Narcissism: Inside the Lonely, Envious World of the ‘Perfect Ones’

Man admiring himself in mirrorHealthy narcissism is an accurate picture of the self properly valued, without shame and without overblown estimations. But most of the time when we talk about narcissism we’re thinking about the other kind, where the person thinks he or she is perfect in every way; you are just the opposite, a total loser, and the “Perfect One” is an expert at making sure you feel that way. Now, I’m not saying this is a plot, something done on purpose. It can be unconscious, but that doesn’t make it easier to live with.

Everyone knows a Perfect One, and might even admire the person a little. Perfect Ones are always in the know, or seem to be, but what they know best is how to take the bad feelings they have about themselves and shovel them onto whoever is around and ready to accept them. They lower your feelings about yourself so they can feel better. Putting you down raises them up. And if you’re lacking in self-confidence, you’re their perfect companion.

Could that be you? If you’re self-confident and aware of your abilities, taking credit when it’s coming to you should be a pleasure. But if you lack self-confidence, accepting a compliment can be pretty hard. Instead of feeling good, you may even feel ashamed. How come? And can you do anything about it? If you sometimes react with feelings of discomfort or shame when you’ve done something really well and been told about it, you may be responding to early feelings of worthlessness that were part of faulty family situations. Maybe your parents lacked self-esteem, too, and passed that on to you, or maybe you’re related to a Perfect One who trained you to be his or her audience, or perhaps you endured bullying in school. Perfect Ones make good bullies.

It could be that when you were a kid you were subjected to the envious feelings of others, so every time someone tells you something good about yourself you don’t believe it, or you expect something bad to happen, because that’s how you’ve been trained, so you’d rather put the spotlight on someone else, and who better than a Perfect One? Perfect Ones expect all compliments to come their way. If this applies to you, try to figure out who around you might be part of the problem. You can talk to them about it, but—even better—you can talk to yourself about it, remembering that what Perfect Ones are saying has more to do with their own feelings about themselves than about you. In fact, if you listen to the negative things they say, you’ll learn a lot about their secret, shameful feelings about themselves, proving that, deep down, they know they’re not really perfect after all.

Shame and narcissism are fellow travelers, a continuum of feelings about the self. Picture a seesaw with shame on the bottom and narcissism on the top. Envy accompanies the up-and-down actions of the seesaw. Perfect Ones feel envy all the time, and process that feeling by making others feel envious so Perfect One can feel superior. Perfect Ones’ feelings of superiority go with the expectation that they are better than everybody else and deserve favorable treatment in the world. They use others to get what they want, they believe they have it coming, and when they don’t get what they think they deserve they react with intense anger, called narcissistic rage. Perfect Ones don’t see others as equals; they see others as tools. Their internal feelings about themselves are unsteady, and they have to work hard to keep feeling good.

We’ve been talking about a make-believe person called Perfect One. The use of the word “one” is important here. Think ONE. A universe of one, where Perfect Ones want YOU to love THEM, but they are not capable of loving you or anyone else back. It’s a pretty cold world when you are the only Perfect One. If you’ve spent any time with Perfect Ones, you may have felt very lonely. Inside, the Perfect Ones feel lonely too, because no one is good enough to share their world. You might feel sorry for them, but don’t let the Perfect Ones take advantage of your ability to feel for others. Perfect Ones are expert manipulators.

After you have learned the game and how it’s played, you can stop playing with Perfect Ones and find humans who aren’t perfect but play fair. You’ll have a better time all around.

Remember my image of the seesaw? Perfect One on top? Well, Perfect One will fall down with a thud when you get off the seesaw. And then you can get back on and come to a good balance with someone else.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, RYT, Object Relations Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • James

    March 14th, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    But who are these “perfect” people who do no wrong in the eyes of others and yet still have no confidence in themselves?

    It is hard for me to come up with that complete picture of how you get to that point.

  • Unknown female

    August 30th, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    James i am one of the perfect ones, the article describes me to the teeth. I make others feel bad about themselves so that they feel miserable and have no time to analize me and realize how imperfect i really am. My worst fear is that people will find out how weak and scare i really am, i show the world how confident, strong and fearless i am and i make them feel intimidated by me but the truth is that i feel the same way that i’m trying others to feel (insecure and ashamed) i make them feel gilty and pay for my insecurities. I know that i need help but it’s hard to let go and lose control of my subjects. People like me usually have a profesion or a job in which we could have control over others and we feed on people’s insecurities. The truth of the matter is that when we put people down and beat them up with words, we are really describing ourselves. It is really hard to pretend being flawless and to show the world how LONELY we really are.

