Content note: Divorce; Narcissistic abuse; Narcissistic family & relations
You may not want to hear this and I’m sorry if it’s tough.
It’s not all about the narcissist.
This is a bold post asking you to consider your part in the relationship or situation. If you acknowledge your part and take responsibility, you can change. In many ways this is your superpower.
You will never change the narcissist but I have no doubt that you have behaved in ways that left you feeling unwell, ashamed and diminished. When you snapped at your colleagues, raged at your children or parents, scolded shop staff and were generally aggressive, I imagine you did not feel great about it.
Being unpleasant is never a good look. It is not who you are, either, it is who you have become and this needs to stop. It’s time to take responsibility for your own dark side.
It took much thought, deliberation, re-writing, editing and reflection, to write this piece. It kept me awake at night, clawed at my conscience and stopped me from starting.
The reason? I didn’t know how to break the bad news that you have work to do above and beyond recovering from the abuse. The thing is, you’re here, so I’m guessing you’re a survivor and have the grit to work with me on this. I’m not minimizing the cruelty of the narcissist or the dreadful suffering you have endured. This is about you and how you conducted and conduct yourself.
You may be irritable and unhappy and not understanding why but you know it is wrong because if you didn’t it would make ending the narcissistic relationship/situation so much easier. By this point you believe you do not deserve better.
You are likely to have internalized some of the bleak, disturbing messages that you are not worthy, lovable, attractive, intelligent and the like and you may dig in and take the abuse rather than tackle the required overhaul of your life.
It may mean not speaking with family members for a time, if ever; it may mean a bitter divorce; it may result in unemployment – all difficult decisions and awful consequences – but if you believe you no longer deserve a good life, you may settle and stay in the suffering.
You may also be terrified. The narcissist is likely to have said they will destroy you if you leave or expose them. This is the language of cowards.
When we are frightened we are likely to lash out and hurt those who love us. Do not allow the abuser to facilitate your destruction of precious relationships. Do your best to shut your ears to the narcissist and what they say your family, colleagues, children and friends say or think of you.
They will try to enrage you into destroying these bonds. It is likely there is no truth in their words. They are dark and desparate individuals who have no moral compass. You need to recalibrate yours.
The language you have used, the behaviours you engaged in, the way in which you treat(ed) others may be a result of the abuse but how you act towards others from now on is your responsibility and yours alone.
This is The Grace Project. To be the best, you. Even if you need to stay in the narcissistic situation for practical reasons, aim for dignity, respect and a better self when you engage with the world.
You might also want to start setting boundaries. What makes narcissistic abuse unique is the way the abused continues to be drawn in. The narcissist is the gift that keeps on giving.
They will send a seemingly harmless text or message. Thinking this is genuine, you engage. In this way you continue to be supply. What follows will be self-serving – questions about your financial situation, a new partner, availability for child/parental care, data mining about your whereabouts, children or family.
Knowledge is power and anything you say to them, any nugget of information will be used against you. Narcissists are divisive. They rip families, teams, communities, partnerships , states and nations apart using intelligence – real or imagined – as a weapon.
In Court, with your colleagues, friends and family or even publicly, your trust will be betrayed. Please do not engage. If you have to, take time to reflect before you do. A yes or no response will usually be enough. Please try to avoid being baited by them.
Access arrangements or Court Orders should not be blurred. If you start to compromise you will be abused further. If it is a co-parent, parent or family member, keep contact to a minimum and work out what is real about what they are asking of you, if you can.
Something else that often happens in the narcissistically abusive dynamic is that any contact or communication with the narcissist often leaves the abusee feeling sullied in some way. Dealing with this person or these people can leave the abused feeling physically and emotionally sick.
identifying and establishing boundaries might take time but you need to know if you are being manipulated and it takes a while to master this skill. Rest assured, with patience, you will. Setting boundaries are acts of assertion and the antidote to resentment. If you are able to be good to yourself in this way it is likely that you have the energy to be good to others.
Ok – that’s enough. You’ve got the message. There is no deadline for this task but now might be a good time to begin.