Having a narcissistic boyfriend means a roller-coaster ride of emotions, torrents of abuse, non-stop competition, a lot of confusion, lies, lies and more lies, fear of losing the relationship, much churning of ideas in your head and often a sense that you are going crazy.
These are no ordinary relationships. From the very first moment, throughout the relationship and at the end, whenever that turns out to be(!), there are fantastic moments and there times when the despair is so strong that you think the bad times will never end.
And even when you think you have broken away, you realize that he is still in your head and in your dreams and there is a part of you that wants to be with him, that misses him, that needs him.
He stole your time, your sense of humor, your creativity, your self esteem, your money, your body, your emotions and your energy. He abused you. He may have cheated on you. He left you drained, exhausted, empty, angry, frustrated, in turmoil and questioning your own sanity.
But there is something even worse that he did to you. He changed your personality. He was bending you to his will. He was trying to change the very essence of who you are.
Friends and family often say of a loved one in an abusive relationship that they have changed, they are no longer themselves or that they are a shadow of their former selves. What they are talking about it is the personality change that the victim of a narcissistic boyfriend undergoes.
The manipulator will change a person's beliefs, opinions, thought processes, emotions, and behaviors. They will even change their victim's world view and the victim's perception of themselves within this world-view. All this adds up to a change in personality for the victim.
Before we look at the implications of this new, false personality, let's look at how they go about doing it.
Nobody goes out looking for an abusive relationship. Not even subconsciously. Narcissists know this, too, and so they conceal certain aspects of themselves from their targets.
What they do is they present themselves as the ideal partner. They quickly assess what the person in front of them wants and needs and then they assume the role of someone who can provide exactly that. This makes it easy for the target to go along in the relationship and the target can be so enamored that they quickly fall in love with the narcissist. You can read more about how the narcissistic boyfriend leads a woman through the process of rapidly building a relationship here.
The speed with which it is done, the offering to the victim of what they want and the manipulative skill of the narcissistic boyfriend all create a very strong impression in the mind of the victim. First impressions count! And it is often very difficult for people to change that first impression. This is important, as we will see later.
Many, many relationships with narcissists start out like this. So, for now, the woman has met Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, the ideal partner, her soul mate, someone who she can envisage spending a lot of time with. But then things start to sour...
I am not going to go into the progression of narcissistic relationships here. You can read more about that aspect in this article about controlling girlfriends. What I want to do here is examine what happens to the victim as a result of the narcissistic behavior.
The repeated insults and the criticism of the narcissistic boyfriend have the effect of chipping away at the self esteem of the woman. Because she believes this fantastic man has her best interests at heart, she tends to pay attention to what he says. When he criticizes her, it obviously makes her feel bad and she would rather change something so that she is not criticized again. She also wants Mr Right to think well of her.
A one off criticism is one thing but it's the repetition that does the damage. Studies have shown that if three people tell you something, you are likely to believe it. However, if one person tells you the same thing three times, it has 90% of the effect of three people telling you! (Think TV news channels...)
So think about how often your narcissistic boyfriend said the same thing to you, over and over... And during what period of time? Six months? Six years? That's a lot of time to be hearing the same insults and criticism.
Hearing the same ideas again and again that go against what you believe also makes you doubt yourself. You can't help but ask yourself if maybe you are wrong. Maybe he sees something that you do not? Maybe he knows something about you that you cannot see? After all, he keeps going on that he is right and no matter how much you answer back, he doesn’t change his mind.
This is actually another one of the mind control tactics that narcissists use against their victims. You know all those arguments over the same issues where he doesn't budge and you think he doesn't understand your point of view or you can't seem to make yourself understood? He knows what you think. He just doesn’t care! He will just keep repeating his arguments until you begin to shift your thinking to be more like his.
Another very significant factor here is how a narcissistic boyfriend criticizes you. Whether you do something he doesn't like, you own something or you have an opinion that goes against what he thinks, he will make the criticism about you, about who you are.
Instead of "That was a dumb thing to do," it's "You are dumb for doing that."
It's never, "I don't particularly like that vase you bought." He says "You have awful taste in ornaments."
It's not enough to say, "That's a stupid idea." He criticizes who you are for thinking it, "How stupid are you for having such ideas!"
In the same way comments about how useless, worthless, ignorant, pathetic and disappointing you are seem to roll off his tongue. They are often said with contempt, which is how the narcissistic boyfriend sees the object that is his girlfriend.
This is the first of three stages in the change of personality, the breaking down of the person's own personality.
The second stage is the phase of making changes. The victim's perceptions, beliefs, emotions and behaviors are changed by the narcissistic boyfriend.