  • KDT

    September 24th, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    Dear Unknown Female,

    I refer back to this series quite often. I’m just amazed to the point of fascination regarding the narcissist! I dated a narc who was an Office Manager, which means he ran the office and had access to everything and everyone. After learning more about this topic, everything is crystal clear!!! He used to leave me SOOOOO confused and puzzled to the point I was speechless!!!! He was a creature of habit and I knew what time he would call, what he would say before he even spoke…it was spooky!!!! Before he would come to see me, he would have a “night cap” or a drink. He would speak in his stupor and say, “I need a woman who can take control, or make him a better person”. I now realize that that may have been a cry for help!!! I distanced myself because he kinda scared the hell out of me because I never knew if he was going to turn on me or try to play mind games!!!! I loved him tremendously, but the way he used to play with my mind was cruel!!! What is it that makes a person a narc?!?!?

  • Nancy

    January 5th, 2018 at 11:53 PM

    I️ am in the process of divorcing a narcissist, one who has cheated on every woman he has been in a relationship with. It’s all my fault. He is always putting my family down and vindictive…I️ can’t even explain how mean he is. He has recently tried to get me to let him move back in with me, but I️ just found out every time he leaves my house he goes straight to his girlfriends and stays with her. I️ am so hurt I️ really don’t know if I’m going to make I️t through this. Any intensive therapy sessions I️ can attend?

  • Tracy

    October 8th, 2016 at 1:18 AM

    Id really like to say you would recognise a perfect one if you met one but wouldn’t. They are so charming and fit right in that you dont doubt them. They unravel their narc behaviour very slowly and if you begin see them for who they are they pull you back in by being ‘perfect’ again so you end up apologising! Which they accept but let you take the blame for doubting them. And so it begins and is just the start of their bizarre behaviour. You probably couldn’t and wouldn’t say yhey were a narc for many months or probably yesrs because they show their true colours so gradually. If your in a personal relationship with a narc then you make excuses for them because they can appear perfect a ot of the time so you make allowances which eventually becomes the norm. If its a family member you probably dont remember them being any other way so you probably dont give it much thought. Narcs are very very slow at unmasking so unfortunately normal people dont see the red flags until its much much to late

  • Sean

    April 1st, 2018 at 12:56 PM

    Easiest narc detector; say “when you did *make it a real event*, it really hurt my feeling.
    An empath would apologize, and a narcissist will rage.

  • Adam S

    December 17th, 2017 at 9:07 AM

    If the person with Narcissism is partner wife or girlfriend to deal with, give a good bite on ass alike 🍎 apple, but very hard in job place if someone have this problem.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    March 14th, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Hi James-
    Good question. “Perfect Ones” are in fact flawed like everyone else, but unable to come to terms with their lack of perfection.

  • t gray

    March 14th, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    the very point of these ‘perfect’ ones putting others down to feel better makes them imperfect.and maybe even very rude.i remember years ago my father used to advise me about how you do not have to push something away or harm it to get ahead of it. one line does not need to erase another to become longer than it.

    to make others feel worthless just so you can feel better makes you someone far from humane and your ‘perfection’ is just an image in water waiting for a droplet to spoil it all!

  • Charlotte

    March 14th, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    If people with unhealthy narcissism feel envious all the time, then by extension, they likely feel inadequate all the time. They may not be aware that their behavior is inappropriate or that it pushes people away. I don’t think treating narcissistic people as “others,” people not worthy of interacting with, is an effective solution. That would only make the person feel lonelier and possibly intensify the narcissism. It seems to me that a more helpful solution is to develop less permeable boundaries of ones’ own, so that you can remain supportive, but push back against the narcissistic behavior in a kind but firm way.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    March 14th, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Nicely said, t gray, by you and by your father too.
    Thank you.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    March 15th, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Charlotte, that’s true, and good therapeutic way to help narcissists, if you are able to maintain firm boundaries and a healthy sense of yourself.
    Thanks for writing in.

  • Kathleen

    March 24th, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Agreed! I work with couples and this is a problem that really does come up in relationships. Lynn, you have a good handle on the problem and explain this very well! However, many of my couples do have at the core, a wanting to stay in the relationship. If the Narcissist in fact does want this relationship and is willing to come to sessions, I work really hard to build a relationship with them,at the same time, support the partner for a few sessions…..BUT then we all go to work! First teaching the partner boundary making and keeping while building their own self-worth and GENTLY assisting this person to ask good questions and reflect how it must feel for the narcissist to hear them feeling (the partner) better about themselves. This is tricky and long and intense work. Before engaging, do some reading on the ego of the narcissist and be ready to hold boundaries for yourself as the therapist. This person will try to manipulate each session. And watch out for the gift bringing for you (even coffee), do not fall for this trick!
    You must be firm and model for the couple a relationship which is caring, concerned,and equality building in the room.

