Tag Archives: narcissistic relationships

Intimacy

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Yes, I know this is posting on Valentine’s Day. There is a bitter taste in even thinking about narcissism on a day when love should be the focus. But that would take the focus away from the narcissist, wouldn’t it?

Too many people will wonder whatever happened to the intimate relationship they shared with their narcissist. Was it all phony? Was it only physical? We all know there is a lot more to an intimate relationship than the physical aspect.

Not all relationships are intimate. The old meaning of the word has not been left behind. Intima, the Latin root, means the innermost parts. Not all relationships enter the inmost parts. Intimacy requires trust, openness, and reciprocation. In other words, the deepest kind of relationship on both sides.

I know that our culture has separated sex from intimacy, at least where the heart is concerned, but few people really want that. Most of us wanted that deep heart connection from the beginning. The physical part was not the goal, not the end of the intimacy. We wanted to know the heart of the one we loved as deeply as possible.

But the narcissist never wanted that. He/she didn’t care to know your heart except to use it to manipulate you. And he/she certainly didn’t want to let you into the innermost parts for fear that you might do the manipulating.

The narcissist talked about love, behaved somewhat like a lover, and claimed to love. He demanded physical intimacy early in the relationship, then used that to manipulate further. Narcissists are attentive, caring, and gentle at the beginning of the relationship. It is easy to let them in. Only later do you realize that you have been deceived. Sometimes much later.

Well, we know all that, don’t we? There is no such thing as narcissistic intimacy, or heart intimacy with a narcissist. They protect themselves too strongly, even against those who love them most. They don’t know what love is.

So, now what? Do you open yourself again to the narcissist? No. You have learned your lesson. It’s time to move on.

But move on to what? Do you dare open yourself to anyone? You missed the signs before, if there were any. How do you know it isn’t going to happen again? All that pain. You don’t want to do that again.

Yet, you long for intimacy. The way it’s supposed to be. You want to share your life. Even while you fear letting someone in again, you want it. We were made for intimacy.

Two thoughts: First, you know that intimacy is far more than physical. Maybe a long time ago you didn’t know that, and you opened yourself only to a fraction of the intimacy you could have had. You thought you were getting something, but you were used. Now you know better. Now you can look for the heart and settle for nothing less.

Let intimacy take time. There is no hurry. In fact, it can be a wonderful adventure enjoyed by both of you if you are willing to take the time to seek each other’s heart. Watch out for the person who wants physical before heart. Protect your inmost parts by being careful.

Second, there is One who knows you so much better than you know yourself. And He loves you. He knows your pain, your weakness, your compromises. But He also knows your strength, your motivation, your kindness. He knows you in truth, without guile. And He welcomes you into His heart as well.

I believe that a relationship with Jesus can fill the heart with love and satisfy our desire for intimacy. Contrary to what some people think, Jesus is happy to share your heart with another who loves you. He wants you, but He also wants others. You won’t have to be alone to experience His love; but, if you are alone, He will be enough.

St. Valentine was a man who loved others. He was generous and kind because he knew that he was loved. Intimately. Celebrate intimacy today. Open yourself to the intimate love of Jesus.

******

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Plans

It’s Narcissist Friday!

What did you expect life to be like by now?

For the past few months, the posts here have been about the things narcissists have taken away from us. Certainly one of the most common and troubling things narcissistic relationships tear from us is the plan we had for our futures. In fact, it seems that almost any kind of narcissistic relationship can affect the plans you have.

When you got married, you looked forward to the “happily ever after.” You didn’t know he/she would cheat and then leave you. You didn’t know you would have to get a divorce or live in the same house with such anger and abuse. Many young women had dreams of jobs and travel and good things until they connected with the narcissist who took it all away. Many young men looked forward to a life of love and family until they found that their narcissist had other plans.

As a child, you might have looked forward to the day you were free from your controlling parent(s). You thought you could have your own life and your own family. But Mom has never let you go. Her chronic ailments, her critical words, her manipulative gatherings. She has managed to insert herself into your future, and your plans have disappeared.

When you joined the company, you thought you could rise through the ranks. If you worked hard and did well, you could get a good wage and promotions. But the narcissistic boss only sees you as a servant to make him look good. He holds back promotions and says you haven’t earned a raise. The future you had planned has not happened. Knowing that he will be asked to give you a reference, you doubt your plans will ever come about.

Now you have debt. Now you have a baby. Now you have a dead-end job. Now you have a spouse who sees you as a servant. What happened?

