him to stop. Now, I was at the point where I wanted him to just pull off to the side of the road. I would take my luck on the embankment. He would not stop.” We are in a hurry.” “I may be late if we stop.” “They are expecting us for lunch.”

Then the attacks started. I should’ve used a washroom before we left the lodge. I should be clearer if I want him to pull over. I was stupid for leaving things until I was so desperate. My choices were quite limited. I was uncomfortable now to the point that I was starting to worry that I might damage my bladder. I could just pee on the front seat of the van, or anywhere else in the van.

He was smug. He was certain that he was right and that my demands were unreasonable. Then I started to scream at him. Now, he pointed out, I shouldn’t get so emotional; I was insane and acting foolishly. I knew that if I was forced to void my bladder in the van I would never live down the humiliation. I did not know, at the time, that this all made him feel superior, in control, powerful. I didn’t learn that until much later.

He did eventually pull over at a drive through and I popped out as soon as the van was moving slowly enough that I could escape. He taunted me for getting out when we were still so far from the building, but I could see that if he pulled into the drive through that there was not enough room on my side for the door to open and I would once again be trapped.

We arrived early for the lunch but I was completely frazzled. I’m sure he pointed out to people that I was just a little unstable, most of the time, and that he had just learned to deal with my mood swings.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

 

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

IMG_2802
Flowers, dinner and romance….nothing quite sets the tone like being pursued. Engagement, passion, abandonment. What? Is anything as lonely, isolating or unravelling, as being dropped like a hot potato? Did he actually get up and call the office right away? Is this really happening? He didn’t even pull on pants.

One of the hallmarks of the narcissistic personality is their ability to charm and romance a person into getting what they want. Another is how quickly that person is dropped once the narcissist gets what they were pursuing all along. This is part of what makes it so confusing. You can think back to all of the nice things that this person has done. You have memories of thoughtful acts, nice gifts, small kind gestures, and yet, you are now alone again and cannot seem to find the person that was so solicitous.

Unlike healthier relationships that are all give and take, that leave you feeling supported and loved, a narcissist does many of the same behaviours and then simply leaves. This may be emotional abandonment or physical abandonment but you are not supported and loved.

You know that you are in a relationship with a narcissist if you are often confused about what the status of your relationship is. If you have no idea what is going on and have the suspicion that you may be losing your mind, or at least having difficulty with your memory. If you are starting to feel off-balance you may feel that way because the narcissist wants you to. Part of the manipulative nature of a narcissist comes from their ability to make you doubt yourself. Most people, are not 100% sure that they are right all of the time and the narcissist knows this and uses it against you.

So, what to do? The first place to start is to try to tease out the difference between the normal ups and downs of any given relationship and the emotional swings of a relationship with a narcissist. They are superficially the same, but the intensity is different. In some cases, the narcissist needs conflict to “feel” anything at all and will cause fights just to experience the emotions that they dreg up. Another difference is how they behave in periods of crisis when you actually need them. For instance, if you come home from work with bad news, how do they react? They despise having to “give” in a relationship and needing to support you is off-putting. Often they will be too busy with something important that they must do, will find an excuse to leave or simply attack you for not handling it better and for being so needy. These are all large red flags. The gold standard of narcissistic behaviour is the compromise. They don’t. If there is a situation when you want something and they want something else and there is no way that you can both have what you want they always win. Finally, nothing is ever their fault. If they forget, you should’ve reminded them. If there are problems at work it is because of the jerks that they have to work with. If something is done wrong the information was insufficient. It is never their fault. Consider these signs. Do any or all of them sound like your relationship? If they do, you can begin to see the relationship for what it is.

Protecting yourself is a step-by-step process. Begin by determining whether or not you are happy right now with your life as it is. This seems like a broad way to look at things, but narcissists affect your entire life. This is way bigger than your relationship. If you are often confused, lonely, angry or questioning your sanity how many friends do you think you’ll have? What is the quality of those relationships? How well will you be performing at work? Will you be able to find the energy to engage in your hobbies, passions or interests? Are you content with your life? If yes, you are done. If no, go to the next step.

Start taking notes; as often and as many as possible. Be honest, NEVER exaggerate. This becomes important when you are reviewing them later. If you make a promise to yourself to record what actually happened and how you actually felt, it is your truth. This is how you remember things. It may not be the “truth” but it is how you experienced it. Part of the power that the narcissist has is that they know that you cannot be completely sure of yourself and they occupy that space like ice freezing in a crack, expanding until a large hole is left where your confidence used to be. Now you have a tool to protect yourself when they start to rewrite history or say things that make you question yourself.

Also, it is common to underestimate how awful something in the past felt. By promising yourself that you will never exaggerate, you can revisit how you actually felt. It will surprise you to see how differently you remember the bad times. The mind has a way of forgetting the bad parts of our lives, to some extent. It will be harder to tell yourself that it is not as bad as you imagine because you wrote down how you actually felt at the time.

Record the good times and the bad. Try to make notes about what preceded the bits that you like or did not like. The purpose of this is to see if there is a pattern. In a healthier relationship, nice time together is followed by a sort of after glow. You had a great day together and now you are content, perhaps at work or doing what you do in a day. In a narcissistic relationship, time spent together is used as a way to meet their needs, whatever they were, and now you are not needed. There is no “after glow” you are now ignored. They may not have even spoken to you before you left the house. You have no idea what you have done to make them so distant. Fights may spring out of no where. Romance is always in pursuit of things. Keep as many notes as possible, because if you try to discuss these concerns with your partner they will deny the patterns, rewrite the sequence of how things happened and make it about you, not them. It is never their fault.

Observe their behaviour with this question in mind: What do they want right now? This is a powerful question because it helps you see them for the manipulators that they are. If wine and a good dinner have ended in romance in the past, decide to not engage this time. What happens? If they are trying to start a fight, notice how they are purposely pushing your buttons. Why can that suggestion give them so much power to make you feel defensive? Isn’t that an old issue that was never resolved? Why are they bringing that up now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? Repeat it when you are in good and bad situations.

Make peace with the fact that there are good aspects to the relationship. Yes, you would not be with this person if all you saw was the bad. Know that there are people in the world that you can share good times with that do not also destroy your life and your self-confidence. When a narcissist is charming, they are very charming. It is normal to be attracted to someone that treats you so well. It is normal to want to be loved. It is normal to find many things that you like about this person. That is OK.

Understand that part of the pathology of narcissism is that they do not love the way that others do. They do not have the emotional attachment to you that you do for them. They may: want you around, like what you can do for them, enjoy having sex with you; but they do not have the same bonds as you do. This gives them all of the power. You need them more than they need you.

So, there you have it. You have identified that you are in a pathologic relationship. You realize that you do not like how it is affecting your life. You have noted the patterns and the manipulations. You have learned how to maintain your sanity. You understand that this is who they are and despite promises they will not change. You know that they do not love you as you love them. Now, you have to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Martha Beck coaching in ways that are meant to help you get out of places in your life where you are stuck.

Leaving the Narcissist

Why Were You With a Narcissist?

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

IMG_1299We were in a hurry. We had a lunch to attend. It wasn’t so much that time was tight as the fact that he was the one that called the shots. If he was going to get the most out of his day, doing anything for someone else was always inconvenient. We were on the highway on the way home from a lodge. He had been working at the lodge, giving a talk, and because it was such a scenic setting, it was decided that I would go along.

I had golfed with him once at the lodge and I found it too challenging for me. He had wanted to golf again, so we went out that morning. I had no intention of golfing, it simply would have taken too long, and I knew that we didn’t have enough time, so I travelled along in the golf cart. The problem was that when we were as far as possible from the clubhouse, I realized I needed to pee.

Now, this is not normally a huge problem on a golf course. There are large relatively private places where you can take care of things discretely. Unfortunately, the people managing the course seemed to be a little suspicious of two people going out onto the course and only one person paying for a game, so they kept sending people around to make sure that I was, in fact, just watching.

Each time that I left the golf cart and tried to move into an area of relative privacy, someone from the club would come by in a truck, on a golf cart or simply walk in our direction. It was not going to happen. I was not going to get a chance to pee.

