When the relationship begins, you cannot believe your luck that you have so charming, intelligent, handsome/beautiful successful a person who treats you so special. Probably, taken in by all that love and attention and wanting to speed up the process you made the first move and spoke your feelings. Wham! The trap closes around you!! The narcissist was waiting for exactly this. This is the stage instead of responding like normal people in the negative or in the affirmative, they put conditions.
A person who has not dealt with a narcissist will ask ‘what is wrong with this? Are we not being specific about our expectations? It is a good thing to do, isn’t it?’… Yes, putting conditions are not a problem as long as the conditions are specific and each of you get a chance to do it. A condition that says, “My Mom has gone to extreme ends to bring us up and I want a wife who respects her” is perfectly fine. “I am a woman who is interested in career and I will not give that up for anything” is a valid condition.
But are the conditions ambiguous, like atmosphere? vague?? something like, “You must convince me of your love.”, “ You should respect me always”, “As a man, I will always take the lead role and you will always listen to me”, “You see, i am the only daughter and I need pampering.” These are not conditions but blanket traps to be used as blackmail stakes later.
In a country like India where there are arranged marriages, this conditioning process usually happen in the first night itself or in the subsequent honey-moon period. You might innocently reply to an sms sent by a friend or from office and there the conversation may start off like, “You have insulted me, now what will people think of me?” On and on it goes and it only ends with the narcissistic-one-sided-agreements with you.
Once you agree, and you will agree without even realizing that you have not been given the same privileges, so grateful that you have had a chance to be with the best of man/woman, You are done for! Every time you transgress, and the transgression can be anything, can be a step more than him, a smile wider than her, a word uttered in that particular tone, a call received at the wrong time, a pop-corn offered when s/he didn’t want it, a corn cob on the sofa, a sentence that you said, an innocent praising of a friend, Ah, the range and spectrum of your misdemeanors! Bang, You are in the midst of a Narcissistic rage.
Now a word about Narcissistic rage. All of us do get angry for trivial reasons. It is very human to be impulsive. And it is human to get angry for completely wrong and trivial reasons. You might have gotten angry with your mate as well, for the exact reasons mentioned above in the above stanza. Now don’t go about fantasizing that you have a personality disorder or that your partner has it. NO!!! A narcissistic rage is irrational in a whole new way. The conversation will begin like this…
(You find your partner sulking.. and You ask, have I offended you in some way…)
He: Ofcourse, what did you expect for behavior such as yours?
She: Hey, I don’t even know what you are talking about?
He: Yea, we can’t expect people such as you to know the behavior of decent people.
She: but please do tell me my mistake first know… (I am abridging a minimum of two hour conversation along the same veins to get to the mistake….)
He: Why the hell did you cross the road on Arjun’s side instead of walking beside me? You are my girlfriend or his?
She: Oh, seriously i had no such intentions… there was a van behind me and….
He: Oh Don’t you dare raise your voice to me..And how dare you do that I am not going to talk to a woman who dares to talk in such a manner..
She: No I am not disrespecting you in anyway.. I am just trying to exp…
He: don’t raise your hands…
She: Please give me a chance to explain
He: Now you are raising your voice again..
She:(striving to be calm and slowly….) I am not raising voice.. Please give me a chance to explain..
He: You will be given a chance to explain when you know how to behave like a decent woman.
She: (falling silent utterly helpless)
He: yea, thats how careless you are about my feelings. Go on be silent and don’t turn a hair on your head that here is a being who is so damn let down by you!
She: Come on, this is not fair!
He: You are raising your voice again, I am ending the relationship..
She: ( Desperate because she has already invested so much time and energy in the relationship) What is this man, you are talking about ending the relationship without giving me a….
He: You are arguing with me!!
She: But I only want to tell you one thing that I didn’t mean…
He: That’s it, You are insulting me, I don’t want to talk anymore!
She: I am not insulting you, just once listen to me know!
He: You raised your voice again and you again interrupted. I have had enough of your insults. Let’s not talk.
