I have heard many stories from readers and clients of guys (and gals), who have moved the initial dating period along at high speed. There has been everything from declarations of falling in love and ‘I love you’ when they’d barely known them a New York minute, to conversations about babies, marriage, moving in, meeting parents and being whirled around like a show pony amongst friends, to high intensity liaisons with persistence, great sex, average sex, multiple phone calls, texts, emails AND letters in a bottle. All of these people have been whizzed at high speed through the early crucial stage of dating.
What is wrong with a bit of romance? Absolutely nothing when it is genuine. When it isn’t, it is called Fast-Forwarding. It is a technique where someone sweeps you up in a tide of intensity when they’re pursuing you and you’re dating them that you end up missing crucial red flags. They go on to either disappear when they start to feel panicky about the fact that you will want, need and expect in line with the great show they have been putting on. Or…they just revert to the ‘real them’, ripping the rug from under your feet and replacing hot with cold and someone who you barely recognise.
– Push for emotional commitment and often sexual intimacy very quickly
– Make you feel like the centre of their universe
– Distract you from looking too closely at them
– Can be emotionally demanding
– Refer to the types of plans that people who have been in relationships far longer i.e. marriage, babies, etc
– Some will introduce you to friends, family (including their children) very quickly
– Say things like ‘It feels like we have known each other for X months’ when you object to something and mention how you hardly know each other
– Can be petulant and sulky when they don’t get their own way so you quickly learn to minimise conflict
– Even though they appear to respect an asserted boundary, they may often quickly try to recross it
– Are very persistent when you’re not interested in them
– Will privately and sometimes openly think you’re The One pretty much immediately
– Will be eager to ‘title the relationship’ and demand commitment even when you hardly know each other
– Often have strings of high intensity short dalliances that fizzle out quickly
– Overestimate their level of interest
– Often veer between deflecting questions about themselves and over-sharing or telling lies and using selective omissions. People who engage in Fast-Forwarding are Future Faking, whether they directly do it by talking up a storm about plans or do it indirectly by behaving so intensely and putting so many demands on you (emotional, sexual, wanting to be with you all the time), that they let you believe that the level of intensity you are experiencing is what is on offer. You will use a number of the things that they fast-forward you with as basis to trust them with – Trust Points.
It’s crucial to remember that dating is a discovery period. You should date with a reasonable level of trust as a basis and your interactions serve as a series of checks and balances. Positive things increase your trust. Dodgy stuff should have you rolling back and assessing the risk.
Dating is a fact finding period where you should be discovering ‘facts’ that let you work out whether you can proceed, or whether you should be cautious, and/or abort the mission. If you love and trust blindly and get sucked into being moved along at high speed, you will be blind in the relationship, when you actually have a responsibility to yourself to have your eyes open.
Fast-Forwarding creates a pseudo connection. Slowing down and actually getting to know each other at a healthier pace creates a real connection. Whilst there are anomalies where people have had a whirlwind romance that progressed, in the overwhelming majority of cases, when someone wants to be intense immediately or very quickly and fast-forwards you through the relationship, it is a red flag.
Life is not a fairy tale. This isn’t Pretty Woman or a rom-com where you move at high speed to a happy ending. Doesn’t it remove the mystery and stuff to look forward to when you try to do it all very quickly? Nuff said. Being confident in yourself is also about believing that there isn’t a fire. You can take enough time to get to know each other without rushing to get your pants down and make big declarations.
Be careful. People who tend to fast-forward can go through their cycle in a few hours, a day, a night, a few dates, weeks, months, and in some cases, some can play the long game and draw it out for a year. The end result is the same – the hot tap switches over to cold or lukewarm, if you are ‘lucky’.
When you get swept up in someone Fast-Forwarding you, you will basque in the adoration. When they disappear or they replace ‘the model’ you got with a pared down version, you will wonder what was wrong with you to cause the loss of adoration. While it is very flattering when someone says they love you immediately or makes you the centre of their universe immediately, the fact of the matter is that they don’t know you enough to be sincere about it. Harsh but true.
Why do we allow ourselves to be fast-forwarded? Well, we may not like to appear to be spoilsport, many of us are not aware of the perils of red flags, and we may second guess ourselves. In a startling number of stories, most of these people had some, if not a lot of reservations about the very person that was fast-forwarding them. It is flattering when someone seems to fancy the pants off us so much that they can’t seem to want to stop ripping off our clothes or saying we’re the best thing since sliced bread. If these people are still around in a year or two and your high intensity dalliance yields into something more steady, then all to the good.
However, the problem with people who fast-forward is that they can’t cope with steadiness. They also make the mistake of being so over the top that they create expectations that they cannot deliver on. These people overestimate their level of interest because often the uncertainty of not knowing how you feel and needing to ‘win you over’ and ‘suck you in’, is what triggers their desire for you. When the relationship stops being new, they’re panicking about what you may be expecting, they’re sure of your interest and the desire loses its ‘erection’. If they’re still around and things are going from bad to worse, you’ll be getting the hot and cold treatment while thinking ‘It was so great in the beginning! What happened to that guy?’ and then sinking all your efforts into trying to retrieve the beginning of the relationship.
It’s nice to feel adored and if you’re a passion seeker that tends to talk about ‘type’ ‘passion’ ‘connection’ etc, you’ll be ripe for someone to fast-forward the hell out of you and then feel desolate and inclined to go on the validation seeking trail when things start to go wrong.
Why do you need to demand so much of the person and the relationship so early on? How much validation does the ego need? You shouldn’t have to emotionally or literally commit to someone you hardly know. There is a reason why you were not interested and whilst sometimes we get things wrong, it’s important to assess why you weren’t interested rather than just letting yourself be swept along.
If in doubt about someone’s actions and motives, the best thing you can do is put your foot down and press ‘Play’ and see how the relationship copes at a steady pace. If it’s already over, ‘Rewind’ the relationship tape and mentally play it back and you will spot the red flags.