When he was finished playing golf he asked me not to go into the club house for fear that it bring up questions of whether or not I had played. We were leaving the lodge right away and it was decided that we would stop along the highway. I was becoming somewhat impatient.

As I write this story, it gives me that tense feeling that I get watching movies when you see the person making mistake after mistake and you know for sure that they are digging themselves into a hole. You want to scream, “Don’t do that!” or “Pay attention!” Little did I know at the time, but I was giving him great power. He fed off of this feeling of being in control, of having someone that desperately needed him to do something for them. He started to abuse this power.

I did not recognize at the time that he was probably amused by all of this. I could see that there was a place to pull off ahead and I said something like, “There is a Tim Horton’s up here.” He drove by it. Now, this is a four lane, restricted access highway that we were on and rest stops and exits were not that common on this stretch of the road.

I got angry. He claimed that I had not been clear enough that I had wanted him to stop. Now, I was at the point where I wanted him to just pull off to the side of the road. I would take my luck on the embankment. He would not stop.” We are in a hurry.” “I may be late if we stop.” “They are expecting us for lunch.”

Then the attacks started. I should’ve used a washroom before we left the lodge. I should be clearer if I want him to pull over. I was stupid for leaving things until I was so desperate. My choices were quite limited. I was uncomfortable now to the point that I was starting to worry that I might damage my bladder. I could just pee on the front seat of the van, or anywhere else in the van.

He was smug. He was certain that he was right and that my demands were unreasonable. Then I started to scream at him. Now, he pointed out, I shouldn’t get so emotional; I was insane and acting foolishly. I knew that if I was forced to void my bladder in the van I would never live down the humiliation. I did not know, at the time, that this all made him feel superior, in control, powerful. I didn’t learn that until much later.

He did eventually pull over at a drive through and I popped out as soon as the van was moving slowly enough that I could escape. He taunted me for getting out when we were still so far from the building, but I could see that if he pulled into the drive through that there was not enough room on my side for the door to open and I would once again be trapped.

We arrived early for the lunch but I was completely frazzled. I’m sure he pointed out to people that I was just a little unstable, most of the time, and that he had just learned to deal with my mood swings.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

 

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

Leaving the Narcissist

IMGP4728Should I stay or should I go? This is not an easy question for those of you living with a narcissist. True to their nature, these people are able to woo you the way you like it best, so it is difficult to move away. They are exceptional at knowing how to make you feel the way that you want to feel. Unfortunately, they can make your life a living hell as well.

If you have had enough of the emotional drama, the swings in your relationship, the unpredictability from moment to moment and the soul crushing doubt that can descend when your confidence has been undermined, it may be time to develop an exit strategy. This, of course, is not your only option. Even though these people are highly pathologic and difficult to be with, you may decide to stay. They can be very charismatic people and you never get bored. Either way, the tips below can help you cope with your situation and may or may not be your ticket out the door, if you do decide to leave.

The starting point has to be the acceptance of the fact that things will not change. They will not change. This is simply the way that your relationship will be for the rest of the time. This is the most difficult and most important step in either staying or going. Finally letting go of the hope that the narcissist will change and do all of the things that they have promised that they will do is quite difficult. Make it your mantra. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. What I mean by this is that since the narcissist is so good at telling you what you want to hear, they will know what to promise. It does not matter to them if it is a lie or not because they lie as a matter of course. They will agree to anything, go to counselling, try new things, anything, if they think that that will make you stay. It is all a lie. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

Then you must accept them and forgive yourself. What I mean by acceptance is not the absolution of sins. It is the understanding that anything in the past, is what it is. It does not mean that it is OK. It does not mean that you weren’t hurt, that you aren’t disappointed in yourself for your past behaviour or that you would want to do any of it again. It means that you stop trying to rewrite history. Any thought process that starts with some variation of, “if things had been different, then….. ” means that you have not accepted the truth of what happened. When you find yourself wishing that your life was different, pay attention, remind yourself that you cannot change things that have happened in the past and accept the past for what it is. You know that you have been successful with this step when you stop berating yourself for your failings, you stop wishing things had been different and you feel a sense of calm come over you when you think about past events.

