Reflection on an Intimate Relationship with a Narcissist


The birth of this blog came about through a painful relationship break up with a man I believe is a narcissist. I have had some requests from readers of my blog to say more about being in a relationship with a narcissist. Now that my grief is less acute from this shattering experience, I thought I would try to convey something of the ‘lived experience’“.

Eleanor D. Payson in her excellent book ‘ The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists’ says this. “The word narcissism in its most fundamental sense means a tendency to self-worship. For the narcissist, his excessive self-absorption is a protection against unconscious but powerful feelings of inadequacy. Seduced by the narcissist’s camouflage of outer charm or confidence, you are eventually drawn into the nightmare side of this relationship. By the time you realise that something is wrong, the cumulative effects can range from bruised self- esteem to severe depression”. She goes on to say that at the beginning of a romantic relationship, the NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is often the pursuer with an ardent intent to capture you. You are the idealised perfect partner. This was certainly true in my case. I had never felt so loved and adored. I was divinely happy. He did and said all the right things. I thought every box was ticked as far as his qualities went that this was the man with who I would grow old.

When the nightmare side emerged in our couple relationship it could be characterised in this way that Payson describes, “I am not talking of the often ugly, but fairly normal, dirty fight that might break out between partners or family members who are capable of empathy. Instead, I am referring to an extraordinarily intense verbal attack that knows no bounds. It may even be delivered with a calm, icy quality that in some eerie way is divorced from all human emotion, where only the mechanistic goal to annihilate is experienced. Whether it is explosive hot rage or an icy calm attack, the narcissist’s anger is an unmistakably different experience from the anger expressed between two people who are capable of empathy.”

The first kind of attacks in my relationship began with icy cold and sudden withdrawals after times of intense love and affection. When I expressed puzzlement and hurt at this behaviour, he would attack me verbally saying the most outrageous things! I would react of course with my outrage trying to defend myself, as well as tears because I felt so wounded, then he would accuse me of being crazy and oversensitive. Later on, the attacks became more viscous with accusations of having it off with my personal trainer as well as with other people, including friends or using vulnerabilities I had shared with him, to put me down and assassinate my character. This behaviour was intermittent, which is what made it so insidious and confusing. At other times he was the perfect lover, sensitive and caring, attending to my needs, pouring on the love magnificently. It took me a while to accept I was in an abusive relationship of a different kind! Narcissistic abuse has a flavour all of its own. The following poem describes clearly some of these flavours. I wrote this soon after finally breaking up with him after an astonishingly vicious verbal attack, which marked the point of no return for me. No matter how much I loved him in the good times, my integrity would not allow me to return to him after this.

                     Disentangling from You. 

The last two and a half weeks have been a blur,

since the cruelty of your threats of death

to annihilate and eradicate me from your life.

Now of course,

your dance of seduction is in full swing

as you attempt to reel me in again,

with Mr Nice Guy showing up in full splendour.

Gobsmacking, astonishing, crazy making

as I watch the parody of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

appear before me in swift succession.

It is within months, weeks, days or even hours sometimes

when these switches occur. 

I am awake to you now, 

as I painfully and horrendously 

disentangle my layers of attachment and love for you,

and separate from your crazy-making system.

My grief is immense,

unbearable at times,

as I try to come to terms with the fact

that I cannot sustain a relationship with you.

You are too damaging for me.

I have loved you (whoever YOU are)

more than I have loved anyone.

You have trampled on my heart and soul

time and time again,

as much as you have seemed to love me

with such wonderful, kind and loving attention.

My heartbreak is unspeakable

as I come to terms with this happening to me

at this stage of my life.

I believed I had found my close companion,

ski buddy, walking mate, passionate lover, best friend,

we had such plans for growing old together.

My dreams and hopes are absolutely shattered,

my anger is huge

at God, Life, the Universe, You

and myself

for leading me to believe

that at last, I had got it right this time

in my choice of a partner.

Of course my projections onto you of my longing,

 are part of this story as well.

The particular flavours of ‘narcissistic abuse’,

the kind of abuse that you dish out

are very complicated and hard for me to speak about.

I feel the shame as if it was mine.

It feels a very lonely journey indeed

as I claw my way back

out of the web of your destruction

to claim my life back again.

Two years ago

I was at the top of the mountain with you

singing my love songs to you with full voice.

Friends were envious that I had found such a wonderful man.

The fact that I had known you for fifteen years made you a safe bet in my eyes and theirs.

Today I have fallen to the bottom of the desolate canyon.

No broken bones

but a broken soul and a broken heart.

I lie here defeated in the game of love

and surrender to the grief.

I am grateful that at some level I know resilience,

honed through other sufferings in my life.

I will get up again and walk,

but right now the depression of my invisible wounds

so hidden from view,

keep me harnessed

to the tentacles of deep misery

and this writing is my attempt

to find some expression for it.

If you are trying to make sense of your experience with a narcissist, or any other kind of abusive relationship, I do hope that this helps.

rosmlewis

Clinician, Lecturer, Group Facilitator, Educator and Supervisor in Education, Social Services and Mental Health.

