Narcissistic Behavior 12: Dictates the Terms of the Relationship

When you are in a relationship with a narcissist there is always this nagging feeling of complete powerlessness, of losing touch with yourself and of having no say at all in what is going on. The reason for all of these feelings can be found in the fact that the narcissists tend to dictate the terms of the relationship, and you silently agree with those terms – often without even being aware that you are the one being chased around, suppressing your own wishes and desires in the process. After a certain amount of time you start feeling tired and dissatisfied without really knowing the source for those feelings, because you do not allow yourself to reflect too deeply on your relationship to the narcissist. You want things to work out so badly that you content yourself with the little breadcrumps they are throwing you and you follow their terms and conditions obediently. This obedience forces you to suppress your own needs and leads to a feeling of loneliness and helplessness. You think that by following their lead you are keeping them satisfied and that soon things will change for the better, that one day your wishes and desires will also matter. As I have already pointed out countless times, those wishes are often in vain, and the increasing awareness of this fact will only increase your helplessness and despair.

Narcissists are particularly prone to have things their way. They want to be the one in power in their interactions with others. They make the decisions within a relationship and withdraw their attention and affection whenever they feel like it. As soon as they feel that you are getting too close, they manage to create a certain amount of distance to stay in power. You have no say at all, but are ordered around and start feeling completely empty and powerless. However, it often never really occurs to you that you are played like a puppet on the string and that you are following the narcissist’s terms and conditions. With their assuring, affectionate and soothing words, they manage to make you feel as if your feelings, wishes and desires greatly mattered to them. You therefore believe that you have an equal say in the relationship and that your wishes would be taken seriously by the narcissists would you ever dare to give a voice to them. After a certain amount of time you may begin to become fully aware of your powerless situation within the relationship. However, out of a fear of losing him and being on your own again, you often still don’t find the strength and conviction to rebel against it and start voicing your own wishes and desires.

From the beginning until the end of my interactions with the narcissist he dictated the terms and conditions. He dediced when to meet, where to meet and for how long he intended to meet with me. I don’t think I ever once proposed a time and date for a meeting. Everything always went according to his schedule, and I just accepted it silently as if it was a sort of written law that he was the dominant person, making all the decisions. I often didn’t even know when I would see him again. Whenever I dared to ask him, I got an unsatisfying answer from him, as he told me that he didn’t really know when he could make time again due to his busy schedule. Sometimes I had to wait for days for him to propose a new date and time for a meeting. It was absolutely nerve-racking and depressing, and sometimes I had the feeling that I was slowly going insane from his tactics of keeping me waiting in the unknown. I so desperately wanted to be with him again and couldn’t stand the fact that I had to wait for days for him to be available. He not only decided when and where to meet, but also often took the liberty to cancel on me last-minute, or the inform me that he would be late.

He was always in complete power and even determined when we would talk on the phone. I never dared to call him spontaneously or to propose a time for a meeting out of a deep fear of being rejected. He called me whenever he felt like it and often even had the nerve to ask me to call him back, so that the phone bill of the phone plan he shared with his exgirlfriend wouldn’t be too high. I was stupid enough to call him back every single time and stoically accepted the fact that my own phone bill was getting higher and higher. The absolute low point of my interaction with him was reached when he sent me home after sleeping with me in a hotel room out of a fear of upsetting his exgirlfriend if he didn’t return back home to her for the night. Of course I felt humiliated and used. I already dedicated an entire blog post to that incident and don’t intent to point out the details again. I just needed to mention it as a prime example for the fact that I was played like a puppet on a string and that things always went according to his wishes, needs and conditions. My feelings were never really considered and my acquiescence was just taken for granted.

