Inflating Your Emotional Airbag for the Narcissist

During the entire time I was interacting with the narcissist he was feeding me with a seemingly endless supply of his sob stories, lies and excuses. Every single time he presented me with one of his countless tales of woe, I inflated my emotional airbag for him. I felt deeply for him, and his sorrows became my own sorrows. Even after he had already disappointed me hundreds of times, I still felt sorry for him and his supposedly tragic life. This compassion made it nearly impossible for me to be angry with him, to show resistance against his inconsiderate and uncommitted way of treating me, and his fondness for creating drama and a feeling of insecurity. I was always too busy trying to ease his pain, showing compassion and feeling miserable for the “complicated situation” he was in that I never really paid attention to the pain he inflicted upon me through his inconsistency, triangulation and ambiguity.

Narcissists are particularly talented at presenting us with sob stories. After having listened to some of them, we are convinced that their life is indeed very tragic, that they have become victims of unlucky circumstances and that they have been dealt some really harsh blows. We also start to believe in their conviction that none of the drama they find themselves in is a result of their faults or flaws. Everything bad that happens to them always seems to be beyond their responsibility. As we are usually very compassionate beings that are deeply affected by the pain of others, we genuinely feel for them. Their pain becomes our pain and we begin to suffer from having to listen to their endless supplies of sob stories. The narcissists can’t seem to lead happy and unburdened lives – and we feel deeply for the bad luck they supposedly have to deal with. As we are so busy trying to absorb their pain, we often forget to be compassionate towards ourselves. We feel so sorry for their pain, that we neglect looking after ourselves, and therefore allow them to emotionally abuse us without showing resistance. More often than not, their sob stories are exaggerated fabrications – something they present us with to create drama, to make themselves seem interesting, to makes us feel compassion towards them and to get us hooked. They know that our hearts go out to those in pain, and they coldly make use of that knowledge. Some of their tales of woe might indeed be true, and they never get tired of wallowing in their pain, pointing out over and over again how miserable their lives are – and they are drawing us down with them.

While I was interacting with the narcissist, I was constantly faced with his pain and unhappiness. It was affecting me to such an enormous extent that I was getting more and more exhausted and completely lost touch with myself. I was so busy racking my brain over his “miserable life situation” that there was no more energy left to think about my own wishes, desires and ambitions. I kept feeling sorry for him, and forgot to look after myself in the process. Whenever we spent time together, he fed me with his never-ending sob stories, and I never stopped feeling compassionate. My heart went out to him when he told me he had always been a loner, spending most of the time alone playing guitar in college. He told me he didn’t have a girlfriend until he reached the age of 23 because he was not attractive back then and because of his strict religious upbringing. He repeatedly told me how messed up his childhood was and that his parents were absolutely unavailable – which had the effect that he was the one who had to bring up his little sister. He complained about the fact that he had always been too worried about other people’s feelings, that he was tired of being the good guy because it often led him to having to do damage control on women hurt from previous relationships with assholes. Listening to his tragic tales I immediately inflated my emotional airbag. I felt deeply for him, I was sorry for his tragic fate, and I was convinced he was a blameless victim. It never would have occured to me that he was one of the assholes he tried to distance himself from.

On a daily basis I was informed how unhappy he was in Germany, how unstimulating his job was, how powerless he felt because he didn’t know any German, how he couldn’t take it any longer. His unhappiness deeply affected me and I tried to show up possibilities for him. I gave him advice on how to get ahead, on how to improve his situation. He never really took my advice seriously. He enjoyed being the miserable victim too much to try to improve his situation. However, even though he never took action to improve his “miserable living situation”, I still felt sorry for him. It never crossed my mind that it was his responsibility to bring about change, and that there were indeed plenty of opportunities to do so. I still thought of him as a blameless victim of very unlucky circumstances and my emotional airbag stayed inflated.

My willingness to show compassion took on such self-sacrificing proportions that I still felt sorry for him after I had become a victim of his manipulation and triangulation. He repeatedly pushed me aside and cancelled on me to keep his exgirlfriend satisfied. He kept telling me about her – he basically shoved her presence in my face. His changing attitude towards her was driving me insane and the fact that she always seemed to have priority over me was breaking my heart. However, even though I was deeply hurt and confused, I still felt sorry for him whenever he complained about how she was turning his life into a mess, and how living with her had become unbearable due to the fact that she was mentally imbalanced. When he finally told her about me, she threatened to throw him out of her apartment. By then I had been turned into a secret for weeks and it was about time that he put an end to all the secrecy. However, I still felt so bad about myself for supposedly putting him in such a difficult situation that I apologized a hundred times for it.

