examples of narcissistic abuse

An Open Letter to Friends and Family of Narcissistic Abuse Victims

Ven Baxter

If you’ve never been in a close relationship with a narcissistic partner, it may not be easy to imagine. It might be impossible. It may not be easy for a survivor of narcissistic abuse to relate his or her experiences to others, either, or to truly articulate examples of narcissistic abuse.

Indeed, any of these may be impossible.

However, even if you’ve never experienced Narcissistic abuse yourself, it’s likely that you know someone who has. That person may benefit if you understand something–even a little bit–about his or her difficult experience.

This message is for friends and family of survivors of Narcissistic abuse. Its intention is to help you understand the narcissistic abuse cycle, and thus, some of what your loved one has gone through–and, hopefully (perhaps recently), come out of. Its main purpose is to help assist your loved one’s healing.

So, what is Narcissistic abuse like? It’s like…

1) …being given a delicious treat and then having it taken away for no reason…and thrown in the trash in front of you…by someone who watches your lip tremble and your tears fall…with hidden but still barely visible enjoyment…and then apologizes…with a smirk…after the trash has been taken out…and promises not to do it again…but does anyway…after you forgave them…and forgot about the first time.

2) …chasing a puppy over a hill, only to find when you reach the crest that a bully has run it over with a car on the other side…who blames you for killing the puppy…by chasing it to their side of the hill…where they were driving…in the grass…with a “No Cars in Grass” sign posted.

3) …lending your car keys to a friend, who then crashes it…and laughs at you later…for being so stupid…as to lend your car keys…to them…while they were drunk…even though you didn’t know they were drunk…and they never said so…and they say your car was a piece of crap…and you needed a new one anyway…so you should thank them.

4) …having a student who scores 59% on everything–and fails–but is SO close to passing that you keep trying, test after test, to help him study and pass…but he keeps scoring 59s…and keeps telling you that he’d pass…if you didn’t suck so bad as a teacher…and his last teacher was SO much better than you.

5) …tending a garden and watching it grow–until your neighbor of many years suddenly throws an all-night drinking party on it…and says it was in his yard, not yours…but promises to help you re-plant it anyway…as a “favor” to you to “keep the peace”…and never does…but moves away instead…and tells the new tenant how crazy you are.

6) …hearing a beloved family member tell you, on his deathbed, that he always hated you, and only pretended to like you, and wanted to tell you before he dies–and then hearing later that the family member didn’t die…and is doing well…and says he doesn’t remember talking to you…or even that you were there…when he was ‘dying’…and then finding out later that the family member wasn’t really dying…and knew it all along…and was just being cruel…and you have no idea why.

7) …knowing where your purse is, and what’s always in it, but not finding it there–and finding it in your roommate’s closet instead, with its contents moved around or missing…and your roommate saying that you left it the last time you were in there…but that was weeks ago…but your roommate swears it was yesterday…and says your memory must be bad…and she seems to be wearing your lipstick… but claims she just bought it.

8) …being dumped, and told that your partner hates you and that it will never work, and your partner throwing your things out the door–and then calling you two days later, as if nothing had happened…saying it was “no big deal”…and getting upset at you…for being upset and taking it so seriously…and then says they were “just joking”… and buys you something very thoughtful to make up for it.

9) …being showered with praise, affection, attention, compliments, and shared dreams of a beautiful future together–until the hook is set…and you’ve fallen in love…and then, all of a sudden…your beloved starts tugging on the hook…and it hurts you to tug away…but it doesn’t hurt them at all…and you don’t understand why.

10) …watching the preview for a new movie, and paying to go watch it at the theater–and the movie being horrible…but you stay anyway to get your money’s worth…and you think it’s only two hours long…but it’s four…and then you’re tired…and just want to sleep…even if it’s in the chair…among strangers…instead of your own bed at home…so you fall asleep…and get locked inside the theater…and are late to work the next day.

These ten examples of narcissistic abuse are mostly parables designed to show the sort of dynamic that’s common for someone in a close relationship with a person who shows significant Narcissistic traits–that is, a “toxic” relationship.

Not all of them are to be taken literally, but some can be…

Ven Baxter lives in Florida, where he works as a canoe outfitter, teaches, writes, and enjoys being a father to his three children.  You can find this article on his blog, Ven Baxter – Go deep into the nooks and crannies of life and the human experience…

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  1. Gianine

    These examples are entirely what it was like in my relationship and marriage. I cried reading although I’m in recovery. It’s so hard to deceive to friends and family because the burning question everyone has …. even myself after reading this is….. “why did I stay?”

