Are you in a love-hate relationship with someone who tells you that he or she loves you... but you don't feel loved? Does your lover act warm one minute, and then insensitive the next? Does your partner expect you to understand his emotions but acts uncaring when you share your innermost feelings? You might be in love with a narcissist but don't know it. I explore this issue in my eBook, Grownup Love: Getting It and Keeping It.
Fred and Nancy came to see me before they married to discuss some of their growing problems. Fred was ten years older than Nancy, an attractive woman with little education and few skills. Nancy was brought up in an extremely angry family where she suffered physical abuse from her father and brothers, who also had anger problems. Therefore, she tended to feel inadequate and was easily browbeaten.
Fred was prosperous, well educated and charming, but wanted things his way all the time and was easily angered when his requests were not met. Despite my attempts to help them resolve their serious relationship issues, they decided to marry before they had done the work of fixing their issues. Fred's pompous personality, his need to control others, plus his demands that Nancy obey his every wish, indicated that he was a narcissist.
Their marriage was a turbulent one filled with fights that often brought the police. From time to time they returned for therapy, but marriage counseling was just a band-aid for this highly dysfunctional relationship that lasted for ten years. If only I had been able to convince Nancy to pay attention to these 4 clues that your partner is a narcissist, perhaps she could have avoided a great deal of misery and hardship.
Clue #1 Narcissists have a grandiose self-image.
During one of our individual counseling sessions Fred confided in me that he saw himself as an Emperor reigning over his domain. When I asked him who his subjects were, he replied that he commanded his wife and daughter Debby from his previous marriage. He believed that since he was supporting them he could run their lives and was disdainful when they didn't obey.
Clue #2 Narcissists expect constant praise and admiration
Fred wanted Nancy to do his bidding at all times and to look up to him as if to a god. He felt entitled and was surprised and greatly angered when Nancy disagreed with him or refused to do his bidding. He treated her like a live-in maid with benefits.
Clue #3 Narcissists have little or no empathy with others
Fred believed that he was better than most people, and was harshly critical of Nancy. He showed no regard for her feelings and needs or for Debby's. He expected them to make him happy; to Fred they were little more than puppets to be manipulated.
Clue #4 Narcissists fantasize about being powerful
Fred used his financial resources to control his wife and daughter, but even so, his attitude and behavior finally drove Debby to cut her ties with him. She moved far away and refused to have any relationship with her dad.
Eventually Nancy couldn't stand the pain of being his servant and punching bag, so she divorced him. Unhappily, since he was a wealthy man, Fred hired a lawyer to create a settlement that left her with very little support.
If you are in or have had similar relationships in love or at work, don't expect things to change at the drop of a hat. Narcissists often don't think they have any problems, and will continue to lable you as the one with the problem. Consider finding a therapist to help you assess your situation and enable you to decide how to empower yourself and how to find the kind of love and approval you want.
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