Narcissistic Behavior 1: Sees Himself as Victim and Avoids Responsibility

The next few posts will be dedicated to illustrating the characteristics of narcissistic behavior and to pointing out how those characteristics were mirrored in my relationship with Mr. Unavailable. It took me a very long time to see that the last guy I dated was a narcissist and a master at emotionally manipulating others. After the relationship was over I readily accepted the label “codependent” and began to search for flaws in my own mindset and behavior. On some level, I knew that I was not treated fairly during our relationship, but putting all the blame on myself was exactly what I have always been used to. So instead of accepting that I was emotionally abused and manipulated, I thought that my codependency was responsible for the mess I had gotten myself into.

Looking at it now, after I had some time to deal with it, I have changed my evaluation of what went wrong: I now know that codependent people often attract narcissistic and unavailable men, who manipulate them and turn them into emotional wrecks. No matter how low our self-esteem and how high our insecurities, it never justifies being emotionally exploited and abused. So instead of readily accepting all the blame, we should also see that we have been victims of abuse, and that through their cunning strategies of manipulation they made it hard for us to understand what was going on and to opt out. I still think of myself as being a recovering codependent and of being to blame for a big portion of my misery. But I also have to point out that right before I met Mr. Unavailable I was doing just fine. I was reduced to a heap of misery, depression and insecurity in the course of my interactions with him.

Learning that I have been dating a narcissist was of help to me: Now I could begin to fully assess the relationship and both our parts in it; I finally had explanations for his shady behavior and I could begin to leave it all behind. At the beginning, I was a bit sceptical of putting the label “narcissist” on Mr. Unavailable, because I thought that maybe it was just my defense mechanism wanting to shield me from accepting all the blame. But after I have read a lot on the topic and every description of narcissistic behavior exactly matched his behavior, I began to accept his narcissism. There are overt and covert types of narcissists and Mr. Unavailable was more often being covert than overt. This fact made it so hard for me to see that he was indeed a narcissist.

The first characteristic of narcissistic behavior I will talk about is their tendency to see themselves as victims and to avoid responsibility for their own behavior and everything that happens to them. My Mr. Unavailable was constantly whining about his bad luck, how everything just went wrong, and how he felt trapped and put under pressure. Back then I accepted his role as innocent victim and thought that life has dealt him some harsh blows. After some time, I began to see that he was to a high extent responsible for his own misery and that he just avoided accepting this unpleasant fact.

He was constantly unsatisfied with his job, hating what he was doing, and lamenting that he did not really get ahead and that what he was doing was not intellectualy stimulating. However, he never tried to find other work, he never really initiated actions to get ahead. He just stoically went to work and then complained about it. He tended to blame Germany for not wanting to give him a decent job. However, after almost two years in Germany he still hadn’t even learned the language. He couldn’t even order food at a restaurant in German. If he really wanted to get ahead with his career, he would have learned the language, because that would have been the basis for improving his chances for a good career.

The next aspect he continually complained about was his living situation and the relation to his exgirlfriend. He always lamented the fact that he was still living with her and that she turned his life into a mess. He even said that she was responsible that his entire life was so miserable. In spite of his complaints, he never made a real attempt to move out but stayed with her and allowed her to harrass him without defending himself. He presented himself as the poor victim of her dependency, jealousy and hatefulness. However, he always could have changed his situation by just moving out and thereby giving both of them the chance to heal from their messed up relationship. I guess he enjoyed being the victim and avoiding responsibility too much to take action and work towards the betterment of his situation.

In general, he made it seem as if the entire world had conspired against him, keeping him from getting ahead and being happy. Everything seemed to be going against him and he never got tired of pointing out his bad luck and the many blows that fate has supposedly dealt him. It was not enough for him to present himself as a victim, but he also badmouthed those who had made something out of their lives. Whenever someone was cheerful, successful or ambitious, he would label him or her as suck-up, motherfucker (his own words!) and fake. According to him, the only reason for their success and happiness was sheer luck – something that has always been denied him. He complained that others were not appreciating his genius and that he had so much to offer, but no one wanted to see it. He never got tired of pointing out that his sister (who also lives in Germany) only got a good job because of her good looks. It never seemed to occurr to him that she had actually gone through the trouble of learning German, and that this might have increased her chances of getting a job here.

Even when it was obvious that he was to blame, he still somehow managed to avoid responsibility and to redirect the blame to others. He even did not take responsibility for the excrutiating love triangle he produced through his ambiguous, manipulating and dishonest behavior. He played both me and his exgirlfriend like puppets on a string and thereby he turned us into emotional wrecks (look at my last post for more information). Whenever one of us dared to complain, he would declare that he felt completely trapped between the two of us. That he had set this trap for himself never even occurred to him. At one point he admitted that he behaved poorly towards me by always giving in to the wishes of his exgirlfriend. But instead of apologizing and accepting the blame, he followed this statement with a simple: “But what was I supposed to do?”. It was just another prime example for his utter inability to accept blame and take responsibility. Whenever he declared that he felt trapped, I was immensely hurt, because I didn’t know what I had done wrong. The only thing I wanted was being with him. Was that too much to ask? Why did that simple request make him feel trapped? I just couldn’t find an explanation, but nevertheless accepted the blame.

So to come to a conclusion, narcissists always find a way to avoid taking responsibility and to redirect all the blame to others. According to them the reason they do not get ahead is that everything and everyone has conspired against them. Those that get ahead only do so out of sheer luck and because they are fake suck-ups. This refusal to accept blame can nearly drive you insane, beause you end up being the one who does accept it. You believe his view that he is not to blame and that he is only a victim. You readily accept whatever blame you can (especially if you are codependent and are used to putting blame on yourself). In the end, we feel completely confused and helpless: On some level we know that we haven’t done anything wrong. But as Mr. Unavailable so vehemently avoids taking responsibility, it must be us who are to blame? So there must indeed be something we have done wrong? We are racking our brains, trying to find out in what ways we are to blame, and Mr. Unavailable get what he wants: He is the blameless victim who never did anything wrong…

Constantly taking the blame for things we haven’t done is exhausting and confusing. It lowers our self-esteem and leads us to seriously question our judgments and behavior. Being with a narcissist is therefore extremely draining and unhealthy. We never should lower ourselves to such a degree that we accept blame for things we haven’t done. This leads us to see victims in those who manipulate and hurt us. We should always remember that those that so readily label themselves as victims are more often than not the perpetrators. Refusing to see this only prolongs the emotional exploitation we receive at their hands.

Effects of Being with Mr. Unavailable 3: Losing Touch With Yourself

In my last post, I have already dwelled on the fact that people with codependent behavioral patterns often have low self-esteem and tend to continually doubt themselves and their decisions. Our lack of self-love and self-acceptance leads us to search for love, recognition and appreciation in romantic relationships (or even other kinds of interactions). As we are unable to be satisfied with ourselves, we need others to make us feel loved and cared about. Being on our own makes us feel worthless, undeserving of love and alone.

Connected to all of these issues is the fact that people with low self-esteem tend to not devote enough time to their own needs, thoughts and wishes. As we are generally not satisfied with ourselves, we don’t want to occupy ourselves with our own personalities. Consequently, we are continually on the look for distraction, and painful and dramatic relationships offer us exactly the distraction we so desperately crave. As we don’t want to be let alone with our own thoughts, lunging into dramatic relationships keeps us busy and enables us to keep on denying us the attention we need. We spend all of our time and energy into dealing with Mr. Unavailables, and our thoughts are occupied with thinking about the relationship, and the wishes, needs and behavior of the emotionally unavailable person we are dating. In the course of racking our brains over all of the pain and drama, we completely lose touch with ourselves.

This is exactly what happened to me in my relationship with Mr. Unavailable. I have a really hard time not being in any relationship, as I tend to suffer from low self-esteem and to question almost every little aspect of my life. Not being in a relationship makes me feel unloved, unwanted, alone and sometimes even depressed. I’m addicted to the feeling of being loved that a romantic relationship ideally provides, as I have difficulties loving and accepting myself. This addiction often made me lunge into relationships with shady men, because being in a relationship – no matter how painful – was always considered to be better than being alone by me. My relationship with Mr. Unavailable provided me with so much pain, drama and emotional exhaustion that there was no more time left to think about my own wishes, hopes, and desires. I was getting the full-time distraction I was looking for.

