Intimacy?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Mary remembered two things about her relationship with Don that only made sense after some time of counseling.  First, he was a wonderful listener who wanted to know all about her.  He cared about her ideas and dreams and goals and everything else she valued.  Before they were married.  She didn’t know exactly when it happened, but the day came when she realized that Don no longer cared about her opinions or goals.  In fact, he often did things to counter her dreams and even stopped her from sharing about her fears and concerns.  When she did share something from her heart, he used it against her at a later time.

Mary also realized that she knew very little about Don’s heart.  She knew his opinions on almost everything: the stupid neighbors, her interfering parents, his incompetent boss, the idiot politicians.  But she knew very little about Don.  Why was he angry so often?  Why did he seem to hate so many people?  What made him turn into this?

Intimacy and narcissism may be opposites.  Of course, I am not talking about sexuality, but heart intimacy where two people share themselves with each other.  Because narcissists don’t know themselves and don’t want to acknowledge who they are or what they feel, they cannot/will not open themselves in this way to another person.  However, they readily receive intimacy from others.

Like bait, the narcissist dangles a sense of intimacy in front of those who need to trust someone.  Most are able to project just the kind of listener or caring person the victim needs.  The intimate thoughts and feelings shared with a narcissist are either discarded as unimportant or saved to be used when needed.  Thus, if a co-worker tells a narcissist about her feelings of incompetence at work, she will find that the narcissist shares that information with the boss or with other co-workers.  If she tells him about her children, he will appear to listen and be interested, but never remember the kids’ names or the information that has been shared.

So narcissists will not be intimate with you, but they will take advantage of your need for intimacy and appear to value you in that way.  Until the truth becomes obvious.

This is why many victims of narcissism find intimacy so difficult.  When they finally realize what has happened to them, they feel so betrayed that they are unable to trust others.  They are often ashamed of their openness to deception and chastise themselves “for being so stupid.”  Since many victims go from one narcissistic relationship to another, these folks often become distrustful and manipulative in relationships themselves.

Feelings of betrayal are common for victims of narcissism.  For spouses or co-workers, the reason for this seems obvious.  But what about children of narcissists?  Counselors and friends will hear phrases like: “My mom never really loved me.” Or, “I never really knew my parents.”  Sometimes children of narcissists actually forget significant portions of their childhood or cannot answer questions about family values and traditions.  The things we use to connect ourselves to others are simply missing in these families.

I tend to be somewhat simplistic about these things because I believe most of us want to understand in simple terms what has happened in our lives.  It is important for victims of narcissists to understand that the problems they faced were in the others, the narcissists.  The narcissists were the ones who abused and distorted intimacy.  The narcissists were the ones with the problems.

Sharing and caring are normal parts of healthy relationships.  Families, friends, and lovers share from their hearts and open themselves as part of trusting the relationship.  Once the victim of a narcissist understands the kind of person he or she has been connected with, finding a person who is not that way allows the need for intimacy to find expression.  There are other people who need love and who are able to share.

And I believe there is a God who loves you, accepts you, values you, and opens His heart to yours.

7 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

7 responses to “Intimacy?

  1. Jerry

    Hi,
    I have been diagnosed a narcissist; and my wife is at her wits end….today, she asked me to not use the word love towards her or our children….painful. I just kind of felt numb most of the day. I seek repentance; and I am seeing a Counselor. Got any advice?

    • Jerry,

      Why is your wife “at her wits end”? What is she thinking and feeling? If you can answer that, with understanding and acceptance, then you are on your way to leaving the narcissism behind.

      If you have read previous posts on this blog, you have seen that I believe narcissism is a disease of the heart that does not allow the narcissist to think of others as real people, people whose feelings and perspectives have as much validity as his. Because of this inability to personalize others, the others find it very difficult to believe love when it is offered. In fact, love has a different meaning for the narcissist than for others.

      Every so often I get a question about the possibility of a narcissist changing. I believe that God can do anything. I do not believe that the narcissist can simply decide to change, even with the help of a good counselor. Behaviors can be adapted, attitudes can be adjusted, and relationships can be defined in ways that are helpful—but I do not believe that narcissists can just change their minds and move in a different direction. People know when love is contrived or insincere. Eventually, they know. The question is not how to get your wife to believe that you love her, but how to truly love her.

      Jerry, obviously there isn’t a great deal I can do to help in a short response to a comment. There are two things I have to say, however. First, it is worthwhile to sort this out. Find out why you are broken inside. Let the Lord take you to that place of pain that set this in motion. Second, the Lord loves you. In spite of the harsh things I and others say about narcissists, there is love for you and security in Him. Find Him. Don’t be content with information, find the Person.

