Narcissism and Emotional Abuse: Paying Attention to Your Path

Many of our blogs identify the narcissist as “him” and the victim as “her.” While most of our content leans that way, and most of the couples who seek our help lean that way, the reality is, not all narcissists are men, nor are women the only victims. We are all, male and female, quite capable of being absolutely arrogant, carelessly emotionally destructive, and acrimoniously self-protective. And the outcome is the same: relationships marred by trauma, brokenness, and deep pain. We end up in relationships that are shallow, void of connection, and wracked with fear and confusion.

Coping Responses to Abuse

We become more and more self-protective the longer we are in destructive, toxic relationships—which itself can look increasingly like narcissism. In other words, the coping response to living within a context of abuse can be destructive as well. That response is how one often learns to survive in the destructive context if they don’t simply succumb to being silenced.

There is a difference in the underlying approach, however. The one who has learned to survive this way is most likely trying to protect his or her autonomy and sense of self, in essence trying to balance their internal world where they have lost all sense of footing. The one who is destructive as a matter of habit is most often protecting his or her sense of control of their external world, standing on an inflated sense of footing. They do what they do because it gets them what they want.

Is your current path destroying your relationship?

Rather than work so hard to identify if he or she is a narcissist or how a woman might exhibit the traits differently than a man, it is much more meaningful to identify the particular behaviors that are destroying the relationship. If we look hard enough, we can fit just about anybody into a diagnosis. But the reality is, no one—not one single person—is a robot who has no ability to choose for themselves what they will do in the next moment. We are habitual, yes. But we have a choice about what we do every moment, whether we choose to behave in ways that relationships or destroy them.

So, if you are looking to make changes in your marriage, look at the specific behaviors that are wreaking havoc. What exactly is creating the dysfunction and disconnection? What particular habits are tearing you apart? Are you finding yourself unable to habitually act in a way that is congruent with who you know or want yourself to be? In other words, is your own voice being silenced? Are you silencing the voice of your spouse? What is disabling connection? What is enabling dysfunction? What are you fighting for or against, and is the end result going to be constructive or destructive to your connection?

Every Step is a Step in a Direction

Think about where your path is ultimately heading. Is what you are doing today leading you toward good relationships, joy, and no regrets? Every step is a step in a direction. If you are walking in a direction that is inauthentic, consistently destructive, or quenches the light of those around you, you will end up in a very dark place.

If you want to walk in the kind of light your soul was made for, you’ve got to change your direction. If you would like to unpack that a bit and learn to apply it to your own journey, we’d be happy to help! Contact us for more information about what we offer at the Marriage Recovery Center.