Not all narcissists are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Many display narcissistic personality traits even otherwise.
That said, victims of narcissistic abuse suffer from varying levels of trauma. Dating someone who was abused by a narcissist is not easy. When you think you have overcome their defensive approach and gained their confidence, they will manage to bring everything down in one fell swoop.
Though for the victim of an abusive relationship, the healing has to start from within, it’s complete only when they relearn how to love in a romantic as well as non-romantic context. You can help them in building healthy relationships and speed up the healing process.
Before you venture into this tricky territory, you need to understand more about the abuse inflicted by someone with a narcissistic personality disorder and the behavioral patterns of a narcissistic abuse survivor. This article lists the most important things you need to know before getting married to a narcissist abuse victim.
Aftereffects of being abused by a narcissist
Survivors of narcissistic abuse have endured conditional love, disrespectful treatment, and highly disguised manipulation. The depth of damage of an abusive relationship will depend on the length of time the victims had to endure it.
The goal of narcissists is to undermine the self-respect of their victims and keep them under their control. They are made to feel like they are not good enough. They may be feeling worthless after narcissistic abuse. Even after escaping the abusive relationship, its aftereffects will continue to show up in the character of the victims.
Some of the most prominent traits of those abused by a narcissist are:
- They will do anything to be treated with kindness and love.
- They will always sense and prioritize the needs of others.
- They tend to blame themselves whenever things go wrong, irrespective of whether it’s their fault or not.
- They work too hard and invest all their energy in everything they do. They feel guilty otherwise.
- They don’t know how to enforce boundaries.
As can be seen, these behaviors act as strong magnets for future abusers and abusive situations.
Things to know if you’re dating someone who was abused by a narcissist
1. They may have been in multiple abusive relationships.
Those who fall prey and get married to a narcissist and get into an abusive relationship with them have certain inherent character traits that make them potential targets for other narcissists as well. Rarely will you find someone who was abused by a narcissist having survived just one such relationship.
“Repetition compulsion” – that’s what Freud termed this. When you are dating a narcissistic abuse survivor you need to keep in mind that they may have gone through a chronic pattern of toxic and dysfunctional relationships.
Not only are they easy targets for abusive partners, but they also tend to prefer partners of similar nature. They may be trying to prove they are good enough for them.
However, they clearly decided to change tracks by choosing to be with you. It must have taken tremendous effort for them to overcome their own preferences. Despite this, they may show lingering symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that they may have developed after narcissistic abuse for extended periods.
2. They have a hard time dealing with both positive and negative events.
As a narcissistic abuse victim, you would think that you can make them happy with acts of love and compassion. Unfortunately, their mindset may not be in good shape to handle even positive behavior from you because an abuser with a narcissistic personality intersperses acts of narcissistic abuse with acts of love and kindness. And your effort will remind them of their past horrific experience.
When you are dating an abuse victim, this is one aspect you usually tend to overlook and forget. In fact, it is hard for you to understand their response to your love and kindness. With patience and perseverance, you can overcome this hurdle.
3. They find it hard to trust you.
This is more understandable. In the past, whoever they trusted ended up cheating, abusing, and exploiting them. You really cannot blame the abuse survivor for their lack of trust.
Trust in any relationship is hard-won. In a relationship with an abuse survivor, it is much more complex and challenging. But that doesn’t mean trust cannot be won. It’s hard work and dedicated efforts to convince them that you’re different.
On your part, you should not be impatient or push too hard. Offer them enough space and time to adjust their mindset to the new realities.
4. They expect consistency from you.
You may not think it is a big deal to cancel a date, but they may take this hard. Consistency was lacking in their previous relationship and they will associate this with dependability and trustworthiness.
At the beginning of any relationship, consistency plays a huge role in shaping it. It is more so in a relationship with an abuse survivor. Being consistent in your behavior, actions, and words will give them the reassurance they are searching for in the relationship.
5. They seek reassurance from you.
As a victim of narcissistic abuse, they have been left battered and totally shaken. Their own self-image and self-respect have taken a severe beating. They find it unable to trust anyone. They view everyone with suspicion.
This can be hard for them, but harder for you. As the partner of an abuse victim, you need to be aware of how your words and actions will be perceived by them. You should use every opportunity to reassure them and gain their trust. You should consult them on even everyday matters to know what they feel about them. You should appreciate and encourage them at every opportunity.
6. They feel reassured when you respect their boundaries.
This was ignored and violated so often that the abuse victims don’t expect anyone to respect their boundaries. With your consistent behavior, you can reassure them that you have no intention of violating their boundaries.
This is one of the easiest ways to gain their trust. Don’t waste away any opportunity you may get to prove this point to them.
Respecting boundaries is not just about heeding their “no”s. This also involves talking about their past relationship. While some find relief in opening up, others may not be ready to discuss this chapter of their life. Give them time to feel ready.
7. They will show empathy for your pain and suffering.
Being victims, they understand the pain and suffering more than anyone else. This makes them highly sensitive to the pain and suffering of people around them, especially the people they love.
They may be able to recognize what you’ve been going through but left it suppressed for a long time. They will not only help you see light, but they will also help you heal as well as know how to do this better than anyone else.
An abuse survivor may have low self-esteem, be quite competitive, need reassurance, disregard boundaries, and display people-pleasing behavior. They may be moody, suffer from anxiety disorders, and feel vengeful toward the abuser.
Most people consider regular relationships hard work. If you’re dating someone who was abused by a narcissist, be prepared to work harder than ever. With love and kindness together with patience and persistence, you can win them over.
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- What to Do When a Narcissist Cheats on You?
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- Effects of Narcissistic Abuse on Future Relationships
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- 4 Key Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
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