Narcissism and Relational Abuse – Both Active and Passive

Certain personality types are more prone than others to be abusive and exploitative. Chief among these are narcissists and the group I refer to in my books and other writings as the aggressive personalities (see: Character Disturbance pp. 96-128 and Aggressive Personalities: The Sub-Types). But inasmuch as the aggressive personalities are inherently first and foremost narcissists as well, it’s probably best to focus first on this non-aggressive variant of the most disturbed characters among us and the types of abuse they’re prone to perpetrate in their relationships.

Narcissists are by definition inordinately self-absorbed individuals.  They’re so largely focused on their own desires and concerns that they pay little attention to the concerns of others. They’re capable of showing great interest  (If they see someone or something or someone they fancy and want to possess they’ll often pull out all the stops to seduce or endear), and this can easily be mistaken for genuine concern or regard.  They can even appear to dote upon or idolize a person or a thing but that doesn’t necessarily equate with having genuine regard. Most of the time, what’s really going on is that they see in someone else or something else an attractive reflection or extension of themselves (One very narcissistic individual I worked with spent several hours each week buffing every inch of his bright red sports car to the point he could literally see himself in the finish).  So, despite giving the appearance they treasure the person or thing they desire, it’s still really all about them and possessing something they believe reflects positively on them.

For the most part, narcissists exhibit a passive disregard for (i.e. they simply don’t concern themselves with) the wants, needs, and desires of others, including those they purport to love. But the more malignant their narcissism is, the more active their disregard of others’ concerns can become, wantonly crossing boundaries and exceeding reasonable limits with a disturbing sense of entitlement.  But whether their disregard for others is active or passive in character, it can engender substantial abuse and exploitation in their relationships.

The sense of entitlement many narcissists have coupled with their penchant for possessive thinking (see pp. 160-161 in Character Disturbance as well as the articles: The Possessive Thinking of the Disturbed Character and Are Possessive and Controlling Persons Necessarily “Insecure Underneath?”) can spell big trouble for any relationship.  And the more malignant the narcissism is, the more deadly a form the narcissist’s possessiveness can potentially take. Narcissists tend to “objectify” those they find appealing in some way and to regard the objects of their desires as “possessions” over which they seek to claim exclusive ownership (Samenow calls this an “attitude of ownership). For the narcissist, “owning” a prized possession is a positive reflection on them. Narcissists often base their self-image on appearing to others as someone to be revered or honored primarily because of all they possess as opposed to being a person of such character that they’re truly worthy of genuine respect or admiration.  The narcissist affords no real respect to the other person in the relationship or their legitimate wants or needs (especially emotional wants or needs). The person is merely an object they find desirable in some way (often, only for a limited period of time) and whom they feel they own (at least for the period of time they still find the person desirable). And in extreme cases such attitudes of ownership can take a most deadly form.  All too many possessive relationships have ended in the horrific: “If I can’t have her (or him) then no one will!” scenario.  But even short of that extreme there are many other abusive situations that can ensue, most of which are an outgrowth of the narcissist’s feelings of entitlement to do as he or she pleases with the object he or she believes is his or hers to possess.

Sometimes the abuse narcissists inflict on their relationship partners can be quite subtle, especially at first.  For example, because in their own eyes they can do no wrong, when something bad happens, it’s always their partner’s fault.  As a result, the partner can become the target not only the object of blame but also the target of the narcissist’s ridicule, disdain, maltreatment, gaslighting (for more on this see:  Another Look at Manipulation Tactics and Manipulation Tactics :  A Closer Look – Part 2), and even sadistic torment.  Most folks who, for some reason, found themselves drawn to a narcissist early on begin really feeling regret at this point in the relationship. But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.

In my books In Sheep’s Clothing and The Judas Syndrome, there are several vignettes depicting many other kinds of abuse narcissists can inflict in relationships.  And in the coming weeks I’ll posting not only on some of these but also on the particular kinds of relational abuse to which the various aggressive personalities are particularly prone.  Also, a few weeks from now, I’ll be featuring an interview I did with one of Australia’s leading advocates for abuse victims on my Character Matters program, Sundays at 7 pm Eastern Time on UCY.TV.



64 thoughts on “Narcissism and Relational Abuse – Both Active and Passive

  1. What you left out is that narcissism is actually a defense mechanism wrapped around a core of shame and self-contempt.

    1. it’s the entitlement that give them away as not suffering from shame and self- contempt. They feel overly deserving even when they really are not.

      1. I think some of us neurotics can be self-obsessed to the point of overlooking other’s needs because we are so concentrated on our own pain – but this is fundamentally different from character-disturbed people who have no shame and no empathy. As someone mentioned on here, they lack the ability to blush. And they mean to hurt – they don’t just do it by accident out of self-absorption. Also, they LOVE it when people feel “sorry” for them. It plays right into their hands. They take others’ loyalty and just run roughshod over it, laughing all the way to the bank. I believe these people are evil, whatever anyone’s religious beliefs on that.

        1. I think you are spot on Angela. My wife enjoyed humiliating me, enjoyed shaming me, enjoyed claiming my achievements as her own (in conversation) and getting away with it, enjoyed deceiving people by telling outright lies on me, enjoyed the power of showing one [charming] face in public……and a totally different one in the home. She enjoyed holding court and telling everyone in the family what each member ‘should’ be doing for her – whilst reminding us all how much we didn’t care for her because we were not doing it well enough. She was totally out of control.
          Whether that is evil or maybe she has BPD I’m not expert enough to know but it was truly awful behaviour. Her appalling behaviour has been reined in quite a bit now through changes on my part (I’m really pleased to say).

          1. Danny, so do you think there is a chance for her? Does she have any redeeming qualities that could be built on of she addressed this other behavior? I would think that if she no longer got the desired results from her bad behavior, she would want to change her ways. I was not fast enough on my feet to deal with spathtard and way too easily confused and full of self doubt about any suspicions (mostly because I didn’t realize that someone would be doing what he was doing on purpose). 🙁

          2. Right now? No tbh Puddle because, though she knows her behaviour has finally been rumbled by me, she is still in denial, still accusing, still abusive in her language, still manipulative, still gaslighting. Thanks to this website, I can now spot her motives/agenda from a 1000 paces so she doesn’t get very far, certainly not successful, which for her is an increasing source of frustration. But she HAS to keep her behaviour more in check because (a) the tantrums that would work in a previously era are now mostly ignored , and/or (b) I will openly call her rotten behaviour if or when she will try. As we both know, change comes only from recognition. The vexing question is whether or not she is ‘evil’ per say (and I can tell you she has done some evil things) or whether she is BPD but, as I mentioned previously, I’m not really skilled enough to know for sure either way. Time will tell.

          3. As the ex-wife of a pedophile, I ask myself these questions too. I don’t think my ex- is intentionally cruel but he was driven by compulsions to offend. That doesn’t excuse any of it. Children don’t exist for others’ sexual pleasure.

            So where does he fall on the sociopath/psychopath scale? I have no idea. His lack of boundaries make him capable of almost anything. I never saw him blush, and he didn’t apologize. He was bright, charming, and manipulative. He dropped names of people and titles of books, etc., to make you think he was an insider. In reality he had a second rate mind.

            He was good at hiding his compulsions, but not good at hiding his complete lack of boundaries. People noticed his invasion of their personal life, his nosiness, his looking at private things while their backs were turned. God forbid he went to a party in your home. You could bet he’d go through all of your things if he could be in an empty room alone for a few seconds.

            I almost see him as acting animal-like, rather than as a human being. A very primitive testing of the boundaries at all times.

        2. My ex wife claimed to be the victim with every man she groomed and cheated on me with… She would play the victim but then in the messages between her and her lovers she would tell them how she is taking advantage of my loyalty and integrity and LAUGH ABOUT IT like hysterically laughing… i have no sympathy for these type of people idc if they are “disturbed or disordered” when your spouse tells you X behavior is hurting you and they dont change it then at this point it is a choice EVERYONE has the ability to understand when being told to STOP doing X Y Z it hurts me TO STOP DOING XYZ they dont stop because they enjoy it they get an emotional pay off from it they get a high from it people like Arnold need to stop making excuses for these type of people because they are a cancer

    2. Indeed I left it out, Arnold, as although it is sometimes true, in our times it’s very rarely true. And if you’re speaking from personal experience, please don’t generalize. I’ll grant that there are indeed a few narcissists who are more on the neurotic side of the spectrum I describe in my books (and I’ve worked with some), but they’re a tiny minority. And in our times, holding to these traditional notions can be quite dangerous (e.g., the same theories that postulate that the narcissistic “style” arises out of a core of shame and self-contempt also postulate that autism is the product of emotionally “cold” nurturing by mothers during infancy and schizophrenia is a reaction to mothers who give their infants. While I suppose there might be one case in million where there might be some validity to either notion, best these days – especially in view of all the evidence to the contrary – to assume them as outdated – well-intended and understandably formulated given the knowledge available at the time, but simply incorrect. And to hold such views in our time and attempt to treat an autistic person or a schizophrenic based on those premises and the techniques developed from them would land any professional in some serious hot water, and for good reason. Unfortunately other traditional notions which have also be proved largely (notice I said largely) incorrect still enjoy a fair degree of acceptance. But thankfully, the tide is turning.

  2. Dr. Simon, Is there a neurotic “form” of narcism? or can some neuritic personality disorders display characteristics that resemble narcissism? I’m not sure I’m asking this question clearly, possibly because it’s not clear to me!
    Like if someone has some kind of OCD for instance, because they are co consumed by their obsessions it could leave little time and energy to focus on others needs. Or say ADD, which I have traits of,,,,,,,To live somewhat successfully, Ideally I need things in my environment to be a certain way. When I would make a request of Spathtard, I was accused of being critical or controlling or he would say…..” see…..I can’t do anything right”. In my mind I was trying to ask for what I needed from him and I also was looking for maturity and responsibility. I have enough trouble keeping my own self on track and wanted him to step up as an adult MAN, so I didn’t feel like I was with an irresponsible child boy.
    Of course, having said all of that, I also now realize there was much more behind his lack of effort in EVERY department than I even had a clue about then. You know how they say, it takes a smart fox to act dumb? Well he was doing the something equivalent.

      1. Got it Dr. Simon!! 🙂 And please excuse MY type on the word neurotic! How can I spell it right once and then blow it a couple words later? Not sure why spell check failed me!
        I’m not sure if my question has been answered though. What I wonder is if the characteristics of a personality disorder (or other condition such as FASD or Autism or even a brain injury or EVEN PTSD?) can look like narcism without actually being narcism.
        I do understand your reply to Arnold and I see this difference VERY clearly. I also hear it (what Arnold was saying) frequently when people talk about bullies for instance. But from my own experience with the types of CDs we discuss here, I am totally in the ****entitlement and ‘see but disagree’**** camp.
        There are some thoughts I’ve had that are not all the way on the surface yet, not complete, about something I’ve seen my brother and Spathtard do. It has something to do with their superficial front of decency and act of moral superiority…..their mask. They have a fake, superficial, moral presentation that they hold others to and look down upon others if they fall short…..yet in reality they live their hidden lives of depravity and deceit ? I have had this bouncing around in the back of my mind for a VERY long time and it was there in a different form even when I was still with Spathtard only now I see it was him manipulating me. Some of these things are almost impossible to put into words and maybe it’s just the nature of having your head twisted around.

  3. I am particularly interested in the statement “But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.”

    I think what is hardest for me to get over is that I did realise that the psychopath was crossing the line and was untrustworthy. But I still didn’t break with her until she had got all the money she wanted out of me and also blackened my name to everyone around me as well as thoroughly abusing me in the most personal terms. I tried to be so, so cautious and negotiate my way through the mess to achieve the goals I was supposed to achieve – and it turned out I should have run at the first sign of weirdness like a person running from a burning building. Even three years later, it makes me cry.