A new client, Kat (pseudonym) is struggling with feelings of betrayal and anger after being duped and deceived by her ‘best friend’, Heather. Heather shared private and confidential information about Kat amongst their mutual friends, causing great shame and embarrassment to her. The relationship took an even worse turn after Kat discovered that a series of malicious messages that she received, apparently from one of Heather’s ‘enemies’, were in actual fact, sent to her by Heather. Perhaps worst of all, Heather used Kat to create tension between other people and even trolled her online with fictional accounts in order to make Kat believe that both she and Heather were victims of the same common enemies. When Kat discovered this quite by accident, she cut all contact with Heather. Kat came to me in disbelief and shock; not quite able to understand why this had happened. It made her question everything about her so called friendship.
In Kat’s view, Heather had used her and abused their friendship to exact a revenge on somebody else . Kat always knew that Heather was capable of lying as she had witnessed her doing it many times (sometimes they even schemed together) but she never expected that she would be the one to whom Heather lied and that she would be turned on. Did the friendship mean anything? What was the truth and what were the lies? How could a best friend and someone who called her “sis” cause her so much stress and lead her to believe that she was in danger of online abuse. It felt too overwhelming for Kat. She needed some help in processing what has happened here and acknowledging her feelings of anger and betrayal.
When the web of lies and deception was discovered, Kat felt duped. She had based her own version of reality on the lies told to her. She had said and done certain things in support, which had helped Heather, as the deceiver, to gain further advantage. Lies and deception give power, while aggressively and passive aggressively robbing power from others. It’s like holding all of the cards and being privy to knowledge that the other parties are not.
How had the situation had got so out of hand for two supposed best friends? My best friend and I have known each other for 13 years. I struggled to imagine using her as a pawn to hurt other people. You simply do not behave in the way or treat others so poorly. We do not have a connection that I would jeopardise; and vice versa. I wondered what had driven Heather to deceive in such a hurtful way and how she managed to Discount the level and impact of her betrayal? Kat felt that she was made to look like an idiot. She feels used and angry because she let her friend do it; not realising that Heather wasn’t sticking around because of a ‘ride or die’ sisterhood bond, but more because of the home she provided when Heather was homeless, the trendy holidays and dinner out to those ‘see and be seen’ places that she often funded.
The immutable truth is that a person cannot give what they do not have. If they care more about something else, such as ‘winning’ and hurting others, these will always take precedence. Kat feels outraged because Heather turned on her. However, can you legitimately expect a person who lies to themselves and to others so freely to be honest with only you? Why would they? How would they even know that they were being honest when they have not cultivated that within? Their version of truth is so patently different. Some people believe that something is true as long as they believe it. Some people say the same thing for so long that they believe their own lie and some people play a role for so long that it becomes second nature. There is an awfully big appeal in deception because it allows a person to remain in their uncomfortable comfort zone, to not open up their mind and face things and to quite simply avoid being responsible and accountable for their actions.
Kat struggled to understand how Heather could betray her so easily Kat listed all of the things she had done for her, as Heather’s only close friend; She taught her how to stand up for herself because Heather was a people pleaser and easily influenced; She listened to every jealous rant about various women and family members that Heather despised; She helped Heather to move out of a former partners home and allowed her to live with her for months. In short, Heather was truly Kat’s best friend, but now she can not honestly say that Heather felt the same. All of this makes it easy to understand why Kat feels so angry, but this doesn’t remove the responsibility to assess the situation. It seems the deeper issue here is around Heather ‘obtaining goods by deception’ – when a person is convincing you that they are the victim, and you jump in to defend and help. When in actual fact, the Persecutor had played the Victim all along.
Uncovering the fact that you have been deceived means having to manage your own mind f*ckery. You end up ‘playing back the tapes’ and going over every word. It might feel like your eyes, ears and mind were deceiving you. You might have defended the person who duped you. You might have listened to them vehemently deny what was actually true or you might (as Kat did) never have suspected them of what they’ve been saying and doing. When you play things back, certain things start to make sense, you recognise the signs of the deception and various conversations get dismantled. What was real? What was fake? This is when we discover that the same person who would screw someone else over, will also do the same to keep us exactly where they want us. Strangely enough, in spite of knowing that she was best friends with someone who lies and deceives, Kat was surprised to discover that, yep, Heather had been lying to and deceiving her too. Surprise surprise! There really is no such thing as a honest cheat.
Heather felt ashamed at being caught out and tried hard to win Kat over again. Kat felt that she was only remorseful as she had been caught out and so, she would not be able to trust her again. That’s the problem with lying and deceiving; once it’s been allowed to continue or the person has gotten away with it for a very long time, it’s incredibly difficult to know whether you’re standing in reality with them or are standing on the ‘portion’ of reality that they’ve allowed you to see. That’s why the last thing you should do when you sense or know that you’ve been deceived, is to continue to whitewash it with denying, rationalising and minimising. How does someone who has told a whole load of lies and deceived even know that they’re telling themselves the truth? You believed them when they were lying; now you’re supposed to believe them when they say it’s the truth. Those who lie and deceive can end up lonely with only their illusions to keep them warm at night, especially when the faithful harem of supporters dry up.
Being used as a pawn in someone’s game hurts, as does getting duped and run over in the process and participating in someone else’s bullshit. The main thing here is not to fool yourself – that’s a deception in itself. If you want to live your life authentically, stick to your own values. We can spend a lot of time wondering or asking why, especially if we feel like we’ve given them everything so that they wouldn’t ‘need’ to deceive and have had plenty of opportunities to tell the truth. Unless you think and act like they do, their behaviour isn’t going to make sense to you. They had a motivation. It’s like trying to think like a sociopath and wondering why they do what they do. Unless you’re inclined in that direction, you’re not going to be able to wrap your head around what they’re doing.
When we live a lie, we’re putting out falsehoods and in time we’ll look back and have little substance to hold onto and plenty of regret. It’s better for us to state and live our truth than to spend our time deceiving the hell out of ourselves in order to hold onto people who are deceiving the hell out of us. If you live your own truth, it’s difficult to live someone else’s incompatible lie.
A sad truth is that almost everybody tells lies. Family members lie, your neighbour lies and yes, even your best friend tells tales. Yet, a betrayal of trust marks the difference between a rupture that can be repaired or one that renders a relationship of any kind irreparable. The moment that you lose the trust, then arguably, you lose everything.
‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ is a translation of a Polish proverb, used when one can look back on a former partner and relationship, whilst safe in the knowledge that they are now someone else’s problem. When a relationship is over, it’s over, right? Well it is, unless you are dealing with a narcissist. After many moons and whole years of freeing myself from the grip of one, would you believe it, just like Michael Myers in Halloween, he is back for a third attempt. His efforts to get some supply have become just plain embarrassing, because the world has moved on; except him. I am not the same person he once thought he knew, nor do I have the same perspectives or trigger points. Yet there he is, still trying the same tired old tricks. Square pegs into round holes. Wasn’t it Freud who defined insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results?
Narcissists like to play this game. They love to play the victim of their previous relationships. They will attempt to get their new target to feel sorry for them. The more they can convince the new target how awful a person their ex was, the more the new target will try to prove that they are nothing like the ex. Classic manipulation tactics. The new target will want to prove they are the very person that the narcissist deserves and can provide the right kind of love that the “poor” narcissist has been searching for. The new target may think that they have just struck gold. Little do they know. It’ll be the same new target who will tell anyone who will listen that they are perfectly okay with the extradyadic behaviour of the narcissist and who will get weirdly enraged that the narcissist has been rejected. How dare I. His reappearance will no doubt be explained away as being part of a perfectly constructed and co-created plan. Of course it is…denial and delusion are fantastic bedfellows when trying to save face and justify why you’re clinging onto a fantasy. The term codependent springs to mind.
Let us try to maintain some sympathy though, as Lord knows it is challenging and exhausting being involved with a narcissist. It is especially exhausting when they try doing a reappearing act months and/or years after the fact. So, how does the narcissist justify repeated contact attempts after a significant period of time has elapsed? The answer is in the timelessness of the hoovering tactic. You see, the narcissist lives a compartmentalised life where time basically stands still, allowing them to juggle numerous compartments, go completely silent and return to the scene of the crime as if mere seconds have passed. How do they do this? Easy! To a narcissist, time basically stands still. Like some ageing, lycra-clad super hero, they believe that they can swoop in and pick up where they left off because time and tide will be waiting for them. The thing is, time doesn’t stand still. I did not need rescuing then, and I certainly do not now. This means that the superhero is left no longer looking dashing and powerful, but rather pitiful, pathetic and a little embittered in their attempts.
At this point, there are two paths to choose between: the path of least resistance or getting the hell out of dodge. I think it goes without saying which path I took. Imagine, if you will, had I gone down the path of least resistance; re-engaged and started contemplating another proverbial trip around the mulberry bush with him. He may admit that he has issues (no sh*t Sherlock) but then make no indication of whether he is dealing with them and in fact, would probably just be resigned to them. Flattering, not. ‘I have things to offer you’, he protested. Really? He doesn’t really have anything to offer (no washed up wannabe super hero does) unless, in this case, you’re prepared to play Pollyanna. He hasn’t dealt with the issues that keep breaking his relationships and he doesn’t like to be alone. He is basically looking for a quick fix from a woman that he still believes can always rely on to get a good reception.
When the hoovering ex tries yet again to come back into my life, would I even contemplate putting my hand back in the fire? Definitely not. I steer clear of toxicity so I wasn’t exactly busting a gut to take up the role of Mummy to help sort out his sh*t for him. Life keeps throwing you the same lessons until you heed them – so understand this. Understand that the narcissist is highly unoriginal in the patterns they employ and would repeat them on anyone, given the chance. They will continue to live via these patterns, no matter who they meet. There are no exceptions and no one gets to win. It is the same script, different cast. It is a shallow and desperate existence, which is why they project this on others. They attempt convincing others that they are the same as they are because misery does indeed, love company.
You will have no regrets when you start listening to yourself and grow as an individual. Regret kicks in when time passes and you find yourself in the same situation. And so it is with a narcissist. Narcissists don’t love, they secure supply using the same tricks and trap that supply with what appears to be love, but isn’t anything near it. They repeat the exact same pattern over and over again. Whilst healthy and non pathological development means change and growth, the mentality of a narcissist precludes them from doing this.
The narcissist in point struggles to understand why he isn’t able to just insert himself back into my life and pick up where we left off. I explained yet again, he had his chance and now it is over. My life and those in it are for me to know and I see no reason to disclose details, only to have him think I’m trying to set up a Game of ‘Let’s You and Him Fight’ (Berne, 1962). I have nothing to prove to him as his opinion of me is genuinely inconsequential. I felt sad to think that someone has nothing better to do with their time but hope to show up in the lives of their exes with a text, email and friend request on Facebook and just like that, the Reset Button will be pressed. What is clear is that he finds himself in an unhappy place; isolated; few friends left and he wants out. I am not that way out. Like all adults, he needs to face up to and deal with the consequences of his poor choices.
When a narcissist goes through their mental roladex of who is most likely to still be open to them and they think of you, it is because they’re living in the past. They tend to get in touch before and/or after they’ve hurt someone else, so that you can pump them up and give them a clean bill of health, like “Look, I’m not that bad! My ex who I’ve effed over a few times will still give me the time of day!” Then, they launch themselves into their next relationship.
Now let’s get back to our pathway of choice. Using the perspective that you only get with time and distance, you have the power to draw a line under such attempts and handle them with high esteem. Remember that nobody can breeze up in your life time and again and wreak havoc without your consent. When a Narcissist is pursuing you, do not misinterpret it. What it really is, is an attempt to control you and is a complete disregard for your wishes and your boundaries. If you tell someone no and they continue to pursue, that’s incredibly disrespectful and fully indicative of someone whose only interest is in their own needs – not yours.
Narcissists need people more than most. Their entire sense of self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the admiration of others, so their emotions are a precarious balance of needing others and having no empathy. When a Narcissist is bent on revisiting a supply, they will throw everything at you to see what sticks, much like a chef will throw pasta against the wall to see what hangs on. Extricate yourself from the cycle of insanity and see the narcissist for what they truly are. Remember the insanity of doing the same thing and expecting different results? There is absolutely nothing for you in the crazy circus. Don’t be just another monkey. In fact, you could also try not being a sheep…
Steph (pseudonym) recently contacted me in regards to her ex-boyfriend. They broke up more than six months ago, but she is struggling to heal. There was an amazing first month and then he seemed to transform into a bit of a nightmare. She reported that he could be verbally abusive, flying into rages, lying, suddenly only having time for his friends and even engaging in occasional physical attacks on his friends (yeah I know, this guy is a real catch!). He even claims that he knows everyone and can make her life hell, which may go beyond the usual ‘narcissistic tendencies’.
