Healthy boundaries.

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The little books.

Originally posted on August 30, 2015

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I remembered something today. Little by little my mind is pulling up ancient memories from dark and forgotten corners as I move further along in my recovery. This one almost knocked me over.

For years…decades, even…I couldn’t write. This past year and a half has been the first time in my life I haven’t in under the thrall of a high spectrum (malignant) narcissist, and it wasn’t until I freed myself from them that my words began to come back.

As a child I wrote all the time. I drew pictures too. I remember my father bringing home these little blank stapled booklets in different colors with lined paper in them. There were about 50 of them, tied up in rubber bands. I used to write little stories and illustrate them. I could spend hours doing this.

I always blame my mother for everything. I act as if my father (who was codependent, and probably either covert NPD or borderline) had nothing to do with my disorders. I always saw him as a victim too. But he colluded with my mother; both were abusers. I remember one day when I was 7 or 8, I came home from school, and as I did every day, I went to my desk and opened the drawer to start writing my little stories. I noticed some of my finished booklets were gone. Panicking, I looked everywhere for them, and couldn’t find them. They were very personal to me, like diaries. They were for my eyes only (my Avoidant traits had already set in) . I was very upset but couldn’t tell my parents because then they’d be looking for them and they’d KNOW.

I looked all over the house for them, and finally found them in my father’s filing cabinet in a folder with my name on it. I was horrified. He stole my private creations from me! I felt so violated. My boundaries had been viciously invaded. I remember stealing them back and destroying them. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at them anymore. There was too much shame.
It was as if I wanted to annihilate myself…my true self.

After that I seemed to lose interest in drawing, although I continued to write. But my passion for even that was gone. I didn’t say anything to my dad about him stealing those booklets because to do so would be to invite critique and shame. I knew instinctively he liked them (otherwise he wouldn’t have taken them from me), but I didn’t even want to hear anything good about them. The stuff in them was just too personal. I felt like I’d been raped.

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I wrote a novel in 2003. No one wanted to publish it. It sucked. I still have it but it’s embarrassing to read because of how bad it is. I know why though; at that time, still under the thrall of my ex, I was trying too hard to be “a writer,” to make an impression, instead of being authentic.

And now…I’ve done a 180 from when I’d hide my little illustrated books and was so horrified when they were discovered: deliberately posting the most personal stuff imaginable for total strangers all over the Internet to see (under an assumed name, of course). It’s like I’m trying to redeem my shame, somehow. It’s very hard to explain.

After being in my abusive marriage, I thought I’d lost all my ability to do anything at all. I’d sit down and try to write something, and….I couldn’t do it. I even thought I’d lost my intelligence. I was marking time until death. I felt stupid, dead. But I didn’t care either…or thought I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything at all. All my emotions were gone.

I was wrong, so wrong about all that.

Bugs have terrible boundaries.

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I’m hooked on a blog I found a couple of months ago called WaitbutWhy.   It’s a blog for people who like science and geeky stuff and think about the same kinds of weird, random, shower-thought sort of things that I do.    Some of the stuff its author, Tim Urban, writes about will absolutely blow your mind, such as this incredible article about how to fit all 7.3 billion people on the planet into a building that would fit in a space smaller than Manhattan’s Central Park.  Yes, it can actually be done (but it would be terribly cruel!).

Some of his posts are hilarious because they’re so true and relatable.   In my last post I mentioned that bugs (ants, to be specific) can be beneficial to the environment because they help break down dead material, but let’s be honest here — Do any of us really LIKE bugs?

They invite themselves where they are not wanted.  They walk on our food and spit in it and lay their nasty eggs in it.   They violate our bodies without our permission, sometimes painfully or causing unbearable fits of itching.   They hide inside our bedcovers and crawl all over us when we’re trying to sleep.  Some bugs have an unsettling way of flying in your face repeatedly.    They won’t take no for an answer.  They look like microscopic monsters or aliens from another planet.   Their nasty dead carcasses can be found all over your windowsills, your floors, in your bed, inside your refrigerator. They are stupid (moths fly straight into electric lights — how have they not gone extinct yet?).  Moths burrow inside your clothing and chew holes in them.  Roaches and mosquitoes carry diseases.   Termites can bring down your home (and during their horrifying spring swarms, they obnoxiously drop their wings after having sex — all over your hardwood floors.  (I know, because this happened to me — I spent two hours vacuuming them all up while crying and whimpering in terror).  I wrote about that awful experience in detail in this post about my weird phobia.  Here is an excerpt.

