43 thoughts on “How to Identify a Narcissist In Family or Couples Counseling

  • August 10, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Wow!
    Great & insightful points that has helped reveal much about my mood swings… It shows I am also guilty of some of its traits.
    I’ve really found this useful.
    I’ll stay close & connected for more in order to improve on myself & also help others.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • August 10, 2015 at 7:15 am

    What do you do when confronted with a narcissist in this situation?

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    • August 12, 2015 at 11:07 am

      I agree with H.W.at this question. There is just too much of explaining what the symptoms are but totally lack of how to tackle it. Pls discuss more on the solution rather than the problem so that it is eventually useful for readers and not ending up as a frustration of not knowing ‘What do you do when confronted with a narcissist in this situation?’ Thank you
      concerned

      Reply
      • August 12, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        Thanks for the message, and request to say more about “how to tackle” this in therapy. I plan to write a separate article on this. Thanks for your patience.

        Reply
    • August 12, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Thanks for the comment, and question. As you can imagine, the response is not possible in a sentence or two. I have this on my list for upcoming blog… thanks again for your interest.

      Reply
      • August 12, 2015 at 7:01 pm

        Please know you have more than one person waiting for that blog post — especially those of us who are dealing with at least one parent who exhibits those traits (and quite possibly more than one).

        Do we have any idea when it might show up? Because I’m thinking the rather facile “end the relationship / go NC” which is so frequently offered as a “solution” in those situations by the mental health community is a little simplistic as a response … and those of us who’ve been brave enough to even admit this kind of thing might be what we’re dealing with and seek help (as difficult as the mental health “industry” sometimes makes it to advocate for oneself) might appreciate a few tools more effective than that and a little more support as a response.

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      • August 12, 2015 at 10:51 pm

        Thks so much, Athena, for your upcoming ‘solution-focused’ blog. Cheers.

        Reply
      • September 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        As it happens, I am continuing to be hopeful by having engaged a new therapist after a series of … less than positive encounters (apparently, the only kind of abuse for which therapeutic practitioners are disciplined under your ethics code is sexual abuse? I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, since it took the “industry” so long to recognize the existence of emotional abuse in the first place, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this point if it takes a commensurate period of time (hopefully this one won’t be at least a decade) to name the phenomenon inside the “profession”, as it pertains to treatment of clients).

        Thanks so much.

        🙂

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      • September 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm

        Glad you hung in there to find the right “fit” for you with a new therapist. I agree that the mental health field is slow to respond, like healthy industry, much is controlled by profit, pharmaceuticals, etc. Thanks again.

        Reply
    • August 13, 2015 at 4:29 am

      Thank you for this article, and like others I would love to know how one deals with a narcicist in the family (brother in my case). He doesn’t deny the “label” but being a trained psychotherist himself uses “psych talk” and what appears to his siblings to be manipulation so often.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    They may not show their nature immediately. These people are skilled charmers so it may take several intense sessions before the depth of their abuse and sense of entitlement is exposed. They are cunning and usually know better than to walk in and start trying to control everything.

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    • August 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Or, the narcissist simply walks into the first couples session and hands the Therapist a one and one-half page, single spaced list of what is wrong with the other person. Then insists the Therapist fix the other person. The list writer showed up out of concern (and contempt) for the other person. The Therapist then informs the narcissist that couples therapy could not continue until the list writer receives therapy first. The list writer then goes to another therapist and insists they cannot be in the office for their visits, but rather, needs to have 2 hour (not 1 hour) sessions via telephone. All conversations at home now center around the list writer’s problems, potential list of medications requested by the therapist, and the other person’s understanding of what “pushes their buttons” and that is what is wrong with the relationship. That was easy! The list writers carry a No Fault Insurance card in their top pocket at all times.

      Reply
      • August 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        Appreciate your comment, Beenthere! Thanks for sharing, yes, I will add this to my article. A therapist receiving a written list of ways their partner needs to be fixed is another flag … most certainly agree. It may be masked as “concerns” … and the contempt may be hidden or openly justified. And yes, it can feel as if they have a “no fault” insurance card “in their top pocket at all times”. 🙂 Thanks again for commenting.

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      • August 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        LOL! Are you sure you were not at my marriage therapy sessions with my ex? He had quite the list of my sins and faults…LOL!

        Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Yes, I second the previous question: what do you do?

    From my experience, there is nothing to be done. And sadly, the partner or other family members always end up suffering the terrible destructive consequences far far more than the narcissist. Having spent many years trying to understand, be compassionate, believing in the redemptive power of love, the value of loyalty, I can only say that I have badly lost out, as have my children, after years of deceit, confusion and manipulation. Whatever the reasons for the narcissist’s behaviour, compassion does not seem to help anything. The narcissist remains intent on self-preservation, whatever the cost to their partners and family.

    The only thing that has come through hours of therapy is the therapists intervening to put the brakes on some of the really destructive excesses to curb violence, threats and intimidation which the narcissist was engaging in private and then denying – probably even to himself I think. Being confronted with some of this reality in therapy in a mild but firm way has not brought about any real improvement but at least the narcissist is aware that there are forces, standards and rules beyond the family which he must take into account in his own behaviour within the family and the relationship.

    I appreciate this article because it refrains from the melodramatic and demonising packaging of many of the articles on this site about narcissism. It also validates the experience of partners and family members of this difficult personality type. Follow up articles in the same informed and objective vain would be very valuable and helpful.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Marriage counseling after I separated from Narcissitic ex was a hoot! Rookie “Christian” counselor (ex insisted) who let him wipe up the floor for 2 sessions until I put my foot down and said “enough!” I am a professional counselor and had to resist the urge to “school” said rookie…septic water under the bridge but the energy these folks suck out of both the therapist and the process is amazing!!

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    • August 12, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Denise, thanks for commenting. Yes most therapists are unprepared to work with narcissists, and I can see how this can especially apply in “traditional” male/female role in “Christian” counseling settings. Narcissists can be very convincing and use an arsenal of ways to get therapist to align with them … and if they don’t succeed, they are likely to derail therapy, stop coming, get partner to quit therapy, complain the therapist “hates” them, need to find “neutral” therapist, etc.

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      • August 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm

        The worst is that a true narcissist has the ability to coheres the therapist due to the force of their convictions. Its almost like the narcissist has to win and the therapist with poor ego strength may not get tired of fighting and give up control. It takes a very experienced therapist to keep those boundaries tight to help the patient get used to not being in control. Of course a trusting therapeutic relationship is the key to the success of all psychotherapy.
        Thank you for the article it was great to read about this topic.

        Diane

        Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 11:15 am

    My narcissitic husband kicked me out of the home two weeks ago, then backtracked when I started packing. Twenty seven years of trying to make it work. It’s never going to work, for me. I have been the caretaker of our 4 minor children. We also have two adult male children. All the kids know dad is self centered, but, does not see it that way. However, at the moment I have to have them live with him, since he is the provider. I’m on the upcline of getting my life back, while staying with my elderly parents. Everyone’s income is stictly limited, so vices are tight where budgets are concerned.

    Help with any advice, please. I have been the nurturer. This is so new. Taking steps.

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    • August 12, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks for the comment, gomommyez. An article with some advice is in the works, in the meantime make sure to find a professional to meet weekly to free your mind of thought control beliefs etc and restore your confidence and esteem; make time for friends, children, family to share meaningful moments and have fun together (abstain from talking about husbands problems); and take excellent care of your self mentally, emotionally and physically.

      These too are essential keys to doing more than “merely” surviving life with a narcissist. All human beings need (not want) to find meaningful relationships with others. In severe cases, a narcissist cannot give what they don’t have; it’s like asking a prune to give juice.

      Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I don’t want to be political, but this sounds like a certain presidential candidate.

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    • August 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Hilarious observation, Thomas! Spot on. In fact, Trump would not onlyagree, bets are he’d take this as a complement! Thanks for the laugh, though not really funny that millions could applaud or take him even somewhat seriously as a candidate for president of the U.S. of A.

      Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 11:54 am

    I noticed I was feeling very overwhelmed while reading this article. I was barely able to finish it. I had to go back to it several times to get through it. Reading it feels a bit like PTSD for me. This is why

    I am married (divorcing) my husband who I have been with for a total of 31 years and counting. Long, Long, Long story short. We have been to 14 marriage counselors. I finally stopped that cycle of abuse and have been in a slow recovery ever since.

