Help Please - Understanding if it was Narcissistic Abuse

kocean

Learning
How does one know when a relationship was someone covertly narcissistic or ‘just’ unhealthy/toxic dynamic?

I was in a relationship for 5 months that has left me feeling absolutely confused, unsure about what really happened, no self esteem, unable to recognise who I am etc

The trouble is leading up to getting into the relationship I was at the first year anniversary of grieving the loss of a parent, which through the portal of this relationship, I dis-covered was narcissistic. I had also moved 4 times within three months so there was a lot of exhaustion and instability in the mix that I have also been in recovery from

Admittedly, I was not a good place to get into a relationship. I didn’t actually see it coming. I thought it might just be a companion to hang with now and again while I ride out the waves but it became very intense very quickly which is unusual for me. I thought that it might be the grief as it made me to opened me and made me vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I can also see how a general sense of abandonment - the death, housing instability - was in the field and also influenced the desire to have something secure in the environment. I also see now that the death of this parent (mum) activated a lot of guilt, mainly guilt feelings about saying no and looking after myself. There is a young one whose guilt for saying ‘no’ and walking away from the family was deactivated. Thus, I had trouble holding my boundaries with someone that liked to cross boundaries in general and also cry when I set them - yeh my codependence had been re activated to the MAX

Think what makes it hard is I can see all the ways in which weak boundaries, denial: ignoring the carnival of red flags and my own codependent behaviour contributed/landed me there so to say this person was narcissistic feels like putting the blame on them

Which is something they accused me of when I would point to behaviours that were problematic for me, I would be accused of creating drama and blaming them

The level of jacked up ness I feel post this relationship is unprecedented and according to sources I seem to be symptomatic!

Feeling crazy and unsure of reality. I think the covert nature of some of the things, passive aggression, controlling from the bottom is what confuses me the most, baiting etc

A few trusted people who have been through narcissistic abuse have told me what I describe sounds like it but because I played my part and I guess the need to accept powerlessness it’s hard to accept

I also find it hard to forgive myself for getting myself in such a dysregulated and vulnerable state that I went into a relationship with this person

I doubt I would say to someone walking home alone drunk that was assaulted that they were responsible for someone else’s shit behaviour yet I feel this way in this instance

I guess it matters because knowing what it is might help me to understand what I am going through and how to approach/treat it

Can anyone please help/share any experience dealing with this or any reflections? Would appreciate some support moving through this fog
 
How does one know when a relationship was someone covertly narcissistic or ‘just’ unhealthy/toxic dynamic?
How do you define narcissistic?

Think what makes it hard is I can see all the ways in which weak boundaries, denial: ignoring the carnival of red flags and my own codependent behaviour contributed/landed me there so to say this person was narcissistic feels like putting the blame on them
This is how we let people we don’t like into our lives… &/or keep them there… rather than any real statement about them. The same thing I don’t like in one person, may be something you love in them.

The whole spectrum thang.

Absolutely every single personality trait, action, pattern of behavior, tone of voice, morality/ethos, etc., etc., etc., is going to have different people thinking/feeling differently about it, as well as valuing it differently. (For example something I hate that only has a 1/10 level of importance? Is going to have less effect on me than something I like or dislike with an 8/10).

(Wont tolerate)
Hate
Dislike
Neutral DGAF
Like
Love
(Require)

Which is why I asked, above, how you define narcissistic.

Modern parlance has narcissistic/narcissism/NPD as meaningless as psycho/psychpathy/psychopath was in the 80s/90s. Even though both are/have traits (that everyone has to varying degrees) AND two of the six are an actual medical diagnosis? They’ve become shorthand for “I don’t like you”…. So they pretty much encompass everything possible under the sun.

But?

If you list out the actual traits, behaviors, events, etc.? It becomes really clear, really fast… if you’re talking about abuse, or if you’re talking personality conflict.

I also find it hard to forgive myself for getting myself in such a dysregulated and vulnerable state that I went into a relationship with this person
Most of us (people) date assholes when we’re already in a hard place.

Dating an asshole when you’re doing phenom is what would make me a LOT more concerned!
 
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You were dating someone for 5 months during a period where you had personal challenges.

Why does putting a label on someone help?

Ultimately, whether they are or not, it was a brief relationship and you recognised they were treating you in ways you don't expect or deserve and it ended after 5 months. So good for you for recognising what you want and need from a relationship.

I wonder what is making you stay focused on narcissism and without knowing that you can't let go?

Sounds like there is something deeper making you not let go and move on?
 
