Recovery After Narcissisistic Relationship
Not many people are aware that narcissism goes far beyond shear vanity and self perception. Many fail to ask the relevant questions, fail to educate themselves that there is an entire disorder that can encompass the individual beyond just self appearance and the opinion of others.
So what is NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?
According to the Mayo Clinic : Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.
At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.
Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.
Often times victims have no idea that it’s effecting them , or has had dire consequences upon their own health and well being until it’s too late. Many times victims are simply too busy providing the constant attention, affection, and desires of the narcissist to consider their own safety and well being yet this should be top priority.
It’s at the end of such distorted and unhealthy relationships that the victim begins to truly question what has occurred, asking the necessary questions, and realizing they were preyed upon and taken for granted by someone who they confided in, trusted, and loved. The devaluation and discard then begins to take affect often when it’s least expected or warranted.
So how can victims heal, how long will it take, do they need professional help to recover?
In my own situation, I was involved with and married a malignant narcissist for thirteen years together eleven years married. Finding myself without credit, assets, bankrupt, no savings, no financial means to move forward , no employment nor housing was next to impossible. I was forced to vacate when the utilities were turned off on our home, for failure to make payment after not having any income, child support, or alimony. This resulted in our homelessness temporarily till we secured temporary housing. We immediately filed for housing assistance, food assistance, and aid of every sort available. Unfortunately a waiting list of nearly two years hampered our efforts and the aid received was extremely low. The struggle is real and the back and forth court action took four years to complete.
Yet never say never is the common thread with most victims. The courage and compassion that once was viewed so highly by the narcissists as a defining trait, is now what the victims need to rely upon to get them through the journey in life after narcissism.
Speaking from experience, I have had over six years of criminal justice experience. I worked with public defenders, attorneys, and judges during internships and thesis requirements necessary to obtain my masters. I took courses and addressed certification requirements centering upon modus operandi, criminals, drugs and alcohol addictions etc. yet nothing prepared me for narcissism. It never was on my radar. I never heard of it , beyond the vague term of self absorbance.
I wanted to save enough to one day attend law school, but sadly my dreams were never met after getting involved with a narcissist. I never attended law school because I was blessed with a newborn child born with medical disabilities requiring round the clock care and undivided attention even to this day fourteen years later. Later having two more children all with high-risk pregnancies and complications.
I did, however, manage to complete my thesis to acquire my MPA degree on my death bed after nearly dying from a placenta abruption requiring emergency c section and two pints of blood, resulting in my son being life-flighted to a children’s hospital equipped in specialized care to treat a VATER Syndrome child. I was given a 7 % chance to live while my son was given a 2% chance.
So you might ask how on earth did I make it through all that and then turn around and deal with a malignant narcissist ~ the most dangerous of all psychopaths.
Pure will, determination, and unconditional love of family and friends.
Never underestimate the power from within.
Victims often feel lost, confused, disoriented after a relationship with a narcissist. They can’t imagine life without them, because they were brainwashed into believing they can’t do anything on their own, perhaps they were made to feel dependent upon the narc for their own well being, perhaps the narcissists exaggerated their own self worth while degrading and lessening the contributions of the victim. In my case even with the same MPA (Masters in Public Administration) degree my narc tried to convince me I too was unable to move along without him. I was a stay home mom without a job, without savings, without assets, without a home of my own. I was left homeless, bankrupt, without credit, no assets, no foundation upon which to rebuild.
Nothing prepared me for the battle I would then have to experience through divorce, custody, visitation, support, and recovery. It took four years, three attorneys, and everything I had in me to keep my family together. We had to file wage attachments, garnish wages, after over 15 thousand in arrears accrued for failure on behalf of my narcissists to pay for his wife (me) and our 3 kids. He sold off all assets, mortgaged all property, emptied all accounts including our kids’ college funds of nearly 12 thousand and simply walked away into the sunset.
Where does one go you might then ask? Keep in mind I’m now overqualified with masters and no prior work experience for 13 years as a homemaker. Well like many victims I began to go into survival mode. When my narcissist refused support payments for over a year forcing us to live without an income I went to local food banks, applied for financial aid, and sought government assistance. When our first payment of $100 dollars arrived after a year of living without reportable income, I took it back and fought the system to acquire a more appropriate amount. For the narcissist he believed everyone was against him, he convinced himself others were only interested in him for what he could provide in terms of monetary or assets yet he never could fathom how a relationship doesn’t involve money, wealth, power, or prestige, or status upon how others might view him. Narcissists are incapable of understanding unconditional love. They do not know how to be true to themselves. They are not authentic, and they stand for nothing. They need others to do their work, they need constant attention, they get bored easily, and are self-absorbed. The world, in essence, is their playground. Having to reinvent myself, going back to undergrad school to renew resumes, learning new technology, becoming business savvy, learning to sell myself, and having to update my skills constantly was a necessary evil and hard pill to swallow all at once while in survival mode as a single parent.
For those who’ve experienced narcissism, they can tell you it’s a living hell.