    I never knew what hit me. I had no idea what was happening in all these marriage/couples counseling sessions. I tried, I stayed with therapists for years, I worked on myself, I did everything I could to understand myself and our relationship. I realize that NONE of these therapists ever “diagnosed” our relationship. I don’t mean that I needed them to give us a clinical diagnosis. I understand that diagnosis is to be done by thorough testing by a licensed Psychologist. However, no therapist ever used words like “enabler” or “controlling” or “lack of empathy” with either of us. I am now confounded by this and actually very overwhelmed by what I feel was irresponsible treatment.

    I now know very clearly and understand very deeply that I was in an abusive (verbal, mental, gaslighting) relationship with a Narcissistic person. Whether or not he has NPD, (he refuses to be tested), but based on what I know now, and being married/together with him for 31 years, I can say that his narcissism is extremely strong from my experience. Sadly, I did not know anything about narcissism and no therapist ever gave me a “heads-up”.

    The part of your blog that is so anxiety producing are the mentions of how the narcissist “behaves” in therapy. My experience is that my husband would “bait” me and “gaslight” me to the point of hysterics, right before each session. I remember feeling so desperate to understand what was happening in our marriage. I was so desperate for help. My husband was such a masterful, covert bully that he knew just how to behave and just what to say to me before our sessions. I was always so overwhelmed, sad, desperate, blaming myself, wanting the pain to stop, wanting someone to understand what I felt was happening, but could not seem to explain things, I was constantly confused by what he would say vs what he would do (I know understand what gaslighting is)…so anyway, I think I was going to these sessions and being “labeled” by the therapists because my narcissist husband was so good at being calm, charming, brilliant, seemingly caring and kind….while I was a complete wreck.

    It takes an incredibly skilled therapist to get in front of narcissistic behavior. The gaslighting in particular. I truly believe that sometimes, the person that “seems” like the crazy one in therapy, might actually be the one being abused.

    I have an individual therapist that I have been working with now for a couple of years who has helped me to understand what was “really” happening in our relationship and how to get out…and how to start over…..

    I’m still not “out” of this relationship. Not because I don’t want to be so desperately. We have not lived in the same space for years, but actually getting a legal divorce from my Narcissist has proven to be a very, very, very difficult process. Oh how I wish he would find another Narcissistic supply and drop me like a hot potato…..so far that is only wishful thinking.

    I truly hope that therapists can get much, much better at really truly understanding narcissism, sociopathy, psycopathy, etc., especially in a couples environment. This 50/50 stuff where BOTH people are EQUALLY responsible in a relationship is so very damaging when one person in the couple is a narcissist….and if a therapist can’t “call it like he/she sees it” because it would be “labeling” someone unfairly….then get out of the business of therapy…honestly….because folks who are in this kind of abusive relationship need REAL HELP and need someone to CALL OUT what is really going on!

    Been there…..done that….

    Reply
    • August 18, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Hello,

      Really looking forward to your reply from my original post. Your thoughts and comments will be most appreciated. Thank you

      Reply
      • September 2, 2015 at 11:55 am

        Thanks for commenting, and sharing your experience and struggles with an npd partner. If you’re not getting help, with a professional therapist, please do so as soon as possible, someone who can support you emotionally to leave and protect your sense of self and sanity. Otherwise, your unwilling “participation” is unwittingly “enabling” him to get more and more addicted to toxic behaviors. Keep us posted, thank you again.

        Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Will be really honest here. I have been on the narcissistic side of this…so I have been one of these, always going to the therapist to confirm what was right about me and wrong about everyone else. That is the bad news. The good news is that I have accepted my illness, if that is the right word, and have worked very hard to change, mostly by following a strong spiritual (not religious) path although I have to read a lot of religious literature to understand what it means to be a functional human being. There has been great progress in the last few years but still have to work on it on a day to day basis. The ability to be empathetic has been the big challenge…am so ashamed to say that….but ruthless judgement of others including ourselves is part of the condition. This way of being in the world was with another person in my family so some of the behaviors were learned but only I can unlearn them. Turning to spirituality, turning to God, to overcome the self is the only way I have found to get to the other side of it. The free will choice.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Interesting read, for me Id contend that some of these traits impact everyone to some degree. People should be careful trying to utilize these concept to label others. There are many factors impacting peoples behaviors and as Im pointing out above this is like a psychic reading without good understanding. Behaviors are a chaotic mix for everyone based on issues, injuries, dominate brain regions and more. Look to understand rather than label. This reminds me of my first book in body language where every move someone makes has to mean something. Perhaps its meaning is something other than your interpretation. 8)

