My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
It is important to understand the world of the narcissist, his inner landscape, his mind.
The narcissist lives in a fantasized world of ideal beauty, incomparable albeit imaginary achievements, wealth, brilliance, and unmitigated success.
The narcissist denies his reality constantly. This is what I call the grandiosity gap, the abyss between the narcissist's sense of entitlement grounded in his inflated grandiose fantasies on the one hand and his incommensurate reality and meager accomplishments in the real world on the other hand.
So this is the gap. The narcissist's partner is perceived by the narcissist to be merely a source of narcissistic supply, an instrument, an extension of himself, a way, a path to gratification.
It is inconceivable in the mind of the narcissist that blessed by the constant presence of himself, such a tool, such an object would malfunction.
The needs and grievances of the partner are perceived by the narcissist as threats and slights.
The narcissist considers his very presence in the relationship as nourishing, sustaining, as a gift. He feels entitled to the best others can offer without investing in maintaining his relationships or in catering to the wellbeing needs, wishes, priorities, and preferences of his suppliers.
To read himself of deep set feelings of rather justified guilt and shame, the narcissist pathologizes the partner, devalues her.
The narcissist projects his own mental illness onto the partner.
Through the intricate mechanisms of projection and projective identification, the narcissist forces his intimate partner to play an emergent role of a sick person, a weak person in need of protection, a naive person in need of enlightenment, or even a dumb or no good person.
What the narcissist denies in himself, his own weakness, his own gullibility, his own fallibility and his own sometimes stupidity, that which he denies in himself, that which he is loathed to face in his own personality, character traits, and behaviors.
These very things the narcissist attributes to others and molds these other people, especially his intimate partner, his spouse, his maid, molds them to conform to his prejudices against actually himself.
The narcissist believes that he must have only the best, the most glamorous, stunning, beautiful, talented, head-turning, mind-boggling spouse in the entire universe. Nothing short of this fantasy will do.
To compensate for the shortcomings of his real-life spouse, he invents an idealized figure and relates to this figure instead of the real spouse.
Then when reality inevitably conflicts too often and too evidently with his imagination, with this idealization, the narcissist reverts to devaluation. His behavior turns on a dime and becomes threatening, demeaning, contemptuous, berating, reprimanding, destructively critical, and sadistic, cold, loving, detached, and clinical.
The narcissist punishes his real-life spouse for not living up to his fantasy, for refusing to be his galathea, his Pygmalion, his ideal creation.
The narcissist plays a wrathful and demeaning God and demanding God. He's a divinity. How can you cope with such an utterly, utterly confounded person, such a twisted personality?
Well, the best you can do is move on. To preserve your mental health, you must abandon the narcissist. You must move on. You must let go. Moving on is a process. It's not a decision or an event, or not merely a decision or an event.
First, one has to acknowledge and accept painful reality. Such acceptance is a volcanic, shattering, agonizing series of nibbling thoughts and strong resistances.
Once you have won the battle against yourself or with yourself, and once harsh and agonizing realities are assimilated, once you have insight into the fact that your partner is mentally ill and is dragging you down with him, only then you can move on to what I call the learning phase.
The learning phase, you educate yourself. You compare experiences with others. You digest what you've learned. You have insights, multiple.
Then you decide. Then you act.
And this is the crux of moving on.
Having gathered sufficient emotional sustenance, having garnered knowledge, support and confidence, you face the battlefields of your relationship, fortified and nurtured, not depleted.
This stage characterizes those who do not mourn, do not grieve, but fight, do not dream about how it used to be, but replenish the surfacing. Do not hide, but seek, do not freeze, but move on.
Mind you, grieving and mourning is an inevitable and integral part of this process. I'm not saying that you should not grieve and mourn. At the very least, the dream you had of having a relationship with a narcissist, but it should be contained and constrained and put in perspective and in its place.
Having been betrayed and abused, you grieve. You grieve for the image you have had of the traitor and the abuser, the image that was so fleeting and so wrong, and so attractive and so fetching, the image that made you enter the relationship.
You mourn the damage that the narcissist has done to you. You experience the fear of never being able to love or to trust again, and you grieve this loss as well.
In one stroke, you have lost someone you have trusted or even loved, you have lost your trusting and loving self, and you have lost the trust and love that you have felt, and perhaps the ability to trust and love.
Can anything be worse? I doubt it.
The emotional process of grieving has many phases though.
At first, you are dumbfounded shocked, inert, immobile. You play dead to avoid your inner monsters. You are ossified in your pain, you are cast in the mold of your reticence and fear.
And then, out of the blue, you feel enraged, indignant, rebellious, and hateful. Having passed this stage of futile aggression, you accept. You accept reality for what it is, and then you cry, and then some of you learn to forgive and to pity.
And this is what I call healing.
All the stages of mourning and grieving are absolutely necessary and good for you. It is bad not to rage back, not to shame those who shamed you, to deny, to pretend, to evade. These are counterproductive strategies, but it is equally bad to get fixated on your rage, to remain stuck in this phase.
Emotional grieving is the perpetuation of your abuse by other means, and by yourselves.
