The next hallmark of narcissistic behavior I will focus on (whining and complaining) at first seems to be rather harmless for those involved with them. However, after spending some time with a narcissist, their constant complaints, whining and dissatisfaction can become very exhausting and draining. At the beginning of a relationship, we are often deeply affected by their constant sadness, our hearts go out to them in empathy, and we genuinely want to help them feel better by showering them with our affection. We soon have to accept the painful realization that no matter how hard we try, and how much we invest, nothing ever seems to lighten their mood.
Even if there seems to be no apparent reason for complaining or for being sad and depressed, the narcissist will always find something that darkens his mood. And he will not be content with just being sad, but he will rub his sadness in your face, constantly talk about it and draw you into his negativity. In the end, you will also feel gloomy. As we deeply care about the well-being of the narcissist and want him to feel happy, we are very much affected by his somber mood and the fact that we can’t do anything at all to change it. As long as he is so obviously unhappy, we can’t be happy, because our mood is inextricably linked to his.
In the course of my relationship, I often felt deeply conflicted. Spending time with Mr. Unavailable always made be unbelievably happy and I could have hugged the entire world out of the joy of being with him. He, however, was never genuinely happy, and he seemed to always be plagued by dark thoughts – even when spending time with me. So while I was thankful and glad for being with him, he was always gloomy, in a pensive mood, and very distracted. Realizing his sadness, my mood got darkened as well and I just never could live out my happiness and enjoy it to the full extent. I was convinced that things would get better over time and that maybe I could have a positive influence on his mood. After some time, I had to realize that while his presence had the power to make me unbelievably happy, I didn’t have the same effect on him. This realization was painful and depressing: Why couldn’t he be happy with me when I was so happy with him? It is nerve-racking and agonizing to always be surrounded by negativity, when you yourself could hug the entire world. It makes you feel conflicted and your are forced to realize that your presence is insufficient to make your partner feel carefree and happy.
The narcissist I dated was basically constantly unhappy and distracted, and he always found a reason to complain or to be dramatic. When he got sick, he would describe every single one of his symptoms in detail and whine about how horrible he felt. Even when he only had a cold, he made a huge drama out of it, and you could have gotten the impression that he was on the verge of dying. He constantly complained about having too much work to do and about feeling exhausted. However, he didn’t even work eight hours a day on average (on many days he didn’t have to work at all).
Additionally, he always complained about the “unfair” treatment he received from others. He talked about professors and work colleagues who didn’t appreciate his genius or about other people who spoke down to him. He complained about how mean his sister, his parents and his exgirlfriend treated him. His unhappy childhood was a frequent topic of our conversations and he never got tired of elaborating on the details. On a regular basis I was informed about how his childhood had irreversibly damaged him, how his dramatic relation to his exgirlfriend had negatively affected his capability to trust others and his willingness to date women, and how he was saddened by the many accusations directed at him by his sister. In all of his accounts, he was always the poor victim, being mistreated and misunderstood by others. Once he even told me that he regretted being such a nice guy and worrying so much about other people’s feelings. He pointed out that this tendency to be too considerate of others often made his own life miserable.
He also loved complaining about his “unbearable living situation” and his “meaningless, intellectually not stimulating job”. I lost count of how many times I had to listen to him whining about how unhappy he was. He never got tired of pointing out how his two years of living in Germany have been the most depressing time of his life, how he couldn’t take it much longer, and how much he hated his daily routine. According to him, everything he did was a waste of time and he had accomplished nothing at all. Whenever I talked to him, I was reminded of how low he felt, how his depression affected him so much that he didn’t eat enough and couldn’t sleep, and was losing weight as a result of it.
At the beginning, I was very much affected by his constant sadness and his many gloomy tales. My heart went out to him in sympathy and I felt sorry for the fact that he was apparently so genuinely dissatisfied with his life and his interactions with others. I had the naive hope that maybe I could contribute to a change in his mood, and brighten his outlook. However, I soon had to realize that his sadness and his tendency to talk about depressing and gloomy topics was unchangeable. Even when we were most intimate, and I could have cried out of thankfulness of being with him, I saw a deep sadness in his eyes. He was never able to just enjoy being with me, because he was too distracted, too worried about other things, too sad and depressed about his life.
After some time, this constant sadness is very exhausting and burdensome for those being with the narcissists. There never seems to be a moment of genuine, undistracted happiness. Nothing is easy-going, fun and relaxed. Instead, everything is dramatic, depressing and negative. Everything could be so perfect for us, but we are constantly drawn into their negativity and therefore cannot really enjoy being with them to the full extent. We would give everything for the ability to lighten their mood, but always find ourselves disillusioned by the realization that we don’t have the power to do so. Still we hold on to them, because our hearts go out to them in sympathy, we want to be there for them, we want to show them how much we care. However, our efforts are often not really appreciated and valued – which leads us to feel even more helpless and pushed aside.
In addition to all that drama, we often feel forced to neglect and hide our own feelings. Because the narcissist is always at the center of attention with his tales of woe, we often swallow our own dissatisfaction and end up losing touch with ourselves. Whenever I dared to complain about how low I felt due to the unsatisfying treatment I received from him, he would completely ignore the issue and instead dwell on how low he felt, how unhappy he was, and how everything just went wrong. I had to accept that my feelings were never a matter of interest to him, that they were always ignored and overshadowed by his own deep-seated frustrations.
Being with a narcissist with a tendency to whine and complain can, as a result, be very unhealthy and emotionally exhausting for us. While at the beginning we still hope we can have a positive effect on their well-being, we soon have to come to terms with the painful realization that they don’t have any use for our efforts to make them feel better. They prefer to wallow in their sadness and to present us with never-ending tales of woe. We soon get drawn into their negativity, because as long as they are unhappy, we cannot feel happy. We are conflicted because while being with them makes us feel whole and happy, they don’t seem to draw much pleasure out of being with us. This inability to lighten their mood negatively affects our sense of self-worth and our self-esteem. In addition, we completely lose touch with our own feelings and desires because everything is focused on the narcissist. Once the relationship is over, and we can focus on ourselves again, we realize how liberating it can feel to finally let go of all the negativity.
After my relationship with Mr. Unavailable ended I was devastated, but at the same time strangely relieved: It felt as if a huge cloud of negativity had finally evaporated. I no longer had to rack my brain about the many sources for his constant sadness and dissatisfaction, but could start looking after myself again. I also realized how much the five months of being with him had emotionally exhausted me. I was constantly affected by his negativity, and my futile endeavors to make him feel better have sucked the life out of me. I wish I had found the strength to opt out earlier: I could have saved myself a lot of drama. It might sound cruel, but if you ever find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist with a tendency to tell tales of woe, you should seriously consider opting out. I know it might seem like a tempting and worthwile endeavor to try to make them feel better. But in the end, you will often have accomplished nothing at all, because they have no real use for our sympathy. We often end up feeling exhausted and having wasted tons of energy that we should have spent on ourselves.