Why are they so mean?

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Sometimes narcissists are just plain mean.  They say cruel things, things meant to sting.  It isn’t enough that they don’t care what they say.  In these situations it seems like they do care and they are trying to cause pain.  Why are they so mean?

I thought about this as I wrote a response to an email I received recently.  The behavior seems so counterproductive.  If the narcissist needs people, why does he push them away?  If he needs certain people who provide his “supply,” why does he try to hurt them?

If we think of narcissists as addicts and people (or what people provide) as supply/drug, then I think we will understand a lot about how narcissists treat people.  Most drug addicts hate the drug.  It has a physical hold on them and they must have it in order to get the high.  The whole process of finding and buying and using the drug is a negative for most addicts.  The only positive is the high.

Last week I said that the god of the narcissist is the image they present of themselves.  Their highs come from affirmation of that image.  Attention, respect, admiration—these are the highs of the narcissist.  And what brings the high?  People!

Narcissists need people, but they hate the fact that they need people.  The ones they need the most are the ones that are hardest for them.  They hate having to spend time or energy or money on the ones who are supposed to provide the high, just like a junkie hates having to come up with money all the time.  Think about that.  Which do you think the addict would get more pleasure from: the drug he has to work or steal to get or the drug that is given as a gift?  The work lessens the high, especially when he has to think about more work in order to get the next high.

So some of his cruelty toward his wife or children or others has to do with how he feels about the cost of the relationship.  He believes he should receive the admiration and service simply because the image is worth it.  Purchased praise just doesn’t feel as good.

Another thing that happens commonly in almost all addictions is what we call “drug tolerance.”  Eventually, the drug user needs more of the drug or a stronger drug to get his high.  We know that narcissists often have serial relationships.  The newness of the next relationship brings a slight difference to the high and the old one wasn’t feeling as good.  Many victims have noted that their narcissist seems depressed, almost like the lull between the highs.

So what does a narcissist do when he has painted himself into a corner?  He has put together a life that doesn’t allow him to leave his wife and family and he can’t find opportunity for a lover.  Sometimes he can build sources of supply at work or in organizations, but sometimes he might have to change the flavor of the drug at home.

I suspect that there is a psychological increase in the high when it comes at a cost to the victim.  If loyalty feels good normally, think of how good loyalty would feel if the victim had reason to hate you.  If she was still loyal and still gave attention, even after you have been cruel, then she must really love you or be under your control.  See how powerful the image is?  It receives love and service even from those who have been hurt by it.  If the abuser gets pleasure from his victim, this may be the explanation.

Now, I do have to mention one more reason why a narcissist or anyone in a relationship might be so mean.  I have known several “christians” who wanted a divorce but couldn’t be seen as the one who initiated the proceedings.  If they filed, they would be the bad guys.  So, they pushed their spouses through little acts of cruelty and rejection until the spouse cracked.  As long as they were seen as the victims, then these “christians” thought they were okay.  The image wasn’t tarnished.  After all, they were not the ones who filed.  They just wanted things to work out.

I have always thought this was dishonest and disgusting, but I have seen it more than I wanted to.  Very difficult to hold these “christians” accountable for this behavior and it often works.

So what do you do if you are on the receiving end of this cruelty?  It depends on how much you can handle, I suppose, but don’t forget about your kids.  Narcissists can be very cruel and damaging to children.  Here is my standard advice:

  1.  Keep a diary or a log.  Hide it well.  Document the cruelty, especially anything physical.  Dates, times, circumstances.  You will be surprised at how valuable such a record can be, especially if you have details.
  2. Tuck away some cash or set up a plan of escape.  Just because you have one doesn’t mean you have to use it, but not having one means it isn’t there if you should need it. A couple of hundred dollars might get a motel and some meals which will give you some time to find other help.  Friends or family who know and believe you can stand ready.
  3. Physical abuse of spouse or children is unacceptable!  It almost always escalates (think addict) and crosses boundaries that are important in relationships.  Get out and get your kids out.  Take photos of bruises.  Seriously.