    1. Angela……..You did the best you could at the time knowing what you knew and NOT knowing what you didn’t. It’s so so so hard not to think you should have done something differently but you didn’t know what you were dealing with and probably by the time things started to become more obvious you were in too deep, in one sense or another. I swear there is something about them that acts as almost a nerve toxin…….like when a venomous insect paralyzes it’s prey.

      1. Thanks, Puddle – that is a very interesting observation and comforting to me! And of course, with no previous knowledge of character disturbance, and given the impression management, constant lying and circle of sycophants that the psychopath cultivated (including the guy I was dating at the time), I was at a great disadvantage. I really hope this topic gains more recognition eventually. Hugs.

    2. I understand exactly what you are saying. I found myself in a relationship where it took me 3 years to work out what was really going on, the manipulation and abuse was so subtle and insidious, yet looking back I can see it all so clearly now. I too saw some weirdness but I put it down to him being eccentric.I know I should have run away in the first few months, but Ive learnt now and will never put myself in that situation ever again. Its changed me for ever and I know I am not as trusting now with men. My break up is recent and I know I need time to heal. Truly awful experience.

      1. Dear Laine, I’m sorry you are in this painful stage of recovery and repair. Actually there is no stage of this that isn’t painful so keep your expectations in check. This is NOT like an ordinary breakup and don’t let anyone tell you you should just buck up and move on. This is different and those around you, although they mean well, can’t advise you unless they themselves have been through one of these nightmares. Just stay strong, do your homework and maintain NO CONTACT with this person so the spell you have been under can weaken. In time you will feel differently but it takes a lot of time. Hang in there and be good to you.

  4. Here’s a technical/clinical question, possibly off topic a bit, but here goes: How can a mental health providor, such as Dr. Simon or a psychiatrist/psychologist well educated in psychopathy, make a diagnosis of NPD or psychopathy without interviewing the people who have relationships with the CD individual? Some psychopathy experts have stated that it can be difficult for people who have not been targeted by the CD to see the characteristics in the said individual, because the CD is so skilled at lying and manipulation. All narcissists have their circle of sycophants, and those sycophants and fellow narcissists will virulently rail against anyone who suggests the powerful CD is anything but what his/her mask suggests. Also, many NPDs/psychopaths understand that they are “different” and tend toward psychopathy, so they wouldn’t honestly answer the psychopathy tests if they were ever in a position to be subjected to testing.

    1. Reader, In part, the proof is in the pudding so to speak……there actions, techniques and life styles say a LOT and are very different than what you encounter in a normal relationship partner. Not to mention, the after affects and the mess they leave behind in their victims…….I know I have never been diagnosed with PTSD in the wake of a failed relationship before, nor has anyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with.
      When you read the comments and stories of the people who have been targeted it’s often said that it’s almost as if these Spaths read from the same play book. There are just so many life indicators with these types that when someone who is familiar with this disorder in the one assessing it, from a viewpoint that differentiates between neurotic personality issues and intentional, long term patterns of manipulation, parasitic living, domestic violence, financial irresponsibility and many many more measurable signs………they are able to put 2+2+2+2+2+2 together. The key component to all of what I just spelled out is that the person assessing the individual has to be familiar with what these predators are and the tactics they use. Most therapists are not……….as Dr. Simon has said many times, a lot of therapists are operating under the erroneous belief that these monsters are the same as most neurotic people who end up in their office and there must be some underlying lack of self esteem or unhealed childhood wound that is the fuel behind their abusive behavior.
      BUT, I do think that having the input of the “relationship” partner’s input certainly would be of tremendous value in assessing a CD individual! Probably one of the most pertinent and telling.

    2. Great question! And it fits nicely with some of the other comments on the subject. Hare’s PCL-R’s reliability and validity has been well-established in the professional literature. However, most studies sample populations where the instrument has been scored by professionals with the proper training. While there are some popular books out there and websites the make you think you can answer a few questions and tell whether or not someone is a psychopath, scoring the only known valid instrument correctly requires much specialized training. And the information necessary to score it can come from a variety of sources including individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the CD person as well as other corroborating history. Only when you have sufficient, valid information and the test scorer has the right training to interpret it and score it on the checklist can you be sure someone really is a psychopath when they meet or exceed the “cut score” most of the research indicates you should use. We also know that Hare’s instrument is more reliable than the average clinician’s judgement. However, some clinicians are much better than others at making the correct call. So, a clinician well-versed in character assessment might well be able to pick up on psychopathy even in the absence of sufficient reliable information necessary to score the PCL-R.

      What you’ve mentioned here is so important in other ways, too. I’m familiar with literally hundreds of situations in which couples went for help and the therapist was not only totally fooled and manipulated by the CD person but also the victim was inaccurately perceived and even faulted, thus not only making a bad situation worse but also generally prolonging the agony of the victim until they finally got the courage to trust their gut and/or had enough of their abuser to simply disregard the therapist’s advice and get out.

      Thanks so much for this question. And please excuse my rushed reply. I might modify or expand upon it later.

      1. Thank you, Dr. Simon. It is good to know that other sources of information are considered in the evaluation, including the CD’s relationships and “corroborating history.” I was in one of those hundreds of situations you mention, where several providers made mistakes or serious underestimations in their evaluation, (although one did do the right thing early on but things worsened over the years as they tend to do with these types). It is helpful that we live in an era where 30 years of research has come to light through your writings and the work of similar clinicians. I don’t imagine I’ll hire a provider again for this situation because the guidance available through your blog and other writing (mentioned above) is truly better that can be found in the offices of the typical counselor now. Thanks so much, and keep up the good work.

        1. It’s really quite astounding that there are such huge holes in traditional therapy when the potential outcome of being entangled with one of these vampires can be so dangerous. This isn’t like a normal relationship where you just don’t have enough in common with the other person or can’t find a middle ground or the other person wants to move on etc…and you get “hurt”. These entanglements can be life and death and can destroy you in many ways, altering the entire life picture you had prior to your evolvement with them.