  2. Such a vivid illustration of what that abuse feels like. Unless you have experienced narc abuse, I don’t think you can understand what happened to you. No one believes your story who is a flying monkey or a narc themselves. They begin to believe you are lying on the person and making it all up. I have experienced this. So I get a second round of abuse.

    One day the anger and triggers will cease and I will press forward to the life I want and should have had. After the cleansing and healing process., the new me is slowly emerging, Now that is good news and only me and My Maker will know what I really went through. Thanks for letting me vent.

  3. Anonymous

    This puts what I went through in very understandable terms. As a survivor I have to point out that even once free these scenarios continue to play over and over in my mind

  4. Happily non-existent

    Also known as sadism. Miserable immature little clowns who are miserable and confused in the real world!… the adult world.

  5. Anonymous

    I was on tears , I am being quiet unable to say or explain my feelings , my family and friends not understand the reason why I feel the way that I feel , they don’t know about narcissism, I just found out a month ago.
    Thank you for sharing this article

  6. Anonymous

    Creating a beautiful painting after so much time and effort only to have it be burned to a crisp and then be told you shouldn’t have spent so much time on it because you should have known this would happen. It’s normal for hard work to be wasted. It’s just a painting, you’re making a bigger deal out of this then it is. You can always make a new one.

  7. Moving Forward

    I’ve lived it……….yet still find it difficult to believe how someone can be such a monster. I guess that only further explains how I questioned myself, questioned what was real and what wasn’t. Did I imagine that? or did I forget them saying something ahead of time that should have warned me? It was a twisted web that I couldn’t even explain – I just knew I was entangled.
    Each day away from the narcissistic behavior………….things become clearer. I wasn’t the crazy one. I will heal. He won’t.

  8. Hi Kim, I’m here from the Facebook share of this post. Welcome to the new blogger – very perceptive article. It’s so sad that even the Survivor’s still have to read about how the world at large still misunderstands Narcissistic Abuse to such an extreme degree. One day, I hope to see less scorn/disbelief and better education of both professionals and the general public.
    (I miss the “like” button – just to let you know I’ve been here. I don’t always read everything as sadly, I can still be mildly “triggered”)

  9. Ret

    Good descriptions! It’s hard to explain the covert manipulations, and the passive aggressive behaviors to others. My Ex lives to get back at me if he’s upset about something. He needs to unload the anger but he can not show his emotions in a normal way. So what ensues is payback. I can see them coming whenever he doesn’t get his way.

  10. Survivors can easily relate to these parables. Someone without experience or knowledge of narcissistic abuse may dismiss them as ridiculous. Sadly, such a person is likely to side with the abuser and believe the victim is at fault.

  11. Anonymous

    My family will never get ..its my daughter…you will always be damned if you do…..damned if you don’t…..you are always wrong no matter how right you are

  12. Alia

    I really like the last one (the movie theater), because it really shows that the ball is always in my court (it doesn’t involve the narcissist per se, only me – the “victim”), but I refuse to play it, so to speak, when it comes to my own happiness. I disguise it by being a good person and by having principles and morals and by doing the right thing. I bet people laugh at my righteousness and that’s why I find myself in ridiculous relationships (including work relationships), where it just doesn’t make sense that I am even staying. Sure I need money (work), but for someone with the abilities of my caliber I could and should and finally am (I did learn a thing or two from my past) making a lot better living with a lot more control. Anyway, I’m trying to say that a lot of of us end up in these situations because we give up control to these guys for whatever reason, but mostly because it is easier that way and we don’t have to be fully responsible for our own happiness (which we don’t think we deserve anyway). We are as sick as these narcissists:(

    1. kimraya

      We may be sick, Alia, but the good news is that we can heal and recover, whereas a narcissist will always be the same.

      I hope you find what you’re looking for in life. The best piece of advice I can give you at the moment is to write up a list of 5-10 deal-breakers – one list for romantic relationships and one for others – and when someone commits one of your deal-breakers, be willing to walk away…and mean it, regardless of the seeming connection you have with that person. This is especially critical in today’s world of online dating in regards to romantic relationships.

      In the meantime, spend some time getting to know yourself very intimately and honor your feelings above all else.

