Loving a narcissist is a painful experience. It hurts.
When you love a narcissist, you're in a constant state of agony for a variety of reasons.
Just ask Minnie, she could tell you.
When the narcissist partner is weak, dysregulated, unboundaried, for example, when the narcissist partner has their own mental health issues, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, smattering of psychopathy.
When this happens, the narcissist partner acts out her pain. She misbehaves in a variety of ways. She externalizes, for example, by cheating or behaving recklessly, or she internalizes self-harm, self-mutilation. In extreme cases, attempted suicide.
No anguish is comparable to spending years with someone who looks so promising, so rich in endowments and being unable to reach the promised land.
The narcissist is like an ever receding mirage, like a Fata Morgana, an oasis in the desert, full of palm trees and water and nourishing food, and yet never accessible, never reachable.
The more you pursue the narcissist, the more the illusion of the hallucination evaporates. It's like trying to capture a cloud or an apparition or an ectoplasm.
The narcissist holds your dreams. The narcissist induces in you a state of fantasy. The narcissist raises your hopes to a fever pitch, and then he drops you down like so much discarded trash.
And it is this contrast between idealization and discard or devaluation. It is this contrast that breaks your heart to smithereens and you can't put it back together, no matter how hard you try.
And of course, the narcissist recreates with you the very dynamics that had given rise to his own pathology. His mother did this to him.
She had idealized him, pedestalized him, spoiled him, pampered him, and then abruptly dropped him and became abusive.
And he's doing this to you.
His mother did not allow him to separate and become an individual, breached his emerging boundaries.
And he's doing this to you.
The narcissist is reenacting his early childhood conflicts, dilemmas, crisis, and anguish with you.
He wants to share his pain with you by inducing it in you. He wants you to experience his torment, and so he tortures you.
None of this is conscious. The narcissist, unlike the psychopath, is not a scheming, cunning, evil, malevolent entity. He's just who he is. And that's even more infuriating.
It's easy to deal with someone who is simply bad, someone who is simply evil, because this is human.
The psychopath is an exaggerated human being. The psychopath wants money or sex or power, and he will do anything to get it, and he will trample on anyone to get there. And that's a human trait, essentially. We're all psychopathic sometimes.
But the narcissist is not like that. The narcissist can't help being himself, and there's no self there.
There's nobody there. It's an absence, a howling void, a black hole, a nothingness.
And the more you try to reach into this dark recess of his mind, the more you're sucked in.
The thing that you can't wrap your mind around is the discrepancy between the alluring, shimmering facade that the narcissist presents to you and the fact that there's nothing but a facade.
It's all ersatz, it's all fake. It's a Potemkin village. It's nothing but an appearance or more precisely an aberration. It's a very, very harrowing, painful experience which causes you disorientation, disintegration.
Many partners of narcissists react with trauma, complex trauma, and they themselves lose their sense of reality. They go through derealization, depersonalization. They dissociate. There's a limit to how much pain one can tolerate, and the narcissist often bridges this limit.
And so what are the causes of this constant hurt and constant pain in the relationship with the narcissist?
Number one is lack of empathy. No matter how hard you try to communicate to the narcissist, your state of mind, how you keep telling the narcissist, I'm sad. I'm in distress. I'm broken. I'm hurt. Nothing helps.
He's unable to understand. He's unable to resonate. He's unable to empathize. He's unable to sympathize even.
He just looks at you with this baffled alien gaze as though you were some specimen under the microscope, as though you were a new virus.
And he just nods his head at your weakness, at your fragility, at your vulnerability, and he walks away.
You're not going to get compassion or affection from the narcissist. Never mind how downtrodden, never mind how devastated and demolished you are, never mind how destitute and desolate and despondent, never mind. The narcissist is never going to be there for you.
Simply he can't grasp what you're going through. He has no inner experience. He has no access to positive emotions. He has only negative affectivity, rage, envy, anger.
Narcissists are binary devices. I feel good. I feel bad. That's it. There's no depth there. Because there's no depth there, he can't ensconce you. He can't take you in. He can't provide the engulfing, comforting, calming cocoon that is togetherness. There's no togetherness there. And you realize it most acutely when you need him the most. There's nobody there for you.
