Getting Hooked on the Drama Created by The Narcissist

As I have already pointed out numerous times in my earlier posts, when you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are not quite yourself anymore. You are engulfed by their drama and mind games to such an extent, that you lose touch with yourself and end up turning the narcissist into the center of your world. Your complete fixation on the narcissist often has the effect that you lose your capacity to think rationally, to question your behavior, to protect your boundaries from being overstepped and from saving your emotional well-being from completely going down the drain. The drama that is so readily provided by the narcissist is swallowing us and demanding all of our energy – with the result that we have difficulties functioning in all other areas of our daily lives. We neglect our tasks and find it hard to focus on our work or studies, because we are completely absorbed by their drama.

This constant exposure to drama, ambiguity and deceit can have two very contradictory effects on us. On the one hand, we are slowly but surely growing tired and exhausted of it. We desperately want things to finally be easy, relaxed, less straining and depressing. We would give so much for the narcissist to end his constant unavailability, distance, inconsistency and triangulation. We belief that if they could let go of all of these troublesome modes of behavior, things could finally be the way we want them to be. However – shocking and irrational as it may sound – we also somehow learn to get used to the drama. Our willingness to endure the drama provided by the narcissist can even lead us to get hooked on it. We actually learn to love the drama and accept it as a fixed component of our relationship with the narcissist. We sometimes even reach the point where we can no longer imagine being with him without having to deal with constant drama and heartbreak.

This contradictory frame of mind can be very confusing and damaging. On the one hand, we are sick and tired of their manipulation and ambiguity. On the other hand, we are hooked on the excitement and emotional rollercoaster that accompanies their inconsistency. Our willingness to endure and absorb the drama provided by the narcissist, leads us to question our own sanity. We can’t find the rationale behind our repeated decision to hold on to them in spite of the fact that everything they ever do is causing us nagging feelings of insecurity, agony and disappointment. We can’t really admit to us that we have likely become addicted to their drama and the accompanying excitement, because it completely contradicts human rationality. The bitter truth, however, is that we have been so consistently fed with deceit, ambiguity and drama that he have grown to live with it – even to appreciate it. I still don’t know why we are doing this to us: Is it a survival strategy? Is it a welcome opportunity to punish ourselves for our supposed inadequacy? Is it because our daily lives provide so little excitement that we readily leap at their drama and allow it to become part of our being?

The only thing I know is that I could have surrendered and saved myself on countless different opportunities, but every single time I decided to hold on and submissively endure more of the blows he dealt to my self-esteem on an almost daily basis. I could have told him that I’d finally had enough and that I couldn’t take any more of his drama and deceit. However, I never followed through with it and instead increasingly lost touch with myself and sacrificed my emotional balance. I was on the brink of letting go several times; I tried to break contact with him on several occasions. After a few days, I always quit the endeavor, because on some level I missed the excitement that came from being with him. I was convinced that it was better to endure his drama with patience and endurance than to be on my own again, with no one but myself to deal with. I’ve always had a hard time being lonely, and therefore couldn’t find the strength and resolution to let go and save what was left of my emotional well-being and strength.

I didn’t only accept the drama passively and stoically, but sometimes I even helped to create it and to keep it going – or at least I didn’t try to end it when I could have well done so. When his exgirlfriend harrassed me with her countless attempts to call me and tons of text messages, I could have just blocked her number and saved myself a lot of unnecessary torment and pain. However, on some level, I was too curious, to unwilling to just put an end to the drama. It almost seemed as if I was hooked on the agony and hurt that I derived from reading her messages. The first time she tried to call me I even answered the phone (because I didn’t know her number back then), and instead of just hanging up, I listened to what she had to say for more than an hour. After that phone conversation, I felt so confused, hurt and shocked that it was almost impossible to bear. I learned, during that conversation, that I had become the target of so many lies. Besides, I have been confronted with the sick accusations that the narcissist and his exgirlfriend were throwing their ways on a daily basis. It was heart-wrenching and disgusting. However, instead of hanging up the phone so that I wouldn’t have had to listen to all that bullshit, I talked to her and let the pain paralyze me.