Given the fact that my Mr. Unavailable had many narcissistic tendencies, I was during the course of our interactions almost completely kept from engaging with my own self. Our conversations tended to revolve around him, his problems, his unhappy childhood, his achievements, his setbacks etc. I never really had to bring my own thoughts, experiences and opinions into the conversation. Sometimes he would pretend to be interested in what I had to say and even ask me a question or two. But I soon realized that his interest was not strong enough to surpass his narcissistic tendencies. Consequently, he was dominant both in our interactions and conversations. In the beginning, it was a welcome distraction. After some time I felt like I was completely losing touch with myself. Having to realize that you are never really a part of the conversation makes you feel like you have nothing interesting to say, that you are unworthy of being listened and given attention to.

Another factor that made me lose touch with myself was that in the course of our relationship I felt like a dog running after his owner. Every single aspect of our relationship went according to his terms: He decided when to meet, where to meet, what to do. He was the one who almost never made time for me because he was – as he repeteadly pointed out – so busy. I was almost always the one having to do all the travelling. We lived quite some distance away from each other, and it took me more than an hour by train to meet with him. Sometimes we would only meet for such a short amount of time that I spent more time on the train than actually being with him. It was depressing, exhausting and made me seriously doubt my own behavior. Why was I doing all of this? Was it really worth it? Chasing after him like a dog, always waiting for a call, always waiting for him to tell me when we would finally see each other again, kept me absolutely distracted from myself. I was so busy evaluating his behavior, running after him and dealing with all the disappointments and drama, that I lost touch with myself. I kept chasing him, because it prevented me from spending time on my own, thinking about myself.

Another major contribution to all of it came from the fact that I was consistently treated like a secondary option, while his exgirlfriend got his undivided attention and always had priority. Some days he would complain about her being mentally unbalanced, on other days he pointed out to me that he respected her with all his heart and wanted her to forever stay in his life. Whenever she got hysteric and insulting or put him under pressure, he would yield and stay at home with her. I was continually pushed aside. I wasn’t allowed to give him a call, he wasn’t allowed to spend the night at my place etc: All of it would make her freak out. She went so far as to harrass me by giving me calls and sending me tons of text messages. He never interfered, and always talked about being considerate towards her feelings. My feelings never seemed to matter at all. In spite of all of it, I continued meeting with him. I gladly let myself be drawn into all this drama and ridiculousness because it kept me from being alone and devoting thoughts to myself. Of course I doubted my own behavior: Why was I allowing him to treat me like this? Why do I want to be part of so much drama? Am I really so worthless as to be treated like an option? Don’t I deserve to be treated with respect, care and consideration? I was completely losing touch with myself and my self-esteem was dealt a severe blow.

As usual I could go on and on, pointing out further examples for how being with Mr. Unavailable made me lose touch with myself. I think you got the picture: I let myself be treated with disrespect and disregard because I craved the distraction that came with being part of a dramatic relationship. I kept chasing him and debasing myself, because it prevented me from being alone and devoting time to thinking about myself and considering my needs. My low self-esteem and self-respect were the reason for why I didn’t opt out and save myself. The treatment I received from Mr. Unavailable only further lowered my self-esteem: it was a vicious circle.

In retrospect, I’m shocked because I allowed him to be so disrespectful and inconsiderate. Had I been more confident and strong, I would never have allowed this kind of behavior. Maybe this episode of my life presented me with the wake-up call I so obviously needed. I need to treat myself better and spend more time dealing with my own ambitions and wishes, in order to become a part of a healthy relationship.

Effects of Being with Mr. Unavailable 2: Self-Doubt and Self-Blame

This is definitely going to be one of the most important posts I will write, given the fact that I’ve been dealing with self-doubts and low self-esteem for most of my life. It is the reason for why I often end up with shady guys who not really have my best interests at heart. I search for recognition and appreciation in relationships, because I cannot give these things to myself. I’m addicted to being loved by others, because I have difficulties loving myself. However, the shady guys that codependent people with low self-esteem get into relationships with only make matters worse: They will eventually disappoint us, leave us heartbroken and therefore make us question our own part in the relationship. More often than not, this will only lower our self-esteem further and have us wonder if we are not worthy of being loved and treated with respect.