You lose so much of yourself trying to constantly aim to please your partner. You feel like the life was literally sucked out from you. Many victims refer to narcissist as monsters, vampires, cons, etc. Feelings and guilt are common as you begin to ask yourself how could I have not seen this behavior, how did I not notice, and begin self-blame, not to mention narcissist never take accountability and place the blame and fault for the relationship on others. The best way to view a past narc relationship is to truly forget the person exists. You will never get the apology, any remorse, and no regret. Never blame yourself, and never find fault. You were targeted and preyed upon.
Therefore to begin moving forward you must make yourself a priority. Take charge of your life, your actions, and accept your role in the relationship. Deal with the emotions as they arise, as many times we are forced to repress our emotions, and never granted permission to freely express our opinions or beliefs. During a narc relationship our experiences, our beliefs, our values become secondary as the narcissist wants primary importance and pedestal placement.
Make yourself a priority and begin doing what you love. Walk away from the toxic individuals who no longer support you and your endeavors. Establish goals, dreams, have a plan, especially a safety plan of escape and know that you are worth more than what a narcissist has told you, and more than they can ever provide for you. Never lower your standards, as your story is yours to own, and only you can tell your story. Never stay silent, walk in your truths, and let others know it’s ok to share your story to help heal others in allowing them to know they too are not alone.
Inner healing and wellness are possible. Whether you choose to self-heal or choose to seek professional help is your decision to make. For me, I decided to heal from within by dealing with emotions as they arose. Expressing and releasing my anger and telling my story helped tremendously. Education is paramount to understanding NPD and similar personality disorders. Remember you are not to blame and it’s not your fault. Forgiveness for not knowing for myself was reassuring. You don’t have to forgive the abuser.
What was most interesting is it was rock bottom upon which I rebuilt my life and that of my children’s. So never think because you have so little that you can’t rebuild. I never thought that in not having employment or income, I could get any lower. Yet my narc proved me wrong. I now am unemployed, was homeless for a period of time, and had filed bankruptcy after being left with marital debt and having been forced to live using credit cards while the courts played catch up with the support and garnished wages.
Can you imagine while this was going on my narc had deposited nearly 26 k in one time payments which were exhibited through our taxes, federal documents, and bank statements from his own account, yet still nothing was done to secure those payments for our family?
Do not depend solely upon the system for help, because sadly the system fails, often abusers are given more rights than victims, the courts aren’t aware of NPD, and the courts are inundated with high caseloads of domestic violence cases and family law civil matters. In many courts not all, you are seen as sadly a case document number and your needs are not seen as important. In my case, because it was a civil case, the criminal cases that my council had on file took precedence. In my case, my voice and that of my children’s pleas for help went unheard. Corruption, nepotism runs rampant in my area, and wealth, power, and money take priority. Be knowledgeable of your area, and look around before hiring just any attorney. Make sure you know that legal aid won’t help if it’s a civil matter such as divorce. Therefore make sure your finances are also in order. Know that the narcissist will have the resources to hire the best attorneys so prepare wisely.
Leaving is never easy, walking away from any relationship is hard, but leaving a narcissistic relationship is unlike any typical breakup. This is not a normal relationship and must be treated as such. Find a great support group that understands this and can provide you with the help, courage, and commitment it takes for the long haul. Examine your circle of friends and family and make sure everyone in your circle is there for the right reasons and will provide the love and support you need.
Focus on you. I can’t stress this enough! As women, we put everyone’s needs before our own. As men, they are seen as the protectors and providers and often times they’re afraid to express their deepest thoughts and emotions for fear of being seen as weak. Remember, it took years to get to the point of where you now are, it will take just as long to recover. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, don’t compare your journey to someone else’s. Go at your own pace, as you are the best source of insight for yourself.
Most importantly know your worth, set your boundaries, retain no contact, and never look back.
When I first left, it was after a violent episode in which I was thrown against a plaster wall for questioning past experiences of cheating, adultery, and the evidence I located to support my claims. It was met with narcissistic rage, which so many victims experience behind closed doors, and it need not be physical.
Abuse can incorporate many different levels including but not limited too:
Narcissists are professionals they are highly skilled, with often times years of experience to hone in and master their craft. They know how to sell themselves, and leave no stone unturned to put their best foot forward. They appear very put together, well off, professionals, highly trained, intelligent, superiors. They have a trail of enablers, loyal followers, groupies, harems, that will continue to uphold their beliefs and support them creating a cycle of abuse for them to continue perhaps for their own personal gains.
What is most deceiving is how empty they are, how void of emotion, how lonely and incapable they truly are. They lack the ability to be real, staying true to themselves as they continue to mirror, project, and imitate the behavior of others. They scan books, educate themselves, and really master the art of deceit, mind games, trickery, to establish their own needs.
The new supplies are present for their mere gain, benefits, and needs. They treat them with complete disregard. They belittle, degrade, humiliate, and chastise them.
Narcissists are incapable of loving another human being unconditional as they repress emotions, feel others who express emotions are weak, and they have a very guarded sense of self. They are more machine-like in behaviors feeling the world is out to get them. This sense of superiority and entitlement is beyond comprehension to someone who’s never witnessed it first hand. It truly takes someone who has experienced narcissism to truly understand the void, the bottomless pit, the black hole that is within these toxic individuals. It’s a mental disorder, a personality trait disorder, and regardless of whether it stems from some childhood trauma or developed much into adulthood, it’s extremely damaging to the primary source of objection and secondary sources of supply.
