Surviving a Narcissistic Partner
I have a few close friends who have come out of relationships/marriage with narcissistic partners. I had heard of the term, but having been lucky enough to have never experienced it myself, I did not really understand what the term meant, or what it was like for a woman or her children to actually live through such a relationship. Helping a friend to survive the long term effects of being married to a narcissist and then a second relationship with another narcissist, I discovered that this is a very common problem that many women have to deal with.
This is apparently especially prevalent in our area of Sydney, although something tells me that this somewhat unseen epidemic, exists wherever men and women form relationships. My friend's Counselor, admitted to her that the majority of her clients are going through what many therapists are now calling Post Narcissistic Stress Disorder, as opposed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD as it is normally referred to. I can attest to such a condition existing and deserving of its own name, after witnessing the complete and long term effects that living with a narcissistic partner, had on my friend and her children.
A narcissist is most commonly a man who displays high levels of distress and who often engages in high-risk behaviours, such as alcohol or drug abuse, sexually risky behaviour or driving recklessly as an example. He also struggles with interpersonal relationships and has a tendency towards depression. They tend to vacillate between a self image that can be grandiose, needing to draw attention to themselves in trying to get admiration, and extreme vulnerability where they experience sadness and low self esteem.
Their hyper-masculine behaviour, is often displayed in aggressive, dominating ways or by drinking heavily, in an attempt to overcome feelings of weakness and core inferiority. The good news is that many psychologists now believe that with age, many men seem to learn through bad life experiences, that they need to modify their aggressive and high risk behaviours.
"As men mature into their middle and later years, they potentially gain greater self-confidence......and modulate their risk taking and substance abuse."
(Susan Krauss Whiteourne, Ph.D, 2017)
Knowing this can help a woman to understand that this behaviour has NOTHING to do with her! The only guilt a woman should possibly feel, is for how long she stayed with a narcissist; because those women are probably the kindest, most caring 'givers', that you would hope to find. They often stay with these men because of some misguided belief that they can help them to overcome this disorder, or they are just paralysed by fear or a battered self esteem, after years of manipulation and abuse by their partners.
These men, in order to feel more powerful, try to constantly control a woman's life and make them feel like they are not capable of making everyday decisions themselves. They often require a woman to stay in contact regularly and report their whereabouts, either by texts or by them ringing their partner frequently, so by reassuring themselves that they are in total control of the relationship. Anytime a women looks like gaining some personal confidence or freedom, these men shut them down, until it is difficult for them to remember what it is like to choose for themselves. Many women after a while, find it hard to trust in their own ability to achieve even the simplest of things.
"Post traumatic stress (narcissistic) disorder develops after one has experienced an event or action that causes intense fear, disbelief, helplessness or horror" ( S Krauss Whitemore)
Recovering from living with a narcissist can take a long time, and can result in a woman experiencing intrusive memories of the narcissist, brought on by triggers; transporting them back to the nightmare they were living. It can also show up as avoidance behaviour, emotional numbing, or anxiety and increased emotional volatility. They may even find themselves questioning their own mental stability, due to years of abuse, when trying to do everyday tasks. They may also be feeling exhausted from having difficulty sleeping and repeatedly experiencing bad dreams.
So many of these women we know have hidden from view, years of emotional, mental, verbal and often physical abuse, as a result of living with a narcissistic partner. They will almost certainly be feeling emotionally numb and have overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. They may experience panic attacks, bouts of crying, experience memory problems, and substance abuse by way of sleeping aids, in order to try and get enough sleep. They will almost certainly have difficulty starting new relationships or be feeling hopeless and may even just want to be reclusive.
These women and children are suffering and need our understanding and love. I would strongly advise anyone who has lived through a relationship with a narcissist, to seek counseling from an experienced counselor. Their understanding, guidance and support can be invaluable to your recovery and help you to remember how amazing and unique you really are.
I believe that in many aspects of life, that knowledge is power and that by clearly understanding what drives a man to be a narcissist and what women and children who have lived with them have gone through; is the only way we can support these wonderous women to become whole and complete once again. I watched the Sunday night program last night, where they were investigating the story of a 21 year old lady who fell or possibly thrown over their high rise balcony to her death. Having done this post today, I can see that he was a narcissist and my only advise is that if you come across a man who displays these traits and behaviours, immediately turn away and run in the opposite direction! This is a man that you NEVER want in your life!