On some level, the pain and drama seemed to make me feel alive and provided my life with excitement – something that had admittedly been partly missing from it before I met the narcissist. I was in a deeply confused state while being in that relationship. On the one hand I was despaired and on the brink of a mental breakdown, because nothing was ever easy or going according to plan. Everything was somehow disappointing and dramatic – and it was slowly sucking the life out of me. However, after I had finally realized that all I would ever get from him was drama, pain, and inconsistency, I learned to accept and live with it. The realization that things would likely never be easy, that he would probably break my heart in the end, didn’t keep me from still chasing after him. I was convinced that getting drama was better than getting nothing at all and than returning to the eventless and monotonous life I lead prior to meeting the narcissist. In the end, I had not only gotten used to the drama, but I had also grown to appreciate it and the excitement that was stemming from it.

So I guess one conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that I was certainly complicit in my own emotional abuse. I could have walked away a thousand times and told him I had enough of his shady ways. However, out of a deep fear of being alone, and because I had grown used to drama and pain, I allowed him to trample all over me again and again. Looking at my behavior in retrospect, I can – as usual – only shake my head in disbelief. I’m shocked that my desire for excitement and diversion let me to accept to be disrespected and taken for granted. But, I’m not really willing to accept all the blame for what had happened to me. Sure, my codependency was an important factor, as it made me the perfect target for submitting to his drama. However, narcissists are particularly talented at emotionally manipulating us in such a way that we keep going in spite of having lost almost all of our hopes that things might get better.

As usual, there is a positive lesson that I have learned from what had happened to me. I now know that there are both positive and negative kinds of excitement – and that the excitement we receive from being with a narcissist almost exclusively belongs into the negative category. The excitement derived from being in an inconsistent and unhealthy relationship will never add any value to our lives. We might think we can’t live without it, and that our lives are monotonous without the drama provided by the narcissist. However, in our misguided endeavor to submissively endure whatever they are throwing our ways, we often don’t realize that we are doing enormous damage to our emotional well-being and that we are losing touch with ourselves. I’m glad that I’ve finally learned that I alone am responsible for providing my life with excitement and purpose. I never again want to feel so deprived of diversion and excitement that I so willingly allow someone else to hurt me and fill my life with misery and pain.

Advertisements

The Codependent’s Constant Urge to Apologize

While I was in a relationship with the narcissist, my ability to assess my behavior rationally was greatly impaired. Looking in retrospect at some of the things I did while being with him, I can often only shake my head in complete disbelief and horror. However, while I was still being with him, I didn’t waste many thoughts on my complete defenselessness and blind deference. I did whatever it seemed to take to keep the relationship going, and it never really occurred to me that I was completely debasing myself and allowing him to overstep almost every boundary of decent behavior. It was like being on a drug. I was addicted to him, to getting his attention and his little breadcrumps of affection. Nothing else seemed to matter to me anymore. My entire being revolved around him, almost every single one of my thoughts was dedicated to him, and whenever I sensed his distance and detachment I felt as if I was dying inside. This addiction, of course, impaired my ability to think rationally and to question my behavior. I was so fixated on him and his inconsistent and ambigous way of treating me that there was no more energy and brain capacity left to question my motives, my desires and my deep unhappiness.

One of the consequences of my love addiction and my desire to keep things going was a highly developed tendency to apologize for almost everything I did. Even when there was no reason at all for me to actually be sorry, I apologized over and over again. It seemed to be the most natural thing for me to do when things didn’t go well and a conflict was on its way of developing. As a result, I went through my days, constantly feeling sorry and submissively accepting the blame for everything. I basically apologized for wanting the most basic and common things – such as for example being treated with the bare minimum of respect and consideration. I felt like I was asking for too much, when in fact I often only asked for what should have been an essential part of every human interaction. Of course this had a very negative effect on my self-esteem. If you are constantly feeling sorry, and are convinced of your own guilt, even though you didn’t really do anything wrong, it can make you slowly lose your mind. You have subconsciously accepted the fact that the relationship can only keep going if you take responsibility for everything that is going wrong; because sure as hell the narcissist won’t accept any blame or feel sorry for the ambiguous and inconsiderate way in which he is treating you.

I could list numerous instances in my relationship with the narcissist when I was feeling sorry and accepted the blame, even though I was the one being mistreated and neglected. He often promised he would call me later and then didn’t follow through with it. He once promised me – while he was gone for the weekend to visit his sister – that we would Skype the following day. Of course I didn’t hear from him all day and he didn’t even apologize for not keeping his promise. As it was not the first time he didn’t match his words with actions, I sent him an email in which I (calmly!) complained about feeling pushed aside. I told him he could at least have informed me about not being able to talk to me on Skype. I got a very defensive email in which I was accused of overreacting and of causing him stress. And what did I do? I completely accepted the blame and apologized, even though my accusations were completely valid. Of course he would go on not following through with his promises until the end of the relationship. I allowed him to push me aside and keep his distance, and he learned that he could treat me with inconsideration and get away with it.