  • Sandra

    March 24th, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    I think I might be narcissistic and be surrounded by sisters and a mother who is too. Is there a book recommended to research this further? I constantly need approval and affirmations from people, especially my family and I know my mom is this way as well. After my dad died, she said (maybe awhile later) that she missed how he used to praise her. All my sisters, including my mom and myself struggle with self-esteem. If my mom praises one sister in front of everyone for example.. the sister being praised feels embarrassed (and this is visible)(and I have felt this way)and sense that others are feeling jealous (and I have felt this way).. How does one cure narcissism?

  • Aja

    August 14th, 2016 at 2:59 AM

    Hey Erin,
    I come from a family of narcissism too. I can relate to what you are saying. How i am curing my narcissism us by being vulnerable about my feelings, listening to others feelings, and responding apprioately by caring, showing feelings other than anger resentment backbiting envy, showing what i enjoy in life, and veing a normal person.

  • Sandra

    March 24th, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    The only thing I am unsure of is the part where a narcissistic person makes others feel bad about themselves. I actually encourage family and people around me to feel good about themselves. I think I might come off as a know-it-all (I do love knowledge and sharing). I do like to think of myself as “perfect” in the sense that I pursue what I want. I do what I set out to do. If I say I’m gonna study herbs, I study herbs. If I say I’m gonna travel, I travel. That sort of thing. Now, if family or someone I know does something that I would have done or want to do that might make me feel a little jealous. How does one overcome this? Is this narcissism?

  • Denise

    March 25th, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Nice article and clearly explained. The hard part is staying off the seesaw. Once you get off, even though the other has put you down for years, they desperately want you back. It is almost like they are dying inside and they will manipulate your children or whatever it takes. I decided to get off the seesaw and stay off. I needed a lot of support so I wouldn’t get pulled back in. He quickly found someone else and is back to his balance. It will be a long time before I look for a relationship again. The whole process felt so gradual. Ten years later my self-esteem was incredibly diminished and I stood there blinking, wondering what happened.
    For me Charlotte, I have to stay away. For others, they may be able to have those boundaries.

  • Denise

    March 25th, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Hi Sandra – I suggest you read the criteria from the DSM IV regarding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It includes characteristics about lacking empathy for others, fantasies of unlimited success, power, etc. I think most of us have some characteristics of narcissism as many deal with self-esteem issues, jealousy, etc. It might be good to talk to a professional about the details of your situation. Best Regards.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    March 25th, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Hi Sandra,
    I don’t think you’re narcissistic as described in my article–you sound caring and involved with your family. Sometimes when you’re feeling jealous or envious you can use that feeling to figure out what you want for yourself. For instance, if you’re envious that someone you know knows more about herbs than you do, you can use that feeling to encourage yourself to study more.
    Denise mentioned reading the DSM IV, but I think there are better recommendations. The DSM series is not that great reading, it’s a very long list and description of diagnoses. If you’re interested in reading about narcissism, maybe your best bet is to read something like “Why Is It Always About You?:The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism,” by Sandy Hotchkiss and James F. Masterson.
    Thanks for your lovely comments.

  • alma Contreras

    March 28th, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I need help with my 12 year old daughter, she is defyint and disrespects me, doenst want a clean her room etc.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    March 28th, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Hi Alma,
    I am sorry that you and your daughter are having trouble getting along. Often parents of 12 years olds feel angry about their children’s attitudes, it comes with the territory. I don’t know if there are parenting groups near where you live (you might look in a church or school), but you might find it helpful to meet up with other parents. You might also consider talking to your daughter’s school guidance counselor.
    Take care and good luck!

  • Jonathan

    August 19th, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    I am an diagnosed narcissist. Until recently this is something I took pride in and concealed at all costs. The thought being that it is much easier to manipulate others if they are unaware they are being manipulated. And so far that strategy has worked for me, but other aspects of the disorder have forced me to come to the realization that it is not a blessing but truly a curse. I have an innate need to dominate completely those around me and it is only very carefully that I am able to suppress this desire. The only reason being that it would be difficult to manipulate people if I overtly attempted to dominate them. I have also become totally preoccupied with the delusion of being destined for ultimate power and control that I have been unable to create realist goals for myself. As I am sure you are aware it is nearly impossible for an individual suffering from delusions to accept these thoughts as irrational and delusional and doing so at times makes me physically ill when I consciously confront it. It is only because of my education and training working in the field of psychology that I am able to admit to the nature of these delusions at all. Needless to say accepting the need for change has been difficult, but necessary.