Do you get the picture? The issue with which the anger begins is never the subject of argument. It soon escalates into so many tangles and twisted loops that you hardly have the guile to unwind any of them. You are exhausted by the end and willing to do anything, everything to just get the semblance of normalcy back. And when that is not possible you now have a outburst of all those barely suppressed emotions for so long in that insane conversation and maybe you vented out. And thus begins another drama and God knows when that will end. Many times these dramas might escalate into physical abuse.
And these conversations always, always conclude with a threat to leave the relationship because now you have insulted them and failed your side of the agreement. See, you are about to lose the greatest thing ever to happen to you. Finally when peace returns after endless apologies, you are given such a detailed portrait of the glorious promised land, so unbelievably beautiful, but you are told you haven’t yet earned your way to it. So yes, you have to go through these tests. And you might be stupid enough to fall for this and grovel on your knees to please.
After about a couple of months or still later you are so confused about the whole thing. You do not know anything for sure any more. I mean, here is such a successful charismatic person speaking so emphatically that you are no more sure about what is right and what is wrong and worser still, what is ‘your’’ right. You may want to talk about it to someone. Since you obviously can’t talk with him/her you try to reach out to someone else. All of a sudden you might find that you have no-one on your side to talk to. All your friends and family are cut-off in someway or the other. The only person you can turn to is the people who are either the best friend of the narcissist (There is usually only one or none) who hang around with you, or a family member, who like you goes through the tantrums.
Now these friends and family are usually very sweet and obliging as long as you are in the relationship, but the moment you are cut off, (narcissists inevitably cut-off relationships, its only a question of time…in a country like India, where relationship breaking is not a feather in the cap, they may pretend staying married because it is society’s recognition to them, but the marriage is so alienated physically and emotionally after a point of time) these friends/family turn stone cold. Because, like you their stakes are with the narcissist. So if you expect evidence from them for your torment or to be validated by them in anyway you will not get it. Worse still, when the narcissist comes to know of your little talk, you become the cheat now.
The irony is the narcissist is contemptuous of anyone and everyone beneath that charming self. And he has disregarded and described in vulgar terms all the friends and relatives as those ever jealous people who are just useless fellows to you. Now you sit there in a trance listening to all these fellows talking to you about the bloke in super terms. Talk about homicidal instincts!! You know them don’t you?
You must realize a bit of the dynamics that operate behind such a relationship. You do not exist for the narcissist. You are merely a tool they can use to ascend to a higher level of society, to expand themselves, to feel whole and unique and they will suck your life-force out of you in the process. By the time they are done with you, you are nothing but a empty shell with no opinion, in eternal confusion.
And inevitably these relationships end as soon as it is perceived by the narcissist that you can no more supply their dose through these irrational interactions. By definition, strangely its always the narcissist that leaves the relationship first, inspite of the fact that the victim is the one who has gone through hell in relating with him. The thought of you walking out on him/her is too unbearable for their fragile self-esteem. So it has got to be them and they do it much before the thought could arise in your head.
And once it is cut, that’s when instead of breathing a sigh of relief, you actually begin to suffer more. paradoxical isn’t it? You are like a drug junkie who cannot take on life without your fixes, insanely wanting. Please don’t confuse this feeling with love and start believing this delusion of utter no-hope. This is nothing but a variation of the famous Stockholm syndrome. You can and will get alright if you see these relationships for what they are and muster the courage to laugh at yourself in spite of your losses. Take heart and curb the urge to find validation to your sufferings by endlessly talking about it. Don’t get into hate/depression mode.
The blog has become long enough already and I don’t want to abuse your patience with going on, instead will carry over the thoughts to another blog. Leave a word for me if you identify this kind of relationship with anyone or anyone in your friend and do feel free to share your thoughts, after all it might help someone who might land up here. I have pieced together this snapshot through personal narrations of the various participants in my workshops and been amazed at how closely it resembled the one I had with my ex-fiancee. I would be interested to know if you had any other variations to your experience as well.