Have you ever watched a horror movie? You know the ones – the girl is standing at the top of the basement stairs in her underwear or a baby doll and you know that if she goes down those stairs she is going to be sliced and diced. You always know which one it’s going to be because she is always in some stage of undress. I’ve noticed that the girls who are wearing jeans and sweatshirts don’t get killed so I have decided if I ever hear weird sounds in the cellar I am putting on baggy sweats before I do anything.
I bet you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with a narcissist, aren’t you?
It’s a Horror Movie
A relationship with a narcissist is a lot like one of those horror movies only you are playing all of the victims as the same time. First your confidence is strangled and left naked on the porch. Next, your trust is slashed with a chainsaw. Finally, you mental health is pushed through a shredder and the only thing you have left is your trembling, naked psyche standing at the top of the basement stairs wondering where the rest of her friends are.
That’s the point that most of us grab the baggy clothes and begin the fight for our lives. We escape, breathe a sigh of relief, and walk away from the carnage behind us. We are free.
Horror Movie, the Sequel
We work through our issues, learn to trust again, and contemplate another relationship. One day we find ourselves in our underwear standing at the top of the cellar stairs. Should we go down there and see what the noise is?
Maybe we do.
All of a sudden we are right back in the same situation in a different location. How many sequels did Nightmare on Elm Street have? How many of them included pretty girls that were under-dressed?
You see? The entire problem is that we are not dressed appropriately. Remember, the only people who become hamburger meat are the ones that are unprepared and vulnerable.
Lesson Learned: Stay Fully Dressed
Did you know that a large percentage of people who have been involved in a narcissistic relationship end up in another one?
To me that’s scarier than any of the movies I’ve seen. We do it because it’s what we’re used to, it’s comfortable even if we hate it, and we still haven’t figured out what draws us to a narcissist in the first place. Once we’re out of the horror movie we need to go back and analyze exactly where we made mistakes.
You know what the first one is, right? Taking off your clothes.
People who get into narcissistic relationships follow a pattern, too. We are empathetic, often feeling others’ emotions very strongly. We are wired to help people if we can even if it means sacrificing ourselves in the process. We love deeply and we are fiercely loyal. So what’s our kryptonite?
In the beginning the narcissist makes us feel like we are the most wonderful, most important, most loving person they have ever met. They feed our need for approval and appreciation until we become addicted.
Like any smart drug dealer they watch carefully for signs of addiction and then they use our need for our drug of choice, in this case affirmation and approval, to control us. All of a sudden we are not doing enough and we have to work harder to get than syringe with a little diluted approval in it. They take us to the edge of our sanity and then give us just enough to keep us coming back for more.
We shed a little more of ourselves with each event until all of a sudden we are the girl in a pink bra and panties at the top of the dark stairs.
What if we didn’t remove the layers of ourselves that we do? What if, the first time we were asked to remove a piece of ourselves – whether it is a hobby, a friend, a preference, or a lifestyle – what if we just said no?
What if we decided not to change to mold ourselves to the narcissist’s whims?
There is some protective gear we could wear that would keep us from falling into the same patterns. In the movies the girl who is wearing all of her clothes rarely is the one that goes through the shredder, and in the same way the girl (or guy) who wears all of her intellectual, mental, and emotional protective gear won’t get put through the shredder, either.
Item One: Changing You Won’t Change Him
Just because you switched from a bra and panties to a lavender, sheer baby doll outfit doesn’t mean that you have conquered the threat in the dark basement. When you have to change who you are to maintain peace in a relationship then it isn’t a relationship at all. You become little more than a hologram that changes according to the desires of the person controlling it.
Item Two: You Can’t Fix Him
Have you noticed that many horror movies have the victims falling in love with the sociopathic serial killer at the beginning? He is always someone who makes them feel needed and important.
The minute you are in a relationship and you start feeling like you are the one who is going to rock his world, pull him out of despondency, and save him from destruction you need to recognize that you are removing your protective covering. You can’t fix him.
Honestly, no one can fix anyone else. There is no amount of prayer, patience, endurance, or adapting that is going to make anyone change. People change when they have a good reason to do so – usually some sort of hardship or pain is involved. If you think that you are irreplaceable or that you can pull him out of a slime pit then you have as much of a problem as your narcissist
Item Three: Stay Alert
The last kind of victim is the one that seems to have survived the whole nightmare. She has been running and running until finally she is in a place where she feels safe. She sits down and allows herself the luxury of a few deep breaths and a good cry. That’s usually when a hand shoots up out of the ground or the sound of a chainsaw is heard from behind the tree. She made one fatal mistake.
She assumed it was over before it really was.
You must stay alert. Maybe it seems like he’s changed, and maybe he really has, but it’s important that you maintain caution lest you are pulled back into his trap. Maybe you have moved on and you think you are free but when you let your guard down you may hear the howling from Hell close behind you.
Won’t It Ever Be Over?
Yes, of course it will. Someday you will be out of it and realize that you are safe and that it doesn’t hurt anymore. Someday you’ll meet someone who is as protective as the narcissist was predatory and you should allow yourself to trust again, to heal, and to move on. There’s just one caveat – you can never let yourself fall into those same traps again. You have to monitor yourself and be aware of your weakness, your propensity toward being manipulated, and your tendency to let yourself walk into potentially dangerous situations unprepared.
The best way to do that is to share your experiences and learn for the experiences of others. Join First Wives World today to share your story and help others move into a place of healing.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons: Photo by Alyssa L. Miller