My ordeal at the hands of narcissistic men started almost a decade ago, in 2009, to be precise. Even recalling it, makes me loathe the absurd amount of time I wasted wallowing in self-pity for years simply because I thought this is what ‘love’ feels like.
Walking away from an abusive and mentally draining relationship, especially with a narcissist takes more than courage and pep-talk.
Narcissism is often associated with being simply obsessed with one’s physical appearance. However, what most of us fail to recognize is, narcissism is more than just that – it is an inflated sense of self-importance and superiority that one attaches to themselves.
I have been in three serious relationships, and the degree of narcissistic personality disorder(NPD) in each of my partners was distinctly different from one another.
This was a time when I constantly questioned my self-worth, my self-esteem had gone for a toss, and I was continuously seeking validation from my partners. My 19-year old self was a naïve, gullible teenager- a batter of royal mess. Back then, neither did I realize the gravity of the situation nor could I foresee what the relationships would cost me. From a dominant and an entitled partner, to a man who refused to listen to any of my opinions, and a partner who lacked empathy of any kind whatsoever, I have witnessed it all. It wasn’t until in my late 20s that I recognized the red flags and connected the dots. My heart was often at war with two conflicting opinions. But like so many young girls in love, I was aware of the biases and the negativity, but too involved emotionally, to differentiate the right from the wrong.
How do you know if your partner is narcissistic?
There are many signs of narcissism that you could identify in the early stages of a relationship.
- You end up feeling guilty for everything
Narcissistic partners often manipulate and fabricate stories to their advantage. They often throw dirt at you for little things. Somehow, it’s always your fault. Your fault if you get a compliment, your fault if there is a fight between you two; they project their mistakes onto you so that they do not have to live with the guilt.
- A threatening figure
My relationship with an emotionally abusive and manipulative partner has taught me one thing. If your partner threatens you, no matter how mildly, RUN.
They often develop this mechanism to exercise their authority and instill fear in you. It could start from something like “I will leave you if you ever talk to them” or “I will not spare this person if you do not obey me next time”. The more you start enduring it, the more it becomes a habit and you give your partner an edge to hold you captive in his twisted and manipulative behavior. This is a recurring pattern- once your partner senses the fear in you, there is no going back. He/she will use it against you to keep you in check from time to time. Remember, they will break you bit by bit.
- Quick change of behavior.
This has happened to me a couple of times. They are quick to put you on a pedestal – next thing I knew, I landed with a thud. People suffering from NPD like to give you a false sense of security and love. At one moment, they could be hurling abuses at you, and the next moment, they try to appease you. They break your barriers and find your vulnerabilities, and then it only makes sense to you to seek comfort from their sweet nothings. The gullible ones sadly bite the dust.
The list of traits of a narcissistic partner is endless. It also differs person to person, but the common grounds are easy to identify – an inflated ego, a superior belief of importance, discarding your feelings off-handedly, the seething rage that takes over them when you defy them, an inherent sense of dominance and lack of empathy. Such people take advantage of your lack of self-love and boundaries. They drive pleasure from your misery, they dig deeper into the pain inflicted by them and when you least expect it, they lend you a helping hand. Moreover, you take it; you grasp that hand because you are tired of all the drama, the fight, and the pain that gnaws at you. In addition, the fear is enormous; your thoughts plunge into darkness. All you want to do is to go back to the happy place before they unleashed their demons on you.
I had an abusive partner, both physically and emotionally. I am also guilty of feeding my partner’s ego by acting timid and being the forgiving figure no matter how big a mistake he made. I had paved the way for him to knock at my door after he let me down. All, so because I wanted to smoothen the creases in our relationship. I know I should have put my foot down the first time I was held accountable for the silliest of reasons. Rather, I gave in, because that was the easier thing to do than fight back. Looking back, my independent alter ego is shocked at my 19-year old self. Nevertheless, I forgive her for not knowing better.
An outsider might not understand the plight, but once you stick to this toxic relation, you develop a mind-frame that is brimming with negativity, a lack of confidence and self-pity.
Leaving a narcissist is not easy. Their manipulation game is so strong that it often clouds our judgment. I have seen people around me struggling in emotionally toxic relationships. A close friend of mine was so consumed by it, that by the time she called it quits, she sought to heal mentally by moving to a different city altogether. That is the first step one needs to follow when you break up with a toxic partner. Give yourself the time to heal – rejuvenate your energy. Cutting off ties might not be easy, but trust me, that is the only way to snap out of it.
I am not going to preach a sermon in this article by claiming that I’m a “know it all” relationship adviser. All I seek from the readers is to notice the early signs of a narcissistic partner at the nascent stage and do the needful. You don’t have to stick around with a false hope in your head that you could change things for better. Do not wait for the knee-jerk reaction to jolt you back to reality. All you should care about is your mental well-being. For there is no greater peace than your peace of mind.
In addition, I can safely conclude that I am happy the way my experiences have molded me today. From being an overly sensitive girl to a highly practical and emotionally-sorted woman, I have created the perfect balance for myself. I have stopped giving two hoots to the tirade of comments that are thrown my way for being a single woman or unmarried. I go to bed after a drama-free day and a good day of hustle, and that suffices. I would rather choose this life than ever picture myself back in the situation that sucked the happiness out of me, and where I was a liability to my friends. I started throwing my share of troubles on their shoulders, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Now, I like knowing that I am in control of my emotions and how!
Shouldn’t that be enough? Having a partner is all fun and joy until it robs you of your self-esteem. And, if it isn’t a healthy and balanced relationship that you have, walk out of it before you are left to nurse your wounds in the dark.
As I write this, I am off to my third cup of tea. Maybe I will also pour me some wine later. After all, I deserve it for mustering enough courage to walk out of the clutches of toxic narcissist partners.