Question: What kind of a spouse/mate/partner is likely to be attracted
to a Narcissist?
Answer: THE VICTIMS
On the face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who
typically "binds" with a Narcissist. They come in all shapes and
sizes. The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love
are pretty normal. The Narcissist is putting on his best face - the other
party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only
much later, as the relationship develops and is put to the test.
Living with a Narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often
harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a Narcissist indicates,
therefore, the parameters of the personality of the survivor. He is
moulded by the relationship into The Typical Narcissistic
First and foremost, the Narcissist's partner must have a deficient or a
distorted grasp of his self and of reality. Otherwise, he (or she) is
bound to abandon the Narcissist's precarious ship early on. The distortion
is likely to belittle and demean the partner - while aggrandizing and
adoring the Narcissist. The partner is, thus, placing himself in the
position of the eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat.
Sometimes, it is very important to the partner to appear moral,
sacrificial and victimized. At other times, he is not even aware of his
predicament. The Narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in
the position to demand these sacrifices from the partner, superior in many
ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, financially).
The status of professional victim sits well with the partner's tendency
to punish his self, namely: with his masochistic streak. The torment,
which is a life with a Narcissist is a just punitive measure. In this
respect, the partner is the mirror image of the Narcissist. By maintaining
a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon the
source of masochistic supply (which the Narcissist most reliably
constitutes and most amply provides) - the partner enhances certain traits
and encourages certain behaviours, which are at the very core of
A Narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available,
self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False
Self, depends on it. His sadistic Super-Ego directs itself at the partner,
thus finally obtaining a legitimate source of satisfaction (which does not
endanger the very existence of the Narcissist).
It is through self-denial that the partner survives. He denies his
wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual needs, psychological needs,
material needs, everything, which might engender the wrath of the
Narcissist God-like supreme figure. The Narcissist is rendered even more
superior through and because of this self-denial. It is easy to explain
self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a Great Man. The
Greater the Man (=the Narcissist), the easier it is for the partner to
ignore his self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of
the Narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge
with the Narcissist to the point of oblivion and of dim memories of one's
The two collaborate in this macabre dance. The Narcissist is formed by
his partner inasmuch as he forms him. Submission breeds superiority and
masochism breeds sadism inasmuch as the reverse is true. The relationships
are characterized by rampant emergentism: roles are allocated almost from
the start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent
The predominant chord in the partner's mind is utter, unadulterated
confusion. Even the most basic relationships - with husband, children, or
parents - remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadows cast by the
intensive interaction with the Narcissist. A suspension of judgment is
part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a
prerequisite to and the result of living with a Narcissist. The partner no
longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden. The
Narcissist recreates for the partner the sort of emotional ambience that
led to his formation in the first place: capriciousness, fickleness,
arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world
becomes uncertain and frightening and the partner has only one sure thing
to cling to: the Narcissist. And cling he does. If there is anything which
can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with Narcissists,
it is that they are overtly and overly dependent, even compulsively so.
The partner doesn't know what to do - and this is only too natural in
situations of conflict, as any relationship with a Narcissist is. But the
typical partner also does not know what he wants and, to a large extent,
who he is and what he wants to become. A lack of answers to these
questions is serious.
It is serious because it hampers the partner's ability to gauge
reality, evaluate and appraise it for what it is. His primordial sin is
that he fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is the
voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationships end.
The break-up of a relationship with a Narcissist is, therefore, more
emotionally charged than usual. It is the culmination of a long chain of
humiliations and of subjugation. It is the rebellion of the functioning
and healthy parts of the partner's personality against the tyranny of the
The partner is bound to have totally misread and misinterpreted the
whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship, usually there was
none but in the aspirations and the hopes of the partner). This lack of
proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labeled
Why is it that the partner seeks to prolong his pain? What is the
source and purpose of this masochistic streak? In all likelihood, the
partner is an inverted Narcissist, a suppressed one, or a latent one - in
the limited sense that his psychological make-up and formation are
identical to those of the Narcissist. This deep-rooted, deep-seated
identity fosters the frequent follies-a-deux which is the Narcissistic
couple. Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner (and the
Narcissist) engage in a tortuous and drawn out post mortem. But the
question who really did what to whom (and even why) is irrelevant. What is
relevant is to stop mourning oneself (this is what the parties are really
mourning), start smiling again and love in a less subservient, hopeless,
and pain-inflicting manner.
Abuse is an integral, inseparable part of the Narcissistic Personality
Disorder. The narcissist idealizes and then DEVALUES and discards the
object of his initial idealization. This abrupt, heartless devaluation IS
abuse. ALL narcissists idealize and then devalue. This is THE core of
pathological narcissism. The narcissist exploits, lies, insults, demeans,
ignores (the "silent treatment"), manipulates, controls. All
these are forms of abuse.
There are a million ways to abuse. To love too much is to abuse. It is
tantamount to treating someone as an extension, an object, or an
instrument of gratification. To be over-protective, not to respect
privacy, to be brutally honest, or consistently tactless - is to abuse. To
expect too much, to denigrate, to ignore - are all modes of abuse. There
is physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse. The
list is long.