By endlessly recreating your harrowing experiences, you unwillingly collaborate with your abuser in perpetuating his or her evil conduct.
It is by moving on that you defeat your abuser, minimize him and his importance in your life. It is by loving it, by trusting anew, that you are null, that which was done to you.
To forgive is never to forget, but to remember is not necessarily to obsessively re-experience.
So what about forgiving and forgetting?
Forgiving is an important capability. It does more for the forgiver than for the forgiven, but it should not be a universal indiscriminate behavior. It is legitimate not to forgive sometimes.
It depends, of course, on the severity or duration of what was done to you. In general, it is analyzed and counterproductive to apply to life universal and immutable principles.
Life is too chaotic to succumb to rigid edicts. Sentences which start with words like I never or you should always are not very credible, and often lead to self-defeating, self-restricting and self-destructive behaviors.
Conflicts are an important and integral part of life. One should never seek them out, but when confronted with a conflict one should never avoid it.
It is through conflicts and adversity, as much as through care and love, that we grow.
Human relationships are dynamic. We must assess our friendships, partnerships and our marriages periodically.
In and by itself a common past is insufficient to sustain a healthy, nurturing, nourishing, supportive, caring and compassionate relationship. It is not enough, memory is not enough to sustain such a thing.
Common memories are unnecessary, but not a sufficient condition. We must gain and regain our friendships, our trust on a daily basis.
Human relationships are a constant test of allegiance and empathy.
So, finally, can't you remain friends with the narcissist? Divorce him if you must, but why not have him as a friend? Can't you act civilized? Can't you remain on friendly terms with your ex?
The answer is no, let's try to explain why.
Never forget that the narcissist, at least full-fledged one, is nice and friendly. When and only when he wants something from you. Narcissistic supply, help, support, votes, money. Narcissists prepare the ground, manipulate you and then come out with a small favor they need to ask you. And if they fail in being subtle, they blatantly or surreptitiously demand narcissistic supply.
So, they would go like, what did you think about my performance? Or do you think that I really deserved an overpriced horse? Something like that. Whatever it is, when the narcissist re-enters your life or enters your life, he is in it for the profit motive. He needs something.
Number two, don't forget that narcissists feel threatened and they want to neuter the threat by smothering it with oozing pleasantries. And what is the threat? Intimacy. True friendship, compassion and empathy.
Narcissists sometimes try to get close to you or to remain friends with you because they have just been infused with an overdose of narcissistic supply and they feel magnanimous and magnificent and ideally perfect. I want to share it with you. To show magnanimity is a way of flaunting one's impeccable divine credentials. To be an altruist, to be charitable, to be helpful, is also to be omnipotent and godlike. You are an irrelevant prop in this spectacle, a mere receptacle of the narcissist overflowing self-contented infatuation with his false self, with himself.
This sudden beneficence, this sudden magnanimity is transient. Perpetual victims often tend to thank the narcissist for little graces. This is the Stockholm syndrome. Hostages tend to emotionally identify with their captors rather than with the police.
We are grateful to our abusers and tormentors for seizing their hideous activities and allowing us to catch our breath.
Some people say that they prefer to live with narcissists, to cater to their needs and to succumb to their wins because this is the way they have been conditioned to in early childhood.
It is only with narcissists that they feel alive, stimulated and excited. The world glows in technicolor in the presence of a narcissist and decays into sepia colors in the absence of a narcissist.
I see nothing inherently wrong with such an approach.
The test is this. If someone were to constantly humiliate and abuse you verbally using archaic Chinese, would you have felt humiliated and abused? Probably not.
You don't understand archaic Chinese.
Well, it's the same with inverted narcissists or co-dependence. They have been conditioned by narcissistic primary objects like parents, caregivers. They've been conditioned to treat narcissistic abuse as we treat archaic Chinese.
In other words, to turn a deaf ear. They don't hear the abuse. They don't understand it.
This technique is effective in that it allows the inverted narcissist, the narcissist's willing mate, to experience only the good aspects of living with a narcissist.
The narcissist's sparkling intelligence, his constant drama and excitement, the lack of intimacy and emotional attachment, which many people prefer.
Every now and then the narcissist does break into abusive behaviors, but this to the inverted narcissist is archaic Chinese.
So what? Who understands archaic Chinese anyhow?
Stays the inverted narcissist to research.
Still, even with all this rational hyperstructure of why the inverted narcissist should and can and would love to stay with the narcissist, I have one nagging doubt.
If their relationship with the narcissist is so rewarding, why are inverted narcissists, those that I have come across, so unhappy? Why are they so egodystonic? Why are they in such a deep need for help, professional or otherwise? Why do they flood internet support for us? Aren't inverted narcissists simply victims who experience the Stockholm syndrome, who identify with their kidnapper rather than with the police? Aren't they merely hostages who deny their own torment?
I tend to believe so. No one should stay with a narcissist and no story you tell yourself about why you are staying with a narcissist can stand any litmus test.
Be honest with yourselves and love yourselves by denying the narcissist what he seeks and what he seeks is the pleasure of your destruction.