  • confused one

    July 26th, 2016 at 7:20 AM

    Hi Jonathan,

    First, I would like to tell you that I admire you. I believe its not easy to come out in the open and admit your diagnosis. I believe I am with a ” perfect one” narcissistic person , I love him so much and I want to help him and our marriage last with none of us will drown. My husband works in the same environment and from the beginning of the relationship i already feel that there is something wrong but I cant point out what it really is. I feel like I am the one chasing him , I am the one who always say sorry even if its not my fault, fixing the problem that made my first year of marriage so difficult that even my colleagues has notice the changes in me, I became so aloof, easily get upset with things. He easily loose the words from his mouth about me being an asian, saying that company is paying peanuts thats why they get monkeys, he doesn’t want to hear anything good like achievements about my country. He always tells that we are beggar and people came to our wedding its because food is free and always saying that we have an attitude. He refuse to to make love to me because the main reason is ” You don’t say anything or make me feel good about myself” or “You are fat”. It was really strange to me because I have not met anyone asking me to say some thing to make them feel good. I am 57 kilos now and the highest weight i had was 60 kilos with my height of 5’2”. He also has delusions that I am afraid to talk about it with him. He always says that her consciousness is high compared than anyone and on his second life he will be reincarnated into the Dalai Lama.
    I was really confused until I read this article about narcissism and your comment that made me enlighten about my husband. There are still so many signs that I want to share with you but its really quite a lot and those are my struggles everyday. He always threatens me of leaving and its seems like he has no problem with that, I don’t see any emotion from his face even at work or any place we go, theres always that emotionless looking face. I always tell hime how much I love him by which i don’t get the same, I always tell him how nice smelling his perfume is, how great his driving skills and , how gorgeous he is if thats the key so he would be affectionate with me but I get nothing. As a psychologist and being in this, do you consider my husband as ” perfect one” narcissist? If so, is there any cure?, How will I deal with him?, How can I help him?, I want him to open up with me so I can understand him more, what approach to do that? How to take care of myself too since its also draining emotionally and mentally?

    Thank you so much

  • confused one

    July 26th, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    Hi Jonathan,

    Please excuse my grammar and spelling, pronouns used. I just notice after I submitted my comment.

  • Jackie

    April 25th, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    I have a narcissistic mother and husband and possibly a twin sister too though she doesnt have the intense rage ,just the using you for her own gains. I find it really difficult to believe that someone would deliberately manipulate me for their own ends.Yet I can see examples of this over the years.I do feel that I have to keep my true feelings to myself in case they are shared inappropriately with other people by the narcissist for whatever it is that they gain from doing this.I guess I am learning to be not such an open book. I feel sad that I have to protect myself in this way and I keep various family members at arms length when I don’t feel strong enough to deal with them. Severe depression and consequently talking with a psychologist opened my eyes to the fact that I have been trained to put everyone’s needs before my own and disregard mine. It is an ongoing struggle everyday!

  • Giles

    June 2nd, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Given that narcissism is symptomatic of a pathological personality disorder to a lesser or greater and individual extent, there is simply no such thing as ‘healthy’ narcissism. There is also no such thing as ‘inverted narcissism’ an expression coined by somebody with no qualifications, the convicted fraudster Sam Vaknin, to describe the co-dependent. There is also no symbiosis between these personality types, the narcissist is a predator and anybody can be a victim, not just those who are co-dependent.

  • Nancy

    August 29th, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Yes! Thank you Giles! Agree, agree, agree.

  • Jodie

    August 9th, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    healthy narcissism is what you see in a baby or child! It’s about survival – attention seeking to get the nurture required to thrive.
    Empathy is acquired as that child develops and healthy narcissism is balanced against empathy, hence a balanced person .the
    cluster B personality disorders mean that empathy was never acquired, the result is NO conscience, remorse or interest in others.

    There lies the reason to avoid dangerous people.
    Sam V has ‘come out’ as one of these people, I find him very helpful because he has the diagnoses, he has shared his truth & it isn’t attractive.
    He is extremely rare as most prefer outright denial of any imperfection, they can justifiy violence, rage, even murder as being the victims fault. My experience is personal, I was able to leave, I did suffer from depression, I began reading in order to make sense of what just happened . I saw actual splitting, crazy eyes, nasty underhand psychological abuse,you’ll be left in emotional chaos, empty.

    Healthy narcissism is about having average to low self esteem, a conscience which is our brake on being deliberately cruel, normal people don’t get any pleasure out of cruelty.
    In general these people are control freaks, reward & punish randomly, love people they hated last week, constantly patronise & judge whilst preaching the opposite high moral view.

  • ted hooper

    August 8th, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    I lived in my mothers/grandmother shadow all my life I am now 46. Now I am awake, I can see everything clearly. I have to admite that I am co-dependant. I see now how that happened to me.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 8th, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Ted, now that see what happened you can start to look ahead.
    Good for you.
    Much success!

