Narcissists are chameleons with the ability to appear to be just what you want and need, at least for the initial whirlwind part of the relationship. However, once they have established the relationship, the dynamics change rapidly, with the narcissist utilizing a variety of tactics and manipulations to keep you close. The relationship stops being about creating a partnership and becomes a focus on keeping them happy and their needs fulfilled.
The tactics that narcissists use in this process are easily recognized by those outside the relationship. They may also be evident to the partner, but the myths around narcissism can make it extremely difficult to leave.
Signs and Myths
To determine if you are falling into a pattern of believing these myths, here are few critical signs to watch for in your thinking around the individual and the relationship.
Myth: It is an attachment issue that can be corrected
If you find yourself believing that narcissists have a deep desire to change their attachment from unhealthy to healthy, you are buying into a myth. Narcissists rarely see they have an attachment issue, which is why everyone else is seen as the problem in the relationship.
No matter how much you want them to change and are willing to support them during the process, it is their decision to seek therapy and get the help they need. Unless they are willing to do this, it is impossible for long-term change.
Myth: Narcissists are always victims of childhood trauma or abuse
While there is a connection between absent parenting, trauma, or childhood neglect and narcissism, this does not provide an excuse to abuse and hurt people as an adult. If a narcissist is not willing to address the childhood issues, they cannot make positive changes. Simply providing unconditional love will not encourage them to change. It will encourage and reward the current abusive behavior.
Myth: Narcissists only do what the partner allows and accepts
This myth is both prevalent as well as damaging. It is the myth of blaming the victim for staying rather than addressing the fact the abuser is abusing. It also implies that the person being abused wants this type of relationship, which could not be further from the truth.
Narcissists are unwilling to accept boundaries in their relationships with partners and their relationship with family members. This is a key sign of a narcissist; they rarely have any significant contact with their family.
Myth: Everyone is selfish and self-centered to some degree
Everyone can have moments where they are selfish and put themselves first. However, this is typically followed by the acknowledgment of this behavior and some level of remorse or attempt to apologize or account for the behavior.
A narcissist, on the other hand, always puts themselves first. They do not take responsibility for their actions but place the blame for their behavior on everyone else. They take control, do what they want, and minimize the accomplishments or the support of others in a way that is destructive and harmful.
Tips For Getting Support
The narcissist manipulates and uses these myths against those who try to pull away. It is not uncommon for narcissists to make threats of self-harm or to blame the partner for their inability to make the relationship work, playing on feelings of guilt.
The narcissist uses the love and compassion of the partner as a weapon. This can be highly destructive and further reduce self-esteem. To address these issues, it is important to get help from a therapist or counselor with experience in helping partners or family members of narcissists. Also, you can check out Wake up Recovery, a beautiful tribe for those healing from a toxic relationship, love addiction, or codependency.
In addition to seeking help from a therapist, use the following strategies to break free from the myths holding you in the relationship:
- Journal – writing down both the experience and your thoughts about the issue can help to bring clarity and provide a tangible experience that cannot be manipulated or gaslighted by the narcissist.
- Boundaries – learning to set boundaries is a skill. Practice it with everyone in your life and walk away when they are broken.
- Self-care – learning to put your needs first in relationships with narcissists is a challenge. It is not selfish or self-centered; it is self-care and self-love, something that may seem foreign at this time and in this relationship.
Learning to disengage from the manipulation is not easy. Having a support network will be essential in moving forward with your life and letting go of the myths.
Be sure to share your thoughts and questions using the comment section below so we can all learn from and help each other.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach