Smashing Mirrors

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


What do you see when you look into a mirror? Do you see yourself? Probably not! Okay, what I mean is that you don’t see yourself the way you think of yourself. In fact, sometimes we are shocked when we look into a mirror. I have wondered who that old guy is who looks back at me. Usually I feel younger than that guy and I sure want to think of myself as younger. But most of us simply sigh and go on with our day, accepting that the mirror really doesn’t lie and life is okay just the way it is.

But what if you could never accept what you see in the mirror? What if you hated what you saw? What if you could never reconcile the reality with what you want to be true? What if the mirror revealed all the faults and weaknesses and shames that you would rather forget?

I know that we usually picture the narcissist in front of the mirror, loving the image portrayed. The popular idea of narcissism is self-love. But this is not as often true in practice. In practice, the narcissist either avoids the mirror or becomes obsessed with fixing the image he/she sees. We think the narcissist should walk by the mirror, like the Fonz, and be pleased with the image; but that isn’t usually the case.fonz2

In fact, I suspect that most narcissists would love to smash the mirror. It does reveal weakness and imperfection. But, instead of smashing the mirror, the narcissist reasons that the mirror cannot reflect reality. The narcissist does not accept the image projected by the mirror. He turns to another reflection, the people around him.

You see, the narcissist needs more than his own picture of himself. His own picture is like that in the mirror, inferior and flawed. But that isn’t the image he wants. So he looks to others for affirmation and respect. He expects them to support the image he wants to see. He wants to be superior, so he expects others to think of him as superior. He wants to be admirable and desirable and powerful, so he expects the people around him to tell him he is these things. They are supposed to praise him in ways reality does not.

We have all seen movies or television shows where the pretender, the one who has justified a crime or wants to be superior, sees himself in a mirror then throws a glass to break the mirror or smashes the mirror with his fist. This is the image of frustration and conviction, where reality intersects fantasy. Unable to handle the reality, the narcissist would rather smash the mirror than admit the truth.

And what if the new mirror, the person, doesn’t reflect the image the narcissist desires? At first he/she will preen and adjust, cajole and manipulate, to try to get the reflection longed for. But when that doesn’t work, when the eyes of the victim fail to shine with approval and admiration, then that mirror can be abandoned or even smashed.

Sometimes the change in the narcissist is abrupt. The day she realizes you are no longer under the spell. The moment he sees disagreement or judgment in your eyes. From that point on, things change. You are no longer important, no longer a friend, no longer a relationship to cultivate and cherish. Now you are a badly placed mirror. You must be covered or destroyed. And when you stop being the mirror, when you become healthy enough so that the image the narcissist sees is you, then you are no longer of use.

Sometimes the change is gradual. In fact, most relationships in the life of a narcissist end eventually. The effort to avoid the reality reflected by what you see becomes a burden for the narcissist. She becomes even more critical and demanding. He is distant and separate. The relationship ends before the marriage does. The family seems to fall apart. The friendship is simply forgotten. The mirrors are hidden away in closets or quietly thrown away. When the pleasure of molding a victim’s uniqueness for the purpose of reflecting the image of the narcissist is finished and the narcissist sees his own reality reflected back once again, the relationship has no more value.

They say that the fear of breaking a mirror comes from the ancient Romans who believed that the reflection somehow captured the soul. Perhaps the narcissist smashes mirrors in hopes that the soul is destroyed. In the soul is weakness and fear and guilt the narcissist would reject.

They also say that those who drain life from others have no souls and cannot see their reflections in the mirror. Perhaps the narcissists who seek to use the lives and energies of others as their own have simply abandoned their own souls and see them no longer. The pursuit of the false image consumes the narcissist. The lives they lead are empty, and they trap themselves in a world of fantasy to avoid the truth.