You see, when the narcissist enters your life, he/she becomes the focus. Your plans are meaningless. The money you had saved is gone. The skills you used to have are almost forgotten. All because the narcissist was threatened by your abilities and/or independence.

The narcissist saw your plans either as having no value or as being a threat to his/her plans. That surprised you. You were unprepared and probably didn’t even realize what happened until too late.

But is it too late? At what age do you stop learning? I hope you say: Never! You might be able to reclaim some of those plans. You certainly can begin to make new ones. What the narcissist did was not fatal. You will recover. Things will be different, but they can still be yours.

Someone once asked, “Do you know how old I will be when I get my degree in four years?” Someone else answered, “How old will you be in four years if you don’t get your degree?” Don’t focus on what you have missed, focus on what can still be accomplished.

Make your plans now, even if the narcissist in your life might work against them. Plan for the opposition. You are stronger and smarter now. Submit your plans to the Lord who loves you, and let Him be your guide and help.

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Fellowship

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Fellowship has become a peculiarly Christian word. Some churches use the word in their name. Church groups are called “fellowship” groups. Some people speak of being in or out of fellowship with God and others.

But the word really just means community. It refers to a group of people who walk through life with you. It can be formal, as a church group, or informal, as a group of friends at the exercise class. The group of varied persons who set out under the authorship of Tolkien were called “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Life touched all of them at the same time for a while.

Narcissistic relationships have little room for fellowship. The narcissist finds others to be competitors or obstacles. If you entered the marriage with a group of friends, it is likely the narcissist tried to separate you from them. If you found encouragement and camaraderie in a church group or exercise group, the narcissist probably tried to get you out of it. If the narcissist couldn’t get you out, he/she may well have tried to wedge into the group and become the center of it.

All too often, at the end of the narcissistic relationship, the fellowship is broken. The people who used to walk with you through life aren’t there. Some narcissists manage to destroy the group for everyone. Others are content with just cutting you out of it.

This doesn’t happen just in marriage. The narcissistic parent either drives away your friends or tries to take them over. The narcissistic boss will break up teams that work. And, when you leave the narcissistic church, you leave all the friends you thought you had there.

Suddenly, you are a person without a country. You used to have friends. What happened to them? The narcissistic relationship couldn’t handle the competition. Maybe you thought it was better to back away from them. Maybe the narcissist was active in pushing them away. Whatever the reason, the fellowship is broken.

After the battle, it is harder to connect with those who haven’t been through it. There is so much they don’t understand. Maybe you have changed. You see life differently now. You are on the other side of great pain, trying to reestablish your life. They are still where they were before. What do you do now?

Well, I have suggested before that it really is not hard to apologize. If you closed the doors, if you became exclusive and pushed them away, start with an apology. They may not understand an explanation, but they might accept your desire to reconnect.

And maybe not. Maybe the battle changed you too much to go back into the fellowship. Maybe you need a new one. Believe me, there are others who have been through similar battles. They do understand, at least in general ways, how your battle was like theirs. They need a friend like you.

I don’t think the Lord wants us to walk alone for long. We were made to connect with others. Ask Him to lead you to friends, people who need what you have to give and who may have what you need in a friend. You might be surprised at the connections He makes.

They say that the last step of the grieving process is acceptance. Accept the changes that have come in your life and move forward. You may always grieve what you have lost, but you don’t have to live in that grief. Nor do you have to be alone. Be kind and friendly. Be patient. You are not desperate. You are a good person with a lot to offer others. They will see it. Just allow your heart to be open.

Yes, that’s risky. But fellowship is worth the risk.

*****

Narcissism in Church???

Narcissism in the Church: A Heart of Stone in Christian Relationships

Click on the book to go to the Amazon page.

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Children

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Loyalty. Devotion. Subservience. Adoration. Service. Reverence. Deference. Faithfulness. Worship.

Yes, I know these are all things we should give to God, but these are the things the narcissist wants from you. You are supposed to give all these things to the narcissist. It might be your mom or dad. It might be your husband or wife. It might be your friend, or your boss, or your pastor. You are supposed to give unequivocal allegiance to the narcissist.

Looking from another angle, if you are not for your narcissist, you are certainly against him/her. The narcissist rarely sees anything between love and hate. You either love your narcissist and submit, or you hate your narcissist and must be removed. There is no middle or neutral position. Not for the narcissist.

You see, most of us don’t think like this. We certainly don’t expect everyone to like us, and those who do like us don’t have to be our devoted servants to prove it. We respect others and think of ourselves as regular people. We don’t expect devotion or service or reverence. Loyalty might be nice, but we understand that people change.