He kept our relationship a secret from his exgirlfriend for a very long time to keep her from freaking out (as he told me). Of course, I was not satisfied with being kept a secret and I told him it would be the better solution for everyone if he would just be honest. When he finally told her, she apparently completely lost her mind and threatened to throw him out of her apartment. I felt extremely sorry for what happened and apologized to him. There was no reason at all for me to feel sorry, as the conflict was completely theirs to solve and I didn’t have to carry any blame for what was going on between them. Still I accepted the blame for the trouble he was in and felt very bad about myself for seemingly bringing him into that situation.

I once dared to send him an email in which I gave voice to my deep dissatisfaction. I told him I could no longer bear to be treated with ambiguity and that I had the nagging feeling he was not being honest with me. I got an angry and defensive reply in which he told me that my email had not been appreciated and that it was unfair and evil of me to accuse him of dishonesty. He also told me I should leave his exgirlfriend alone and not try to cause her stress by contacting her. I never once tried to contact her. I wanted to completely avoid her, while she was the one harrassing me with calls and text messages (which I mostly ignored). I felt completely helpless, angry, misunderstood, hurt and confused, but I somehow managed to swallow all of those feelings. Instead of telling him to go to hell (what I should have done!), I apologized submissively and nearly begged for his forgiveness. I assured him I was ashamed of my behavior and that he was right. As had been the case before, all of my accusations were valid. After the ambiguous and inconsistent treatment I had received from him on a daily basis, it was only natural for me to give voice to my frustration and sadness. He was, however, unwilling to accept any blame and in my desire to keep things going I apologized and accepted the blame for everything. I was completely losing touch with myself, debasing myself, and stoically accepting his neglect and disrespect, because it was the only way to not lose him. I soon began to realize that he would likely never take responsibility for his faults and that I just had to forget about them, if I wanted the relationship to continue.

I found myself constantly apologizing and feeling sorry for things I shouldn’t have felt sorry for. Sometimes I felt genuinely sorry, at other times being sorry was just a way for me to avoid conflict and to keep him from getting angry. On some level, I sensed that I submissively felt apologetic for just giving voice to completely valid feelings and desires. Whenever I had mustered enough strength to finally stand up for myself, I immediately felt sorry afterwards. Being faced with an angry and defensive reaction, i caved in and turned back to being silent and submissive. A huge heap of dissatisfaction and frustration was building up inside me, because I sensed that I was not the one to blame and that I was debasing myself by being sorry for things I shouldn’t be sorry for,

My codependency and love addiction, as well as his unjustified anger and unwillingness to accept blame, always made me feel apologetic. Being sorry was my way to solve conflicts as fast as possible, because I knew he would be unwilling to solve them. I learned to accept that he would never be prepared to change his behavior due to my frustration and anger. His only answer to every single one of my complaints was getting defensive and providing me with lame excuses. He would often respond by saying things like “What do you want from me?” or “What am I supposed to do about it?”. He was always the blameless victim and I went along with it, thinking that it was wrong of me to bother him with my anxtities and needs. I basically learned to accept that I was not allowed to have any hopes or expectations. Whenever I allowed myself to give voice to them he got distant and defensive and I apologized for daring to stand up for myself.

Being in a codependent relationship with a narcissist can therefore be enormously damaging to your emotional well-being. In order to keep the relationship going and avoid conflict, we often too readily apologize and accept blame for asserting our most basic needs. After having been with the narcissist for a certain amount of time we learn to live with the fact that he will never take responsibility for his shady behavior and ambiguous way of treating us, and that he will never be the one to solve a problem by accepting the blame and changing his ways. The only solution left to us is keeping quiet, swallowing our anger and frustration and accepting the blame for what is going wrong ourselves. In the end, our sense of self worth is completely shattered, because we are constantly being submissive and feeling sorry, even though we did nothing wrong.

Narcissists are extremely talented when it comes to shifting blame to others. After a certain amount of time we are deeply conflicted and confused. We sense that we are not treated rightly and that there is really no reason to constantly be sorry, but still we readily accept blame to hold on to an unhealthy relationship. Our submissiveness is not only damaging our sense of self worth but also allows the narcissist to go on treating us with neglect – because he knows he can get away with it and even get us to apologize for everything that is going wrong. Being with a narcissist is therefore emotionally crippling. They are not empowering us, but they are keeping us down and allow us to debase ourselves for them.

