The pattern of dancing with a narcissist always starts the same way. The narcissist’s reaction is extreme compared to the situation. Maybe she bursts into tears. Maybe he starts shouting curse words. Maybe it’s at you. Maybe it’s in front of the kids or the neighbors who stopped by. Maybe it’s at the poor contractor who is finishing the repairs in the basement.
Their Need for Reassurance
Immediately afterwards the narcissist needs your reassurance. Reassurance that you still love her. Reassurance that you’re not leaving him. Reassurance that you still think she’s a good person. Notice that the narcissist is not apologizing because admitting wrongdoing threatens the narcissist’s sense of self. Instead, this is emotional manipulation that pulls you in and has you condoning his or her behavior because fundamentally the narcissist desperately needs your approval.
Inability to Consider Emotional Needs
You think to yourself, why does this always happen on the worst days? The night before a huge stressful work presentation. The evening after you’ve been dealing with your parents or had bad news at the doctor. It’s not that the narcissist doesn’t know what you have going on. It’s that the narcissist is so consumed by whatever crisis the narcissist has in his or her mind, that he or she is not capable of considering your emotional needs at that moment.
A Threatened Sense of Self
Later, as you apologize to the neighbor, reassure your kids, or try to convince the contractor to return, you think about the incident, and it just doesn’t make sense. It was such an overreaction that the narcissist must have misunderstood what was happening. You approach the narcissist and say hey, I think you might have misheard or jumped to the wrong conclusion. Wrong. The narcissist heard correctly and sees nothing wrong with his or her reaction. This is because something in that incident threatened the narcissist’s sense of self. And the narcissist cannot tolerate anything about his or her sense of self being questioned or threatened.
How Narcissists Shift Blame
When dancing with a narcissist, the next move is to blame you. You should have been there to deal with the contractor rather than picking up the kids. You should have thought about how inviting in the neighbors at that minute affected her. You should have thought about how your words would sound before they came out of your mouth. You are the one who is not remembering how things actually happened. In fact, you’re the one who owes the narcissist an apology, and not the other way around.
Their Behavior Isn’t Normal
And so, you apologize. You reassure. You fix. And you try to anticipate what will set the narcissist off in the future so you can avoid this dance. But no matter how hard you try, the cycle eventually repeats itself, again, and again. And you ignore how it affects your kids. How your neighbors and contractors see your relationship. How it’s affecting you. The exhaustion, the frustration, and the sense that you must be going crazy. And you wonder, does everyone live this way?
The answer is no. Not everyone lives this way. In fact, you don’t have to live this way. But if you are living this way, know that you aren’t alone. For now, maybe that’s enough. If you are ready to talk to someone or are tired of dancing with a narcissist, contact us today.