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  • August 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Your articles on narcissism have strengthen me considerably. I have been divorced from him for 12 years and still can shiver when certain memories pop up. We went to 7 different counsellors during the last 18 years of 25 year marriage. He charmed them all until the last one. She helped me “see” that the situation would probably not change. The list of my faults were endless and it reality he projected his faults and insecurities onto me. I just wanted him to be “happy”. The kids and I are scarred but stable and mostly healthy. We all have full competent compassionate personalities. Thanks for your work.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    My daughter is now 46 and raising her was a challenge. I thought once she was on her own, I would be left alone. Not the case. She has poor parenting skills; therefore my husband and I helped raise my grandson who turned out to be a responsible adult. Then came my granddaughter who was an “oops baby”. She is 11 and about 6 months ago was diagnosed with ODD and ADHD. I’ve read about these mental health issues and I know that my daughter is doing everything wrong to help my g-daughter. She also has depression. I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with my daughter as she is always so angry and yells, among other things. She treats me like crap and I’ve done nothing but be there for her. She hasn’t spoken to me for 6 mo. except for one awkward evening and in a telephone conversation recently minced no words that she has no problem not talking to me another 6 mo. I’ve been doing so much reading, going to therapy, group therapy, treating for depression and recently articles on narcissim seems to be “falling my way”; so I’ve been reading up on it and I see her with it. I have no idea how to handle this. I miss my g-daughter and she keeps her from seeing or contacting me. I hurt so much.

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  • August 13, 2015 at 5:06 am

    I recently reconnected with an old boyfriend from 40 years ago. All of that time I had been trying to reach him (way before the internet) to apologize for hurting him all those years ago. He said there were no hard feelings on his part and added that we were both very young. He was 21 and I was 25. He is now married with three gorgeous children who adore him and vice versa.

    He told me that he and his wife would not be together were it not for a lot of therapy. “Turns out I’m not so easy to live with,” he said. “I’m a narcissist.”

    Nothing could have shocked me more. I said nothing at the time, but over four years it began to bother me more and more. This is why: He was the only truly loving man in my life. His mother hated any woman he was attached to and said dreadful things right in front of me as if I weren’t there. I experienced two other mothers like that later on, but he was the only one to take a stand on my behalf and he did so right in front of me.

    At one point in our relationship I became severely ill. He was desperate to get out to California and we were on our way when this mysterious illness struck again. I couldn’t walk. He carried me to the bathroom more than once. When I was well enough to travel he took me back to his father and step mother in Connecticut, where I underwent testing including for leukemia. It later turned out thatI had had Undulant Fever.

    When I left him the first time it was to go to Australia to see someone who had left me in the lurch before meeting the young man I refer to in this story.
    The Australian family had my wedding planned before I had even arrived. I was kept like a prisoner. I wrote to my old boyfriend, trying to be very upbeat. But he was sensitive enough to read between the lines and called my parents. My mother, who is insensitive and incapable of reading between lines of any sort. Was shocked and amazed, but offered no help in getting me out of there. It was that boyfriend who gathered up the money from some childhood friends of mine, but I’m sure he was the one who paid then most.

    If those aforementioned characteristics aren’t loaded with empathy, then what? He certainly doesn’t display a single sign of being a narcissist. So can one depart from his basic personality and become a narcissist? I have been involved with one and it nearly destroyed my life. He was living at the very least a triple life the whole time we were together. He was not only a narcissist. But a sociopath.

    I am disturbed that my old friend of so long ago was diagnosed (?) Or labeled with this disorder during the course of his marriage. Please enlighten me: Can someone become a narcissist when before he was able, more than able to experience empathy and compassion? I’m wondering if he and his wife had a bad therapist. On his advice I bought and read The Wizard of Oz and oTher Narcissists , but could find the man I knew. I am.not looking back through rose colored glasses.

    Can you help me with this,to me, very weird problem?

