What do narcissists do wrong when it comes to relationships

A relationship with a narcissist can have dire consequences

  • At the beginning of a relationship, narcissists appear charming and attentive.
  • After a while, however, their true colors will show themselves: They manipulate, suppress and devalue their partners.
  • A relationship with a narcissist can be traumatizing and negatively impact the future relationships of the non-narcissistic person, says professor of clinical psychology and psychotherapist Udo Rauchfleisch.
  • You can find more articles from Business Insider here.

At first everything seems perfect - the partner is charming, friendly and attentive. But then the tide turns. Suddenly manipulation, exploitation and devaluation are an integral part of everyday life.

A relationship with a narcissist is a real ordeal. Many have already broken because of it. Narcissists know exactly which buttons to press on their partners, they know their insecurities and weaknesses and use them to strengthen their own self-esteem.

This leaves its mark on those affected. In an interview with Business Insider, Udo Rauchfleisch, professor of clinical psychology and psychotherapist, explains how and why the relationship with a narcissist can affect the lives of those affected even after the separation.

"Narcissists save their self-worth by suppressing others"

Selfish, devoid of empathy, arrogant and self-indulgent - these are the adjectives with which most of us narcissists associate. In reality, however, it is not that simple: Behind the apparently high level of self-confidence is actually the complete opposite.

“Narcissistic disorder is about a self-esteem disorder,” says Rauchfleisch. In some cases, this disorder manifests itself in that the person concerned leans heavily on the partner and expresses that they feel weaker and worse.

“Most often, however, these feelings of inferiority remain in the background,” said Rauchfleisch. Instead, most narcissists are high-handed and self-confident - which is not real self-confidence, but overcompensation. In order to save his self-esteem, on which his existence depends, the narcissist dominates, manipulates and devalues ​​his or her partner. “It's always about who is stronger and who is weaker. The person saves their self-worth by suppressing others and exaggerating themselves. "

Narcissists use empathy to the detriment of the partner

Narcissists are manipulative artists - that is why their narcissistic traits usually only come to light later in the relationship. “Narcissists can appear extremely charming, friendly and affectionate,” says Rauchfleisch. "But it is not a warm way of referring to other people, but a very cool, calculating way of winning over others."

Only when someone has really gotten into the relationship does their dark side come to light. This was also shown by a study by psychologists from Münster: Narcissists make a better first impression, but in the long term they make themselves less popular than others.

“It is said that narcissists have no empathy,” says the psychologist. “I think that's not true. They have empathy, very high levels. But unfortunately they only use them to feel where others are vulnerable and where they can use something for their own benefit. ”With this tactic, you hit very sore spots in your partner - and this can have drastic consequences in the long run.

Relationships with narcissists are like trauma

In most cases, a relationship with an extreme narcissist negatively affects the future interpersonal and romantic relationships of the non-narcissistic person.

According to Rauchfleisch, one consequence can be that the person becomes more insecure and, in new relationships, waits a long time before engaging deeper in them. That is a slightly less pronounced reaction. "But especially with long-term relationships, it is like a traumatization, like a serious injury," says the psychologist. In such cases, those affected can completely lose trust in relationships, so that from now on they avoid all relationships and no longer engage in anything binding.

Also read: These four types of people magically attract narcissists

As Rauchfleisch explains, after the publication of his guidebook “Narcissists are only human: How we get along with them”, many women came up to him who complained that they were married to a narcissist - and that it was “completely ruined”. So much so that they themselves no longer know what is right and what is wrong.

"That one becomes helpless and desperate and in the end perhaps thinks that one is to blame for the behavior of the partner is very clear when one is constantly devalued and manipulated."

The healthier a person is, the faster the relationship becomes to process

The first step in feeling affected is to get help. One problem that partners of severely narcissistically disturbed people can encounter is that even friends and relatives do not believe them - because the narcissist does everything outwardly to appear charming. "That hurts their partners again, because they don't feel they are being taken seriously and they get the feeling that nobody believes them."

According to Rauchfleisch, if someone was or is still in such a toxic and traumatizing relationship, they should definitely get professional help. "In this phase and also after the separation, it is important that the person clarifies how they got into the relationship and what it did to them."

The healthier someone is, the faster the person will be able to process the relationship. Good social integration, good friends and family members are very important. “If the person is relatively healthy and not severely traumatized, that's fine. But if she is not so healthy herself, is very vulnerable or the injuries are very severe, then she should seek professional help. "

This article was published by Business Insider in January 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.