For me, the tendency to accept blame was particularly developed, because I have always been a so-called people pleaser. I can’t bear it when people are being angry with me. I can’t stand my ground in a conflict and I often end up apologizing to appease others. This character trait obviously makes me the perfect bait for narcissists: They can disrespect me all they want and for as long as they like. I will probably not find the strength and courage to stand up for myself. Additionally, my self-esteem has always been rather low, and therefore I am more likely to believe and accept that I am actually the one who is wrong, and that the narcissist is right in shifting all the blame to me. Being with the narcissist was an eye-opening experience for me. I have finally managed to discern those behavioral patterns in me and can begin to work on them. I no longer want to submissively accept blame for asserting my basic needs just to keep a shitty relationship going. It’s one of the most emotionally crippling experiences ever to be treated with disrespect and still be convinced that you are the one to blame. I don’t want to feel that way ever again.

Narcissistic Behavior 14: Detachment

One of the characteristics of narcissistic behavior that can be emotionally damaging to an enormous extent for those involved with them is their detachment. Narcissists don’t seem to be able to feel with the same depth and purity than we do. Being with them, there is always the nagging feeling that we seem to be far more dedicated to the relationship and emotionally attached to the narcissists than they are to us. We are racking our brains about why it is that they can be so distanced and show so little involvement, while we are giving them all we have to give and often love them with all our hearts. It is pure agony to have to realize that the person you so ardently love and for whom you would do almost everything, is not nearly as emotionally involved and likely doesn’t share your feelings – at least not nearly to the same extent. To shield us from the pain that comes with this realization we often push it aside, cling to the little breadcrumps of affection they are throwing us and completely deny their lack of involvement. Our denial, however, does not solve the problem. Because we are unwilling to accept that they are not nearly as attached as we are, we are disappointed over and over again – whenever their lack of attachment becomes evident once more.

Even after having been disappointed numerous times, we still hold on to them. It would be unbearable for us to admit the evidence for the fact that they don’t really show any signs of a deep emotional attachment to us. We cling to the memory of those moments in which they showed us little signs of their supposed affection and think that if we only hang on, be patient and enduring, things will get better. We fool ourselves by holding on to the conviction that they might be emotionally attached to the same extent as we are, but they are just unwilling to show it. In our belief that some people are just unable and unwilling to show the real depth of their feelings, we deny all the facts that support their detachment and carelessness. We go on denying until we reach the point where their detachment becomes so obvious that even we can’t manage to turn a blind eye to it. By then we often have already invested so much into the relatioship – so much dedication, heartbreak, patience, understanding and energy – that we can’t stand the thought of just letting go. Consequently, in spite of clear evidence for their emotional detachment and lack of involvement, we still can’t let go of them. We hold on and debase ourselves in a misguided belief that our love for them can do miracles, and that if we just give them enough time, they will gradually learn to be as emotionally involved as we are.

Clinging to someone with all your strength, who doesn’t really have any use for our feelings and doesn’t know in the least how to return them is a crippling and heartbreaking experience. I held on tightly to someone for months, who clearly wasn’t nearly as emotionally attached as I was. For me, he became the center of my existence. He would always be my first thought in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, call him whenever I had a spare minute. In short, I felt for him with all my heart and was dedicated to a point where I was beginning to sacrifice my own well-being. In the beginning, it never even occurred to me that I might be investing much more into the relationship than he was. It never crossed my mind that I might not be his first thought in the morning, that his heart was not really in it, and that while I was giving all I had, he was only prepared to give whatever it took to keep me going.

After a certain amount of time, I began to sense his detachment and I slowly became aware of the fact that while I was prepared to sacrifice almost everything for him, he was always keeping a certain distance. On some level, I knew that I couldn’t be sure that he even had deep feelings for me. However, this realization was so painful that I kept pushing it aside. I tried to ignore all of the signs of his lack of emotional involvement and instead clung to the little breadcrumps of affection I received once in a while. My unwillingness to accept his distance led me to endure a lot of shady and ambiguous behavior patiently and with endurance. I somehow learned to live with the fact that while I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, he seemed to be okay with seeing me about once a week. I also somehow came to terms with not being able to talk with him on the phone as often as I would have liked to. Whenever I received a message or a call from him it was really special for me. I would read his text messages and emails over and over again, because they were often everything I had to keep me going. They kept me in the illusion that on a deeper level he felt just as stongly for me, as I did for him, and that he was just unable to show it.

