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Narcissist's Insignificant Other: Typical Spouse or Intimate Partner

Uploaded 12/11/2010, approx. 7 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

We can divide the spouses, mates, and intimate partners of narcissists into two categories.

Those who persist insist, try to maintain the relationship, preserve it, enhance it, and create intimacy, and those who, upon discovering the true face of the narcissist, withdraw, detach, and if they are married to the narcissist, divorce him.

On the face of it, there is no typical partner or mate who binds with the narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes.

The initial phases of attraction, infatuation, and falling in love are pretty normal.

The narcissist puts his best face on, and the other party is blinded by budding love.

The natural selection process occurs only much later, as the relationship develops and is put to the test, and as the narcissist tires of maintaining the facade, let the mask sleep, discovers, and covers his true face.

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, but it is always onerous and often harrowing.

Surviving a relationship with a narcissist, maintaining a relationship, preserving it, insisting on remaining with a narcissist, indicates therefore the parameters of the personality of the victim, of the partner, of the spouse.

The partner, the spouse, and the mate of a narcissist who insists on remaining in the relationship and preserving it is molded by it into the typical narcissistic mate, spouse, or partner.


First and foremost, the narcissist partner or spouse must have a deficient or a distorted grasp of herself and of reality, otherwise she or he is bound to abandon the narcissist's ship early on.

The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of believing and demeaning yourself while aggrandizing and adoring the narcissist.

The partner is thus placing herself in the position of the eternal victim, undeserving, punishable, or scapegoat.

Sometimes it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial, and victimized. At other times she is not even aware of this predicament.

The narcissist is perceived by her to be a person in position to demand these sacrifices from her because he is superior in many ways, intellectually, emotionally, morally, professionally, or financially.

The status of professional victim sits well with the partner's tendency to punish herself. She feels comfortable in abusive situations.

She has, in other words, a masochistic streak.

The tormented life with the narcissist is just what she is after, and to her mind, just what she deserves.

In this respect, the partner is the mirror image of the narcissist.

By maintaining a symbolic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon her source of masochistic supply, which the narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides, the partner or spouse enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviors which are at the very core of abusive narcissism.

The narcissist is never whole, without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating, self-deprecating partner.

His very sense of superiority, omnipotence, omniscience, indeed, his false self depend on it.

His sadistic superego switches its attentions from himself, from the narcissist, in whom it provokes suicidal ideation, to the partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.

So we have a sadist and a masochist in a dyad.

It is through self-denial that the partner survives.

She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, choices, preferences, values, and much else besides.

She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the narcissist's godlike supreme figure.

The narcissist is rendered in such a spouse's eyes even more superior, through and because of this self-denial.

Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a great man is more palatable and, by the way, more socially acceptable.

The greater the man, in other words, the narcissist, the easier it is for the partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of the narcissist, an extension of him, and finally to become nothing but an extension, to merge with the narcissist to the point of oblivion and of merely dim memories of herself.

The two, the narcissist and his spouse, collaborate in this dance macabre. The narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her.

Submission breeds superiority, masochism breeds sadism, relationships are characterized by emergentism, roles are allocated almost from the very start, and any deviation from the prescribed goals meets with an aggressive, even violent, reaction.

The predominant state of the partner's mind is utter confusion. Even the most basic relationships with husband, children or parents remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadow cast by the intensive interaction with the narcissist.

A suspension of judgment is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and a result of living with the narcissist.

The partner no longer knows what is true and right, what is wrong and forbidden, who should she associate with and who should she avoid.

The narcissist recreates for the partner and in the partner the sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in the first place.

Capriciousness, fickleness, arbitraryness, emotional and physical or sexual abandonment, and finally abuse and violence. The world becomes hostile and ominous, and the partner has only one thing left to cling to, and that is a stable rock of the narcissist.

In cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with narcissists is that they are overtly and overly dependent.

They are known in psychological jargon as co-dependence. The partner doesn't know what to do and this is only too natural in the mania that is a relationship with the narcissist.

But the typical partner also does not know what she wants and to a large extent who she is and what she wants to become.

These unanswered questions hamper the partner's ability to gorge reality.

Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person.

It is the voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationship ends.

The break-up of a relationship with a narcissist is therefore very emotionally charged for such victims.

It is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations, subjugation, self-delusion and self-deceit. It is the rebellion of the functioning and healthy parts of the partner's personality against the tyranny of the narcissist and his collaboration with the pathological paths, psychological paths in the victim.

The partner is likely to have totally misread, totally misinterpreted the whole interaction.

I hesitate to call it a relationship so I stick to the word interaction.

This lack of proper interface with reality might be erroneously labeled pathological but it is actually a form of self-denial.

Why is it that the partner seeks to prolong her pain? What is the source and purpose of this narcissistic streak?

Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner, but not the narcissist who usually refuses to provide closure, engages in torturous and drawn-out post-mortem soul-searching.

