Romantic Relationship With a Narcissist: Broken Dreams


A relationship with a narcissist begins with the pre-election campaign followed by the trap (the victim’s choice). The third stage is that of broken hopes. The choice is made. You decided to be with your partner, you proposed to her or accepted his proposal. And, on the contrary to what you might have expected, the narcissist loses all interest in their victim. They are sure that they have conquered, and there is no need to make an effort any more. The victim is in their trap, and it is no longer necessary to keep up the striking image they created. So the narcissist becomes their true cold and unapproachable self. Why does this happen?

 The Dangerous Doubts

The narcissist believed that you were the ideal that they dreamed of all their life and looked for everywhere. They thought that the emptiness inside them would finally be filled with the wonderful euphoria of your first dates. Unfortunately for them, it is impossible. The emptiness inside them is unfathomable; it is haunted with dangerous and cold shadows of doubts. This coldness makes the narcissist’s victim feel guilty and afraid. This is how their life gradually becomes a personal hell. The narcissist begins by doubting their love and asking disconcerting questions.

For example, a female narcissist might ask, “You would rather like to be married to a different woman who would pass her days in the kitchen cooking your favorite dishes, wouldn’t you?” Her husband may go out of his way to prove that he loves her regardless of her cooking skills, or that food was not the reason for their marriage at all. In vain: she cannot be persuaded otherwise and goes on doubting his love.

Another example is a male narcissist who asks, ”Wouldn’t you rather be married to someone else, someone with a lot of money for you to spend on yourself?” His wife may try to make him change his mind by demonstrating that money is not important for her. However, he keeps on doubting her love and demands to prove it over and over again.

The proof of love a narcissist wants is endless admiration. Their doubts are aimed at eliciting admiration and giving them grounds to admire themselves.

A narcissist may look at himself in the mirror and say, “How lucky my girlfriend is!” This is framed as a joke, but the girlfriend is supposed to agree in earnest. What he wants from her is his helping of compliments. If she does not help him to any, or if he does not get enough, he will be gloomy for the rest of the day. However, this cold monster no longer makes her heart beat faster, and she sees no reason for complimenting him. On the contrary, his self-admiration disgusts her. The narcissist cannot fail to notice it and make his partner pay. Instead of admiration, he starts pumping out her energy through suffering.

Energy Drained through Suffering

A narcissist feeds either on the energy of admiration or on that of suffering. If you do not give them any admiration, it is the suffering for you.

This is how it works. A narcissist begins by wearing you out with their doubts. Then they turn up the level of control: what you get is lectures, reproaches, and general indications of all your real and imaginary faults.  The love that began with unconditional admiration becomes mere crumbs of attention which you have to beg for. You are knocked off your pedestal and lie writhing in the dust. At this stage, no more compliments for you; what you are likely to hear is rather “If you change (insert a feature here) about yourself, I might grow to love you”, or “There are things you need to learn to make our relationship perfect.” Concerning your hobby, you may hear, “If you can prove that this pastime of yours makes some sense, I am sure to be all for it.” Imagine the feelings of a music lover who hears, “What use is music in family life?”

Another problem is that you can never be good enough for a narcissist. You may change to become what they want you to be. No good: your partner will instantly find something new to be unhappy about, which means a new set of requirements for you to satisfy. These new requirements may even contradict the old ones. For example, you enjoyed painting, and your partner nagged you into giving it up. Then one day you may hear, “You are the only person I know who does nothing to improve themselves in their free time. Why don’t you fill it up with something artistic?”

Do not even try to change: you will never be good enough. Anything about you may become the next cause of vexation, be it your friends, your hobby or your work.

A woman who came to consult me told me the story of such vexation swings in her narcissistic husband. She wanted to try oil painting. Her spouse, whose sense of smell was normally very bad, did not fail to complain about the offensive odor of oil paints, which meant the end of this hobby. Then she tried sewing. This time, it was the noise made by her sewing machine that did it. However, the story did not end there. Her husband wanted to control all her comings and goings, her telephone calls and messages, whom she saw and when. He was not above printing out his wife’s telephone bill and going through all the numbers in it. Then it was either reproaches for being on the phone for too long or suspicions in cheating on him. When she logged into her mailbox, this man would stand behind her to see the password she was typing.  He would go as far as opening her handbag under the pretext of looking for her cell phone, and end up looking through everything inside. Making a stand was not an option for the woman: she was too scared. She always felt watched, wherever she went. Even when away in another city, she felt his eye on her, which meant, unfortunately, that this constant pressure made her develop paranoia.

Plans Cancelled

After the victim’s choice to be with the narcissist is made, and especially after the wedding bells have rung, the common plans the two of them made during their dating period are canceled. The narcissist does not think it necessary to keep their word now. All the victim’s dreams are broken into smithereens. For example, if a change of town was agreed to, the narcissist may suddenly say that they feel quite at home where they are. If it was starting a family, then raising children will unpredictably become too expensive. The narcissist does not feel like making important purchases together, doing things together, or going places together – nothing that the couple agreed to previously is valid any longer. What is more, all of this comes with a rational explanation. However, the victim is already trapped: they are completely under control and have nowhere to run. Gradually, the trap gets narrower while the brainwashing gets more intense. This makes the victim think that the death of their dreams is nothing but their own fault since they have not been “good” enough.

What Can You Do?

The best plan is to leave as soon as possible. Get out of this trap; leave as quickly as you can. Every day costs you your self-esteem, your identity, your energy, and your health.

If you are unable to leave your partner at the moment, do not plan anything together. Do not rely on them; you have only yourself to rely on. Your narcissistic partner is sure to let you down when you least expect it and make it out to be your own fault. It is no use trying to “improve” yourself to suit their taste. This means only setting off on a wild-goose chase: their requirements will always change once you have satisfied them.

It is useless to try to argue your point with a narcissist. Trying to understand their way of thinking is pointless: it is not based on logic or common sense. Their goal is to make you play their game the prize in which is your energy. Surviving means learning not to enter this game. Shut down and shut them out.  A good technique is using a set phrase to shut your partner out. Since it is useless to try to understand them or to get across to them, just shut your brain down and repeat a set phrase to yourself (for example, “Lies, it’s nothing but lies.”) and “cross them out” with your eye movements. This technique helps break the contact and stop energy loss.

Another technique is always saying the same phrase out loud. “I find this conversation disturbing” is an example here. Say it clearly and firmly, then end the conversation immediately and leave the room as quickly as possible.

This is called operant conditioning. Your breaking the contact is the punishment resulting in a decrease in the narcissist’s negative behavior. This is how dogs are trained. Unfortunately, it is your only option of influencing them. If you keep on doing the same thing, your partner will end up stopping their nagging. A narcissist is unable to understand you. They stop tormenting you only because they stop getting energy from you.

Please protect yourself. Your identity is important. I wish you never to fall into the narcissistic trap, and get out quickly if you already did.


Author: Tatiana Dyachenko, systemic life coach, Ph.D. in psychology

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Translation from Russian: Tatiana Fridman




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