Start small. Accept that the narcissist forgot your birthday, or something small, and then work up to when you were really hurt by them. It happened. It is part of the past now and there is no way to change that. Forgive yourself for believing the lies and staying in a relationship that brought you so much pain. There are worst things in the world than loving and trusting. It does not make you a bad person or a stupid person. You were a loving person and a trusting person. You were purposefully misled by someone that does not care about you. It is what it is.

When you can honestly say to yourself that you know that your relationship will NOT improve, it is time to move to the next step. I detailed how to protect yourself from the narcissist in an earlier post. That post outlined keeping a journal and always asking yourself the question, what do they want right now? Moving into this observational stage is very important. It allows you to get some distance and improves your objectivity. Instead of swimming in a sea of confusion and being overtaken by waves of emotion, you can come up for air, reconnect with your sanity and see the shore.

The most powerful next step is to become less valuable to them. If you are still the person managing their lives and meeting their needs, you have value to them and they are less likely to let you go easily. When you ask yourself, “What do they want right now?” and you have a solid answer, do not give it to them. If they want a fight — agree (not to the fight!), instead of letting them pull you in. If they would like you to do something for them — don’t. Be careful here. You know whether or not they might become violent if you do not follow their rules. If you have any concerns for your safety, you are better off leaving. Some narcissists can become very violent if they cannot control you in any other way, so don’t be stupid about this. If you are in danger leave.

As you become less and less reliable and valuable to them they will begin to look for someone else. They don’t actually care about you, they only care about themselves and their needs aren’t being met so they will find a way to get them met. Expect this. Prepare yourself. Do not let jealousy pull you back into fighting for a relationship that you do not want. See it as a something you planned. If the narcissist can replace you, they will let you go without a fight and this is a good thing. You want to be replaced. The narcissist must always win and if you want to leave, you have to let them think that it was their idea.

Develop an exit strategy. Where will you go? How can you manage on your own or with the help of friends? Plan ahead. They must be the one that wants you gone or they’ll pursue you for a long time. They must win. In order to get what you want, which is your freedom, you must have a plan in place. Bide your time. When they finally have had enough with you, since you no longer meet their needs, they’ll want you gone. Agree. Go.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

One on One with Martha Beck: Should I Stay or Should I Go? MP3

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

The Chemistry of Connection

The Top 10 Signs You are Dating a Narcissist

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

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Flowers, dinner and romance….nothing quite sets the tone like being pursued. Engagement, passion, abandonment. What? Is anything as lonely, isolating or unravelling, as being dropped like a hot potato? Did he actually get up and call the office right away? Is this really happening? He didn’t even pull on pants.

One of the hallmarks of the narcissistic personality is their ability to charm and romance a person into getting what they want. Another is how quickly that person is dropped once the narcissist gets what they were pursuing all along. This is part of what makes it so confusing. You can think back to all of the nice things that this person has done. You have memories of thoughtful acts, nice gifts, small kind gestures, and yet, you are now alone again and cannot seem to find the person that was so solicitous.

Unlike healthier relationships that are all give and take, that leave you feeling supported and loved, a narcissist does many of the same behaviours and then simply leaves. This may be emotional abandonment or physical abandonment but you are not supported and loved.

You know that you are in a relationship with a narcissist if you are often confused about what the status of your relationship is. If you have no idea what is going on and have the suspicion that you may be losing your mind, or at least having difficulty with your memory. If you are starting to feel off-balance you may feel that way because the narcissist wants you to. Part of the manipulative nature of a narcissist comes from their ability to make you doubt yourself. Most people, are not 100% sure that they are right all of the time and the narcissist knows this and uses it against you.

