As published on the Huffington Post
One of the questions that frequently comes up when people hear about my work in the practical aspects of living and working with narcissists is – “Is there something wrong with me because I loved a narcissist?”
The answer is NO. There’s nothing wrong with you.
All sorts of people get involved with narcissists. And people stay involved with them for all sorts of reasons.
Narcissists look for people who are loving, kind and generous – those are optimal qualities in anyone, unfortunately for a narcissist they are also beams of light in their path toward enmeshment.
Getting involved with a narcissist might mean that you:
- are easy-going
- grew up around narcissists - like the edge, are used to it, narcissists feel normal
- never got involved with one before - didn’t know the warning signs
- got involved in your early 20’s when everyone is a bit narcissistic, so couldn’t see what the future would hold
- didn’t know that empathy is a skill that can develop with maturity, especially in men, so if you met your narcissist early, you thought he seemed kind of like most other guys
- might be over-responsible and want to make things work at all costs
- might like to avoid conflict and so accommodate easily
- are naturally open-hearted, optimistic, like to think the best about people
- fell for the shining soul of a person without knowing that their daily walking-around-on-earth behavior matters deeply
The second question people ask me, is “But why did I stay?” There are a number of reasons for staying and here are a few:
- you think you are different than the rest, that s/he feels more strongly about you
- you think your love can heal the other person
- you maintain hope that things will improve as other person matures
- you made a commitment and you honor your commitments
- you set your needs aside to support your narcissist through whatever challenge s/he was confronting
- maybe you are married and divorce doesn’t seem like an option
- maybe you have kids together and want to give them the experience of an intact family
- you can’t imagine life if you left
- you don’t know even what the first step toward leaving looks like
- you are frightened of what the N will do if you try to leave
If you are still involved with a narcissist, you may not realize how completely your attention has been diverted from your self and your own life. A key to reclaiming your vitality is to return your attention to yourself. Consider what you want in the big picture of your life, and what you want in each and every situation that arises in your daily life. Consider learning the ins and outs of narcissism, and learn new ways to interact based upon what you learn. If you want to heal from a past difficult relationship with a narcissist, or want to figure out how to move on, seek support.
A narcissist reinforces whatever self-doubt you may have that something is wrong with you, or that you are doing things wrong, or that you are not worthy of consideration and respect. Please know, despite your narcissist’s assurances that the problems in your relationship are your doing, that there is nothing wrong with you.