  13. https://www.facebook.com/sheiladeborahoneill/

    It’s True, I Let Him
    By Sheila Deborah O’Neill

    It’s true, I let him
    Inside of my veins
    Not knowing futures
    Of endless mind games

    It’s true, I let him
    Take over my heart
    Let into my soul
    He ripped it apart

    It’s true, I let him
    Believed and did trust
    Each toxic memory
    Just lead me to rust

    It’s true, I let him
    Forgave as I could
    Not knowing in time
    Take more than I should

    It’s true, I let him
    I stood in my tears
    Fell into sorrows
    Lived in great fear

    It’s true, I let him
    Take my peace away
    Startled responses
    Nightmares each day

    It’s true, I let him
    Held on for dear life
    Went through the battles
    Told I’d be his wife

    It’s true, I let him
    Throw all in my face
    For all was my fault
    My truth, my disgrace

    It’s true, I let him
    Again and again
    How might I get out
    There wasn’t a plan

    It’s true, I let him
    Get under my skin
    Do things I regret
    But wasn’t to win

    It’s true, I let him
    No longer could stay
    Everything I once had
    Let him take away

    It’s true, I let him
    But no longer do
    Survivor of trauma
    It’s sad, but it’s true

    It’s true, I let him
    In love I gave all
    The one to not hurt
    Became my great fall

    It’s true, I let him
    As I try to heal
    Numbing the memories
    Chronic pain I feel

    It’s true, I let him
    Poisoned from the start
    Habitual lies
    He hiding his narc

    It’s true, I let him
    In love, we believe
    Questions, confusion
    His answer to leave

    It’s true, I let him
    I thought love was free
    Learned my life lesson
    Was not real to me

    It’s true, I let him
    Not even knowing
    It helped his disguise

    It’s true, I let him
    But not anymore
    Rebuilding takes time
    I’m out of the war

  14. Ven – so glad you are writing with Kim. This is a parody of horrors. The sad part for survivors is that we’ll do some of this behavior as we work on our healing when we first step out into the dating world again. Those lovely emotional triggers from someone that is not necessarily a narcissist – maybe just a selfish opportunist but you are so much on high alert that it brings out your still wounded self. Thanks for sharing this one.

    1. kimraya

      Thank you for commenting here, Kristin! You are so right about the behavior work. It’s a life-long undertaking <3

  15. Jamie

    Yes these feel like it. So spot on! Purposeful malicious hurting… Just to hurt you. What a tragedy these folks are.

  16. Yttrium

    These are apt metaphors, and succinct. They perfectly express the exhaustion, can’t-win-for-losing setups, and crazy-making of a relationship with a disordered person. I’m sharing them with some of my friends and family — the ones who refused too drink the Narc’s Kool-aid and saw him for what he was.

  17. Jackie

    Narcissists are very good at lies so even the best of us are tricked. These people are seasoned experts at the art of cloak and daggers. Their ability to deceive is such that it takes longer to find out you were conned.

    1. kimraya

      Even Robert Hare, the world’s leading pioneer in the field, admits to still being fooled by these people. What I’ve learned is that there is usually some warning sign to our intuition. Something that tells us ‘there’s something strange or unusual’ about this person. I think many of us just need to trust our guts more instead of justifying someone else’s unacceptable behaviors.

      Thank you for commenting, Jackie 🙂

  18. Been There

    You say these are just made up, but these are things I hear my mate say every day. So accurate and chilling how they manipulate and abuse us in a pattern that can be mirrored and applied to all our cases as victims. Thank you!

  19. zuly

    these are perfect examples I couldn’t put it any better! thanks for helping!

  20. TommyB

    I could relate completely. She hurt me so much and recovery is very slow. 9 months N free.

  21. Trish

    Brought tears to my eyes only because it reminds me of the damage and why no contact is so important. I’ve been searching for the words to explain the experience however so clearly articulates . 2 years since I last saw him and 1 1/2 years narc free!

  22. Candra

    This explained so much in a new way and helped me realize that I am in a narcissistic relationship. If nanywaycares to respond, can such a “relationship” cause a great deal of fatigue. I am wanting to end it but I am “on the road” (i.e. no house to live in, but I’m at least not broke) with three dogs and feel so tired I feel like I need him. It’s a vicious cycle.

    1. You are stronger than you know and this community will support you. No Contact will save your life.
      Stay connected with the survivor stories here – you can do this.

    2. Heidi

      Definitely !
      You will only lose more energy, property,sanity etc.
      It will never truly get better, only worse.
      Don’t believe the illusions, they try to feed you.
      Your best interest, will never truly be of interest, as long as you are in a relationship w them.
      I only wish I had known long ago

    1. Kim Saeed

      Thank you, Lynette! We have a new author for the site, Ven, and he is very gifted <3

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