And this is shattering. That's a shattering realization.
Perhaps it's worse when you experience the indifference after the love bombing phase.
During the love bombing phase, the narcissist idealizes you and then he demonstrates to you his idealization view. He gives you access to your idealized image of yourself. So you see yourself through the narcissist's eyes and through his eyes you see yourself as impeccable, immaculate, perfect, brilliant, beautiful, amazing, fascinating, unprecedented. It's an intoxicating feeling. And it is at the core of the love bombing phase.
The love bombing phase makes you fall in love with yourself. It makes you fall in love with the idealized image of yourself in the narcissist's eyes. You like the way he looks at you. You like the way he regards you. And so this is a love bombing phase.
And then abruptly off a cliff on a dime suddenly there's this enormous indifference, profound, all-pervading, ubiquitous indifference. He couldn't care less how you feel. He couldn't care less what you do. He couldn't care less even if you try to triangulate with another man. If you try to, he couldn't care less sometimes even if you cheat ostentatiously just to get a rise out of him.
And some women do, not all of course, but some do. Women go to extremes to get the narcissist to notice them again. Women do the most unbelievable things to attract or re-attract the attention, the lost attention of the narcissist. And it never works.
At some point the narcissist loses interest in you and it is the death of a dream. It is the demise of the shared fantasy, a space in which you had felt finally understood.
The dream of being together, a dream which has elements of a merger and a fusion becoming one, soulmate, twin flame, whatever you want to call it. It's a dream of symbiosis. It's a dream of maternal, unconditional love becoming one with the mother again.
The shared fantasy is that imaginary space, paracosm, alternative world, alternative reality or universe where you and the narcissist, only you and the narcissist exist. It's that place where you can finally be yourself understood and accepted and loved and cherished and admired as you are, idealized in other words.
And it is this place of shared fantasy where you had felt utterly safe, utterly secure. And then suddenly it's taken away from you.
The narcissist couldn't care less about you. You had become a nuisance, an annoyance.
And the narcissist is not ashamed, doesn't shy away from demonstrating to you that he's no longer into you, that you should just let him be, leave him alone.
And this is like a knife in the back. It's like the thrust of a dagger into your heart time and again and again and again, every single time he looks at you, every single time he ignores you, every single time he's immersed in his own activities, every single time he pushes you away and every single time he pushes you to other men, some narcissists do that.
They encourage you actively to cheat or to find lovers or to go away. Every time they do that, it's a small death.
The French call orgasm, small death. That's the opposite of orgasm. It's not dying by merging with the loved one. It's dying by being cut off from the loved one and the withdrawal of the narcissist and the avoidant behaviors of the narcissist or a death sentence, not only to your common dream and fantasy, but gradually to you as an individual.
You feel that you're losing your mind. You feel that you are falling apart, dissolving and disintegrating into molecules. You feel that you're made of air, transparent as it were. In the absence of his gaze, you're not seen. And since you're not seen, you're not.
It's a process of annihilation, annihilation by obfuscation. It's a process of disappearing because you are not acknowledged.
And it's much worse. It's much worse when at the same time, your narcissist is scouting for alternatives, looking for new sources of supply and new so-called intimate partners. And it goes at a dizzying speed from love bombing and grooming and grooming to devaluation and discard and to the next partner.
And you suddenly realize you had meant nothing to him. It was all a fake. It was all a narrative. It's like watching one movie and then watching another.
There's no loyalty or faithfulness to the last movie you had seen. There's just the drive to entertain yourself.
The narcissist had used you in order to occupy a fantastic space for a while because it made him feel good. You were a tool, you were an instrument.
And like every tool and instrument, you're utterly interchangeable. The narcissist had never bonded with you because of who you are. He had bonded with you because of what you could provide and what you had provided.
And so when he says, I miss you. He doesn't really miss you. He misses what you had given him. He misses seeing himself through your eyes. He misses the situation.
But you're not in it and you've never been in it.
You are like a catalyst or an enzyme. Your presence allowed the narcissist to process moods, effects, cognitions, emotions.
But anyone would do. There was nothing special about you.
And so the idealization is exposed as a cruel trick, a gimmick by a demented clown, a joker.