These are simple things.  I didn’t say that you should get a divorce.  That’s a bridge you may have to cross later, but you lose more of yourself each time he or she is cruel.  So do your kids.  Get some help.  I am not a fan of secular counseling and resources most of the time, but women’s shelters are made just for this.  Know where they are and how fast you can get to one.

One more thing: I have heard several people say that they ought to put up with more abuse because they are Christians.  If you are a “Christian” family and have a “Christian” church, you should put up with less!  To paraphrase Paul, “Not even pagans think this is right!”  In Christ we are to love one another and support each other, not be cruel or abusive.  If your narcissist is supposed to be a Christian, something is seriously wrong.  Don’t let it keep going.

And don’t believe the lie that comes to you during these times.  You are someone special.  There is good for you.  You are loved and worth loving.  The lie tells you otherwise, but it is the lie.


Filed under Narcissism

28 responses to “Why are they so mean?

  1. Again your understanding is so profound. YOu have no idea how many times I have told people about your blog. I had written to you about my stepchildren’s mother who is a narcissist. You helped me differentiate what the children may perceive as “abnormal” in her mothering responses, but how they also see some their Mom’s behaviors to be very effective (she gets what she wants and all the focus and attenion are on her), so they try to emulate these behaviors to get these things for themselves. Your words here strike me just as much. You can image what I, as a stepmom, represent to a narcissistic, biological mother. She has been cruel and mean in ways most people can not image. Sadly, most of this has been put on the children in regards to their relationship with me. She sees herself as queen, upon the throne, “mother” of the children, and deserving unlimited praise, adoration, etc. for her “service”.

    • Hi Kimberly, so good to hear from you again. Your situation is long-term, I fear. Just love them and show them what love is. Be patient with yourself. It is tiring to deal with a situation like yours. The positive side is that you are seeking to save these kids from the pain and confusion of living day to day with such a person. Your effort will be rewarded. Watch for the little things and trust for the big ones. Still praying!

      • You give me a sense of hope. When I fear that so many simply label my concerns as somewhow arising from being the second-wife and stepmom. I would love some “typical” stepmom strife in my life:) You give me courage to trust what I am doing is o.k. thank you.

      • I so appreaciate your support. There is so much pain surrounding narcissism, I can begin to doubt myself. Add to this the already precarious role of “stepmom” and my confusion can increase. Thank you for helping me trust that I can believe in my intuition and that what I am doing has value. thank you!

  2. Prairiemom

    I nearly cried when I read this; it is so close to home. I would love to print this (and others of your posts) for my friend to read, as I do not think it is safe for her to visit your blog on her personal computer, but I do believeyour writings would be ever so helpful to her as she makes some very important decisions. Do you mind having your writings printed?

    Thank you for another very helpful and insightful post. God bless you and your ministry.

    • Please feel free to share what I write. I suppose I should ask for credit, but that usually isn’t an issue. Please take this and any other post to your friend. You are also welcome to use the Grace 101 posts with your family. I forgot to respond to that before.

  3. JJ

    HA! I shared this on FB. Thank you for the insight.

    • Thanks for the good word and the share. This word needs to get out, especially among Christians. There is so much damage being done in the name of submission and forgiveness and whatever.

  4. Onward

    I agree…you hit the nail on the head. It’s as if you are living the dream or the nightmare as it were. I thank you so much for NF. You provide knowledge, affirmation, and a reminder of what is really at play with the Ns in our life. It is easy to be lured back into the crazy web because you are so relieved during the “normal” times. I feel very fortunate to have found your blog and I am also committed to sharing it. N’s hate exposure. Most things on the dark side hate the light. Let’s expose, expose, expose to give victims a fair chance of dealing or leaving. At least they will know that it’s not them as they will surely be told and attempts will be made to make them believe that they are the one with the issue. And the victim will also know that they are not alone in dealing with their N animal. It really seems unfair that this is a known species in our mist that is dangerous and a threat to the well being of others, yet the knowledge is so limiited.