Steph blames herself for the end of their relationship and rationalises his behaviour with the belief that “nobody is perfect”. She still loves him and believes that it ended because she was cold to him after his last rage. She describes him as “the loveliest person on this Earth most of the time” but can’t understand how he can switch from sobbing and remorseful, to cold and finishing the relationship the next.
Steph’s own father was a narcissist, prone to raging and even threatening her. She is a high achiever with a great job, lots of friends, has “the perfect look”, yet she still feels insecure. Despite a former therapist describing her ex as a “psychopath with a truly shallow emotional span”, Steph contacted me to explore these words and also wondered if she could have ‘saved’ the relationship by not being so harsh with him over the phone.
When clients tell me stories like this, it hurts to be reminded that as women, we can be prepared to put up with so much and quickly blame ourselves when we are getting so little back. Steph is right – nobody is perfect. Does that mean that you should be with an abuser and wait for the occasional good time? Should we just say ” F*ck it, nobody is perfect so I’ll take the first guy that comes along?”
I think the very act of writing down the problems in itself should be a wake up call but if in doubt, break it down to facts: He displayed his true, overriding character which is:
- He is abusive to himself, her and others
- He is disrespectful
- He goes into rages, even fighting with others
- He isn’t just displaying narcissistic tendencies (talk about delusions of grandeur with being threatening)
- There temporary remorse, before the cycle repeats
The whole thing is just one great big abuse cycle.
I fail to see what is so attractive about this guy. Serial killers are often quite charming and can even be kind to people when it suits, but that doesn’t mean that you can suddenly write off all of the bad qualities and focus on the few glimmers of good. This is where we keep falling into the trap; focusing on the initial behaviour that is displayed by these men, ignoring the real consistent behaviour and then betting on the potential of the original behaviour.
This guy is an abuser. Even if he isn’t a narcissist, he is certainly displaying narcissistic tendencies. Making excuses for this man’s behaviour and trumpeting his amazing qualities is akin to when a woman, who is being physically abused by her man, says that he is so sorry about what he’s done and if only she hadn’t left a crease in his shirt/answered him back/breathed, then wouldn’t have beat her. It is just plain wrong.
What Steph is doing is ignoring red flag behaviours and fatal flaws in the relationship because she doesn’t want to let go. She is focused on the good moments, and she essentially knows no better.
Steph has been raised by a man who is a narcissist that threatened and raged at her. Even though she recognises her father’s poor behaviour, she, like many women who have issues from childhood, is more comfortable with the familiar behaviour than she would be with the unfamiliar. In situations like this, you’re gravitating to the dysfunctionality that you know. Why wouldn’t you? You get let down by the primary male figure in your life and if you don’t quickly resolve these issues as an adult, they become the primary basis for bad relationship patterns.
When we find ourselves with someone like our parents, it can often be about righting the wrongs of the past; something like, ‘I couldn’t help or fix my father but I’ll do it with this guy.’ Trust me, that it setting yourself up for a lifetime of pain.
The problems that this guy has are fatal blows to the relationship because they are the type of issues that, irrespective of whether he has some good qualities, are extremely destructive and damaging and are bigger than you or the relationship.
This has all of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship and the best thing that Steph could do is stay in therapy and deal with the demons of the past in order to heal, build her self-esteem and lose her interest in parasites like this man. There is no fairy tale ending with men like this and you can’t love a man into being Mr Wonderful. Love is not enough.
We can’t just decide “I love him” and then place our love on them as if bestowing some magical healing power. The world doesn’t roll like that and there are millions of women out there that are living testament to this. Deciding that you love someone is not a justification for continuing the relationship, especially when the feelings about yourself, love, and relationships originate from negative places.
Men like this behave in this manner regardless. He would be emotionally available and possibly a narcissist EVEN if she licked his feet and behaved like the perfect woman. Moreover, he’d still be this way if she behaved badly. It’s not a phonecall or her being cold towards him why the relationship ended – it is more likely because he is an emotionally unavailable, abusive, controlling potential narcissist.
Ultimately, without respect, everything else crumbles around it. If a person behaves without respect to themselves or others, then they cannot love or do anything that benefits self or others in a positive way. The only person that you can truly change is you. Change your self beliefs and learn to respect yourself; you will no longer care to entertain disrespect from or make excuses for the poor behaviour of others. Food for thought indeed.
I hear from a lot of people who are unhappy with exactly the type of person that they wanted or even wished to be with. In fact, some are unhappy with the person whom they believed that they needed in order to have the type of feelings or relationship that they envisioned.
Be careful of what you ask or wish for, especially if you have a ‘type’ i.e. a person who, in terms of characteristics and qualities is who you feel is the most attractive.
In over six years of being a therapist, I’m yet to hear one person say that their type is someone who treats them with love, care, trust and respect although I have been given wish lists that are longer than the receipt for the weekly grocery shopping of a family of four.
If you have yet to manage a relationship with your type that has mutual love, care, trust, respect, shared core values as well as the secondary values like appearance and common interests, along with commitment (committed to each other and the relationship), intimacy (willingness to be vulnerable by being emotionally available), consistency, balance and progression, your type is a toxic type. This is especially true if when you’re involved with this type, you drop your self-esteem.
One client explained to me how she realised how she was getting what she wished for when she found herself alone and dumped on her birthday. This guy got twitchy about committing to having breakfast the following day so it should have been no surprise really that he wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to settle down and make babies no matter how fabulous she was. How could this be? she wondered. At that moment, she realised something – each of her boyfriends had been what she wanted at that time. Her guy was muscly, tick, very good looking, tick, gave her butterflies, tick, ‘spontaneous’, tick (she never knew when he was going to show up or when he was going to pull a Houdini plus he tended to expect her to drop everything), great in bed, tick, and had a good job, tick.
