IT'S NOT JUST YOU!
We've all been guilty of asking, "Why don't they just leave?" or proclaiming, "I'd never let someone [do that] to me!" But how many of us honestly have explored why they stay or why they don't leave?
Having been guilty of both judging and being judged for loving a person with toxic, narcissistic traits, I can say that both are hard positions but you have to live in their shoes to understand the cycle of abuse that holds them hostage.
A QUICK DISCLAIMER...
Before I go any further, I must state firmly, emotional and psychological abuse ARE ABUSE! And those whom have suffered it will agree that bruises from this betrayal last beyond the black and blue left from battering. This is not to say either is worse, abuse is abuse and IT IS NEVER okay or acceptable. And while I'm clarifying, other types of abuse include financial abuse, sexual abuse/assault, intimidation, isolations, neglect, gas lighting, restricting access or freedoms, and the list goes on. Okay back to our conversation.
I WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT....
Many of us with loved ones who are suffering or have survived this type of relationship often make similar statements including "but they don't seem like the type", "they are so nice, are you sure", or "but they do so much for you." These statements are common and more true than they appear. The person in question does everything within their power to manage their image, especially in public. It is only in private that they allow any vulnerability and, even then, it is at the detriment to their partner. The person whom knows them best and loves them most gets hurt the worst.
Your friend or loved one already knows this is not the ideal relationship, so you telling them is only going to make the predicament worse. How? If you try to convince me that my relationship is unhealthy, I have two choices: either I can distance myself from you so I don't have to hear your opinion (further isolating myself and only having the Narcissist to depend on), or I agree and I have to get out of the relationship (and abandon them just like everyone has done according to them). Therefore, telling your loved one to "just leave" usually worsens their situation, at least in the short term. And, I have to include this, if there is physical abuse, leaving is the most dangerous time in the relationship. Without enough support or a plan, you could be encouraging a very dangerous move.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you're worried about your loved one and you know their partner is trying to control them, you also can see how easy it would be if the Narcissist is allowed to isolate them. There's your answer, don't allow it. Here are a few things you can do for your loved one:
Be supportive; you don't have to agree to be a friend.
Allow them to vent instead of trying to fix it.
Encourage them to try therapy or relationship enrichment.
If they do want to leave, help them develop a plan.
Above all, let them know you'll be there no matter what.
Dr. C. R. Hurt, Clinical Psychologist
Next week: From Dream to Nightmare, The Progression of a Toxic Relationship