Twenty Signs Your Abuser is a Narcissist

Do you suspect that you are suffering emotional abuse from someone who has narcissistic personality disorder? Here are twenty of the most common behaviors you may be experiencing:

  1. Does he rage when his opinion, point of view, or idea is challenged, even slightly?
  2. Is she emotionally abusive most of the time, but occasionally demonstrates acts of kindness?
  3. Does he criticize your opinions, choices, appearance, and just about everything that defines you as an individual?
  4. Does she treat you more like an object than a person?
  5. Have you caught him in obvious lies or half-truths and confronted him about them, only to have him explain them away every single time?
  6. Is she abusive to you behind closed doors and perfectly charming when with others?
  7. Does he make you feel insecure, unattractive, stupid, and/or worthless?
  8. Does she tell you she loves you, but her actions and behavior show otherwise?
  9. Do you feel manipulated, coerced, and/or controlled by him?
  10. Does your abuser suck you back in every time you threaten to or try to leave the relationship?
  11. Does she make promises to you that she never keeps?
  12. Does he exhibit strange behaviors that cannot be explained?
  13. Is she nicer to you when you pull back your emotions from her?
  14. Does he accuse you of living in the past and/or being unable to let things go?
  15. Do you feel as if you give 100% of yourself to the relationship and she gives none?
  16. Does he provoke you or goad you into arguments that cause you to react strongly, and then accuse you of being the crazy, dramatic, unreasonable one?
  17. Does she exploit your vulnerabilities, sensitivities, inadequacies, disabilities, and/or weaknesses?
  18. Does he try to convince you that what you heard you didn’t hear, what you saw you didn’t see, what you witnessed happening didn’t happen?
  19. Does she blame you for all the problems in the relationship?
  20. Does he never offer a true apology for anything he has done to hurt or upset you?

Randi G. Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert, Counselor, Author

Randi Fine is a dedicated pioneer in the narcissistic abuse movement and a narcissistic personality disorder abuse expert. She is a radio show host, author, and Life Issues Counselor living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  Through her wealth of experience, insight, and wisdom, she offers hope, compassion, and healing to others. Randi is the author of the groundbreaking new book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing and Recovery.As a Life Issues Counselor, Randi specializes in (but is not limited to) helping others work through issues relating to relationship codependency, narcissistic personality disorder abuse, emotional boundaries, letting go of the past, and letting go of unhealthy guilt. Love Your Life is an online journal she writes to spread light, love, and healing to the world. Her blog is read in 180 countries around the globe. She hosts the blog talk-radio show, A Fine Time for Healing: A Sanctuary for Your Emotional Wellbeing. On her popular show she interviews the top people in their fields, discussing self-help and spiritual life-skill topics that heal and enhance the life experiences of others.

Want to know more? 100+ Articles on this site about Narcissistic Personality Disorder Abuse. Find them in the search box on the right side of this page.

Learn more about the signs of emotional abuse and how it affects relationships

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Twenty Questions Identify Codependency Issues

Is Codependency a Problem in Your Life and Relationships

Written by Randi G. Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Counselor

Take The Quiz

To find out if you are suffering from relationship codependency, please answer yes or no to the following twenty questions:

  1. Do you put others’ feelings, desires and needs before your own?
  2. Are you drawn to relationships with people who lack stability and/or are irresponsible in a particular area of their lives?
  3. Do you have a compulsive need to help, nurture, fix or control others?
  4. Are you always looking for the potential in others, rather than accepting others as they are?
  5. Do you cling to hope that your partner will change, beyond all evidence of rationale?
  6. Are you attracted to people with addictions?
  7. Do you believe your relationship will be perfect when your partner changes?
  8. Do you feel responsible when your partner doesn’t change?
  9. As a child were you subjected to family dynamics such as repeated anger, extreme rigidity, violence, manipulation or abuse?
  10. Were you raised in an environment of addiction?
  11. Do you feel as if you cannot survive without a love relationship?
  12. Do you strive to please everyone in your life because you believe others only like you when you do?
  13. Do you make excuses for the bad behavior of others?
  14. Are your relationships emotionally or physically abusive?
  15. Do you believe you need to earn love to get it?
  16. Do you believe that you can love someone enough to change or fix her or him?
  17. Have most of your love relationships been painful?
  18. Do you withdraw from people because you don’t want them to know the life you are leading?
  19. Is it hard for you to accept healthy love?
  20. Do you do things for others that they are capable of doing for themselves?