She had got what she was looking for, it’s just that she didn’t like what else it came with. Moreover, she had assumed that this package would come with the deluxe commitment and fertilising of eggs package. She also assumed that when she was ready to settle down, the same type that she’d been having fun with for all of these years would spontaneously combust into being relationship ready.
My old type used to be: must give butterfly feeling, doesn’t have to be really good looking but must be over six feet, although I did go through a phase of going out with exceptionally tall guys, must be intelligent with a good job and make me laugh. Oh and they had to either pursue me until I gave in (even if I still wasn’t that into them) or they had to be ambiguous and elusive as this would trigger desire, curiosity and the internal butterfly machine. I tinkered with my type, so would look for the opposite of something that got on my nerves only to wind up with the same problems because I was still looking at the trees instead of the wood.
If you want to have your space and not allow anybody in and be emotionally unavailable, believe me, there’s plenty of people out there that will give you this and you will feel more alone than you ever have. You’ll have so much space, you’ll wonder if there’s a relationship. If you want somebody to fill your daddy (or mummy) needs, take it from someone who knows, you’ll get it and then act like a child while handing over all of your power and will end up paralysed over fear of being abandoned. If you want somebody to be in charge and tell you what to do and think, there are more than a few sharks out there ready to snap you up and put you into a doormat costume.
Bottom line, if you are looking for somebody who seems to be the same as you, what happens if you are emotionally unavailable with unhealthy habits of thinking and behaviour around relationships? Watch out.
Who people are is self-evident – we don’t need to make it up. People unfold and show you who they are… or aren’t. If you have a ‘type’ the problem is that you will assume that the presence of these characteristics, qualities and values means that the ability to have the relationship you want is self-evident. You think your type is predictive of the existence of the other qualities, characteristics and values needed for a relationship. That is called giving your ‘intuition’, whims and possibly an unwillingness to change course far too much credit. Be careful of what you look for or even wish for because you can’t get what you’re not genuinely valuing and looking for in the first place.
There are people so addicted to exaggeration, that they cannot tell the truth without lying.
Confidence, experience and achievement are all sexy, there’s no doubt about it. Narcissists tend to display an immeasurable amount of confidence without the corresponding accomplishments to back up their attitude. This is one of the most important measuring sticks when you’re trying to evaluate whether or not you’re in the presence of a Narcissist.
Many Narcissists make up stories, identities and whole careers. They tell lies, live double lives and exaggerate the hell out of their achievements to create the illusion of who they want you to believe they are (and who they themselves wish they were). Like most people, they want to look good. However, most people have an innate sense of fairness, credibility and deservedness, Narcissists tend not to be encumbered by these feelings. You generally don’t hear them being self-deprecating (unless it’s to gain sympathy), nor do they paint themselves in an unflattering light. Their problems, failures and mistakes are all someone else’s fault.
When others contradict them, point out the reality of a situation or speak of them in unflattering tones, Narcissists will get incredibly defensive. Some fly into rages, others deflect and then here are those who will go on the offensive and attack those who they fear can see through their lies.
By behaving in an outrageous and unpredictable manner when contradicted, there is a level of conditioning going on. They are training others not to challenge them, not to point out their flaws, lies or exaggerations, because if they do, it’ll get very unpleasant for them. They need the attention and the admiration that goes with claiming to have extreme talent, intelligence, athletic prowess, beauty. Heaven help anyone who gets in the way of that.
A friend recently shared a story with me, of accompanying a colleague to a conference that she attended every year. The colleague knew all the people there and unbeknownst to my friend, her colleague had created a web of lies about herself. She described making small talk with someone she had just met and discovering that her colleague had told everyone that she owned her parents house and because they were elderly, she allowed them to live with her. Not only did she create the illusion that she was financially successful, she got to look altruistic to boot. The reality was that she lived in her parents home and that at 38, they felt she should be able to support herself and very much wanted her to move out. No doubt she was deeply ashamed of this, hence the need for the spin. What is perhaps most bemusing is the colleagues need to bitch about and attack other people who rent and/or own their own homes. Why do this when you can’t even afford to rent or buy yourself? Envy and the need to destroy that which the other has is why. Someone with these traits can’t quite tolerate feeling ‘less than’ so they adopt a superior stance in the hope that it will fool others. It rarely does.
In a similar vein, a former client of mine kept telling me the same story about herself over and over again and with each telling, she would add another heroic feat or talent. She had made herself into a world class fabricator and story teller and wanted to hold her perceived audience in rapt attention. The only problem with the story was that it wasn’t true. I know this because parts of the truth would be disclosed sporadically, based around the reasons that caused her to seek clinical help in the first place. The fact that I knew she was spouting rubbish appeared to make no difference to her, as in those moments, the lies became the truth.
The story goes that her mother had become a doctor at the age of 40. She was highly intelligent and went on to become a successful Oncologist. Her daughter gained considerable supply through her achievements. Having a high achieving parent meant that she could rest on her laurels without having to lift a finger. Through the magic of genetics, she believed he was owed the same reverence as her doctor mother. The reality was that she was a high school drop out, which was the source of much of her rage. During our work, we discussed her enrolling onto a course that would help her to get onto a university degree. She signed up, attended 4 classes, but by the time the first assignment was due, she had decided that the course was stupid and a waste of her considerable intelligence. She then went onto claim that she had two medical Masters degrees and a plethora of other qualifications and talents during our work together, even though they were in direct contradiction (not to mention obvious lies) to what I knew to be the truth. She was so wedded to the version of reality that she had created, that any confrontation of this resulted in hysterical outburst and venting rages. Our work ended following my enquiry as to the purpose of the invented stories and my therapeutic refusal to collude with the lies.
If you Google something like, ‘faking degrees and achievements,’ you will get pages and pages of stories of individuals who want the title and the prestige, without doing the necessary work or obtaining the necessary credentials. Narcissists can’t be bothered with doing the work or doing things properly. This is why they usually surround themselves with partners who are caretakers, fixers and helpers or though who don’t question them if something doesn’t add up.
