Many of us are guilty of blaming narcissists for all of our relationship troubles, but the truth is, if you’ve attracted one, there is a GOLDEN lesson in there for you. Chances are, you’re more similar than you think! We actually attract partners that mirror us, but we have to look past the surface in order to recognize this.
Same Core Issue, Different Defence Mechanism
The Narcissist’s Defence Mechanism
Narcissists generally carry deep abandonment or shame issues, whether due to a difficult childhood, rejection at school, or some other past event which triggered a deep sense of isolation, guilt and lovelessness.
They typically protect this wound by making sure they (or you) never get too deep into their true feelings, and they do this by closing the lid on their pain and relying on a “safe” yet fragile fantasy world. When it comes to romantic relationships, this fantasy world often relies on romantic idealization, superficiality, lust, and flirting sprees, as well as getting their ego fed by attention and praise — addictions which serve as a replacement for the love they feel starved of.
Hint: If they make you feel like the most beautiful, perfect, and amazing prince/princess in the world during the early stages of your relationship but you feel like there is no real depth to the relationship (like you don’t even really know them and they don’t really know you), that’s the fantasy they live in – the one they’re are subconsciously luring you into. It’s a fairytale performance.
When The Honeymoon Is Over
The challenge is, the fairytale only satisfies for a while before the emptiness comes lurking back in. This is why you may seem like old news to them after a while. They may cheat, they may neglect you, they may ignore you, or they may even abuse you. Hurt people hurt people, as they say (not that it’s the right way to deal with pain.)
The personality switch from Romeo/Juliet to jerk might also happen when you start to notice the superficiality of the honeymoon phase and start asking for deeper emotional intimacy and honesty. Because narcissists desperately want to avoid feeling whatever true emotions lurk within by keeping shallow lives and relationships, they will fight back (or pull away) when you ask for more depth and transparency.
The Narcissist’s Way Of Dodging Responsibility
The same might happen during fights, which is often life’s way of challenging us into becoming more real, honest, and emotionally transparent with ourselves and others. Narcissists’ entire defence mechanisms revolve around avoiding emotional transparency and creating a false image of themselves, so it is during fights that you often see most of their avoidance and blame mechanisms.
1. Blow up in anger when challenged to question themselves.
2. Never look at their faults.
3. Point fingers at you instead.
4. Twist your words (or select 2 or 3 words to take offence at out of the other thousand words you truly wished they would hear and answer to.)
5. Often pretend like none of it happened the next day or after weeks of ignoring you.
6. Apologize profusely or swear to change to get you hooked again, without actually learning from or reflecting on the past arguments and challenges.
7. Do ANYTHING to avoid, ignore, and repress where they actually stand emotionally.
They don’t want you to touch who they truly are. They don’t want to themselves. They are terrified of feeling what’s there. They believe that love and security lies in “getting” and “sucking” other people’s energy and attention in superficial ways… because they feel (consciously or subconsciously) that being loved for who they truly are can’t be a reality for them. They are deeply insecure, ridden with guilt and feel ugly inside; hence why they do anything to avoid facing these emotions and project a false reality instead. There is no point in judging them; they are simply hurt individuals who believe they have found a way to avoid hurt. This mechanism has become a way of life to them. It is not who they truly are, but they often don’t even know it.
“The shame that plagues the narcissistic personality, which will never be acknowledged or dealt with by the narcissist, has to be projected out at others. Therefore any perceived criticism (and it is a hair line trigger) will be met with denial, blame-shifting, scapegoating, and any tactic that is required to avoid taking any responsibility or suffer the narcissistic injury of even greater shame.” – Amy Adam
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Why They Keep Coming Back
As mentioned in the 5th and 6th points, narcissists most likely won’t disappear forever in response to a fight or drama. They might simply apologize or ignore whatever happened to restore the status quo. They might promise they will change. But they come back because they actually need their partner (or even romantic interests on the side) to continue feeling safe and needed. However, their number one priority isn’t to simply love, be loved and evolve as a human being; it is to fiercely defend and hide from their real pain. So if a trigger occurs, expect aggressiveness or manipulation instead of a mature and loving response. This is why many narcissists become uncontrollably abusive and controlling. The pain spills out, and they always respond with fear rather than love. (Responding to our pain with love is a challenge we actually all need to embrace!)
The Codependent’s Defence Mechanism
(Chances are that’s you if you’re reading this article.)