If you answered yes to five or more questions, it is likely that codependent issues are responsible for the relationship problems you are having. This test is for screening purposes only. It is not a formal diagnosis. Please see a qualified therapist or counselor to further evaluate and diagnose you.

Learn more about the counseling services Randi Fine provides.

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Twenty Personal Choices Determine How Happy You Are

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Twenty Choices You Can Make to Increase Happiness

Written by Randi G. Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Counselor and Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

In our pursuit of happiness we must first realize and accept that being happy is a deliberate choice; a choice we make every moment of every day. There are many strategies to help make attaining that goal possible. Following is a list of twenty:

Have a Positive Outlook

The first and most obvious way to increase happiness in our lives is to have a positive outlook. For the most part, being happy is less about circumstances and more about attitude. What we think about most we become. If positive thinking does not come naturally, and it doesn’t for most of us, this will take some effort. The good news is that optimism becomes easier the longer we apply it in our lives. Rather than complaining or ruminating over things that go wrong, we should put our energy into doing whatever we can to make things better; adopt the “this too shall pass” and the “everything happens for a reason” attitude. It may sound idealized, but trying to find the silver lining in everything that happens really does work.

Believe in Yourself

Another way to increase happiness is through self-belief. Get to know yourself; and when you do, always stay true to yourself. It is wise to take what others say into consideration, but don’t be an approval seeker. What other people think of you does not matter. There is no right or wrong way to be as long as no one else gets hurt. Focus less on impressing others and more on trying to be authentically you.

Accept and Celebrate Your Reality

It has been said that “The difference between the images you have had for your life and the reality of your life is the amount of unhappiness in your life.” Accept and celebrate the reality you are living. If you don’t like that reality and it is possible to change it, change it. Just don’t hold yourself to an unattainable image. If you do that you will never be happy.

Take Charge of Your Life

Be the one in charge of your life. Don’t allow others to dictate the standards for you to live by. When we are in charge of our lives we gain great satisfaction and happiness from the things we do.

Take Responsibility For Your Life

Take responsibility for your life. This is different than taking charge of it. Those who take responsibility for their lives do not play the blame game. They don’t make the problems in their lives the fault of others. They don’t make excuses or blame others for their failures. They just accept what is and are sure to do things different or better the next time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and our lives gives us a feeling of empowerment. When we are empowered we are happy.

Set and Pursue Goals

Another way to achieve happiness is to figure out what we are looking for, what we truly want for ourselves. It is about setting goals and pursuing them. Research shows that the achievement of goals is not what matters; it is the pursuit of them and the focus toward them that increases one’s sense of well-being.

Focus on Your Strengths and Talents

Identify your personal strengths and use them to their fullest. Each of us has a unique set of personal resources. We each possess talents and skills. We should use these gifts as tools for obtaining personal achievements. We often see people with disabilities doing this. Someone may be wheelchair bound and still be a champion athlete. Someone else may be blind, yet be a phenomenal musician. Focusing on success by utilizing our strengths and talents is another great way to achieve happiness.

Give of Yourself

Finding opportunities to give of ourselves is a very important way to bring authentic happiness to our lives. When we engage or volunteer in causes or organizations that we are passionate about or believe in; religious organizations, community or civic minded causes, charitable causes, or social clubs, we gain great fulfillment. Endeavors that allow us to unselfishly give of ourselves to others bring tremendous meaning, and therefore happiness, into our lives.

Live in the Present

The only moment that we have any control over is the present one. Regretting the past and worrying about tomorrow only distracts us from the happiness that exists right now. The past already happened; it is only a memory that we can’t change. What we can do is extract the lessons from the things that have happened; we can learn from hindsight. And, just as living in the past keeps us from living a happy life, so does worrying about the future. Events we fear will happen may never happen. If or when they do they probably won’t happen the way we imagined they would. Happiness doesn’t exist in the past or the future; it exists in the now. Living in the present moment is the only way to be happy.

Don’t Allow Fears to be Obstacles

We all have fears—fears of what might or might not happen, fears of failure, fears of being judged by others. These fears hold us back from fulfilling our dreams, starting a new business, changing careers, embarking on a new relationship or ending one. Our fears keep us stuck in places we don’t want to be and with people we should move on from. We can’t let our fears become obstacles. We can’t cling to the safe and the familiar just because we are afraid to venture out. It is easy to put things off, to wait for the perfect moment, but when we do that time is wasted; days, months, and years pass us by. We don’t have to take huge leaps; only tiny steps in the right direction. As we let go of our fears we can embrace the happiness we deserve.

Understand That Pleasure is Momentary

Pleasurable moments are just that—moments. They are temporary—they will come and go. And they will never be as exciting or intriguing the second, third, or fourth time around. We need to allow ourselves to enjoy the pleasures of life without feeling the need to cling to, capture, or cage the things that bring us pleasure. No one can be happy when they are waiting for the next thing to make them happy. We will never be fulfilled with what is if we are always waiting for what will be.

Practice Gratitude

As the popular quote says, “The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.” Be someone who practices gratitude. Be someone who expresses appreciation for the simplest of things. Make time each day to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. Look at life from the perspective of what you have rather than what you don’t have. Contentment comes when we count our blessings, not when we focus on what we don’t have.

Reflect on Positive Outcomes

Compelling research shows that reflecting back to the enjoyable aspects of our day can significantly boost our feeling of well-being. Our natural tendency may be to focus on all the things that went wrong or frustrated us, but when we do that we leave little room for reflection of the positive things that happened. It’s fine to reflect on ways to correct what went wrong or think about how we can do things better next time, but if we want to be happy we should give equal time to the reflection of the positive outcomes of our day.

Manage Time

It has been psychologically shown that time affluence, “the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful, to reflect, and to engage in leisure,” is a factor in achieving happiness. We are never happy when we are rushing or under the gun. So it is important that we allow enough time to do whatever we need or want to do; that we under-schedule instead of over-schedule, under commit rather than over commit.  

Don’t Try to Control Everything

We are much happier when we don’t have the weight of the world on our shoulders. To accomplish that, we need to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our lives. We have to let go of the beliefs that we are the only ones who know what is right and that we are the only ones who know how to do things. Engage competent people in your life and then hand off some of your responsibilities.

Set Yourself Up For Success

When the challenges in our lives are attainable success is a realistic, predictable outcome. And along with success comes contentment. What this means is that when seeking challenges for ourselves we shouldn’t set the bar unreasonably high. We cannot be happy if we are constantly stressed and overwhelmed. We should always set ourselves up for success, not failure.

 Find Joy in Simplicity

Joy can be extracted from the most basic things in life; simple pleasures and breathtaking moments. As the expression goes, “the best things in life are free.” Happiness comes from quality not quantity, simplicity not complexity, and moderation not excess. When our lives and our surroundings are cluttered with too much stuff it stresses us out. The less we have the freer and happier we will feel.

Create Closure Whenever Possible

The way we end an experience greatly influences our perception of that experience. If we want to create positive, happy perceptions of all our experiences we should do our best to end everything on a positive note rather than a sour one. We should create closure whenever possible rather than leaving loose ends untied. It’s difficult to be happy when we have nagging thoughts about what we have left undone. When we clear away that unnecessary debris we free our minds, and happiness is the byproduct.

Manage Conflict

When I tell you that conflict brings negativity and unhappiness into our lives, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But being aware of the part we play will help to reduce the amount of conflict we willingly subject ourselves to. When others try to goad us into arguments we need to take a deep breath and think before we speak. Conflict takes two people—we don’t have to be one of them. People often quarrel over trivial, unimportant matters. Learning to listen well, communicate well, and let things roll off our backs will keep us from being sucked into that nonsense. And when conflict does arise, we should always practice forgiveness.

Lighten Up

And last but not least, probably the easiest ways to keep happiness in our lives are to lighten up, not take ourselves so seriously, and to laugh often. Life is painful enough. We don’t have to be so serious. We don’t have to make things harder for ourselves. We can be deliberate when choosing how we view and react to everyday occurrences. Realize that every moment is exclusive, every moment should be cherished. Once it is gone it is gone. Asking ourselves if something problematic will matter in a year from now will help us put things into perspective. So laugh at yourself and laugh at life. There is no better stress reducer or formula for happiness.

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10 Reasons Some People Just Can’t Let Go of an Ex

The Sorrow of Unrequited Love

Posted Aug 15, 2017 on Psychology Today by Randi Gunther

Most people will eventually heal after a relationship ends, especially if both partners mutually agreed to separate. With helpful guidance, they learn from their mistakes, find comfort from friends, and ultimately commit to a new relationship. Sadly, it is a very different story if one partner walks out when the other is still deeply attached. The anguish of being the rejected partner can be devastating. Some people experience unending, grief, ruthless pessimism, and a deepening fear that love might never happen for them again. I have spent many hours with deeply saddened, abandoned partners who cannot get past their losses. I have listened to their stories and to their confusion over why they cannot seem to make love last.

If people are repeatedly abandoned in sequential relationships, others often judge them harshly. These consistently rejected lovers too often find themselves on the other end of well-meaning friends who push them to “just get over it,” or imply that they are somehow responsible for their relationships not working out. That is rarely true. Most who suffer prolonged grief have usually tried everything they could to make their relationships work. When they are once again left behind, they are in understandable confusion and sorrow, wondering if the pain will ever go away.

In the years I’ve worked with such individuals, I’ve been able to help them see how the way in which they approach relationships may have something to do with why they end. Armed with that knowledge, they are better able to understand what they might have done differently.

Following are 10 of the most common personality characteristics and behaviors that many of these patients have shared with me, shared with the hope that they will be able to help those who still live in prolonged suffering after being rejected by someone they still love.

1. Innate insecurity. It is natural for people to feel insecure when threatened by the loss of something that matters deeply to them. If their comfort is disrupted by an unpredictable threat, most people have mastered defense mechanisms that help them overcome their legitimate feelings of sadness and fear. Over time, they are able to move on.

Sadly, there are people who suffer deeper levels of anxiety and may also have had multiple losses from the past. As relationship partners, they may have more difficulty rebalancing when abandoned by a once-trusted partner. They feel significantly more helpless and hopeless, as though they will never be able to trust love again. Sometimes, almost unable to function, their pain overcomes any hope that they will ever get better.

2. Topping out. If people feel that they have finally found the “perfect relationship,” and their partners then walk away, they may despair that they will never find a love this wonderful again. Relationship partners who have experienced these kinds of one-way abandonments may have always dreamed of having a special, reliable, and loving partner. Yet, upon finding someone who seems to fit the bill, they may become too fearful to inquire as to whether or not their partners have had the same desires or expectations.

When they believe they have found that perfect partner, they put everything they have into the relationship, hoping against hope that it will never end. Any warning signs from the other partner are often ignored until it is too late.article continues after advertisement

3. Childhood abandonment trauma. Children are too often helpless pinballs in a life game that tosses them from relationship to relationship, usually unable to affect the outcome. These early experiences make them more likely to either distrust relationship partners or try too hard to over-trust them. Their insecure attachments to their caretakers in early life too often cause them to become overly-fearful adults, unable to let love in for fear that inevitable loss will occur.

People with these kinds of fears of attachment may believe that they are fully in the game of love, but instead are self-protective and unable to risk genuinely committing to a relationship. They see security as elusive and out of their control, but earnestly continue to fully commit without careful discernment.

That underlying fear too often frustrates the people who try to love them. They often end up discouraged and have to leave the relationship, recreating childhood abandonment trauma in the person they leave behind.

4. Fear of being alone. If a person is fearful that love will never happen, he or she will often tolerate neglect, abuse, or disingenuous behavior just to stay in any relationship. If their relationship partners continue to participate in these uneven investments, one of two things will happen: the other partner will begin to feel too guilty to stick around, or will stay in the relationship while simultaneously searching elsewhere for a better deal.

5. Relying only on a partner for self-worth. It is dangerous for any intimate partner to allow the other to be entrusted as the sole definer of that person’s basic value. Like putting all one’s eggs in the same basket, there is bound to be total devastation if that belief does not result in a positive response.article continues after advertisement

If that partner chooses to end the relationship, the rejected partner has only that one person’s negative self-image to rely upon. They can only find fault in who they’ve been, what they’ve done wrong, and that they may always be unlovable to anyone else.

6. Fear of failure. There are people who are literally terrified of failing at anything, and relationships are just one piece of the puzzle. They give their all to whatever they pursue, and can’t face that their efforts might not bear out in something as important as a love relationship.

In their fear of failing, they too often either overreact when something seems to be going wrong or miss crucial cues because of their hyper-vigilant focus.

When their partners leave the relationship, they often take all of the blame, feeling that they should have done more or better. Often that self-denigration makes each succeeding partnership more susceptible to failing for the same reasons.

7. Romantic fantasizers. Relationships that thrive are not “romantic” in the storybook sense. Though they begin, as all new relationships do, with mutually seemingly unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, they must eventually work out the differences and challenges that all long-term commitments create.

Those who are dedicated to holding on to romantic fantasy, however, represent a different breed. These partners want to be all things to their lovers, as if in a cloud of intensive and ongoing rapture. When the normal disruptions of life intervene, romantic fantasizers see them as only temporary obstacles and don’t take them seriously.article continues after advertisement

When a romantic fantasizer wants to hold onto bliss at any price, the other partner often feels unseen and unknown, and eventually will seek a more realistic encounter.

8. Undying love. There are people who believe that loving someone until the end of time is a virtue and pride themselves on never giving up loving a partner, even if the relationship is over. They truly hold onto the belief that a love once so beautiful can never die, and commit to waiting forever for the other person to come back. For them, the unswerving commitment to stay loyal to a partner who has abandoned the relationship stops them from embracing any new love. The lost love is continuously eulogized so that any other partnership pales by comparison.

9. Unmatched hole fillers. Occasionally a partner finds another who is perfect in some crucial areas. The rest of the relationship may not be as rewarding, but the experience of total satisfaction in that one place is overwhelmingly fulfilling. Once they have that experience, they feel they can never again go without it, and so they significantly narrow their future options. When rejected, they become hyper-focused on getting their partners to return, offering any sacrifice to make that happen.

10. The truly agonized stalkers. Sadly, there are people who cannot give up their romantic partners, no matter how clearly they know that the relationship is over. Even when the other partner avoids, ghosts, or even humiliates them, they still won’t, or can’t, give up.

There are many reasons why people hurt themselves this way. They might feel they have no other place to go. Or they feel they will never find someone so right for them again. Perhaps they choose partners who can never love them the same way in return, and yet can’t accept that finality. Maybe they watched a parent continue to sacrifice without reciprocity, believing that it was a noble way to behave.

If the pain is great enough, they might stalk, punish, or intrude, unable to stop pursuing that broken relationship. No amount of self-degradation or humiliation seems to ease their pain or keep them from trying to reverse their fate.

Unrequited love is painful and demoralizing. It is only human to try to alter the aftermath of lost hope.

Many relationship seekers who experience repeated rejection become weary cynics, risking less and less in every succeeding partnership. They stop believing that relationships can ever work, because they can’t afford to be hurt again.

Once understanding why these situations happen, many can learn to choose better partners, face the realities of what relationships offer and cost, and increase their capacity for resiliency if loss is inevitable. Only then can they understand that the more one loves, the more painful the loss. There is no other possibility.  

Every individual must decide how much to risk when seeking true intimacy. To achieve the most beautiful outcome, he or she must give up the prior goals of holding on to love at any price, and create in its place an authentic and real relationship, regardless of what the outcome might be.

My free advice e-newsletter, Heroic Love, shows you how to avoid the common pitfalls that keep people from finding and keeping romantic love. Based on over 100,000 face-to-face hours counseling singles and couples over my 40-year career, you’ll learn how to zero in on the right partner, avoid the dreaded “honeymoon is over” phenomenon, and make sure your relationship never gets boring: www.heroiclove.com

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Narcissists: Finally the Truth About Who They Really Are

We all wonder who or what narcissists really are. Their despicable behavior is so foreign to our way of thinking, we wonder if they are aliens or demons. In this video you will learn the truth about who they really are from Nanci Danison. Nanci was given this wisdom directly from Source while in the midst of a near death experience. You have never heard anything like this before. It is mind-blowing!

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Attributes of the Narcissistic False Self


What is The False Self?

Article by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert and Author of the book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind © 2017

Narcissists feel no more love for the people they have relationships with than they do for strangers. They may use the word “love” to express their feelings, and they may at times demonstrate appropriate loving behavior, but it is a ruse. They are emotionally unequipped to love anyone but themselves. Even that love is distorted.

With all their perceived power and specialness, one would think narcissists have very high self-esteem and great self-love. That is not so. They actually have poorly defined senses of self, frequent episodes of self-loathing, and constant feelings of inadequacy.

By “they” I mean their true selves. That is a side of narcissists no one ever gets to see. It tells them they are unlovable, inferior, worthless, ugly, and powerless. Feeling that way about themselves is unbearable, so starting in childhood they disown that part and replace it with a facade they are proud to show the world. This facade is known as the “false self.”

The false self is an impenetrable suit of armor that once conceived is there for life. Its job is to absorb the narcissist’s pain, hurt, fragility, and all perceived attacks from the outside world. It keeps him or her from excruciating self-examination and introspection; from having to face terrifying fears that he may be less than perfect.

If anyone tries to expose the narcissist for who he or she really is, the false self lashes out with rage so terrifying, no one wants to cross the person again.

The false self is everything the true self isn’t; grandiose, superior, and entitled. It tells narcissists that everyone likes them, everyone envies them, everyone wants to be like them, and because of their superiority, the rules that apply to others do no apply to them.

Once the false self takes over, the true self is virtually unreachable by the outside world. The persona you see is one of an imposter, capable of morphing into whatever personality it needs to in order to capture the most narcissistic supply. Narcissists don’t have relationships. They take hostages to guarantee reliable source of narcissistic supply.

With the false self running the show, it is impossible for narcissists to see their own imperfections. That is why they cannot admit anything is wrong with them, hence there is a lack of validation of victim’s experiences and an inability to acknowledge their wrongdoings. It is also why they cannot be helped. The false self keeps them blind to the truth.

If you are clinging to a “relationship” with a narcissist with the hopes of it getting better, please understand that it never will. They see no reason to change and resent even the slightest insinuation that they should.

Narcissists look and, for the most part, act like everyone else, but their brains don’t function in the same way as those without the same pathology. They are toxic, abusive, vindictive individuals with no redeeming qualities. Don’t let them fool you into believing otherwise.

This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution. For more information please email loveyourlife@randigfine.com

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If You Are Dreading Valentine’s Day You Are Not Alone

If You’re Not Happy During Valentine’s Day, You Are Not Alone

Written by Bruce Y. Lee Contributor Forbes Magazine

Happy Valentine’s Day? Maybe. Maybe not. If not, don’t despair.

Ah, if only life were like a romantic comedy or advertising. Valentine’s Day is certainly a happy occasion for many. An opportunity to spend a day with that special someone or, for some, someones. A time to generate more memories, show your love or feel loved. But for others, it’s anything but…even if you are in a relationship. For a number of people, the commercially designated day of love can actually cause stress, anxiety, unhappiness and even depression. Here are 20 reasons why not all are completely happy during Valentine’s Day:

  1. Being reminded that you’re not in a relationship: Here’s a common source for the single. Most other days, you may realize that you are much more than a relationship and being single is much better than being in a bad relationship. But on this day, the social pressure can be overwhelming. Valentine’s Day is like society collectively deciding to be politically incorrect toward single people.
  2. Being reminded that you are in a relationship: On the flip side, you may not really like your current relationship. Perhaps you can avoid the other person most of the year (e.g., “Honey, I’ll be stepping out for a few weeks,” or, “We have common interests in that we both hate each other.”), but it’s harder to do so on Valentine’s Day. Seeing other couples who seem happier in real life or on television can add to the stress…especially if one of those couples you see includes your significant other.
  3. Being reminded that you are trying to be in a relationship: You know that person that you keep spending time with, trying to be like mold and grow on him or her? Well, ignorance and hope can be bliss. Valentine’s Day can be the moment of clarity. If that person’s out with someone else during Valentine’s Day, things aren’t looking too good. The Friend Zone is like the Phantom Zone: It takes Supergirl or Superman to get out of it.
  4. Being reminded that your significant other is not around: Not all couples can be together during Valentine’s Day. Maybe your significant other is long-distance, traveling or a Capulet and you are a Montague, or a Jet and you are a Shark.
  5. Being reminded that your kids may be in relationships: Yes, your kids may be finally old enough to date, which depending on your attitudes can range from the age they are in junior high school to the age when they can rent a car. Worrying about this can cause anxiety about who they are with or why they grew up so quickly.
  6. Being reminded of past relationships: Valentine’s Day can be like syndication for your past romantic regrets, making you replay your mistakes over and over again. It can be especially tough if a former significant other passed away. Conversely, Valentine’s Day can prompt your favorite stalkers to reappear and step up their games, calling, texting or messaging you or sending lovely gifts that you then have to explain to your current significant other or your co-workers or your front desk person or the entire basketball stadium.
  7. Stressing your relationship: Valentine’s Day can bring scrutiny on and strain your relationship. Rather than a happy occasion, it can feel like a Law and Order interrogation. Where is relationship going? Do you love me? Why do we argue so much? Why do my parents call you a bum? When are you going to get a better job? When are we going to get married? When will we live in the same city? Is a yak really a good pet? Who is that other person that’s sleeping in the bed with us?
  8. Taking your relationship to another level: Depending on where you are, Valentine’s Day may be a cue to take your relationship to another level, but you and your partner may not be on the same page or even the same book, which could be stressful. This could mean trying to have children, redecorating the kitchen, a marriage proposal, sex for the first time, kissing for the first time or getting to know the name of your significant other.
  9. Failing to meet expectations: A neurology resident once told me in medical school that happiness is reality minus expectations (which is why denying reality can keep you really, really happy). Sometimes expectations for Valentine’s Day can be so high that you just can’t reach them. Spending weeks thinking that your significant other is going to hold a Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show for you could set you up for big disappointment.
  10. Forcing roles: “Roles” as in duties and expectations, not baked goods. Some may chafe under the standard roles of Valentine’s Day and feel that the holiday is old-fashioned.
  11. Being reminded that you have no money or are spending money: Valentine’s Day can be expensive for all the reasons below. Yes, money can’t buy you love, but apparently it can rent it. Such spending can add to financial stress for some.
  12. Finding a babysitter who is free on Valentine’s Day but is old enough to be a babysitter: Rule number one, the babysitter has to be older than the children being babysat. When there is a shortage, watch babysitters become Wall Street tycoons and push their rates up and up.
  13. Trying to secure a reservation in any restaurant that doesn’t serve Happy Meals and Big Macs: Valentine’s Day is a boon for restaurants. Popular restaurants get completely booked weeks in advance, leaving the non-planners with the choice of the 3 p.m. or midnight dinner slots or taking their dates to Subway. Also, expect every dish to be more expensive than usual and renamed after love or passion.
  14. Getting flowers that are not weeds: So dandelions don’t count as flowers? If Valentine’s Day is a boon for restaurants, it means absolutely everything to florists. Therefore, buying flowers can involve more planning than a military operation. And there are so many decisions. What types of flowers? Pretty ones. What arrangement? One in which flowers are not upside down. What type of vase? A solid one that doesn’t leak. What type of wrapping? A tortilla. Then you have to schedule the flower delivery so that it arrives at exactly the right time: when everyone else is around and can see that the flowers are arriving. Not too early and not too late.
  15. Buying a gift that is not just a thought: Yes, it’s the thought that counts. Try thinking about something and see if that passes as a gift. If that were the case, people would be all over philosophy majors. Unless you really know your significant other and have a mutual understanding, trying to buy the right gift can be stressful.
  16. Trying to write something dramatic but not corny on a card: “You are excellent,” “Good job on being a girlfriend (or boyfriend),” “Best of luck in the coming year” or “Congratulations on being my significant other” probably don’t pass. Face it, this is a losing proposition. If you end up breaking up, you are probably writing something that you didn’t mean, such as: “I will always be your Valentine (until something better comes along or until you develop this really bad farting problem).” If you do stay together, words on a card cannot really convey the meaning of your relationship.
  17. Eating too much and too badly: Valentine’s Day fare can be unhealthy. You don’t tend to buy or receive Valentine’s Day rutubaga, kale or cucumbers. (Honey, you are just so fibrous.) Many things are sweet, goopy and full of fat, sugar and salt. Unhealthy food, even for a day, can make you feel sick. But if you are buying or getting candy, that stuff can last for days or even weeks. Candy is not like turkey. You can’t make candy sandwiches, salads or soups. So be prepared to eat unhealthily for a while or throw out food.
  18. Suffering from performance anxiety: For sex, this may seem like the Super Bowl, only without the helmets, shoulder pads and Lady Gaga…unless you are into those sorts of things. You may feel like for some reason this has to be extra special, and you know what pressure can do…
  19. Suffering accidents: When you are distracted or under pressure, you make mistakes. When you make mistakes, you can hurt yourself. When you hurt yourself, you can even end up in the hospital. Don’t end up in the hospital. Get Direct TV and be careful during Valentine’s.
  20. Dealing with the drama and the aftermath: Holidays can be emotional times. People do all kinds of things when they are emotional. Arguments, fights, abuse, failed proposals, sex mishaps. All of these can leave scars, emotionally, mentally and physically, leading to more drama. And break-ups can.

In the end, Valentine’s Day is just a day. It can be a happy one, but if you are not happy about it, keep things in perspective. You are not alone. If you aren’t in a relationship, don’t despair. Remember that most relationships fail. (It’s always good to comfort yourself with other people’s miseries.) Seriously, though, it is much better to be single than in a bad relationship, and you shouldn’t base your worth on a relationship. If your kids are in relationship, realize that you can’t control them. If you raised them well in general, they will know what to do. If you are in a relationship, don’t put too much pressure on yourself for Valentine’s Day. The measure of your relationship should be what you do the other 364 days of the year. One day shouldn’t determine a relationship. If it does, then your relationship is probably not worth more than a Subway sandwich.

Bruce Y. Lee Forbes Contributor

I’ve been in the worlds of business, medicine, and global and public health. And these worlds are a lot more similar and different than you think. Currently, I am an Associate Professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Executive Director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC: www.globalobesity.org), Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. My previous positions include serving as Senior Manager at Quintiles Transnational and Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, working in biotechnology equity research at Montgomery Securities, co-founding a biotechnology/bioinformatics company. My work involves developing computational models and tools to help health and healthcare decision makers in all continents (except for Antarctica) and has been supported by a wide variety of sponsors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NIH, AHRQ, CDC, UNICEF, USAID and the Global Fund. I have authored over 190 scientific publications and three books. Follow me on Twitter (@bruce_y_lee) but don’t ask me if I know martial arts.
Follow me on Twitter @bruce_y_lee and visit our Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read my other Forbes pieces here.