It may seem sad, or even harsh, but the best thing might be to simply stop reflecting the false image to the narcissist. Stop playing the game. If the narcissist is ever to deal with reality, he/she must face it and not continue to rely on the lie. And even if the narcissist abandons you or pushes you away or even tries to smash you, you have to find the way to be healthy and present yourself and the truth to the world.

You are the person we want to see and know.


Filed under Narcissism

43 responses to “Smashing Mirrors

  1. Karen

    So interesting. My ex narcissist could not look in the mirror with a normal face. He would squint his eyes because he said he looked better that way and didn’t want a clear image. Squinting made him look blurry and better. Even in public, if he caught his reflection, he would instantly make that weird squinted face. He said he had been doing that since he was a teenager. It was very strange. Just couldn’t look at himself I guess.

    • Karen, many people have similar reactions to mirrors and are not narcissists, but we understand that rejection of what the mirror shows is a self-esteem problem – which narcissists are not supposed to have. Lots of people don’t like what they see in the mirror and see it as an accuser, rather than a tool. The narcissist, in keeping with the myth of Narcissus, should fall in love with what he sees. Yet, that is not the image of himself he wants to see. He has created a different image and expects people to mirror that image back so he can feel better about himself.

      It is interesting to me that so many people think of the narcissist as loving themselves. It is almost a red herring that distracts from the real problem.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Karen

        On the other hand my Ex would put pictures of himself all over the house. Displayed for all to see. He actually had copies made of some, had it blown up and gave one to all family members at Christmas. They would laugh but he wasn’t kidding. Everyone would joke and tell him please no more pics of you and he eventually laughed along with them. If he can’t look in the mirror, why is it fine for him to look at his pictures? Only pictures he approved. The perfect ones.

    • Penny

      Omigosh, Karen–my narc has done the same thing with fotos! She has actually removed fotos of her family from frames given as gifts, and replaced the fotos with one of herself! She only uses the fotos that she thinks are flattering, or that others have told her are flattering. Sometimes she puts the foto of herself on top of the family foto in the same frame, almost like its a power-play or a superiority thing. She did that to a beautiful foto of her own grandchildren in a hand-carved frame I had given her. I was really ticked, so one day when she was out I actually checked the frame & sure enough, the foto of my kids was underneath the foto of herself–so I removed the foto of my kids & left hers in the frame. To this day she has never missed them. She loves seeing her own “perfect” face, more than her family or grandchildren.

      • Karen

        Wow. That is unbelievable. It’s so amazing to hear the similar stories of narcissism.
        He would also check to see if and where the pictures were displayed in their homes.

      • Penny

        my MIL has now been twice-widowed.
        When she remarried after her first husband died, she removed any & all pictures of my father-in-law (my husband’s father & my kids grandfather) & would get furious if we even mentioned his name in front of her new husband. She quite literally discarded my FIL, and replaced him with a new husband.
        Then the “new” hubby died, and she moved into the “Amusement”-0park setting of assisted living where hubby #2 had been cared for while he slowly succumbed to dementia. She was furious when he died, saying, “what about me? Now where am I supposed to go?” She became enchanted with visiting Hubby 2 in this upscale place (that his kids paid for) & insisted on living there after his demise. She had a fancy stage on which to pretend & perform her dance of the doting wife, in full view of other “worthy” potential suitors.
        Now, she suddenly has huge fotos of BOTH husbands on display in her new “apartment”, and family/friends have commented on her “shrine” to her 2 husbands. There are NO other “family”fotos. But this ain’t no shrine.
        IMHO, these photos are not shrines, but mirrors, reflecting her worthiness at being so “special” that she had not 1 but 2 husbands.
        These fotos are mirrors, plain & simple, and she plans to exploit them for all she’s worth.
        The fotos make HER look good–even tho we could not even utter my FIL’s name!
        Even tho she was mad as hell when Hubby 2 no longer recognized her, thus could not treat her like a princess (i.e.: wait in her hand and foot) & SHE had to be a caregiver (NOT–his kids paid for caregivers), & Then he had the audacity to die and leave her w/o a source & steady supply line of adoration & money.
        Nope–those fotos are mirrors: smiling faces of men she seduced, controlled & dominated, reflecting back to her their worship of the “goddess”.
        These are the same men whose names could not be uttered In the same room much less the same sentence, who now share a space on her table…not one, but TWO men, seduced by her lies, controlled & manipulated by her charms, dying early deaths, and now reflecting back to her and all the world that she was worthy to be worshipped and adored.