The worst experience I ever had with my phobia was the time we had a termite infestation. I was home alone at the time, watching TV in the living room and something made me look across the room. Something weird was happening on the hardwood floor. It looked like it was sort of…undulating. I got up to investigate and saw what appeared to be THOUSANDS of ant-like insects walking, flying, and DROPPING THEIR WINGS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. I started shivering and crying as I frantically went to go find the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t think straight. Whimpering in terror, I had trouble plugging the damn thing into the wall because my hands were shaking so badly. In a panic, I sucked up every last one I could see, but MORE KEPT COMING OUT OF THE WALL. I didn’t know they were termites–I didn’t know about the “swarmers” (the termites who mate in the spring and have temporary wings until they mate) until Terminex told me that’s what those were. THOSE UNHOLY FLYING FAKE ANTS WERE HAVING SEX ALL OVER MY LIVING ROOM FLOOR!

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Sorry.

Urban wrote a post about all these ways that bugs ruin everything, but what really stuck with me was his correct observation that —

Bugs have terrible boundaries.

They do, and maybe that’s why we hate them so much.  More than anything, I despise bugs (okay, I know technically most of them are insects, not true bugs) because they have zero sense of where you end and they begin.   Just like those predatory boundary-violating narcissists who make our lives a living hell and never seem to go away. 

In a post I’ll write later tonight or tomorrow, I’m going to describe the wonderful day I had tubing on a local river yesterday.   Everything was perfect — except for the hundreds of dragonflies swarming and hovering everywhere, persistently landing on our bare skin.   Swarming all around us — and mating in the air while they did so!  Do you have no sense of modesty,  Mr. and Ms. Dragonfly? Having sex in public.   In the air.  No shame, those dragonflies.   They all have abominable boundaries! So maybe I’m just jealous, because having sex while flying seems like it would be heavenly!

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I have nothing against dragonflies.  As far as insects go, they are generally pretty inoffensive.  Yes, they are big and kind of prehistoric looking (they scared the bejeebus out of me when I was younger).   The sight of their large outstretched transparent wings is slightly unsettling to me (though I have no idea why).  But I like them.   They don’t bite.  They eat mosquitoes and other annoying bugs that do bite.  They are also very pretty.   I have a love/hate relationship with dragonflies, and I guess the love wins out because I have a tattoo of one on my right shoulder.

I like dragonflies, but I like them from a distance and in limited numbers.  I don’t like swarms of them flying all around me, landing on me, and making love right in front of my face.

Good thing that didn’t happen when I was young, because I would have died from panic. Over the years, I overcame my phobia to the point where my feelings about dragonflies are mainly positive, although I’ve retained a bit of my old fear that snuck up on me yesterday when they were all around me and I couldn’t get away.  I dealt with it by pretending I was Spyro the Dragon with magical dragonflies protecting me.

“Let me be your voice” project – Sleeping with the enemy…

I don’t write a whole lot about sexual abuse — and the story told here may not qualify as what most people would define sexual abuse to be — but still, the woman who wrote this post had something that was precious to her stolen from her, and her boundaries were ruthlessly violated. This post is more explicit than what I usually post, but I think it’s important, because something so precious should be freely given, and boundaries need to be respected. I’m glad this writer ended the relationship because it sounds like her lover thought nothing of taking what wasn’t his, in essence, raping her.  At the very least, he was incredibly obtuse.  It sounds like the writer had a PTSD-like reaction to what happened.  Rape usually does have that effect.

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Also, please follow Cyranny’s Cove.  She has an awesome blog!

Cyranny's Cove

As part of my “Let me be your voice” project, once again, I am honored to host the story of a lovely reader who sent me a painful recalling of her past. I wish there were no such stories to share, but since there are… I hope letting it out at last will help and bring relief.

I’d also like to remind you that if you have a story you would like to get off your chest, but just don’t feel comfortable publishing on your own blog, I’ll be more than glad to help by posting it in the Cove, leaving all the credit to you!  Just write to me here.

