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  • Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Feeling Erased? Signs You're Dating a Narcissist...



Do you feel like you're disappearing in your relationship, like you're being "erased"? You might be dating a narcissist.

Narcissism falls on a spectrum, ranging from benign to malignant. Maybe it's obvious, but it's the malignant kind that you want to avoid.

Read on for a review of common characteristics of narcissists and the people who fall for them.

Common characteristics of a narcissist...

  • Highly self-absorbed

  • Dominant and controlling

  • Aggressive, passive-aggressive, competitive

  • Detached emotionally

  • Entitled attitude

  • Lack of reciprocity

  • Charming, bright, interesting, entertaining

  • Masking a sense of insecurity

  • Limited/underdeveloped capacity for empathy

  • Focused on how they are doing - Doing, performing, and proving themselves

  • Seek frequent recognition, adoration, and special status

  • Little time and attention given to what's happening inside the world of others. Little attention to their own inner world at an emotional level

  • On the inside lives a lonely, isolated, and insecure person

  • Not in touch with who they are at the core. Avoids emotions. Has deep sense of shame with which they aren't in touch

  • Addictive or obsessive behaviors (work, drugs, sex, pornography) are common

  • Need distractions to remain cut off from their emotions b/c it's too painful to go there

  • Remain in world of self-aggrandizement, approval seeking, bullying, entitlement OR remain in a cave-world (detached) - using distraction and stimulation in some way, shape, or form to avoid feelings

Experience of the partner in a relationship with a narcissist...

  • Feeling invisible or "erased"

  • Having preferences demeaned

  • Feeling devalued

  • Experience that the only opinion that matters is one that matches their narcissist partner

  • At times see their partner expressing vulnerability, but then this is gone as fast as showed up

  • At times charmed by the narcissist

  • Inner emotional world and interests are not addressed or valued by their partner

  • Treated as object only there to please the narcissistic partner

  • Lack a feeling of connection and being understood in the relationship

Who becomes the narcissist's partner...

Really, no one is immune b/c narcissists can be very be charming, suave and sophisticated, attentive, bold, and valiant. They can go from being a "knight in shining armor to nightmare in armor." They may be able to memorize what they need to do in order to get what they want from you - this can be interpreted as thoughtful and loving, but it's really just a manipulation strategy. Genuine love and attraction may exist but it will quickly fade as the narcissist loses interest. They are good at creating novel events early on in the relationship, so in the beginning it's exciting and this creates attachment and bonding faster. They love the thrill of "winning" but then then they get bored. They're not good at true vulnerability and intimacy so even when they initially show these qualities, it doesn't last very long.​

The partner who stays...

  • May see the underlying vulnerability and wounded-ness of the narcissist and gravitates to this, wanting to help them

  • May already have kids with the narcissist

  • May have abandonment issues

  • May find characteristics of the narcissist familiar (and therefore gravitate to it) b/c of abuse experienced in childhood

The partner who leaves...

When the costs become too high, this may be the tipping point at which time the partner of the narcissist finally ends things. The feeling of complete loneliness (even when their partner is present due to their withholding of authentic connection) can be enough reason to leave. However, if there's violence, they must end things in order to seek safety. They may leave after becoming completely demoralized by the devaluing and addictive or obsessive behavior of the narcissist.

The causes of narcissism...

According to Wendy Behary, author of Disarming the Narcissist, there are basically two paths to developing narcissism.

The first path - The narcissist, as a child, was not given the kind of attention and reassurance they needed. They likely were biologically wired with a more sensitive temperament and this was not nurtured properly. They may have experienced parents who emphasized performance such as within academics or sports. The focus was on how they do rather than on being. They were likely made to feel weak for having emotions or showing vulnerability. They may have received a confusing/conflicting message as one parent doted on them, treated them as the "chosen" child, and put them on a pedestal while the other parent was overly critical and demanding. They then developed a core, unconscious belief that they are defective. Their outward communication of their "special-ness" is a defensive armor against this painful self-image - it hides their history of emotional deprivation and inner sense of defectiveness.

The other path - In this case, the narcissist was a purely spoiled child. They were given a cushy and comfy upbringing with everything taken care of. They never experienced struggle or obstacles, so they never learned how to cope with stress or disappointment. They were frequently told how special and wonderful they are, so they never experienced any sense of rejection. This path leads to more dependence than first. However, this path can be a part of the first path.

Treatment...

It can be treated and they can change but it takes a lot of work, time, and a qualified therapist. Most narcissists will never seek treatment unless they are in jeopardy of losing something/someone they want to keep and have been told to see a therapist "or else." This is the leverage needed to make changes in therapy.

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Information in this post was primarily gathered from Wendy Behary on the Psych Sessions w/ Jimmie Morris podcast, #37 Narcissism. For more information about narcissism, visit Wendy's website, here.


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