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How does this function in regards to narcissists?

Hi,

I was just wondering how does this function in regards to narcissists?

I have been going over and over and over again the behavior of an ex.

In the beginning he was lovely. Kind, caring, loving, playful, fun, joyous. We would playfully tease each other and argue but it was never mean-spirited.

He instigated the relationship. He romanced me, used terms of endearment, confided in me, we shared a lot of information about ourselves (both past and present).

We met while working on an overseas project in 2008. In 2009 he was made redundant and sent back home. For a period of 6 months or more he confided in me his deep sense of anger, betrayal over this event. I gave him all the emotional support I could. He thanked me for that and said I helped restore his faith in humanity and helped him regain some of the confidence he had lost through being inactive (due to his unemployed status).

In 2010 I was being harassed, bullied by my boss which was causing me a lot of stress. I confided in him about this. He said he could only give me 15mins of his time and then went on to mentioned he esteemed greatly the person who was harassing, bullying me. I felt betrayed by his reaction because it felt like he was implying that I was just exaggerating and/or that my ''problem'' was unimportant and therefore I should just toughen up because I didn't really need support.

This for me was an important point in this relationship because I felt like I had done my job as a caring, loving individual and he had not reciprocated. I let him know how hurt I was.
Over the years we have had good and bad periods. Periods where we don't speak for weeks or even months. In the last two years it seems we only communicate every 6 months.

When I do voice my concerns or hurts in regards to the relationship I am met with anger. At first he claimed I was over-sensitive or analyzing him. It has gotten to the point where I am being called crazy, stupid, bitchy, on drugs. I am none of those things. One of my last e-mails that I sent in September of last year I stated clearly that although I love him I can no longer deal with not being able to talk with him, his hot and cold treatment and appearing/disappearing acts.

He didn't try and communicate with me until April of this year. And I was the one who had to make the first step. I did this because he was looking at my LinkedIn profile and yet had not tried to communicate via e-mail. His response was callous and contemptuous. He didn't understand why I would find his intrusion inappropriate. For me, no contact for six months meant he no longer wanted to communicate with me (i.e. he wanted nothing to do with me).

My question is - is he a narcissist? or is he simply someone who does not process emotions very well (especially negative ones) and reacts with aggression or abandon when confronted with those sorts of emotions?

I'm still struggling with this. I understand that often men have a harder time dealing with emotions (especially negative ones) but I can't figure out if it's more than just that.

Regards,
Anon

your question

First off, let me say that I am sorry to hear of this very distressing relationship. Although I am no expert on narcissism syndrome, the pattern you describe does seem to fit the profile.

For what it's worth, many people who have found themselves trapped in draining/destructive relationships describe the same pattern: The individual presents as someone who is caring and attentive, and behaves in ways that are endearing. The target of their attention is made to feel special and loved, even "swept off their feet". Never have they felt so loved and special in their lives.

But once the target reciprocates affection, the dysfunctional person shows a very different side of himself or herself. The dysfunctional person may become emotionally distant, critical, or impatient with the target's "neediness". All attempts to rekindle that seemingly wonderful and loving relationship fail. The dysfunctional person may even accuse the target of being manipulative, unreasonable, demanding, overly clingy, and so on. The target may begin hearing messages such as "I need some space" or "Why don't you just relax?" or "What are you getting so upset over nothing?"

The more the dysfunctional person pulls away, the more the target tries to hang on. The relationship finally devolves into outright emotional abuse. The end result usually is that the target begins to believe there is something wrong with himself or herself, and sinks into self-loathing.

Often this pattern develops because the dysfunctional person is not by nature a caring or nurturing person, but does want social contact. To avoid loneliness, he or she learned that behaving in certain ways drew people in and created a certain kind of emotional bliss for both.

But because that reciprocal caring is not natural for them, they can't keep it up for long. It becomes exhausting for them, so they pull away to "recover". They view the other person's attempts to reconnect as demands to put out more exhausting effort than they can comfortably maintain. So they pull away further, then become critical, then abusive in their attempts to "rescue themselves" from this (in their view) extremely demanding and needy person.

I would recommend seeking the help of a competent psychotherapist who specializes in narcissist syndrome. Beware of sites on the internet that purport to provide "expert" information or "support groups" for people trapped in narcissistic relationships. These sites frequently are not designed or run by trained therapists and can end up doing more damage than good.

In the meantime, I suggest reading the very useful information on the Psychology Today site devoted to narcissism: http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/narcissism

Good luck. I hope you find happiness and peace.

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Denise Dellarosa Cummins, Ph.D., is the author Good Thinking, The Historical Foundations of Cognitive Science, and Evolution of Mind.

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