Can victims of narcissists really move on?
Is Relationship With A Narcissist Possible?
Narcissism and relationship
The encounter with Frank seemed like winning the lottery for Sonja. She had never felt loved and desired more. But the dream turned into a nightmare: Frank is a narcissist.
"The worst thing was his extreme jealousy. Although - it was even worse that he kept beating me down: 'Without me you are nothing!', He often said. Nevertheless, I still had feelings for him for a long time. My need for love was too great, too big the hope that he would change after all.
Today I have little in common with Sonja, who I was then. But I do understand. I now know why I allowed so much. Most of all, I know that I'll never have a relationship with a narcissist again.
A relationship with a narcissist often starts out on a positive note
I dated Frank for almost seven years, and for the first year I was in seventh heaven. I can't remember ever being so happy before. Frank was my sixth in the lottery. When I got to know him through a dating portal, I had just separated from Herbert after 23 years. Our daughter had grown up by now, our son at 14 was out of the woods. We hadn't slept together since he was born. Nothing connected us anymore, no physical closeness, no emotional. I felt like a piece of furniture. And yet, at 47 years old, I was afraid of being alone forever.
So mentally and sexually starved I met Frank. He was handsome, charming, and attentive. It might sound stupid, but I loved that he held the door for me or helped me into my jacket. I didn't even know that anymore. He gave the dream prince, made me presents, was loving and tender, said how sexy I was. And I finally felt noticed and desired again. Narcissists like him, I am now convinced, sense the weaknesses of others and then give them what they long for the most.
And I longed for the great, perfect love. I thought I would have found it in him. I would finally get what I wanted all of my life!
Euphoria and catastrophe are close together
We had so much and so fantastic sex in the first year that I became addicted to it. I blossomed, everyone complimented me. I ignored the first storm clouds that appeared now and then in the sky of my pink and healed world.
The changes began insidiously. At first Frank had always praised me in front of others and indicated how great it was sexually between us. It wasn't until much later that I realized that he was treating me like a trophy and thereby enhancing himself.
Personality disorder problem:Narcissists have low self-esteem
But at some point he began to see every man as a competitor. To arouse his jealousy, it was enough for someone to speak to me. 'I'm scared of losing you,' he claimed - and at first I was even flattered. Finally, however, he already freaked out if someone just held the door open for me or looked at me - 'You have something with him,' he yelled at me. The result was violent arguments. In order not to cause a quarrel, I even gave up my job, where I also had to deal with men.
Frank's mother had refused and beaten him; she had blamed him for her botched life. That excused a lot, I thought. Also his aggressive and humiliating manner when we fought down to the knife. I wanted to heal him with my love. But towards the end of our sophomore year, I realized that something was wrong with Frank. I just didn't know what.
I found out by chance that he was cheating on me, once he even took a prostitute to a swingers club. First he denied everything, then suddenly it was my fault: I would have thrown him out after our last argument and only made him do it.
What began now was an excruciatingly long process. I knew I should part with him. But no matter how many times I tried in the years that followed, I couldn't. There were still too many feelings for him. And after every argument, we had great make-up sex. Then I felt wanted and loved. In addition, I was dependent on him without a job. And I was ashamed to admit to having failed another relationship.
Narcissism and couple counseling
I suggested going to a couple counseling session. He refused. So I went alone. It was in the therapist's practice that I first encountered the term narcissism. Back at home, I researched everything I could find on the subject on the Internet. I was shocked: I recognized the pattern of our relationship 1: 1 in the forum posts - and had thus found a way to free myself. I now knew what made Frank tick and where his weak point was. It was basically the same as mine: he wanted to be loved.
In order to be able to separate at all, I needed a job and an apartment, but both dragged on, also because Frank denounced me at the landlords. In the meantime, however, my will to live had reawakened: I didn't deserve it.
Our relationship was now stuck in an on-off mode. Our arguments escalated over and over again, over and over again I broke up with him, over and over again he came and asked for another chance: 'I was an idiot, but I will make everything right again. I don't want to lose you, Sonja! ' I gave in again and again. I needed to feel important to him, I needed to feel loved. And for a long time I was not ready to give up my hope for a common happiness. Too long.
But at some point I just wanted to get out of this miserable cycle and used the topic of sex for it. Frank thought he was the greatest lover. Therefore, after the umpteenth breakup, I claimed that I was with a younger man who was much better in bed than him. With that I had emasculated him. I never heard from him again.
The great anger - how did it come to this?
And then came the great anger - at him, but above all at me: Why had I let myself be so small? Why hadn't I parted with him earlier? And what part did I have in this destructive relationship myself? I would have to deal with myself for the answers, I knew that. So I went on a journey into my past with a reincarnation therapist.
I was twelve when my mother developed breast cancer. On my deathbed, she made me promise to look after my father and sister. I was left alone with my grief and there was no one to tell about my grandfather's sexual assault. I withdrew, served and functioned: in my parents' home, in my marriage, in my relationship with Frank. I gave all that back symbolically and freed myself from the traumas of my childhood.
It took me a year to finish with Frank and write everything off my heart, another year until I was reconciled with Sonja, who I used to be. Then I was ready to start over.
There has been a new man in my life for a year. I'm married to him now. And finally it feels right. "
Warning Signs: How to Spot a Narcissist in a Relationship
- Narcissists begin to take over the partner
- want to control the partner
- often insulting others in order to exalt themselves
- humiliate the partner to demonstrate their power
- act extremely selfish
- insist on freedom in the relationship
- manipulate their fellow human beings through lies
- react aggressively to criticism
Narcissistic personalities - that's why they increasingly rule the world
Author Marie-France Hirigoyen explains the phenomenon of powerful narcissists and shows how we can defend ourselves against them.
Marie-France Hirigoyen, 71, is a French psychiatrist and family therapist. Her book "The Masks of Wickedness" on emotional violence in everyday life is a bestseller to this day.
EMOTION: Ms. Hirigoyen, your new book is called “The Toxic Power of Narcissists”. What power do narcissists have?
Marie-France Hirigoyen: Narcissists are at the top of many states today, such as Trump in the USA or Putin in Russia. The same is true of senior positions in large companies. We prefer strong personalities for higher positions. We want people with big egos who are aggressive and willing to do anything to succeed. In doing so, we bring the greatest narcissists into the highest offices and give them power. But apart from this selection, we all become more narcissistic.
There is a lot of talk about narcissism, sometimes more, sometimes less seriously. Could you briefly define what you mean by that?
I'm talking about narcissistic personality disorder. One has to distinguish between a healthy narcissism, which ideally enables a stable self-esteem, an excessive narcissism, which means an excess of showing off and pretension, and a narcissistic personality disorder. This arises from the inability to regulate one's self-esteem. We then often see arrogance and megalomania, but behind that is a fragile self-image. These people only exist through the gaze of others. You need their admiration to appreciate yourself and to dispel the shame that you are not who you think you have to be.
Why are we all becoming more narcissistic?
There are two types of explanations for this. Some are psychoanalytical and assume that there can be lapses in the development of healthy self-esteem. They look to the child and their upbringing and find the main reason for this being parents, who today bring up little kings, whom they hardly set limits and whom they admire exaggeratedly.
And the other kind of explanation?
On the other hand, there are sociological explanations. That is to say, one sees the reason more in the changes in modern society.
What changes are they?
On the one hand, there is the cult of performance. In order to exist socially or professionally at all, you have to be fast and in top form, at the same time appear relaxed and happy at work, have talented children, and show yourself from your best side in social networks. We are under great pressure to be successful, efficient and profitable, and that has evolved in such a way that performance counts more than the work itself: Am I successful, efficient and profitable? This encourages narcissistic traits in all of us as we try to keep up.
We are under a lot of pressure to be successful, efficient and profitable.Marie-France HirigoyenTweet
Do we have to assert ourselves all the time?
Yes, even privately. People today perceive even sex less as an intimate encounter, but rather believe that they have to perform above all. We also live in a world of consumption. That makes us more selfish and leads to a devaluation of all those who are not so successful or who cannot afford everything. So on the one hand there are great promises: freedom for everyone, infinite progress and that we can create anything. And on the other hand, a high level of frustration intolerance: We don't endure it well if we don't get what we want, if this promise is not kept, if we are not who we think we have to be. This makes narcissist-prone people more likely to get out of whack.
What influence does the corona crisis have?
Self-isolation has stopped our individual freedom and frustration intolerance for the time being. She taught us humility and reminded us that we are fragile. And we see that countries led by narcissists like Donald Trump or Xi Jinping were no better at stopping the epidemic. They were only trying to cover up the gravity of the situation.
Research shows that men are more narcissistic than women. Why?
That's because of the way our paternalistic society is built. To date, men have more power than women. They are more inclined to take advantage of others, are more privileged, feel they should be better off, have a greater desire for power.
Our society helps ensure that men are more narcissistic: They assume that they deserve more.Marie-France HirigoyenTweet
They give another reason for the rise in narcissism: the mantra of living in the here and now.
Our society is designed for short-term success. Couples now want to be completely happy in their relationship. And when things get difficult, they swap partners. The fact that now is always the most important can be fatal when we think of climate change, for example. It's really interesting: what narcissism does on a private level, we can see on a political level as well.
You think the fact that we're not stopping climate change has to do with the rise in narcissism?
Yes that's what I think. But at the moment you see a lot of young people who want a different world.
Isn't that a sign that narcissism is on the decline?
I think it's a response to narcissistic parents. But unfortunately this is only a certain social group, it is often the children of well-off educated citizens. Others are still interested in showing themselves with big cars on Instagram and thus enhancing themselves.
We should teach young people not to adapt to the system of constant competition, educate them to think critically.Marie-France HirigoyenTweet
So does narcissism have to do with social class?
Not that, but it has to do with education. If we want to change something, we have to start here. The first step would be to know that it is a problem. We need to educate people about this. And two things might help with a change of heart: climate change and social media. Climate change is such a catastrophe that it may make us realize that we cannot go on so narcissistically.
What does social media have to do with it?
While they serve as a stage for narcissists, they can also be the place to be outraged about their behavior. If narcissists always have to be the best and believe that everything is theirs, at some point they cross borders. They cheat or abuse people around them. If that is discovered, there could be a scandal like the diesel manipulations or #metoo. We should pay attention to these scandals and scandalize narcissistic behavior more often. We can see from #metoo that it works. And we should teach young people more not to adapt to this system of constant race and performance, educate them to think critically.
Does the corona crisis open up new avenues?
The experience of self-isolation is a way to become aware of the excesses that our way of life brings with it, i.e. to differentiate between the necessary and the superfluous, to slow down our frenzied consumption of goods, images and information. Whether we take advantage of this brutal end to our omnipotence depends on whether we will be able not to revert to agitation and consumerism once the lockdown is lifted.
The book for the conversation:
Hirigoyen's well-founded theses arm us against narcissism: "The toxic power of narcissists"
C.H. Beck, € 16.95
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