      I am very willing to correspond with you, either privately or publicly through the blog. I don’t want to do anything that would get in the way of your counselor, unless he or she really does not understand narcissism and is not helpful. If you would like to give your counselor my name, I would be happy to correspond with him/her. You would have to give your permission, of course.

      Please allow your wife to go through what she needs to go through. Watch her and accept her feelings. She is a real person, as valuable and as real as you are. She has a right to her feelings. If she would like to correspond with me, I would be happy to help as I can.
      You can write me through the contact page on my website or send me a note at: dave(at)gracefortheheart(dot)org.

  2. Cecilia K

    — “Because narcissists don’t know themselves and don’t want to acknowledge who they are or what they feel, they cannot/will not open themselves in this way to another person.” —

    This touches on something I experienced and have wondered about…my ex-boyfriend would show anger for the typical offenses – i.e., me disagreeing with him, saying no, setting a boundary, etc. But if I called him out on his anger, he would deny it and say he was not angry. It made me very confused – I would see what definitely looked like anger – but even with the evidence, I would question my own perspective…was I crazy? Just imagining it? Blowing his reaction out of proportion? I was usually pretty sure he was angry but was just in denial about it, but I would never push the issue, because I grew to learn that it would do no good and would probably, in fact, make matters worse.

    And as others have experienced, from what I’ve seen, rather than admitting to his own anger, he would tell me I had an anger problem. I understand now this is projection, although, yeah, I did lose control of my anger on several occasions, but I see now I was acting like a typical victim of a narcissist, because my angry reactions were usually a response to his abuse of some sort.

    Anyway, so I gather from what you wrote here, Pastor Dave, that it is pretty common for narcissists to not be in touch with their feelings? Do they truly not realize they are angry (or whatever emotion)? I had another previous boyfriend who once wrote me what felt to me like a very nasty email, and when I said something to him about how angry he was, he replied that he was not angry. Again, I was so confused, and I thought, if this is you NOT angry, I’d hate to see you when you ARE angry.

    To you other victims, has this been a common experience for you all as well – that your narcissists seem to be out of touch with their feelings?

  3. Penny

    Omigosh, Ceclilia, yes! A thousand times, yes. Ns will contradict themselves in the same sentence and then blame it on you, b/c they are desperate to maintain their image; any negative emotion (i.e.:anger) might damage their carefully-crafted perfect image, so anger must be denied at al costs (even tho they are always seething). Scot Peck in his book “People of the LIe” realized that the confusion that comes with interacting w/a N is a red-flag: confusing the issue[s] is part of their self-deception. THEY are not angry~YOU are angry! THEY are not mean–YOU are mean! THEY are not yelling at you; why are YOU raising your voice?! Never mind that they provoked and attacked and irritated and abused you to the point of utter exhaustion~THEY proclaim their sainthood and YOU are clearly the one with a problem. They live in a fantasy world of perfection and will do anything to keep it intact; reality threatens their image, their idol and they will worship at the altar of that image even if it means destroying you. You are merely an object, a prop, and objects are not allowed to emote. Props exist to maintain the illusion of the N. If they fail, they are discarded.

  4. Penny

    You are not alone, that’s for sure! All of us here have shared experiences and all learned the hard way; the challenge the becomes (1) recognizing the red flags (so you can keep your distance from such people) & then (2) creating boundaries designed to protect yourself from being sucked into the drama. It takes a lot of work, but then so does living with a N. I prefer the boundaries!! The main thing to remember with boundaries is that they are not designed to change the other person, but about self-preservation–it’s about changing yourself and your responses. I really got tired of being told “they’ll never change” which let everyone off the hook for atrocious behavior by the N. When I finally drew a line and said “it’s not about the N changing; it’s about ME changing my responses and how I choose to live and who I choose to expose myself to”, I got a lot of “push back”, a lot of protests and judgement. But, I learned to grow a “steel spine”, stand firm and not be manipulated by the whims of the N who can never be satisfied anyway. Their whole life is a bait-and-switch, backstabbing, gossip-y, contradictory, one-upping mess and my life is too short to accommodate that kind of drama & nonsense. If the “bystanders” who thrive on the drama want to continue in the Ns deception[s] and fakery, then they proceed at their own peril: once the N figures out that you won’t play the game anymore, they will focus on another victim. Don’t let it be you.

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