So often those who are married to narcissistic spouses or who have narcissistic partners are repeating an abusive cycle of behavior that they experienced in childhood and beyond. They move from the traumatic home where they were continually in a psychological state of siege to marriage to a narcissistic partner who always has them in a state of apprehension and in some cases–all out terror. Each moment they know that their narcissistic partner might come unglued and go into a violent vituperative rage. They know it will happen–the question is When? The narcissistic spouse is predictably unpredictable. Highly secretive, he/she is very controlling–even to the point of hacking your email, following your footsteps to the mall via your cell phone, watching and listening as you speak with friends. There is nowhere to hid, be safe, find peace or respite.
For some this is a vivid reminder of their childhood with a narcissistic mother and/or father. When we are little, we know instinctively that we must survive. We do our best. We are so vulnerable. We walk the walk we are given and mouth the words that are spoken. For some, childhood is a kind of brainwashing, a prison, a gulag. Some children feel that there will never be a return from this place of desolation and constant fear. Who will rescue them? Who will come, they ask through their tears. Some children are afraid to cry. This can be dangerous after all if you get slapped in the face every time you show an emotion.
One would think logically that if we are raised in this horrendous environment in the world of the narcissistic parent we would never choose a narcissist as a partner. But this is frequently not the case. Unconsciously we are drawn to what is familiar albeit painful. And besides this, narcissists are so clever in the opening moves. They know how to catch our attention, how to magnetize us to them, how to make us fall in love or lust with them against every best judgment we ever had. They have phenomenal antenna and can sense our deepest needs and vulnerabilities–this despite that beneath it all, they don’t give a damn about us.
Once the spouse knows that he/she is being victimized by a narcissist there is a great opportunity to leave this toxic person. But life isn’t that simple or easy. Divorcing a narcissist is complex and ugly, usually. But I have known many who have done this and gone through the fire of this ordeal and come out very much alive, limping at first and then moving steadily faster toward a life that belongs to them. They have broken the pathological cycle of repetition. Life is waiting for them to take the next step—Their Very Own.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.