7 Signs That “Radical Acceptance” May Be the Next Step in Your Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

According to many therapists and psychologists, a healthy, functional long-term relationship just isn’t possible when one partner suffers from a “Cluster-B” personality disorder.

In other words, you cannot have a healthy, functional relationship with someone who is incapable of having a healthy, functional relationship. If you’re the partner of a disordered person, it’s not even up to you!

It’s not within your power to change another adult’s personality.

Narcissistic abuse is a freqent outcome of trying to have a healthy, functional relationship with a personality-disordered person over a long time. It’s a disordered person’s reaction to having a close relationship.

One of the first steps in recovery is “radical acceptance” of the reality of the situation.

Unfortunately, “radical acceptance” is often misunderstood—and, therefore, misapplied. This confusion can hinder recovery and unnecessarily prolong or even worsen the abuse.

Before someone else’s apparent inner condition can be “radically accepted,” though, the nature of that condition has to be understood to some degree. While a professional diagnosis is probably the most reliable and accurate way to identify a personality disorder, studies show that the vast majority of disordered people are never diagnosed.

In the absence of a diagnosis, then, a relationship partner is frequently left to his or her own judgment. Here are a few signs that I’ve identified as indicators that a relationship partner might have a personality disorder.

1. You find yourself explaining their own behavior to them. You might say, “Why in the world would you think that’s okay?” They seem not to understand why what they’re doing doesn’t work, why it’s hurtful, or why grown-ups don’t act that way. You feel like a parent with an overgrown, disobedient, rageful child who never seems to learn how to “act right”—or even why it matters.

2. You find yourself explaining logical reasoning to them. You might say, “No, this isn’t true. If this isn’t true, then that can’t be true, either!” They accuse you of wrongdoing, based on how they feel or because of some unrelated event. They ask questions out of the blue about your whereabouts or activities, which seem to have no bearing on your actual life. Then they might condemn your truthful explanation as suspicious. In an argument, they form illogical or emotion-based conclusions that end the conversation—defying rational debate, leaving you frustrated and speechless.

3. You find yourself arguing with them about what really happened. You might say, “No, that’s not at all how it went. I was there!” Even if you were present to see some event, their recollection of it is wildly different from yours. When challenged on their memory of it, they may react defensively and accuse you of lying about it. They might even accuse you of making them doubt their own memory, as if you were deliberately trying to brainwash them. (This is projection, since it’s what they actually do to you on a daily basis.)

4. You find yourself defending your own character or intentions. You might say, “How do you not know me better than that?” You find yourself being questioned when you do something completely innocent, or with the best intentions. You might even be accused of some sinister ulterior motive for, let’s say, moving the salt shaker to the other side of the table. It’s as if you were being observed constantly under a microscope with a cracked lens. It feels like continually being painted in the worst light possible, suspected for anything and everything, for reasons you don’t understand.

5. You find yourself re-hashing the same argument…again. You might say, “Why are we still talking about this? Didn’t we resolve it months ago?” Disordered people never seem to forget, move on, let go, or forgive (someone else’s) past mistakes. It’s as if wrongs (or perceived wrongs) that were (supposedly) done to them are done not just once. They’re done continually—on and on, over and over again, forever…in their minds. Their “suffering” never ends. There is no moving on. The past never recedes for long. It continually becomes the present, and it gets resurrected repeatedly during arguments. On the other hand…

6. They immediately forget wrongs that THEY have done. They might say (about something that happened literally yesterday), “Why are you bringing that up? That’s the past! I thought we were moving forward!” Then you’re made out as if you hold every little mistake over his or her head. Double standards rule with disordered people. What applies to others and what applies to them are two different realms…and they’re the ones who decide.

7. They do even ONE horrible thing that “normal” people just don’t do. These actions are deal-breakers. They are definite signs that someone is just not worth being close to, and may be dangerous:

Killing your pet. Calling your workplace to sabotage your job. Calling the police on you for no reason. Accusing you publicly of something criminal, wrong, or embarrassing that you didn’t do. Lying about you in court. Telling your family that you abuse your (or your partner’s) children. Destroying, damaging, or dismantling your vehicle. Threatening to do any of these.

If this list sounds familiar, it may be time for some radical acceptance. This doesn’t mean “radically accepting” that you will forever be someone else’s emotional punching bag or toxic waste dump. It doesn’t mean “radically accepting” that you need to get better at walking on eggshells.

It means “radically accepting” that the person you’re close to IS the way that he or she is; that he or she may have a practically incurable personality disorder; that he or she likely will never change; that the relationship probably will never improve (and may get worse over time); and that it’s up to YOU to decide what YOU will do in (or out of) the relationship.