When I once complained about seeing him so seldomly, he only told me that he would also love to see me more often, but just didn’t have the time. I then told him that I had the nagging feeling that I seemed to care much more about seeing him than he did about seeing me. He denied it and just coldly stated that he had learned to live with shitty situations and therefore wasn’t so affected by not being able to see me that often. I once wrote him an email in which I complained about his lack of dedication. He accused me of being clingy and of overreacting. I accepted his explanations, lies and exuses over and over again. However, during the entire relationship I always sensed his emotional detachment as I got enough evidence for it on a daily basis, and just couldn’t deny all of it without taking a certain amount of damage. As a result, I was never really happy with him. On a deeper level I was aware that I was a 100% dedicated to him and loved him with all my heart, while I didn’t really get much in return. At times I was angry with myself for being so weak and for allowing myself to care so much and to love so ardently, when he apparently didn’t know how to reciprocate those feelings. I sensed that I would eventually get my heart broken, and still didn’t manage to let go and save myself.

My sadness and despair increased gradually, and it took me months to finally reach the point where I could no longer turn a blind eye to what was going on. I had an eye-opening epiphany while I was on a short trip with my best friend to Hamburg. We had a great time together and made so many fun experiences. One evening, when I lay in the hotel bed, I had the deep wish to call him and tell him about everything I had experienced. It would have been the most natural thing to do. It was another proof of the depth and intensity of my feelings for him: He was the one I so desperately wanted to talk to to share my experiences, because he was the one I cared about the most. However, I nearly choked on the realization that I would somehow not dare to call him and that during our relationship I never dared to just call him spontaneously. He had managed to keep his distance so well that I never dared to approach him. He was always the one approaching me and I had just accepted it without even giving it a second thought. On that night in Hamburg, painful realizations were nearly crushing me. It had finally become so very evident to me how distant we had always been to each other and that what we had was not even a real dedicated relationship. All of a sudden, I knew that I could not and would never be able to rely on him for emotional support. I understood that he would never be willing to give me what I needed: dedication, affection, honesty and consideration. The signs had been there right from the beginning and it took me several months to finally realize that he was detached and distanced and unable to appreciate and reciprocate my deep, loving feelings for him. While I had loved him unconditionally and with all my heart, he always managed to keep his distane and deny me the emotional support that I needed.

Being with a narcissist will more often than not leave you feeling empty, lonely, shattered and on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Our relationships with them are almost always one-sided, as they are unable and unwilling to feel with the same depth and dedication as we do. We tend to invest all we have in them and love them to an extent where we sacrifice our own wishes, needs and ambitions. Their detachment often is very evident, but we somehow manage to turn a blind eye to it, in order to shield us from pain. However, on a deeper level we are often very much aware of their lack of commitment, and it keeps us from feeling satisfied and happy. Having to accept their lack of emotional involvement is heart-breaking. How can it be that while we love them so ardently, and bear everything with patience and endurance, they are unwilling to reciprocate those feelings? We rack our brains in order to find an answer. We are convinced that we are the source of the problem, as we are just not deserving of real love and dedication. It would never occur to us that we are in a relationship with a narcissist who doesn’t have any use for our love. In a relationship with a narcissist you will never get what you want. Whenever you get too attached, they somehow manage to keep their distance. They cannot give you the stability, commitment and emotional involvement of a real relationship. We should therefore always try to face the facts – no matter how painful they are – instead of living in denial. We can try as hard as we want to, but we will never be able to turn them into the loving and dedicated partners that we are looking for. Having to beg for love and attention clearly doesn’t do us any good and it is a waste of time and energy. We should never debase ourselves and dwell in agony for a relationship with someone who doesn’t know how to value our feelings and how lucky he is to be the one our affections are directed at.