The most ironic part of my last relationship with Mr. Unavailable was that he told me right at the beginning that he had the feeling I had rather low self-esteem and tend to sell myself short when it comes to relationships. He also told me to be more confident, that I had all the reasons for believing more in myself, and that I should apply a more “careful screening process” when it came to guys. I felt like I had won the lottery: Had I finally found a guy who would be attentive to my feelings and treat me with appreciation? How was I supposed to know that he would turn into exactly that kind of guy he had warned me against? Was he unconsciously (or very consciously) warning me against himself? Looking at it in retrospect I can’t help spotting the irony…

In the end, Mr. Unavailable did absolutely nothing to help me improve my self-esteem. To the contrary, he shattered it to pieces and left me feeling like an empty shell, doubting everything about me (and especially my part in the relationship). Almost everything he did had me doubt myself, my behavior, even my own sanity.

The strongest source for my self-doubts came from the fact that he would often not call, leave a message or contact me in any other way for several days in a row. There were times when I wouldn’t get to see him for several weeks in a row. For me this was just heartbreaking and agitating. I would have loved to spend as much time with him as possible and it was affecting me that he didn’t seem to be able to make time for me. Agonizing thoughts were constantly revolving in my head: “Why doesn’t he call or leave a message? If he really cared about me, he would have contacted me. Is he interested in me at all? He must be really detached to not call at all…Or am I maybe asking for too much? Am I turning into an obsessive person?” My friends and family would repeatedly assure me that he is not treating me fairly by not calling me and not seeing me in weeks. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I preferred to put all the blame on myself and suppressed the suspicion that he might not be that interested after all.

Another source of self-doubt came from his continually voiced desire to leave the country and fly back to the U.S. I constantly blamed myself for not being able to stay more emotionally detached. Why did I invest all my heart, energy and time into someone who might be leaving soon? Why do I blame him for being more detached than I am? After all, isn’t this the reasonable way to handle all of it? But why does he even bother seeing me then? Why does he insist on continuing to go out with me? Why did he want to meet my parents, if he wants to leave? I couldn’t make any sense of his behavior and chose to blame myself for everything instead.

The fact that he still lived with his exgirlfriend and often pushed me aside because of her also didn’t add much to my self-esteem. I’ve already dedicated two entire posts to his hysteric, insulting exgirlfriend who did not allow him to see me. I therefore don’t need to go into further detail at this point. Allowing him to turn me into an option while his exgirlfriend still had priority had me seriously doubt my worth as a person. Why do I allow him to treat me like that? Am I only good enough to be a secondary option? Am I not deserving of the same care, appreciation and attention that she gets? Are the two of them secretly mocking me? Am I just the person he goes to to load off the emotional baggage from his last relationship? My mind seemed to be obsessively occupied with him and his exgirlfriend, painting the most painful scenarios. I felt absolutely worthless, disrespected and unappreciated because my feelings just never mattered as much as those of his exgirlfriend. It can leave you feeling so small…like a real loser.

I don’t think I have to go on pointing out more instances that caused me to seriously doubt myself. Suffice it to say that being with a Mr. Unavailable can be absolutely shattering to your sense of self worth. Through their emotional unavailability they have you doubt just about everything about yourself. Instead of accepting that they are to blame for not being able and willing to give us what we want, codependent people blame themselves and see themselves as not worthy of being respected, cared about and loved. We question our behavior throughout the entire relationship and keep wondering where everything went wrong. Instead of realizing that Mr. Unavailables won’t even give us the bare minimum of what we want, we see ourselves as too needy, too dependent and try to be satisfied with the little breadcrumps they are feeding us with.

Even if we manage to see through their shady and disrespectful behavior and realize that they are unwilling and unable to fulfill our emotional needs, we still find ways to blame ourselves: Why can’t I find the strength to free myself from this painful relationship? Why do I keep allowing him to disrespect me? Why do I still feel so much for a man who obviously doesn’t really respect and appreciate me? We are just really good at addressing reproaches to ourselves.

I’ve finally managed to see through the patterns that kept my self-esteem on a very low level. It doesn’t mean that I turned into a confident and self-assured person over night. I’m still struggling with self-doubt and find it hard to accept my flaws and the mistakes I make. I tend to be too hard on myself. But at least I’ve finally managed to realize all of it and I guess it’s the first step towards improvement…So if there is anything positive I can draw from all that pain, drama and suffering, it is that it really opened my eyes to the fact that I need to change my mindset. Only if we are good to ourselves can we have healthy relationships with people who also genuinely want to be good to us.