The idealization was a lie. It was fallacious. He had idealized you the same way he had idealized others before you in the same way he would idealize your successes. You're just a statistic, just a number. You're just one in a long chain of being, one link in a long chain of being. Indistinguishable from all the other links as far as the narcissist is concerned.
And this shows in some of his behaviors, for example, sexlessness. The relationship devolves into sexlessness in majority of cases, not in all of them. Sexlessness is denying your femininity, denying your separate existence, denying your allure and attractiveness, denying your ability to induce in the narcissist psychodynamic processes and to cater to his psychosexuality.
In other words, it's a failure.
When you're rejected sexually, you're rejected totally.
And there is an all-pervading sense of having failed, of defeat. You feel defeated.
When your narcissistic partner refuses to have sex with you, when he rejects you, sometimes cruelly, it negates, and vitiates you all together.
It's suddenly, for a moment there, you can experience, you can share the experience of being a narcissist because when you're rejected sexually, you don't exist.
And this is the narcissist's permanent state of being. The narcissist never exists.
The narcissist had been rejected, of course, by his mother. So he's doing the same to you again.
Sexlessness in the relationship is your punishment and your test.
But the narcissist is also paranoid. He knows that he is not giving you what you need. He is not catering to your needs within the relationship. And he knows that he's pushing you away, potentially to other men.
So he becomes paranoid. There's paranoid ideation, possessiveness, a smattering of jealousy, narcissistic rage. And the environment becomes hellish.
What should have been a paradise is hell on earth.
You walk on eggshells because of the intermittent reinforcements, the hot and cold. They love you, I hate you. The come hither, go away. I need you. I'm self-sufficient. Don't bother me. You're not catering to my needs.
This mixed messaging is mind-boggling. Mind-boggling. It warps your mind.
And every time you try to somehow reason with your narcissist or somehow reach a modicum of understanding or settle on some agreement or to contract with them, it doesn't work because the narcissist is incapable of proper communication.
Your narcissist doesn't communicate. He doesn't talk to you ever. He talks at you. He lectures to you.
The narcissist uses words to impress and to manipulate, never to communicate.
And he doesn't see the need to reach any accommodation with you, to have a common life. It is this lack of commonness, this elimination of the common denominator that makes you feel existentially lonely, as though you were the only person in the entire universe.
You have no one to talk to. You can't communicate this experience to anyone. No one can understand you, even other victims of other narcissists.
The subtleties and the intricacies of your specific relationship can never be communicated because they're outside the range of human experience.
That's why I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in 1995, because it's not like any other type of business.
And sometimes you see an narcissist depressed, dysphoric, sad, broken, and you want to reach out to him and you want to hug him because you see the child in him.
You see this sweet nothingness, this emanation. You see his core and you want to reach out to him and you want to hug him and you want to kiss him and you want to make him feel good again. And you want to provide him with the decor and the support and the love that he had never received from what should have been or who should have been. His caretakers and caregivers and you want to compensate him somehow. You want to make up for his lost period of being loved as a child.
But when you reach out to him, he rejects you sometimes violently and aggressively because it implies that he needs you. It implies that he's less than perfect. It implies that he is inferior to you somehow. And he wouldn't accept your love. That's possibly the most painful and hurtful thing. He wouldn't let you love him.
And his love is conditioned on your performance, but your performance not as an intimate partner. Your performance is a sex slave or a sex toy. Your performance is a service provider. You're a function or a series of functions.
And his so-called love is conditioned on fulfilling these functions to his capricious satisfaction.
You can never get it right. You can never get it right and he's never happy or gratified or satisfied with your performance.
So you never get love, the love you need.
And when you try to give love, you're rejected. And this is by far the most agonizing thing.
The inability to give the love that you feel inside you, the inability to share it, the inability to see its effects on your loved one is absolutely, absolutely insupportable and insufferable.
The narcissist goes on to devalue you.
And this devaluation feels like an execution.
Because just not so long ago, you were the center of his world. You were the pivot and the axis of his existence. You were so perfect and ideal for him. You were the one he had been waiting for all his life.
He had never had such an experience before.
You spent days and months dreaming together, fantasizing, planning, suddenly you're gone. You're gone and you don't even understand why. You're devalued because there's an accumulation of a thousand little cuts, a thousand little disagreements and criticisms.
