Are you still interacting with your ex-spouse even though it’s been so hard? Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you exhausted? Why are you still putting up with this? Narcissistic abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and/or financial. Some types of emotional abuse are not easy to spot, including manipulation. It can include emotional blackmail, using threats and intimidation to exercise control. Narcissists are masters of verbal abuse and manipulation. They can go so far as to make you doubt your perceptions, called gaslighting.
Not sure if your spouse or ex-spouse is a narcissist?
YOU ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST IF…
- They act nice and empathetic in public (maybe even in private in the beginning), but you know they are FAR from that.
- They are entitled and always get what they want and then act like you’re the selfish one.
- They irritate you on purpose to get a rise out of you and then dismiss your concerns or even blame you for their behavior.
And then, there is the Covert Narcissist.
You feel like no one is seeing how horrible they are except you. They are so subtle. That’s why the covert narcissists are SO much worse than any other kind in a lot of ways. You feel like you’re literally going to go insane because EVERYONE else thinks they are so “wonderful”.
When you’re dealing with a covert narcissist, you most likely try to tell people what was happening and the feedback you may get is along the lines of something like this…
“Oh that doesn’t sound that bad.”
“Well, that must have been inadvertent. Because she’s usually so nice!”
“Maybe you’re misreading what’s happening.”
All of that just adds to the gaslighting that they are already piling on you – making you think – “well maybe I am crazy.”
Well, I’m here to tell you, you’re not! It’s definitely real!
AND yes – it’s on purpose.
AND yes – it’s meant to be manipulative.
AND yes – it’s that bad.
If you’re in any type of relationship with a narcissist, you’ve most likely experienced Narcissistic Abuse and/or Gaslighting.
Signs of Narcissistic Abuse might include:
Emotional abuse & blackmail
Verbal abuse (belittling, blaming, bullying, shaming, raging)
Manipulation & controlling behavior
Social isolation & creating mistrust for those outside the relationship
Physical or digital privacy invasion
Disregarding boundaries & excuses for bad behavior
Exploitation, objectification, withholding, neglect & more
Signs that someone is Gaslighting you might include:
Denial of your recollection of events
Refusal to consider your point of view
Calling you “crazy” or “overly sensitive” when you voice concerns
Twisting what happened to shift the blame to you
Mistakes in Dealing with Narcissistic Abuse
When you forget an abuser’s motives, you may naturally react in some of these ineffective ways:
- Appeasement — If you placate to avoid conflict and anger, it empowers the abuser, who sees it as weakness and an opportunity to exert more control.
- Pleading — This also shows weakness, which narcissists despise in themselves and others. They may react dismissively with contempt or disgust.
- Withdrawal — This is a good temporary tactic to collect your thoughts and emotions but is not an effective strategy to deal with abuse.
- Arguing and Fighting — Arguing over the facts wastes your energy. Most abusers aren’t interested in the facts, but only in justifying their position and being right. Verbal arguments can quickly escalate to fights that drain and damage you. Nothing is gained. You lose and can end up feeling more victimized, hurt, and hopeless.
- Explaining and Defending — Anything beyond a simple denial of a false accusation leaves you open to more abuse. When you address the content of what is being said and explain and defend your position, you endorse an abuser’s right to judge, approve, or abuse you. Your reaction sends this message: “You have power over my self-esteem. You have the right to approve or disapprove of me. You’re entitled to be my judge.”
- Seeking Understanding — This can drive your behavior if you desperately want to be understood. It’s based on the false hope that a narcissist is interested in understanding you, while in fact, they are only interested in winning a conflict and having a superior position. Depending upon the degree of narcissism, sharing your feelings may also expose you to more hurt or manipulation. It’s better to share your feelings with someone safe who cares about them.
- Criticizing and Complaining — Although they may act tough, abusers are insecure, and inside they’re fragile. They can dish it but can’t take it. Complaining or criticizing an abuser can provoke rage and vindictiveness.
- Threats — Making threats can lead to retaliation or backfire if you don’t carry them out. Never make a threat you’re not ready to enforce. Boundaries with direct consequences are more effective.
- Denial — Don’t fall into the trap of denial by excusing, minimizing, or rationalizing abuse. And don’t fantasize that it will go away or improve at some future time. The longer it goes on, the more it grows, and the weaker you can become.
- Self-Blame — Don’t blame yourself for an abuser’s actions and try harder to be perfect or win the individual back! I want you to re-read that sentence. This is a delusion. You can’t cause anyone to abuse you. You’re only responsible for your behavior. You will never be perfect enough for an abuser to stop their behavior, which stems from their insecurities, not you.
So, what can you do to cope with this type of individual? The first rule of thumb don’t engage! Don’t take the bait. I know it’s SO hard not to react, however, you mustn’t give in. This is what a narcissist thrives on, it gives them their “supply” and it’s exactly what they want you to do.
It’s all just this crazy toxic game that you feel so trapped in and it seems like they are constantly winning. Besides, trust me when I say they will use your reaction AGAINST you!
When you feel like you are struggling to take control of your life, here are some additional things you should STOP doing right away that are not helping you…
🛑STOP allowing the narcissist to cross boundaries you’ve set
🛑STOP expecting them to change or take responsibility for their actions
🛑STOP expecting empathy or compassion from them
🛑STOP underestimating how low they will go to protect their egos
Instead, I encourage you to do the following:
Create a self-care plan for yourself; diet, exercise, being with friends and family.
Creating a support system of people who will be there for you.
Setting boundaries to protect your mind, emotions, and body. Sticking to the boundaries you set is critical.
Confront abuse effectively which is not arguing but standing your ground and speaking up for yourself.
Think strategically. Know what you want, what the narcissist wants, what your limits are, and where you have power in the relationship.
Lastly, get support. To respond (not react) effectively requires support. It’s challenging to change your reactions, let alone those of anyone else. Expect pushback when you stand up for yourself. This is another reason why support is essential. You will need courage and consistency. Whether or not the narcissist makes changes, you’ll get tools to protect yourself and raise your self-worth which will improve how you feel.
The Divorce Coach for Men