    • So many believe the lie of the narcissist and the legalist. And, you are right, it really does help to know that you are not alone. To name the enemy is the first step in defeating it.

  5. Angela

    I have a question that I hope will not sound too absurd-
    One of the tricks of (some?) narcissists is to be able to shock me senseless. Literally frozen like a deer in headlights. Brain-dead and blank. I have no memory of what happened, what they said, what brought it on. Some of these episodes have had repercussions such as the one I am facing now where my brother has done this to me on the phone to tell me that our father died, then when I drove 500 miles to the hometown that same day, he blasted me again with such evil that I went into complete shock. Three hours later in a hysterical state, I drove 500 miles back home, getting lost countless times. He has done this (and much, much more) to remove me from the executorship and take my part of the inheritance by proving my incompetence to the courts, my friends, my children..
    ok, so my question- HOW do I get back the memory of these blackouts? Is it wrong to go to a hypnotist?? Should I just “let it go” and learn…something..? How do I rise above this so it never happens again as narcissists have had way too much power over me for way too many years..?

    • I think many victims of narcissism experience something like you describe. It may not be as severe, but it is a coping mechanism to take the pain away. Yes, I think you should talk this through with a counselor. I am not a fan of hypnosis, but you have to decide that. Overcoming it might be as simple as predicting it and setting up a way for you to release some of that fear in a different way. Writing things down regularly would also help. If you developed the habit of writing things down, like a journal or log, you might even do it while in this self-protecting mode. Again, a good counselor can help you with this.

      Is this a recent situation? Has it cost you significantly? Enough to go to court to show that you were abused and intimidated? It sounds like you might have a case where you could establish a type of coercion.

      Anyone else have ideas?

      Please don’t beat yourself up for your response to him. He is an abuser and you are his victim. He knows you will respond this way and he takes advantage of it. You are not responsible for his cruelty nor for your pain.

  6. Victoria

    Good day! What a blessing to stumbled, or God led to your site. I have been in deep sadness from the breakup of my relationship with a narcarist. What make my case unusual is that he is a widower. He left his first wife and children for his spouse who died of cancer. Being a social worker, I had so much empathy for him losing his wife. He played the part so well. Over the last 5 years, it has been like going through a war, many ups and down (meaness) I could not figure out why he had the Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde persona. I did research on line and finally a light bulb went on in my head. Thank you God!, However, I did not find any Christian based web sites.

    We never married or live together for the red flags kept me at bay. The part of his personality that kept me on a roller coaster for the past 5 years, is that he could quote the bible, go to church with me, buy me gifts, and presented the perfect Christian. At times he portrayed the prince charming. However, I would see flashes of evilness and become so confused and confront him, He always said his spouse who died was prefect., and they had a perfect 9 year marriage ( she was sick for 5 of the years). In his friends and her family eyes, he is a martyr. This made me feel as if I was the problem, However, I know I’m not. I am so happy to read your blogs/posts, Please pray that I regain my self confidence, grow stronger with God, and keep the Narc out of my thoughts and heart.

