When Alisa Bowman, author of the memoir Project: Happily Ever After asked me questions sometime back about narcissism, one of the things she asked was this:
I have a friend who is dating a narcissist. He’s really good at convincing her that she’s the problem. It takes an army of friends like me to prove to her that it’s the other way around. Do you have advice for people who are probably married to narcissists but who blame themselves for their failed marriage?
Here’s how I answered her:
One of the underlying themes of narcissism – though not said directly – is the sense that it is always the other person who is responsible for the narcissist’s happiness, contentment and, more globally, life. Since the partner cannot provide the cure to make the narcissist happy, devaluation comes next.
It’s important to understand that the interior life of the narcissist is equivalent to a black hole. Narcissist’s have a very fragile internal life. Deep within they feel a dense of profound emptiness, of being null, void, empty, a shell.
Think for a moment how frightening that would be, to live like that day in and day out. But instead of finding a way out of the hole, the narcissist projects his or her fear of nothingness on another person. Once we take it on – always unknowingly – we feel their pain and desperation. But we cannot fix it because the original problem does not belong to us.
Narcissism is a slippery, and convoluted slope. It can take years for one partner to realize the other is narcissistic. In fact, it can take decades. One of the greatest gifts we give ourselves is becoming aware of its effects, and how, in turn, it affects us. This we do have control over, which is very good news.