It’s Narcissist Friday!
Several years ago I was asked to give my opinion on whether a denomination should charge interest to churches for building loans. I did an in-depth study on debt and the consequences of it. The denomination did not go with my recommendation, and I was not surprised. But I learned a lot.
The Hebrew concept of debt is that of an animal that bites and hangs on. In some ways, it goes further to suggest a bite out of something. Debt, while an accepted part of our culture and Biblical culture, has negative consequences. It may be a necessary part of life for many, but we should be aware that a debt holds a certain bondage for people. It demands attention and resources. As long as the debt exists, it takes a bite out of finances and opportunity.
But this is not a financial blog. There are other forms of debt. Narcissists and other abusers often create a relationship based on debt. Early in the relationship, they will do something for you. At least they will make you think they have done something for you. The truth is that they have done something for themselves in order to get their hooks in you.
And the parallel with financial debt continues. Banks and other lending groups don’t lend out of kindness. They almost always lend so they can get something back. They intend to get what they gave you plus more. Borrowing to purchase a house, for example, means you will pay back much more than you originally borrowed.
The narcissist expects interest on what he or she has done for you. You don’t get off the hook by reciprocating a favor. You have to repay the favor over and over. If you stop, the narcissist will remind you of your debt. It may never end.
Financial institutions cannot keep coming for more when you have fully paid the debt and the contractual interest. Their relationship with you ends when the last payment is made. But abusers never let you fully pay them off. They may expect more for many years. You are always supposed to be in bondage to their kindness, even when they stop being kind.
If the bank continued to bill you for a loan which you paid off, what would you do? You would gather your receipts and show them that you were done with them. If necessary, you would hire legal counsel to convince them.
If the abuser continues to expect repayment for something he or she says you owe, what do you do? Remember that the abuser (contrary to the bank, I hope) is doing this on purpose. He/she will never agree that you are “paid up.” You will never satisfy your debt if it is left to the narcissist to determine.
So, you will have to make the decision yourself. Yes, the abuser did you a kindness. And you have returned that kindness, probably many times over. The debt is more than repaid, no matter what the narcissist thinks. You have to decide to be finished paying.
You will never get permission from the abuser, never be free. If you are drained of everything, maybe he will let you go. Some have told how the abuser drained bank accounts, compromised reputation, and destroyed both confidence and health. Then, and only then, the narcissist released them. A friendship suddenly ends. The spouse finds someone else. Your relationship is done. But you are empty.
Before that time, you can decide. You don’t have to let this go all the way. Say no. But don’t feel guilty. You know you have paid your debt. You know you are right. You know you will never stop paying until you make the decision.
One more aspect of this has to be addressed. What often happens is that the narcissist gives something beyond your ability to pay back. I call it “narcissistic generosity.” It is real. Narcissists will sometimes go far beyond expectations early in a relationship. Then they will say that the kindness is a gift. You don’t have to try to pay them back. Instead, they will manipulate your conscience to keep you hooked. Even if they say the kindness is a gift, you are supposed to feel indebted.
This advice may be hard: say thank you and move on. If the narcissist says you don’t have to pay him back, and you feel you don’t have the resources to do it anyway, say thanks and move on.
A sincerely kind person will give without strings. Your gratitude is more than enough. They are happy that you are relieved of your burden. They will not expect you to become a servant and be forever indebted. If the narcissist pretends to be a kind person, you may simply express your sincere gratitude and move on without further expectation.
That may be very hard, mostly depending on how you were raised. But let it go. There is no debt. It was a gift. The narcissist may remind you of the gift or try to manipulate you into feeling guilty, but you should recognize the tactics. Be kind. Be appreciative. Then move on.
Pay your debts and then be done with them.