Today I want to talk a little bit more about narcissistic behavior and abuse. There is a difference between what we call narcissistic behavior and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (a diagnosis only to be made by a mental health professional.) Everyone has a few narcissistic characteristics inside them. Think of narcissism on a spectrum, kind of like the spectrum of enlightenment. Light on one end, dark on the other.
When we think about enlightenment, God is the light. The further into the light we are, the more awakened and enlightened we are spiritually. The further into the dark we are, the closer we are to Satan’s trap of darkness – we call this “the pit.” Narcissists are in the pit – some are deeper than others.
Narcissistic behavior can be found at the root of all types of abuse. While we classify it as a “type” of abuse, it is can be found as the underlying cause of physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or verbal abuse. When you think about an abusive person and how they behave in private vs. in public, you realize that they indeed know what they are doing and the difference between right and wrong. You also begin to realize that they are intentional in their abuse.
Your abusive partner may claim they are not in control of themselves when they abuse you, and they may even blame you for triggering them or setting them off by saying that you were disrespectful to them and that made them abuse you. But in a public situation, at work, at church, or even in front of a marriage counselor, they are probably extra charming. Someone at work may disrespect them, but they don’t abuse their coworker. Also, if the police were called because they abused you, and he told them that he abused you because you disrespected him, they would still take him to jail because abuse is not only wrong it is illegal.
If you’ve been abused, I’m sure that you can agree that your abuser acted differently in public around other people – he may have even treated you like a queen! But in private he was the total opposite. He abused you, hit you, raped you, talked down to you, and treated you very badly. In the case of narcissistic abuse, there are usually more subtle signs and the abuse is more emotional and tactical in nature. Narcissists are more cold and calculating in their abuse. I say “he” collectively because statistically most cases of abuse are by men to women – but this shouldn’t preclude the existence of abuse by women to men. Women can be just as narcissistic as men.
Subtle Signs of Narcissistic Behavior
In addition to behaving the opposite in public vs. how they act in private, there are other more subtle signs of narcissism and abuse that we don’t always recognize. I’d like to share some of those with you today. I see many instances of people questioning “if their relationship is abusive” because the behavior is more subtle or “covert.” Covert narcissism does exist. Most likely, if you have to ask yourself “Is my relationship abusive?” it probably is.
Do you experience fear when talking about how your partner or spouse spoke to you or has treated you recently? This is a red flag – if you are “shaking like a leaf” or experiencing fear or dread related to your relationship, it is probably abusive.
Does he make subtle but startling comments that “just don’t feel right?” This is verbal or emotional abuse. Narcissistic behavior includes making subtle but negative remarks towards the abuse victim. These remarks will be made in a way or a tone that doesn’t automatically or obviously feel abusive. It will leave you feeling confused about what just happened, asking yourself if what he (or she) just said was abusive. Back to my first point above – if you have to ask yourself if it was abusive, it probably was.
Does he accuse you of things you haven’t done? Does he call you the abusive one when you know deep down you haven’t been? Maybe all you did was try to communicate your feelings about something he did that hurt you, and you probably tried to do so in a positive light, as much as possible, maybe even walking on eggshells to avoid him blowing up. This is called gaslighting. They will flip the tables on you to try and turn you into the abusive one or make you feel crazy.
Many times a narcissist’s false accusation is actually a confession. If he accuses you of cheating when you haven’t even considered cheating on him, it’s probably because he cheated. He wants to accuse you of it first and “put it out there” that you were the one who cheated first so that he can reconcile his own actual cheating.
Does he disregard your emotions or make you feel like your feelings don’t matter? Do you feel like you can’t even communicate with him (as you should in a healthy relationship) because it will just start an argument and he will make you feel bad for trying to discuss an issue in your relationship? This isn’t normal or healthy for a relationship, and it is a sign of emotional abuse. Narcissistic people don’t like to be held accountable for their behavior.
Do you end up apologizing at the end of every argument, even though you didn’t do anything wrong? Also, the narcissist rarely apologizes. If they do, it is an empty apology that never comes with changed behavior. They may “change” for a short period until they suck you back in (called hoovering). This typically happens if you try to leave them and they aren’t ready to let you go. They will love bomb you and go through what is called the “honeymoon phase” all over again. Once you are hooked again, there will be another explosion of abuse and you will be back to square one. This is the cycle of abuse.
I hope this brief article helps you better understand if your relationship is abusive or if you are living with a narcissistic person. I hope it helped you understand the concept of narcissism and what it looks like in an abusive relationship.