  2. Lisa

    Maybe this explains why my ex would refuse to have his picture taken? It’s kind of like a mirror…….

  3. Michelle

    Good description. We are his mirror. When we speak of truth or reality, it’s time to smash the mirror. (Smear Campaign.)

  4. Please comment or blog on whether a person with NPD can be a born again Christian.
    My sister and I as ACON mother have often talked about concerns for our mother’s salvation
    1. Self is firmly and consistently planted on the throne of her heart. She appears to never bow to any will but her own
    2. She mentally knows the gospel but in 50 plus years of memories we have seen no evidence or fruit.
    3. Scripture is consistently uses out of contract to judge, condemn or otherwise manipulate.
    My sister and I pray for Gos to work a miracle in her but I’d things continue as have last 50 plus years we are doubtful she will be in heaven.

  5. Still Reforming

    Very perceptive post. It brings to mind something I heard once that fits my anti-husband: “Some people would rather climb a ladder to tell a lie than to simply stand on the ground and tell the truth.”

  6. This is so accurate and telling. My soon-to-be ex-wife spends hours in front of the mirror trying to get her look “just right”, and it never seems to be satisfactory. Sadly, over the nine years we have been together, her time in front of the mirror takes longer and longer as it has become more difficult for her to achieve “the right look”. She has told me so many times how much she hates getting older, while I continually tell her how much I enjoy watching her age and that she is more attractive now than ever (and I am being honest). She has never accepted that response.

    She has also taken hundreds and hundreds of photos of “us”, although over time I have determined the photos are of “her”, and give her the opportunity to pick the ones that she likes best because they most closely portray the image she has of herself. The others simply get cast to the side.

    I feel sorry for her and even though I understand the disorder (only in the last 3 months have I learned about it), I have a hard time accepting it. It is simply sad that she doesn’t recognize the problem. I am her fourth husband (before she was 34) and thought I could do better than the others. Clearly, the NPD respects no one and I am just another in an apparently long line. My biggest hope is that God will intervene at some point and help her discover and understand. He is the only one that can help her at this point. Truly sad.

  7. This article made me see why my mother at 75 does not like being called a senior citizen. She can’t stand to hand out with all those old people who are age 65 and up. It made sense when she first starting saying it when Dad who was several years older hit 65 and she was in her late 50s. She has often joked she cannot claim her kids as her own anymore because we are too old to be hers, but says “I should tell people I married and older man with kids or became a mom when I was three.” We just laugh again for the 1000th time of hearing it.

    • Marie

      My N father is like this too. He really wants to believe that he is young and healthy. It was irritating when he was younger and would make “jokes” like your mother does, but now that he is getting older (79 years old) it’s becoming very physically unhealthy and even dangerous. He refuses any services available to seniors for help with things like meals and cleaning because “that’s for old people”. He refuses to accept that he really shouldn’t be driving anymore. He will not accept the fact that he had a heart attack (the doctors were wrong), so he won’t take medication or see a cardiologist. He is also very socially isolated because of he can’t stand to be around people who are so unhealthy and won’t do what he tells them to do to be as “healthy” as he is.