  7. Penny

    O my, once again Pastor Dave shows keen insight. My N MIL has always resented my handicapped son, but her husband (my father in law) adored my son & prior to his death he insisted on paying the tuition for a special school for the disabled that my son was attending. I was wary & did not want to accept the money, but my husband wanted to accept this gift from his dying father. I knew my MIL resented the attention my son received (the fact that he was/is disabled makes no difference to a N–the bottom line was that she had to sacrifice the limelight) & she also resented having to part with precious money to benefit him (she would have preferred to spend it on herself). Sure enough, within a month of her husband’s death, she sent a certified letter to me demanding that I return the tuition money if my husband (her son) died. If I were to die, she did not demand the tuition money from my husband. So, in other words, in her cruelty, if I became widowed, with a disabled child, she wanted a notarized document stating that I would return to her the money spent on his tuition. But if my husband were widowed, no such demand would be made. The not-so-subtle message was that neither my [disabled] son nor I were worthy of her money or compassion, but only her “golden child” son was worthy. In her mind, her son had married a wench who could not produce a worthy heir. Needless to say, I refused to sign anything & made it clear to her that SHE was a wench for conceiving such a cruel, selfish, cold hearted scheme. I didn’t speak to her for 6 months. In the meantime, she spoke to all her “Christian” friends at church & told them how unreasonable I was & spread rumors that I had spent the money on myself rather than on my son while she was a poor grieving widow. I bit my tongue, & gave her enough rope to hang herself, then confronted her & exposed her lie to the so-called Christian “friends” & the church. In the end, they all stuck by her & threw me & my son under the bus, & not a single pastor intervened to discipline or defend. The good news is that we ultimately severed our relationship with her, so even tho she plays the poor, pitiful victim, her perfect image is now tarnished b/c she can no longer claim an adoring, “loyal” family, & no one wants her money or her abuse.

  8. Angela

    Thank you so much for responding.
    I thought I could trust my brother to do the right thing, and as he constantly told me I was in his way, didn’t know what I was talking about, or how to talk to lawyers, always something. Eventually I started to believe him, and so to allow him to “do it right” (plus I have to admit escaping him) I took an opportunity to move to go into a (work) partnership with an old friend- problem is this old friend was just as malignant as my brother, and my problems increased exponentially.
    Between the two of these men I have lost a lot. Very much. Not only financially, but in every other way you can think of. For some reason I always believed people were basically good, and “a soft answer turns away wrath” etc. This does not apply to narcissists.
    I know you understand when I say I am glad I am not the only one with these mental blackouts, and yet how I wish no one else also had this type of amnesia.
    About a year ago I started writing down everything, as you have suggested. All the filth, every word, lie and accusation and indignity, everything that led up to episodes that left me in the streets overnight, cops following me as if..what, they expect an almost 60 year old woman hobbling with fibro myalgia to break into places and run or something.
    I also have a friend I sent copies of everything to for safekeeping..(not just to vent, as reading some of the stuff that happened really hurt her for my sake, so I would tell her not to read, just add to the file- just in case)..not just the issues between my brother and myself, but also this person here.
    The problem I wrestle with is how can I fight my own brother in court?
    My brother!? Over our fathers’ will? How horrible that I am glad my dad is not here to see this!
    Even if I win, can I live with all the hatred, the endless bag of dirty tricks? I know what he did to his ex in the court system for over 20 years as he bragged and laughed about it all, it was a game of superiority to him, he didn’t care that what he was avoiding was child maintenance, all that mattered was that he wins and she loses. So whether or not I have enough to prove what he has done, he will make sure I am ravaged in the process…to the point of both of us losing everything. The fact that he lost will be used to show how rotten, uncaring and unchristian I am, the fact that I lost will be scornful truth to my stupidity.
    The other problem I fight with is where is God in all of this? Where is my faith? Where are the promises in the Bible and the scriptures that say NOT to do battle? That God will be my vindicator? That the battle is His? I guess what I beat myself up over is my indecision and confusion and my conscience.
    I am sorry it took so long to be able to answer you. Thank you again for your response.
    I continue to pray for all the people who post on this site.

  9. Cecilia K

    Wow, this post was very eye-opening for me! I realize this is just a theory, but it seems like a very plausible explanation to the gaping disparity between the cruelty/lack of effort and the declarations of love and devotion. I FREQUENTLY wondered why he would act the way he did if he wanted to marry me so much. Doesn’t he realize he’s pushing me away? I would wonder. And even though I was the one who still needed persuading to marry him, it seemed he still expected ME to cater to HIS every desire and need. Um, logic would tell a reasonable person that he should be bending over backwards to make me happy if he wants to marry me and I’m not convinced. But as so many have said here, logic is apparently lost on narcissists if it means not getting the worship and adoration they want. Thank you for your gifted insight, Pastor Dave!

