The Narcissistic Abuser Personality:
People like my Ex (Dan) have a sense of superiority, a need for admiration, a need to always be right, and a lack of empathy. They have an exaggerated belief in their own superiority, value or importance, which is what therapists call grandiosity. This can be expressed in very overt ways, or in more subtle, covert ways.
They often have TWO faces. One is shown only to those they are closest to in intimate relationships. This is the inconsiderate, self-important, abusive one. Another – often the exact opposite, is known to everyone else. They are extremely concerned with and expend a lot of effort keeping up this outward appearance of themselves.
Dan’s life consisted mostly of that – socializing and drinking – and much effort maintaining outward appearances. He was almost obsessed with it. He had no close friends, only acquaintances and a lot of those, but none he was particularly close to. In fact, Dan was not particularly close to anyone emotionally and seemed incapable of having close relationships that are not abusive.
Narcissistic abusers are often addicts, alcoholics or substance abusers. They are very compulsive, constantly seek stimulation, live at the edge or outside of societal norms, and are unable to form or sustain close relationships with others.
They are extremely sensitive to criticism while simultaneously being overly-critical of others. They will often become extremely defensive and retaliate with both immediate and long-term rage, projection, blame, and ongoing verbal and emotional abuse if a another person suggests that they should be responsible for their own behavior. For instance, when it’s mentioned that they’ve done or said anything that was inconsiderate or hurtful to their partner (and they often do), or that they have faults, that they have contributed in any way to recurring relationship issues, or that they make mistakes.
When they have behaved abusively and are called out on it, they will always blame someone else for it and insist that the other person is at fault and that someone else needs to change, never them. To sum this up: They are unable or unwilling to learn about themselves, accept personal faults, recognize personal shortcomings, or to work to correct them. They are unable or unwilling to change or grow as a person.
They rarely apologize for anything. If they do, they do so only begrudgingly and will simultaneously attempt to minimize what they are apologizing for. Because they deem themselves superior and above fault, they see apologies as unnecessary. They will consistently blame their partner for any and all problems that arise in a relationship and take absolutely no responsibility themselves. They tend to be emotionally stunted, cold, hypocritical and conniving. This stems from their lack of empathy and is part of their extreme self-centeredness and sense of entitlement. Because they believe themselves to be superior in their relationships with other people, they expect to be admired, deferred to, and always assured that they are right. They believe they are entitled to having their needs met without waiting and without regard to the needs or feelings of others, so they exploit others, whose needs or beliefs they deem to be less important. To sum this up: Beyond the initial romance (acquisition) stage, they consider unreasonable any suggestion that they should consider the feelings of another person in a relationship. Another person doesn’t autonomously exist to the narcissistic abuser, a partner is seen only as an extension of him/herself – like their right arm.
When their partner fails to conform to their high ideals in every minutiae of her behavior, the narcissistic abuser can easily become frustrated, very verbally abusive, and enraged – particularly in public, where they often attempt to display their superiority and dominance over their partner to others by publicly insulting or humiliating them, usually very disruptively and loudly. However this only makes the abuser look like an angry tyrant – the very thing (s)he would not want to appear as in front of other people. This inability to keep up their public image is evidence of lack of control over their own anger, and their own lack of self-awareness.
Some brief real-life examples: The abuser’s partner takes too long to pick out an item at the market, or takes too long to choose a table in a restaurant, or carries on a conversation with another person in a way the abuser doesn’t agree with. Any of these is likely to invite much public or private humiliation, insults, put-downs and rage from the abuser due to his/her level of frustration with the fact that a partner is taking longer than the abuser thinks (s)he should, is asking too many questions in a conversation with another person, or if a partner says anything the abuser doesn’t like in any manner (s)he doesn’t like. These types of things will cause the target (the abuser’s partner) to be subject to verbal and emotional derision – both publicly and privately. To sum this up, the abuser becomes angry and frustrated because (s)he doesn’t have enough control of his/her partner and the partner’s behavior – every minutiae of it. To an abusive person, this is as frustrating as being unable to control his/her own right arm.
Humiliation and derision gives the abuser a sense of control, power and superiority. This causes the partner of a narcissist/abuser to constantly feel (s)he is “walking on eggshells” – having to watch everything (s)he says and does in an attempt to avoid the abuse. If confronted with this, the narcissist will accuse his/her partner of trying to make him or her “walk on eggshells”. The abusive person will blame and project in this manner because abusers do not like to take any responsibility for their own behavior or actions – even when it is clearly destroying his relationship(s). Blame is their number one tool. To sum this up: The narcissist is much more concerned with controlling the behavior of others than (s)he is with controlling his or her own – which (s)he takes no responsibility for and considers “someone else’s” issue.
If you’re feeling as if you’re “walking on eggshells” around someone all the time, you’re probably dealing with a (narcissistic) abuser. As the title of this post posits – I am not sure the term “narcissistic abuser” isn’t redundant as most abusers seem to have a very pronounced narcissistic streak in their personalities – whether they are diagnosed narcissists, or not.
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Dan once said, with the very self-satisfied smirk and superior tone that he often used: “I’m better at relationships than you.” –“I’m the better communicator.” What Dan was more than anything is abusive and very controlling. And he was very good at that.
Dan liked to try to convince me that all the issues we had in our relationship were:
a. my fault, ie: “HER issues“, as he bitterly said to a counselor (see paragraph #3 above).
b. just miscommunication problems.
c. due to incompatibilities between us.
My advise to targets of narcissistic abusers out there:
Do not allow anyone to try to convince you that abuse is “just a communication” problem, or that abuse occurs because you’re just “incompatible” with another person. Certainly do not allow anyone to try to convince you that their abusive behavior is your fault or that you caused it. You are not responsible for their abusive behavior! The reasons they behave as they do stem from things that happened to them long before you were ever in that person’s life.
Do not accept these “diagnoses” from your abuser or from a therapist or counselor. Therapists and counselors who are trained in dealing with abusive relationships will not arrive at such inconceivable conclusions. They will be able to recognize abuse for what it is and will help work on the issue from that standpoint. Because where there is abuse – all other issues in that relationship are centered around that.
Abuse is NOT “incompatibility“, as Dan liked to insist. This is likely what he tells others as it provides an acceptable good cover for his ongoing personality problems in relationships, and he is all about covering up his faults and keeping up those outward appearances. Abuse is NOT a “communications” problem either.
WHERE THERE IS ABUSE, the abuse is THE problem.