It’s Narcissist Friday!
When people write to me and share their stories I try to consistently tell them they must be safe. Being safe and thinking from a place or position of safety is important.
Are narcissists dangerous? Yes. Simple answer. They mess with your thinking. Some are physically abusive. Few abuse victims expect the first slap or punch. If it happens, you are not safe. If physical abuse is happening to your children, they are not safe. If you are afraid, you are probably not safe. Get safe. That’s the first priority.
Very often people write to me asking if they should get a divorce. I understand. But that shouldn’t be the first question. The first question is whether you and those for whom you are responsible are safe. You can think about divorce later, when the real options are in front of you. Until you are able to step back in safety and have some confidence, you shouldn’t make any decision.
For some, the question of divorce is a way of avoiding the real question. Some stay in abusive relationships and continue to be abused because they ask about divorce rather than safety. They think they have to make a decision about divorce before they can move out or find support. But that’s a little like worrying about which publisher you will use before you start writing your book. There are first steps and there are later steps. Divorce is after safety.
Listen: if you are being physically abused, remove yourself from the situation. If you really cannot, because he will hurt the kids or something, then you must tell someone. But that’s a minimum. Most of the time you can leave. Look in the phone book for a women’s shelter. If you can’t find one, call a counselor from the phone book and tell them that you need an immediate way of escape from abuse. Ask where you could go. Or maybe a women’s clinic. If you simply can’t find anything, go to a motel and call the police to tell them you are there and why. The point is to remove yourself and get others involved.
If you are here, you are trying to understand what is happening or what did happen in your relationship. That’s a good step. If you are in a marriage with a narcissistic partner, one who abuses by emotional manipulation, you should study and you should talk with someone who understands. If you are not in immediate danger, take the time to gather some money so that you can leave if necessary. Build a support team of people who know your story. Don’t assume you can trust everyone, but don’t be afraid of trying. If you find a counselor or pastor who doesn’t really listen, find someone else. Find a way to be safe.
If your narcissist is your parent or friend or coworker or in some other relationship, you can still find a way to be safe by building boundaries and keeping them. Again, let someone help you. You don’t have to answer the phone. You don’t have to open the door. You don’t have to get involved in a conversation. You don’t have to answer questions or share your secrets. If it makes you feel unsafe, don’t do it.
And what if you don’t know that the person is narcissistic? What if you are new to the relationship? Again, if it makes you uncomfortable or feel unsafe, you don’t have to do it. Sometimes you learn a lot about a person when you tell them no. You must be safe or the relationship is a danger for you.
Most of us were not taught how to be safe. We assumed that we were safe, and we assumed that others would keep us safe, particularly those with whom we were in relationship. Christians are often told to think the best of others, not to distrust. But we were not told what to do when others take advantage or abuse us. Things like “turn the other cheek” or “love your enemy” were not really meant to address abusive situations, nor are they commands to remain in unsafe positions. We were taught to obey, to think of others first, and to endure suffering, but we were not taught how to deal with abuse.
There are many Scriptures about being safe. We are called to pray, to run to the Lord, to flee evil. We are not meant to live in fear. No one expects you to stay in a situation where you are in danger. Except the abusers.
This is a good time to remind readers of my friends over at A Cry for Justice. If you are feeling unsafe or have questions about abuse, click the link and check them out. Good folks and helpful information.