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7 Comments

  • manfred
    May 3, 2018 at 8:25 am

    i’m quite unsure if i’m not myself a narcistic personality with a narcistic disorder…
    i’m sure that i felt very inadequate to adhere to the expectation of my ex-partner:
    never ever leaving her and living a life with her which she described as ‘normal’:
    going to work, making a living and ‘swetting’ – when necessary- ‘the small things’.
    her commitment to her former family and way of life,
    her questioning and sometimes belittling the way I live and express myself,
    but finally my feeling of not being able to reach her and fullfill her as before:
    this made me run away and thereby deeply hurt and wound her.
    my experience of the relationship with her was
    that we both reached a new and higher consciousness being together
    in the way neither of us had experienced before.
    this was the one and total experience of love I ever felt
    and we couldn’t sustain this experience
    especially not by sharing and trying a day to day life with each other.
    for a long time since I thought I was the guilty part by having left her in this miserable, unresponsible way
    and suffered in way of episodic depression.
    but i also doubt myself of having put my own feelings and my concept of life before hers
    and thereby being narcistic and over-egoistic.
    I remember her clearly accusing me of more or less always being about me and not about her…
    however: having not being able to manage our love into a day-to-day life
    has left us both deeply wounded and hurt.
    the icy-ness you described I have never experienced except hers,
    but the ‘hot-ness’ of deepest despair and being wounded to the core.
    i would want so much to get over this and be able
    to experience love
    this encompassing and total
    without the shitstorm later…

    • rosmlewis
      Rosalind Lewis
      May 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Manfred,
      Thanks for your thoughtful response to my post. One of the hallmarks of a full on narcissist is their inability to own anything or take any responsibility for their behaviour. You dont sound like that from what you say:) We all have narcissistic traits that can come to the fore in intimate relationships. Just sounds like it was a very painful time for both of you in that relationship, with different expectations put upon each other, that the other couldn’t fulfill. Love is a difficult and complex business I think!
      Ros

  • Amanda BURCHELL
    October 17, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Ros – your Reflection on an Intimate Relationship with a Narcissist – resonated with me. I was recently married to one. I know you’d disagree but I partly blame myself for the involvement. I wanted the attention – (attention seeking) haha and I CERTAINLY got it! I think male narcissists ‘prey’ on women who they see as a brave and a bit different – but vulnerable.
    (I was starting menopause when I met him and I guess I was looking for the ‘last dance’). He left such an ‘impression’ on me, I no longer ‘entertain’ the idea of another relationship, put on weight and generally, shut down. I do feel safer, that way. But I am still, otherwise, enjoying life, maybe better, since my own, silly ego is not going to trip me up. There is no doubt that narcissists are toxic – but they can’t poison you – unless you willingly drink the elixir of misery disguised as good times! I see that you have ‘retrieved yourself’ – looking great, I must say and obviously leading a successful and fulfilling life – sans malevolent influence!

    • rosmlewis
      Rosalind Lewis
      October 17, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Amanda, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I completely understand your experience after being ‘narcissised’! I agree that male NPD do prey on the kind of women you describe. I absolutely recognise my own vulnerabilities too that hooked me in to the narcissists charm! So let’s honour our courage for disentangling and having the strength to build our lives again! It is very hard work though …..

      • Amanda BURCHELL
        October 19, 2016 at 12:04 am

        Yes, it took me quite a while to come out of ‘hiding’ – I lost a lot of confidence and I had to make a concerted effort to get back into the swing of living a ‘normal’ life. The writing group has been cathartic and an enormous help to me and living and working near the CBD has added a bit of dash to my life too.
        However, as I said this evening to you – I don’t believe I could ever be that open with a male again – I don’t think I could put the effort into – even a ‘normal’ relationship. It takes so much energy, and I am happier these days to remain self contained – I feel quite content, which is a nice feeling after the trauma of such a bad time spent with the Narcissist.

        • rosmlewis
          Rosalind Lewis
          October 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

          Hi Amanda , I know it takes such a lot of work and time to recover after being with someone like that ! It is so sad that the toxicity is such that it can destroy our trust in possible future intimate relationships . Anyway well done you and well done me for having the courage and strength to extricate from the narcissist and claim our lives back again !

          • Amanda BURCHELL
            October 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

            Yes! And let the good times roll! – For a long time I couldn’t talk about this’ – I was embarrassed and ashamed to be taken in by this kind of person. I couldn’t even reflect or consider my own role in the downward spiral of the relationship because it was so painful and distressing. Thankyou Ros, for providing this subject on your blog – I am another step closer to closure. xxx

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About me

Rosalind Lewis

Rosalind Lewis

Professionally I have 33 years experience as a Clinician, Lecturer, Group Facilitator, Educator and Supervisor in Education, Social Services and Mental Health. I currently live in Melbourne, Australia and work in Mental Health. I have a particular interest in supporting and empowering women and men to be all they can be, by assisting the discovery of tools that help them find strength to transform difficulties into opportunities, enriching their lives both personally and professionally. I am a New Zealand Registered Psychotherapist with PBANZ, member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists and have a Masters of Health Science (Psychotherapy) First Class Honours. My research thesis was about the long term consequences of intimate partner violence for women. I am influenced and informed by both my professional experiences and my own personal journey, which has involved many challenges and celebrations along the way.