For the narcissist, this kind of control is necessary. Because the narcissist doubts himself and fears others, he demands loyalty. Those who are not submissive are against him. Those who do not bow to him are plotting against him. You are either loyal or disloyal.

Now, suppose you are growing up in a family with a narcissist parent. Eventually, the marriage breaks up. You are the child. Which side of the divorce do you support? Most children would like very much to stay out of their parents’ troubles. They withdraw so that the venom doesn’t hit them. They try to be kind to both sides. Most kids love both parents.

That isn’t enough for the narcissist. The narcissist doesn’t want to share the love. So, the stories begin. The lies, the twisting, the insinuations. All to divide you from the other parent. The special gifts, the extra privileges, the friendly connections—all to make the narcissist look better. All to make the child choose.

But listen: the push toward devotion didn’t just start when the divorce happened. No, the narcissist plans these things. The kids have always had to make this choice. They have always been stuck between loyalties. And it has affected them. Their connection to their parents has always had this strange pressure, and they have never really understood. So, they find ways to protect themselves. They disconnect in whatever ways are possible.

And the non-narcissist parent loses her/his children. Why? Because they don’t know what to do in all this mess. It doesn’t involve them, that’s what the parents try to say, but it does. So, they withdraw.

Or they choose. They might hate the need to choose, but do it to have some sense of peace. Losing one parent might be preferable to keeping both with all the stress. Whatever it takes to be out of the line of fire.

Is it really this bad? Let me just say that it’s a story I have heard over and over. It might not be all the kids. Some don’t play the game. Some seem immune or insensitive to the pressures. But the pressure to choose loyalties is heavy in all their lives. It is there, and it destroys families.

Now, if you are the non-narcissist parent, you probably feel like your family has been ripped away from your heart. You might have had stresses, but now you have almost nothing. You grieve the loss of your kids. You miss them. But they are distant, almost uncaring.

What do you do? Pray for them. Be patient. Love them. You went through your struggle and it hurt a lot. Don’t forget they went through theirs as well. They were hurt also. You might have tried or wanted to go no contact with your narcissist. They tried or wanted to do the same, but with the whole package. Their lack of understanding or caring may be a way to survive. This is the reality of a narcissistic marriage, the potential loss of the family.

Be patient. I can’t say that they will come around to your side. They probably hate the idea of sides. But they will mellow and understand more as they get older. The narcissist can still affect their feelings, still demand, even as you try to reduce your pressures on them. This may take a long time.

Pray. Pray that they would shed the fear and pain. Pray that they would find good and healthy relationships for themselves. Pray that they would find the Lord’s love and grace.

I won’t tell you to let them go. I can’t imagine doing that in any real sense. A loving parent will never let go of their kids, even if they never get to see them or have a good relationship with them. But you can still love them from a distance. You can rejoice in their joys, grieve with their sorrows, and hope for their futures. Maybe someday they will understand that you loved them enough to give them time and space.

Each family is different and each child is different. I know a mom who writes letters to her kids. Not judgmental, not pleading or desperate, no pressure, just love. She supports them and encourages them. She doesn’t even know for sure that they read (or receive) her letters. But this is her heart expressing her love. Her goal is to add no further burden to them, just to let them know they are loved.

Frankly, this topic is heartbreaking. Take the long view. God works over the years. Trust Him. Be at peace knowing that He loves your children more than you do. The real goal of a loving parent is that her/his kids are happy and healthy. If that is true, the distance hurts less. Find your love and affirmation, everything you need, in Jesus.

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Normal

It’s Narcissist Friday!

They took away normal.

Of all the things the narcissist takes, taking normal is at least one of the most grievous.

Some of you know very well what I mean. It wasn’t that the dysfunctional relationship replaced the definition of normal; it was that normal just disappeared.

When you got married, started the job, joined the church—at the beginning of the narcissistic relationship—you thought you had an idea of what normal would be. A certain amount of challenge; a certain amount of joy; added to a mixture of sadness, fear, excitement, passion, anticipation, and more. Things would be, you know, normal.

But normal never settled in.

Narcissistic relationships, like television dramas, move from crisis to crisis. Unlike the television dramas, real life crises, no matter how often they come, are not normal. By keeping things stirred up, the narcissistic boss keeps the employees in constant crisis. They wait for the next bad review, odd job requirement, or new company policy. The narcissistic mother, spouse, friend all do the same thing. We chuckle and say, “Well, never a dull moment,” but we long for a break.

And there’s the rub. We begin to think that normal would be a rest time, a vacation, a break. We think that normal is the absence of fear or sadness or trouble. We no longer know what normal could be.

So, when we get out of the narcissistic relationship, we don’t know what to do. How can you get your work done without someone yelling at you? What does a spouse want if he doesn’t make demands or threats? What kind of friend doesn’t criticize others and works to make you feel good about yourself?

The old line is that “normal is just a setting on the dryer.” We laugh, but we cry a little at the same time. We know life should not revolve around crises and threats and anxiety. We know normal is out there somewhere.

We have a lot of wrong ideas about normal. We sometimes think normal is what others have and we don’t. We think normal means perfect. We think normal could come if (insert current challenge) were removed. We think normal is Mayberry, the town where everyone lives at peace and nothing fearful ever happens. But normal isn’t defined by the outside world. Normal is inside.

You see, normal is being who you are wherever life takes you. This is why I like to teach about identity. Normal is you. Chances are pretty good that you are not a person who moves easily and joyfully from one personal crisis to the next. At the same time, remembering who you are is the key to knowing how to survive. And remembering who you are is the path to normal.

I suppose I should say that normal is healthy. As you grow more healthy, you experience more that is normal. When others are not dictating how you feel about yourself, when criticisms and comparisons no longer prescribe your actions and thoughts, that’s when health begins, and you find normal. When you discover something in yourself that you like, something you can call good, something that matters—that’s healthy and normal.

Now, many people have never experienced normal. Those who grew up in narcissistic homes, for example. A narcissistic parent can’t model normal and probably wouldn’t want to. But there’s more. Most of us grew up not knowing ourselves. When we looked in the mirror, we only saw what others judged. Our work, our plans, our hopes, our pleasures were all influenced (if not dictated) by the input of others. We grew up caring more for what others thought of us than what we thought of ourselves. In fact, we only thought of ourselves in relation to what others thought of us. That might be what almost everyone does, but that is not normal. Normal is using the mirror for self-care, rather than for self-presentation. Normal is liking the person who looks back at you. Normal is healthy.

If you have read this blog much, you know that I believe we find healthy when we begin to understand that the Lord truly loves us. When we embrace the fact that we are precious and welcome in Him, that our value comes as He reflects His love to us, and that He made us to be the persons He wanted us to be—then we are finding normal. When you and I are secure in His love for us, remembering that no one else has the right to judge us or make us feel less than we are, then we are finding health.

Jesus loves me. This I know. That is a statement of health. That is normal. If I can live in that, I can face the crazy world with peace and joy and confidence. The normal me is the victorious me. Victory over the criticisms and comparisons and even the attacks. Peace inside. Rest inside. All because Jesus loves me. That’s your normal!

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Reputation

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Are all narcissists liars?

It seems to be very common for those who leave the narcissist to learn that the narcissist has been spreading lies about them. Whether it’s a spouse or a parent or a friend, the narcissist will often create stories or twist truth to make their victim seem at fault. Because the narcissist cannot admit any blame, they have to pass it on to someone. So, if something goes wrong or a relationship becomes broken, it has to be your fault.

I could tell some horror stories. Most of them have come from readers here. Stories of lies told after a marriage breakup. Stories of lies told by a parent or sibling when the victim finally dares to deny contact or speak against the abuse. Stories of lies told by people who used to be friends. Some have been shocked to hear what has been said. Others know what their narcissist will say.

The true shock comes when the victim realizes that lies have been told before the end of the relationship, almost as though the narcissist was anticipating the end. In fact, narcissists usually prepare for negative results by insinuating the incompetence or wickedness of others. They speak against almost everyone in their lives to someone. Wives will hear negative words about bosses that no one at the company will ever hear. Bosses will hear comments about co-workers, suggesting that they aren’t doing their jobs or are compromised in some other way. Then, when the trouble becomes obvious, the traps have already been laid.

I found an interesting article in Psychology Today about how narcissists destroy the reputations of those they abuse. It is worth a quick read. There are always little things in these articles with which I might disagree, but the main one in this is the statement:

“the narcissist is so committed to his “truth” that his lies may not be conscious.”

I would suggest that this is not the best way to look at the narcissist’s lies. Yes, they may become so habitual that they roll off the tongue almost without thought. Yes, the narcissist might see the roles of right and wrong quite differently than their victims. Yes, the narcissist might believe himself/herself to be justified in seeking justice or revenge. But the point is not whether the narcissist lies unconsciously. The point is that the narcissist doesn’t care if he/she lies.

To the narcissist, a lie is simply a tool to use. Never forget that the narcissist has no empathy. He/she doesn’t know or care about the pain of others unless that pain has a purpose. If it works to hurt someone, the narcissist will do it. And, if a lie will serve the purpose, there is no hesitation to use it. A lie means nothing to the narcissist. So, I would not say that the lie is unconscious, but the lie is unimportant.

So, when you leave the narcissist or dare to stand up to him/her, be prepared for the lies. Be prepared to learn things about yourself that simply are not true. The narcissist will say things that can easily be proved wrong, but won’t care because the damage will be done. If confronted with the lie, he or she will probably just shrug it off. Like one politician said a few years ago: “We won didn’t we?” The end is all that matters to the narcissist. If it takes a lie, a lie will be used.

Now you are left with a bad reputation, and you didn’t even do the things people think you did. What are you supposed to do? Keep moving forward. Some people will believe the lie without giving you the chance to set the record straight. Some already rejected the lie because they know you. Some may wonder but will watch to see. As much as you can, don’t look back. Just look forward.

And listen: the narcissist will also tell your secrets. Maybe the stories aren’t exactly a lie, but a very hurtful version of the truth. Maybe people now know something you never wanted them to know. Narcissists are cruel.

Still move forward. You can’t undo what you did, and you can’t undo what others heard. What you can do is prove by your daily life that those accusations either never did or no longer do represent you. You are free of the narcissist and living a new life. When you have the opportunity, set the record straight. Or just say that it is being misrepresented and you don’t want to talk about it. You are still the one in charge. When people look to you, show them a person of love and integrity. Yesterday is long gone.

The narcissist is accountable to God for his/her lies and for betraying your confidence. But you may never hear an apology. Nor is this something the narcissist did “unconsciously.” It was wrong! It was cruel! And the narcissist did it knowingly. But, again, there may be nothing you can do to make things right except move forward with your life. You can say that your narcissist has lied or twisted truth to those who will listen, but your reputation begins today. Who you are today is what matters.

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the LORD; I shall not slip.
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
and I have walked in Your truth.
Psalm 26:1-3

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Hope

It’s Narcissist Friday!

The years go by quickly, don’t they? I started to write our Christmas letter several weeks ago and realized that most of the things in our lives were the same as the year before. The little ones are growing, of course. They change. But the rest of us just keep doing our thing. And that’s good.

The new year provides a starting point for change, but for most of us, it is just a date on the calendar. If life is good, that’s fine. We don’t need change. But what if life is a struggle?

A narcissistic relationship can rob us of hope. Anticipating the same pain we experienced today or yesterday, leaves us feeling weak and afraid. It is easy to become defeated and discouraged. Especially when nothing seems to change.

I have been in awe of those who write to me to tell of 40 years with a narcissistic spouse or maybe 70 years with a narcissistic parent. One year is pretty much like the last, the same struggle and pain. But these folks have not written to tell me how terrible they feel. They write to tell me that they have hope. Maybe they finally left the narcissist. Maybe they finally allowed themselves to be healthy apart from the narcissist. For some the relationship hasn’t ended, but knowledge is power and faith provides hope.

It was the Lord who taught us to mark time, to note the changes of seasons and days and years. He is eternal, living always in the present, and seeing all of His people in that present. He is the same: yesterday, today, and forever. But He allows us to live with past, present, and future. He tells us that the past is gone and that the future is full of hope. He tells us of the good plans He has for us. Things are getting better.

And, no, things are not the same. Every day, those who look to Jesus grow a little stronger. Every day, we learn more of the truth. Every day our hope grows. We are changing, even when our situation might not seem to be.

Even the stages of grief are progressive. Each stage eventually yields to the next. The denial falls away as the anger rises. The anger subsides as the bargaining begins. The bargaining is left behind as we become depressed. Eventually, even the depression is overcome by our acceptance. And acceptance opens the door for hope. Dealing with the reality of what has happened, whether still in the relationship or not, begins a process that allows a new start, a change that we can mark or even celebrate.

For the believer, hope is found in the love of Jesus. He has never left your side, even when you might have thought you left His. Hope is never lost to us because He is always with us. His love promises new and better things for us.

The new year might be just a mark on the calendar, but it offers a reminder that our Lord is the One who makes all things new. This year will be better. You have changed and you will continue to change. You will become stronger and wiser. You will move toward health and heart peace. Whatever your situation, it cannot stop your progress as you walk with the Lord who loves you.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
Psalm 42:5

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 31:24

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Revelation 21:5

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