  • Virginia

    August 29th, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    I have just experienced this with a pastor who I thought was the greatest person around. He was so angry at me that we had a closed door session for 45 minutes and I do believe he need to be right all the time and in control all the time. When he is in the lime light he is the greatest showman and the greatest minister you could ever know. That is the showman part, then we have the part that he must be in control of everything. He ministers well to the people, but don’t cross him.

  • Kimberly T.

    September 13th, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    I met and fell in love with a narcissist. Until 3.5 yrs ago, I didn’t know what a narcissist was. I’d heard the word on TV, and I remember talking about it briefly in Greek mythology, but that was it! I’m by nature very reserved, introspective and a little shy. After discovering we grew up within seconds of each other, we went to and graduated from the same high schoo, went to the same church, both are aspiring business people AND I dated his brother previously(unbeknownst) we hit it off quickly!!!! Three years into the “so-called” relationship my feelings started to dwindle. I noticed the progression of our relationship was “different”. There was no normal dating and getting to know each other, it was always physical. His idea of dating was, you go out and I’ll pick you up afterwards, or vice versa!!! Later on he began to call me weak and point out things he didn’t like about me and basically turn around ask for sex!!!! I was loosing romantic feelings for him because I felt like I was confused! He would say things I felt were a put down. After while I began to pull away to assess the situation. I tried to address the situation with him, but avoided any meaningful conversation. It dawned on me that I was dealing with a narc!!!!!! It hurts me so bad to distance myself, I love him but I can’t let him destroy me!!!! Is there anyway to coexist with a narcissist without them destroying you?!?!?!

  • Jen R.

    September 14th, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    No, Kimberly. There is no way to live with a narcissist without becoming destroyed in the process. I have lived with a narcissist for 24 tumultuous years. With constant vigilance, I have gotten him to behave better and better, but his initial tendency is never to see anyone else’s perspective unless he is forced to (and it usually takes something dramatic for that to happen). As a result, I am often depressed, have a sense of helplessness that his agenda dominates everything, and as a friend of mine described me, “diminished.” My advice to you is to run as fast and far as you can; you cannot make this into a healthy relationship and you will become destroyed trying. But take precautions–narcissists erupt in anger (and potentially physical violence) once their “property” (you) is taken from them. He will also be verbally abusive, so find a strong support system. Good luck!

  • Anastasia

    January 16th, 2020 at 10:57 AM

    I agree!!! Get out!! Married to one for 17 years, he would give me the silent treatment for weeks, spent all the money, which I made a lot more than he did. I have two sone, the older one hasn’t spoken to him in years! He completely destroyed my life. I can happily say I have recovered and have had a great boyfriend, who can’t believe the standard for him was so low!!! You can recover but just run if you figure out they are a narcissist!!!!!

  • Lynn Somerstein

    September 28th, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Hi KDT-
    I see you know how to take care of yourself, and good for you! You escaped!
    Sometimes I think narcissists are born, not made, but surely their personal experience has a lot to do with it too.
    Take care,

  • Blackbird999

    October 31st, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    They are Patethic.. these “perfect ones”

    FAKES in love with themselves

    inside they are shells, have no feelings for nothing and noone and they are sick in the head and abusive and hateful.

    met a lot of them, STAY AWAY

  • Edna

    February 11th, 2015 at 2:06 AM

    I was in a relationship with a narcissist (as I am starting to realize the more I read about this disorder in my attempt to heal from his emotional and mental abuse and understand what happened, why it didn’t work out and why I am blaming myself for “abandoning” and failing him, why I am having such a difficult time letting go). When we first met it didn’t feel right somehow for various reasons such as the 10 years difference in age, the fact that compared to me he already had 3 kids from his first marriage and an ex girlfriend who live with the mothers, i.e. financial responsibilities, the fact that compared to me he worked nights and weekends and that he’s lived in Germany for so many years but didn’t speak the language very well. Instead of understanding those “doubts” as my gut feeling that told me he is not the right person for me I chose to ignore those signs because he was so persistent and wanted to know how serious I am only after a couple of weeks; he made it sound like it’s because he knows what he wants and it’s been love at first sight for him. We met online so I had been talking to other men to whom I’ve been wanting so meet and see whether they are a better matach and I was open enough to tell him so which he later used against me of course. In retrospect I guess that was the exact experience that I was somehow subconsiously looking for because before him I was in a very long relationship with a man who wasn’t capable of showing love, who would not include me in his life, where I felt left out, hungry and desperate for his attention and appreciation, a kind word or sign that he loves me. I now realize that both relationships couldn’t have worked out because I also lacked something that I was subconsiusly trying to somehow compensate so I guess it’s all been destiny to eventually learn about myself and my own value, gain some self esteem which I’ve always lacked. The thing is however that I somehow cannot and don’t want to label narcissists as monsters who cannot be helped – I always choose to see the good in People – but at the same time I am still blaming myself for not being the one who could have helped, for being too weak and not managing to keep my boundaries and not fall for his mind games. If you love someone don’t you try to help them in any way you can? Wasn’t it egoistic of me to run and leave him a very fragile situation to save myself (he lost his job but couldn’t find one in 10 months time and the situation escalated so much so that my account was overdrawn to the point that the bank blocked it so we had to borrow money from my family to survive. He of course keeps trying to contact me and it’s a viscious circle, I’ve been trying to explain to him why I left and that it wasn’t because of another man – like he believes. He says he hears me but between his lines all I read is more accusations, self-pity. Am I right in thinking that he is not ready or able to work on himself? I know I have to go no contact for my own sake and probably also his (thank God he is not the type who will seek revenge)but I just can’t get over the fact that I hurt him. I want him to be happy and healthy, I want to help him, because I still love him. I know we have no future and I also know that my attempts to help will be misunderstood from his side (because he keeps saying only I can save the relationship because he’s always known what he wanted and I am the one who doubted him while it was actually him always accusing me of looking at other men, getting angry out of the blue because of something that (he thinks) happened a while ago and would blow it into my face totally out of context. I was confused to the extent that I truly believe something was wrong with me and my Feelings for him weren’t honest, etc. I am talking in circles. I guess I already know the answer: I am unfortunately not the person who can help. I just hope I didn’t make his condition worse by leaving him and trying to open his eyes. Can those People be helped at all?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    February 12th, 2015 at 5:50 AM