  5. This discussion really speaks to me about my brother and his self-absorbed, covert-aggressive interactions with me and others, as I now understand it, thanks to Dr. Simon.
    We do not live in the same city, but lately, when my brother (D.) would come to town on business trips, I’d find myself depressed, anxious, wondering what I could say to avoid being “trampled” on in our discussions. It’s as Dr. Simon mentioned – I felt as though I had suffered whiplash – I never saw the other car coming, so to speak. Conversations would get sidetracked and manipulated into senseless meanderings about any and every topic of conversation until I felt I was twisted into knots, all the while watching my brother sneering at me and saying stuff like: “well, it makes sense doesn’t it? How can you not see that?” And if for some reason I wouldn’t acknowledge what he was saying, true to form, he’d either turn on the self-pity mode, tears and all, or turn on the “instant rage” button. I’d be so taken aback I’d apologize.

    He read me like a book – overly sensitive, rushing to make others feel better, at the expense of myself, knowing I’d drop any defenses and feel sorry for him.

    And yet … something wasn’t right. But I guess as many neurotics think, I figured it was somehow my fault. I was almost obsessed with trying to figure out what to say/not to say/how to talk to him, make him see that others were hurt by his actions. I didn’t understand that he enjoyed all the drama and attention and didn’t care an iota about others’ feelings or rights.

    As I mentioned to Dr. Simon, I owe him my sanity! I started researching how to deal with manipulative personalities, eventually stumbling on a youtube video showing part of Dr. Simon’s workshop on covert-aggressives. I then read In Sheep’s Clothing (my brother displays every one of the signs Dr. Simon details in his book, except for – as of yet, violence), and I felt such relief! Although I still have lots of work to do in how to deal with D.’s behavior and not be an enabler to it, I’m so grateful to know that I’m not the crazy one.

    I’ve just recently purchased Character Disturbance, and as well, I’ve been reading all your comments, on this post as well as catching up on the previous ones, and I’m extremely happy to have found you all, even though the reason we’re here is such a stress-filled one.

    Goodness, I don’t mean to ramble on so! But – I have a feeling you understand! 

    1. GG, your story has much in common with others I’ve read on the blog and my own as well. Glad you found the site! Keep reading; more relief is on the way.

    2. That’s great GG! It is such a relief to our minds, hearts and our conscience when we finally find information that actually applies to what we have been trying to deal with for so long and can see now what it is we are up against. With my brother it’s come down to basically having as little contact as possible. I still care about him and have concern for him but also see the futility of interacting with him…’s pointless and anything that comes out of his mouth is a lie basically so what’s the point anyhow. It’s sad because I do wish it was different.

      1. Thanks Reader and Puddle. I think what I mourn is the immediate family I “could” have had. I find myself looking at seemingly loving, kind sibling interactions and feel left out of the whole healthy dynamic. And yet, I know with my mind that all is not as it appears – once I scratch the surface a bit, these on-the-surface supportive, kind family dynamics are anything but that. I’m 57 years old and feel like I have a lot of learning to catch up on!

        1. GG,,,,,,,we all have a lot of learning to do and unfortunately this is not where I’d like to be doing it BUT……I am. 🙁
          Yes, all is not what it appears to be from the outside and nothing is perfect, right? I think it’s easy to see something that you don’t have in your life, wish you did have in your life and think that if you did have it in your life it would be great. But there are always trade offs and “costs” for lack of a better term. Even true love and a wonderful relationship can be very painful if it ends in loss of the loved one.

          1. You’re right of course. I guess it’s the “grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome, except that when/if you make it to the other side, then someone else’s grass is greener, and on and on ….

          2. GG!! LOL, one of my favorite sayings is, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence………………but you still have to cut it”!

  6. A little off topic but I wonder if Dr. Simon saw a recently released music video, it subtly addresses unsocialized “tacky” behavior in modern culture. It seems a parody but goes deeper as the song goes on especially the last part. “Tacky” by Weird Al.

  7. Brilliantly put Dr. You’ve described precisely what happened to me over many many years of being on the receiving end of a set of truly awful behaviours, from someone who felt entitled to do as she pleased……until I saw the light – thanks in no small part to this website. Whilst the manipulation and gaslighting and accusations have not gone away, I am now much more in control. The difference was in setting in place boundaries, over which she is simply not allowed to cross…….and past which I will NOT go. It feels good.
    PS. The other piece of advice I would give to anyone reading is to ask the manipulator pointed questions (which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer). They will routinely struggle to answer……and will more than often reveal their real motives.
    Simple I know….but effective.

  8. Btw…..and just clarity, in using the word ‘control’ I refer to myself, as opposed to anyone else. I have no intention to control anyone else – other than to prevent them from doing harm to me or others close to me.

    1. Hi Danny! I often wonder what would have become of the situation with Spathtard if I would have REALLY known what was going on and put my foot down, pinned him down for direct answers to direct questions, etc, as you have. Doesn’t really matter but it’s a lingering question in my mind and it makes me feel like such a chump that i didn’t.
      Hope you are well. You sound great! 🙂

      1. Thanks kindly Puddle 🙂 Yes, one of the greatest things that has come out of this experience (bearing mind I have been a victim of this for decades) is that I am now in charge…..of me. I can wake in the morning and smile. I can go about my business without feeling I need permission from another person who has no respect whatsoever for my individual rights and choices and interests. WE can all do our bit in preventing others from causing us damage. We are more powerful than we often grant ourselves the power/s. Dr.Simon, through this website and via lots of very intelligent contributors, have helped me realise that I was unintentionally holding the door open for me to be personally abused BUT, more importantly, I am NOT wrong to shut it……and shut it tight if necessary! I don’t have to feel guilty, no longer have to – and we both know that manipulative people are experts in making others feel guilty. It’s a highly successful route to them gaining outright control of their target individual.

        1. Thanks, Danny for the kind words. It’s important also to mention how important the “balance” is in this whole equation. Sometimes, even reasonably well-adjusted people manipulate, using the “guilt button” as a means of coercing a character-deficient individual to step up to their responsibilities. But as I say in my writings, no amount of guilting will generally sway a character-impaired person, whereas guilting often successfully manipulates and entraps the overly conscientious, “neurotic” folks. In the end, real empowerment comes not just with an honest reckoning with the character-impaired, but also with an honest self-reckoning. Only two relatively healthy people who respect each other’s legitimate wants and needs can forge the kinds of loving relationships that last and foster mutual growth.

