It’s Narcissist Friday!
(Continuing the series: “For My Grandchildren”)
From the time you were little, your parents and others have told you that people were not supposed to touch you in certain ways. Certain parts of your body were yours alone, and others were not supposed to touch them. This was especially true regarding people who were not your parents or doctors.
You didn’t understand this at the time, but the reason was that touch is a powerful action that breaks down boundaries. Once a boundary is crossed, it is far easier for someone to cross it again. Many teenagers felt this as they dated and experienced relationships.
As an adult, you may have begun to understand that even “innocent” touch can be manipulative and intrusive. There are people who use touch to control, and it works. From shaking hands to an arm around the waist, touch is used by adults to compromise boundaries and push past objections.
So, the first part of this post is to give you permission to be both aware of those who touch and to avoid these manipulative touches. It is more than reasonable to suspect those who touch in odd or seemingly inappropriate ways of wanting to control you. It is also within your rights and responsibilities to reject that touch.
But there’s more to this. The chances are that most of the negative touch you will experience will not be physical. Instead, the manipulators will try to touch you in much deeper ways. Narcissists and abusers want access to the hidden parts of your heart, the places that are yours alone.
I have said in the past not to share your secrets openly. That probably seems obvious. After all, it ceases to be a secret once you tell someone. But there are people who have developed serious skills for learning your secrets. They will ask about embarrassing times in your life or relationships you regret or mistakes you made. They will do it in normal conversations or in times when you open yourself to them with the expectation of confidentiality. Then they will use that information to manipulate you.
So, don’t allow them to touch your private thoughts or memories or fears or regrets or anything else you hold for yourself. Your boss, your neighbor, your pastor—these and many others should be considered as people who don’t need to know these things. (I once knew a pastor who made it a point to have counseling sessions with everyone in his congregation. Those who joined were required to counsel with him. Then, he would use that information to manipulate them. He would even refer to these things from the pulpit.) Just as you would not allow them to touch you physically in compromising ways, so you should not allow them to touch your heart in those ways.
There are certain people and certain times when we need to share secrets. Sometimes we need to seek good counsel, but good counsel can be trusted. Once a counselor breaks your trust, in any way, find someone else.
Of course, we all share deep thoughts and embarrassing information with our intimate partners. Just as we allow them to be the only people who physically touch private areas of our bodies, we also share those secret places of our hearts.
And sometimes we are betrayed. And it hurts a lot.
It is far more challenging to deal with a spouse or lover who does not respect your privacy. But if you find your spouse misusing the intimate trust you have shared, you are right both to call out the offense and to hold back in the future. In fact, you might consider treating the situation much the same as inappropriate physical touch.
Some people who would never think of allowing a spouse to fondle them physically in public don’t know what to do when their spouse publicly refers to embarrassing mistakes or life situations. There are spouses who will tell others about personal compromises or refer to regretful memories for the purpose of manipulation or control. Not their own compromises or regrets, of course, but yours. It is a powerful method of breaking the will and independence.
Now, I can’t tell you what to do in your situation. What I can say is that you are right to feel just as violated when your secrets are revealed as when your private physical places are abused. I will add that you have the right to avoid, to protest, and to stop both types of abuse.
If you are not married to the person who is taking advantage of you physically and/or emotionally, you should seriously consider ending the relationship. In fact, the person who touches you where and when you do not want will almost certainly abuse your secrets. This type of control is difficult to challenge and end unless you insert distance in the relationship.
In other words, don’t let them touch you.