When his exgirlfriend tried to call me for the very first time, I answered the phone because I didn’t know it was her. I talked to her for about an hour and was made very much aware of the fact that the narcissist was feeding both of us with an endless supply of lies. However, instead of being angry because of all the lies and deceit, I was far more worried that I had said things to her on the phone that would get him into trouble. It sounds absolutely insane, but at that time my emotional airbag was so fully inflated that instead of standing up for myself, I was too busy worrying about him. My compassion for him was so endless, that I failed to realize that he was disrespecting me, using me, and manipulating me with his lies, drama and triangulation. I had been repeatedly humiliated and played like a puppet on a string – and still my only concern was for his well-being.

Once he sent me a long email, telling me how he much he suffered due to his exgilfriend. He pointed out that she was harrassing him with tons of hateful text messages and that he couldn’t take it much longer. Only a few days earlier he had again blown me off because of her, and now he was complaining about her hatefulness and malignity. Instead of standing up for myself and telling him that it was his own responsibilty to solve the problem and that he could have moved out of her apartment ages ago, I felt sorry for him. I even offered that he could stay at my place if he liked to. A short time later I again had to realize that he was making a fool of me. Only one day after presenting me with his complaints and after calling her “mentally imbalanced”, he posted very intimate looking pictures of the two of them on Google Plus. When I confronted him about it, he told me he was just trying to make a nice gesture. But why did he have to make nice gestures towards a person who was supposedly turning his life into a mess through her hatefulness and totalitarian wishes? I had answered his complaints with nothing but compassion, and in the end I felt like a fool. Just as it had been the case numerous times before, his sob stories about his exgirlfriend were only meant to secure him of my compassion and to play the role of the blameless victim. I inflated my emotional airbag for him and got slapped in the face for it once more. He played both of us like puppets on a string, and I refused to see it because I was too busy feeling sorry for his “unbearable living situation” and for the fact that his exgirlfriend treated him with nothing but contempt.

It took me a very long time to realize that through my absolute focus on his supposed misery and unhappiness, I was neglecting myself and allowed him to turn me into a fool. I had been let down and disappointed countless times, and I still felt more sorry for him than for me. My unconditional compassion for him led me to take every single one of his sob stories to heart and to believe that he was indeed a blameless victim of unlucky circumstances. I was deeply affected by his somber mood and constant depression and genuinely wanted to make him feel better. However, he was obviously never interested in improving his living situation or his mood. He enjoyed dishing up his tragic sob stories and being the victim too much to take positive action. I can’t find another explanation for the fact that he never even tried to get ahead in Germany, or to move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment. For each and every single one of their problems there is often a relatively easy solution available and it drives you crazy that they don’t seem to be interested in taking the opportunity. We measure them by our own standards, and therefore we can’t really grasp the idea that they are not interested in solving their problems. They want to continue rubbing them in our faces. In the end I nearly lost my mind because of it.

During the entire time I was in a relationship with him I blindly believed that his life was indeed miserable and felt genuinely sorry for him. This absolute compassion makes it nearly impossible to see behind the facade and to realize that he is not the blameless victim, but an emotional abuser – using his sob stories and tragic tales of woe to keep you hooked. The people he claims are turning his life into a mess are more often than not victims of his emotional abuse, ambiguity and inconsistency. They are “hysteric” and “mentally imbalanced” because he made them this way through his shameful behavior. I wish I could have seen all of this while I was still being with him. It is heartbreaking to offer so much genuine compassion to someone who is just playing with your feelings and manipulating you. He never had any use for my affection and consideration and, as a result, all of the energy, dedication and affection invested in him was just wasted. I believed I could have a positive influence on his life and help him get out of his misery. I was gravely mistaken: His sob stories were just one of the tools of his narcissistic manipulation and her never was interested in finding salvation. Being a loving and compassionate person I was an easy prey for him, and had to pay dearly for my naivety and blind self-sacrifice.

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27 thoughts on “Inflating Your Emotional Airbag for the Narcissist

  1. This is an interesting post, and again, you’re spot on. Pain is a very convenient tool for narcissists and emotional blackmail is their trademark. Once I recognise the signs, I usually tune out the chatter and try to get to what they’re doing. Narcissists do the “I’m in pain” thing to avoid responsibility. And please note that your expressions of sympathy are completely wasted. x

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    • You are right. It is absolutely confusing: All they ever do is complain about how miserable they feel. And yet they never do anything to change it and your signs of compassion are never really valued. You nearly go insane because you can’t make sense of their behavior…Thank you so much for your comment. It’s always nice to see that others can relate – not because you have also made painful experiences, but because it is a proof that there is a pattern behind the narc’s behavior. Seeing the pattern makes it easier to deal with it ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Narcissists don’t want to be loved and they don’t value closeness. Often, they are attracted by the grotesque side of life and have no problems exposing you to it. You also can never believe anything they tell you about being lonely and needing love. They’ll reject every offer.

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      • So true…there comes the point where you really don’t know what to believe anymore…You sense that they have been feeding you lies and fabrications and that they are not interested in your love and offers…and still you refuse to let the realization sink in…because it would just be too painful.

