One of the many reasons why narcissists can do so much damage to our well-being and sense of self worth is that their behavior is violating almost every maxim of decent human conduct. Prior to meeting a narcissist we often still hold on to the belief that humans are innately good and always try to avoid causing others pain and agony. After all that is one of the rules we try to stick to as good as we can. We tend to measure the narcissists by our own standards of good conduct and therefore – especially at the beginning – we give them the benefit of the doubt. It takes us far too long to realize that narcissists don’t abide by the rules of decent human conduct. They can overstep our boundaries hundreds of times, they can break promises, manipulate us, expose us to drama and break our hearts, and we still try to find the rationale behind their behavior. We never really lose faith in their innate goodness. We rack our brains trying to find an explanation for their disrespect and inconsideration – thinking that they have probably just temporarily gone astray and will soon treat us with the affection, commitment and stability we are looking for.
We refuse to let go of our belief in the innate goodness of humankind. We don’t want to stop measuring them by the standards of what we think constitutes decent behavior. Our refusal to let go and accept their cold indifference for what it is can become very harmful over time. In the end, we are only drawing out the inevitable through our willingness to rationalize their deceit and impudence. When the relationship is finally over we have to deal with the disillusionment that comes with having to say farewell to our belief that people try to avoid causing each other pain and stress. We are finally forced to realize that not all people are interested in being considerate of the feelings of others. I was greatly disillusioned after the end of my relationship with the narcissist. All the time I had been measuring him by the standards of good behavior I had set for myself. I somehow didn’t really believe that he didn’t act according to the same maxims. It took me a long time to realize that I was not capable of making sense of his behavior, because he was not sharing the same values and outlooks.
While I was still in a relationship with him I always gave him the benefit of the doubt and refused to see his distance, inconsistency, unavailability and deceit for what it was. After all, he occasionally showed me clear signs of affection, interest, care and dedication and I was convinced that he wouldn’t bother to do so if he wasn’t genuinely interested. I didn’t get my head around the idea that he wasn’t sticking to the rules of decent human conduct and that his signs of affection might just be part of his mind games and manipulation. Because of my naive belief in the genuiness of his conduct, I allowed the emotional abuse to go on for far too long. I always had nagging feelings of doubt and insecurity, I consistently feared that he might just abandon me. However, I always dispelled my doubts, telling myself that he wouldn’t have bothered doing this or saying that if he just planned on abandoning me. That prospect always seemed too cruel to me to even be a possibility. In the end, when the full scope of his shameful conduct had finally revealed itself to me, I had to pay dearly for my naivety. As my beliefs have been completely shattered, I was deeply disillusioned and had to adjust my views accordingly.
The narcissist I dated gave me reasons to hold on and to feel that there was indeed hope for a future. He spent an entire weekend with me and my family, he had inspiring conversations with my parents and my brother. He told my mother that he wanted her to teach him how to cook and how to knit (no kidding!). He leafed through old photo albums with me and my mother. After the end of the weekend, he hugged my mother goodbye and told her what a sweet lady she was. He not only met my parents but also my friends. He held my hand and kissed me in their presence. He behaved like a proud boyfriend who couldn’t keep his hands off me – a fact that let my best friend to remark that he was clearly “marking his territory”. He told me on several occasions that he cared about my feelings and respected me immensely and therefore wanted to make sure to treat me with the respect and consideration I deserved. He also assured me that he always wanted me to feel protected and to not have to worry about anything at all. He even urged me to stop my anxiety and worries, because he wouldn’t just leave or disregard me like the guy I dated before him did. Through some of his actions he signalled genuine interest and so I thought that I had every reason to hold on, in spite of my many doubts and the fact that I often felt disrespected, pushed aside and neglected. Judging from some of his actions I was convinced that after all he cared about my feelings, and that his signs of affections weren’t just fake. After he had met my family and friends and spent several days at my place, I never would have though that he could just leave without saying another word…
I don’t know if I could ever convey the depth of the disillusionment I felt after he had flown back to the U.S. without contacting me again, without saying another word (not even goodbye) and without giving an explanation for his sudden decision to leave Germany. The pain I felt was so intense that I had trouble breathing and thought that someone had stabbed a giant sword into my heart. I guess, in some sense, one could say that he really made me lose faith in humanity and completely destroyed my innocent belief system. Through his conduct he introduced me to the corruption, deceit and malignity of narcissism. He drew me into his world of lies, cold indifference and manipulation – a world in which you could just leave without saying goodbye, where you could obviously trample all over the people who had shown you nothing but care and affection.
After all, he didn’t just disrespect and damage me, but he also hurt my mother’s feelings. My mother was unbelievably hospitable towards him, did everything in her power to make him feel comfortable and at home, and she really grew to genuinely like him. Through his sudden and wordless departure and his disrespectful conduct he broke her heart as well. Just as it was the case for me, she also had a hard time accepting the fact that nothing about his conduct was genuine and that his signs of interest and affection were not heartfelt. We both had made the mistake of measuring his conduct against the standard of decent human behavior. I spent weeks trying to find an explanation for everything he had done – for all the drama, ambiguity and disappointments, for the triangulation and manipulation. In the end I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t figure him out because we were not playing by the same rules. Disrespect and cold indifference were not part of my innocent world view and consequently I found it hard to evaluate his behavior.
By now I have finally learned that there is no use in trying to find an explanation for the narcissist’s behavior. If we desperately cling to them, hoping that they will eventually follow the rules of decent behavior, we are only drawing out the inevitable. The only thing we as victims of narcissistic abuse can do is learn to deal with the disillusionment and try to get past it. We will never find satisfying answers, and investing our energy and time to figure them out will get us nowhere. There is nothing wrong with us; it is not because we are full of flaws and not worthy of love that they can just abandon us without showing consideration for our feelings. Some people just can’t behave in a decent way and they have no use for our love and consideration. They don’t know or care about what they are doing to the feelings of others. We have to accept it and no longer try to measure them by our standards or apply our rules of decent behavior to them. Instead we should try to come to terms with the lesson they taught us: Not every person is considerate and honest. There are people who show no respect and can’t value or handle genuine affection and care. It is not our fault that they can’t. Instead of trying to find the rationale behind their behavior, we should feel sorry for them. At least we have the chance to eventually work past the disillusionment they left us with. The narcissists will, however, always have a hard time reciprocating love and settling down in a healthy, committed relationship.