      • Rina

        I read about an elderly man who killed someone in an accident because he shouldn’t have been driving, but refused to stop….the trail of destruction caused by narcissists never ends…

  8. Debbie DeLong

    I love this imagery. It so very much describes my mother. It can be so tiresome having to deal with her. It is like she has both an inferiority and a superiority complex at the same time. And all conversations end up about her and looking for compliments….or she compliments herself. So very hard to deal with especially as she is getting older. I pray for her. It must be a tiring and lonesome life to always be trying to get attention and compliments to make oneself feel good.

    Thank you for these posts. It helps me look at the vulnerabilities of the narcissist and not just the maddening qualities.

  9. jodi

    My narcissist former best friend now knows I know because I have called her out on many lies. I fell prey for years till enough red flags went up. She is mean and nasty to me and I have recently told her I am gonna put up boundaries. She demanded to know what kind of boundaries. So the big question I have is …..why do I miss her and still want to be her friend…

    • Penny

      Jodi: there are two previous posts from Pastor Dave that address your question. If you scroll down the page, on the left side there is a heading that says “Top Posts”, and under that heading are two posts about narcissistic friendships: “Friends with a Narcissist?” and “The End of the Narcissistic Friendship”. They are “top posts” because so many found them insightful. Hope that helps!

      ps: for what it’s worth, telling a narc you’re gonna put up boundaries will result in more demands, just like you said. Telling them ANYthing only results in them undermining, manipulating, or brazenly violating your boundary, simply b/c it is there. There is no negotiating with a narc, ever. A good rule is that they are on a “need to know basis—and they NEVER need to know”!

  10. Dear Pastor Dave:

    I’ve been reading your column for a few months now, and I truly look forward to it every Friday. Thank you for your insightful commentary.

    I still have a hard time believing that people with NPD have low self-esteem, however. Even if I accept the idea that a narc doesn’t care for her reflection in the mirror, what on God’s green earth makes her think others are therefore obligated to erase themselves and be what she wants? What gives her the right to DEMAND that others alter their perception to make her feel good and then lie, connive, manipulate, and even destroy those individuals if they won’t comply? It feels like arrogance to the core.

    That said, I know it’s complicated, and narcs aren’t all alike (as you’ve stated many times). Still, I tend to agree with Dr. Simon George, who says that he thinks our modern-day narcs really DO think they’re all that!

    At the very least, I agree with Debbie that it’s as though the narc has a superiority AND an inferiority complex at the same time!

    Thanks again for the work you’re doing.

    • Crystal,

      I do understand and I hold the idea in my head even when my heart objects. I will try to give a quick response.

      First, think about the way people receive compliments. Most of us appreciate a compliment but have trouble receiving it. We were taught to push compliments away, primarily because we were taught to have low self-esteem. Some receive compliments in healthy ways: by saying thank you, by deferring praise to others who contributed, or by simply agreeing with truth presented. In other words, they like to hear that they have done well, but take compliments for what they are – simple affirmation.

      Narcissists need compliments. NEED!!! (Sorry) They demand because they suspect that you might notice their inferiority. They demand because they fear being rejected or ignored. They demand because they need to feel good about themselves. It isn’t that they naturally accept themselves as they are; they desperately need to think of themselves as better than others. Our low self-esteem moves us to push away valid compliments. Their low self-esteem moves them to lie, steal, and manipulate for whatever compliments they can get.

      Second, the behavior of the narcissist only makes sense when we see that dichotomy Debbie mentioned. If you think of them as secure and confident and strong, you will probably fall under their spell. We like confidence and strength. When they put you down, you will believe them and live in that agreement as they push you lower and lower. But when you understand that they are pushing you down in order to lift themselves up – because they think that’s what they have to do – then you can break the spell and be free. So we do have to see the hurting little child who is mean and nasty and self-centered. Both sides. Otherwise, they will use us and win.