          1. Thanks for saying this Dr. Simon because I did use some guilt with Spathtardx. the only desired rusult was for him to step up to the plate and demonstrate that he ment what he had said and promised.
            And, it’s impossible to be the type of person you describe (half of a healthy relationship) when your efforts in a relationship are being undermined by deceit and covert manipulation.

          2. Yes, thanks for the reminder. Very much noted – and the mutual respect is indeed an important challenge for both to meet.

        2. You know what Danny, when you finally see that this was all being done with intention, it is a tipping point, no? When that lightbulb lit up for me as a rusult of extensive research, I was D O N E with the loser and would never EVER be drawn back in by him. I’m sure he has no intention of wanting to draw me back in but I’m just saying….screw him and the tricycle he rode in on. Mommy’s basement is where he belongs………the symbolism is just incredible.
          The sad thing is, originally my research was done with the intent on looking for answers to save the relationship, to help him with his supposed childhood abuse issues, etc etc, etc……….I just kept looking for answers and only through a long drawn out process did I stumble on the information that switched on the lightbulb. I may have made plenty of mistakes along the way but my intentions were pure,,,,,,based on BS, yes…..but they were pure. Mean while i was being accused of all kinds of things that were false and I kept trying and trying to explain, thinking there HAS to be some kind of communication problem here for him to think this…..little did I know, he didn’t think those things……I was being toyed with. I tear up just typing that because i know how much it meant to me, and how much I loved being with him and being a couple. I know for a fact that he thought I like being flattered for example…I do NOT like being flattered. I wanted to be appealing to him yes but other then that,,,,,all the crap he told me was just crap. I didn’t want him to tell me I was sexy, i wanted him to show me that he found me attractive…..well he couldn’t because he didn’t I’m sure. He sure didn’t act like it……
          So, the trick is to KNOW what is happening. Before this I just didn’t know people did these kinds of things in real life. Even after having gone through it, it is still surreal to me.

          1. Yes, see what you mean Puddle. There is so much going through my mind right now. I was not and am not perfect either. No one is. We will all make mistakes….and will continue to do so. Initially, when my wife would make errors, I would try to seek common understanding, to be forgiving, forget about it, to overlook… hard feelings, move on and learn from the experience. Though I didn’t feel the same from her. My errors were made into cardinal sins….against the ‘god’ that was she. Forgiveness? Not a chance. All the more reason for me to work harder to win her confidence. She WANTED to hurt me. The key point is that now I feel so much better, I have so much clarity…..and the best feeling is that I do not have to feel guilty for just being me. I’m not a nasty piece of work, I’m not a nasty individual, I wish no one, and I mean NO ONE, any harm. I have never been unfaithful. Which is why I can express as that saying goes………“Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to the people and things that hurt you. Be wise enough to walk away from the negativity…”

          2. Danny, how can you even begin to judge your own behavior when it is in response, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, to being manipulated, lied to, devalued, invalidated, toyed with, etc, etc, etc??? I believe that there was a part of me that knew something was wrong, that this (not exactly THIS because i couldn’t even conceive of THIS outcome) was going to be the inevitable out come. I felt insecure in the relationship and he knew it. He worked that as well as EVERYTHING else to his advantage. But when I say that this part of me knew it (not KNEW it) it a very hard thing to describe and it’s very hard for me to understand myself. The question remains: How can you know something without KNOWING something and on top of that, how can you be “shut up” by someone who won’t answer direct questions about what you know you don’t KNOW? It’s just like time rolled on, situations kept changing,,,,,but nothing changed but it was always different. And there he was, in my kitchen, in my bed,,,,,, in his words……..” why would i be with you all the time Puddle if I didn’t love you”. I didn’t have an answer. I do now. My answer would have been a question,,,,,, “why don’t you tell ME”? OMG!! There is one thing I wish more than ANYthing I wish I had a redo button for and that would be to ask him direct questions and insist on direct answers. I just somehow couldn’t and book after unfinished book got kicked across the room, under the rug until there were so many I just couldn’t keep any of the stories straight. It just turned into one huge confusing story that made no sense and I was too tired, confused and worn down to figure it out.

          3. Understood completely Puddle. You describe the overall effect of manipulation on others very well, very succinctly. These character types are incredibly powerful as they are debilitating, so I do understand (as best as I am able) your personal pain. What is slightly frightening is that we are currently in the midst of a zeitgeist that promotes narcissism, manipulation and other such associated behaviours, which doesn’t bode well for the future. Sometimes I feel as though in a running battle to ensure my own children do not assume the same ‘normalised’ (anything but) behaviours as a ‘legitimate’ (anything but) means of negotiating what it is they may want. That, I feel, needs to be discouraged at all costs.

          4. Danny, I can’t tell you how many times I watch the television and think to myself…..I don’t know WHAT I would do if I had kids now and of course thank my lucky stars that I didn’t have any with Spathtard and feel nothing but sympathy for the ex-wives of his that did. I hope for you and your kids that your good judgement and character prevails but I totally understand your concerns Danny because it this character issue does seem to be everywhere. Maybe it’s just that I am hyper-focused on it now because of what I’ve been through……so I see it everywhere now, like a new color I didn’t know of before.

          5. Danny, the book kicked across the floor is your description and I’m sorry I didn’t give you credit for that. I remember when you said that I thought it was such a perfect analogy! And I embellished it a little. I just wanted to let you know, I didn’t steal it and don’t take credit for it! 🙂

          6. Hey…no bother my friend. I remember that early exchange and I do recall you mentioning so Puddle. Yes, lots of books left open in the mind….none complete, none ever closed…..the contents of which have been thrown to the floor, strewn in an unkind/uncaring manner all over the place by said partner. Utterly devoid of any feelings for anyone but themselves.

  9. Dr. Simon, I would change something in this ***in my case*** anyhow……..
    ” Most folks who, for some reason, found themselves drawn to a narcissist early on begin really feeling regret at this point in the relationship. But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.”

    Rather than regret, I felt extreme confusion which now that I’ve been through this is certainly a red flag! But I was already invested deeply, he saw to that at the same time he disregarded devalued me.

