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Trying to UNDERSTAND and LEARN from relationship with a narcissist (and not/ no longer spew vitriol about them)


So, I think that people claiming their ex is a "narcissist" is a very over-inflated thing... People have shitty breakups, they (both) show their worst sides in the breakup and engage in some toxic behaviour and then walk away from it claiming that the other person is a narcissist, sociopath, crazy, damaged, whatever...

Whether it's that kind of breakup, or whether people truly did get entangled with a narcissist, I understand that the anger/ blaming phase can be an important part of getting over and healing from a negative, painful experience.

I've been through endless iterations of that... Blame, anger, doubt, self-blame, anger, rage, fury, disbelief, regret... round and round...

I think I finally need to leave that phase of rage and disappointment and hurt and enter a phase of acceptance and understanding and learning.

So I'd love some input from people who have also a) experienced the devastation of a narcissist relationship and breakup and b) moved on and healed enough to be over the intial rage phase and who can c) view the whole mess with a bit more distance, equanimity, objectivity, insight.

One of the questions rolling around in my head at the moment is the love-boming phase... I know not all narcissist relationships start out with that phase, but many do.

Having grown up with childhood trauma, I generally have quite a bit of healthy scepticism about relationships and people's intentions, but I thought that when you're in the "in love" phase of a relationship, it's normal for both people to sort of be wearing rose coloured glasses and to be "idealising" the other person a bit... I mean, nobody's perfect, but when you're in love, it can feel like the other person is perfect... And I don't necessarily think that's a guaranteed warning sign that the person must be a narcissist.

Ever since this happened to me tho, I'm hyper-sceptical now, when anyone is nice to me, that it's a potential love-bombing, idealisation, over-valuing phase of an overt or covert narcissist.

How can I tell the difference? Is there some kind of litmus test to differentiate "this person and I are a really good fit" and "this person is mirroring and play-acting that we're a really good fit for nefarious reasons of their own"?

I've lost all confidence at being able to distinguish that and I'm soooooo scared of getting entangled in that kind of dynamic again because it literally nearly killed me last time. I mean, I survived a whole childhood full of trauma and "coped" and "survived" but the relationship with a narcissist completely undid me and I lost the will to keep living. So I know the price can be beyond unimaginably huge - it can cause you to lose yourself in the most fundamental way.

So being able to tell the difference between "this person and I get on really well and we've got similar tastes and interests and values" and "this person is scamming me by emotionally tuning into what I want and pretending to be that" is truly a matter of survival.

In the aftermath of the relationship and breakup described above, I also got into the same dynamic with the boss at a new place of employment. This boss convinced me to leave my old job, they offered me amazing conditions at the new job, when I hesitated, they kept improving the job offer, I even said that I wanted to work there part-time for a while, to make sure we were a good fit and they complimented my work throughout that whole time (2 months) and then we finally signed the contract and literally on the day that I handed in notice at my old place of employment, the whole thing "switched" and turned into a dark, abusive stream of mistreatment... I was so shocked at the time and still wasn't anywhere close to understanding the dynamic of narcissist interactions... I didn't realise that they will do "whatever it takes" to get you hooked and that the moment they can tell you are hooked (eg handing in notice at your old employer) that they will shift the dynamic by 180 degrees, because now you're trapped...

So yeah, I really need to figure this stuff out.

And I know that my experiences of childhood abuse actually make me vulnerable to this stuff... After growing up in such an awful setting, a part of my psyche "wants" to hear the stuff that a "love-bombing" narcissist will tell me - that my work is great, that I'm a good fit for the company, that we're really alike, that I'm the partner they've been looking for...
(Can't edit to add...)

But wanted to add: I really like Dr Ramani's take on surviving a relationship with a narcissist. I think she's really calm and balanced about it.

There's too many other people that write books or have blogs or youtube channels that just RANT about narcissists... They're in that energy of the rage/ hurt/ dissapointment/ blaming/ demonising phase of coping with a narcissist and I've found their rants to be very unhelpful... It's just snarky, bitchy vitriol (which, yah, is understandable as an emotional reaction) but it's not HELPFUL in terms of moving on, healing, growing, understanding, owning your own part in what happened, accepting, being compassionate...