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      • I completely avoid them when I see what’s going on and in no time, they’re at it with someone else. This is why they have the stories repeating, the present set of people can’t deal with the continued rejection of their love and acceptance and they need to go out to recruit new believers.

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      • You are right…I lost count on the number of women he dated before me…And at the age of 35 he has never been in a long-term relationship. I should have treated that fact as a red flag…but failed to do so.

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  2. Emotional airbag. That is a term I will use from now on. I feel exactly the same way. We are filled with it, time and time again. Last night my husband was hitting it again and I couldn’t stop it. Except this time I didn’t let it effect me. So hard and he’s far away. I just can’t imagine how I will handle it once he returns.

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    • I’m really sorry to hear that your husband is hitting your “emotional airbag”. I know how humiliating and exhausting it can feel. We are the ones being constantly disrespected, disappointed and taken for granted, and yet we still end up feeling sorry for them…It’s insane and it takes a very long time to become aware of it.

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      • Thanks hugsy. Now that I’m aware of it, I have a tougher time knowing I have to deal with it. Its hard to separate yourself as an individual by the constant “punching.” You’re right, I sometimes do feel insane. But for the sake of my kids, I keep my sanity in check.

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      • Your story reminds me a lot of my mother’s…She was also often taken for granted by my father and still inflated her emotional airbag for him and tried to stay strong for me and my brother. I feel deeply indebted to her for the sacrifices she made for me and my brother…and still a part of me wishes that she wouldn’t have had to sacrifice her own happiness for us. I admire your willingness to stay strong for your kids…and at the same time I feel sad that it means you have to sacrifice so much of your own well-being.

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      • I don’t mind sacrificing for my kids if it means to happiness for them. I’ve been doing it for so long already. I admire your mother too. If she was willing to stay under those conditions that meant she truly loved you guys.

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      • Yes…my mother is a saint. She would sacrifice almost everything for us. She was also the one being incredibly supportive when I was nearly going insane due to being emotionally abused.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ It is actually true. I’m no longer constantly obsessing over what went wrong…I’m no longer constantly thinking about him. I’ve started taking better care of myself. Sure there are still setbacks and days when I feel very low. But there is a steady improvement ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. “The people he claims are turning his life into a mess are more often than not victims of his emotional abuse, ambiguity and inconsistency. They are โ€œhystericโ€ and โ€œmentally imbalancedโ€ because he made them this way through his shameful behavior. I wish I could have seen all of this while I was still being with him. It is heartbreaking to offer so much genuine compassion to someone who is just playing with your feelings and manipulating you. He never had any use for my affection and consideration and, as a result, all of the energy, dedication and affection invested in him was just wasted. I believed I could have a positive influence on his life and help him get out of his misery. I was gravely mistaken: His sob stories were just one of the tools of his narcissistic manipulation and her never was interested in finding salvation. Being a loving and compassionate person I was an easy prey for him, and had to pay dearly for my naivety and blind self-sacrifice”.
    *This* is how every single victim of narcissists feel once the relationship has ended and they’ve been left emotionally shattered. You’ve summed it up clearly in all its banal horror.
    Another great post ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t find the words to tell you how grateful I am for each and every single one of your comments. Your kind and encouraging words always manage to put a smile on my face. Thank you for that!

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  4. As always, spot-on! Interesting how there ALWAYS seems to be an emotionally unstable ex lurking in the wings. An ex who hasn’t “quite moved on” and who may at some point require the narcissist’s attention at your expense and you’re expected to understand that. I did my fair share of inflating the emotional air-bag… Looking back, I can only shake my head in disbelief at some of the things I tolerated and sympathised with.
    I’m so glad we get to share our experiences and learn from them. Hope you’re getting better and feeling more in control of things as time progresses… You certainly sound like you are. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • In my case, his ex wasn’t just “lurking in the wings” but she was like a constant shadow over our relationship, greatly complicating our interactions, turning our meetings into secret missions and making it impossible for him to spend the night at my place. It was humiliating and exhausting to an enormous extent…and i still accepted it, even felt sorry because she put him under pressure…now i just can’t believe I accepted this kind of behavior and allowed him to make me part of all that craziness going on between the two of them. Thank you again! You are right. I’m getting better. However after all that pain and drama had left my life I started feeling increasingly empty…it sounds ridiculous and I’m sad that I feel this way…but it’s also getting better ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • It doesn’t sound ridiculous at all… I feel the same way sometimes. I may have perfectly fine days where I’m relatively at peace with the drama free life then out of the blue I catch myself thinking of my ex in a nostalgic way. I’ve been reading about it and discovered that it’s our mind trying to deal with the withdrawal symptoms of our “addiction” to the narcissist’s drama. Thankfully, like you, it’s been getting better. Hugs โค

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      • That is exactly what it feels like…like trying to overcome an addiction. I guess you are right: getting over the narcissist is like trying to get rid of an addiction. I’m glad to hear you are getting better! Lots of love โค

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