Who Do You Think They Really Are

04 Jun 2019

What makes it so hard to let go of an abusive, Narcissistic partner?  Where do you find an answer that makes sense to the abused partner and the concerned onlooker?  Love is the most  commonly cited “reason”.  But is that really accurate?  Do people really love the partner who abuses them?

When pressed, the abused partner will mostly cite a jumble of reasons.  Love, “potential”, family, and finances all play a part in the web of paralysis that an abuser spins around their partner.

In an abusive relationship nothing is quite how it seems

You have to remember that in an abusive relationship nothing is quite how it seems.  The abused partner is entrapped in the abuser’s web of lies. As a result, they actually believe that they could never manage without the abuser who is bleeding them dry – emotionally and, quite possibly, financially also.   They have been duped into believing the abuser’s  propaganda  that they have become  a failure for whom there is no hope.

That leaves the victim of abuse between a rock a rock and a very hard place.  If, as per the abuser’s worldview, you can’t rely on yourself and you can’t trust other people, what on earth is left?

It’s all about “potential”

Ironically, the answer that comes up most commonly is the abuser’s potential. When you are living with a vile person you invest your hopes in that vile person’s potential to become a good-hearted, humane, sensitive person.

Two things conspire to make that potential so much more credible than it deserves to be.  The first is the abuser’s own wooing routine. Abusers talk a good romance.    Devoid of moral scruples as they are, they have no problem in presenting you with a purely fictitious account of their own merits. Think of it, if you will, as the kind of short-term “character hire” expense  that they gladly undertake when necessary.

The problem – for you – is, of course, that they don’t tell you what they are doing.  Once they seal the deal, you start to find out soon enough. They will start to show you who they really are.  Unfortunately, by then, two things get in the way of you seeing the reality for what it is – attachment and your own value system.

The conscious exploitation of potential

Even the less intelligent abusers are cunning enough to know what they need to do to make you fall in love with them.  The persona that they present you with is crafted to appeal to you on a deep level, to fill a deep feeling of yearning.

My abusive ex held out the promise of being the person who would fight my corner for and with me when nobody had ever done that before. A friend’s narcissistic partner would be the person  she could finally share her innermost thoughts and feelings with.  Clients have told me that “their” narcissistic partner gave them a sense of meaning and mission that they had never had before.

One way or another, an abuser will lead you to believe that they and they alone can fill the deep void in your life – whatever that means to you.

Once they have you prizing as highly as possible the value that they bring to your life, they stop bringing it – if, in fact, they ever brought it.

Understanding attachment

That is where the attachment comes in.  It is incredibly hard to give up on the dream of everything that you ever wanted but never had. Especially when the person who offered it to you is still standing there and can, on occasion, slip back into Dream Partner mode.

The second piece of the puzzle is “potential”.  Ultimately, the issue that we all have with potential is this, “If they can act nice some of the time, why can’t they act nice most of the time?” We likely don’t set the bar too high.  If they could manage behaving like a decent, loving person 50%-75% of the time, we would gladly put up with their slips and glitches.

What is so unreasonable about simply asking them to do more of something that, at some point, they have shown themselves to be able to do to a more than acceptable standard?

They have so much potential to be your dream partner, right?

At least, when they are not being your worst nightmare, the monster waiting in the wings, always ready to attack.

My Sicilian lightbulb moment

At this point I remember fondly a lightbulb moment that happened in Sicily when I went  there with the husband (as he then was) a lot of years ago. For some strange reason, despite his Eastern European origins, the husband fitted seamlessly into small town Sicily.  Everywhere we went people who had never seen him before “recognised” him as a long lost neighbour or friend.  He had the coloring, the looks and the diminutive stature of a Sicilian.

We decided to seize the opportunity to get him some long trousers short enough for his very short legs. We scuttled into a shop where I asked for what we wanted in fluent Italian.  The owner duly gathered an impressive collection of long trousers for men with short legs for the husband to try.

The length was good.  However none of them fitted around his girth.

The owner looked puzzled for a while.  Then he said,  “Interesting! I’m not sure whether you are a faux fatty or a faux skinny.”

(Even the husband’s looks were deceiving!)

The owner decided, I think, that – contrary to his original assumption – the husband was, in fact, a faux skinny.  But that doesn’t matter.

Assumptions can be misleading

What does matter is the fact that this owner, like the rest of us, was slow to look beyond his own first assumption.

We assume because we saw the good side of an abusive partner first that that is their true personality – despite the ever-accumulating evidence to the contrary.

The importance of carefully considering the evidence

Logic, however, suggests the good sense of bowing to the overwhelming evidence. When there is a mountain of evidence pointing to a person’s capacity to be toxic – and an ever-decreasing molehill of evidence of their capacity to behave like someone safe to be around – why would you not believe the evidence?

You have your own deep-rooted belief in the goodness of human beings. That is, understandably, important to you – and important to the world at large.  That belief is valuable and, in a lot of cases, holds true.  But not in all cases.  You only have to look at history to see that some people are monsters who do intolerable harm.

And so back to the question of who you think an abuser really is? Are they their short-lived “potential” to be a good person? Or their long demonstrated capacity to be a damaging, bad person?  And, if you were advising your own child, which potential would  you urge them to take more seriously?

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