So here is her story. And I’d like to thank the author for her trust. *Hugs, my dear!*


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I decided to talk today, because I kept this story for myself for too long. And I cannot believe I…

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Being vulnerable requires the courage of 1,000 strong men.

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The above meme pretty much explains the entirety of what this post is about and I could easily leave it at that.   But I am just itching right now to talk about this, because I feel like I just accomplished something pretty great–all because I was finally willing to take a big risk, one I normally wouldn’t take:  I let go of my fear of rejection long enough to tell someone I’ve grown to care about and like very much (as a friend) the truth about the way I felt about them, instead of skirting around my real feelings and avoiding the subject (but secretly going nuts).

I’ve always assumed (because of my internal programming) that I didn’t deserve to be liked or loved, and used to even push away people I liked through either becoming too needy and demanding (stepping over their boundaries), or too avoidant and aloof (building up too many boundaries for protection).  There was no in between for me–it was always one or the other.   I had no ability to regulate my reactions to others or defenses against them.

I also believed that I wasn’t loveable or even likeable, due to my internal programming.  My NM (narcissist mother)  taught me that I was not (though she never said she didn’t love me, I just knew because her actions and behaviors told me she did not).   I believed that if anyone ever got to know “the real me,” whatever THAT was, that they would grow to hate me.  And, because I was always sabotaging myself, sometimes I (unconsciously) made sure that would actually happen — by demanding too much, being too needy or high maintenance, or sometimes, rejecting THEM when I feared they might be getting ready to reject ME (pre-emptive rejection).    I did a lot of projecting too.  Assuming people were angry at me when actually I was the one who was angry at them.  Assuming they felt sorry for me when I actually just felt sorry for myself.  And assuming they would leave when actually it was really me who wanted to leave.   In those cases,  I could beg them to stay and be able to tell myself I did nothing wrong when they finally DID leave me.  Yes, I could be a manipulative little bitch!  (But I had no idea what I was doing).

All this borderline crap was so painful, that over time, I built a thin covert-narcissistic defense over these unstable and unpredictable  behaviors.  (By the way, my therapist finally agrees with me that this is exactly what happened).  I stopped trying to reach out to anyone; I kept to myself, became a near recluse.  I avoided people when they would approach me, or made excuses why I was too busy.  I’d tell myself I didn’t like people–only animals (who would never judge or shame me and would always appreciate me).   I’d tell myself I was too good for other people anyway so I didn’t have to feel that shame of feeling left out of things (which I’d really set myself up for by sabotaging any incipient friendships when they seemed to be getting too close).

Even online, where I generally feel safer connecting with people and making friends, I’d still hold other people at arm’s length and let them tell me a lot more about themselves than I’d ever tell them (except in my blog posts).   I still felt like if I revealed too much, even online, I’d be dismissed as the “weak loser” my inner judge (really my mother’s nagging voice) always told me I was.   I cared about the friends I met online and could allow myself a little more emotional vulnerability (and could allow myself to empathize with them) than I could with others in real life, but still stopped myself at a point just short of a true emotional connection.  Eventually most of these friends moved on to more fertile waters, where there’d be more emotional give and take.

A few months ago, I met a new friend, one who I felt I could very much relate to in many ways, although some circumstances are different.   We had similar childhoods and reacted to our cold, abusive, more outgoing and garrulous  mothers  in similar ways.  Neither of us dared outshine our sparkling, charming, narcissistic mothers so we became shadows of what we could have been, never taking risks, never reaching out in healthy, authentic ways.   We walled ourselves off from others to avoid further rejection.   We are both broken people,  in therapy for early childhood trauma, but we are also both beginning to heal as we learn to navigate the many strange new feelings that are now finally becoming accessible to us.   We are not at the same stage of our journeys, but we have met at a kind of crossroads where both our journeys have met.    I believe this woman is a teacher to me, who came at a time when it was needed.   I may be a teacher to her as well, though I don’t want to assume that.

Although I value and care about all my online friends, I felt a kind of special kinship with this particular woman.  I had a strong feeling she had something very important to teach me that no one else could.  We began a tentative friendship, sometimes talking about the “deep stuff,” but mostly skirting around the real issues out of fear of revealing too much or making ourselves too vulnerable.     Over time, my affection and caring for this woman deepened (not romantic feelings, just a desire for deeper and more meaningful friendship) but I began to worry that if I told her how I really felt, that I would be rejected.  Again, that was me projecting my own insecurity onto her.   But on the other hand, this person is shy and avoidant, and it seemed logical that I might easily scare her away if I revealed too much, just as I can be so easily scared by too much emotional intensity from others.