So, what to do? The first place to start is to try to tease out the difference between the normal ups and downs of any given relationship and the emotional swings of a relationship with a narcissist. They are superficially the same, but the intensity is different. In some cases, the narcissist needs conflict to “feel” anything at all and will cause fights just to experience the emotions that they dreg up. Another difference is how they behave in periods of crisis when you actually need them. For instance, if you come home from work with bad news, how do they react? They despise having to “give” in a relationship and needing to support you is off-putting. Often they will be too busy with something important that they must do, will find an excuse to leave or simply attack you for not handling it better and for being so needy. These are all large red flags. The gold standard of narcissistic behaviour is the compromise. They don’t. If there is a situation when you want something and they want something else and there is no way that you can both have what you want they always win. Finally, nothing is ever their fault. If they forget, you should’ve reminded them. If there are problems at work it is because of the jerks that they have to work with. If something is done wrong the information was insufficient. It is never their fault. Consider these signs. Do any or all of them sound like your relationship? If they do, you can begin to see the relationship for what it is.

Protecting yourself is a step-by-step process. Begin by determining whether or not you are happy right now with your life as it is. This seems like a broad way to look at things, but narcissists affect your entire life. This is way bigger than your relationship. If you are often confused, lonely, angry or questioning your sanity how many friends do you think you’ll have? What is the quality of those relationships? How well will you be performing at work? Will you be able to find the energy to engage in your hobbies, passions or interests? Are you content with your life? If yes, you are done. If no, go to the next step.

Start taking notes; as often and as many as possible. Be honest, NEVER exaggerate. This becomes important when you are reviewing them later. If you make a promise to yourself to record what actually happened and how you actually felt, it is your truth. This is how you remember things. It may not be the “truth” but it is how you experienced it. Part of the power that the narcissist has is that they know that you cannot be completely sure of yourself and they occupy that space like ice freezing in a crack, expanding until a large hole is left where your confidence used to be. Now you have a tool to protect yourself when they start to rewrite history or say things that make you question yourself.

Also, it is common to underestimate how awful something in the past felt. By promising yourself that you will never exaggerate, you can revisit how you actually felt. It will surprise you to see how differently you remember the bad times. The mind has a way of forgetting the bad parts of our lives, to some extent. It will be harder to tell yourself that it is not as bad as you imagine because you wrote down how you actually felt at the time.

Record the good times and the bad. Try to make notes about what preceded the bits that you like or did not like. The purpose of this is to see if there is a pattern. In a healthier relationship, nice time together is followed by a sort of after glow. You had a great day together and now you are content, perhaps at work or doing what you do in a day. In a narcissistic relationship, time spent together is used as a way to meet their needs, whatever they were, and now you are not needed. There is no “after glow” you are now ignored. They may not have even spoken to you before you left the house. You have no idea what you have done to make them so distant. Fights may spring out of no where. Romance is always in pursuit of things. Keep as many notes as possible, because if you try to discuss these concerns with your partner they will deny the patterns, rewrite the sequence of how things happened and make it about you, not them. It is never their fault.

Observe their behaviour with this question in mind: What do they want right now? This is a powerful question because it helps you see them for the manipulators that they are. If wine and a good dinner have ended in romance in the past, decide to not engage this time. What happens? If they are trying to start a fight, notice how they are purposely pushing your buttons. Why can that suggestion give them so much power to make you feel defensive? Isn’t that an old issue that was never resolved? Why are they bringing that up now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? Repeat it when you are in good and bad situations.

Make peace with the fact that there are good aspects to the relationship. Yes, you would not be with this person if all you saw was the bad. Know that there are people in the world that you can share good times with that do not also destroy your life and your self-confidence. When a narcissist is charming, they are very charming. It is normal to be attracted to someone that treats you so well. It is normal to want to be loved. It is normal to find many things that you like about this person. That is OK.

Understand that part of the pathology of narcissism is that they do not love the way that others do. They do not have the emotional attachment to you that you do for them. They may: want you around, like what you can do for them, enjoy having sex with you; but they do not have the same bonds as you do. This gives them all of the power. You need them more than they need you.

So, there you have it. You have identified that you are in a pathologic relationship. You realize that you do not like how it is affecting your life. You have noted the patterns and the manipulations. You have learned how to maintain your sanity. You understand that this is who they are and despite promises they will not change. You know that they do not love you as you love them. Now, you have to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Martha Beck coaching in ways that are meant to help you get out of places in your life where you are stuck.

Leaving the Narcissist

Why Were You With a Narcissist?