“Radically accepting” the reality of your situation may be the first step in ending and recovering from Narcissistic abuse. What you choose to do afterward is YOUR choice—and knowing this may be the most important healing step of all.

26 Responses to 7 Signs That “Radical Acceptance” May Be the Next Step in Your Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

  1. […] Ven Baxter lives in Florida, where he works as a canoe outfitter, teaches, writes, and enjoys being father to his three children.  You can find this article on his blog, Ven Baxter – Go deep into the nooks and crannies of life and the human experience… […]

  2. Tish LANGMEAD says:

    Probably one of best most concise descriptions of narcissistic type disorder I have read. I suffered this from someone for over two years …it is incurable and it only gets worse. My advice as an ex nurse, you cannot fix , run for the hills before they destroy you

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you, Trish! I hope that relationship was a springboard for your own healing process.

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you, Tish! I hope that relationship was a springboard for your own healing process.

      I apologize for misspelling your name in my previous comment.

  3. Anna Dylan says:

    This is poignantly what I needed to hear and in fact had struggled to tell myself for sometime. I had searched on line for some sanity regarding David’s disturbing behaviour and came across Narcissism (covert in his case), decided to go No Contact for a year, but became obsessed and wondered if I had got it wrong, rekindled the ‘relationship’ but after a honeymoon period during which he seemed a changed man, the cracks began to sip in until he just did not even bother to pretend any more and punishment began…truly vindictive…so I have now been in No Contact for approximately 4/5 weeks followed of course but a well expected silent treatment…I am 62 and I deserve my own self-respect, love and dignity…Thank you Ven your article confirms my guts instincts and bless you!

  4. kahnie says:

    Oh it’s so scary # 6 is my life word for word . it’s such a horrible nightmare.

    • venbaxter says:

      Yes, the double standard. I agree that it’s no fun to deal with–especially when it’s combined with other traits of Narcissism.

      And it usually (or maybe always) seems to be. These behaviors tend to go together.

  5. dee says:

    You have opened my eyes. For years I have been trying to
    change to fit in with my narcissist’s demands. He is emotionally dead.
    I need to move on and live my own life.

  6. Kerri Scarry says:

    How do you get information about separating with children? I’ve never considered leaving until recently because of them. I’m nervous for my husband to have unsupervised custody.

    • venbaxter says:

      I can recommend the book “Say Goodbye to Crazy” by Dr. Tara Palmatier and Paul Elam. It was written for female partners of men with toxic exes whom they share children with, but I imagine that a lot of the info in it would also apply to women with toxic male exes.

      It’s available as an e-book or in paperback, I believe.

  7. Susan says:

    Thank you for this eye opening revelation. I was married to a So. Baptist pastor for 10 years, found him in “inappropriate emotional ” relationships with 2 women in the church, and another one with a propane truck driver (woman) who he had told lies about us to, then went to our ‘deacon’ after confronting him and being told lies, such as ‘they were only calling me for prayer requests.’ They had 24-7 access to him on his cell phone. He cut me out of our phone bill, told the congregation that I had borderline personality disorder and they needed to pray for ‘his dear wife’ and began crying in front of them all. He told his entire family the same story, when he realized our marriage was going south and wanted to blame me for its demise. I think No. 7 is my story. Thank you SO much for this. He finally filed for divorce to find some “peace”, which he has not found. I just knew too much about him, his drinking, womanizing, porn, etc. and it made him nervous. I was his third wife

  8. These are all spot on, except for the last one. I started reading for interest and realized this was almost exactly what I lived with the narcopath. Of course if I told him about it he would be in denial.

  9. Anne says:

    Thank you Van for this article. This will sound pathetic, but I remember thinking countless times, thank you Lord that you gave me a mean and cruel mother or I would never have been able to live with my husband all these years!! That was my innocent mindset sadly. Married to my vampire for over 28 years, three sons in college, and then two years ago while taking a college course myself I read about my husband on page 254 in a Psychology book. What the heck??? I was suffering from so much cognitive dissonance that I kept thinking of him as my dream man and yet in reality this dream man never remembered my birthday, mother’s day, valentine’s day, no cards, no words, no presents. I expected next to nothing and he delivered that expertly. Now I am 58 and getting stronger emotionally and mentally by finding all I can about these aliens. Not sure what I will do next as I am still with this creature. I have been kept in this crypt for too long, this butterfly needs to reach the fresh, outside air. 🙂 Pray for my strength to do what I need for peace for my soul. It is time to Battle Up.

