People who chronically abuse others usually have some kind of personality disorder — e.g., narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and histrionics. Typically, these individuals live on one-way streets paved with double standards, with one set of rules and expectations for themselves and another for you. In other words, they’re great big hypocrites. Narcissists and their ilk also have peculiar definitions of concepts such as fair, equal and compromise.
Fair means, “I get everything I want when I want.” Equal means, “I get everything I want when I want.” And compromise means, “I get everything I want when I want.” Notice the theme? Narcissists are simply too self-absorbed to give a flying fudge about anyone else’s wants, needs and feelings, but their own. These ultimate navel gazers will accuse you of being selfish and mean if you’re not as focused on their belly buttons as they are.
But what about mutuality, reciprocity and good old-fashioned give and take? Sssssspppppppllllllllffffffftttttttt!!!!!!!!
Years ago, I briefly dated a man whom I’m fairly certain, in retrospect, had borderline personality disorder with several narcissistic features. During the first few weeks of dating he emailed, “It’s so nice to finally meet someone with no needs of her own, so she can spend all of her time focusing on mine.” [Insert record scratch sound effect.] Narcissists and borderlines say the darnedest things!
First, I checked to see if he was joking. He wasn’t. Then I responded that I did, in fact, have wants and needs, but they were reasonable and meet-able. His response? Crickets.
His unintentionally shrewd observation is a good summary of the relationship dynamic between a codependent and a narcissist-borderline-psychopath-histrionic-Unidentified Flying Crazy (e.g., diagnostically speaking, alphabet soup). That’s what narcissists want in an
accessory, appendage, prop, stooge, lackey, enabler, flying monkey, Igor, partner — someone who will focus on them exclusively and at a huge cost to your own well-being.
That’s not fair. It’s not equal. There’s no compromise, just capitulation and accommodation. It also doesn’t add up, which brings us to a little something I like to call Narcissist Math, in which the narcissist believes 2 + 2 = ME! ME! ME!
In Narcissist Math:
You do more. The narcissist does less.
You try to be ever more compassionate and understanding. The narcissist becomes crueler and more contemptuous.
You share everything you have. The narcissist becomes stingier.
You try harder. The narcissist becomes more demanding.
You’re faithful to the point that you don’t even make eye contact with members of the opposite sex (or same sex as the case may be). The narcissist cheats.
The statements above are what a narcissist thinks of as a fair and equal relationship. In reality, it’s anything but. The longer you remain the the relationship the more the scales become increasingly imbalanced over time. You can try using facts, logic and reason to point out the inequities in the relationship, however, all that usually gets you is a tantrum, rage episode or some world class gaslighting as they tell you with a straight face that they do EVERYTHING in the relationship and you’d better start pulling your weight.
Drop the rope and set yourself free. It just isn’t worth it. Unless you want your epitaph to read, “Here lies Conrad/Connie Codependent. They tried their best. It just wasn’t good enough.”
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Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.