Narcissistic Behavior 13: Monopolizes Conversations

Narcissists not only tend to make all the decisions in their relationships to others, but they also monopolize every conversation and turn you into a silent listener. They never seem to get tired to talk about their achievements, their problems, their life story, their jobs, and they don’t really seem to be that interested in anything we might have to contribute to the conversation. While we might, at the beginning, still try to participate actively in our conversations with the narcissists, we soon begin to abandon the attempts and accept our roles as silent listeners, nodding along smiling to whatever they have to say. The narcissists’ tendency to be the dominant part in every conversation might seem like a harmless little quirk – especially when compared to such harmful modes of behavior as their deceitfulness, inconsistency, triangulation and manipulation. However, after a certain amount of time, being degraded to silent listener can also take its toll on us. We get used to swallow our own contributions and begin to feel that we have nothing important to say. We might even end up feeling neglected and losing touch with ourselves as a consequence of not being taken seriously.

Some might argue that we are partly to blame if we allow others to be so dominant, because we apparently just don’t try hard enough to bring ourselves into the conversations. This might partly be true for some of us. Especially codependent people and people pleasers accept their role as passive listeners without much resistance. We usually have low self-esteem and as a consequence tend to believe that what we have to say is not as important, interesting or relevant. Furthermore, out of a deep wish of being polite and of pleasing the narcissists, we don’t dare to interrupt their never-ending flow to bring in our own thoughts. We are convinced that whatever they have to say is much more interesting than anything we could contribute to the conversation. We also soon come to the conclusion that it makes the narcissists really happy to talk about themselves and to have found such patient listeners in us. Because we want the narcissists to be satisfied, we stoically accept the role given to us and maybe cling to the faint hope that one day they will run out of topics and then our turn will come. As is the case with so many hopes we nourish with regard to the narcissists, we at one point have to let go of them. I have come to realize that narcissists never run out of topics and never get tired of talking about themselves. Our turn will likely never come.

The narcissist I dated monopolized almost every conversation we ever had (apart maybe from the ones on our first date). It would be unfair to suggest that all he ever talked about was himself, as he could indeed also talk very enthusiastically about a bunch of other topics. However, he clearly enjoyed presenting his life story over and over again. During the few months the two of us dated, I learned a lot about his unhappy childhood, his job, his college years, his existence as a lone wolf, his achievements, his talents, his relations to his exgirlfriend, sister, parents etc.

At the beginning I was thrilled by it. I was an ardent listener, convinced that everything he had to say was interesting, important and special. I could listen to him for hours and never get bored. I was used to being the dominant part in my conversations and interactions with others and it somehow felt nice to be the listener for once. Listening to his extraordinary stories, I got the feeling that whatever I would have to contribute to the conversation would seem boring, trivial and uninteresting in comparison. As a result, I often kept my mouth shut and contented myself with being the passive listener. However, after a few months I began feeling frustrated as a result of my conviction that I had nothing interesting to say and that I was passive and boring. I also was frustrated because I sensed that the narcissist was not really interested in anything I had to say, and that I would likely never become an active participant in our conversations. Because I got so used to swallow my own thoughts and views, I began to lose touch with myself. I was so obsessed with keeping the narcissist satisfied that I completely pushed aside my own wishes. At times, I felt as if I had completely lost my voice. Being degraded to the role of passive listener can after some time have you doubt your own value.

There was one instance where I seriously began to doubt my role within my relationship to the narcissists. We met at a café in the afternoon for a few hours and I didn’t get to speak more than a few isolated words during all that time. He talked for hours without pausing for more than a few seconds, and I don’t think he even asked me one single question. It was an eye-opening experience. On earlier occasions I had always accepted my role as passive listener without questioning it or feeling neglected. Now, for the first time, I began to realize that I was allowing him to silence me and that almost all I ever did was nodding along smiling to whatever he had to say. Of course, this realization also made me question the genuineness of his interest and affections for me. It’s not that I never tried to bring myself into the conversation. However, I soon began to be convinced that whatever I had to say was not nearly as interesting as the stories he told me. I therefore lost the courage to open my mouth and began to feel frustrated about being silent and uninteresting. He didn’t really seem to mind.

At times he would encourage me to talk more and assure me that he felt really bad about monopolizing our conversations. He said that I had lots of interesting and intelligent things to say and he would therefore want me to contribute more to our conversations. However, I began to realize that this interest in anything I might have to say was rather short-lived and superficial and that he would take over the dominant part again after only a short time. He was not only dominant when it came to our conversations, but also in every single part of our interaction. When he was at my place, he took my computer to show me youtube videos – often a seemingly endless stream of them. He seldomly asked whether I was even interested in seeing them or whether I had something I would want to show to him. After a certain amount of time, I often got tired of watching those videos. However, out of my desire of keeping him satisfied, I never protested and instead watched whatever he had to show to me.

