The words “narcissistic abuse” have been trending lately.
And for a good reason.
With around 1-5% of people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), chances are, you may come across a narcissist or someone abused by a narcissist at some point in your dating life.
If you’re dating someone who a narcissist has abused, there are some things you need to know to have a healthy, successful relationship.
What Does Narcissistic Abuse Do to a Woman?
This form of emotional abuse can have devastating consequences for the victim.
The abuser is usually very charming and attentive at first, making the woman feel special and appreciated.
However, over time, the abuser will start to put her down, criticize her, and make her feel worthless.
He may also ignore her or give her silent treatment to punish her.
It results in the victim questioning her reality and starting to doubt her memories and perceptions.
She may also experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In extreme cases, she may even develop dissociative identity disorder, a condition characterized by multiple personalities to help her deal with the trauma.
How Does Narcissistic Abuse Affect Future Relationships?
The effects of this painful dynamic can be long-lasting and severely impact the victim’s future relationships.
Some of the effects may present themselves as:
- A Deep Distrust for Men: Because of the abuse, the victim may have a deep-seated fear of being abandoned, betrayed, and even abused again. It can make it difficult for her to trust men and may cause her to have an intense need for control in future relationships.
- Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety and depression are common side effects of this type of abuse. Victims often have difficulty leaving the house, dealing with people, or even caring for themselves. They could also have trouble sleeping and concentrating, leaving them prone to panic attacks.
- Emotional Distance: The victim may seem emotionally guarded. She may be afraid to open up and get close to people for fear of being hurt again, leaving them in a state of hypervigilance and always on the lookout for signs of abuse.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The victim may relive the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares. She may also have difficulty remembering certain aspects of the abuse or react in unexpected ways due to triggers.
- A Tendency to Isolate: The victim may start isolating herself from friends and family to protect herself from further hurt. This manifests as constant canceled plans, lack of communication, and a general withdrawal from social activities.
- An Inability to Set Boundaries: The victim may have difficulty setting boundaries with people, especially men. She may feel like she must please everyone and say “yes” even when she really wants to say “no.” She may also blame herself for the abuse or feel she doesn’t deserve love or happiness.
These are just some ways that this behavior can affect future relationships.
It’s important to remember that every person is different and will react uniquely to trauma.
13 Things To Know About Dating a Victim of Narcissistic Abuse
Loving a victim of abuse isn’t easy.
You will face many challenges and will need to be patient and understanding.
However, having a healthy, successful relationship with someone affected by this type of abuse is possible.
From patience and understanding to setting boundaries, below are 13 critical things you need to know when dating someone who was abused by a narcissist:
1. Your Partner Can Be Quite Competitive
In narcissistic relationships, unhealthy competition is often used to control and devalue the victim. The narcissist will constantly try to one-up the victim and make them feel inferior.
This competitive behavior often carries over into future relationships, with the victim always trying to prove their worth to their partner.
If you’re dating someone abused by a narcissist, be aware that they may try to compete with you. They may also compare you to the abuser and try to find ways in which you’re superior or inferior.
It’s essential to have open and honest communication about this so that your partner feels comfortable expressing their feelings.
Competition can be healthy in a relationship, but you should never use it as a way to control or belittle your partner.
2. They Will Have Trouble Trusting Your Intentions
Every victim subconsciously knows that the first step to being abused by a narcissist is trusting them. Hence, they will have trouble trusting your intentions.
It doesn’t matter how much you love them or how genuine your feelings are; they will find it hard to believe that you will not hurt them.
This lack of trust is because a narcissist programmed them to think that all men are abusive and untrustworthy. You’ll need to be patient and understanding if you want to earn their trust.
3. They Will Likely Have Low Self-Esteem
One of the most common effects of being mistreated by a narcissist is low self-esteem.
Victims often doubt their worth and think they are not good enough for anyone. It can make dating a victim of abusive behavior very difficult, as they may constantly seek validation from their partner.
It is essential to be patient with them and understand that this is not their fault. Be supportive and try to build their confidence back up. You will have a strong and loving relationship if you can do this.
4. You Have to Remind Them They Are in a Safe Environment
A relationship with a narcissist is a constant emotional rollercoaster ride, with the victim never knowing what to expect.
This fear can lead to the development of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the best things you can do for someone who dated a narcissist is to provide them with a safe and stable environment.
Being there for them when they need you and providing an emotionally safe space to express their feelings is essential.
It can be challenging to do this if you’re not used to it, but it’s important to remember that your partner is going through a lot, and they need your support.
5. They May Not Know How to Set Boundaries
Narcissists don’t respect boundaries, so likely, your partner never learned how to set them. It can be a significant problem in a relationship, as the victim may not know how to say no or assert their own needs.
So, you will likely find yourself going for that lunch date with her friends when you really don’t want to.
It’s vital to help your partner learn how to set boundaries and stand up for themselves. It will be a complicated process, but it’s necessary for the health of your relationship.
6. Your Girlfriend May Feel Vengeful Towards the Abuser
Revenge gives us a sense of control when we feel helpless. It’s a way to strike back at the person who hurt us.
And for many victims of a narcissist’s control and manipulation, revenge is a way to cope with the pain. If your partner is seeking revenge against their abuser, it’s essential to be supportive.