We will, I discuss this issue of Danse Macabre, the pathology at the core and underlying the relationship in a video titled Danse Macabre of the narcissist and his partner. Stay tuned and be sure to watch it.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Victim of Narcissist: Move On!

The narcissist lives in a world of ideal beauty, achievements, wealth, and success, denying his reality. The partner is perceived as a source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissist pathologizes and devalues them to rid themselves of guilt and shame. Moving on from a narcissistic relationship involves acknowledging and accepting painful reality, educating oneself, and gaining emotional sustenance, knowledge, support, and confidence. Forgiving is important, but it should not be a universal behavior, and no one should stay with a narcissist.


When Narcissists Become Codependents

Living with a narcissist can be harrowing, and the partner of the narcissist is often molded into the typical narcissist mate, partner, or spouse. The partner must have a deficient or distorted grasp of herself and of reality, and the cognitive distortion of the partner of the narcissist is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself while aggrandizing and adoring the narcissist. The narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from her. The breakup of the relationship with the narcissist is emotionally charged and is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and subjugation.


Mourning the Narcissist

Victims of narcissistic abuse often struggle to let go of the idealized figure they fell in love with at the beginning of the relationship. When the relationship ends, they experience a cycle of bereavement and grief, including denial, rage, sadness, and acceptance. Denial can take many forms, including pretending the narcissist is still part of their lives or developing persecutory delusions. Rage can be directed at the narcissist, other facilitators of the loss, oneself, or be pervasive. Sadness is a paralyzing sensation that slows one down and enshrouds everything in the grave veil of randomness and chance. Gradual acceptance leads to renewed energy and the narcissist being transformed into a narrative, another life experience, or even a tedious cliché.


Loving Yourself in the Narcissist's Hall of Mirrors (ENGLISH responses, with Nárcisz Coach)

Loving a narcissist is an addictive process because the narcissist becomes the victim's source of self-love and self-discovery. The victim must have a lack of self-love and self-awareness for the narcissist to penetrate and colonize their mind. The relationship with a narcissist can be a form of therapy, but it creates addiction and makes it difficult to leave. The rate of recidivism among victims of narcissistic abuse is high because the experience of loving a narcissist is incomparable and creates an indescribable experience of being in love with oneself.


Your Role in Narcissist’s Shared Fantasy is Why He Hates You (hint: you make him feel himself – and human)

In summary, the narcissist's intimate partner plays a crucial role in the shared fantasy by fulfilling the roles of admirer, playmate, and mother. This allows the narcissist to experience maximal grandiosity and feel safe enough to separate and individuate. However, the intimate partner's presence also leads to the narcissist's self-hatred and inability to maintain meaningful communication with both the outside world and himself. The intimate partner ultimately becomes a threat to the narcissist, as they make the narcissist feel human, which is something the narcissist does not want to be.


Threesomes: Why Narcissist Encourages Partner’s Infidelity

Narcissists may encourage their partners to be unfaithful, but this is not due to masochism or sadism. Instead, it serves as a betrayal fantasy, loyalty test, dare, validation of the narcissist's negative view of the other sex, and a way for the narcissist to reassert control. The victim's behavior is not coerced, but rather a reaction to the toxic environment created by the narcissist. This leads to atypical behaviors and a sense of alienation for the victim.


Loving My Narcissist HURTS so much!

Loving a narcissist is a painful experience due to their lack of empathy, idealization followed by devaluation, and inability to truly connect with their partner. The narcissist's inaccessibility and indifference can be devastating, as they often discard their partners without any emotional reaction. This experience can leave the partner feeling shattered, questioning their own judgment and ability to trust themselves and others. Ultimately, the pain of loving a narcissist comes from grieving the loss of who they used to be and the potential of what could have been in the relationship.


Narcissistic Abuse: From Victim to Survivor in 6 Steps

To move on from being a victim of narcissistic abuse, one must abandon the narcissist and move on. Moving on is a process that involves acknowledging and accepting painful reality, learning from the experience, and deciding to act. It is important to grieve and mourn the loss of trust and love, but perpetual grieving is counterproductive. Forgiveness is important, but it should not be a universal behavior. Human relationships are dynamic and require constant assessment. It is not advisable to remain friends with narcissists, as they are only nice and friendly when they want something. Inverted narcissists who remain in relationships with narcissists are victims who deny their own torment and fail to make the transition to survivors.


Forgive the Narcissist?

To preserve one's mental health, one must abandon the narcissist and move on. Moving on is a process that involves acknowledging and accepting painful reality, learning, grieving, and forgiving. All stages of grieving are necessary, but it is equally bad to get fixated on rage. Forgiving is an important capability, but it should not be a universal indiscriminate believer. Human relationships are dynamic, and we must reassess and reassess our relationships on a daily basis.


If You Love a Narcissist, This is For You

The text describes a relationship with a person who is emotionally unavailable and causes pain and rejection. The person craves love and intimacy but pushes the other person away and hurts them first. The relationship is described as a form of self-harm, but the other person cannot let go. The relationship is a mix of good times and bad times, and the person is described as fleeting and penumbral.

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