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Hi I am a 39 yr old woman who has been in a relationship with a 'healthy' narcissistic man for just over 2 years. He is 32 yrs old & from a completely different culture. It started very casually but progressed to us moving in together 9 months ago. This has proven to be a mistake. I had been living with my 2 teenagers 50% of the time for 4 years prior to that. He has never had a relationship longer than 2 years. He is very career driven and has never promised me a long term future. At first I was happy to enjoy the 'pros' of the liason as there didn't seem to be any 'cons'. However as time has passed,most of our free time is directed by his plans & needs (which I havent objected to as most of the time I enjoy the same pastimes). He seems to require that I fulfil a 'wife-like' role but is anti-committment. He has high expectations about how I should spend my free-time (ie directed by him) but spends his watching tv, on online car forums & checking his emails & IM modes to chat with overseas friends many many times a day. I have rearranged my work shifts & my custody arrangements with my kids a number of time to accomodate his job & being able to spend time with him, at his requests but often with little insight from him as to what a huge ask it is. He's quite cautious of any male friends I have but has many female friends, some of whom he speaks to everyday. We have been subjected to some extraordinary stresses this year; by developments in his career, the challenges of having teenagers around (my son has moved out to live with his father fulltime & my daughter has moved in with us fulltime), he having suffered a fairly serious illness & me having recently injured my back to name just a few. I have been quite upset recently that we were unable to organise any annual leave together this year but rather he took time to go home to his brothers wedding, 2 weeks to go to LA & Vegas & is about to do the same to meet with family & friends from his home country in October. I was invited but would have had to do alot of re-arranging of shifts at work & by the time I was able to do this he'd changed his mind about me coming - saying he & his family already had tickets to shows & activities, hotels booked etc. I was very upset & accused him of horrible things - like having an affair & being a liar. I feel quite paranoid & jealous of this planned holiday. I feel a good deal of uncertainty & insecurity about whether this is good for my self-esteem to be with him anymore. When its good - its great! But we have struggled to find those moments since we moved in together. I want to do the right thing & see out the lease we have together on this house but its increasingly difficult to please him. He's highly critical, moody & intolerant of the smallest annoyances. I've tried to discuss things with him but it often ends in me getting quite emotional & he doesnt cope with that. Obviously the 'honeymoon period' is over... I feel like the relationship may end naturally at the end of the year but we are unable to agree about when the best time to move out is. I want to study next year & he has an exam in February so he'd like to stay here until this exam is over but I'd like to be settled in a new place before Christmas. (our lease ends early DEC). I'd like the relationship to continue on a more casual basis as it was before we moved in together but I fear if I leave him here paying rent on his own this will cause him to end it. He has no furniture - everything is mine. I can't help feeling that i'm being used... We have planned a trip together in November to Bali - something I had to organise at his request & I'm paying my own way as I always do (although the difference in our incomes is significant) & this has proven to be problem at my job as annual needs to be organised a long way in advance & I will have to take that leave unpaid. I was very happy & independent when I met him & as things progressed have realised I am ready for a long term realtionship but he is not. I have suffered depresion in the past & am very wary of the way I feel right now - Some negative thought patterns & self-blame are creeping into my head. I'd like to imagine that I can change me & be happy again & not have to move my daughter... Some stability in her home environment is what she needs. How can I learn to live with this control-freak who may or may not love me anymore. He says he does but I have doubts....
Narcissists hardly ever change their ways, primarily because that cannot grasp the concept that they can be wrong. They cannot accept that the may be at fault – if something goes wrong, it MUST be the fault of someone else.
They believe that external factors are the cause of any and all of their problems. It is difficult, therefore to remain indifferent to their self righteous behavior, and over time, relationships tend to become very bitter and damaged.
It is important not to expect any sort of considerate behaviour from a narcissist – he is the center of his own universe, as you have discovered
It is, therefore, a serious mistake to allow their behaviour to anger you – indeed, that will be noted as a point of weakness and probably be exploited in the future.
Narcissists are very needy, and will do anything to have these needs met – they will use almost any weapon to achieve their ends, most frequently trying to generate compassion, guilt or shame. It is essential to recognise this and factor into your dealings with them.
Don't let yourself get angry at their lack of empathy or understanding - they are not capable of it. Pointing out their inability to empathize will do nothing - they will blame you for everything that it doesn't work. You must distance yourself emotionally from their complaints, criticism, lack of empathy because they do this to everyone----it is really is not about you. This is the way they know best for getting their needs met i.e., to be demanding, to attempt to invoke guilt or shame, to blackmail.
One of the common issues you will have to deal with is the narcissist's constant needs and demands. Don't just give in. Stand your ground, and get them to do whatever is necessary themselves, or if you do agree to help, make sure that it is conditional – either limited in scope, or that you get something in return –preferably upfront.
Sadly, relationships with narcissists frequently become too painful or exhausting to sustain, and should that be the case, options are limited. What is NOT an option is expecting change – it will not happen in the vast majority of cases. If things become unbearable, sometimes time apart may help, but it may be that for your own sake , you have to withdraw from the relationship completely.
There are some books which are quite useful, and I recommend the following:
Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving & Thriving With the Self-absorbed ...
By Wendy T. Behary – especially if you want to maintain the relationship, and
Surviving the storm: strategies and realities when divorcing a narcissist, by Richard Skerritt – if you really must get out.
In addition, in order to help you see things with a greater clarity and to be stronger in your dealings with him,
I’m going to suggest that you would benefit from some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.
These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.
If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,
the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.
Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.
Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.
Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.
Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:
If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:
Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.
Best wishes, NormanM
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