The overall sense of entitlement means that they truly believe that they are deserving of any and all achievements, whether feigned or not. The question is do they know that they have lied, exaggerated their achievements and didn’t actually do the work?….The answer is yes, but mostly no. Narcissists have a very fragile ego. Underneath the facade and the bravado is an incredibly insecure individual. From a cognitive perspective, one has to conclude that if a person is of sound mind and has memory, then surely they know when they are lying and making things up? Dr.’s Dunning and Kruger have a different perspective.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias where people of a lesser ability suffer from illusory superiority, whereby they mistake their cognitive ability to be greater than it actually is. Metacognition is our ability to have insight, to be aware of our awareness and to think about thinking. When a person lacks insight, their ability to judge their own ineptitude is impaired. If metacognition is lacking or even missing, individuals of lesser ability cannot objectively evaluate the actual competence or incompetence. Dunning and Kruger state that the cognitive bias of illusory superiority is the result of an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”
Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that the narcissist is someone who has “buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.” This alternate persona to the real self comes across as “above others,” self-absorbed and highly conceited. In our highly individualistic and externally driven society, mild to severe forms of narcissism are not only pervasive but often encouraged. Narcissism is often interpreted in our culture as a person who’s in love with themselves. It is more accurate to characterise these traits as being more about someone who’s in love with an idealised, self constructed self-image. They project this out to the world in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) their real, disenfranchised and wounded self. Deep down, their internal experience is to feel like the “ugly duckling,” even if they painfully don’t want to admit it. They don’t believe their real selves are worthy, so scheming and manipulation are resorted to so as to appear to be all that they wish to be.
Unless you’re Mohammad Ali, you should not be running around spouting off that you are the greatest and the prettiest. Ali could do that, because he actually was the greatest. Most Narcissists will never achieve actual greatness because they believe that the requirements are for other, lesser people. Some do experience successes, and the reasons behind their success are more than likely all self-serving. When a Narcissist does have money, or has achieved some level of success, believe me you’ll know it. Humility they name is not Narcissist.
An inflated view of their own self-importance is a trait shared by most Narcissists. If you are involved with someone who behaves in an arrogant, haughty manner and who lies or misrepresents their achievements, this is not something that you should ever just brush over. It’s a clear indication that this person lacks insight and does not have a firm grasp on reality. Once you have evidence of this, this is your cue to leave.
The term “flying monkeys,” was coined to refer to the yes-men and women with whom Narcissists surround themselves. These are people that, among other things, turn a blind eye to the truth and reality and willingly participate in and perpetuate the false world that a Narcissist lives in. Don’t be one of them. If you can’t call a spade a spade without an argument or punishment of some kind, you are not in a relationship, you’re in a dictatorship.
Have you downed your green juice this morning? Virtuously sipped your turmeric soy latte? Artfully smashed your avocado on gluten free toast? Massaged your kale (yes, really); channelled your chi with chia seeds and executed your sun salutations clad in excruciatingly expensive ‘activewear’? It seems that we currently live in a world where eating disorders dressed up as clean eating are oh so achingly cool.
I work with scores of clients each year suffering from eating disorders. A growing number of them do not fit the stereotype of what what people immediately think of when one says ‘eating disorder’. My post is not about the eating disorders where people starve themselves to emaciation and end up in hospital within an inch of their life. That is not cool. That is Anorexia. What I refer to are the eating disorders that are masked as the latest accessory; comparing oneself with peers and friends on who has made the ‘healthiest’, ‘purest’ and ‘cleanist’ meal. I refer to the ones that claim that they ‘don’t have an eating disorder’; they just don’t eat gluten, sugar, wheat, meat, dairy, eggs or bread except for every other Thursday at 12.06pm. These same people have all admitted, without fail, to really feeling fed up, hungry, depressed, losing their hair and damaging their eyesight from the malnourishment to which they subject their bodies, in an attempt to feel more control of themselves, of their lives and to appear ‘better’ than others.
My post does not, of course, refer to those people who have bonafide allergies and exclude certain food groups under medical direction. Members of my own family and close friends have health problems, which mean they physically cannot eat certain foods without quite painful and unpleasant consequences. I have seen, on numerous occasions, what a real allergic reaction to a food group looks like. This is not being fussy or trying to overly control one area of their life and ‘win’. It is called having a condition.
If you read the papers, watch the news, or scroll through social media, you will know precisely what I mean when I say that the band wagon of ‘clean eating’ is in full swing. Everyone is doing it, right? If you’re not, then you clearly don’t care about yourself or your health. WRONG. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. What is the fuss? Surely promoting healthy eating is a good thing, right? Indeed it is, but as with so many things, it’s a question of balance. This is something that fad diets and self imposed restrictive eating does not achieve.
The concept of ‘clean eating’ is not bad in itself. It advocates eating food in its natural form or as close to its natural form as possible, minimally processed without artificial additives, sweeteners or other nasties. So far, so good. What is not so good is the effective demonisation of foods that don’t fall into (what can be) quite rigidly defined parameters. Why has the clean eating fad become such a phenomenon? In the main, it is because it is the darling of social media. Type in #cleaneating in Instagram and you will be flooded with carefully filtered photographs of goji berry smoothies, porridge with a scattering of cacao nibs and, of course, the worshipped avocado!
Social media reaches out to everyone, but is part of the DNA of the younger generation and some of the advocates of clean eating have, through this use of social media, become celebrities themselves; Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley Sisters to name a few. They are young, glossy and invariably from affluent backgrounds. This is ably demonstrated in their ability to spend inordinate amounts of time in the careful placement of the aforementioned cacao nibs on their porridge, garnished with a nasturtium plucked from the garden that morning. This is then often photographed by a professional and, boom, there it is for you to sigh wistfully at whilst you glance at your own hurriedly thrown together breakfast angrily wiping the dribble of milk from your chin.
What is more, the proponents of clean eating who instruct us to remove wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar and caffeine from our diets more often than not, hold no nutritional qualifications and yet their word is treated as gospel by the more impressionable. Clean eating is the new religion. Certain ingredients are revered above others. They are having their own fashion moment and the best way to achieve this is to bung it into a coffee. Cue the turmeric latte, coconut milk macchiato et al.