    Dear Edna,
    The person who can help is not you, as you write yourself. The person who can help is a therapist. You can help both yourself and your ex by remembering that.
    Take care,

  • Giles

    April 18th, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    There is no such thing as healthy narcissism. That is a contradiction in terms as anything narcissistic is pathological in nature, nothing healthy about it. The is no such thing also as an inverted-narcissist. Even if there were no co-dependent people in the world, the narcissist would still try and would find victims.

  • egg shell walker

    July 22nd, 2015 at 4:58 AM

    I cannot explain the pain having to walk on egg shells daily. No matter what I do is wrong. I use to be a happy, always joking . Now I dont even go out in public. The verbal abuse is almost daily, including being woke up at night to be screamed at. Even open a bag of chips I should have opened on the other side. At times I think if I didn`t wake up it would be all over, fortunately I feel like there has to be a way out and be able to have a productive happy life. I am also a disabled vet with a TBI and PTSD from Vietnam. I think maybe its me , maybe I do not ever do anything right, however I know better even though that is how I feel. Maybe I need to buy a egg factory so I will have more egg shells to walk.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    July 22nd, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    Dear ESW,
    Buying an egg factory is an idea– it would never have occurred to me, but I”ll file it away for future use. Thank you! I don’t think this is “just you” however, and wonder if you might like to talk to a therapist either by yourself or with your partner. It might help.
    Take care,

  • esw

    July 22nd, 2015 at 10:21 PM

    Thank you for the offer however she refuses and would not let me out of her sight. You would think I have been unfaithful however that has never happened. I cant prove it however I think she has twice. An instance today is I have to go to portland va due my daily migraines. We are taking a vacation and will be 3/4 of the way there. She will not go with me the week before even though I told her it will cost less. Her comment is you do not need to go. I will go unfortunately it is 725 on way from home when it will be only about 300 miles from where we are going on vacation. I asked her why and she said she did not want to of course this was her screaming. I tried to explain it will be cheaper of course the screaming became more intense “I said no”. There is no reasoning with her. I think my only option is to walk away if I ever want to stop the verbal abuse. Its not if but when and I will probabilly never get involved in another relationship. The sad part is I do love her and still have her on a pedistal unfortunately there is nothing in return.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    July 23rd, 2015 at 1:05 PM

    Dear ESW, of course you need to go the VA for treatment of your migraines; while you are there consider telling them your story and asking for counselling.
    Good luck and take care,

  • MacAlban

    July 28th, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. I was raised by one parent who definitely fits the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other parent fit the enabler part of the situation. I ended up raising myself and my two younger siblings for the most part from the age of 13 onwards. I tried to get a job early on so that I would know that there was at least going to be money available for me to use. Food would run out and we would go without. I started doing wash in 7th grade because my wash was not getting done and I would end up wearing dirty clothes. I gave the parent who took responsibility for doing the household wash the ultimatum that since that parent was not doing it that I was going to do it and I did not want them touching my laundry, I also begged for money to go buy food because we were out of it. No money was forthcoming and no food showed up either. When one of my siblings got married, it felt more like a child of mine was getting married than a sibling.

