Why do we stay true to a narcissist? Why do we continue our fealty to someone whose behavior is reprehensible? Why do we persist being loyal to someone who’s abusive? If you’re berating yourself for loving someone who is not good to you, remember this: It’s not your fault. And remember this, too: You can extricate yourself with a little help and understanding of your situation.
We humans are wired to attach to others to ensure our survival. Often, we are attracted to someone before our internal censorship can act. We may have ignored red flags but that is because chemistry has overwhelmed us with emotion. Narcissists and abusers don’t show their true colors until they’ve got us hooked, and then it’s too late for us to resist. We’ve already committed to a relationship for reasons outside our control.
Why do we find it so hard to quit?
Denial. The pull to be attached to someone is so strong that we’ll deny that we’re being treated badly. It’s not that we don’t know it so much as we rationalize and minimize it so we can remain attached. We may not actually realize the extent to which we’re being used, especially if the narcissist treats us nicely for a bit and assures us he will never turn on us again. We’re so relieved to be back in his good graces and in the apparent calm of the moment. We walk on eggshells not to upset our abuser. It is so important to feel connected that we believe the abuse will not happen again because we want to believe it.
Brainwashed. It’s not our fault we are brainwashed—we’ve been out maneuvered by a narcissist abuser who is a master at controlling others. He’s had a lifetime of practice finding vulnerabilities in people and manipulating them for his advantage. He does this to control us and get us to blame ourselves so we’ll work harder to make the relationship better—essentially to do what the abuser demands from us. Meanwhile, we keep trying to do his bidding while accepting whatever crumbs of love he deigns to send our way. The more he starves us of affection, the more we strive to get it back. By intermittently rewarding and punishing us, our abuser is bonding us ever more strongly. This is known as trauma bonding, and it makes us codependent on him.
Positive Aspects. Of course, there are positive aspects of our relationship with abusers. They can be charming. They can make us feel good. They can be good providers. There are reasons we got involved in the first place. Remembering these reasons makes it harder to leave, and hoping for these good times to return makes us leave much later than we should. When the relationship finally devolves into violence, we are still reluctant to leave. Victims usually experience an average of seven violent incidents before they can make the huge emotional commitment to get out of a bad situation. Some people wait until it’s too late.
What you can do:
Continue to educate yourself about narcissist and abusive behavior.
Be harder on your abuser than you are on yourself.
Work on elevating your self-esteem—you deserve better than the abuse you’ve suffered.
Get help from a professional with whom you can forge a trusting relationship.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact