After years of being in all kinds of relationships with narcissists (family, friendship & romantic), I realize I’m different than your average woman. This happens to victims of narcissists. Even once we realize what has happened to us, we’re different because of the experience. Trauma has a way of changing a person.
Those changes can be for the better, such as when we are able to recognize abusive people quickly & set boundaries with them. The changes also can be for the worse. Sometimes dealing with those closest to us, especially our spouses, can be difficult even when it shouldn’t be simply because of our past experiences. I am hoping this post will help victims & their partners to understand what is happening so they can work through the problems together.
Victims are taught not to have needs & feelings & if they express any, narcissists shame them for having them. This can make it incredibly difficult to open up to anyone, even someone we love who isn’t a narcissist. First, a victim feels wrong & ashamed for feeling or needing whatever they do. Then that person is terrified of being shamed or invalidated for having them. Even if someone has been nothing but kind to a victim, the victim still can fear that person’s disapproval or rejection. If your partner is that way, please don’t take it personally. It isn’t your fault! It’s a side effect of narcissistic abuse. Please just be patient. Listen without offering advice unless you are asked for it. If you don’t understand something, ask questions without sounding judgmental.
Being overly negative happens sometimes too. Partner, it’s not your fault! Healing from narcissistic abuse is a long, arduous, painful journey. Sometimes it gets to be too much. It feels like everything is bad, even when it truly isn’t. It can be very easy for a victim to get mired down in negativity. Please do NOT tell this person to cheer up, others have it worse or get mad. That will only add to the negative mindset. Maybe suggest going out to dinner or to the park- some small gesture to distract the victim could be helpful. Make your loved one feel loved & safe. Let her know she can talk to you if she wants to, but doesn’t need to if she doesn’t want to.
Along the lines of being very negative is making small things a big deal. When you feel overwhelmed in trying to heal, or if you have C-PTSD or PTSD like so many victims of narcissistic abuse, sometimes you feel you can’t handle one more thing. Then when that one more thing comes along, it’s too much & you blow up. Even something as simple as misplacing a pen can push you over the edge & you snap at your spouse who had nothing to do with the missing pen. If this is happening, try suggesting some down time to your spouse. Suggest lunch out with a good friend, or you both go somewhere you enjoy like the movies. Even a brief reprieve can be helpful in regaining a better perspective.
Many victims project the image of not needing their partner. People who grew up with narcissistic parents had to be very self reliant. It became a way of life. Even if a victim has shed that behavior, if there is any issue in the victim’s marriage, self preservation kicks in & this behavior comes to the surface. As the person who sees this behavior, let it be a sign to you that something is wrong in your marriage. Try to figure it out. Ask your spouse if everything is OK & be reassuring of your love.
Emotional withdraw is common too. Suddenly, those little nice things your mate did for you stop or seem to be a burden to do. Maybe your mate is too tired for sex when that was never an issue before. This is a sign something is wrong. Try doing nice gestures like bringing home your partner’s favorite coffee or a new book, CD or DVD. Little gestures like that can be reassuring & may make your spouse feel more willing to open up to you.
Being married to someone who has survived narcissistic abuse can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. A little love, compassion & understanding can go a long way.