With over a decade of working on relationship issues, and particularly partners of narcissists, I have come to the conclusion that being in a relationship with a narcissist is just like being in a relationship with a drug addict – and often even more difficult.
We live in a world that has increasingly celebrated and rewarded narcissism to levels that are becoming catastrophic to relationships of all kinds. Self-confidence and self-love are important parts of a healed being, but only in combination with unconditional loving kindness and compassion all to a natural and moderate degree of imperfection. Narcissism is the extreme and dark side of the spectrum however, and in no way is healthy or sustainable. And in fact it is in many ways similar to drug addiction in very important ways that a partner of a narcissist needs to fully understand.
Most people are aware of the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder and the definition of narcissism; and this article is not meant to dissect the issue in that way as there is plenty of material on the subject. But, here is a list of synonyms that should suffice as a reminder: Vanity, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, ego-aggrandizing, extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration. There is not much room there for true empathy, compassion, kindness, and consideration of others. The narcissist can fake those qualities at times, and even have moments of true lucidity around their affliction, but it’s short-lived, just like trying to lay off of a drug for a bit. They can also be highly alluring, charming, and exciting because of the success-driving aspects of the drug. This all adds to the hope and confusion of the partner and can often keep them strung along.
I want to focus this article on sharing what I have discovered in my work as a shaman over the last decade and to offer some practical considerations when in relationship with a narcissist. I can’t tell you how many sessions I have done on people who have tried to stay in relationships with a narcissistic partner – and to no avail no matter how hard they have tried. The problem is this: narcissism has become not only the norm, but it works very well for the narcissist in all but their most intimate relationships. It has become the main theme of most popular music, for example it’s gone from “I’m so in love with you”, to “I’m bringing sexy back”, and that was just the beginnings of what is now reached absolute extremes in the entertainment and sports businesses and many others. Essentially narcissism now equals a lot of financial success, fame, sex, ego aggrandizement, and fun for the ones who have mastered it. It is the drug of choice with virtually no apparent negative side effects, because it is the very nature of the narcissist to not care whether or not they annoy anyone else or are loved by anyone else. Their love for themselves and success in other areas of their lives have become enough for them.
Like cocaine, alcohol, and many other addictive drugs the benefit to the narcissist is just too good to allow those abused by it to get them to give it up. And here is a really important part – just like with drugs, you are no longer really talking with the essential person, but with a kind of entity that has taken them over. And as with drugs, they don’t see the problem, and they don’t value the partner who has now more become the pain-in-the-ass who is trying to get them to quit. They love the drug more than anyone. Narcissism, like all addictions of this nature usually either require a massive intervention effort by everyone that might be important to the narcissist, or they need to hit rock bottom in some important area of their life, and choose to change their priorities and behaviors. And only then does the real and deep healing have a chance to start. And it is possible for the narcissist to heal and change at that point with the help of a great shaman, therapist, or program and ongoing efforts to change their habits of behavior and choices.
I’ve seen too many people now who get into a relationship with a narcissist, or a drug addict, thinking their love, dedication, devotion, and commitment will help their partner see the light and choose to change. I call this the twenty year shaman session. And it usually ends with the well meaning partner/healer in shambles, exhausted, and deeply resentful. It is difficult enough as a well-trained shaman, healer, or psychologist to work in dedicated sacred space under full agreement and desire of the narcissist to get them to heal and to change their choices and behaviors. And we well-trained specialists understand that it is nearly impossible to mix our work and personal relationships around any issue, let alone this kind of unbending addiction. And if you are not trained, then you are essentially a martyr without a cause. I’ve seen too many shattered relationships and good people now to ever suggest that anything productive will come of your years of sacrifice. And of course you are free to choose to accept such a life without judgment. In some cases the benefits might even outweigh the pain, and you find it worth it to endure the narcissist for as long as they choose to stay with you. Of course, just like most of society today, this is also a great enabler for the narcissist.
The main purpose and conclusion of this article though is to help the partner of a narcissist to be fully conscious and realistic about their situation, so that the choice is from at least a place of greater power and clarity. Know that this isn’t just a personality disorder that the afflicted can easily change, or would even have a good enough reason to – including the loss of a great and loving partner. Rather, this is much more similar to a drug addiction where the kind and loving person that you know is inside of the narcissist is basically powerless over the allure, the high, and the benefits of the most insidious drug that society has ever concocted.
I’ve really only touched on the issue with this article, so if you want to explore more deeply your own unique situation and what can be done to help you with it, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a session by phone or Skype or in person.
With Great Love and Respect,