Narcissists are masters of abusing surreptitiously. They are
"stealth abusers". You have to actually live with one in order
to witness the abuse. There are three important categories of abuse:
OVERT ABUSE - The open and explicit abuse of another person.
Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, berating, demeaning, chastising,
insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring ("silent
treatment"), devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse,
physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of overt abuse.
COVERT OR CONTROLLING ABUSE
Narcissism is almost entirely about control. It is a primitive and
immature reaction to life circumstances in which the narcissist (usually
in his childhood) was rendered helpless. It is about re-exerting one's
identity, re-establishing predictability, mastering the environment -
human and physical.
The bulk of narcissistic behaviours can be traced to this panicky
reaction to the remote potential for loss of control. Narcissists are
hypochondriacs (and difficult patients) because they are afraid to lose
control over their body, its looks and its proper functioning. They are
obsessive-compulsive in an effort to subdue their physical habitat and
render it foreseeable. They are stalk people and harass them as a means of
"being in touch" - another form of narcissistic control.
But why the panic?
The narcissist is a solipsist. He carries the whole universe in his
mind. To him, nothing exists except himself. Meaningful others are his
extensions, assimilated by him, internal objects - not external ones.
Thus, losing control of a significant other - is equivalent to the loss of
control of a limb, or of one's brain. It is terrifying. It is
Independent or disobedient people evoke in the narcissist the
realization that something is wrong with his worldview, that he is not the
centre of the world or its cause and that he cannot control what, to him,
are internal representations.
To the narcissist, losing control means going insane. Because other
people are mere elements in the narcissist's mind - being unable to
manipulate them literally means losing it (his mind). Imagine, if you
suddenly were to find out that you cannot manipulate your memories or
control your thoughts...
Moreover, it is often only through manipulation and extortion that the
narcissist can secure his narcissistic supply. Controlling his sources of
narcissistic supply is a (mental) life or death question for the
The narcissist is a drug addict (his drug being the NS) and he would go
to any length to obtain the next dose. In his frantic efforts to maintain
control or re-assert it, the narcissist resorts to a myriad of fiendishly
inventive stratagems and mechanisms. Here is a partial list:
The narcissist acts unpredictably, capriciously, inconsistently and
irrationally. This serves to demolish in others their carefully crafted
worldview. They become dependent upon the next twist and turn of the
narcissist, his next inexplicable whim, upon his next outburst, denial, or
smile. Because he is assumed to be the only one intimately acquainted with
his self -he becomes the source of certitude and veracity. In other words:
the narcissist makes sure that HE is the only reliable existence in the
lives of others - by shattering the rest of their world through his
seemingly insane behaviour. He guarantees his stable presence in their
lives - by destabilizing their own.
One of the favourite tools of manipulation in the narcissist's arsenal
is the disproportionality of his reactions. He reacts with supreme rage to
the slightest slight. Or he would punish severely for what he perceives to
be an offence against him, no matter how minor. Or, he would throw a
temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and
considerately expressed. or, he would act inordinately attentive, charming
and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be). This ever-shifting code of
conduct coupled with the inordinately harsh and arbitrarily applied
"penal code" are both of the narcissist's design and unbeknownst
to the "offenders". Neediness and dependence on the source of
all justice meted - on the narcissist - are thus guaranteed.
DEHUMANIZATION AND OBJECTIFICATION (ABUSE)
People have a need to believe in the empathic skills and basic
good-heartedness of others. By dehumanizing and objectifying people - the
narcissist attacks the very foundations of the social treaty. This is the
"alien" aspect of narcissists - they may be excellent imitations
of fully formed adults but they are emotionally non-existent, or, at best,
immature. This is so horrid, so repulsive, so phantasmagoric - that people
recoil in terror. It is then, with their defences absolutely down, that
they are the most susceptible and vulnerable to the Narcissist's control.
Physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are all forms of
dehumanization and objectification.
ABUSE OF INFORMATION
From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the
narcissist is on the prowl. He collects information with the intention of
applying it to extract narcissistic supply. The more he knows about his
potential source of supply - the better able he is to coerce, manipulate,
charm, extort or convert it "to the cause". The narcissist does
not hesitate to abuse the information he gleaned, regardless of its
intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a
powerful tool in his armoury.
The narcissist engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable,
unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he will be sorely
needed. The narcissist, his knowledge, his skills or his traits become the
only ones applicable, or the most useful to resolving them. The narcissist
contrives his own indispensability. It is a form of control by proxy.
CONTROL BY PROXY
If all else fails, the narcissist recruits friends, colleagues, mates,
family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours - in short,
third parties - to do his bidding. He uses these them to cajole, coerce,
threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and
otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments
exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same
mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously when the
job is done.
Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which
abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios
involve embarrassment and humiliation as well as social sanctions
(condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment). Society, or a
social group become the instruments of the narcissist.
The fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear,
intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no
acts of traceable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of
Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a
premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting".
In the long term, such an environment erodes one's sense of self-worth and
Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victims adopts a paranoid
or schizoid stance and thus renders himself or herself exposed even more
to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is
considered the mentally disordered component of the dyad and the
narcissist - the suffering soul.
Next: NARCISSISTS, SEX and FIDELITY
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