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He would justify his actions by saying he thought people would find it funny, even though he was insulting me. When I was firm about the fact that I would not tolerate this behavior, he went out of his way to ensure that I felt invisible.


When I brought this up with him, would tell me that I was boring. I was tolerant of this behavior because I grew up in an abusive home , so verbal abuse felt normal. I did so much work preparing for social gatherings in the hopes of hosting a fun evening with my friends, but it always ended the same way: with my husband being the center of attention and impeding others from talking and connecting.

After these events my friends would often feel hurt about something he said or did. He burned bridges with my friends and family, and I found myself justifying his actions in an attempt to keep the peace. This hurt, but these relationships meant so much to me that I could not afford to lose them.

I started surrendering space to him and giving in, even though it hurt, because it felt better than fighting.

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I started to become used to not being seen, not being able to have boundaries , not being treated with dignity and respect. I became used to feeling shut down and drained. I looked forward to times he worked out of town so that I could get enough sleep, be alone with my thoughts, do what I need to do for my health and well-being, and start to feel like myself again.

One day as I was doing research for my PhD I came across an article on personality. As I read about narcissistic personality disorder it hit me like a wave of understanding. This explains his lack of empathy, his inability to love people, and his inability to be present in situations. Narcissistic supply can be thought of as a drug in the form of social admiration and attention. His NPD explains why he cannot be present with me and why he has to go on and on about anything and at the same time nothing. It also explains why trying to connect with him means putting on an invisibility cloak and giving him all my attention and energy.

The literature indicates that people with NPD do not change and do not feel that they have a problem. Spouses of people with NPD are encouraged to end the relationship as safely as they can. I know from my own experience that leaving is not always possible and is much more complex than the abuse itself.

If you are like me, the thought of giving up on another person can be heartbreaking. Sometimes giving up on a relationship can feel like giving up on a part of yourself. So hope, empathy, and compassion propels the relationship onward. Also, the thought of being alone can be terrifying.

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If your relationship has been like mine, you have likely been told that you are incompetent, that you are incapable of caring for yourself, and maybe a part of you believes these lies. Then please, for your own safety, get out! Give yourself time and trust that you will know how to move your life forward. I have taken the advice of these authors and have created a life for myself away from my spouse. I engage in meaningful hobbies, have friendships outside the relationship, and take time for myself every day to meditate and recharge. I have stopped feeling guilty for excluding him from parts of my life.

This is what I have to do, and I am reasonably happy. I grieve for the person I thought he was and what I hoped he would become. I grieve for the relationship I longed for, a relationship with empathy, reciprocity, support, and shared space both physically and ideologically. Relationships involve more than one person, and both parties are responsible for what arises. Sadly, spouses of people with NPD often carry all the responsibility for the relationship. I have stopped telling him sensitive things about my life because he uses them to bring me down or as a source of narcissistic supply.

Growing up in a home with verbally abusive parents , I never learned to love or respect myself.

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Verbal abuse was a normal part of my daily life. As a result, I was conditioned to accept derogation, living without healthy boundaries, and being treated without dignity and respect. Because of my past, I was blind to abuse. The future will be different; it has to be.

For the first time in our relationship of over fifteen years I see my husband for who he really is, not who he has led me to believe he was. As I see him I try to have empathy for him. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which therapists use as a guide, a person needs to exhibit only 55 percent of the identified characteristics to be considered narcissistic.

There is a definite hierarchy, with the narcissist at the top—which is the only place he feels safe. Narcissists have to be the best, the most right, and the most competent; do everything their way; own everything; and control everyone. Interestingly enough, narcissists can also get that superior feeling by being the worst; the most wrong; or the most ill, upset, or injured for a period of time.

Narcissists need constant attention—even following you around the house, asking you to find things, or constantly saying something to grab your attention.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Validation for a narcissist counts only if it comes from others. You pour in positive, supportive words, and they just flow out the other end and are gone. Despite all their self-absorbed, grandiose bragging, narcissists are actually very insecure and fearful of not measuring up. Narcissists have an extremely high need for everything to be perfect.

Understanding the Rise of Narcissism

They believe they should be perfect, you should be perfect, events should happen exactly as expected, and life should play out precisely as they envision it. This is an excruciatingly impossible demand, which results in the narcissist feeling dissatisfied and miserable much of the time. The demand for perfection leads the narcissist to complain and be constantly dissatisfied. Since narcissists are continually disappointed with the imperfect way life unfolds, they want to do as much as possible to control it and mold it to their liking.

They want and demand to be in control, and their sense of entitlement makes it seem logical to them that they should be in control—of everything. They demand that you say and do exactly what they have in mind so they can reach their desired conclusion. You are a character in their internal play, not a real person with your own thoughts and feelings.

Although narcissists want to be in control, they never want to be responsible for the results—unless, of course, everything goes exactly their way and their desired result occurs. Sometimes that blame is generalized—all police, all bosses, all teachers, all Democrats, and so on. At other times the narcissist picks a particular person or rule to blame—his mother, the judge, or laws that limit what he wants to do. Most often, however, the narcissist blames the one person who is the most emotionally close, most attached, loyal, and loving in his life—you.

You are the safest person to blame, because you are least likely to leave or reject him. They are a lot like 2-year-olds. They believe that everything belongs to them, everyone thinks and feels the same as they do, and everyone wants the same things they do.

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  6. They are shocked and highly insulted to be told no. Photo: Ivo de Bruijn. Narcissists have very little ability to empathize with others. They tend to be selfish and self-involved and are usually unable to understand what other people are feeling.

    Narcissists expect others to think and feel the same as they do and seldom give any thought to how others feel. They are also rarely apologetic, remorseful, or guilty.

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    But narcissists are highly attuned to perceived threats, anger, and rejection from others. At the same time, they are nearly blind to the other feelings of the people around them. They frequently misread subtle facial expressions and are typically biased toward interpreting facial expressions as negative. This is why narcissists often misinterpret sarcasm as actual agreement or joking from others as a personal attack. Their lack of ability to correctly read body language is one reason narcissists are deficiently empathetic to your feelings.

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    Narcissists also lack an understanding about the nature of feelings. They think their feelings are caused by someone or something outside of themselves. In a nutshell, narcissists always think you cause their feelings—especially the negative ones.