I like how in this video she compares a relationship to a narcissist like an addiction to slot machines... The fact that you DON'T get what you want and need but it's so close to being "possible" creates an addictive pull that is powerful and infuriating because you can't understand why your brain keeps going back to something that's fundamentally broken.
the slang use of "narcissist" was still new at the turn of the 90s when i was going through my first 3 year separation with the chump i ultimately decided to keep. i jumped on it with the enthusiasm of a child sex trafficking survivor. poor innocent me. victimized yet again. during that same time frame, the ptsd dx had yet to present, but i started taking my amnesia therapy seriously, which led to therapy of those long repressed traumas. my primary dx of the day was bipolar, but the bipolar therapy was more to work with what was available than faith in the chemical imbalances of my cerebellum. i still use quite a few of the tools i learned as a bipolar.

pros often disagree and contradict one another, but in this particular case my pros were unanimously united in their assertion that i was not a qualified psychoanalyst, hubby was not present for accurate psychoanalysis and that even if my diagnosis of my soon-to-be-ex was accurate, you cannot therapute a person who is not present. this was **my** therapy, not his.

is your ex accurately diagnosed as a narcissist? information currently unavailable and thoroughly irrelevant to your own recovery.

or so ^it^ was/is for me. . .

steadying support while you figure out what ^it^ is for you.
Hi @arfie

Yeah, I get that, but personally I don't subscribe to it at all.

Take the example of the perps of our childhood traumas and CSA... A paedophile is basically never going to go into therapy and do the work of finding out what diagnosis fits them. But the police/ courts don't care whether a perp "admits" what they did or goes and gets treatment or a diagnosis. They decide on the basis of what's most likely, what's reasonable, they go with what can be proved and judge and analyse the situation as best they can.

I really think that nearly all perps actively try to prevent anyone, including/ especially their victims, being able to "work out" what happened and "why".

And just because perps do this - does not mean I'm willing to put up with it. I refuse to be left in the dark and wondering what happened. If the best bet I've got is putting the puzzle pieces together myself with the help of my therapist and others, so be it.

Sure, if my screwed up ex or the perps of my childhood went and did therapy and then shared the outcomes and diagnosis with me, I might have an even clearer picture.

But a) that's not gonna happen and so b) I'm gonna have to live with a say 90% or 80% or 70% accuracy in the analysis, since I'm never going to be handed the information that could provide 100% certainty.
Are the clues there in how you interact and set out your needs?
i.e. If you express something, how do they respond?

can you break down the ‘love bombing’? Yes, people in healthy relatuonahips express love. But they also express other things.

the narcissistic abuse I suffered was from my mum growing up. I agree a lot of info and books out there is full of anger. I couldn’t relate to it either. But I think I have made peace with it.
for me a narcissist is only able to be identified when I set out my needs, and when there is something that means they have to show empathy and do something for someone else. When I realise there is no space for me and they can’t deal with any demands I Amy make on the relationship.
it’s a label, like all labels, that gets banded around. I am finding it helpful to use and have done so in various settings, such as realising my boss is like that too etc.
the police/ courts don't care whether a perp "admits" what they did or goes and gets treatment or a diagnosis.
this is the attitude i take in my own recovery. what psych dx caused my mother to sell me into prostitution? ditto for the anonymous janes and johns who are sick enough to buy children for sex. f*ck if i care and i damned sure ain't gonna cover the cost of psychoanalysis and treatment for them. this therapy session is all mine. whoever deserves the blame for my mental health condition, recovery is my choice and mine alone. i don't see the sense in waiting until the guilty take responsibility for the damage, not even if it were possible to locate them all.
Following because I’m in a similar boat.
I've lost all confidence at being able to distinguish that and I'm soooooo scared of getting entangled in that kind of dynamic again
“Falling in love” sounds about as appealing as a paper cut in the eye.

My strategy right now is to just focus on friendships. And I have discovered that friendships can f*ck with you too, but not usually in a way that cuts as deep.
One of the things I’ve spent a lot of my recovery time doing is trying to make sense of what my abuser did to me, why, what damage it’s done.

There’s a limit to how helpful that is.

One thing I know for sure, is that I’m very unlikely to ever avoid bad relationships primarily based on some kind of insight I might have (or likely, think I have, but don’t) into my abuser’s ‘tactics’ or whatever you want to call them.

My single best buffer against any form of toxic relationship (including employers, where there is necessarily already a power imbalance and conflicting motivations in play, even before narcissism enters the picture) is managing myself, and specifically, my boundaries.

It doesn’t matter how long or hard a person engages in love-bombing if I’m clear with myself that physical and sexual violence is never okay, that I won’t accept being yelled at, and that I won’t accept being spoken to aggressively (including passive aggressively), and if I allow the people around me to be responsible for their own emotions.

Protecting myself is about the things I can do, irrespective of the pathology or motivations or another person. Much more agency and empowerment in that, than trying to doge unhealthy dynamics.
So I'd love some input from people who have also a) experienced the devastation of a narcissist relationship and breakup and b) moved on and healed enough to be over the intial rage phase and who can c) view the whole mess with a bit more distance, equanimity, objectivity, insight.
I kinda dig most of the people I’ve meet with true NPD. They’re refreshingly honest, as a group, similar to Aspies, but with badass social skills. Pretty much? I know if I’ll like them, or not, within minutes of meeting them… and there is very little in the way of evolving judgments to me made over the course of knowing most of them. What you see? Is what you get. It. Is. Incrediably. Relaaaaaaaxing.

Also similar to Aspies, the disorder doesn’t predict personality (you’ve met one person with autism? You’ve met one person with autism! Ditto, NPD.), rather it predicts a way of thinking/feeling/acting… the personality central to that cocktail? Is as varied as there are people. Some? Are the best people you will ever know in your life, most are intensely varied, some are abusive assholes, a few are evil SOBs. The same as. every. other. grouping. of. people.

Wih my PTSD & ADHD, the teeeeeny tiny minority of people who are as HONEST as HFA, NPD, Etc.? (There are a few other groups that have extreme levels of honesty in play). Just takes a HUGE weight off of my black & white brain. Someone telling me they’re a cunning a manipulative bastard? Or a total softy, who can act tough when needed? I can grin hugely at, and believe them, 100%… if and only if… certain disorders apply. Most people saying that? There could be 50 meanings behind it. Narcissists? There is only 1 meaning. The straight up truth. I ADORE that. Even if I dislike the individual. They’re straightforward. Even if most people think they’re joking/don’t believe them/etc.

NARCISSISTIC TENDENCIES, on the other hand, I personal snarl, hiss, and arch my back at.

Shrug. Again, that’s personal preference. As what I LIKE about NPD people is utterly removed.
I kinda dig most of the people I’ve meet with true NPD.
Likewise. One of my closest friends for a long time was a diagnosed ASPD/NPD who actually had a Federal court case because she disseminated bomb threats through AIM (as a teenager). I tend to get along with most of the cluster B's, and I thought I was ASPD for a looooooong time. I understand them, they have a fragile ego and I know how to work with that as I grew up with an NPD grandmother (diagnosed).

Generally, it's people who lack psychological insight and self-awareness, who will end up doing the most damage. The people who are least likely to get a diagnosis, are the most likely to cause you harm as they have never been exposed to treatment modalities designed to challenge their methodology. You're never going to have a true litmus test for uncovering nefarious motivations because human beings are intelligent. We adapt, improvise and overcome, so to speak.

Having read this thread of yours, I could use my intellect to construct a persona that would be appealing to you, even while actually just wanting something from you (money, admiration, etc). As someone with a diagnosed personality disorder I am as honest as possible, informing people so that they can consent to interact with me knowing that I will never be able to emotionally reciprocate.

But part of what I do, is analyze the situation in front of me, and then construct personas to engage with it as easily and hassle/conflict-free as possible. It is all intentional, deliberate, etc. One thing I learned during my studies is that people with RAD actually score the highest, out of any disorder in the DSM, on the ability to self-monitor - this is how we conduct ourselves based on social standards of our group, in order to make ourselves seem good.

I am actually being this honest simply because most people respond well to it.

A person who self-monitors might hit their sibling, and when caught, suddenly burst into tears and cry that they are filled with remorse to receive a less harsh punishment when in reality, they don't care at all. So what I mean is, you are never going to devise any kind of fool-proof test to determine whether or not the person you're speaking with is being authentic.

The only thing you can do, is establish what type of behavior you are willing to accept from others. It doesn't matter why someone yells at you (raises their voice to intimidate, not yelling to be heard) and insults you - if they yell at you, cut them off. It doesn't matter if they're a good or bad person. It is not your responsibility to determine this, or to give someone free therapy. Yelling and insulting are bad actions, and you are allowed to disengage from that person.
Having read this thread of yours, I could use my intellect to construct a persona that would be appealing to you,
Snort. Too late. I liked you already :P

And nooooo… don’t take that as a challenge to make me dislike you. That’s just boring. Even if tempting, it’s remedial. Even if done creatively, which could certainly be a BIT more interesting? It’s far more difficult to get me to like you, than dislike you.

(I have a much longer post that I’ve moved to drafts. But this bit? Worth throwing out there, now. 😎)
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