During the entire course of our relationship I agreed to his terms and chased after him like a dog. Whenever he proposed a time and date for a meeting – often after being silent for several days – I would immediately jump at the opportunity to see him again. I would make time for him and if necessary cancel the plans I had already made with others. I was so happy to finally be able to be with him again that it never occurred to me to question my own powerlessness. He threw me his little breadcrumps and I just happily accepted them and completely forgot my own value in the course of doing so. I often spent hours on a train just to see him for a very short amount of time. After a few weeks of chasing after him I started feeling tired, exhausted, frustrated and dissatisfied. I was beginning to question my role within the relationship and to realize my powerlessness within it. When I finally dared to voice my feelings, he promised me that things would get different soon and that due to his very busy schedule he didn’t really have time at the moment to see me more often. I wanted to believe him and therefore it never occurred to me that he dictated the terms of the relationship to keep his distance and stay in power.

As you can probably imagine, things never changed for the better. I was never really asked what I wanted or if I was okay with an arranged time and place for a meeting. He just assumed that I was okay with whatever he proposed and I swallowed my doubts and anger. Right until the end of our relatinship he was always the one in power, deciding on every little aspect of our interaction. I had no say at all and silently agreed to his terms and conditions. As a result of my silent consent, I often felt extremely powerless and dissatisfied. On some level I began to realize that my own wishes and desires never really mattered, that I had no say at all, and that I was following him around like a dog on a leash. It took me a very long time to become aware of my own powerlessness, because by feeding me little breadcrumps of affection and attention he convinced me that my feelings mattered to him. Even after I had finally realized that I was completely passive in our relationship, I did nothing to change anything about it. I thought that if I just went on agreeing to his terms and conditions, I would keep him interested and satisfied. I so desperately wanted to be with him that I swallowed my wishes, accepted my powerlessness and debased myself to keep things going.

The whole extent of my silent consent and powerlessness only revealed itself to me after the end of the relationship. Back then I was so busy considering his wishes and his needs and keeping him satisfied that I completely forgot thinking about my own well-being. On some level I always knew that something just wasn’t right, and that I was not getting what I needed. I just never allowed myself to think to deeply about it. A misguided wish to hold on to him made me accept his disrespectful and uncommitted behavior. Now I know that in a healthy relationship no one should be required to debase himself the way that I did to keep things going. I never again want to suppress all my feelings, wishes and desires just to keep a shitty relationship going. If you are with a narcissist with an urge to always be the one in power, you certainly won’t get what you want, and you will end up feeling frustrated, powerless and exhausted. Do yourself a favor and stop holding on to the illusion that things will get better. We deserve to be taken seriously and to have our wishes and desires met.

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18 thoughts on “Narcissistic Behavior 12: Dictates the Terms of the Relationship

  1. Let’s see…even if he didn’t have a girlfriend already, he would have done that to you. It is true, they are very charming when they are getting what they want, but as soon as you want or need something, they make a dramatic scene about how they’re being denied their “rights.” Also, they will keep taking if you give in because it is never really about you.

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    • You are right. It never was about me…not even for a second. It took me until after the relationship to realize it. During the relationship I was too busy chasing after him to become aware of how unreasonable I was behaving. Thank you for your comment. It helps to see that others can confirm what I’m writing through their own views and experiences!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly, you were giving 150% and he was giving you homework assignments. In one experience the N who was “pursuing” me insisted on taking me to a restaurant that specialised in serving food I am fatally allergic to. I told him three times and he kept bringing it up. To him, seeing a person suffer anaphylactic shock was “humorous”. I am not being dramatic. I have the text messages that I had to read over and over again to make sure I wasn’t actually witnessing someone insist I die so he could have his favourite meal. I cut him off the third time I had to bring it up because I thought my life was in danger. He went to grad school twice and was in law school. An educated jackass who thinks he can’t be wrong is the worst danger. People don’t think narcissists are dangerous, but they can do serious damage. So, believe me I understand what you’re writing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oh wow…To be honest I never was aware of the fact that they could actually be a danger to our lives. I just thought they were damaging our emotional well-being. The narc I dated also was in grad school twice…He was very educated…I think you are right. It takes a lot of intelligence to be able to manipulate others the way they do.