    • venbaxter says:

      Hello, Anne. Yes, I do wish you strength in your next step, whatever you choose that to be. Once the light comes on, it tends to stay on!

      As you pointed out, your childhood relationship with your mother likely “prepared” you to endure a “page 254” psychology case for decades as an adult. I wish you the best, and you’re welcome!

  10. Heather says:

    I would love to know how I may reach you in private in order to talk to you or communicate privately. I’m seeking resources & information & want to say this: “I have one of the most complex, unbelievable, unjustified, traumatic & life altering stories of Narcissistic Abuse in the history of ever..& it ultimately cost me a price that I could never pay..it cost me my child. After 6 1/2 YRS there & nearly 4 yrs after we parted ways, I fell victim to him again & my child & I have paid dearly with our lives. What’s worse..He completely flipped & switched our entire history, all the facts, every story, every scenario, every situation, person involved & every detail down to giving me a form of his diagnosis, which as a nurse I began to figure out about 2-3 YRS into the relationship with him. And he planned roughly 2+ YRS with his then mistress who along with him broke the actual law, to do it. He was married to his 4th wife then, now is married to the mistress, his 5 th wife, & has had primary custody of our 14 yr old daughter 5+ yrs. I was failed by every outlet & source of hope I sought to plead with to help us, & begged them pleading & assuring them I had proof. No one ever helped. It was plotted, planned, staged, arranged, set up & executed..& IT WORKED, & my little girl & I have been to he’ll & back a dozen times over because of it. I have fought, been despondent, grieved beyond belief & nearly dies more than once..but I’VE NEVER GIVEN UP ON MY CHILD & I NEVER WILL!! They know this now..I’m still holding on til I can free HER & bring her home. Thank you & please get back to me when u can. I too am in Florida, northwest. It’s where I ended up roughly 9 mths ago after leaving Tx where we’re from. My daughter actually here for summer right now..& as long as I’m living I’ll get to her or get her to me til she’s 18 & can leave on her own or until a judge finally grants us the right to speak with her & hear her voice & what she wants. She’ll be 15 in Aug. & I’ll try again to bring her home, where she wants & it is best for her to be!! If your reading this & even think u are WITB a narcissist, you HAVE TO GET OUT. I MEAN THIS, RUN, DO NOT WALK, RUN & GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN..& NEVER, AND I MEAN EVER, LOOK BACK!! That’s a broke you cannot fix & while you may not actually die from their abuse let me tell u 1 st hand after 15+ YRS of this, the murder of it self, being & soul is taking place every minute longer that u choose to stay!! Get out now, it is not worth it, & please please protect it children & fight to do so!! Get out, run, never look back & NEVER EVER let em have free reign over it kids!! Do not trust them, EVER, FOR ANY REASON & IF U CAN, GO NO CONTACT & FORGET U EVER KNEW THEM. GET SOME HELP!! It’s NOT U, ITS THEM!! & THEY’RE SO GOOD THEY’LL DEFLECT THEIR DISORDER & DIAGNOSIS ONTO YOU, & IT CAN END UP BEING TOO LATE!! Yes it happens, my daughter & I are living proof!! Go now..R~U~N!! RUN NOW & NEVER LOOK BACK!!

  11. […] and abuse, up close and personal, that one finally becomes aware of the problem of Narcissism and all that it entails. With awareness comes choice, and with choice comes […]

  12. Missy says:

    Wow. I dated two of these guys in a row and kept rehashing things that happened in both relationships trying to understand what I was doing wrong. How sad is that??? Now I have major commitment issues and terrified to date because I am worried I will only find the same guy, again. It is absolutely terrifying to me. The stories of abuse from the last two men only make me sound crazy, like I am making it up! Just awful.

    • GoDEEPwithVen says:

      I believe you. The first step in my own healing was to accept that there was something wrong with my partner at the time and admit that I had to give up hope that things with her would be better.

      This is a battle for the soul, but the battle itself destroys the soul. Once I had accepted reality, given up hope, and admitted defeat, my healing came quickly.

  13. […] had all of these figurative experiences in romantic […]

  14. Donna Hunter says:

    My one horrible thing was two days after my mom died in our home after caregiving for a 18 months with dementia; he asked me if I was ‘useful again’ and told me I was a ‘resource ‘ (sexually). I was stunned. I had clarity in that moment that nothing was sacred with him. He displayed zero empathy or compassion when mom finally passed. Everything was about him. That’s when I knew it was game over.

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