  10. All very fascinating stuff. I was involved with I believe an NPD or a malignant narcissist awhile back. The relationship ended 3.5 years ago. At first I saw some ‘missing’ in this person, there was a lack ’emotions, feelings and empathy. The process of learning this was not immediate, but over time. The self absorption in this person was profound. But somehow like others I was mesmerized by their charm, erudition and confidence.

    As time went on I began to see the same pattern of events that the Narcissist/psychopath eventually reveals, subtle putdowns and mind games, projection,(‘gas lighting’). There was a total lack of mutuality, and extreme egocentricity. What’s funny is that years ago I meant someone like this, but did not become all too personally involved with them.

    The relationship ended, and like others involved with a CD person like this I was left wondering. I went into therapy three years ago, and much as been revealed. One year ago I was diagnosed with Borderline PD- this was changed from an earlier Diagnoses of GAD and depression. I have been in DBT as well- making progress, working hard at recovering my life.

    From what I have read, Narcs/Psychopath’s and a Borderline seem to do a toxic codependent dance together. Which inevitably fails.

    After therapy and much reading, I came to the conclusion that my former ‘partner of 1.5 years was in fact a narcissist or psychopath, which my psychiatrist said was very likely. After reading several books, like ‘Without Conscience’ by Robert Hare, ‘Snakes in Suits’ ‘When Psychopath’s Go To Work’ by Paul Babiak and Robert Hare as well As ‘The Object of My ‘Affection, is my Reflection’, by Rokelle Lerner, I have educated myself on these ‘predators’.

    It seems the difference between a Narc and a psychopath is that the Narc has some ‘fleeting ghost feelings left’- The psychopath is basically emotion and feeling free. Also the Narc needs admiration, where the Psychopath needs none.

    1. Skybuzz………..” One year ago I was diagnosed with Borderline PD- this was changed from an earlier Diagnoses of GAD and depression”
      What is GAD?

  11. Hello!
    I’m recovering from a 28 year long relationship with a NPD and having also been raised by an NPD mother. No wonder I’ve felt like a victim all my life! I just happened across this website and feel like I’ve found kindred spirits, and it’s such a relief to realize I’m not the crazy one (I’ve been driven a little insane though). I have yet to read Dr. Simon’s books but I plan to.

    Sorry, this is going to be long.

    My ex fits the NPD profile to a T. He wasn’t physically violent (except when drinking/doing hard drugs) but he was expert at the mindgames/projection/gaslighting/lying/fake self-pity/self centeredness/guilt tripping. I remember seeing the movie Gaslight years ago and thinking it reminded me of him–and this was long before I realized he had NPD.

    Tellingly, after we divorced in 2005 and after he broke up with his pill popping gf a year later, he told me he liked me because “you never call me on my bullshit.” Hah. This doll knew exactly what he was doing, I was just too stupid or codependent to call him out. This was the time he asked to move back in with me because he had lost his job and his current roommate had kicked him out and he was homeless. Oh, poor baby. Well, of course, being the weak willed codependent I was, I told him he could stay for three months and then leave as soon as he got a job. I also told him if he ever became violent he would be out the door. Of course he acted all fake-compliant and sweet to gain my trust and agreed to this. When he finally found a job (a low paying one) at first he did contribute to the expenses, but within a year he lost that job too and stopped looking. I’d come home from work to find him laying on the couch watching TV and smoking pot. When I asked him why he wasn’t looking, he said no one would hire him because he was over 50 and had too many mental problems. He wasn’t even TRYING. That should have been a huge red flag. He did go on to apply for disability (due to diabetes, a knee problem and supposed bipolar disorder) and then started saying he wouldn’t qualify for disability were he to work, but no worries, when his disability ship came in, he’d pay for everything. By this time he’d been in my house, eating my food, running up all my utility bills, and manipulating me and my 2 teenagers for 3 years–not the original 3 months.

    His abuse and manipulations escalated and after a time he stopped being “nice.” He did whatever he wanted, and NEVER apologized if his behavior hurt or angered me. He’d tell me it was ME who had the problem, and I OWED him, for divorcing him in the first place. He attempted to turn my kids against me and almost succeeded with my daughter. He trashed my character to them, and to their friends, and whoever else he had a chance to trash me to. He kept playing the victim, this poor disabled man, living with such a cruel, cold, and insane woman who actually wanted him to bring in some income! Oh poor baby. Meanwhile I was struggling financially but did he care? Not a bit. My son, just turned 18, moved to another state to escape the disfunction and my ex has actually said he HATES his own son just because he sees through the BS. To this day (4 years later) he refuses to have anything to do with him. He very nearly turned my daughter and her bf against me, convincing her in his very logical and well spoken way (I swear that man should have been a lawyer) how “insane” I was and how I “overreacted” to everything because I dared to sometimes call him out on his unreasonable demands and his psychological and financial abuse of me. Sometimes I’d even lose my temper and of course that was just my craziness. Any sane person, you see, would take sympathy on him and allow him to lay on the couch all day getting high, loudly railing at political shows on TV, and and making a mess all over the house (he NEVER picked up after himself and his idea of “washing dishes” was throwing them in the sink and soaking them, not actually washing them). After a while, I started to get more vocal in my complaints and contempt for him, and threatened to kick him out (I wouldn’t have at that time, because I was absolutely terrified of him, but I thought it might make him more helpful around the house). Of course it didn’t work. What he did instead was start threatening suicide–but noooooo, that wasn’t good enough. He upped the ante by threatening to make it look like a murder or maybe he’d even take me along with him. He would say these things in front of my daughter, knowing how upset she’d be and how it made her cry.

