It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have a comment on hold and I am still trying to decide what to do about it. It is from a lady who has suffered in a marriage with a narcissist for many years. She apparently wrote to remind those who are struggling in such marriages that they made a commitment before God and should stick with it. The comment was very preachy, but also revealed a lot of pain. Sometimes people write things like that for themselves, to convince themselves they should do a certain thing.
It sounds too much like preaching to others, though. You know, the sentences that are all in caps and the statements like, “My God tells me . . . !” I don’t mind someone standing up for their own beliefs and decisions. I do mind people who justify their decisions by mandating those decisions for everyone. That isn’t fair and it isn’t right. Each one must come to his or her decision based on beliefs, support, and level of pain.
So what should you do when you find yourself in relationship with a narcissist? I don’t know. I am not in your situation. The best I can do is encourage you from the outside. I believe that things like education and boundaries are important in any relationship and are especially important in narcissistic relationships. If you are losing yourself, you have to do something. There are many things you can do that are short of divorce, but you have to decide if they are enough.
At the risk of suggesting a formula approach, let me suggest three steps or three levels of action.
First, you should be safe. Those who have read many posts here know that I consistently tell people they must get out of unsafe situations. If you are undergoing physical abuse, or your children are being abused, get out. Get to a safe place and tell others what is happening. Whether or not you get a divorce is a decision that can wait. Right now you have to get out. We have all kinds of evidence that physical abuse escalates, gets worse. Get out and force some change.
Now, that’s fine for physical abuse. What about emotional or mental abuse? What about the N who seems dedicated to making his wife think she is losing her mind (gaslighting)? What about the constant ridicule and disparaging? Doesn’t that become unsafe at a certain point? Of course, and if that is happening to you or your children you should consider getting out. You just have to realize that such a thing is much harder to verify and you may have more difficulty finding support. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t force a change, just that it might be harder.
Second, you should be healthy. There is a time when being unhealthy becomes unsafe. At that point, the options change. However, there is usually a process of becoming unhealthy, during which you have to make preparations and try to find ways to health again. Being healthy is important! The only way to handle the stress of a narcissistic relationship is from a healthy position. When you are healthy you can set boundaries, stop abuse, and gather support.
How do you determine that you are unhealthy? Talk with others who love you and support you. If they tell you that you are in an unhealthy situation and you are losing yourself, they are probably right. If they say that you are changing and they are concerned, they probably have good reason. Find a counselor and be honest. Then find the way to health.
Third, you should be happy. It is important to be happy. I believe God wants His people to be happy. I tell people all the time that I believe God wants marriage to be honored and the people in the marriage to be happy. There are natural periods of unhappiness in any relationship. Relationship happiness changes in mood and intensity. But, generally, a relationship should bring happiness.
Unhappiness can lead to being unhealthy. Most people don’t expect to be happy all the time. Most people would like to be happy once in a while. Some find that they are never happy in their relationship. That’s the time to begin to ask health questions. Examine the sources of your unhappiness. Is it because your partner is cruel or distant? Is it because you disagree on something? If you find that you are regularly being manipulated or deceived or put down, you may become unhealthy. Find someone to talk with. Find a good counselor.
People from a variety of situations come to a blog like this. Some are unhappy and are wondering what is going on in their marriage or family. Some are unhealthy and are seeking answers. Some are in unsafe situations and need support for making a serious change. There is no simple “one size fits all” answer. Some should stay. Some can stay. Some should leave.
Please don’t judge others. You really do not know what they are going through. I will do my best to keep comments that can hurt others out of our conversation, even though I hate doing it. And I do pray for all of you.