      I think Dr. Simon, whom I respect, is thinking of, as you say, “modern-day narcs.” We do have a group of people who have grown up believing the hype, the pretty or talented child who has been pampered and praised from the earliest age. They do seem to think they are “all that.” However, the image they worship has been given to them by others. It is just as false as the image narcissists create for themselves. They have been told that they are superior and beautiful and great, so they work toward believing it. At the same time, these are often the ones who are addicts, exhibitionists, and suicides – all suggestive of low self-esteem. They might believe their own press, but something inside is hurting.

      There are also a lot of plain old jerks who use the behavior of narcissism because it works for them. People are usually susceptible to intimidation and manipulation and these “skills” are being taught as ways to lift yourself up in the world. Most of these people are phonies. They are just playing a game at the expense of others. Narcissistic, but not narcissists.

      Narcissists are conflicted and broken people. They try to cover their pain by lying to themselves and others. When that doesn’t work, they pass their pain on to others. Arrogant, for sure. Cruel, absolutely. But also broken and dying. Perhaps we would do well, once in a while, to simply call them “bullies.”

      • Rachel K

        “They try to cover their pain by lying to themselves and others.”
        Dave, that is so true! It is the heart of the matter. When my N husband left a year ago, this was one of the things I (politely and gently) confronted him with- he needed to stop lying to himself and other people. He could not even listen to me saying these words and just walked away.
        Which makes me think of the conflict beteen Truth and falsehood.
        The Devil is the “father of lies” and also called “a liar and a murderer”. This level of deception is truly demonic and I am currently finding deliverance type prayers to be very fruitful. I am also discovering the extent of the tangled web of lies my husband has made, some of which is distressing to find out about. It involves not only deception about relationships with other people but also financial impropriety which verges on the criminal. In fact, as we uncover more I would not be surprised if my solicitor and I find criminal activity.
        Didn’t Judas start with small deceptions, stealing from the common fund? And the outcome in the end was that he betrayed the Messiah, the Saviur for a paltry sum of money. What a slippery slope it is from one small lie to another and another…
        Of course, as you so rightly say, it all needs prayer, so much prayer.
        I feel quite “prayed out” over myself situation and worry that I am not praying enough for myself and my children as I persist with God in begging for the soui of my husband to be saved.
        Thanks again for a wonderful blog post!
        Blessings to you and all.

      • Lisa

        Wow. That was really good. I married a N knowing that he always wanted flattery and got his source where he was living. I told him I could never and would never keep up with that. I thought that walking down the aisle would change that and stayed in the marriage for 2 decades chasing nothing. Eventually I figured part of my problem was having an addiction to toxic relationships and had to get to the root of that one! And, I’ve used “bully” to describe him many times.

  11. Penny

    Sometimes families will take the “perfect family foto” for the annual Christmas card, or while on vacation, or at a wedding. Then they will sometimes take the “funny foto” where everyone is making a silly face or they are covered in mud or their glasses are askew or they are wearing funny hats or they are imperfect in some hilarious way. But not the narcissist.
    This past Christmas, my narc was in 2 such fotos, but her face & body were literally frozen in place. She couldn’t change her facial expression, she couldn’t alter her perfect pose, she didn’t move her head or change her smile or mess up her hair or even remove her glasses. She was frozen in time, in perfection. No….. she. was. PERFECT.
    She HAD to be “perfect”. She had an image to polish, to protect, to project.
    It was creepy~ like a doll posed on a shelf, or a mannequin in a store window: stiff, posed, vacuous…. empty smile, soulless eyes.
    Like a dress on a hanger without life. There was no “there”, there.

    • UnForsaken

      Penny, I’ve seen this quite frequently.

      I do think that if it puts them at the center of attention, some types of Ns do like silly show-off photos. And sadly, because of my N and exhaustion I’m the one usually left looking soulless, emptied, frozen and stiffly perfect. After all, my N expects no less than perfection out of us to give him a good image….and we don’t really want to be There! Then he can look like the fun, real one. All family photos I can remember, and even single baby picks he took himself, have been about making him look good.