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  • August 13, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I’m 65, my wife 70, married 20 years, lived together for 3. First marriage for both of us. From the time we started dating, she would exhibit emotional volatility such as anger and rage directed at me for no reason. I would make a funny comment about something on tv or on the radio and she’d suddenly go ballistic. She had 3 or 4 drinks in the evening. I didn’t understand anything about alcoholism. I didn’t understand about emotional and verbal abuse, gaslighting, hoovering or FOG(fear, obligation, guilt). Why did I stay? Because I was naive and thinking with my genitalia. She was also hot and cold about sex.

    I was always trying to ‘understand’ her. I’m a man who tries to fix things or frame behavior in a comprehensible context. I lived through the hellish times and enjoyed the okay times. But I learned early on that I have to walk on eggshells around her. I also have untreatable bipolar illness but when we met it was in remission because I was able to sleep without meds and hold a stressful job which I loved but had to leave in 2004 when my illness worsened.

    That’s when the hell really got worse. Though I worked part time for a few more years, until I went on disability in June, 2011, I was totally dependent on her for a roof over my head. I also signed a prenup before we married and she still throws it in my face to remind me that if I leave, I’ll be homeless. I’ve left, anyway, a couple of times, and allowed myself to be hoovered back in. She’s learned, over time, that she can call my bluff and I fold. I feel ashamed of not being a stronger man. I’ve also lost the ability to sexually function.

    When she wants to stick it to me, she reminds me that I’m living in HER house. I told my therapist that she’s manipulative, dishonest about herself, and her default mode is the teary eyed, wounded little girl, which is the one that makes me feel guilty…except I don’t know what I’m feeling guilty about when all I’m trying to do is save my life.

    We’ve been in and out of couples therapy(currently back in) and I’ve been in individual therapy. I’ve learned, from reading and therapy, to understand that she’s seriously emotionally damaged; it’s all about her life, her possessions, her wants, her needs and worst, she professes to be a Buddhist but I don’t see compassion extended to me. I feel like I’ve been in prison for 23 years or trapped in an alternate reality. Being homeless at any age is horrible but being homeless, with a mental illness, unable to hold a job, at 65 years old is a nightmare. That’s why I’ve got the names of a few lawyers. I really don’t want her stinking money but if she wants to play hardball, I’ll have to respond in kind. And for the record, I don’t want any meaningful relationships anymore. I want to be free, happy and reasonably healthy. Also, to find a woman who wants sex with no strings would be nice.

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    • August 16, 2015 at 8:01 am

      Thanks for commenting “inTheDark” … From what you describe in your comments, we cannot conclude that your wife meets criteria for narcissism without considering other factors.

      For example, your wife’s emotional volatility, anger and rage are problematic ways of expressing hurt feelings to be sure, and her adding alcohol to the mix guaranteed to increase volatility of interactions with others … however, the issues you describe per se are typical of what many (most?) couples suffer through in varying degrees …

      The things she said to you were hurtful, and yes no doubt cruel … While cruel words are never excusable, it’s also true that hurt people hurt people … and partners say and do hurtful things in attempt to get back the love they need … and most of these shame, guilt-inducing statements are “learned” (i.e., from how our parents reacted to us, our siblings, or one another when they were triggered).

      It’s impossible to be in a relationship and not hurt each other. For this reason, it’s really important to take other things into consideration before identifying your ex wife as a “narcissist.”

      What we can say for certain, for certain here, is that most all couples and families would benefit tremendously from making a commitment to make their homes and relationships harsh-criticism, cruel comment-free zones.”

      Many problem interactions between men and women in their couple relationship, in my opinion, are rooted in limiting beliefs that “normalize” certain toxic ways men and women behave in couple relationships — and these beliefs have to do with learned, widely prevailing cultural norms of what it means to be a man/husband and “masculine,” versus woman/wife and a “good woman”… which set both men and women up to fail.

      For example, it’s not uncommon for men to think it’s their job “to fix” their wives (and feel proud of this!) their wives, more specifically, it usually means to “keep them in their place” , that is, from ever complaining or making demands for things that men are socialized to regard as uncomfortable and not masculine, such as more closeness and emotional connection, being sensitive to their feelings with regard to the “comments” they make etc.

      This cultural conditioning of men to think its’ their job to disregard women’s feelings about when she wants to have sex, accuse her of trying to be “in control” or “selfish” etc, expect her to be aroused and available whenever her partner wants sex, and ignore what she needs to feel aroused (often, emotional connection with partner, etc) … wounds men as well as women.

