Have you had an intimate relationship with someone diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? In the common vernacular, people with NPD are called narcissists. If you have, you’ve been hurt. If you’re still in the relationship, you are currently experiencing pain. I know. I’ve been there. Twice.
My dad probably didn’t qualify as an NPD. But he sure set me up for my first one. He had secrets, and was emotionally unavailable. My first love was the same. Moreover, he lied regularly, to the point where he believed the lies himself. He had intimate relationships with numerous women while with me. I met him when I was seventeen. By the time we broke up, when I was twenty-six, it took years of therapy to undo all the damage. I had to rebuild my self-esteem, and oddly enough, mourn the loss of the person I thought was my soul mate. And I still got pulled in again, seventeen years later, by another one.
Why do we allow people with NPD to hurt us?
Because, in a weird, reflective way, it makes us feel good to be considered special by someone this charismatic. When they cheat on us, put us down, and gaslight us, we accept that as a challenge to win them back and, for a short while, feel their “love.” The cycle of being love bombed, denigrated, and then the need to prove ourselves special again, becomes an addiction.
Unfortunately, we only experience being special to them during the love bombing stage at the beginning. That’s when they convince you they have never met anyone like you, and that yours is the perfect love. After that ends, it’s all about frantically trying to be special to them again. Meanwhile, they’re out making other people feel special. Until they don’t. And on and on.
The strangest part of this is the competition they create between their victims.
Beyond all rational thought, love partners of a person with NPD will consider anyone their partner focuses their love-bombing on as an enemy to defeat. When in fact, the two of you (or three, or four, or however many) should unite to defeat the real enemy. The person with the disorder.
But ganging up on them doesn’t always get the desired results. Results such as getting them to face up to what they’ve done. The best that joining forces does, is to flush them out of hiding, and confront the lies.
I had a four year relationship with a guy who married me, even though he had gotten another woman pregnant without my knowledge. We had been married eight months when I discovered it and contacted her. We arranged a time to meet with him together. He didn’t show. We found out it was because he was already starting a relationship with a third woman.
Our teaming up did stop his ability to lie to us. But he could, and did, lie to her, the third woman. That’s what they do best. Leave the woman or women, or the man or men, who finally see them as they are. They need you to be naive to continue their ruses. They need the ruses to get the attention they crave.
When we mirror who they really are, they have to leave.
Once you know who they are, they have to move on. The second one told me as we were breaking up, “Carol, you back me into a corner and hold a mirror up to me, and I can’t look into it.”
As long as you idealize and idolize a person with NPD, they stay. You are their chosen mirror, as long as what you reflect back to them is positive. In fact, they don’t like who they see in the actual mirror every morning. So they use your adoration, and the adoration of all the others they can fool, as a substitute for true self love.
Narcissus in the Greek myth was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection, and pined away because he could never possess the person in the water. Your Narcissus is in love with their reflection in your adoring eyes.
Paradoxically, they lose respect for you because you idolize them. They believe they don’t actually deserve it, which they don’t. They lose respect for those they can easily or continually fool. But the minute you are no longer fooled, and hold a figurative mirror up for them to see past their mask, they have to leave you. Staying is just too painful for them. Staring into a mirror reflecting who they truly are is impossible for them. When that mirror is in your eyes, their true reflection becomes unbearable.
They don’t leave because they don’t love you, although they can’t and don’t. They leave because they don’t love themselves.