And yet I long for emotional intensity, in spite of my fear of it.    I know that you can’t feel truly alive until you can be vulnerable and open your heart to another person, even though there’s a risk of being hurt.   But I’m lonely and isolated and tired of living behind walls of my own making.

I talked to my therapist about this at length.  I told him I wanted to reach out to this friend and tell her my feelings, even though I was scared to death.    He encouraged me to do so, saying it would be good practice for me and that even if I was rejected, it would still be a big step for me just for having tried.   He asked me to think about whether I was ready.    I did, and realized I was.

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This morning I finally did it.  I was a nervous wreck, imagining the worst and trying to brace myself for her inevitable escape!  I never trusted myself to know when I’d breached someone else’s boundaries because I never learned how to keep good boundaries or know how to navigate those of others.   I was taking a huge chance!

But I’ve had practice now, and in therapy have learned a lot about being able to tell without asking when it’s okay to remove boundaries or when it’s best to step away or build reinforcements.   So my friend and I finally talked on Facebook. We talked for over an hour.   I told her how protective and maternal I felt toward her, so much so that the thought of anyone hurting this incredibly strong but vulnerable woman (who is younger than me) makes me feel so enraged I would want to beat them to a pulp (and I’m not a violent type of person at all).  Maybe I have a “rescuer complex,” I don’t know, but why analyze it?    Once I started talking, things got easier.   I spilled out my need to explore my own vulnerability with her and start to navigate these “dangerous” waters of meaningful emotional connection and real friendship.

It turned out that she was grateful  that I brought my feelings up, because she had been worrying she might have told me too much before (she hadn’t).  But after my admission, she realized I was someone she could trust and she could feel safe opening up even more.    We both got pretty emotional, and if we were physically in front of each other, this would have been the moment we embraced and the swelling movie-music would have started up.

A few minutes later she sent me a heartbreaking post (in PDF) she had written a few days before about her cold, narcissistic mother and how helpless she had always felt in front of her.  It was so raw and  vulnerable and beautifully written (and I could relate to it so much) that it brought me to tears.  My friend said it also had made her feel so vulnerable and triggered after she wrote it that she decided to take her whole blog down (a blog which she had never made public).    I think that at some point she will probably want to share that post with the world, because I think it would help so many people and it touched me so much.   But I understand if she’s not ready for that yet.  It’s a big step, one that might be too overwhelming for her at the moment.   I’m just so grateful and moved that she trusted me enough to share it with me.

I know I need to respect her boundaries and not be too pushy about that or anything else.    I’ve realized that learning to connect with another person, and learning when boundaries should be removed or stay in place, is like an intricate dance — knowing when it’s your turn, when it’s the other person’s turn, being careful to not to step on the toes of the other, but still remain courageous enough to reveal your heart when it feels right and sometimes learn to let go and let your partner spin you around.   And also, always be willing to risk the possibility you may fall and get hurt.

Relationships are kept in balance and become healthy through empathic understanding of and respect for each other’s need for either more space or deeper connection, and this type of empathy is, fortunately, something we both possess, but just were never trained to use — and never had the confidence to try.

I feel like I made progress today, and I can’t wait to tell my therapist.  I know he will be proud of me, but mostly I’m proud of myself for taking a risk and finding that instead of the rejection I’d so feared,  that I helped someone else open their heart to me even more.   As my friend said to me later, we are helping each other learn, and this is a valuable and wonderful experience for both of us which can help us grow even more, as long as we’re both mindful about it.   Everyone you meet in life has the potential to become a teacher, and my friend has taught me today that vulnerability is the greatest kind of strength and the only thing that can lead us out of the darkness.

If Facebook was real life.

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I’m sitting in a group therapy session for people with complex PTSD and other problems caused by childhood trauma, telling the group about the chain of events that led to my becoming the family blacksheep.   Tears trickle down my cheeks as I relate how victimized I felt by my family.  The two people on either side of me reach out to touch my shoulders.   I feel the beginning of connection, of a sense of belonging and community I never had at home, or anyplace at all.    I feel safe in this place.  I feel like my secrets will never go beyond the confines of this room.   Outside, the world may be dangerous and unfriendly, swarming with treacherous and cold-hearted people who wish me ill, but inside these walls, I feel welcomed and loved.