The only sure way to not deal with a narcissist is to walk away from one. Know the warning signs such as grandiose egos, sense of entitlement, superiority complex,etc.and keep your guard up.
Trust your gut instincts, and honor the opinions of others around you. So often victims get caught in the love bombing, hovering, triangulation, gaslighting stages that they forget this is all part of a plan to win them over. The narcissist surely wouldn’t put their worst foot forward, they have to rely heavily upon this attention, affection, and admiration for their mere existence. They need the supply to survive. They feel helpless and hate this fact, yet they know without the supply they are nothing.
Remove yourself from the equation. Focus on what remains, and what you can take ownership upon, and never accept less than you deserve. Give back to the narcissist what was wrongly placed upon you and never look back. When I first left I found that my narc was nearly hysterical. He called relentlessly left numerous messages, emails, handwritten notes. I thought it was because he missed me and wanted me back, only to learn it was part of the grooming and conditioning, he didn’t want me but rather what I could do for him, how I made him feel, and how I did it all for him. Once victims leave you can be assured the narcissist will already have a new supply line up in waiting.
For my case, before my bed was even cold, before removing my new bedroom suite, furniture, curio cabinets and personal belongings he had the new supply involved. The new supply noted online how she was helping to move his belongings from our rental home back into our primary home the very home he was removed from by our local police department for abuse which was heard on 911 tapes and written down in the reports. The new supply never questioned where his wife and kids went, she simply became the new target, doing what was asked, she herself I presume having low self-esteem, becoming the newest victim. She was in denial of the facts that existed and refused to acknowledge the truth of the situation.
How could anyone not ask where is your family? Where did they go? Are you helping them in any way? How often do you see them? Do you not miss them? When he spoke of us, she couldn’t understand why? Are you involved actively in their lives?
Perhaps now she might know the truth. Before he closed one door he already opened the next. Before ending our relationship, and having time to heal and look back, he was actively pursuing the next victim. It was all so sudden, a whirlwind of destruction. It’s easy to walk away, not accept responsibility, set up your own hours of visitation when convenient, and place blame on others. Harder is to accept your own actions, own up to faults, and be a protector and provider while helping to raise your own children. Kids need parents, not those who make it convenient for them to appear to be actively involved. Pictures cannot make up for absence. Presence not presents are needed.
I later read online the new supply wrote I’m in bed with a wonderful person “my husband in waiting” I couldn’t believe it as I had just separated May of that year and here we were just two months later. Come to learn before we separated, he had already started pursuing a new supply (this after years of womanizing and adultery) and it was because I found out that he became violent. I had uncovered dating web sites, Victoria Secret gifts, and the online statuses that were made public without regard to whom it would hurt, not thinking we were still legally married. I later during discovery, found credit charges for dinners out, beach trips, vacations, and outings while we awaited support and alimony (which had to be garnished). You know the old adage if it seems too good to be true. Don’t hold on to hope in relationships. Watch the body language. Don’t trust the words trust the actions. Do the research.
My best advice: Go back to your roots. Examine and challenge yourself. Never give up and don’t let negative noise drown out your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Set goals that will require effort but are attainable to help with self-esteem and confidence.
I’ll never forget when my support case kept being delayed. He kept saying he had no money while we lived with no money. He kept pleading debt while he worked with income and had retained numerous assets, while I made payments to an attorney to simply file bankruptcy. While we ate at soup kitchens he ate at restaurants. While we repaired our lives he simply moved forward without regard to those whose lives he ruined.
It’s easy to become angered, it’s easy to withdraw, and easier to internalize.
What victims must do is look from within.
Everything you need is already inside of you. Having gratitude and counting blessings is key. When I was homeless I attended a woman’s shelter fundraiser and walked two miles in brutal cold to raise awareness to the cause. I continued to increase my volunteer hours to every local nonprofit I could help. As a 14 yr volunteer, I never waivered on helping those less fortunate even when I myself found to be in the very same situation as them. I was always taught from a young age to always give back to those in need.
What I learned was heartbreaking yet so loving, rewarding, and gratifying.
It’s in your most trying times you find your greatest source of strength.
When you think nobody cares, look around, you will see things from a different light. When you feel you are down on your luck, glance over at the person who is out in the cold freezing looking for a warm hot meal or clothes to put on.
In closing: You may have lost everything but as long as you have health, family, friends, and the basics you have it all. There are always going to be others less fortunate that would give anything to be given one more day. I have a number of friends who lost their lives to domestic violence both men and women. I know they would’ve given anything to be here today and not have their voices permanently silenced. Don’t be a statistic. Speak up, speak out, and never be afraid to have your voice heard.
Every day is a new beginning. Don’t waste it with regret, don’t waste it over examining the past. Use every new day to begin a new chapter. You hold the pen. Make it a great read….
Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul. ~St. Augustine~