The same behavioral pattern could also be discerned in our email correspondence. He almost never answered any of the questions I had asked him, but instead rambled on about completely different topics. Whenever I dared to complain about feeling low, he never addressed the issue but instead diverted the topic back to himself, complaining about how low he felt. He then often went on for pages about the reasons for his sadness, and about the many problems and crises he had to deal with at the moment. He would give me detailed written accounts of his daily routines, even telling me the most trivial things – such as for example that he went to the dentist (of course with a detailed description of what the dentist thought about his teeth). Of course he would sometimes ask how I was doing and assure me that he wanted to know what I was up to. However, when I told him he never would show any real interest in it and often even completely ignore it. When I, for example, told him that I had finally found a topic for my Master’s Thesis, it took days for him to even ask me what my topic was. I began to feel really frustrated about his apparent lack of interest in anything I did or had to say.

Whenever he talked about himself, he tended to do so in very favorable terms. He said, for example, that he could sing pretty well, that he knew he was a good teacher, that his students adored him, that certain women had crushes on him, that lots of people depend on him (his sister, his exgirlfriend) and that he was very good at motivating others to make the best out of their lives. In the beginning, I was impressed. However, it didn’t take long for me to become tired and skeptical about this kind of talk. He also seemed to be in constant need of positive affirmation. He wanted me to comment on his clothes or his art. He liked to make collages and would show many of them to me, almost forcing me to comment on them. I loved to look at his art. However, I soon also began to understand that he, first and foremost, showed it to me out of a deep need for positive affirmation – and that was also what he expected to get from me.

I could ramble on for pages, but I think you all got the gist: Being with a narcissist can be a frustrating and self-alienating experience. Everything always seems to be about them: They are the dominant agent in almost every aspect of our relationship with them, making all the decisions, dicating the terms, and monopolizing conversations. We begin to accept our part as silent and passive listeners and in the process we lose touch with ourselves. We want to keep them satisfied and as a result swallow our own thoughts, wishes and needs. We end up feeling frustrated due to our passivity and develop the belief that we simply have nothing interesting and intelligent to say, and that no one is really interested in whatever we would have to contribute. The narcissists might fake interest at times, but we soon begin to realize that it is short-lived and superficial, and that all they are looking for is someone who is willing to listen to whatever they have to say. We smile and nod along for months, and our self-esteem and emotional well-being shrinks. If someone just loves to talk a lot (and especially about himself) we should interpret this behavior as a clear red flag and be very alarmed. Having to fight for attention is not healthy and doesn’t do our self-esteem any good. In a healthy relationship, our partner is genuinely interested in what we might have to say and will offer us enough opportunities to bring ourselves into the conversation. We should never allow someone to silence us. We also have interesting things to say and no one should have the power to make us believe otherwise.

Narcissistic Behavior 7: Whining and Complaining

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.

Narcissistic Behavior 6: Accuses You of Emotions He Is Provoking

Another narcissistic mode of behavior that has the tendency to drive those interacting with them insane, is accusing others for exactly those emotions that they are provoking in the first place. Consequently, they can treat us like shit and we will be the ones feeling guilty in the end. This strategy is particularly harmful for the victims of narcissistic abuse, because they constantly feel that their feelings are unreasonable and not valid, when they are in fact more than justified. Instead of trusting our feelings and acting accordingly, we interpret them as sings of weakness, try to push them aside and, as a result, allow the narcissists to go on treating us with disrespect. Our low self-esteem makes us readily absorb all the guilt and the blame that the narcissist is trying to install in us. We don’t believe in our own feelings and instincts and consequently we readily believe the narcissist is right when he accuses of of being “too needy”, “too clingy”, “too jealous” etc. – feelings that are provoked by his ambiguous, dishonest and manipulative behavior.

During the time I was dating Mr. Unavailable I was constantly on edge, struggling with uncertainty, feeling gloomy, worthless, unappreciated and neglected. As if this wasn’t enough, I was also feeling guilty for every single one of these feelings. I was convinced that I only felt that strongly, because I was too needy, got too attached too fast, and allowed myself to have too many hopes right from the beginning. I blamed my codependency for everything and readily absorbed all the blame for not feeling well. It is certainly true that I tend to feel too strongly right from the start and that I get attached very easily. I am therefore also to blame for the intensity of my feelings. However, looking at the way I was treated, the uncertainty and ambiguity I was exposed to for months, it does not really come as a surprise that I felt so extremely low. Everyone receiving such a treatment would have eventually given in to depression and a feeling of worthlessness. Therefore, it isn’t enough to just blame your codependency and dismiss your feelings as wrong. We also have to see that we have gone through an emotional rollercoaster, that our feelings have been played with, and that we endured a lot of dishonesty and ambiguity. Our frustration, sadness and desperation are therefore valid feelings, that are not only caused by our codependency, but by the treatment we receive from the narcissists.