And you want to stop this train, this runaway train. You want to stop it. You want to say, please, we love each other. Let's reset. Let's reboot. Let's try again, but it's too late. You're gone.
And one of the reasons you're gone is that the narcissist has not continuous memory. He doesn't have a core identity. He is highly dissociative.
So there are numerous memory lapses.
He doesn't remember you. He doesn't remember common experiences. He doesn't remember traveling with you all over the world. He doesn't remember making love to you. He doesn't remember your smell. He doesn't remember your taste. He doesn't remember cooking together. He doesn't remember the funny things that happened. He doesn't remember the clothing that you had bought. He doesn't remember anything about you.
The narcissist remembers five percent ten percent of his existence and you are not in it.
You're not in this percentage because you don't matter. You're an interchangeable tool like a smartphone.
And so these memory lapses, which are enormous, allow him permit him to devalue you, because he doesn't remember having idealized you.
The devaluation is a new experience to him. He doesn't compare it to anything that came before because he has no recollection of what had come before.
And all his life is a huge pastiche or or quilt or kaleidoscope of confabulations, stories, narratives about what could have been, what should have been, what might have plausibly happened.
And in these confabulations you don't feature. You have no role in these confabulations. You're not an actress in the movie that is the narcissist's life. You enter and exit, like a stagehand or prop.
So it's easy for him to devalue because he has an impaired reality testing. You are in reality and he has no access to reality, no interface with reality.
His grandiosity is a cognitive distortion. It filters us out the world. His grandiosity lies to him about himself and about the people in his life.
And so he is able to erase you as so much ink or paint. He is able to delete you as though you had never existed before. He has no emotional reaction to your disappearance.
And that is absolutely devastating to realize that you had meant so little to him and that once you're gone, he has absolutely forgotten about you.
He has zero emotional reaction to your absence in his life, to the void, to the hole that you should have left behind.
There's nobody there to appreciate your absence, and there was nobody there to have appreciated your presence. You were not. The narcissist that converted you into an absence in his mind.
And so he just moves on. He writes you off like a bad investment, or a curiosity, curiosity, or an anecdote, or a learning experience.
And he just moves on. And he moves on with the same intensity and the same process of idealization and love bombing and grooming as though nothing had happened, as though your entry and exit were just these random events with little significance.
It's shattering. There's no experience that's so pulverizing as this.
The narcissist's intransigence, his inability to communicate with you, or unwillingness at sometimes.
His stubbornness, his firm belief that he knows best and that he knows everything, that he needs nothing from you or from anyone else, no advice, no help, render him outside
your reach, make him inaccessible to you in most profound way.
And it is this this inaccessibility, this, as i said, receding mirage.T he fact that he is unattainable, your narcissist, that he is untouchable, that you can't divulge your love, that you can't share it with him, that you can't ever mean anything because you can't induce in him any long-term substantial fundamental psychological process.
This realization of the limit of your presence in his life, the limitation to whatever it that is you may have had. This is his legacy. This is his gift to you
And it's a gift that keeps on giving because having abandoned you, having devalued, you having ignored you, having been indifferent to you, and having him having discarded you, the narcissist has taken away a big part of who you are.
And he had definitely impacted, sometimes irreversibly, your ability not only to trust others, but to trust yourself.
If you had allowed yourself to go through this experience, since you had allowed yourself to be trapped by the narcissist, can you ever trust yourself again? Your judgment, your intuition your goodwill.
Is love so meaningless? So impotent?
Because we always have this delusion that love is omnipotent. Love can fix. Love can save life. Love can heal.
The narcissist puts paid to this to this fallacy. The narcissist shows you that your love is as meaningless as you are.
And there's no greater slap to the face than this. He might as well have shot you outright.
And when you depart the narcissist, you carry these self-negating messages, these automatic negative thoughts with you.
They're new but they're there, permanently. And they affect who you are, they change you.
You are transformed by the common time you've had with the narcissist.
And perhaps this is the greatest pain of all.
Because ultimately you are grieving and mourning not the narcissist, you're grieving and mourning who you used to be, who you could have been, what could have been, and above all, what you had become.