"He thinks I should be automatically turned on and ready to have wild sex with him with no effort on his part other than appearing naked in front of me," my client angrily explains to me. "There is no conversation, no foreplay, no hugs, romance or playfulness. I feel like I have to be and do everything in this relationship for him and I receive very little intimate and meaningful connection from him."
"It isn't like I don't let him know what I desire and what would make me really happy sexually, sensually and emotionally. I have even taken to writing things down for him so if he wasn't listening to me he could refer back to the list. I have offered to take classes with him, shared information out of books and started many uncomfortable conversations that went to death ears." Her partner continuously claimed he knew what she desired and didn't need any help.
Does your partner disregard your request for pleasure and intimacy in favor of their own routines?
Are they unwilling to take classes, read books or explore sexual, emotional, spiritual, or personal growth because they already KNOW everything there is to know? When you imply there is more for them to learn, they hear you saying something is wrong with them and that makes them angry.
If you're nodding your head in agreement, and the opening paragraphs sound familiar, odds are you are sleeping with a narcissist!
WHAT IS NARCISSISM?
Narcissism runs on a spectrum, from healthy narcissism to malignant narcissism, with a lot of gray in between. Many people can have a narcissistic trait or two without actually being a narcissist.
Dr. Berman, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, describes healthy and malignant narcissism as such:
HEALTHY NARCISSISM is basically good self-esteem. You believe in yourself and what you can do, and your self-evaluation is realistic. You can empathize with other people, and understand their feelings and perspectives. You aren't devastated by criticism, mistakes, or failure. Your sense of self can withstand life's ups and downs and people's opinions.
MALIGNANT NARCISSISTS have a very fragile and reactive sense of self. They are extremely self-involved and have a highly inflated view of themselves, which masks profound vulnerability and shame. They are fueled by praise and admiration, and deeply injured by criticism and even honest feedback. Benign comments or constructive criticism threaten their fragile self-esteem and can trigger anger. All of these qualities interfere with a narcissists' ability to form healthy relationships. Those partnered with narcissists can feel quite lonely and exhausted by trying to shore up their partners and tiptoe around their sensitivities.
Does your partner ever ask you about your day and then doesn't listen to your answer and turn the focus around to themselves?
Do you feel like you constantly have to compliment them and care for them to get their attention or approval and they never ask you about your day or interests? You probably feel invisible and exhausted focusing so much attention on their needs and not on yourself.
If you are a "highly sensitive" like me and my clients, you have the ability to feel other people's feelings and to know what they need in order to feel better. That is a major attraction to a narcissist. They love our attention, lifting them up and making them look good to others. So if you're a pro at making them feel and look good, you are a perfect match for a narcissist.
They don't want someone who will compete for their attention, argue or disagree with them.
If you disagree they feel betrayed and get angry. They will never lose an argument but instead always turn it around to how it is your problem not theirs or they will want you to prove something that can't be proven. They are more focused on being "right" than being understanding.
Narcissists love a team player who is a perfectionist, because it ensures they are always the top priority and someone will always keep making things better for them. As the narcissist's partner you may never feel "good enough or worthy" because the narcissist rarely shares emotional appreciation for all the efforts made, unless they know it will get them something, like looking good in other peoples' eyes.
Do you feel if your partner "does something or cares" for you, you will owe him or her in return or you have to earn what you desire by being perfect for them?
For example, if they buy you a gift it is usually a gift they wanted for you and not what you wanted for yourself, like fantasy underwear when you desired beautiful lingerie to wear every day. You know you will eventually pay him back by playing out his fantasy for the price of receiving his gift. At least it is something. At least he thought of you.
If you ask for more than they provide physically or emotionally you feel selfish, needy, and ashamed. If it demands that they change a habit or mindset, forget it. They will say they can't give it and is not their problem. You're the one with the problem of wanting more.
My client asks him to ask her about her day when he comes home and to be interested in her answers. She asked him to play with her breast first instead of going straight to her vagina every time they have sex, because it feels better to her. Every time she asked for something she says, "I feel ashamed that I even have to ask these thing more than once."
Every year I step out of my comfort zone and ask thinking maybe this time he will hear me and things will get better. But, instead I'm made to feel like I asked for the world, the impossible. I am told that what I feel I am missing and think he should give me is my problem not ours.
As a perfectionist this reaction drives you to strive to make things better, want less, and be very critical and disappointed in yourself. You work continuously to learn and grow your skills at being the exceptional lover, good parent, pillar of the community, best friend, gourmet cook, Martha Stewart hostess...
You foster your abilities to make your partner feel like a queen or king in hopes they will do the same for you.
The major bummer of this reality is that you will NEVER get what you need or desire from them emotionally.
You won't get the love and attention you long for. You can feel cared for by them on some level but you won't find the emotional connection of a lover or best friend, as they won't ever truly understand who you are. They can't put themselves in your shoes. You will often hear them say, "I don't understand you." Which makes you feel like something is wrong with you, even if others can relate and understand you.
If you grew up with a narcissistic parent and are a sensitive person, the chances that you will attract a narcissistic partner, spouse, friend or boss is high because you know their energy really well. It is familiar to you and you know what to do to make them happy and it makes you feel valuable to a certain extend. You don't consciously choose them, but unconsciously you are attracted to their energy even if you say, "I will NEVER be with a narcissist." Your unconscious mind is searching them out until you reprogram it.
To not attract another narcissist into your life, you will have to become very awake!
You will need to learn to be ok with being uncomfortable with new feelings, thoughts, actions and new ways of being yourself. You're going to have to learn to trust yourself and know you're worthy and good enough without having to earn it through someone else's validation, in order to not be lured into that familiar narcissistic territory again.
Dr. Judith Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom finds that narcissists lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love. She thinks that there is not much hope of a narcissist changing. You can learn to live with them or you may need to leave them even though you love them. Narcissists can look like unlikable, flagrant egotists or be charming, intelligent and caring until their guru-status is threatened.
If you are sleeping with a narcissist you'll have to learn that their reality has nothing to do with you personally! It is how they are wired and you will need to keep some things in mind to stay healthy and happy in that relationship.
Here are some pointers for dealing with a narcissist and creating a healthier relationship:
1. Keep your expectations down to earth. Understand they're emotionally limited, even if they're sophisticated in other ways. Enjoy their positive behaviors and personas.
2. Don't make your self-worth reliant on them. Don't get caught in the trap of living your life for the narcissist.
3. Guard your sensitivity. Don't confide your deepest feelings to someone who won't appreciate them.
4. When communicating with the narcissist, show them how something will benefit them rather than what you want.
Telling them how great the event will serve them and what they will get out of it is better than stating your needs and desires. Speaking your needs clearly, getting angry, or demanding rarely works. It feels like manipulation, but if the relationship is unavoidable, use it to achieve your desired result.
5. Recognize that you BOTH are creating this relationship and learn how you are responsible for it also! Don't just point your finger at the narcissist and be a victim. You are not a victim, you are co-creating this relationship with them because you think you are not enough and you think they can complete you or raise you up, etc.
Do your own personal development work. You are your first concern.
To read more about narcissists visit my blog at www.marilynomalley.com