Suddenly the door opens.   It’s my niece, who I’ve met exactly three times in my life.  I haven’t seen her since she was a little girl.   She’s armed with an album of photos of her latest vacation and the big party the extended family threw for her on the birth of her latest child.  I wasn’t invited to this party.   She walks over to me and starts shoving the the pictures in my face, making me look.    I politely shuffle through the stack, then hand them back to her.  I feel violated and envious.  “Do you like them?” she demands.  She won’t leave until I say I do.  Apparently satisfied, she leaves.

Then someone I barely know from an old job walks in the room.  He tells me his business has really started taking off and he’s raking in so much money he is having a custom vacation home built right on the beach.   He shows me pictures of the house-in-progress he and his gorgeous new wife are building.  “Oh, yes, and we just found out she’s pregnant–with twins!” he crows.  Finally, he leaves.   I turn toward the group, ready to apologize for the rude intrusion.

But I never have a chance, because then my daughter’s  BFF from her middle school days bursts through the door, crying and cussing because her babydaddy is back on drugs and hasn’t payed child support in over a year.    My polite but sympathetic nods constitute a “Like” and satisfied with that, she leaves.   My boundaries feel like they’re under siege by this point.  I turn back toward the group, but am interrupted again.

Some stranger walks in and shoves a piece of paper at me.  I look down at it,  It’s a test called  “Which Celebrity Pet Do You Look The Most Like?”  Annoyed, I crumple it up and toss it on the floor.

A guy I’ve never seen before but who calls me “Friend”  invites me to play a game.   He starts tossing game cards at me, which contain pictures of things like barrels of apples, litters of piglets, bushels of wheat, and clucking hens.

Stop, please!  I want this room to be my sanctuary again.   I feel inhibited and self conscious now, because at any moment some random person from my past, a random relative, someone from an old job, or an old classmate might invade the room again, crashing over my boundaries.  No place is safe.

I have one more visitor.    My mother enters the room, fixes me with a penetrating stare, and tells me she heard everything I said about her in this room before all the interruptions started.    I feel like the floor just dropped out from under me, leaving me stranded in mid-air.   I stare at my mother.  Her eyes are opaque and unreadable, but her small, knowing smirk tells me everything I need to know.

Loosening boundaries.

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My therapist moved closer to me today, from about 6 feet away to more like 3 feet.
I feel like I won the lottery.

All week I’ve been obsessing over this and reading everything I can about touch/closeness in therapy it–the ethics involved, client/therapist boundaries, therapeutic uses of touch, etc. I posted on a forum about my longing to crawl over to him on the floor and put my head in his lap (not in a sexual way; but as a little girl would put her head on her daddy’s or mommy’s lap). I didn’t dare tell him this was what I needed.

But today he moved closer to me. I was a little freaked out! HOW DID HE KNOW???? I could easily have panicked but I was intrigued by the contrasts of my battling emotions at that moment. I felt so understood and validated, so I thanked him because it’s exactly what I had been longing to do, but didn’t dare. He’s reaching out to me and trying to connect with me. I think the fact he’s so empathetic makes him able to figure out on an emotional level what I ‘m really feeling and what I need even before I’m aware of it.  I’m beginning to trust him and God knows, I’m idealizing him, but this is part of transference and that’s what is happening. And it’s a beautiful, spiritual thing.    This primitive connection is providing the basis for real attachment with others later on, if all goes well.

I found myself averting my eyes after he moved closer though. I felt like he was trying to get me to look at him but I just couldn’t. I always look off to my left side when I feel that pull between wanting to connect and wanting to get the hell away. One thing about being self-aware and having insight is you notice EVERYTHING you do, body language, what you do with your eyes, that sort of thing. I realized I was doing that to replace the wall he had just torn down, and I told him so. At the same time I long to be held close and comforted and taken care of, half of me wants to run.

If you choose to stay with your narcissist…

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Lidija Rangelovska (Sam Vaknin’s wife) recently wrote about staying with her narcissistic husband and how she handles him.