    The Narcissistic Personality Disorder parent raped me on at least one occasion and sexually fondled me on at least one other occasion while I was in my teenage years. I lived not knowing when it was going to happen again. Couple that with not having ones basic needs of food and safety met, and you end up with complex post-traumatic stress disorder fifteen years later. I am at a point of working through recovery and still suffer from bouts of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. By the grace of God I have escaped being addicted to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and I am not a risk taker. Although I am dealing with being homeless right now, I am glad and thankful to have escaped the worst of it. In the intervening years I managed to graduate both high school and college with decent grade point averages in both cases. I am finally at a point where I am stable enough that I can consider gainful stable employment for the first time in my life. I am hoping to have a stable good job by the end of the year.
    Thank you for bringing this difficult topic to light, it is a help for the rest of society to know the stories of the survivors of Narcissistic abuse. I am trying to understand what happened to me and why the Narcissistic abuser was able to do what they did so that I can break the cycle. This pattern of behavior tends to go down the line in many families and not be eradicated entirely. Even if a person has narcissistic tendencies they can and must fight against them. This article rightly points out that shame and narcissism go hand in hand. The United States is a very juridical and legalistic society. If we can change that, these fragile narcissistic types can come out into the open and finally get help for the skeletons in their closets. They have the bigger problem than their victims. Recovery from abuse is possible and healthy.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 2nd, 2015 at 5:19 PM

    Dear MacAlban,
    Thank you for reading my article, but thank you most of all for writing about your history and how you have coped and survived, providing a strong role model for other people in similar situations. I wish you the success you deserve.
    Take care,

  • Browndog

    August 18th, 2015 at 11:07 PM

    Lynn S. Thank you for writing this. I have been living with my wife for about 18 months. I saw the danger signs in about four months and begged her to go to marriage counseling. The reaction was “Those people don’t know anything. You go. You are the one with the mental problem. You go.” So I did go. I asked for any test that might detect such a problem. I had several tests and several months of sessions, and none showed anything abnormally negative. A narcissist can make their victim believe that they may be the narcissist–a veritable gaslighting experience. They can claim they are the people walking on egshells while their victims feel that exact role. In 18 months this person never once initiated a hug, kiss or “I love you,” never was able to say “I am sorry” for causing any hurt. I am amazed at the verbal creativity a narcissist can employ to hurt their target, how devoid of empathy they can be, and how charming they appear around others. I certainly was sucked into a no win situation. I never believed such people existed.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 19th, 2015 at 1:03 PM

    Dear Browndog,
    Thank you for writing– I hope you will find how to deal with a “no win.”
    Take care,

  • Sunshine

    January 12th, 2016 at 8:20 PM

    Thank you for this article.
    I think I was married to a narcissist. I thought he was my soulmate, I loved him unconditionally. At the time I didn’t understand his highly cruel and manipulative behaviour. It nearly broke me. He nearly destroyed me. One night I was on the brink of feelings I never expected to have. He had made me feel so inadequate, so worthless, so useless. The emotional trauma suffered over 13 years was almost too much. But from somewhere, faced with annihilation, a deep sense of my own worth, identity and independence spun me round into survival. I began the fight for my life. Instinctively I distanced myself from him emotionally. With time and courage I focused my empathy on myself. I found my family and friends again. I pursued my career. I had independent purpose. He left.
    I met a new man. I loved him in the same way. I forgot what I had learnt. Our relationship has been flawed. However, I do have two beautiful sons. I love my children unconditionally. I will never love a partner this way. Partners should be equal in their giving and asking. It has taken me a long time to learn a hard lesson but I am full of hope for my future.

  • Lynn

    January 13th, 2016 at 9:44 AM

    Hi Sunshine,
    I’m happy you’re hopeful and strong.
    Take care, and thanks for writing,

  • Erin

    June 8th, 2016 at 8:59 PM

    The article is very informative and describes my husband very closely. We have been married for almost 3 years and have been together for almost 7. I am about to give birth to our first child and over the past few months I have found out he had an affair that started just after we found out I was pregnant. He projects even now a happy family image to the outside (we are sleeping in separate beds and he will be moving out, his choice) world even while the affair was going on but I knew something was wrong – there was suspicious behaviour and he wasn’t interested in a physical relationship with me, and as soon as I tried to ask about how he was feeling about the pregnancy the walls went up and the arguments, deflection, blame and hurt began. I thought he was dealing with a depression or a mental health issue and he seemed happy to have everyone believe this as we all rallied around him and he is now taking medication for bi polar…would a narc go so far as to make people believe they had an issue like this to manipulate people? – I can see that it was all an act to gain sympathy and deflect from him. I am a strong willed confident person and my many attempts to talk about and repair our relationship is met with anger and silence – he has said nasty things to hurt me and will want to win an arguement at any cost. I belive he wasn’t always like this or not to this extent… can an event like a pregnancy trigger something to be pronounced like a personality disorder? Since I have found out about the affair which I could only get the truth from him once I had proof – he lied about every part of my concerns multiple times – and the inbility for him to empthise or even show remorse for his actions is dumbfounding. I can only summise that for him to walk away from this in his mind will be easier than facing what he has done and to have the cracks in his seemingly perfect facade visible to other people.