He will control behaviors in various ways. He may spend a lot of time with her, monitoring what she does. He may make her feel sorry for him when she does certain things so that she stops doing it. He may make her feel stupid for spending time with others so she starts to spend more and more time with him.
Her thoughts, opinions and ideas will be challenged, ridiculed, 'corrected' and so on until they begin to fall into line with his.
The narcissistic boyfriend will also manipulate his girlfriend's emotions, a lot. She will not be allowed to get angry at him, or he will get ten times more angry at her. She will be made to feel fear and guilt over a whole range of issues. She may even develop phobias about leaving him.
He will limit his girlfriend's access to others who would tell her what he is really like. She may not be allowed to meet his family, his friends or his ex girlfriends. She may be isolated from her own family and friends.
In effect the narcissistic boyfriend becomes her main source of information. In this way, he feeds her the ideas and beliefs that he wants her to have without any contradictory information.
Over time, the girlfriend thinks differently, makes decisions differently and acts differently. Her new, but false, personality has been created. This pseudopersonality covers over and represses her real personality. It never completely destroys her real personality but simply dominates it, with the programming of the pseudopersonality running the show, so to speak. The victim's wants and desires are overridden by the pseudopersonality, which is programmed to take care of the narcissistic boyfriend's wants and desires.
The pseudopersonality is then kept in place using a system of rewards and punishments. There are rewards when the girlfriend does what the narcissistic boyfriend wants and punishments when she does things that he does not approve of.
At the start of the relationship there are obviously many rewards. As time goes on, however, the rewards get less and less. In some relationships, the girlfriend may feel that she has had a good day if her narcissistic boyfriend has not shouted at her. This 'not shouting' has become the reward. Not a good way to live!
The punishments, on the other hand, become more and more frequent. The range of punishments can be enormous, from shouting and screaming to the silent treatment, withholding affection and sex, physical abuse, sexual abuse, breaking property, stealing and selling property, and all sorts of verbal and physical humiliation. These punishments can become so frequent and commonplace that the victim no longer considers them as abusive, it's simply the way life is.
This alteration of rewards and punishments, the alteration of compliments and criticism actually augments the dependency of the victim on the abuser in such situations. One might think that abusive behavior would push the victim away from the abuser but in a mind control environment the abuse increases the power of the leader and makes the victim more dependent.
From the victim's point of view, this person that they love can give them compliments, which feel great, and the person can criticize them, which makes them feel very bad. In order to try and avoid criticism and win praise, the girlfriend will try harder to please the narcissistic boyfriend. She will not only do things that she knows will please him but she will typically try and change herself, too, to be more appealing to him or to be more of the person that he says he wants her to be.
This, of course, is a futile exercise. The narcissist never has enough. Nothing she does is ever enough. No matter how hard she tries, it's never enough. And whatever she gives of herself, it's never enough. So he is basically pushing her for perfection and when she does not achieve it, there is punishment.
This is made worse by the fact that she herself is blamed for any faults or mistakes. Remember the idea about the criticisms being leveled at the level of identity? Well, the same thing applies here. Running out of time, other people, or the weather are never acceptable excuses for the narcissistic boyfriend. It's is always her direct responsibility when things do not turn out right.
This has significant consequences. First of all, when a person thinks they are personally responsible for a mistake, they accept whatever punishment is going. Secondly, someone's self esteem takes a hammering when they feel directly responsible for a failure.
Normally if we fail, we try and find a cause outside of ourselves. The weather, bad luck and the government are common excuses which absolve us of blame and allow us to continue with our self confidence intact whenever we fail. In abusive relationships, this is not allowed. The narcissistic boyfriend takes personal credit for anything that goes well, even if it has nothing to do with him, and the girlfriend is made to feel personally responsible for anything that does not go according to his plan, even if she has nothing to do with it. His self esteem is boosted, hers is driven into her boots. She is made to feel bad about herself time and time again.
Just to note here that although I am describing different stages, these stages are not discrete and separate. All three of them are usually ongoing. There will be criticism of the person's personality throughout the relationship in order to disrupt it. Whenever the narcissistic boyfriend decides he wants his girlfriend to be different in some way, the pseudopersonality will be molded to bring about the change. And the thinking and behaviors desired of the pseudopersonality are continuously being reinforced.
The pseudopersonality is imposed on the victims by the narcissistic boyfriend using strong influence techniques. This and other factors mean that the pseudopersonality does not disappear when the girlfriend breaks away from him. It persists and continues to cause problems unless the person works to get rid of it.
Significantly, having a pseudopersonality makes the person very vulnerable to being caught by other narcissists and psychopaths.
Let's look now at some of the other implications of having a pseudopersonality.
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