Being involved with a narcissist on a closer level inevitably changes you. You not only change your daily routines for them, but also adjust your morals, views and behavior – a necessary measure in order to be able to live with their deceit and manipulations. In addition to that, you tend to become easily irritable, depressed and not much fun to be around. Your willingness to change in order to please the narcissist and survive in a narcissistic relationship can reach worrying levels. After a certain amount of time, you begin to feel as if you are slowly losing touch with yourself. However, since you are usually so busy with catering to the narcissist’s needs and dancing to their pipes, you don’t spend too many thoughts on your own well-being. You might be aware of the fact that you are changing and that you are no longer your old self. However, you don’t really pay much attention to it. All of our attention is focused on figuring out the narcissist’s ambiguity and on trying to make them act with more consideration and commitment towards us. Our own wishes, desires and ambitions are turned into concerns of secondary importance next to our unconditional dedication to the narcissist.
When I started dating the narcissist, I almost immediately turned into a completely different person. Before meeting him, I was doing fine. Sure, I have always been a people pleaser and my lack of self-confidence has repeatedly caused me to be very insecure in my interactions with others. However, no one has ever exploited my tendency to be self-sacrificing to the same extent as the narcissist did. In my interactions with him I felt like a leaf being blown around by winds: I completely adjusted to his schedule. I changed my daily routines, my morals and behavior in order to keep him satisfied and to be able to survive in a narcissistic relationship. In the back of my mind, there was always the nagging thought that I was completely losing touch with myself and that I was throwing all my core values and beliefs overboard. However, I was usually too busy making sense of his behavior and dancing to his pipe to really take those thoughts seriously enough. I was apparently fine with losing touch with myself, as long as it enabled me to stay with the narcissist. I made the ultimate sacrifice: I willingly threw away my integrity and emotional well-being, in order to be able to hold on to an unhealthy and damaging relationship.
First of all, when you are dating a narcissist you often have to change your daily life, your routines and schedule in order to adjust to their needs – because the narcissist sure as hell won’t adapt or pay attention to your needs. If you want things to work out, you have to be the one making the sacrifices, being flexible and changing your plans to meet his schedule. As all of our energy and brain capacity is usually focused on them, we tend to neglect all the other areas of our daily lives: We cancel dates that we had arranged with friends and we neglect our hobbies, because we want to be constantly available in case the narcissist suddenly communicates a desire to see us. More often than not, they don’t, and we cancelled our plans in vain. It starts to get frustrating and heartbreaking very soon, but still we are often unwilling to adapt our behavior in order to shield us from further pain. We spent a lot of time sitting in front of the phone, waiting for a call or a tiny message – and turn into frustrated, irritated beings in the process. While I dated the narcissist I adjusted my entire schedule to his needs. I neglected my friends, I didn’t go to my sports courses anymore, because I jumped at every opportunity to see him. Of course I was often the one having to do all the travelling, spending hours on trains just to see him for a short time. My mind was so constantly occupied with making sense of him and obsessing about his ambiguous behavior that he started to define my entire life. Everything was always about him, he was constantly on my mind and the thoughts of his unavailability and distance were keeping me busy. In short, I was completely losing touch with myself, as I was turning him into the center of my world, changing my ways to adjust to his will and schedule, doing everything it took to make things work.
However, far worse than changing your schedule and your daily routines is the fact that you also tend to change your morals, views and behavior. In order to be able to hold on and survive in a narcissistic relationship, you begin to accept things that would have seemed unimaginable to the sane mind you had still possessed prior to being with the narcissist. I’m still amazed at the extent to which I was willing to adapt my values in order to be able to stay in a relationship with a dishonest and manipulative man. I submissively accepted the shady treatment received at his hands and repeatedly downplayed his ambiguous and shameful actions. I would never have imagined that I would agree to following a guy to a hotel room in order to have sex, and then to allow him to send me back home after he got what he wanted. As it turned out, I was prepared to go to that hotel – only feeling slightly uncomfortable – and was able to swallow my frustration over the fact that he sent me back home pretty easily. I still can’t believe that I was willing to bend my morals to such an enormous extent. I’m ashamed that he made me lose my integrity and that he brought me to do things I never thought I was capable of. You might feel assured of your values and beliefs. However, the narcissist is still able to make you change them in order to adjust to his shadiness and unavailability.
I always considered lies and deceit to be absolute deal breakers. However, being with the narcissist I slowly learned to live with deceit, and I even allowed him to draw me into his world made of lies. When I realized that he was lying both to me and his exgirlfriend I was outraged and felt humiliated. Yet, I was again able to live with it after only a short amount of time. I somehow came to the conclusion that in order to be able to stay with him, I had to learn to come to terms with the lies. I not only accepted it and tried to live with it, but I was also turned into a liar myself. When I talked to his exgirlfriend on the phone, I tried to evade her questions and didn’t stick to the truth. I so desperately wanted to avoid getting the narcissist into trouble that I hid the truth from her. I knew that telling her the truth would have made her freak out and possibly throw him out of her apartment. To save his skin I was throwing my scruples overboard and served her with lies. I felt like shit, but didn’t know how else to solve the problem. I never chose to be drawn into their interactions with one another and to become a part of the unsolved conflicts between them. With his penchant for triangulation, the narcissist drew me into their craziness, and I lacked the resolve and integrity to withdraw.
Apart from adjusting your daily routines to their needs and bending your morals and core values, you also change because the narcissist’s behavior turns you into an easily irritable, depressed and frustrated mess. As an effect of enduring their ambiguity and of being repeatedly dealt with harsh blows, we are no longer our old, happy selves and annoy others with our gloominess. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that our frustration begins to show after we have been hurt and humiliated repeatedly. Narcissists suck all joy out of our lives and everything around us suddenly causes us to either get sad or irritated. I was always on edge and on the verge of crying while I was dating the narcissist. My best friend got an earful whenever we met. And even though she didn’t really show it, I know that I wasn’t much fun to be around at the time. I’m still thankful for the patience and understanding both my best friend and my family extended towards me. My constant sadness and gloominess was making me very aware of the fact that being with the narcissist was enormously damaging to my emotional balance. Yet, even though I was aware of how miserable he was making me with his unavailability and ambiguity, I still held on to him, because I was too afraid of being lonely again.
However, narcissists not only make us change for the worse, but after the end of the relationship we often find the strength to change our lives for the better. Because they have left us broken and shattered, we feel the need to completely reassess our attitude towards relationships and ourselves. We are so paralysed by pain and exhaustion that we realize we need to change in order to never feel that way ever again. While I was with the narcissist, I definitely changed for the worse. But now, looking at everything in retrospect, I can say that all in all, being with the narcissist made me change for the better. The pain he caused me and my willingness to accept his shadiness were eye-opening and made me question myself. I started trying out new activities in order to distract myself from the heartbreak: I’m now taking yoga classes and I generally try to be good to myself and to be optimistic about life. Sure, there are still setbacks. But I’m thankful that the pain of being with a narcissist forced me to reassess my attitudes and my willingness to sacrifice. I guess it is true: being thrown to the ground often makes you re-emerge as a stronger and better person. So instead of just being frustrated and sad about what happened to me, I’ve also learned to appreciate the opportunity for personal growth offered to me by going through emotional abuse.