My view, my principle…
People, unconsciously, but more often intentionally, complicate their lives in order to make some sense of their existence and to justify their actions. Me included. We are all, as my FB friend put it: “personal strength junkies”, who try so hard to be accepted and to belong. It comes from our upbringing, our unstable environment, and the fear of being alone. So, when we find a person that loves us or shows us affection, we are “hooked” and we won’t give up on that person. But we also don’t want to compromise, we want to keep our freedom and to have control over the other. And what now? It’s simple: we have to adapt to the changes and find a new meaning in life!
For me personally freedom is the most important. So, I assume that it is the same with all others and I do give people space… where their selves emerge and grow. If there is a person who has common sense and similar views of life to mine, there is a solid and healthy ground on which to develop the relationship.
But we should learn to communicate, share experiences and emotions, be honest and truthful… not be afraid and manipulative. We should learn to trust in order to understand and accept the other. We should build safe grounds for unconditional love to grow on. And isn’t this all that matters in life?

And later…

…my mother tongue is “narcissist”, literally. I was raised by malignant narcissists and HAD to learn how to communicate with them. And I wouldn’t name it as such, because it’s not the “language” of the narcissist, but of the abused. The “language” consists of understanding the abuse that occurred in the narcissist’s early childhood owing to which s/he adopted the False Self later in the adolescence. It is the ONLY self that the narcissist is aware of and if you can’t accept it, you won’t be able to understand her/him.

My advice would be to not even try to go there, as I call it, the “twilight zone”… it’s the “unknown and forbidden” to some people. For me that zone was my natural habitat. I was there… growing up in an emotionally and physically abusive family. I became codependent and was raised to be a good Source of Supply. I honestly don’t wish that on anyone!

So, then, why am I with Sam?
We are both emotionally damaged and we do understand each other’s pain. It’s in a space and at a time where we fulfill each other’s our unique psychodynamic needs. Where conditions don’t exist and there isn’t a room for any – that is where unconditional love exists… at least, where I found it.

[Anonymous] explained this dynamic […] in a very subtle way. “Personal strength junkies” is her term, not mine…

I’m glad there are people who really want to explore their and other people’s nature/character driven by their curiosity to learn more about themselves in order to relate to their significant others. Indeed, a person has to have the courage to do so… they’re the real heroes, not the ones that deny their existence and adopted the “go with the flow” principle… that’s selfish.

Then she posted the beautiful quote above from the children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit.” It’s amazing how profound certain books for children can be but there’s a wonderful message about unconditional love for adults too.

Several other people who are married to or in relationships with narcissists discussed how they are able to cope with staying with them without losing themselves or developing mental disorders like PTSD. Without exception, the narcissistic spouses (all male) have insight into their disorder and their wives have learned how to “speak narcissist.” There seem to be two primary requirements (besides the patience of a saint): (1) a strong maternal instinct, and (2) an unflappable sense of humor. Under these unusual circumstances, a relationship with a narcissist may actually work for both partners. Some may think of this as an unequal, codependent and even abusive partnership, but if framed as a kind of eternal mother/child relationship, it doesn’t have to be pathological.

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As for myself, I could never work things out with my malignant narcissist ex-husband and I went No Contact early last year (it’s actually Low Contact because we have children, so being completely No Contact isn’t really a possibility.) He had zero insight and denied he was a narcissist at all (instead, he projected his narcissism onto me and made himself out to be the victim and me the abuser). I think when a narcissist has no capacity for insight (which is probably most of them) and is in denial, No Contact (or Low Contact) is the best way to go to avoid psychological damage to ourselves. Even insightful narcissists who are not in denial about their disorder are highly dangerous people and should be handled with extreme caution. They are ticking time bombs.

What [Anonymous] and Lidija have shared provide hope that for SOME narcissists, there may be a way to stay with them and nurture them while not allowing them to obliterate our psyches–and in some cases even benefit from the relationship. It would take someone with a LOT of empathy and even more patience but I believe it can be done in some cases. Having a strong maternal instinct is of utmost importance because essentially, a narcissist is an emotional infant, unable to see others as separate from them. You must accept the fact they are probably never going to get “better.”

