Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships: Is It Just Me?

by frugalrvers

I'm no stranger to narcissistic personality disorder relationships, but whether diagnosed or not, I feel like I'm meeting more people with NPD traits. Is narcissism on the rise?

This is my own journey through living with someone who has what I have always felt was characteristic of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It stole a huge portion of my life, created an unhealthy upbringing for raising my daughter and still throws out aftershocks to this day.

It leaves me wondering if it will ever end and, if it does, will I look back at the rubble in amazement, recognizing all of the damage that has been done? However, I know I am not alone, because I believe our society as a whole is breeding narcissists - leaving many people hurting and struggling with this disorder, just like me.

Still Learning How To Deal With Narcissistic Personality Disorder...

Is Narcissism On The Rise?

Sometimes I'd love to drift back to the innocence of childhood, as in my personal photo below, to a time where I never knew I'd have to learn and comprehend the complexity of Narcissistic Personality Disorder relationships (NPD). Though I always knew something was "off" I never realized that my ex-husband was capable of delivering such a blow to decades of my life. Even today, with an almost grown child, I struggle to co-parent and have to remind myself of how difficult it is to interact with a narcissist.

Many people will tell you that if you suspect someone is suffering from NPD, run!! The reasoning is that, due to an inflated sense of self, narcissists aren't going to get the help they need, because everyone else is the problem. My ex had that inflated ego and had such narcissistic grandiose delusions, he would defend them to the death and actually began believing his own stories.

There is no magic pill, unfortunately...and often, when in narcissistic personality disorder relationships for an extended period of time, you get so beaten down you just lose yourself with no strength to fight. Anyway, there is nowhere to run when you have a child - so you hold on to hopes that things will change.

Yes, that's me in the photo above, by the way....

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Criteria And Symptoms As Described By Wikipedia

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Traits By Definition
For an overview of NPD, you can find a good description here to get you up to speed.

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder Trait I Hated Most

Lack Of Empathy In Those With NPD

If there was one narcissistic personality disorder trait that I could choose to do away with, it would be the lack of ability to show empathy. There are many symptoms of NPD, such as needing extra attention, believing he or she is entitled, better than others, important, special...just to name a few. But the lack of empathy, given how sensitive I can be, was the kicker.

Many people consider narcissists to just be gigantic egos walking around. In some cases, this may be true. But not every narcissist is the same or exhibits the same symptoms. In fact, my ex has never been officially diagnosed and, though I worked in mental health or in similar fields after college, I'm not qualified to diagnose...but you know what? I really don't care. I don't care about a clinical diagnosis because it takes all of two minutes to look at the symptoms and know, whether the mental health field agrees or not, I lived with the majority of these symptoms and they caused great destruction in my life.

Ok...back to lack of empathy. I'm not going to pour out, for the sake of some anonymity, any of the really big things that happened in the relationship that showed me there was a serious problem. But some small examples would be things like the amazing gift those with NPD have to twist blame onto you instead of apologizing or feeling sad. When I was devastated he misplaced my father's leather police jacket he insisted on wearing (probably for the ego boost), which was never seen again, I was shamed for being sad, grieving over the loss and was emotionally beat up for having the audacity to be disappointed. When my three year old daughter would cry when I'd drop her off at his house, soon after our divorce, he would get angry with her and tell her "you want your mom?! go with her then." As if our daughter, showing natural separation despair while adjusting to my leaving in this new divorce scenario, was personally out to get him and insult him. Instead of helping her through the adjustment, he punished her emotionally for feeling sad that I was leaving. He was, and still is, unable to feel anything at all for anyone but himself and still emotionally torments our daughter with the pressure of having to choose a parent.

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How To Deal With Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Unless You Leave, There Is No End To Dealing With Narcissistic Personality Disorder...

So how does one deal with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Well here are some tips I will share...

