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Do narcissists mean to hurt their partners?


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  • Being in a relationship with a narcissist is hard
    work.
  • They are very insecure and sensitive people, which
    means they can take offence very easily.
  • This can end up in couples having the same arguments
    over and over again.
  • Sometimes they are unaware of being abusive to their
    partners, but other times they will genuinely want to cause
    them harm.
  • Ultimately, as their partner, you have to decide
    whether the hard work is worth it for you in the long
    run.

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you will have
been through a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

At the beginning, everything would have been wonderful. You might
have even thought you’d found your soul mate. But after a while,
things started to go sour.

This is because after a few weeks, months, or even years, the
narcissist will no longer see any value in you. As soon as they
realise you are a real human being, and thus flawed, they
struggle to see the use of you any more. They’ll start blaming
you for things, shouting at you, or even break up with you,
leaving you to try and work out what went wrong.

But for many reasons, it is hard to answer the question: “Do
narcissists mean to hurt people?”

Narcissists get offended very easily

Elinor Greenberg, a therapist and author of the book “Borderline, Narcissistic, and
Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration and
Safety
,” told Business Insider that narcissists are
ultra-sensitive by definition.

“Narcissists are self-protective, and they have their antenna out
for disrespect, or for someone taking something from them, and
underneath they’re very insecure,” she said. “You have a whole
range of people who are hyper-sensitive, lack empathy, for one
reason or another, they don’t feel bad when you feel bad, so they
can hurt you without realising it.”

Despite this, a narcissist’s own feelings can be hurt very
easily. Because of their high sensitivity, any small thing their
partner does can be seen as an attack, and any situation where
they are not their partner’s focus is very difficult for them.

“For whatever reason, you’re seeing a person who is wildly
insecure, and has no real inner confidence that they can depend
on,” Greenberg said. “They depend on external validation.”

Without this constant validation by their partner, the narcissist
isn’t getting what they want, and they end up seeking it
elsewhere. This is why many narcissists often end up cheating.

In the heat of a moment, narcissists can come across incredibly
cruel. They say things that many people would really struggle to
say to someone they supposedly love. Greenberg said this is
because of something called “object
constancy.”

“Object constancy refers to the ability, if someone does
something that disappoints you, to put that in the context of the
whole relationship,” Greenberg said. “I may feel hurt and
disappointed but I don’t hate you. You’re still the person who’s
my dear friend, and it’s in context. If you don’t have object
constancy, there is no context.”

In other words, the when the narcissist is shouting at you for
whatever they think you did, there are no memories of the good
times in their head. They are totally living in the single moment
of being furious with you. In that moment, they truly hate you.

“There’s nothing holding it in context that limits it,” Greenberg
explained. “So it goes from you were all good and a good person,
to I hate you, you want to hurt me. You have hurt me, I must hurt
you back.”

Even the smallest rows spiral out of control

Relationships are hard, even if you are with a non-narcissist.
All couples have rows and have to navigate the various
difficulties of living with another person. But those everyday
spats become all the more serious and devastating to a
relationship when the person you have them with always sees
themselves as the victim. This makes even the tiniest
disagreements escalate into full-blown rows, which can be
incredibly exhausting for the narcissist’s partner.

“I see women, a number in my practice, who became extremely
anxious and depressed, and their capacity to function
diminished,” Greenberg said. “They had mental breakdowns, and one
was delusional and paranoid, because the person just kept at them
and at them, and they didn’t have the defences.”

Sometimes, the narcissist doesn’t mean to hurt you. Being
sensitive to everything is just how their brains work. And if
they are — by their own logic — being attacked, they will bite
back even harder.

However, by their nature, they may also want to hurt you too,
because it makes them feel superior.

Whether the relationship is worth it is up to you

In some ways, it isn’t worth working out what their intentions
are because the results are the same. People in relationships
with narcissists find themselves wrapped up in the same arguments
time and time again. This is often followed by the punishment
which could be an explosive confrontation, or cold silent
treatment, depending on the type of narcissist they are with.

Greenberg has written an article that lays out the best way to
approach a narcissist if you are
in an argument with them
. They think a completely different
way, and so arguments have to be de-escalated differently too.

“Don’t expect an apology directly,” she explained. “Use ‘we’
language, and don’t ever ask them to process what happened — they
can’t do that.”

Ultimately, it is draining to be in a relationship with a
narcissist, and you have to accept the fact they will never
empathise with your feelings, no matter how long you are
together. Some may learn to be self-aware in time, and learn to
notice when they are hurting you. But this still doesn’t
guarantee they will care.

“Narcissists are primed to be abusive because they’re so
hypersensitive, and they don’t have empathy, and they don’t have
object constancy,” Greenberg said. “So they are primed to take
offence and be abusive and not really understand… It’s a lot of
work for the non-narcissistic mate.”


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