I'm in love with a narcissist

He treats me like dirt but I'm not sure I'm ready to leave him yet. Should I leave him anyway?


Cary Tennis
November 3, 2010 4:01AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

Let's just jump right in, shall we?

I think I am in love with a narcissist. If so, is there anything to be done about it?

From what I've read, the answer is a big fat NO! and one should really just get out of the relationship. (Wanna bet this is advice from the former lover of a narcissist?) In fact, I read just today a little anecdote shelving narcissists with vampires:

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... the leading lady is so entranced with Dracula's charm she ignores the split second stare of glowing evil in his eyes ... The audience thinks, Run away! But she somehow find reasons to stay with him until it is too late.

This is what I see:

1. It is always my fault. "It" can be anything, but whatever "It" is, it was caused by something I did, said, did not say, did not say well, etc. I do not believe that is true. Just now he said that this past week, which has been shitty, was my fault.

2. He is always right. I can be logical and argue my own point. But until I give in, there is no peace between us.

3. He thinks he is the smartest guy in the room.

4. He cannot be kind, compassionate or emotionally dependable when he is angry, upset or not feeling good. He says things like, "Are you even capable of listening?"

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Is this narcissism? Or do I expect too much?

I truly do love him, so very much. He usually is the smartest guy in the room. And he's gentle and loving more than not.

I know I have my faults and my shortcomings and I try to own them while striving be a kind person, but I get very (very) angry when I am not being listened to, when I am not heard, or when I am being told what motivates me or has motivated me and then I overreact. Naturally, this comes from growing up with an alcoholic father who was nice in the morning and mean at night. Since, my relationship with Dad has healed. But I have this lingering anger ...

I have tried to explain that to my love, how much it hurts, yet it continues.

Maybe my question isn't so much, "What can I do about it?" but rather, "How do I handle it?"

How do I transcend the hurt that comes with feeling invalidated?

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I am not ready to "get out" or to let go of this person. I am seeing a great therapist. I bet he probably reads your column, too.

Thank you, Cary. I have often found hope in your life-affirming column.

Narcissist Lover

Dear Narcissist Lover,

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Like you say, let's just jump right in.

Leave the narcissist.

You don't have to be ready. You might never be ready. Do it anyway. I can't tell you how to handle the way you will feel after you do it. But I can say I feel confident you will handle it OK. It will be better than staying.

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That's my advice. The narcissist is never going to stop doing what he's doing. But you can stop doing what you're doing.

This whole business about being ready ... sometimes we have to do things we're not ready to do.

I think part of you wants to stay with the narcissist and be punished for not being as good as you are supposed to be. Part of you thinks the narcissist is right, that you really aren't good enough. Part of you that thinks you've failed somebody and must pay.

That's the part of you who doesn't want to leave. Part of you wants to stay and be punished.

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So you're not necessarily going to talk that part of yourself out of being that way, any more than you can talk the narcissist out of being the way he is, or talk your dad out of being an alcoholic. That part of you needs somebody more powerful to take charge.

So take charge. Just leave. Leave and get on with your life.

You don't have to be completely ready. You just have to jump.

You're not going to be completely happy with the choice even though it's the right choice. Part of you will want to stay with the narcissist and be abused, because part of you really believes that you are bad. Part of you believes it's all your fault.

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That's kind of terrifying, isn't it -- that this is not all the narcissist's fault, that part of you actually agrees with him and wants to be punished? Part of you may never be ready.

So take charge. Just leave.

Make the choice. Don't worry about the part of you that wants to stay with the narcissist. Take charge like the good, strong person would take charge in a family. The good, strong person would see what the problem is and refuse to give in to it. The good, strong person would say, OK, we all love each other, but one of us is an alcoholic and there's nothing we can do about that so, rather than be destroyed, the rest of us, the healthy ones, have to move on.

I like your attitude. I get the feeling you can do this. Enlist your therapist's help. Don't ask for your therapist's permission. Tell your therapist you want support, not permission. Tell your therapist that you are not going to wait until you're ready to break up with the narcissist, that you are going to do it anyway, that you've made up your mind. Then do it. Don't back down. End it.

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Then write to me and tell me that you did it.

I'll be waiting.



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Cary Tennis

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