  1. You have to take care of yourself. After being in a narcissistic relationship, your self-esteem will plummet. To this day, I don't know how I got the strength to stop crying, get off the couch, get into therapy, take my daughter and leave - but I did it. Most friends were gone (none of them were good enough in his eyes), my career, hobbies and identity was stripped takes a toll. But splash water on your face and realize this is not you! You deserve they say, run!
  2. Don't worry about diagnosis. The odds are that they won't be officially diagnosed. Who really cares? I don't need a doctor to tell me I need stitches when my arm is bleeding - forget the diagnostics. Even if you're wrong, you know you are in a seriously damaging relationship.
  3. People will think you are crazy. Why? Because behind the scenes they tear you down, but in front of others they shine. Always the center of attention, always the joke teller. Always the one amazing everyone with their stories that are all made up. What attracted you to them in the first place, knowing no different, will now work against you because no one will believe this wonderful, entertaining person could have such a dark side. Don't worry about what others think...leave.
  4. If you have a child, keep every email, videotape what you can...document, document, document. Once again, there will be no better performance than in front of a judge, when dealing with custody issues. The narcissist won't even flinch when making up stories about your infidelity, alcohol addiction or physical abuse. Whatever it takes to win. Remember, they feel nothing, so lying comes easy.
  5. They will not be upset by your leaving the relationship, so don't worry about that, because you have been all used up and offer their ego nothing anymore. However, you will be "dead" to them and joint parenting will be a nightmare. They will still want the child's adoration, so will spend much of their time reinforcing that you are a bad parent, making up lies to your child, etc. If I had to do it all over again, I would have fought for full custody - but was too afraid that he would do something drastic, tell an awful lie in the courtroom and I'd lose her...yes, NPD traits can be that convincing. Speaking of lies, only a few nights ago as my daughter and I had a good talk, did she admit that he had told her I had an affair and that is why our marriage ended. I'm finding this out 15 years after the fact! Beware.....
  6. If you have a child, beware of PARENTAL ALIENATION. For most of my daughter's life we lived 2000 miles away and she saw her dad during summers and holidays. Even still, the little time they shared was laden with guilt (I miss you, live with me), ridicule and criticizing me so that she began to believe the stories, never being a parent but using her as a tool for his ego, letting her know speaking of her life with me, including pets and relatives, was bad...on and on it goes. Never once did it cross his mind the damage he was doing. We were alienated from freshman year through end of sophomore year of high school, but fortunately I never gave up and we are together again. (That's me and my daughter in the photo)
  7. If you have no child to battle over, you honestly need to leave the relationship before it sucks you in that case, GIVE UP. When you have kids, you are stuck having to deal with the person with NPD for a very, very long time. You will NOT change him or her...ever. Stop spending energy on trying to win a battle or put reason in his or her head. A narcissist cannot see that they are hurting your child. It is up to you to grieve and accept the things you can't change, then be the best parent you can be. I had divorced parents who remain friends to this day...that's what I wanted for my daughter, but I can't give it to her. It isn't my fault...grieve, move on. Your child needs you to be healthy.

As you can see, the key to learning how to deal with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has nothing to do with the narcissist. Don't engage in battle and escalate things, don't try reasoning, thinking you will talk sense into him or her. You need to protect your self-esteem and your children, if applicable.

This isn't your fault, so take care of yourself, protect yourself, and find the relationship you deserve...I did...and we're going on 15 years together. Once in a healthy relationship, you cannot believe what love is actually supposed to feel like.

One of the main reasons we jumped into our current unconventional, frugal rv lifestyle so quickly was because, out of the blue, I was going to be 2000 miles away from my daughter - and she would be living full time with him. Though alienated from me right in front of my eyes (and we'd had a loving, close relationship!), I couldn't give up on her, no matter how painful it was. It took a few years for her to find out for herself what he was truly like, and though she is still struggling to see the big picture, she has me around for support so that she can make it through to graduation without having to give up her school, friends, etc.

The best advice I can give is that if you recognize any of these symptoms when dating, break it off. My not knowing what was the matter back in college led me to stick it out, and 24 years later narcissistic personality disorder still impacts me.

Updated: 04/18/2018, frugalrvers
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Have You Experienced Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships?

