What is Narcissistic Abuse in adult to adult relationships?
At the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, the partner is only shown the ‘ideal self’ of the narcissist; this includes feigned empathy, kindness, and charm. The initial narcissistic abuse begins with belittling comments and grows to contempt, ignoring behaviour, adultery, triangulation (forming any relationship triangles), sabotage, ‘crazy making’ and, at times, physical abuse.
Trauma Symptoms include:
- Recurring or distressing memories
- Avoiding or attempting to avoid thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- Diminished interest in normal activities
- Pessimistic about the future
- Problems with anger
- Easily startled
- Distress triggered by reminders that link back to the traumatic event
- Intense feelings: anxiety, agitation, restlessness (high activation of the nervous system)
- Intrusive images or flashbacks
- Depression (low activation of the nervous system)
- Emotionally distant or reactive
- Difficulties sleeping and concentrating
- Avoiding activities, places, people which trigger recollections of the trauma
The symptoms of PTSD may interfere with a person’s ability to carry on their everyday live, work and relationships. Feeling strong reactions such as fear, anger, rage, sadness, or loneliness, are natural after a traumatic event. For people who develop PTSD, these feelings are intensely distressing and if left untreated, can last for a long time.
Warning Signs and Red Flags of Narcissistic Abuse
- A sense of superiority; being highly critical, often judgmental about others. They are highly sensitive to criticism themselves
- A sense of entitlement and always being right
- Constantly giving out back-handed compliments, blaming, shaming, belittling and humiliating you and or/others
- Romantic relationships tend to move quickly, often showering you with attention, compliments or gifts, and saying “I love you” very early on in the relationship
- Ignoring, dismissive and contemptuous behaviours
- Innocent words are often contradicted by their body language and tone of voice. They create confusion and doubt in others.
- Their stories are contradictory and you start to see a pattern of little white lies regularly, to you and to others
- They have two sets of rules compared to those of what applies to everyone else
- They expect you to have high standards, while they don’t expect that of themselves
- They have a lack of empathy, and are unable to put themselves in the shoes of others.
- They have poor boundaries, regularly invade your privacy, or expect you to mind read their wishes and needs.
- They have a “my way or the highway” attitude and know best; their way of doing things is the correct way.
As the relationship becomes more established, you may start to see some stronger warning signs, or red flags, such as:
- You may spot bigger lies, and when you confront them, you never get a straight answer or they will turn it around and accuse you of what they’re actually doing.
- If you try to raise an issue with them, it becomes a full-blown argument. They may accuse you of causing the fight, or they may use the silent treatment as a way of punishing you for confronting them.
- Arguments feel circular and nonsensical. You’re left feeling emotionally battered and confused. There is no resolution to the issue, no sense of compromise or seeking a win/win outcome. You’re left feeling unsupported and misunderstood.
- They may tell you something didn’t happen when you know it did, or vice versa. This is called ‘gaslighting’ and it’s designed to make you doubt your own reality and judgment.
- You feel like you need to ask for permission before making plans with others. They may try to control where you go, or call and text constantly to check up on you, and interrogate you about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.
- You start seeing less of your family and friends as they openly prevent you from going through guilt tripping or threats of abandonment. Or, it could be more subtle, where they make such a fuss about seeing your family and friends that you start avoiding them so you don’t have to deal with the fallout. You end up feeling isolated and lonely.
- The relationship feels one-sided; you are the one who is doing all the giving, the one who is always in the wrong, the one who is trying the hardest, changing the most or doing the most sacrificing, just to make them happy. And it still doesn’t work. Nothing is enough for them.
- You can’t feel at ease or relaxed in their presence. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, waiting for the next time they lash out at you. You realize you feel a sense of relief when they aren’t there.
- You feel like whatever you do, it’s not enough. You’re manipulated so that you’re flaws and vulnerabilities are exploited and used against you at every opportunity. You begin to feel inadequate, unlovable, and feel like everything your fault.
The more of the above behaviours and feelings you recognise, the more likely it is that you are in fact experiencing narcissistic abuse. You can recover and heal from narcissistic abuse. You can break free of abuse cycles, unconscious outdated behaviour patterns, and negative belief systems. You can become ‘unstuck’ and put an end to repeat cycles of going straight back into another toxic relationship.
Are you ready to make a change?
You are very welcome to get in touch, for any enquiries or questions you may have, or to schedule an appointment.