      Two interesting things. When growing up, he obsessed about how much time we spent in front of the mirror, talked about it even though he rarely saw it or the results. He even through a fit when we tried a few new hair styles out of a book, saying the time would be better spent in the kitchen. ( Hey, everybody’s got to fix there hair, and teens do need to familiarize themselves with the realities of self-care! ) He forbade any kind of makeup until over twenty-one a stressful ‘permission’ was granted – and it was labeled disrespectful to think about it.

      In other words, he was Perfect. Unquestionably. And as non-persons or individuals, our image was his image. To allow something he didn’t believe should exist, was to admit in his mind that HE wasn’t perfect. SOOOOO mixed up! Today his level of expectation has not lowered, and inconsistently that includes being better treated when I Am wearing makeup.

      The second thing is that he hated that I decorated with mirrors in this house, to capture more light. He refused to hang at least one of them. Disgusting mirrors! 😉

      • Penny

        I understand, Unforsaken, & I didn’t mean to imply you & others who are rather scared stiff or repulsed. There’s a difference between the targets & the narc–I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the flat, hollow affect of a narc vs. the terror, discomfort, repulsed emotion of the target. The narc cannot emote; the victims can & do, & the first time I recognized it was in a foto of my narc with her then-toddler-aged daughter. I actually recoiled in horror when I realized what I was seeing. The daughter was clearly in distress, being forced to sit on the lap of her narc mother & wanting to escape her clutches & be anywhere but there in a foto studio with this monster. The narc-mother, however, had on her best, saccharin smile–the one that never changes regardless of the distress of those around her. She is nearly 90 & she “wears” the same fake smile like a suit: it isn’t part of her but something she has learned to “wear”, like a hat, a brooch, a pair of shoes. It is void of emotion & eerily the same in virtually every foto thru her miserable life. Like Dave has so often said, other people are not “real” to narcs, they are merely props in these fotos, which explains why they are so detached from reality. Like posing & smiling broadly for a foto in front of a casket yet being utterly unaware how inappropriate that is. Crazy making.

      • UnForsaken

        Penny, you didn’t imply anything. I enjoy hearing all angles of the picture, that’s why I added mine. You are totally on target!

        I am amazed when I “meet” wonderful people like you who can see through Ns. It takes perception and the really nice people I know don’t have it! Back handed compliment: you are not merely nice, but thoughtful and Good. This comes out like a big hug in your posts. Thank you! 🙂

  12. Allison

    Amen, you nailed it! As soon as I started becoming healthy, I wondered why I didn’t see the narcissist for who he was sooner. The healthier I got, the weaker he got. It’s like the fog lifting – literally! I am so thankful I became informed and healthy and got out of the relationship, all be it took 3 years. But the knowledge I have now is priceless. Live and learn.

    • Dee

      Allison I agree with you it took me about 3 years to see what my ex narc really was and he dropped me like a bad habit got a new mask and a new victim. It bothered me at first but the more educated I became the more I saw through him. I even struggled at one point thinking I was the narc! I read the book psychopath and turned to God. I still have difficult days but it’s apart of the healing process. They are wicked wicked people who need tons of prayer! Getting educated saved me.

  13. Kerry O'Connell

    I believe that today’s mirror is largely social media so are narcissists enamored with or repelled by Facebook?

    • Penny

      Kerry–Bingo!! It seems recent research has shown that narcs are particularly enamored with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Social media is a huge, seductive mirror:

      What better place to project a perfect-but-false image? What better place to be rewarded for that same false, polished, perfect image? What better way to control the “mirrors” around you? Where else can you “smash a mirror” by simply “unfriending”, deleting, ignoring, blocking or even bullying another? Where else can your social status be elevated simply thru the number of “friends” or “likes” or “retweets”?

      [note: blocking is an effective way for victims of narcs to go ‘no contact’ and create healthy boundaries; it is a protective measure and social media can be made “private” with some work; on the other hand, narcs will block or ignore someone as a punitive gesture, to control the image they want to project–BIG difference.]