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Evie on 03/16/2014

It's easy to say that if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, run like the devil is chasing you. However, if you are a child, you are trapped. There is no running and Child Protection won't help because they will not see the damage being done to your soul. Damage that will last a lifetime. Damage that will haunt your very existence until the day you die. You will grow up with a very convoluted sense of self if you can see your way to acknowledging a self. Your self esteem will be whittled down to nothing. I was raised by a narcissist mother. I was not allowed to have any emotions or preferences of my own. My emotions or preferences were poo-pooed and I was told that I didn't really like what I wanted to like and I didn't really feel like that. If my emotions and feelings didn't fit her feelings, they just didn't exist. If my preference for color or a flower or a style didn't fit her accepted preference, then they were wrong. I couldn't even tell you what color I preferred when I was 35 years old. So sad.

frugalrvers on 06/04/2012

Raven, I am so sorry you have had to endure this pain. You know what I resent most of all (and I hope this helps)? By allowing him to steal decades of my life, I became a perpetual victim. I started recognizing a pattern of "why me" and "how could he" etc...but I know, to truly appreciate this life, we have to get up, brush off the dust and recognize it is those with NPD who have the problem. I won't allow him to define me, rob me of my quality of life - I try, with all my might, to "feel sorry" for how sick he truly is and how much life he is missing out on without getting help. However, the "mama bear" in me is out in full force. He recently disowned my beautiful daughter...a young woman that any parent would be proud to have brought into this world. It is hard to stay strong with their illness eating away and eroding joy at every turn.

It is so sad, are right. Though I have the most amazing husband, I absolutely would have done anything to save our marriage and not have my daughter endure such a "hostile" breakup (though believe me, I never wanted hostile...just peace).

As much as they have hurt us, our kids and others they've contacted in their lives, we are never free Raven until we can look at them with empathy - feeling pity at how ill they truly are. It is hard...absolutely...but you will no longer be a victim when you step outside of it and recognize how unfortunate it is they are missing out on a life of love. They are unlovable - what a terrible life to live.

Yes, we are entitled to be angry at the hurt they have caused us and our children...but true freedom, in my opinion, comes when we see how ill they truly are and allow them no more power over our own happiness.

You take deserve happiness.

frugalrvers on 04/09/2012

I'm so sorry to hear that you are having problems with your son. You didn't mention your son's age. I can say that therapists are not in favor of diagnosing an adolescent (if your son is still a teen) because most adolescents are quite narcissistic and can and do grow out of it as they get older. I don't know how old your son is, but I just wanted to put that in there. Also, my young daughter would "parrot" her narcissistic dad, which made me feel "she is just like him" until I got the help and assistance I needed to see what was really at work here. Again, don't know your particular circumstances but if you are in a divorced situation, it is something important to consider. If your son is grown and you feel he exhibits these behaviors, the first step is to get support for yourself. When you have to keep a narcissist in your life (through love of a son or legally, as with an ex) you can get the support and skills you need to set boundaries to protect your own self esteem. It is a painful situation, guaranteed, and I do have empathy for you.

Troubled Parent on 04/08/2012

I believe that my son has this disorder. He has no empathy for anyone and only cares for himself.

Mladen on 03/17/2012

It seems this disorder is really on rise. I can only imagine how terrible, devastating is to share home with such person. Especially when you know everyone will like that person, and nobody will trust you when you try to tell them about your life with such man/woman. Those personalities are very strong and self-centered. They think everything is there to make their life easier. They really do use people for their own causes, especially to build up their self-esteem. This is excellent article!

frugalrvers on 02/27/2012

I should have added that he lives 200 miles away from my stepfather (and mother). Quite a gamble to drive 200 miles, assuming we are home...

katiem2 on 02/27/2012

Oh my I can only imagine and yet I believe every word of it. So sorry for your mothers passing, no words can express the pain and loss you must feel. My most positive thoughts are with you.

john111 on 02/10/2012

I found your description of what you saw as symptoms very compelling. I think I have known people like this, but fortunately, based on your article, I didn't have a relationship of any consequence. I wish you and your daughter the best, and thanks for sharing. Voting up.

frugalrvers on 02/07/2012

Thanks so much for all of the comments. As many of you know, I unexpectedly lost my mother at 66 years of age one week ago. If you can believe this, my NPD ex had the audacity to show up at my mother's home, to give condolences to my stepfather, bypassing me altogether. I gave him 30 minutes then told him he had to leave. With immense anger in his eyes, he did leave, but with a smirk on his face like "gotcha." Even in my time of deepest despair, and being separated 15 years, he still torments me...Run, run, run. No one deserves this.

katiem2 on 02/07/2012

Now that I think more about it, I feel we're becoming a more aware society. Thanks to great articles like this bringing to light such issues. Thanks

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