Codependents are usually at the receiving end of the stick, walking around the eggshells of the narcissist’s defences. But the truth is, the eggshells you walk around are also the emotions YOU are afraid to feel. When your narcissist partner flips out on you, makes you feel flawed and deserts you… how do YOU feel? Abandoned? Heartbroken? Love-starved? Afraid? Lost? Not good enough? Do you try anything to get them to turn around and love you again? Do you just want the perfect honeymoon phase to come back and swear you’ll walk around his/her eggshells better next time? See, that’s also the behaviour and thought pattern of someone who would rather close the lid on pain and sacrifice depth and realness in the name of a superficial fairytale.
Narcissists are the ones who set the rules and pace of the game (manipulator), while codependents try to keep up with the game (manipulated). But the fact remains that both are playing a game that revolves around avoiding core issues that need resolving in both parties.
Whenever the honeymoon phase is restored and your narcissist partner morphs back into the same charming Romeo/Juliet you originally fell in love with, it might look and feel good for a while… but it doesn’t mean you won’t smell what’s rotting in the backyard. The issues are still there, you’re just not picking up the trash.
Narcissist & Codependent – The Mutual Core Issue
If this constant pattern of apologizing and changing yourself to keep the peace and get his or her love back sounds like you, then you have similar (if not the same) abandonment issues he or she has. The only difference is that he or she may be resisting going deeper altogether, while you desire it. Your walls of protection are a little thinner. You are on the fence. You want to heal your wounds, but you mistakenly believe your healing depends on your narcissist partner not abandoning you.
The truth is: they have abandoned themselves. This is where you both do the same thing in different ways. You both have abandoned yourselves, denied yourself of self-love, and put all faith in being saved by others.
The sad truth is that believing someone else can save you tends to recreate the same experience of abandonment by attracting the same kind of relationships over and over again… which might actually get you to adopt narcissistic defences yourself due to the heartbreak it keeps causing!
Both narcissists and codependents believe their healing depends on each other’s love, not realizing that the only “love” they both continue to chase is a superficial buffer for the pain of abandonment they’re both afraid to feel. As the saying goes, you can’t heal what you don’t allow yourself to feel.
The Codependent’s Way Of Dodging Responsibility
1. If only he/she would let me in, we could heal and grow together.
If he/she does not genuinely want to heal and grow (promises to change as soon as you pull away do not count), hoping that you both can heal together is simply wishful thinking coming from a refusal to be with and heal your own pain. If you truly wanted to face your pain and grow, you would not cling to and wait for someone who is clearly doing everything they can to avoid doing just that.
The relationship dynamic won’t become more genuine, transparent, honest, and connected if one or both parties continues to flee true intimacy like a gazelle escaping a lion. Both partners need to meet themselves before they meet one another in a real and meaningful way. But it has to start with ourselves.
2. I am here to save him/her! I will feel healed and fulfilled once I succeed and then, I’ll have his/her love and presence.
I know from personal experience that any desire to save another usually comes from the desire to be saved. I would often “see his potential” and believe that “if only he would open up, I could then help him heal and we could achieve greater intimacy.” I was doing it for me, so that I can be finally be held by a loving man without interruption (Daddy issues). I actually wanted the saving, but it turns out that I needed ME to “save” and love me – not expect it from another while having no relationship whatsoever with myself. This is precisely what I am in the process of learning today: building a strong and loving relationship with myself!
The by-product of choosing to unconditionally love and heal ourselves is the ONLY way to inspire others to do the same. It won’t happen by us trying to save anybody. People don’t change through us diplomatically convincing them to, it happens through us leading by example without expectation. Energy speaks much louder than words!
3. Maybe things will change one day. In the meantime, I just want his/her love to keep soothing me.
I don’t think I need to explain that one much further. It is basically the choice to put up with an unhealthy relationship and settle for crumbs of “love” here and there, because you believe that’s all the love you can get (or deserve). It is the passive acceptance of what hurts you. It is hurting yourself deliberately.
But once someone loves themselves and finally sees their own value, they will not tolerate anything less than relationships that reflect that same quality of love.
That last paragraph right there is, I believe, the ultimate lesson that narcissists are there to teach us. Yes, they are wounded and insecure. But we are too. And the only way to stop the cycle of hurt is by tending to our own pain and insecurity with love and compassion.
When we do so, we’ll begin attracting loving and compassionate relationships simply because our relationships reflect us! But first, we must be honest with ourselves about the pain we carry and accept that we must feel to heal. Otherwise, we’ll keep attracting mirrors until we truly face what they reflect in us. And that’s okay too! It is life’s loving way of orchestrating life events that will bring us closer to a space of self-love, empowerment, and fulfillment.
P.S. And don’t worry… narcissists will get there too (whether in this lifetime or another). But it’s not your job to fix them.
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