I’m going to start this post by stating the obvious – sex does not a relationship make. I’ve had a lot of emails from women, in which they start by telling me the most awful things about their relationships and they finish it off by saying how they love him and would do anything for him sexually, even when they do not want to. This is what I refer to as Ludus sex – sex powered by lots of negativity normally created by drama and insecurity. Narcissists, or someone high on the narcissistic continuum, employ a Ludic love style. Ludus is characterised by game playing, an aversion to partner dependence and attention to extradyadic others and deception. Does that sound familiar? The extra dyadic part – yeah, that’s just a fancy word for infidelity.
Eventually, the game playing, the infidelity, the increased pushing of boundaries all become your fault for being ‘too easy’ for them. You love them too much and are too predictable. If you were more adventurous, if you indulged his fetishes…things would “hot up”, he tells you. They peddle the idea that life has to be kept exciting, else he is off to find someone else. What is commonly reported by the partners, who enjoy regular sex with narcissists, is: their own need for sex would override their limits and stop them from honouring their personal boundaries. At times (or mostly), even after horrendous narcissistic abuse, they would acquiesce to ‘make-up’ sex to fulfil their own addiction.
This provides one of the greatest power trips for a narcissist, The trip is “I can infiltrate you, your body and your psychic space to get a feed, no matter how badly I treat you.”
You need to understand this – being sexually turned on by another’s powerlessness, helplessness and emotional devastation and fear, and then having access to their bodies regardless (which totally means ‘without regard’) is exactly what makes a paedophile tick. It is NOT love, it IS psychopathic.
Being able to be turned on after feeling powerless, helpless and emotionally devastated – if we are honest with ourselves – is absolutely NOT healthy either. Many of these people who had great sex with the narcissist, after the disintegration of the relationship, discovered that the ‘great sex’ was not exclusive. In fact, the narcissist commonly was using this weapon and power-trip on many others as well…
The truth is, if we are addicted to sex to try to fill an inner empty void and selling our soul to receive it, we are very, very susceptible to being abused at an incredibly deep violating level. All pathological obsession leads to pathological abuse. When the drug (you) no longer creates an adequate ‘high’ that helps the narcissist to escape those demons, those demons will be projected on to you and the narcissist will try to get relief from them by tearing you down.
It’s hard to have a healthy, enriching relationship if you live in fear of expressing real needs. It’s hard to reach true intimacy if minds do not meet (even if bodies do). Narcissists confuse sex with intimacy; the endorphin-driven “high” of sex fills their void. They’re always seeking their next “high.” A new, exciting fetish. Or better still, new conquests, an ever growing list of new partners in their constant and ill-fated search for the next high, a higher high…or an encore of a past high magnified and mythologised by the golden glow of memory.
Naturally, sexuality is an incredibly vulnerable position where we would like to be treated with loyalty, integrity and respect. The narcissist can demean and exploit sexually, push people past boundaries they are comfortable with or withhold sex if that creates more emotional pain.
One of the cruel ways in which a narcissist can confuse and hook someone is to hint, or ‘innocently’ openly discuss the sexual talents of former partners, or even degrade someone by saying that they do not measure up. This is effectively used on sexual partners who the narcissist has identified as having doubts regarding their own ‘desirability’. This hooks such people into handing over copious amounts of sex, whilst trying to win the narcissist’s sexual approval, or simply punishes them into feeling inadequate.
One reader describes her abusive relationship with a former partner:
“I always felt like I was in bed with 2 or more other women, when in bed with him as he would always talk about his sexual experiences with these women. It was awful now I know what I was dealing with and can’t believe I would get into bed with him and listen to it. Then have sex and think he must be so sexy to have so many women wanting him like that. Then he used it (sex) as a weapon and another way to measure my worth. He made me feel like I wasn’t any good and couldn’t satisfy him. There was constant pressure for threesomes with another woman, regardless of how I felt and he would treat me like a failure, so I ended up giving in. I spent so much time pretending how attracted I was to these women and how happy I was. I was miserable and losing all sense of myself in my frantic efforts to keep him happy”
So along with trying to extract decency from someone who doesn’t want to give it, you find yourself pretending that this is what you really want. Everything is about him – his views, his world, his likes and his sexual gratification. Where do you fit in? Is there anything in this relationship that is truly about you? In this situation, him deigning you with the opportunity to pleasure him becomes ‘affection’ and ‘attention’. In effect, you could be a cardboard cut out for all intents and purposes.
A narcissist will jack you. They rob you (and you willingly let them) of any remaining self-esteem so that you don’t even know who you are anymore. Everything that is happening just contributes to the feeling of not being good enough and being like a non-entity. You know now that you spent all this time chasing a manufactured illusion: you were under the impression that they thought they were lucky to be with you. You probably didn’t like that power dynamic, so you built up your partner in order to make them feel better. And this is how they hooked you: with sympathy. If you perceive them as childlike, your natural instincts kick in, and you do everything you can to prove how much you care. This is likely the way you’ve dealt with people throughout your entire life: when others have no self-confidence, you try to build it for them.
If you are having lots of drama, problems, whatever in your relationship – let’s say lots of negative stuff AND you are getting bad sex, what exactly do you need to happen to galvanise you into action to get the hell out of this situation? Feeling the pain of letting go would hurt less because it’s better than being degraded and devalued day in day out. Start attributing a real value to you, beyond what you think you are presenting to the world. Real happiness and true positivity starts with self love. If you don’t have that, you have nothing and all the show ponying to keep up the facade becomes more heightened and frantic. Yet it never quite satisfies anyone.
This actually isn’t about the sex – this is about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a cut off point. How bad do things have to be? The sex represents another area of selfishness and meanness in an already pitiful relationship. It’s yet another red flag and it’s yet another revelation that beyond the smoke and mirrors there is little to nothing.
Our responsibility and true power lies in healing ourselves. Having the courage to recognise that we are the generative source of our own experience, and therefore we are responsible for becoming the model of self-love, self-respect and self-wholeness that we wish to meet in the Other.