@Friday

I was concerned about posting this because I feared the assumption that I am using the terms for, "I don't like you, or had a difficult connection with you, or you didn't do what I wanted' etc

I'm mainly thinking this because of the way that I feel post the interaction, and I have felt nothing like this

The behaviours of this person:

1. Guilting and Shaming for proposing boundaries e.g regular STI tests. She responding by saying that I was being like a SWERF (she is a sex worker) and that she felt I was shaming her to ask. I then felt shame about asking and thought maybe it was my cultural conditioning. I still said that I needed these to be safe feeling intimate but also trusted she knew what she was doing. Other examples would be going to her place, wanting to leave and then her crying when I was leaving. I think sometimes it was done to control my behaviour - test boundaries, make me stay, and sometimes I was trying to assuage my own guilt feelings by staying longer then leaving or complying

2. Baiting e.g we agreed a very specific boundary around a client, after a difficult argument and at the end of having a very intimate time while naked and vulnerable she asks 5 weeks after we have agreed she would not work with this client for a few months, she asks me if I think it would be okay, while acknowledging it was a bit insensitive but she wanted to know! This one I didn't take and calmly explained what we agreed and if she didn't want to stick to it I understood because that was her livelihood but I would not be able to continue with her. Afterwards she tells me, she didn't remember....another example, I'm struggling with using food, she offers me chocolate, I say now and then later she goes into the kitchen and comes back with a big block, puts it on the table, I refuse, she asks me, 'oh don't you want some addiction to excitement'?

3. Shifting I point to something she may have done or said that is difficult for me, she starts crying, tells me she feels shame and then the situation becomes about her, with on top her asking me to tell her something good about her. At the end of our relationship she shouts, 'stop trying to fix me'! Admittedly there were times when she cried when I wanted to leave and I did stay longer and leave or stayed and that was me, fixing my own guilt feelings, this was not all the time. Then telling me that I am starting the drama

4. Idealisation - you're good, you're good, you're so good and I am bad, so bad and terrible. Which the sets me up as someone that can't be 'bad'.Bad being someone who expresses that some things she does are not okay for me, then I am the shaming bad person

5. Being very communicative, long messages and lots of music and then it switching suddenly to short messages, no music, basically an overnight change in communication and when asked pretending there was no difference

6. Triangulating. Each time we had some uncomfortableness is our connection a few days later she would have had a good soothing connection with her ex (person I think she was still in love with) One incident lead to her telling me

7. Passive Aggression. Agreeing to have boundaries around sex work, then not keeping them and in the end accusing me of being controlling despite the fact that she had agreed to the things I requested, such as STI tests and some sexual acts that would only happen in our intimate connection. The latter was a big challenge for her to define. These were always proposed as these are things that I would like to happen in light of your work and what would feel safe for me, how does this sound to you, can you do this, there were never any demands

8. Setting up Boundary Violations. Letting me know their ex made them feel like shit about their work, and had some boundaries, like her changing her clothes after working with clients. This left me feeling very cautious and fearful about how I might approach my own boundaries because I did not want her to feel like I was shaming her (I know codependent, because how she feels is for her!) Letting me know her Dad was a covert narcissist and use to scape goat her and use his emotions to control the household

These are some of the things plus cultural narcissism


You were dating someone for 5 months during a period where you had personal challenges.

Why does putting a label on someone help?

Ultimately, whether they are or not, it was a brief relationship and you recognised they were treating you in ways you don't expect or deserve and it ended after 5 months. So good for you for recognising what you want and need from a relationship.

I wonder what is making you stay focused on narcissism and without knowing that you can't let go?

Sounds like there is something deeper making you not let go and move on?

@Movingforward10

I'm trying to understand what it was that spun me out so much, the things I experienced were very unusual for me, the way I have felt post that relationship is very unusual, and yes it was an unusual time

Sometimes labels and characteristics, symptoms can be useful for locating what's happening. It's a bit like being told I have cPTSD helped me to understand my experiences a bit better then I was able to accept and move forward

I appreciate the questions and why you may have asked them in a climate where that label has been thrown around so much

I'm not someone seeking to label someone a narcissist so they can be the baddie and me the goodie. I'm really trying to understand what may have happened and why it is that I am so scrambled, and of course some of that was my own circumstance outside the relationship

Yes I recognised it etc and ended it, and there is still a lot to process and there is how that relationship lead me to looking at the narcissism of the parent that I am grieving

I appreciate many people use this label without any thought but this is not where I am coming from and would have appreciated some more curiosity rather than what has felt like judgement in your response
 
How do you define narcissistic?