    In 2012 he decided he wanted a dog (we already had one). Not once did he ask me what I thought about another dog. One day I came home to find a puppy in his arms on the couch. I told him to get rid of it–I did not have the space, time or patience for another pet. And of course I had to provide the funds to feed and take care of it on my very limited income. He looked at me incredulously and said “I never realized how much you hated animals.” Oh, the guilt tripping and constant twisting of words. He was a master at putting others on the defensive, especially mean and crazy old me. Defensively I said I loved animals but it simply wasn’t practical of financially feasible. Of course the dog stayed because he ALWAYS got his way. ALWAYS. For over a year it stayed. My ex refused to discipline or train the dog, who barked constantly, pooped and pi$$ed all over the rugs, and ran away more times than I can count. He always made excuses for its behavior (oh, it’s just a puppy, etc. even though the dog was almost a year old). Animal control was called by neighbors on 3 occasions. The third time I told them to please take the dog because I didn’t have the funds or want to pay a fine and frankly I hated that dog by then and everything he represented. The evil bum never forgave me and constantly railed about what a crazy animal hater I was for not fighting for him to keep this out of control dog who ruined my house and I never wanted in the first place.

    He had his drug dealing friends over to smoke pot with him AND MY 20-year old daughter, and if I complained about it (it’s a very small house and they were LOUD) he told me (and my daughter too, who got in on this) I was a controlling c**t and b**ch. And of course crazy as a loon. Oh, he had his circle of sycophants alright. I was always made to feel like a victim/villain. As a result, the house I paid for was no longer mine–I holed myself up in my room with the door locked and rarely ventured out except to eat or go to the bathroom because I couldn’t stand to be around him and he had taken over the house.

    His behavior became increasingly aggressive (he no longer even pretended to be “nice”) and intolerable, but I was so afraid of him I thought I’d be stuck living with him forever. For seven years he hadn’t worked and had been rejected 3 times for disability. It looked like nothing would ever change.

    Until the day he beat my daughter up. I don’t know what he was on, but she called me one day and told me to meet her at the hospital because her dad had gone ballistic and given her a black eye. This was the last straw. Until then, I didn’t realize I could have gotten a restraining order all along, but it took a violent act like this to push me to the brink. My daughter refused to press charges (she loves her dad and is tortured by her feelings of hate/love for him) but I did. We went to court and he kept saying that “she hit him first” even though there were no marks on him AT ALL. Testifying against him WITH HIM THERE was one of the scariest things I ever had to do, but I won and got my restraining order (he told me I had no case against him) and FINALLY he was out. He had no place to go of course, and never let me forget how I MADE HIM HOMELESS. He blames my son for “feeding the idea” of tossing him out and will not have anything to do with him (my son had nothing to do wit this). He’s nothing but an overgrown 3 year old, but even without the conscience of a toddler. He made every day a living hell. He’s right–I AM insane: because of him I’m suffering PTSD and am afraid of EVERYTHING, feel worthless, and whatever little confidence I had (remember, my mother was also NPD but that’s another story for another time) is gone. I feel like I’m not good at anything. But somewhere I got the strength to toss out the bum, and I do take some pride in that.

    He posted on Facebook that he was going to come to our house and KILL HIMSELF IN HIS DAUGHTER’S ROOM because it was SHE who was responsible for him being homeless (because she got beat up by him and made me kick him out–so this made it HER FAULT). I realized then just what an evil POS I was dealing with. I absolutely think he is evil and without a conscience. He is just as bad as any serial killer. The difference is he kills souls instead of bodies.

    Since he can no longer use me as his “narcissistic supply” he has nothing but contempt and hatred for me. He threatened me through text and on Facebook and railed on about what a horrible wife and mother I was on his timeline. (I deleted my FB account). Two weeks ago he was finally awarded his disability (that I made possible for him by allowing him to freeload for seven years). I calculated I had spent at least $20,000 on him during the 7 years he was under my roof(and that includes him demanding to give him half my tax returns to him each of those years, which I foolishly did) but asked him for only $3K (he is getting $40K in back pay). He went on to tell my daughter he would give me $5.00. Even my daughter thought that would be a slap in the face. How is it that evil POS’s like him always seem to come up winning in the end?

    Oh, there is more, much more, but I’ll stop here. I’m so glad I found your site, and plan to read all the books about how these f**kers operate. I read many, many of the posts and articles here over the past two days and was literally in tears because finally, FINALLY I realize I’m not alone and there are others who have been through similar experiences. Some of the stories I read sound so much like mine I could have told them myself. It’s such a huge relief to know I was being played with (well, I knew I was but felt all alone and had been largely convinced maybe I really was crazy) and used and then tossed away like used piece of toilet paper. I feel regret that I wasted so many years being miserable and afraid, but maybe, just maybe, it’s possible for me to pick up the pieces and learn to be happy, something I have never been, because my entire life I have been/allowed myself to be the victim of this type of abuser. It’s no longer something I want to be. Thank you for this site.

    1. “Until the day – the last straw” Those words remind me of something I read somewhere time ago. Anyone else heard of anything called “the aggression threshold”? In the continuum from totaly inoffensive to extremely offensive, there’s a threshold somewhere between those two poles where someone takes action or retaliates. Emotional manipulators feel for that threshold and act beneath it. I have only a vague memory of such. Would anyone else happen to have any memory of something like this?

    2. Lucky Otter, although I rarely comment directly on anyone’s given situation, there are plenty of indications from what you relate her that the character disturbance involved here is more extensive and severe than merely NPD. You might find the sections on personality types and disorders in my book Character Disturbance (and possibly also The Judas Syndrome) helpful in getting a handle on the nature of this disturbance.

  12. My partner has a child with someone who seems to be a narcissist. Nothing is ever her fault. Even when asked about her own bad behaviour she will say “if you didn’t do this to me then I wouldn’t have to respond like this”. She thinks that she deserves special treatment all of the time (such as expecting child support payments to be made early at no notice). She expects to get her own way about every little thing and goes into a rage when she doesn’t get her own way. She will rant and be abusive. There are never apologies. Other times she will stop responding if she feels she has been “wronged”. She takes injury at the smallest thing. She expects to be shown special treatment “you need to care about me because I am the mother of your child”. The whole pregnancy seems to have been a premeditated “accident” as she was supposed to infertile and on the pill (she’s late 30s not a young thing!). The biggest concern is the treatment of the child tho. She is saying that the child has behavioural issues. The child is 10 months. The child gets frustrated as is normal at that stage of development. I don’t think she is coping well but she is blaming the child and making out the child is abnormal in some way. How do we deal with this kind of thing? I’m hoping the specialists will just say the behaviour is normal for age but I already have HUGE concerns about the child’s long term welfare. Any advice?

