Victims in narcissistic relationships often do not realize that they are under the thumb of a person who has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), or they may be aware of the abuse and choose to live with it for various reasons.
Narcissists pull in their victims through a slinky way of charming early in the relationship and often fool anyone that they meet through their persona of perfection (i.e. loving, gift-giving, protecting, fun-loving, devoted, and more).
Victim is Hooked
Victims often fall deeply in love before they notice the narcissist’s tactics.
As love is poured upon a person, especially someone who is an empath (sensitive, sympathetic, feels the feelings of others), a to-be victim becomes perfectly blinded and molded by the narcissist and then once they are brainwashed, the victim frequently sticks with their abuser and defends their reason(s) to remain in the relationship.
Reasons the Victim Remains in the Relationship
As time goes on after the honeymoon stage of the relationship, the narcissist begins to manipulate the victim. The early abuse often emerges in subtle ways. Victims are classically unaware that they are vulnerable prey. Victims typically don’t know how to stop the early tactics, and they characteristically fear that they’ll drive a wedge into what they believe is a rock-solid relationship.
If the victim is married to the narcissist, they often are determined to stick it out. Children may have already come into the relationship, and parents may want to save their marriage for the sake of the kid’s well-being. Commitment to the relationship is a classic reason why victims continue living with an abuser.
The most common reasons victims remain in toxic relationships:
- They don’t want to hurt the person that previously showered them with love. Their eyes remain focused on the person that they fell in love with and they want to get them back. “If I give this some more time, if I remain strong, they (i.e. the narcissist) will see that I am determined and committed, and they will change their ways.”
- They do not want to accept that they are being abused. They make excuses for the narcissist’s behavior, and they begin to blame themselves. “If only I was more patient.” “Perhaps I am not seeing what I think I am seeing.” “He/she doesn’t feel well, so that makes the behavior okay.” “This doesn’t happen very often. I can live with it.”
- Fear entices victims to hang onto an abusive relationship. They often fear several things, especially the loss of children, family, friends, church, finances, or their home. Victims frequently go into an avoidance mode, “If I lay low, I won’t lose anything. I can do this!”
What You Can Do to Help
Educate yourself on what a narcissist is and how they manipulate their victims. Learn how boundaries can be set that will help the victim identify and get away from their abuser. Share what you have learned with the victim, especially the red flags that indicate a narcissistic personality disorder. The sooner the victim understands that there is a name for what they are experiencing, the sooner they will seek help.
Do not be surprised if the victim does not want to hear what you have to say. Remember, they may be ashamed of the relationship, or that it isn’t working well, and they may be living in a state of denial that their relationship isn’t healthy. They have had a false reality dictated to them by the person that they loved for many months or years.
Be prepared. Research local assistance that can help the victim remain safe. Some narcissists never turn to physical abuse, and others slip into dangerous rages. Some narcissists only threaten physical abuse. To be threatened is valid enough warning to get away from the abuser and to seek shelter.
Assistance can also be given in the form of money. Victims are commonly leery that their plans will be exposed if they dig into a shared bank account and draining a joint account may lead to legal ramifications.
Don’t Blame the Victim
If you suspect someone is a victim of narcissistic abuse, don’t blame the victim.
To validate themselves and their behavior, the narcissist is already blaming the victim. Don’t add to the victim’s unfortunate dilemma by agreeing that they are the cause of the problem.
Victims are often blamed by the narcissist and his/her flying monkeys. Flying monkeys is the narcissist’s army, consisting of people that he/she has convinced that the victim is the root of his or her behavior. Imagine a church pastor, family member, or best friend, turning against you, refusing to help you, blaming you for the narcissist’s tactics, or accusing you of lying, or prompting the abuse. Yes, this happens—a lot!
Don’t Say These Things to the Victim
Don’t negatively label the narcissist in front of the victim. I’ll share my example with you:
My sister had taken me out to lunch, and she gave me money to begin my divorce process. I had bible-based authority (adultery) to divorce my narcissist husband years before. He was verbally abusive and threatened me with physical abuse if I stood up for myself. He was tricky, and I cowered to his tactics. All that I understood was that he had a temper and that he had verbal tactics that were nasty. I didn’t know there was a name for it—narcissism. As my sister handed the cash to me that day, she said, “He is such a jerk!” I felt offended and I was hurt, and I later asked her to not say those types of things about him. I couldn’t imagine why or how I protected him considering the abuse, but I did. I still wanted the husband that I first loved to return. I was dedicated, but I also feared. I feared losing my job, my home, and my children. I had a vision that I would be put out on the streets, or behind bars. I had no reason to be locked up, but I had lost my sense of self-worth.
Don’t tell your friend or loved one what you feel they must do. People need to come to a place where they realize what they need to do for themselves before they choose to act. Have patience with your loved one, as this process often takes time.
The most important thing that you can do is listen. Don’t interject your own words unless the victim asks for your advice or opinion. If the victim knows that you are listening and that you believe they are in an abusive situation, you encourage, heal and strengthen the victim’s self-worth and sense of reality.
Talk with Supporters
If you are a victim in a toxic relationship, I encourage you to face the truth and reach out to others for support.
I typically coach survivors of toxic narcissistic relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to later put our best foot forward and stretch ourselves to accomplish our goals in life.
But, if you need a trusting person to hear what you have to say, whether you are the victim in the relationship today, or if the victim is your loved one, or if you are a survivor … I encourage you to reach out to me.