What Is Narcissistic Abuse Like?

If you’ve never been in a close relationship with a Narcissistic partner, it may not be easy to imagine. It might be impossible. It may not be easy for a survivor of Narcissistic abuse to relate his or her experiences to others, either.

Indeed, both of these may be impossible.

However, even if you’ve never experienced Narcissistic abuse yourself, it’s likely that you know someone who has. That person may benefit if you understand something–even a little bit–about his or her difficult experience.

This message is for friends and family of survivors of Narcissistic abuse. Its intention is to help you understand some of what your loved one has gone through–and, hopefully (perhaps recently), come out of. Its main purpose is to help assist your loved one’s healing.

So, what is Narcissistic abuse like? It’s like…

1) …being given a delicious treat and then having it taken away for no reason…and thrown in the trash in front of you…by someone who watches your lip tremble and your tears fall…with hidden but still barely visible enjoyment…and then apologizes…with a smirk…after the trash has been taken out…and promises not to do it again…but does anyway…after you forgave them…and forgot about the first time.

2) …chasing a puppy over a hill, only to find when you reach the crest that a bully has run it over with a car on the other side…who blames you for killing the puppy…by chasing it to their side of the hill…where they were driving…in the grass…with a “No Cars in Grass” sign posted.

3) …lending your car keys to a friend, who then crashes it…and laughs at you later…for being so stupid…as to lend your car keys…to them…while they were drunk…even though you didn’t know they were drunk…and they never said so…and they say your car was a piece of crap…and you needed a new one anyway…so you should thank them.

4) …having a student who scores 59% on everything–and fails–but is SO close to passing that you keep trying, test after test, to help him study and pass…but he keeps scoring 59s…and keeps telling you that he’d pass…if you didn’t suck so bad as a teacher…and his last teacher was SO much better than you.

5) …tending a garden and watching it grow–until your neighbor of many years suddenly throws an all-night drinking party on it…and says it was in his yard, not yours…but promises to help you re-plant it anyway…as a “favor” to you to “keep the peace”…and never does…but moves away instead…and tells the new tenant how crazy you are.

6) …hearing a beloved family member tell you, on his deathbed, that he always hated you, and only pretended to like you, and wanted to tell you before he dies–and then hearing later that the family member didn’t die…and is doing well…and says he doesn’t remember talking to you…or even that you were there…when he was ‘dying’…and then finding out later that the family member wasn’t really dying…and knew it all along…and was just being cruel…and you have no idea why.

7) …knowing where your purse is, and what’s always in it, but not finding it there–and finding it in your roommate’s closet instead, with its contents moved around or missing…and your roommate saying that you left it the last time you were in there…but that was weeks ago…but your roommate swears it was yesterday…and says your memory must be bad…and she seems to be wearing your lipstick… but claims she just bought it.

8) …being dumped, and told that your partner hates you and that it will never work, and your partner throwing your things out the door–and then calling you two days later, as if nothing had happened…saying it was “no big deal”…and getting upset at you…for being upset and taking it so seriously…and then says they were “just joking”… and buys you something very thoughtful to make up for it.

9) …being showered with praise, affection, attention, compliments, and shared dreams of a beautiful future together–until the hook is set…and you’ve fallen in love…and then, all of a sudden…your beloved starts tugging on the hook…and it hurts you to tug away…but it doesn’t hurt them at all…and you don’t understand why.

10) …watching the preview for a new movie, and paying to go watch it at the theater–and the movie being horrible…but you stay anyway to get your money’s worth…and you think it’s only two hours long…but it’s four…and then you’re tired…and just want to sleep…even if it’s in the chair…among strangers…instead of your own bed at home…so you fall asleep…and get locked inside the theater…and are late to work the next day.

These ten examples are mostly parables designed to show the sort of dynamic that’s common for someone in a close relationship with a person who shows significant Narcissistic traits–that is, a “toxic” relationship.

Not all of them are to be taken literally.

12 Responses to What Is Narcissistic Abuse Like?

  1. anna sandoval says:

    Ven, you write so beautifully. You put feelings into words that are so difficult to express. I am going through a messy relationship fight, and court with someone I thought was only an alcoholic. I recently suspect he also has narcissistic tendencies.I want things to turn out fair for all including my children. I am not sure that is what he and his new girlfriend wants. I think they want to further crush my broken soul. My self love was always low. I know I am a codependent personality type. How to I spiritually throw my desire out to the universe that the best outcome happens for everyone? How do I fight for myself but still remain a spiritual person? I am really struggling with finding my strength, letting go of the hate and fear and still keeping grounded spiritually. There has been so much shock and hurt with him through out the years. Also very spiteful, mean actions towards me, by him lately.
    . .

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you very much, Anna. I’m sorry to hear of your ongoing struggle. You are not alone!

      You’re fortunate to have some insight at this point in the struggle. The best advice I can give is found here:


      I recommend that you begin there.

      As a recovering codependent myself, I believe it’s essential to learn and know where your boundaries are–to know what “Enough!” looks and feels and acts and smells like–and to stick to the boundaries that you discover as your own.

      Spirituality first breaks down our barriers and then defines our boundaries–our outer limits. If we don’t have them, we are defenseless. If we allow them to be crossed or disregarded or broken, we don’t have them at all.

      Learn all you can about Narcissism and please read my post at the link I gave you. There’s a great deal of info out there that can help. (This may include an experienced attorney.)

  2. Kim Saeed says:

    Wow. #4 So close to passing, and so you keep trying…and they say they keep failing because you suck as a teacher.

    The never-ending cycle of despair.

  3. jolynn says:

    Oh so how I know. in one right now, but it’s ending, I’m packing his clothes up right now.

    • venbaxter says:

      I wish you the best, Jolynn.

      • anna sandoval says:

        Thanks Jolynn, Mine just filed a law suit against me for $425,000 dollars. I am on disability. I am pretty sure his new girlfriend also had a hand in it. They want to break me, because they want my house they are currently living in. I have a Lawyer, but apparently with a judge anything goes.

  4. […] Source: What Is Narcissistic Abuse Like? […]

  5. Carla Hatley says:

    Anna, I would appreciate the chance to chat with you live for 15 minutes or so. Will you give me a call at 336441-8351?

  6. joyce barker says:

    I believe that my friend is a narcissist. We were friends for 45 years, and got into an argument last year. She called my daughter and befriended her and her husband and my two grandchildren. She is OBSESSED with them! She is ALWAYS calling them, buying things for them, having them over for dinner, taking them on trips. The other day, I went over to my daughters house and there was a card on her table that said ” To my Wonderful Daughter! I believe she is doing all this out of spite and revenge! Her 3 children hate her! And her grandchildren want Nothing to do with her. She always tried to control me and wanted my life when we were friends!

  7. […] experiences are characteristically similar…sometimes eerily, uncannily, almost exactly similar.  There is a certain calling card or modus operandi in the behavior of a Narcissist.  These […]

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