Cutting out entire food groups without a medically supported reason is positively unhealthy. You risk missing out on the nutritional benefits that they offer. What is more concerning are the clean eating aficionados, who instil this in their own children. Birthday parties are now full of Hugos and Aramintas who must keep a distance of at least 10 feet from the gluten-laden birthday cake, which they are desperate to sink their teeth into. No problem because Mummy (let’s call her Gwyneth) has given them their own quinoa and courgette cupcake with a carob frosting blessed by the local ayurvedic practitioner. Of course, children need to eat a healthy diet, but it is essential for them to eat a range of nutrients at a time when their bodies are growing so rapidly and, importantly, not develop food hang-ups themselves or grow up wanting to eat *all the food* in rebellion.
The American comedian Chris Rock did a stand up piece about food fads in the Western world. He remarked pointedly that during the famine, you would never hear an Ethiopian say they were food intolerant. Punchy yes. It certainly hits a nerve.
There is a strong argument to suggest that, rather than teaching people to embrace healthy food, it is fostering a positive fear of food. All foods not deemed ‘clean’ must, therefore, be dirty. It is a narrow prescriptive approach to eating. As a result, there has been a dramatic rise in orthorexia, a condition which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” The term was only introduced in 1997 by an American physician, Steven Bratman. In the young and vulnerable, it can easily tip over into anorexia. The huge irony of this is that the rigid, restrictive approach to eating marketed as clean eating causes people to become ill because they are missing out on the essential nutrients provided by a varied and inclusive diet.
Food is not a fashion accessory. Slavishly following the commandments of the clean eating celebs will not give you their lifestyle. In many cultures food is about the ritual of sharing, celebrating and communing with family and friends. Surely then, the clean eating Insta crew must suffer from the other phenomenon of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) regarding all the wonderful food they could be enjoying. What happened to baking at home, using fresh ingredients, adding them in yourself to fill your kitchen with the delicious smell of baking and then enjoying your treats (yes, treats) with family and friends, all washed down with a cup of tea? This is not allowed within the rules of clean eating. Going to a coffee shop or out anywhere means pre packing your own snack in tupperware, preferably one you have made yourself, consisting of ‘raw foods’ such as nuts, dates, some form of nut butter and additional superfood powder. This apparently isn’t an eating disorder, even though as much time, if not more will be spent scouring the list of ingredients of products as anorexics do looking at the calories / carbs / fat content.
As a part of my psychotherapy and mental health training, I spent 6 months volunteering within the Priory group; a residential treatment centre for those with addictions and eating disorders. All meals were freshly cooked daily by chefs. They used normal ingredients, potatoes, rice, vegetables, salads, cheese, meat and sugar. The meals were healthy and balanced. The puddings were there to supplement calorie intake but they were there for the other patients to enjoy. And enjoy, they did. I watched people faces instantly light up when they saw their favourite treat, they’d sit down with fellow patients or friends and family to enjoy their favourite sweet treat. Refined sugars and all! The feeling of nostalgia one gets when eating a food from childhood or that evokes happy memories can work wonders for the soul and coincides beautifully with how the more traditional therapies work. I stand by my belief that eating the food you enjoy can work wonders for the mind and body. Your favourite food is like a hug, and although I don’t agree that food should be used to suppress or enhance emotions, I don’t believe it should be used as a punishment either.
The great thing about food is that it is something to be enjoyed; infusing you with vitamins, nourishment and new food discoveries rather than food rejections. Joy replaces fear and living replaces obsession. Anything that people focus on too much can become so habitual, that it can become disordered. This can easily escalate. Amanda Hills, a writer and psychologist who specialises in eating disorders, explains:
“We all know what’s good for us – it’s fruit and vegetables; less of everything and less sugar. If everyone ate like this we wouldn’t be faffing around with things like gluten-free. It has become a thing now. It’s a first world problem.”
Now, where is that nasturtium…
I have a client, let’s call him Tom. Tom has told me many times that he wants to be, ‘so built and muscular, that people will be scared of me’. ‘Why would you want that?’ I ask, before pointing out the glaringly obvious that he is already ‘built’ and very muscular.
Tom first came therapy because of his frequent low moods and frequent sleeping around behind his girlfriend’s back. It takes some weeks for his story to unfold, but I learn that he goes to the gym religiously seven days a week, training obsessively and twice daily. He avoids cardiovascular exercise as he fears losing weight. He also tells me that he doesn’t think he will ever be ‘big enough’. Tom was bullied as a child and teenager. He describes his former self as, ‘shy, thin, gawky and a bit of nerd to be honest’. Describing his school days seems to embarrass Tom, and he starts to blush, quickly brushing off the pain of his words. Despite all of the time, effort and money spent on his physical appearance, Tom still cannot see the mismatch between his adolescent self image and the reality today. It is the image that Tom thinks other people see that he wants rid of.
So I ask him, ‘What have you achieved since leaving school, that didn’t require or need all that muscle?’ He begins to tell me, ‘I got my degree, got my own home, a car, I’m doing ok at work, I could do more but this way I am free to go to the gym during the day.’ He laughs and continues, ‘and I’m in a relationship.’ He stops, ‘Although I don’t know that I would be, if I wasn’t as big as I am.’ He isn’t joking. Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder (MDD) is an increasingly common psychological problem amongst men. However, what is driving so many men to want to be bigger than they can possibly be?
The reasons are several, and very familiar to women too. For women, the message is that to be successful you need to be young, slim and toned, with big breasts and a flawless complexion. For men, it is much the same (without the breasts). As women have pointed out since the dawn of post war, second wave feminism, the ideal is impossible for all but a very few to achieve, in spite of the lies told to convince the world otherwise. In many cases, it is achievable only with chemical and cosmetic assistance. Social media is awash with shirtless profile pics, gym selfies and people ‘smashing’ exercise goals. This sends the message, ‘If you want what I have, you need to look like I do.’
However, here’s the catch. It is mostly, if not all, fake. To get that degree of musculature requires more than daily grinding and heavy weights; it takes steroids. When you see a very muscular, lean man, what you see is a chemically engineered shell. I do not doubt for one minute that the dedication and the hours of effort at the gym are real. However, the motivation behind them that has created these men is fuelled by shame, insecurity and fear. More and more men assume that muscularity equals masculinity. For Tom, masculinity means being strong and in control; but Tom is anything but in control and his behaviour reflects this. In fact, the obsessive striving after hyper-masculinity is in control of him. Just as those who suffer with anorexia use laxatives, exercise and purging to control their weight, Tom’s steroid use and gym obsession is a means to conceal his emotional vulnerability behind a formidable shell. However, you can’t change your self.