  10. HDG

    Cecilia K: I agree Pastor Dave’s writings have helped me in many ways. I too was involved with a narcissist ( meets all the criteria)boyfriend. After I read your post I had to reply-your words exactly describe my experience……It sounds like you and I were dating the same man!!! Knowing the true character of my N ex boyfriend it wouldn’t surprise me!!! lol

  11. Cecilia K

    You know, HDG, sometimes I do wonder if there could be other ex-girlfriends of my ex who post on here. It would be really interesting to compare notes with them. My brother-in-law told me after one of my break-ups with this particular ex, that he and my ex had a mutual friend through FB. This man was a co-worker of my bro-in-law’s. So my BIL had told this man about me and “Eric” dating. The man happened to ask my BIL about us shortly after the break-up, and when my BIL told him we had split (and I think this split came after about 1 year), the man said he was surprised it lasted that long. He said he had given it about two weeks!

  12. Janelle Schmitt

    Yes mother became really evil to me especially when I hit puberty. She hates me and says very harsh words. She moved away and took my child. She will not givee mu us savings bonds or my inheritance money. I don’t think she loves me and she has told me so. Im undergoing all types of mental issues BC of her abuse

  13. Lisa

    Great blog….If I could add manipulating your spouse and or playing mind games for their satisfaction..is also a sign your dealing with a narcissist person….example “you start up a conversation about something simple and your spouse takes it back to asking questions to find somekind of flaw or mistake you made or said to start up any argument on purpose. They are waiting for you to respond to their outrageous delusional question … And if you respond to their crazy way and they feel treaten ..they will quickly turn and blame you for asking them…example narcissistist will say “aw hah !You Lied..” Your a Liar” and emotionally start hurting you with all these words or just bring up any defense they can! and before you know it, they yelled got their screaming out and left you wondering “what the heck just happened…”but to them in their mind its a game..they Won you lost and plan their next move! How wierd is that….I would also call it a cross between brain damage and psychosis or simply Extreme Narcissism.

  14. Blessedlife

    I completely agree with what you have to say about narcissist and their cruelty. I married a very narcissistic man who has to be in control so as not to get hurt. I find it very hard to believe that for almost 30 years I tolerated emotional abuse due to a Jekyl and Hyde persona. I had this undying hope due to being deceived by his “kindness” that at his core he was truly a good person even when he displayed cruel uncaring behavior. It is hard to explain the dynamics to someone who has not experienced it. You are spot on about how he is pushing me to divorce him to protect his image. He found someone else to supply him. I feel broken but I believe in Jesus Christ for healing from this woundedness. I will better for it. I have cut communication with him. I realize ANYTHING he says is calculated on. DO NOT, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT trust a narcissist. The devil comes to steal kill and destroy. That is there modus operandi. Ask God for protection and guidance in dealing with them. Better yet if possible have no dealings with them. They do not play fair.

    • dremi

      Yes, Blessedlife, I experienced the same thing. Only after being away from him for a while did I get clarity. I also felt there was a “good” person somewhere deep down. That he didn’t actually mean the nasty things he
      said..he was somehow broken, a hurt little boy. Wow did he play me for 28 years. I actually felt sorry for him since he seemed so messed up. He also jumped to someone else to supply him. Perhaps he won’t cheat on her because he is getting older and being with a 20 year younger woman is a prize that he thinks others admire him for, but I’m sure he will start demeaning her when she doesn’t meet his every need, or when she points out some failing or disappointment. Of course no one can meet ALL of someone else’s needs/wants, but he will use that as an excuse to punish her in some passive-aggressive way. I am incredulous at myself for having put up with him for all those years, seeing red flags here and there, but thinking that he really does care somehow. No, these narcissists actually do not care..they only pretend to care. Do not get fooled by their words…only look at actions. My ex’s double/triple life shows exactly how much he cared about his family. He is still maintaining his facade of life, but perhaps someday, karma will play out.