    1. I don’t know OneLove but being single with a young baby is hard at anytime and it is hard not knowing all the details. A relationship break up, sleep deprivation and trying to care for a young baby that’s a lot of emotional turmoil and she could be suffering post natal depression, there’s a combination of things that could be going on. It doesn’t excuse her abusive behaviour but it could be contributing. It’s a difficult situation but maybe sorting out some kind of parenting plan might ease her mind and behaviour. That way your partner knows when he has to pay child support and she can’t demand it early as it is set and any shared care etc…

      1. She can Demand anything she wants but that does not mean he has to comply. Firm but kind compliance to want the court has ordered is all that is required. Yes, there are women who have pulled the baby trap and it’s horribke because it’s the child who will suffer the most and the longest. Broken family, a mother who would do such a thing and all that goes along with that and then a father who resents the whole mess. Horrible.

  13. I didn’t mention it because it didn’t seem relevant when I posted but she didn’t really have much of a relationship with my partner. They had a casual relationship for a few months. Apparently he told her she was never going to be “the one” but only a fling. Very soon afterwards she fell pregnant.

    She has also stalked and harassed me. I haven’t wanted to involve the police as I am worried it will only make the situation worse for everyone but especially the baby.

    She won’t agree to a parenting plan. She has moved interstate and when my partner goes to visit there are always issues such as last minute changes to the plans, ie cancelling the plans.

    He doesn’t have sufficient funds to take it to court.

    Like I said – my main concern is the child. We just need to be there for the baby growing up but it is hard being so far away.

    When she was pregnant she said things like – I never need to be alone again now. She had the baby for her own selfish needs. She doesn’t actually care – apart from about how she looks. Her lies are never ending.

  14. Appreciate this article.

    Was working on a petition drive over the last few months. It was my first job back after the pandemic. I have a history of being abused in the workplace and home. Lots of temporary workers and lots of opportunities to observe and practice dealing with various personality disorders and quirks!

    The distinction between passive and active disregard really piqued my interest.

    Learning to pay much closer attention to the dynamics early in all my interactions with others. One young woman who I sorta clicked with early (she also focused on work and worked hard), she seemed invested in her children, and mentally stable. I noticed after a short period of time though, that she expected things from me that she herself wouldn’t reciprocate and that her actions did not match her words.

    It was interesting to observe how it became more obvious as we interacted more. She acted like she really liked me, but she didn’t really. Her expectations were that I would “take care” of her, but she felt no need to reciprocate. The last day of work on our precious 15 min. break, she wanted me to make her coffee for her (it’s one of the machines where you have to manually make them one at a time). I said no. she didn’t like that and left without talking to me. Oh well. Then at lunch she was back to talking and friendly. I mentioned I was going to buy lunch and she said lets order together. I asked if she knew what she wanted and what was good in the area (she lives in the area and I don’t). She said I’m going to my car to think about it. Didn’t make sense to me, but I was making myself another coffee (we worked 12 hr shifts). When she didn’t come back in in 10 min, I went out to look for her, didn’t see her. So I just put together some random things I had and made lunch out of it. A friend and I went for a walk after I ate. I mentioned to him that she just blew me off. At the end of our walk she came up smiling and joking like nothing happened. I said I thought we were going to have lunch. She commented on something else and I said, no you and I, I thought we were going to have lunch. She didn’t miss a beat and said I was talking to my family in the car. My brother’s going to invest in my business. And kept talking about that.

    No apology or even acknowledgment of my feelings/thoughts/position. Didn’t register! Didn’t matter to her.

    She has been trying to get me to go to the casino with her. I don’t gamble, she does. I’m not interested. I wasn’t before I realized how selfish she was, I’m really not now. Want nothing to do with her. She made a comment to someone else earlier in the day that was telling to me: I usually get what I want.

    To me she showed me examples of active and passive disregard.

    This work experience helped me firm up many assertiveness skills as well as not taking the bait when the fighters were looking to fight.

    I’m a super polite and cooperative person and many folks see that as reason to try and dominate….told one aggressive person, who kept picking and poking at me and trying to undermine me and make me look bad in front of the boss, flat out to mind her own business. The look of shock on her face was priceless! She tried chummying up to me after that. No thanks. When another tried to dominate me, I told her not to micromanage me, she threw a tantrum and stomped away claiming to be the victim.

    Avoided the scary ones without appearing to avoid them! If I was in a situation where it was unavoidable to deal with them, I validated what I could of what they were saying/doing. (If they were raging about the taxes pulled from their wages, I agreed the taxes were too high- they are). The hostile woman who cleaned – I made sure to comment on how clean the bathroom was (it was!). She “loved me” and tried to coerce me into giving her my phone number….no way, thankfully got out of there without being backed into a corner. She was really scary and often said/did things that made no sense at all (pointed out to me that the steak shish kabob she was eating was vegetarian). Someone made a comment about a sign she put up (saying the bathroom was closed for cleaning-she kept it up even when she was done cleaning!) and she was raging about getting her 45.

    By the end of the assignment, the large group was treating me with courtesy and respect and the only one testing me was the young woman I wrote about in the beginning of this. Felt really good. Giving me the confidence to go out and get a regular full time job and assert these new skills.

    Keeping an eye out for and paying attention to the subtle and not so subtle disregard is a pretty reliable barometer of someone’s ability to have a healthy, reciprocal relationship.

    1. Healing,

      You’ve reminded me to pay more attention to the details, and act on them. Rather than brush instances under the rug and not dealing with them just creates an avalanche of mistreatment and false dealings.
      Thanks for the reminder to keep our eyes and ears open and to deal with this type of person in an appropriate way as to not become their play toy.

      1. Lucy,

        Glad it helped. It’s so much easier to cut them loose/shut them down in the beginning, rather than getting sucked into believing it’s not a big deal/or a one off thing. Trusting the gut.

        It was a very liberating experience.

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