      For those of us abused by a narc, Facebook, etc., can be intolerable. Personally, I can’t stand the place for that very reason~it’s so unsettling to see the parade of narcissism in so many, and the lack of privacy that results for those who become props in the parade.

      There is also a kind of “inverted bullying” when posts are ignored, thus that person is or feels devalued. This has been the experience of own son, who is a disabled adult. With supervision he created a FB page, but he had few “friends” & even fewer responses; It hurts to be ignored, so he rarely uses it anymore. I hurt for him in so many ways, & FB became yet another way to be left out, for someone longing to fit in. It was an opportunity to commend him for NOT being a narc, & for actually having a healthy response to an unhealthy, false place. Living in reality is living in the truth, & that is always a healthier place to live.

      The link above says this:
      “What’s clear is that narcissists will go where they can get an audience…..But as the road of technological progress goes ever on and on, narcissists will follow it…..If there’s an opportunity to look good, get attention, to appear attractive and to gather followers, it’s going to draw narcissists…whether it’s politics, media or social media.”

      Social media can be a powerful tool in positive & negative ways, yet It seems to be “narc central”: the “virtual reality world” created there is itself a false image, & thus is inherently narcissistic.

  14. Marie

    This post encourages honesty – “stop reflecting the false image”. My whole relationship with my N father was built on me just smiling and pretending nothing was wrong – that he was never wrong. There have only been a few occasions in my life where I have challenged that and they didn’t go well at all. Then last year, we had an incident in which his pride and anger put me and my children in physical danger. I had to address that with him. As you can imagine, that did not go well either. I tried to work things out with him, but after months of letters and phone calls, I refused to have contact with him. Sometimes I think that was the right thing to do. I earnestly sought out God in this (through prayer, reading the Bible and consulting with a pastor) and decided that God was leading me to that decision. After making the decision though, I have really been struggling with guilt. I know my father doesn’t understand why I have done this. He is 79 years old and very socially isolated, and I know that he enjoyed visiting with my family. On one hand, I would like to tell him why, so that he understands, but on the other hand, that seems very unkind. I can only imagine how much it would hurt to hear that your daughter and grandchildren don’t want to have anything to do with you; that they have never enjoyed your company; that we find his judgemental and superior attitudes repulsive, etc… It also seems pointless, since I don’t think he really wants to understand. He just wants to be right. So, in addition to the guilt I guess I’m also struggling with how I would balance truth and grace if I were to have contact with him again. For those who are still in contact with their N friend or family member – how do you balance this?
    P.S. I hope this makes sense. It’s so difficult to articulate these thoughts and to summarize a complicated situation.

    • Penny

      Marie–your post makes perfect sense & many here DO understand exactly what you are saying; I have been there with my now-90 year old narc MIL.
      I would like to respond to you in depth but have several appointments today that are pressing, so I wanted to acknowledge your post & let you know I will respond more…just a little later.
      Just one quick observation: you are still “reflecting” kindness that your father does not possess. So while you have empathy for your father (a good thing) what little empathy HE has is reserved for himself, not you or your kids or family. He does not seem to feel bad for you, only for him. That took me a looooong time to process.
      Be safe. Take care of you & your fam & I will respond more later.

  15. John

    First of all, I want to say thank you and God Bless you for this site. I am at a loss for words. I have a N wife. We have been together for 7 years, married for 5. I would be here fof hours listing the examples of N behavior. But just some are: She has completely isolated me from my family and friends. My sister used to be my best friend now she is not even allowed in my house. I cant talk to my family on the phone around her because she throws a fit. She tells me I need to “leave and cleave” and that I dont put her first but its a lie.My mom and dad and Family only live an hour away and they have only seen my kids 3 or 4 times (3 and 4 yrs old). We are only intimate once every 2 or 3 months (Its been since November). I am not allowed to sleep in the bed. She “says” I keep her up. She has ruined my credit by running up credit cards. She is verbally and physically abusive. ive been t o jail twice for her saying I strangeled her (Lies).
    She says I have anger issues rejection issues sociopath u name it. I could go on and on here. But to get to my point of this I need HELP PLEASE. I am a christian man we have been to 3 different councelers. They all tell her she needs to change but of course she doesnt repent. Its still all my fault. I went on a fast last year and the lord spoke to me the Jezebel Spirit and I had hope for her healing. Now he brought this site to me. Can Narcissist change? I dont want to give up on my marriage or on her I Love My Wife. Can she be delivered? We are going to another counselor now in another church that SHE chose and they are telling her she is out of line with the WORD of GOD.And she still wont repent.

    Thank you for your help!!!!

    • Michelle

      At some point you will have had enough and leave, and don’t be surprised if it gets much worse at that time. I know that you said you love her, but haven’t you realized yet that she doesn’t love you? You didn’t mention children in your post. If you don’t have any, RUN!!!! Go back and mend the relationships with your family. If you do have kids, I don’t know what to say. They of course have to be considered first. I’ll pray for you.

      • Yes I mentioned I have 2 kids 3 and 4 years old and they have to witness this mess. And my family never sees them.

      • Michelle

        Before you make any decisions to leave just do this. Document everything. Keep a little folder with dates and times. Write down what happened in the disagreements, what happened at the councelors. Record if you can. It’s been my experience that N’s will tell a completely different story than what has actually happened. It could be completely opposite from yours. Talk with your family, tell them what’s going on. Don’t keep it secret. If someday you decide to leave, you’ll have proof of the way things actually are. Don’t exaggerate anything, just the facts.

      • Michelle

        I just reread your post and realized that you do have kids. I’m sorry.That makes your decision harder.

  16. This post makes me fearful that I am a narcissist. When I finally did have a breakdown from the crazy-making and fear of living with an abusive narcissist (I would say he is covert outside the home and overt with me and his first wife), I think I became narcissistic–I didn’t want to die, so I was way demanding of the few other people near me to keep me alive with something: attention, affection, concern. I was convinced I was 100% worthless and displeasing, so looking at myself in pictures or mirror actually hurt.

    I am separated now from my N, a full year apart, and there are days or times within days when I forget myself. Those times are so refreshing–I had one of those on Sunday after worship. I was talking to my pastor about the service and some other things. I wasn’t aware of it, but I was free and happy and just chattering openly, and he threw a brotherly hug around my shoulder and said, “I love it! Your energy!” I realized that he was smiling at me in FAVOR and maybe even delight, at that moment when I had totally forgotten myself for a bit.

    But much of the time I still feel that under-the-surface “need” to hear something affirming about myself. I hate it. I know it is counterproductive to real usefulness, the opposite of the worthlessness I feel so often, but it’s a daily struggle to offer it to God and remind myself throughout the day that he is the only one to satisfy that hole in me.

    • Still Reforming


      I think what you are describing is more akin to the response many of us have had after living with a real narc (covert or overt). We’ve been so pummeled internally over the years that it’s natural to want to have SOME affirmation from SOMEwhere that we’re actually of value and interest. It’s not like the narc who feeds on others so much as it is a desire to have all that negative garbage thrown on us for so long be shaken off and reaffirmed that we’re actually okay as people.

      I think one of the biggest things I felt (and still feel) guilt about is that I stopped praying fervently for others after my marriage hit a real breaking point and stayed there for years. It was as if I had to build this cocoon around myself for self-preservation and it was very hard to break out of it. Still is to some extent.

      I think that’s different from being a narc though. So I wouldn’t trouble yourself over whether or not you’re a narc. It sounds like you’re starting to come out of that cocoon – and recognizing those positive moments, like the one with your pastor, are signs of new life in you. I rejoice with you for that!

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