  • Browndog

    August 14th, 2016 at 9:15 PM

    Really sorry that you have been hit with this. It must be devastating. Don’t know if couples counseling is possible. The only reason I thought of this is because you have been together 7 years, and I don’t know if NPs can usually conceal their true nature that long from a significant other. From what I read, which agrees with my experience, NPs turn into Mr/Ms Hyde as soon as a person commits to them in marriage. Without a doubt you have recently been treated terribly. I am not a counselor, and it seems so strange to me that these qualities took so long to manifest. It also seems problematic how he can suddenly be treated for bipolar depression by a professional who must know how you, his spouse, are being victimized. Yet somehow this professional is providing him with support and has shut you out of the process??? Client-counselor confidentiality?? In your place, I would connect with a professional to get some enlightenment from an informed person about what is really going on and how I could best deal with this and get needed support. I doubt you can get appropriate answers online. Wow.

  • Raziya

    August 9th, 2016 at 5:42 AM

    A narcissist feel an illogical envy of you so the narcissist provoke envy in you FIRST, BEFORE you find out he/she envied you all along . A narcissist could envy anyone even if his/her life is perfect(perfect partner , perfect house, perfect career etc).

  • Mel

    February 3rd, 2017 at 6:13 AM

    The narcissist I was with was envious of everything I had. I got a new car for myself for work, narcissist I don’t know how you can afford it!! My daughter and son in law got me an iPhone for a Xmas gift, narcissist iPhone’s are rubbish. I am so glad I got rid of him by going NC but he still Hoover’s constantly I don’t answer or even read text messages or emails that he sends. He is completely nuts. Mel x

  • Louise

    June 15th, 2017 at 3:22 PM

    What the narcissists do is strip partners of assets, like self esteem & emotional security.
    The covert narcissist presents as a codependent, a victim which evokes a nurture response in the target. I’d argue that targets are not lacking in self esteem prior to being sucking into the parallel universe of narcissistic abuse, many leave after a rage & reflect back on the passive aggressive behaviors, the insults & final psychotic tantrum.
    They research toxic relationships & watch the predicable pattern unfold, the narcissist cannot be alone so a fresh target is sucked in immeduately, then the hoovering begins.
    You have a stalker a person you don’t know until you’ve escaped. You must recover your self esteem & take back power, negotiate the stalking without triggering the delusional mind you are dealing with.
    Narcissists are unstable, impulsive & disassociate into rages they conviently cannot recall. They are plausible which is why they are dangerous, I shudder thinking back I spent alone time with a monster capable of immense cruelty. Getting past fear is important they are extremely weak not the alpha male they wanted you to believe, they are emotionally retarded & sadistic. Some are high functioning, non violent & repress their insanity until they feel safe to vent it. The narc I encountered enjoyed his mental dysfunction, he felt superior being able to lie without detection was his favourite trait, boasting high sex drive & to be unaffected by emotions suited his self serving nature. He is deeply miserable despite having a high opinion of himself he envies connecting, not being fulfilled, not having peace. He defined reality by his moods & impulses.
    I am not codependent, I am anutnomous, he was attreacted to a these qualities over time he resented them. They are crazy

  • Scott

    September 2nd, 2021 at 3:48 AM

    Wow….what a wonderfully written piece ! I feel like I just read my last relationship wrapped up in one article.
    I’m just getting out of a 3.5 year gay male relationship. I honestly did not know what a narcissist was until I met him. But slowly the red flags started to appear, the constant put downs, what you have isn’t good enough, and so on. Eventually putting 2and 2 together, I’m like wow….this relationship is all about him, while he tried to act like it was all about me. He wanted to get married…it was jokingly to get on my insurance, but now I see it really was true.
    I started researching different blogs etc. And I’m like this guy is a narcissist, and this article confirmed it! ….Wow I’m not crazy after all. Thank you!!
    I wish I could email this to him, but im staying far and clear away !!

  • anonymous

    April 3rd, 2022 at 12:45 PM

    Anyone who gets intimate with a narcissist, meaning they are close, will be hurt. Friends of narcs can survive – many of them get a charge out of narc misbehavior as it is aimed at other victims, but just watch when the narc translates that approval to mean the narc can attack members of an enabler’s family. Suddenly, the enablers understand the truly evil behavior of the narc. Being semi-permeable around narcs? Nah, not if they are targeting you – you must be distant – they don’t play fair and honorable. These people are BAD!!!

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