It’s Narcissist Friday!
Can I just be blunt? There is no excuse for violence within an intimate relationship.
Now, I purposely made that broad enough to cover more than marriage and more than hitting. And when I say, “no excuse,” I mean just that. Husbands and wives should not hit or hurt each other in anger or in an attempt to control.
There is a simple answer, at least for the short term. If you find yourself wanting to hit or hurt, get out. Take a walk. Remove yourself from the situation.
And, if you find yourself getting hit or hurt, get out. Find a shelter, get a motel room, visit a friend—just get out.
Occasionally I get a question about whether narcissists are violent. The general answer is that most are not, partly because they don’t have the confidence to be violent. But in a marriage or intimate relationship, where much of the interaction is hidden and private, things can change.
Let’s consider why. First, narcissists are angry people. They brood. They remember offenses. They hold grudges. Then, from time to time, they strike out. There is a narcissistic rage discussed in the literature that seems unreasonable. It lies just beneath the surface in some narcissists and can erupt at odd and unexpected causes. When it erupts, it goes beyond the particular cause with energy and venom that makes the victim step back in shock.
A friend told me that his narcissist offered to give him a ride. While waiting for the narcissist to unlock the door, my friend put his briefcase on top the car. The narcissist went ballistic, accusing my friend of scratching his car and being irresponsible and stupid. It changed their relationship.
Part of that anger is the frustration the narcissist has with life and people. He is never valued enough, never respected enough, never obeyed enough. She is never complimented enough, never cherished enough, never given enough. The narcissist needs love but cannot receive love and, therefore, is never loved enough. Those closest relationships are supposed to be that source of love, but they always fail and are blamed for the problem.
Now, add to the anger the lack of empathy, or the inability to see others as real. The narcissist cannot identify with the pain of others. If he were to hit or hurt, he would not understand that he had crossed a line in the relationship or had damaged the other person. He might be remorseful if confronted with some loss he would feel, but he would not be sorry in the way a normal person would experience guilt or sorrow.
Years ago I confronted a man who had hurt his wife. In the course of one conversation, he told me that 1) nothing happened; 2) it wasn’t a big deal; and, 3) it was all her fault. This was narcissistic rationalization. Of course something did happen, but he easily lied and blamed. She, on the other hand, changed her story to fit his.
So, can a narcissist become violent and abuse? Of course! In fact, everyone in a relationship with a narcissist should be aware of how easy it would be for him/her to take that route. Most do not, I believe, because they are afraid. Narcissists are usually quite intelligent and aware of consequences. They know just how far they can go.
So I say it this way: Narcissists aren’t usually abusers, but abusers are usually narcissists.
Two thoughts: First, if your relationship is becoming more violent, the narcissist may be experiencing some unusual stress or has decided that you are in the way of a new goal. Be very careful. Plan an escape and don’t be afraid to take it. Better to take it too quickly than too slowly.
Second, hold the narcissist accountable. If you are physically abused, take pictures, tell others, report the crime. This is not behavior that you should excuse. Abusers rarely stop with one victim. Even if you are able to get out of the relationship, he will probably do it with someone else. You should make a big deal of the first time it happens. If you are long past the first time, then start right now. Keep a log, take pictures (I know I said that already), and call the police. Seriously.
Physical abuse takes the sense of self-worth even further down. The narcissist is good at destroying any confidence or strength you have. Believe me; abuse will destroy it even more. You have to talk with someone. Find a women’s center. Find a good counselor. Talk to someone.
And get out.