Are you with a nar­cis­sist?

Lat­est stats show there are an es­ti­mated 4 mil­lion peo­ple in the UK with nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity disor­der. Here, Closer in­ves­ti­gates what to ex­pect if you’re in­volved with one of them….

Closer (UK) - - Inside This Issue - By Mel Fal­low­field

When­ever Lor­raine but­ters a piece of bread to make a sand­wich, it re­minds her of her time with ex-boyfriend Rob. It’s been seven years since he left her, but she’s still haunted by his be­hav­iour. Rob would refuse to eat any sand­wich if there were pat­terns from the ser­rated edge of the knife still vis­i­ble in the but­ter, and would be­lit­tle her if she didn’t get it right.

WOR­SHIPPED

Now, mum-of-two Lor­raine looks back and can’t be­lieve she put up with such a toxic re­la­tion­ship with a nar­cis­sist. Ex­perts de­fine a nar­cis­sist as some­one who lacks em­pa­thy and ex­pects spe­cial treat­ment, as well as hav­ing prob­lems reg­u­lat­ing their emo­tions, and are prone to an­gry out­bursts. Lor­raine, a sup­port worker from Lan­caster, trod on egg shells dur­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Rob, con­stantly wor­ried he’d fly into a rage.

She says, “We met in a lo­cal pub and, like most nar­cis­sists, he was charm­ing and made me feel spe­cial.”

Sara Dav­i­son, a di­vorce coach and ex­pert on nar­cis­sism (Sara­davi­son.com), ex­plains, “In the last year, the num­ber of peo­ple con­tact­ing me about nar­cis­sis­tic abuse has tre­bled. Nar­cis­sists have no em­pa­thy and are cal­cu­lat­ing and ma­nip­u­la­tive – but of­ten ex­tremely charm­ing, too – that’s how they reel you in and make you feel de­sired. They then move on to make you feel ter­ri­ble about your­self, shred­ding your self-con­fi­dence. They thrive on feel­ing ad­mired and wor­shipped, and if they feel any­thing other than that, they will pun­ish you by with­draw­ing or get­ting an­gry. They break down your bound­aries slowly and make you feel like you’re go­ing mad. Soon, you have lit­tle idea of what’s ‘nor­mal’ any more. They are very ex­act­ing and can’t take crit­i­cism, of­ten go­ing into fits of rage if ev­ery­thing isn’t ex­actly as they want it.”

CON­VINC­ING

Rob broke up with Lor­raine af­ter four years to­gether. Dur­ing that time, he cheated on her up to three times.

She re­calls, “The first time was only a few months into our re­la­tion­ship. He went on hol­i­day and told me I couldn’t come be­cause it was pre-booked and the ho­tel was full. When he came back, I saw pho­tographs with an­other woman in them. I con­fronted him, and he told me that I was mad and she was just a friend who hap­pened to be there, too. He was com­pletely con­vinc­ing and, some­how, I ended up be­ing the one who apol­o­gised.

“On the other oc­ca­sions, he again de­nied it, and then gave me the si­lent treat­ment. I knew he’d cheated, but he made me doubt my­self so much that I ended up blam­ing my­self. I felt as though I was go­ing mad.

“And it wasn’t just the cheat­ing – ev­ery­thing had to be done his way. I re­mem­ber once buy­ing a dif­fer­ent brand of fur­ni­ture pol­ish to the one he pre­ferred and he sulked for days. On an­other oc­ca­sion, we went to my friends’ wed­ding re­cep­tion. A lot of peo­ple came up to me to say it was nice to see me, but af­ter half an hour,

❛THEY ARE CAL­CU­LAT­ING AND MA­NIP­U­LA­TIVE, BUT OF­TEN EX­TREMELY CHARM­ING, TOO❜

he in­sisted we leave – he just couldn’t stand the at­ten­tion not be­ing on him.

“When he fi­nally left me for a younger woman, it was a re­lief. I’d tied my­self in knots try­ing to keep him happy, from spread­ing the but­ter cor­rectly to lin­ing up shoes in the right way.”

An­other woman, Becky, 40, who lives in Kent, was with her hus­band Juan, 43, for 11 years, and had a daugh­ter, now nine, with him. She says, “When we met at a party, he ap­peared to be ev­ery­thing that I’d ever wanted. We both worked with horses, and he’d tell me how much he loved them and me. It seemed per­fect.”

ISO­LATED

But slowly, Becky re­alised her re­la­tion­ship was toxic. She ex­plains, “Juan would lose his tem­per over the small­est of things, such as if I hadn’t folded the washed sheets into per­fect squares. And he would pun­ish me by with­hold­ing money. He would buy him­self steak and eat it in front of me, while I’d have to visit a food bank af­ter­wards.”

Two years ago, she left him af­ter a ter­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dent where he ended up killing her dog. Becky re­mem­bers, “By then, I was vom­it­ing con­stantly from the stress. I’d had to give up work and was de­pen­dent on him. I was iso­lated from all my friends and fam­ily.”

Even now, two years on, Becky isn’t free from him, and she’s strug­gling to make chil­dren’s ser­vices – who are in­volved be­cause of their daugh­ter – take her prob­lems se­ri­ously.

She says, “He’s in a new re­la­tion­ship, but he still wants to have a hold over

me. I’m ter­ri­fied of spi­ders, yet on our daugh­ter’s last birth­day, he sent her a framed stuffed gi­ant taran­tula. He was send­ing me a mes­sage – that he could still press my but­tons from a dis­tance. I’m wor­ried about our daugh­ter be­ing in con­tact with him, but so­cial ser­vices dis­miss my con­cerns. He has charmed them, just like he charmed me at the be­gin­ning. My ad­vice to any­one who sus­pects that they may be dat­ing a nar­cis­sist is to get out as fast as you can.”

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