Tom talks about his steroid use. He is clearly ashamed as he describes his cycle as he can’t look me in the eyes. I tell him that I notice he seems embarrassed and I enquire as to what has got him feeling so ashamed. Tom’s answer does not surprise me. He says, ‘It’s cheating, isn’t it?’. ‘So, if it is cheating, then you are being dishonest, who are you being dishonest with?’. Tom replies, ‘Myself and everyone else. My girlfriend doesn’t even know I take gear’. What is obvious is that Tom wanted to leave the boy behind and become a muscular man. His use of steroids has made him just that, but burying feelings under synthesised muscle has only compounded his psychological issues.
It has been proposed that MDD should be classified as an addiction because one can become locked into maintenance behaviours which cause long term damage. The addiction is circular; men take steroids to boost their musculature, but cannot cope with the muscle loss, lack of libido and depressive episodes when they come off. So they resume taking them to relieve the symptoms. The more testosterone, the higher a man’s sex drive, which may lead to compulsive and risky sexual behaviours. Tom has been with his girlfriend for 18 months, yet sleeps frequently with other women, usually from the gym. This leads to feelings of shame, which compound his already distressed state, feelings of worthlessness and self loathing. He completes the cycle by punishing himself physically in the gym until he can longer feel his internal pain. Tom then binges on online pornography as being intimate with his girlfriend feels too much for him and he worries that she might see the ‘real him’. Most of Tom’s compulsive behaviour cover up the real Tom. When I ask Tom who he wants that to be, he doesn’t know. However, he can say, with genuine anger, that he doesn’t want to be the character into which he has made himself. Fundamentally, he is realising that masculinity isn’t about muscle. Muscles alone do not make a man.
In previous posts, I’ve touched upon the meaning of forgiveness and the importance of ultimately forgiving yourself, instead of busting a gut to speed up your grieving and healing to forgive someone else. What I find fascinating about situations where people have encountered someone, who at best took advantage and at worst abused them, is how ‘sorry’ is supposed to be a word that expresses regret and an apology. Sometimes, it is just another way of pressing the Reset Button.
Much like giving, ‘sorry’ isn’t something that you say with expectations of what the other person should think, feel or do as a result of it. I don’t say sorry unless I mean it. I also don’t take it as my right to assume that it should be “Ta Da! Everything is forgotten!” For minor things, it can be relatively easy to snap back to ‘normal’ but otherwise, it takes more than the few seconds it takes to utter ‘sorry’ to overcome these situations.
Being genuinely sorry is actually remembering what the hell you did and having enough genuine regret to sincerely endeavour not to repeat the very thing you know has caused distress or even great hurt.
Some people pay lip service to apologies and just throw them around, in much the same way that they might be loose with declarations of feelings that they can’t back up with actions. Much like love, sorry is an action feeling. It is not just something that you say, it has to be reflected in your actions. I would seriously question how sorry someone is, when they apologise in one breath and in the next, attempt to bust boundaries again.
When someone is on your back to apologise to you, or for you to accept the apology, that doesn’t actually mean that they’re sorry. What it really means is, “Look, hurry up and accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it. You perceiving me as wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever you is terribly inconvenient and my ego doesn’t like the pinch of reality. So, if you don’t mind, get a shuffle on, accept my apology and let’s move on so I can slam my palm down on the Reset Button.”
When certain types of people badger you to be ‘friends’ and badger you to accept their apology, it’s more because they’re not confident enough in their own integrity to believe they can ‘get’ your friendship or your forgiveness without manipulating you to some degree. If you treat someone well in a relationship, odds are that even when you break up, once hearts are mended and you’re both in neutral territory, there’s a possibility for friendship. You don’t assume that it’s your God given right and you certainly shouldn’t feel entitled to push for a pseudo friendship so you can have a foot in the door for an ego stroke, shag, armchair psychologist or a shoulder to cry on.
And so it goes with the person that tries to badger, railroad and guilt you into accepting their so-called apology. That reads like “Here’s my apology packaged up in a load of guilt and shame that I’m now putting on you”. The worst thing is, that if you have low self-esteem and tend to look for validation, this is the type of thing that does a number on you. You may get distracted from the actual issue and the focus becomes making them feel better about the fact that you’re not ‘over’ whatever the problem was. So the scenario shifts to one of, “Oh I’m sorry that I’m still hurt and that I’m hurting your feelings! There, there now. Let me make it all better for you and invalidate my own feelings so I can validate your gargantuan ego“
I think you know how this one plays out.
If you’re pissed off, furious, hurt or whatever you’re feeling, those are your feelings and you have a right to them. True, they may not be convenient for the other person, but if your apology hunter is that hung up on not feeling inconvenienced, it might help if they didn’t hurt you in the first place.
It’s not about bearing grudges. It is more an acknowledgment that some things can’t be brushed off with with an apology. Many cheaters for example, love saying they’re ‘sorry’ but they’re regretting being caught, regretting that their image has been crushed or are eager for the deception to be forgotten about.
This is why I stress the importance of living and dating with your self-esteem fully intact and having healthy boundaries; where you register your discomfort and validate your own feelings and judgement. When you know the line, they know the line, so you won’t allow someone to not only press the Reset Button but to pull the same stunt time and again.
Sometimes, it takes a while to process an experience and to work out what happened. This is why you can’t just cast aside your own feelings for the convenience of someone else’s ego. Often, the very people who do pseudo apologies don’t genuinely empathise with you and don’t recognise how you may be feeling in your position or what they did to impact you.
Sorry takes many forms. For those of you struggling in barely there relationships, you’ll know someone is truly sorry and that they ‘get it’ when they finally leave you alone. We want to believe that people have changed or at the very least feel deep regret when they say they’re sorry. However, maybe one of the biggest things to learn is that, much like they can’t expect you to soothe their ego, you can’t assume that sorry is a precursor to a changed person.
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.