Help them to understand that revenge will not make them feel better and that it’s not worth the risk. If they have difficulty letting go of their anger, they may need professional help.
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7. They Could Be in Therapy
While therapy can be helpful for many people, it is often essential for those who have experienced psychological abuse.
In therapy, the victim can work through the traumas they have experienced and begin to rebuild their sense of self. If your girlfriend is in treatment, it is essential to be supportive and understanding.
She may need time and space to process her experiences and to heal from the damage the abuser inflicted on her.
However, with time and patience, she will hopefully be able to recover from the abuse she has endured and have a healthy and happy relationship with you.
8. Your Partner May Suffer From Mood and Anxiety Disorders
If you are dating someone who has previously experienced an abusive partner, it’s essential to be aware that they may suffer from mood and anxiety disorders.
These disorders can result from the stress and trauma of an abusive relationship. Symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling on edge
- Sleep problems.
If your partner is experiencing any of these symptoms, advise them to talk to a mental health professional who can help them get the treatment they need.
With the right support, your partner can overcome the challenges associated with mood and anxiety disorders and lead a happy and healthy life.
9. The Narcissist’s Smear Campaign May Affect Your Relationship
When a narcissist is rejected, they often try to destroy the person who dares to leave them. This is known as a “smear campaign.”
The narcissist will spread lies and rumors about their victim to ruin their reputation. If your partner has been the subject of a smear campaign, it’s essential to be supportive and understanding.
You can do this by listening to their experiences and helping them refute the lies spread about them. You should also encourage them to take legal action if necessary.
Sometimes, the narcissist may start stalking their victim or making threatening phone calls. If this happens, you should contact the police and get a restraining order if necessary.
10. You May Notice People-Pleasing Tendencies in Your Partner
One of the most common symptoms of being in a relationship with someone who has NPD is people-pleasing behavior.
That’s because the victim has been conditioned to believe they are not good enough and needs to please others to be accepted.
As a result, they may go out of their way to do things for you, even if it means sacrificing their own needs.
While it’s essential to consider your partner’s needs, you should encourage them to do things for themselves. It will help them rebuild their self-esteem and feel more confident.
11. It May Take a While to Recover Fully
When dating someone who experienced this devastating type of relationship, remember that it may take them a while to recover fully. They may have trouble learning to trust again and rebuilding their self-esteem.
The abuser may have led the victim to believe they are not worthy of love or respect. They may feel like they must walk on eggshells around the narcissist to avoid being criticized or put down.
As a result, the victim may hesitate to open up or be themselves around you. They may also be trigger-happy, meaning that even small actions on your part could cause them to panic or become extremely upset.
Being patient and understanding is essential as the victim works through these issues. Give them space when they need it and respect their boundaries.
Don’t try to fix or tell them what to do; simply be there for them as a supportive friend or partner. If you can do this, you will help them immensely on their journey to recovery.
12. They Need Constant Reassurance
Loving a victim of an abuser means constant reassurance and support. They need to know that you love them and will be there for them, no matter what.
Your partner may have been through a lot and may be feeling insecure, anxious, or even scared, making it easy for them to doubt your feelings.
So, it’s essential to be patient and understanding with them. Remember that they are not used to being treated well and may be suspicious of your intentions.
Take things slowly and let them set the pace. Don’t try to push them into anything they’re not ready for.
Most importantly, be there for them when they need you. Listen to them, comfort them, and let them know you care. With time and patience, they will begin to heal and learn to trust again.
13. They Will Share Their Pain When Ready
This type of relationship involves manipulation, abuse of power, constant put-downs, and gaslighting.
As a result, the victim often feels ashamed, embarrassed, or even scared to talk about their experiences. They may worry that they will be seen as weak or crazy if they do so.
However, it is essential to remember that the victim is not, in any way, to be blamed for the abuse. They did not deserve it, and they were not responsible for it. When they are ready, they will share their story with you.
Until then, it is best to be there for them and offer your support.
What Are Typical Behaviors of Narcissistic Abuse Survivors?
Survivors often exhibit a range of behaviors that can damage their mental and physical health. For many survivors, these behaviors are a way of coping with the trauma of the abuse.
Common behaviors include:
- Self-harm: This can include cutting, burning, or any other form of self-injury. Self-harm is often a way to release the pain that the survivor is feeling, both physically and emotionally.
- Eating disorders: Many survivors struggle with disordered eating, either bingeing and purging, starving themselves, or overeating. It helps them gain a sense of control over their lives and bodies after being subjected to constant manipulation by the narcissist.
- Substance abuse: Survivors may use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or escape their reality. These high-risk behaviors can lead to addiction and other serious health problems. If you are dating someone a narcissist abused, it is crucial to be aware of these behaviors and to be supportive.
- Reacting and lashing out: They may have difficulty controlling their emotions. They may lash out in anger or become overly defensive. It is often a result of the constant gaslighting and manipulation they experienced.
- Suicidality: The trauma can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. The abuse may lead to feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and despair, which can be incredibly difficult to overcome.
These behaviors can be detrimental to the survivor’s well-being, but they can also be a way of dealing with the pain of the abuse.
Survivors often feel powerless and helpless, and these behaviors can be a way of regaining some control over their lives.
Survivors need to seek help from a therapist or counselor who can assist them in dealing with their trauma in a healthy way.