It’s Narcissist Friday!
While most of the literature on narcissism seems to focus on the marriage relationship, there are other narcissistic relationships that have to be addressed. There are several good books now on parental narcissism, and some even on narcissism at the workplace. I have tried to categorize the various relationships I have read about or experienced and have come up with six:
1. Marriage (dating, significant other)
2. Parental (could include grandparent or family authority)
3. Workplace (boss, co-workers, system)
4. Friendship (anyone who uses friendship connection)
5. Organizational (church, volunteer, would include leaders)
6. Familial (siblings, children, connected by family)
There may be others (and I would love to hear your suggestions), but I suspect most would fall under one of these categories. An argument could be made for a sort of “neighborly” narcissistic relationship, where the person has no direct personal connection other than being near. The “narcissist next door” may not quite fall under any of these categories but still be a significant problem. There might be others.
All of these different relationships share common characteristics. Obviously, there is a narcissist (or multiple narcissists) in each of them. The effects on the victims are also very similar. When I write, I usually have more than one kind of relationship in mind. My hope is that the information is helpful to anyone who suffers from such a relationship.
When you have to deal with a narcissist, in any relationship, you should expect to be used. Remember, just because the narcissist is kind does not mean he isn’t using you. He may give you what you want as he uses you. It may feel like you have a good working relationship, even while you are being used.
You should also expect that use will turn to abuse if you fail to give the narcissist what he/she wants. Whatever the narcissist has given to you is an investment in what you are supposed to give to him. Your failure, for any reason, will be met with punishment. If you have a problem that affects your performance, the narcissist will have no empathy for you. Any patience or kindness you are shown is more investment in what you are expected to return. Eventually, the narcissist will want you to provide your part. If you do not, you will almost certainly experience a type of rage meant to intimidate you into submission. At best, the narcissist will write you off without any regret or concern.
Almost everyone in relationship with a narcissist feels the drain of being used. There is something in the connection that seems to go only one way. You get smaller while the narcissist grows larger. You become less important while the narcissist grows more important. Even if you begin stronger or more important, you will feel this change increasing and have a sense that the narcissist is using you.
The narcissist must be viewed as superior, or in the superior position. This seems obvious in business, familial, or organization relationships. Sometimes it is not so obvious in friendships. Remember that the person who is being served often feels himself or herself to be in a superior position. Sometimes narcissists present themselves as victims (think invalid, impoverished, and/or inexperienced) to have others serve them. From our perspective, they don’t seem to be in a superior position, but they are being served. They have found a way to demand your time and energy, perhaps even money, to serve their desires.
So narcissistic relationships are, in any form, draining and one-sided. The lack of empathy and desire to be seen as superior is wearing and corrupting. If you find yourself in a relationship where you feel drained of life—energy, time, money, whatever—you may be in a relationship with a narcissist. If you begin to realize that the person knows a lot about you while you know little about her, or you value the connection far more than he does, you might be in a relationship with a narcissist. If you experience flashes of anger mixed with stringed generosity, you might have a narcissist on your hands.
Fundamentally, every narcissistic relationship is a business deal. You do what you are supposed to do and the narcissist might do what he is supposed to do. Sometimes this relationship works, perhaps for a long time, but if anything changes your side of the deal, there will be consequences. And sometimes, even if you have done your part, the narcissist will find another to replace you.
And it might be at church, at work, with a friend, or in your family. The needs of a narcissist are quite simple. They might not look the same, and you might find them in different places, but they will all want the life and energy you have. They will use you and lessen you to lift themselves up.