As for reproducing with them? Having children with a narcissist you are voluntarily and mindfully nurturing would be disastrous because to the narcissist, a child would be competition and have demands that would need to be met before theirs. This would enrage them in the same way a new brother or sister enrages a three year old. If you are married to or in a relationship with a narcissist and wish to stay with them and nurture them instead of going No Contact, they must be your ONLY “child.” When you choose to be with a narcissist, you are adopting an eternal infant. You would have to accept the fact they will most likely never grow up. Obviously, this choice wouldn’t be for everyone.

Second to a strong desire to “mother” your narcissist would be the ability to laugh at their antics and not take things too seriously. In one woman’s case, she said her narcissistic husband laughs WITH her, even though she admits the joke is usually on her.

I’m happy to hear there are people who can actually make things work with a narcissist. It requires a great deal of unconditional love and the ability to always put your own needs in a distant second place. I don’t recommend it for most people though.

ETA: I would recommend another requirement to making a relationship with a narcissist work: establish FIRM and VERY CLEAR boundaries, early in the relationship. Lidija clearly does this– I remember her saying in “I, Psychopath” when asked who made the rules she said she did. You would have to! Part of the maternal relationship requires the ability to provide discipline when it’s needed too. A narcissist who respects you because you established boundaries and can laugh with them and speak to them in their language won’t have a problem following your rules but may need to be reminded sometimes. 😉

Making love last with a narcissist: the rules

Old Couple

In summary, here are the cardinal rules for keeping your sanity intact while in a relationship or marriage to a narcissist:

1. Be a high empathy person with a strong maternal instinct.

2. Accept the fact they will probably never be cured.

3. Establish FIRM boundaries as early as possible and don’t be afraid to remind them of the rules when they balk or disobey. Remember you are dealing with an emotional toddler.

4. Be willing to always be in their shadow and not steal the show from them

5. Be able to LAUGH and not take what they do and say too personally.   It’s not about you.

6. Do not have children with your narcissist.  He/she is your child. (I used to joke that my MN ex husband was my “other child.” How true that was, and in some ways I wish I had known some of these rules back then, which might have made my life a little easier while still with him.)

The narcissist has to fulfill a requirement too. He or she must be insightful enough to recognize they are narcissists and mentally ill.

When your boundaries are being violated.

boundaries

One of the most pernicious things our narcissists do is violate our boundaries. This can take a number of forms, ranging from physical violations (such as rummaging through your things or physically attacking you) to more subtle mental or emotional violations.

So I’ve devised a checklist of some of the ways narcissists violate our boundaries. They do this to give us less power or make us feel diminished. Don’t allow it. If you see any of these behaviors from your narcissist, if you can’t cut contact with them, be very firm and tell them you will not tolerate it. Do not back down or make excuses. You have every right to protect your boundaries. Your reasons why are really none of their business.

Physical boundary violations:

1. Physical abuse — hitting, pushing, punching, getting “in your face,” cornering you.

2. Forcing you to have sex when you do not want to.

3. Rummaging or going through your personal possessions.

4. Stealing from you. A lock box (these can be cheaply purchased form stores like Walmart) is a good idea. Get one with a combination, not a key.

5. Touching you or sitting/standing too close during conversation, when this is not desired by you.

6. Some somatic narcissists can violate your boundaries by dressing immodestly in front of you. If you object to your narcissist sitting around in his threadbare boxers (or nothing at all), tell him it makes you uncomfortable and that you won’t tolerate it.

7. Making a lot of noise, talking loud, playing loud music, slamming things around to get your attention (my ex was infamous for all these things, especially the loud music).

8. Excessive use of language you disapprove of.

9. Staring at you in a predatory way.

10. Making unreasonable demands (spending money on them, doing favors, running errands for them that go beyond what’s reasonable).

internal_boundaries
Click to make larger.

Emotional/Mental boundary violations:

1. Telling you how you feel or accusing you of feeling or thinking something you do not. Taking your inventory.

2. Gaslighting and triangulating against you.

3. Telling you you have no right to feel the way you do, that it’s wrong, stupid, etc.

4. Insults and namecalling.

5. Grilling you about your activities when you are not with them.

6. Spying on you; stalking you online.

7. Not allowing or making it difficult for you to see your friends, family members, etc.

8. Telling you how you should dress, look, etc.

9. Dismissing or putting down your accomplishments or interests

10. Telling you what you feel is crazy, that you are being over-sensitive, etc. (really a form of gaslighting).

11. Interrupting you or not allowing you to speak.

12. Doing other things while you are trying to talk to them, or continually changing the subject.

13. Lying to you.

14. Trying to make you do something illegal or that goes against your morals.

If your narc does any of these things, be firm and tell them you will NOT tolerate these behaviors. Do not be nice about it. Narcissists can only be handled with tough love, if you can’t disconnect. Do not back down no matter how much they object.