  15. Gary

    Narcissists women are the Worst of all which they’re without a doubt such Losers to begin with.

  16. Terri

    I get that everyone is different but I would say this and it sounds,harsh but please do not promote womens centers or domestic violence resources. I have been hung up on when I reach ed out to the national domestic violence association. My local womens center was instrumental in the loss of my home and my future income. It is a long sordid nightmare. I am desparately trying to find an attorney that will help me sue them. Hard to do. I was told by the National dmv organization that things aren’t what they used to be due to lack of resources. The only help I can think of is 20/20 hindsight being a psychic and fortune teller and therefore not,getting into a relationship at all. Good luck getting friends and family that are already overloaded to take u in when you are homeless. There is theory and there is the horrific reality that is abuse.

  17. Marie

    I have been with my narc for almost three years now. I have been a victim of domestic violence in my past relationships (narc does not get violent ) and I have to say thàt I would take a beating every day and it would be better than the pain that I go thru with him. Feeling or being told I’m not good ènough, how he usuàlly likes little dark haired women (me blonde ànd tall ), how I don’t know how to have à conversation, I’m rude and have no manners and on ànd on all the way to how he never in his life put up with the shit I give him ànd I say the wrong tHING to puss him OFF. NOt to Mention we haven’t had sex in a year ànd every fight he says yá I wonder why. I was just in thè hospital for w weeks they let me go if I just rest and sleep. Haha good onè. I had to do all the dishes from before I left cuZ NOW j must have brought the flu home and got the almighty sick so I can fkn forget àbout any TLC except what I’ll give him.
    I beem here two days, he’s mad at me for some dumb made up reason, left mè alone in our bed to staY in his dad’s room. GUESS HE CANT STAND BEING AROUND ME. I KNEW WHEN I FOUCHJIS HAND EARLIER AND IN HIS SLEEP HE SAID NOT TO CUZ HIS HAND IS DIRTY.
    The pain is almost too much to take The whole hospital thing started çuz our relationship was real bad Nd I was self destructing. He n his DAd live w me and my grampaNd I just wanna give up on everYTHINGMQMMA


  18. This is spot on. I was forced out of an over forty-year relationship about five years ago. My “leaving” had God’s hand and His timing all over it. My ex husband was both verbally cruel (years ago also physically abusive which my first leave-taking, pregnant and with a toddler in tow, stopped). But verbal cruelty has the same cumulative effect; it’s death of a relationship by a thousand cuts.

    My ex is also an alcoholic which brings his anger significantly to the fore. The night of the last rage he will ever perpetrate against me, and I didn’t stick around to find out why but he had been ramping up to something for weeks, his level of vitriol and plain evil was breathtaking in the middle of which I “heard” the Holy Spirit “say,” “You need to leave, now.” And I did.

    My ex husband has been in another relationship, not a marriage, for 4 of those 5 years. I remain single, at peace, and after all this time of concentrated “recovery” every which way the Lord has led me (support group, counseling, daily, some times multiple-daily Bible readings), I can say I am about 95% recovered. I have regained health, joy, and creativity.

    One area where my ex husband likely gets sympathy is what he might call the “silent treatment” I would give him. In reality, it was called emotional survival. When you are damned if you say something and damned if you don’t, remaining quiet and standing your ground and protecting yourself from adding fuel to someones else’s unquenchable fire is warranted. Here is a series of blog posts of my own on that topic, if I may.

    Again, thank you for again for his excellent insight. It further helps me and I trust will help many others as well.

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