      It prevents them from enjoying and giving freely, with the person who for the most part may be the person who most has his back … rather than seeing her as the person he must most guard against to “prove” his status and masculinity etc.

      This conditioning for men likely explains why narcissism is, for the most part, in over 80% to 85% of cases of narcissism are men. (This makes sense considering that many of the narcissistic traits, such as displaying dominance, superiority, keeping others in their place to enforce status, for example, are behaviors that are highly regarded traits for men, which they’re “expected” to display in relation to their partner/spouse.)

      Additionally, in the case you describe, however, to explore the possibility for narcissistic patterns, we’d have to look more closely at some statements you made to describe her, for example, that:

      …your wife suddenly went “ballistic” and that it was “just” because you would make certain “comments” about a TV program etc.
      …you only stayed in the relationship as long as you did for the sex
      …what you need to find is a woman who has “sex without conditions”

      Thus, in many cases, a man may “think” he “understands” his partner, but in effect due to their socialization, men perceive women overall as “inferior” or “weak” men, who haven’t learned to shut down their feelings when others degrade or put them down — and thus they need to be fixed.

      It makes sense that many men bring this belief that they need to “fix” their partner’s emotional “craziness,” when you consider that, after all, these are the same ways that men are socially conditioned from boyhood to “fix” themselves, deny pain as weakness, stay away from vulnerable emotions, get “emotionally” tough, be able to “take it on the chin like a man” and engage one another in “one-upping” behaviors.

      Similarly, it makes sense that a normal, healthy woman may feel upset to be treated as if there’s something “wrong” with her, or that she needs to be “fixed,” when she tells her partner that something he did hurts her, that she’s not in the mood for sex, etc. No human being, male or female, young or old, likes to be treated like a fix-it project.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    OMG! This is my EXACT experience of attending counseling with an NPD. It’s amazing to read this, and I hope you don’t mind if I re-post it on my site… it makes me feel a whole lot less crazy, to read this. It’s absolutely perfect in describing my experience.
    Thank you so much, Amber
    http://www.intothesoul.com

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  • August 13, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    I am a little intrigued about some of these comments – there seems to be a lot of underlying energy being spent in trying to work out how to ‘fix’ a narcissist or ‘respond’ to a narcissist. I’m reminded of a joke told (apparently) by David Schnark years ago. Husband and wife in bed one morning – husband turns to wife and says that ‘that was lousy sex last night’ – she turns to husband and says ‘I don’t know about you, but I had a great time with the man I was with’

    Ties in with something that I think is sometimes overlooked in couples work. If I get a mesage from my partner, I might try to ‘shoot the messenger’ so that I don’t get that message – problem is that the message that I get is not necessarily a message that my partner is giving me, but instead the message that I give myself, based on how I see myself.

    I’m hearing lots of sadness and pain in these blogs – it’s okay to grieve a lost dream. Care for yourselves. The only person you can change is you.

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  • August 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Don’t know if it was a tech glitch but I posted a long reply about my narcissist wife and I and how I pursed this woman whom I thought was my dream woman/soulmate, ignoring all the signs of emotional instability(volatile moods, anger, insults, put downs, sexual ambivalence, learning to walk on egg shells)as well as alcoholism, making the past 23 years of my life(I’m 65, she’s 70)a miserable, hellish existence by staying with this broken woman whom I thought I could ‘fix’. And we’ve been in and out of couples therapy, where she professes not to understand why I’m so angry at her, never being able to fully take responsibility for the emotional damage she’s caused, as well as playing down or dismissing hurtful comments that are burned into my memory. As emotionally damaged as she is, I allowed her to do all this because I STAYED! “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves.”

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  • August 15, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I come from a family filled with these types of people. How I walked away from them with my sanity intact and the ability to accept responsibility for my actions, empathize with others and sincerely apologize when necessary is beyond my comprehension.

    I’ve spent more time kicking these types of people out of my life than being given the opurtunity to embrace the truly decent human beings out there.

    They’re amazing at acting somewhat normal upon first meeting its shocking. They’re incredible actors. However the act soon fades as you begin to trust them.