Narcissists, however, deny their responsibility for the fact that we are slowly disintegrating. Our dependency, feeling of islation and jealousy are for them only a product of our own weakness and we are to blame for feeling so low. Because we don’t believe in our own instincts and rationality, we readily believe their assessment of the situation. So in the end, we not only feel low, but we blame ourselves for everything. We end up feeling guilty and completely disempowered. As we don’t trust in our feelings of being treated unfairly, we don’t act on them and stay in the miserable and unhealthy relationship we are in.

There were times in my relationship with Mr. Unavailable in which I felt as if I was completely losing my mind. On some deeper level I always knew that I was not treated fairly and respectfully, and I knew that I had every reason to doubt his supposed feelings of care and affection. However, I never trusted my feelings, but pushed them aside as being a product of my codependency and therefore not valid. I rarely dared to give voice to how much I suffered, because I thought that my feelings were a sign of weakness and dependency. The narcissist I dated contributed to my tendency to shift all the blame to myself. Whenever I couldn’t take it any longer and told him how unhappy I was, he would dismiss my concerns and tell me I was just overreacting, clingy or being unreasonable. I immediately felt guilty for having said anything at all. I believed in his assessment without a doubt and was angry for allowing myself a moment of weakness.

Once, after I hadn’t heard from him for several days and he had ignored all of my calls and messages, I was so worried and feeling so low that I nearly got insane. I lay in bed all day with agonizing thoughts in my head, shaking all over and unable to do even the simplest tasks. I was convinced something had happened to him, or that he had decided to just stop communicating with me. I was racking my brain, feeling completely paralysed. He didn’t even know I was feeling so strongly. The only thing I wrote him was that I was really worried. When I finally heard back from him, he told me I was overreacting. As so many times before, I readily accepted the blame and hated myself for feeling so strongly. In the course of dating Mr. Unavailable, I was often on the brink of losing my mind due to his ambiguity, fickleness and dishonesty. Nagging feelings of uncertainty, doubt and unhappiness were constant companions during my interactions with him. Whenever I dared to complain, I was dismissed as being clingy, overreacting and as allowing myself to have too high hopes too fast. It was depressing as hell: I did not only feel like shit, but accepted all the blame for it. Shifting the blame to myself prevented me from questioning his shady behavior and it never really occurred to me that it would be better to leave him.

Being with a narcissist consequently really makes you lose touch with yourself. You are constantly treated with neglect, distance, ambiguity and dishonesty. They toy with our emotions and manipulate us in very shameful ways. It really drives you insane and turns you into a mess. Because we are not even getting the bare minumum of what we need and hope for, we feel low and depressed. We never feel fulfilled and happy, we always want more than what we get, because the narcissist is unable to give us what we need. He is unwilling to accept blame for not treating us fairly, but instead makes us feel guilty for wanting more. In the end, we not only feel depressed, lonely and neglected, but we also accept the full blame for feeling this way. We think of ourselves as being “too clingy”, “too needy”, “too dependent” and as “wanting too much too fast”, instead of accepting our feelings as valid and as a product of the shady behavior we receive. We end up settling for less than we deserve, because we believe that our (normal!) expectations are too high.

It is therefore always healthier to believe in your own instincts and feelings. Whenever you feel as if you don’t get what you deserve and that your partner is not dedicated and affectionate, you should act on those feelings instead of feeling guilty for them. It is not needy or a sign of weakness if you expect to be treated with affection, care and respect. It is what we deserve and we shouldn’t allow a narcissist to convince us that we are wrong. We should never feel guilty for feeling strongly as a result of not getting the bare minimum of what we wish for and of what we deserve. If we nearly lose our minds because of all the ambiguities and dishonesties we find ourselves surrounded with in our relationship, we are not to blame, but the narcissists who expose us to all this madness. Accepting this fact will hopefully enable us to free us from unhealthy relationships and to have more trust in ourselves and the validity of our own feelings.