They will react with rage, of course–at first. Without narcissistic supply from you, they will eventually stop being mad and either sulk or leave.

Obviously, leaving or going No Contact is the best thing you can do for yourself, but in some situations this isn’t always possible, especially if there are children involved.

Respect my boundaries!

momanddaughter

My daughter is either a somatic histrionic narcissist (same as my mother) or has borderline personality disorder (BPD) in addition to diagnosed PTSD and bipolar disorder. She would be somatic if she’s got NPD because she’s obsessed with clothes and shopping and she takes more selfies than every Hollywood starlet put together in one room. She’s very attractive and she knows it and has been able to use her looks to get what she wants, at least from males.

But due to her intense mood swings and the fact she does show some empathy and remorse, then she’s also likely to be be a borderline, a related Cluster B disorder which is more common in women than in men (narcissism is more common in men) but has much in common with NPD. Whatever she is, she’s a high maintenance drama queen. I’ve joked with her that she’d be perfect for a reality show like “Bad Girls Club,” but to be honest, I could definitely see someone like her on a show like that!

Of course I love my daughter dearly and enjoy her company too (she can be a lot of fun and easy to talk to, which is why she makes friends easily) but her disorders definitely make her difficult to deal with, especially now that she’s moved back in with me.

She has been home for almost two weeks. Things have been going swimmingly (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and there have been no real problems. I read her the riot act on her return and she agreed to some new rules. She does not appear to be doing drugs and is taking steps to get her life in order, including seeing a therapist this week. I told her if I saw pain pills or any other evidence of hard drugs, there was the door.

But tonight she invaded my boundaries. She had gone to the mall with some friends, and came home in an upbeat mood, which was fine, but my daughter also gets a little obsessive and impatient when she’s excited and happy, and has a bad habit of not respecting my boundaries. I also think she’d had a drink or two.

Because there are only two bedrooms (my roommate has the other one) and I took over Molly’s bedroom when she had moved in with Paul (and I won’t give it up!) she has been having to sleep on the couch in the living room. She’s turned it into a large bedroom and it actually looks nice, if a bit cluttered. I almost never have company anyway, so it’s not like I really need a living room.

But tonight when she got home at about 10:30 she wanted to pull some more of her things from my room (things she never uses and didn’t need tonight). I told her it was late, I have to be up early for work (and to drive her to the DMV) and I needed some alone-time before going to bed. I needed time online too. As an Aspie, she knows if I don’t get my “alone time” I get very cranky and snappish. I do not like my Aspie routine to be interrupted. She knows this well.

But she kept rummaging around in all the drawers and pulled boxes out of the closet, tossed shoes and bags and papers and stray clothes all over the floor, messed up my things in the process, and was making a racket doing so. I must have told her three times or more to please do this tomorrow, but she wouldn’t listen and kept saying “one more minute!” But it wasn’t one more minute, it wasn’t three more minutes or five or twenty: this shit went on for almost an hour. I was ready to scream and pull my hair out.

When she finally finished tearing my room apart looking for her things, she took them into the living room. Then she decided she needed to find a place to plug in her humidifier (she suffers from dry sinuses and mild asthma). She proceeded to start unplugging things from the wall, including the damned router. It took me another twenty minutes to get connected to the Internet again. I actually burst into tears of frustration (the kind of tears I shed more than any other kind–it’s almost impossible for me to cry when I’m sad).

It wasn’t that this was something that couldn’t be fixed easily, but I’d had more than enough. I was so stressed and completely frustrated with my daughter and the chaos she was creating and the boundaries she was violating due to her inability to wait for anything. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

In a near rage, tears streaming, I’m afraid I snapped and told her I wished she never moved back in because she had no respect for my boundaries or anything else. She started to cry, and I told her I was sorry and apologized. She asked me if I really meant what I said and I told her no truthfully. I explained again why I need my quiet time at night and why it was a bad time for her to decide to redecorate. She said she understood…but does she?

Time will tell.