    These types of people have ruined portions of my life. They’ve taken achievable dreams/goals that simply required some sincere team work and busted them over their knee with a smile. Their profound selfishness is far too much to bare. They really are the epitome of weak minded.

    However they will literally knock themselves out trying to convince everyone around them otherwise. If you’re going to invest that much time and energy into a facade why not just invest that time and energy into the real thing? Unbelievable.

    It’s becoming an epidemic in this culture. As the decades pass it’s becoming worse and worse. Many of those who aren’t diagnosable still possess very high marks in the narcissistic traits department. They may not be a full blown narcissist however they’re well on their way! or loitering on the border of such.

    We’ve failed miserably in raising our children to become emotionally healthy. The truth is frightening. This culture is highly narcissistic. The evidence speaks for itself.

    True change only comes about when people are completely honest with themselves and others. Sometimes the truth hurts yes however nothing becomes better if we don’t face and deal with the issues head on.

    Basically we’ve dropped the ball in the way we’re developing this culture. We can keep pretending that we haven’t while it lays idle there on the ground however that’s not solving anything. This is our choice to make every single day: You want better? Be better!

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    • August 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Hello “hello there,” and thanks for commenting! I agree that narcissism has to do with certain prevailing cultural norms, however, I’m not a fan of jumping to conclusions and labeling people narcissists, or cutting family members who trigger us out of our lives.

      Also, I think it’s important to keep in mind that few persons qualify for the actual diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (npd), and although “tendencies” for narcissism may be widespread, what may be a worse epidemic (in terms of families and relationships) is “diagnosing” people in our families with npd — and “handling” family matters as if a reality show in which we keep eliminating the “weakest” link.

      It’s usually not the healthiest option to burn bridges and treat family members as throw-aways .. at least not without “very” good reason. Low contact is preferred in most cases; and even this as a transitional phase that can lead to more contact in future.

      There also appears to be an “epidemic” among therapists who recommend “no contact” to clients who have issues with other family members. I take a different approach. Unless a family member poses serious danger or risk — people who challenge (trigger) us can serve as great catalysts for our own growth. It may mean, for example, that there’s something inside us that’s seeking our attention and growth.

      Admittedly, as a family and marriage therapist, I’m biased in favor of healing relationships — and — from what we’ve learned recently about our brain and neuroscience, the effort is worthwhile. The human brain is a “relationship organ” — and “healthy” relationship building is incomparably the most complex behavior we learn in our life time!

      When I work with individuals who have issues with a family member, after we’ve done preliminary work, I invite them to bring “the difficult” person into the session. If they both agree, the results can be amazing! (And a great source of joy for me … in being a witness to this!).

      One widespread cultural norm that is widespread, for example, is the quick habit of “judging” others or ourselves (or both), and another is the focus on “fixing” others, and yet another is that we all have a hard time dealing with our own or others painful emotions — and tend to get defensive in one of two directions, fight or flee.

      The fact is, human beings adapt different protective strategies. Some prefer to deal with stress by “having to” talk about their complaints etc as a way to lower their anxiety; others protect themselves by avoiding reactive issues whenever possible. (These two stress-response types can drive each other crazy!) Additionally, as you stated, cultural norms overall prevent us from developing skills that would make it easier for the former to be heard — and for the latter to stay present and listen in a way that validates yet doesn’t take personally what “belongs” to the other (their wounds).

      Thanks again for commenting in this discussion!

      Reply
  • September 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    P.S. I’m not even sure your previous response was directly to me; I’m inquiring about narcissists in family systems, not a narcissistic partner.

    Reply
    • September 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Hi, may have mistakenly posted a reply … if this is the case, apologies.

      Reply
    • September 2, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for letting me know. I may have replied to the wrong person, apologies.

      Reply
  • September 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Going back to the original article, how do you differentiate on behaviours between someone who comes to counselling at their wits end after years of narcissistic abuse and needing someone to listen (the narcissist having carefully poisoned the support network), from what you describe as the demanding narcissist. My story was pleading with my ex-wife for 6 years to let me know how to please her, while she systematically tried to dismantle me aided by the counsellor, amd (on record) took great delight in my pain.

    Reply
    • September 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks for the comment, survived, but you’ll need to find a therapist with experience dealing with narcissism to help you understand what happened. It’s not a question that can be answered here. Thanks again, and good luck.

      Reply
 

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