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      • Sadly mine was as “intelligent” as a cucumber. He just had lots of degrees. People leaving grad school with no capacity to think is sadly a feature of his country’s education system. Same as your guy’s. The certificates gave him the illusion he had a mind.

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      • You are right…and while we were dating he talked about going to grad school again. I think collecting degrees was like an addiction for him because – as you said – it gave him the illusion of having a mind.

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  2. You have just described the feelings I’ve felt since the time I was with my husband. Feeling powerless and under his control because I thought his thoughts were way superior than mine. Besides my ideas never worked out, but his did. Reading your article just makes me think how will I ever “escape” maybe it’s emotional detachment.

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    • It’s a common problem. We often think that our own thoughts and wishes are inferior and that we therefore need to suppress them. I always had rather low self-esteem…that was why it was so easy for me to accept the pain and my powerlessness. I was convinced that I didn’t deserve any better.

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      • I have low self esteem also due to my upbringing. Its interesting because I ran from my mom to my husband thinking he will make all my problems go away. As a matter of fact, I ran straight from one to another. I feel foolish now in doing it but I feel for me it’s too late because I have young children. I don’t want them to have a broken home and many other factors.

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      • I don’t think it is ever too late to save yourself from a situation that is not healthy. I know that having young children is a decisive factor. But you also have to make sure that your wishes are met, and that you are respected and taken seriously.

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  3. My ex-narcissist openly threatened my life during the danger period between our separation and divorce. My counsellor had also warned me not to be alone with him or to go anywhere with him, especially to a another country with lax police. Those with NPD are very prone to law-breaking of all kinds. They see themselves as above it, and, of course, have difficulty with any kind of authority. Most researchers say that narcissism exists on a continuum from healthy narcissism all the way to psychopathy, so yes, there are those who are “killer narcissists.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds frightening. I think the narcissist I dated was not a killer narcissist but what you called a “healthy narcissist”. I don’t think he would ever have physically hurt me. He only turned me into an emotional wreck.

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  4. Oh my goodness. I can relate to the first two paragraphs you wrote almost entirely. When I was with B, he almost entirely dictated the terms of our relationship. When I asked him for time, he would never really say no, but never really agree to meeting my needs too. When he needed me, I was always ready and available. He even turned his needing me into him satisfying my needs. But when the tables were turned, he often fell short. When I would express my needs, he was full of excuses. It wasn’t until he felt me slipping away that he would step up his game. As soon as I was firmly under his control again, my needs no longer mattered.

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    • It was exactly the same for me in my relationship to the narcissist. Everything is always according to their schedule. They determine how close we are allowed to get. It is absolutely frustrating because our own needs never really matter to them. In the end we feel lonely and neglected and tired of being fed with lame excuses. Thank you very much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I once raised an issue about his “busy schedule”… It was the festive season and for reasons best known to him, he had decided to work all through the holidays, leaving us indoors the whole time. He didn’t have to work, he simply chose to. I picked my words ever so carefully, trying so hard to avoid a fight but needing to get my point across to him… It was the holidays, hadn’t he made any plans for us?

    I should have saved my breath. He had absolutely no interest in hearing what I had to say and instead descended into a black mood, believing I was criticizing him and “making him feel inadequate”.

    Long story short, we went nowhere that Christmas holiday. Not even for a movie! My daughter and I were indoors the whole time while he went to work. His reason? He was doing it “for me”… Working for me? Really, now?
    During the holidays?

    So, yeah… They like to call the shots. Even when the shots make no sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What you wrote sounds so familiar. I had one similar episode with him. He decided to take on an intensive teaching job for four weeks. It wasn’t even that much work to be honest. It included having to teach 6 hours a day, 4 days a week. He didn’t have much else on his schedule. However, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to gain distance. I wouldn’t see him at all within those 4 weeks! I got so extremely frustrated and he just kept on reminding me of how busy he was…So you are right. They like to call the shots and decide how close we are allowed to get. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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