Narcissists all love to control their victims. Many use two tactics simultaneously to get what they want. Those tactics are nit picking & changing goals.
These evil tactics work very well together to make a victim feel not good enough, & willing to work harder & harder to please the narcissist. As an example, at the time my ex husband & I were together, I felt I was morbidly obese & disgusting. Looking back though at old pictures now, I see I was a normal weight. Not skinny, not fat.. normal. However, he constantly hinted that I needed to lose weight so I could look better. Our marriage was a nightmare, & I thought that if I just could lose weight, I could fix it. I know, this was very naive on my part but I was young & unaware of the kind of person I was dealing with at that time.
Anyway I lost weight.. 23 pounds to be precise. I fit into a size 6 comfortably & some size 4’s as well. Considering my frame & height, I was too thin, I think, but it still wasn’t good enough for my ex.
During my weight loss journey, my ex did not complement me or encourage me. The closest thing he said to a complement was, “Well your butt finally looks better.” He also made me feel like I needed to lose more & more weight in order to please him. As thin as I was at that time, I still felt that I was disgustingly fat & like if I didn’t lose some more weight, my marriage would fail because of it.
My ex husband’s nitpicking & changing the goals in that area gave me a very skewed view of not only my appearance which damaged my already fragile self esteem, but also my responsibility in our failing marriage. I felt as if I was completely to blame for the problems in our marriage, even though now I know I was not. This is basically the goal of a narcissist who employs nitpicking & changing the rules. If the narcissist can make their victim feel badly about themselves, they are easy to control, which of course is a great thing to a narcissist. And, if the narcissist can convince the victim that something is their fault, they will work hard to please the narcissist. The victim also will be so focused on trying to please the narcissist, they won’t realize that the narcissist is to blame, so the narcissist gets away with their abusive tactics. And, this builds up a tolerance to abuse in a victim, so a narcissist can do more awful things & get away with them.
No matter the relationship, all narcissists seem to use nitpicking & changing the goals as a way to abuse their victims. Parents use this tactic on their children even into adulthood, spouses use it, co workers & friends use it as well. It is wise to learn to recognize this abusive tactic, understand it & find ways to cope with it.
Recognizing it is pretty easy. When someone is excessively critical, even when said with feigned concern, & if the person also changes what they want from you often, these are big red flags.
You also need to keep in mind that this is not about you, it’s about the narcissist’s need to abuse & control you. The things they criticize aren’t necessarily flaws. Probably they are things you’re insecure about, so the narcissist uses your insecurities as a means to abuse you.
As for ways to cope, recognizing what is happening & remembering what the reasoning behind it is will help you tremendously. Stick to your boundaries, too. If you give a narcissist an inch, they’ll take 100 miles, so don’t give them what they want. Also, I firmly believe in praying, asking God to give you creative ideas to deal with a narcissist is always a very good move. He will give you effective ideas that you never would’ve thought of on your own. Let Him help you!