I fell into a Wikipedia hole this morning and found myself browsing articles about narcissism. My ex was a narcissist, so this is a subject I’ve been very interested in researching. Even so, the clip below shocked and disturbed me — because it is a perfect outline of our relationship. There is NOTHING in these two paragraphs that DIDN’T happen between us. I even recognize the description of narcissistic supply through adultery, which is how she used erotic roleplay. Finding out that your relationship was a textbook example of abuse is strange. Trying to remember how you convinced yourself it wasn’t is difficult. Educating yourself about how you enabled so that it doesn’t happen again is crushingly important. I hope my ex never ends up in a relationship with a codependent person again. I hope she gets the help she needs.
Narcissistic abuse may also occur in adult-to-adult relationships, where the narcissistic person tends to seek out a successful (independent, educated, and attractive) yet co-dependent (empathic, excessively compliant, and forgiving) partner in order to “mirror” the behavior the narcissistic person lacks (e.g., empathy). In this way a dynamic of abuser and victim is created.
Their relationships are characterized by a period of intense involvement and idealization of their partner, followed by devaluation, and a rapid discarding of the partner. At the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, the partner is only shown the ideal self of the narcissist, which includes pseudo empathy, kindness, and charm. Once the partner has committed to the relationship (e.g., through marriage or a business partnership), the true self of the narcissist will begin to emerge. The initial narcissistic abuse begins with belittling comments and grows to contempt, ignoring behavior, adultery, sabotage, and, at times, physical abuse. At the core of a narcissist is a combination of entitlement and low self-esteem. These feelings of inadequacy are projected onto the victim. If the narcissistic person is feeling unattractive they will belittle their romantic partner’s appearance. If the narcissist makes an error, this error becomes their partner’s fault. Narcissists also engage in insidious, manipulative abuse by giving subtle hints and comments that result in the victim questioning their own behavior and thoughts. This is termed gaslighting. Any slight criticism of the narcissistic, whether actual or perceived, often triggers narcissistic rage and full blown annihilation from the narcissistic person. This can take the form of screaming tirades or quiet sabotage (setting traps, hiding belongings, spreading rumors, etc). The discard phase can be swift and occurs once the narcissistic supply is obtained elsewhere. In romantic relationships, the narcissistic supply can be acquired by having affairs. The new partner is in the idealization phase and only witnesses the ideal self; thus once again the cycle of narcissistic abuse begins. Narcissists do not take responsibility for relationship difficulties and exhibit no feeling of remorse. Instead they believe themselves to be the victim in the relationship.