This is how we let people we don’t like into our lives… &/or keep them there… rather than any real statement about them. The same thing I don’t like in one person, may be something you love in them.

The whole spectrum thang.

Absolutely every single personality trait, action, pattern of behavior, tone of voice, morality/ethos, etc., etc., etc., is going to have different people thinking/feeling differently about it, as well as valuing it differently. (For example something I hate that only has a 1/10 level of importance? Is going to have less effect on me than something I like or dislike with an 8/10).

(Wont tolerate)
Hate
Dislike
Neutral DGAF
Like
Love
(Require)

Which is why I asked, above, how you define narcissistic.

Modern parlance has narcissistic/narcissism/NPD as meaningless as psycho/psychpathy/psychopath was in the 80s/90s. Even though both are/have traits (that everyone has to varying degrees) AND two of the six are an actual medical diagnosis? They’ve become shorthand for “I don’t like you”…. So they pretty much encompass everything possible under the sun.

But?

If you list out the actual traits, behaviors, events, etc.? It becomes really clear, really fast… if you’re talking about abuse, or if you’re talking personality conflict.


Most of us (people) date assholes when we’re already in a hard place.

Dating an asshole when you’re doing phenom is what would make me a LOT more concerned!

@Friday I think I would define it simply as the other person thinking that I am an extension of them, there to serve them and certainly not to disturb their perception of themselves. I felt like I experienced this with my ex
 
I'm trying to understand what it was that spun me out so much
Then the focus needs to be on you and your reactions. I always find that when we’re trying to put labels on others (external issues) we’re not doing the work that sets us free (internal issues).

nothing you describe above screams narcissistic to me. All I see is a very intense, up and down period of 5 months with you going through a hard time, her doing sex work that has all sorts of feelings for you, her ex, and then her, which is a minefield in itself.
 
Then the focus needs to be on you and your reactions. I always find that when we’re trying to put labels on others (external issues) we’re not doing the work that sets us free (internal issues).

nothing you describe above screams narcissistic to me. All I see is a very intense, up and down period of 5 months with you going through a hard time, her doing sex work that has all sorts of feelings for you, her ex, and then her, which is a minefield in itself.
I hear that. I don't think I am not not focused on me. I am doing a lot of work looking at my codependence, the aspects of me that were so activated at this time that made it hard to hold boundaries, the relationship with the deceased parent
And
I am also trying to understand what was particularly distinct about this relationship with this person because how I have been post it, has been very distinct and disturbing, and of course it could just be all me but seeing as there were two people, I doubt it

Thanks for sharing your thoughts
 
Was just looking at the OP and checking myself. Was not focusing on the blaming this other person, my questions was about knowing what was what to help me understand the experience I am having post the relationship. It feels like this has turned into me trying to blame someone and label just for the sake of it, when all I am trying to do is get support in getting clarity. I am aware a I am responsible for being there and the choices I made, that does not mean the things this person done (many of which were not included here) were ok.
 
think one of the things that I recognise was an issue is having a return of guilt feelings when I stated needs or said no, which was something I used to have very strongly as a young person until I worked on it quite a bit in recovery. Then it came back with a vengeance during the early stages of grieving the loss of my mum who was a big emotional manipulator, guilt tripper, and so my own weakened boundaries led to me feeling bad about setting boundaries, (even though I would do it) finding it hard to maintain them or feeling more susceptible to abandonment stories and feelings leading me to say yes when the answer was no because a general sense of abandonment from the death of my mother was in the field

all of this definitely contributed to the situation I found myself in and has pointed to me towards an area that needs more work, which is the guilt feelings that seem to be at the core of my previous identity

What struck me was that after the relationship when I said no to someone who didn't try to push the boundary or tell me they felt shamed by me setting one, I had an disproportionate sense of relief, I can remember on one occasion I nearly cried with relief! This is very unlike me

It wasn't that my ex was overt with her behaviour but covert, it was more that stating something about what I needed in regards to intimacy, would turn into her saying I was shaming her, those issues of shame were hers, not mine but I felt responsible for it, that's me and my codependence. Yet that does change the fact that the behaviour was off, manipulative etc while I also acknowledge people-pleasing is also manipulation although sometimes more socially acceptable

so perhaps what I am definitely clear on is that we are both people with codependence/codependent behaviours

anyway, I am honestly seeking to work things through and understand what happened and why I have been in such a state post this connection. I want to be accountable and responsible for my behaviour and I also have to be cautious around the 'its all my fault' narrative that I can get into
 
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