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Poll: Who Is or Was Your Narcissistic Abuser(s)

Narcissistic Abuse Poll

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Who Is or Was Your Primary Narcissistic Abuser(s)?

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Why Is It So Hard To Leave Your Narcissistic Abuser

Narcissistic Abuse Expert Randi Fine discusses the many reasons why it is so hard to leave your abuser (romantic and family). She empowers you to move past your confusion, doubts, and fears, and offers you the tools you need to reclaim your life.

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What It Means When a Narcissist Says “I Love You”


Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash

Written by Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Dear Codependent Partner,

What I’m about to say is not something I’d ever say or admit (to you), because to do so would end the winner-takes-all-game that is my main source of pleasure in life — one that effectively keeps you carrying my load in our relationship.

And that’s the whole point.

When I say “I love you” I mean that I love how hard you work to make me feel like your everything, that I am the focus of your life, that you want me to be happy, and that I’ll never be expected to do the same.

I love the power I have to take advantage of your kindness and intentions to be nice, and the pleasure I derive when I make myself feel huge in comparison to you, taking every opportunity to make you feel small and insignificant. (I feel huge in comparison because, to me, these “desires” are evidence you’re weak, feeble in mind and inferior, and deserve to be treated accordingly!)

I love the feeling it gives me thinking of you as weak, vulnerable, emotionally crazy, and my biggest source of pleasure is having you to look down on with scorn … because, in my view, your childlike desires, innocence and gullibility is what proves your weakness and inferiority.

I love the way I feel knowing that, through the use of gaslighting, and other mind-game tactics, what you want to discuss or address will never happen, and I love this “power” to train you to feel “crazy” for even asking or bringing up issues that don’t interest me, effectively, ever lowering your expectations of me and what I’m capable of giving you, while I up mine of you.

I love how easy it is to keep your sole focus on alleviating my pain (never yours!), and that, regardless what you do, you’ll never make me feel good enough, loved enough, respected enough, appreciated enough, and so on. (Misery loves company.)

(It’s not about the closeness, empathy, emotional connection you want, or what I did that hurt or embarrassed you, or how little time I spend engaged with you or the children, and so on. It’s about my status and doing my job to keep you in your place, in pain, focused on feeling my pain, blocking you from feeling valued in relation to me. I’m superior and entitled to all the pleasure, admiration, and comforting between us, remember?)

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when you are with me, more specifically, regarding you as a piece of property I own, my possession. Like driving a hot car, I love the extent to which you enhance my status in the eyes of others, letting them know that I’m top dog, and so on. I love thinking others are jealous of my possessions.

I love the power I have to keep you working hard to prove your love and devotion, wondering what else you need to do to “prove” your loyalty.

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when I’m with you. Due to how often I hate and look down on others in general, the mirror neurons in my brain keep me constantly experiencing feelings of self-loathing; thus, I love that I can love myself through you, and also love hating you for my “neediness” of having to rely on you or anyone for anything.

I love that you are there to blame whenever I feel this “neediness”; feeling scorn for you seems to protect me from something I hate to admit, that I feel totally dependent on you to “feed” my sense of superiority and entitlement, and to keep my illusion of power alive in my mind.

(Nothing makes me feel more fragile and vulnerable than not having control over something that would tarnish my image and superior status, such as when you question “how” I treat you, as if you still don’t understand that getting you to accept yourself as an object for my pleasure, happy regardless of how I treat you, or the children  — is key proof of my superiority, to the world. You’re my possession, remember? It’s my job to teach you to hate and act calloused toward those “crazy” things that only “weak” people need, such as “closeness” and “emotional stuff;” and by the way, I know this “works” because my childhood taught me to do this to myself inside.)

It makes me light up with pleasure (more proof of my superiority) that I can easily get you flustered, make you act “crazy” over not getting what you want from me, make you repeat yourself, and say and do things that you’ll later hate yourself for (because of your “niceness”!). Everything you say, any hurts or complaints you share, you can be sure, I’ll taunt you with later, to keep you ever-spinning your wheels, ever trying to explain yourself, ever doubting yourself and confused, trying to figure out why I don’t “get” it.

(There’s nothing to get! To break the code, you’d have to look through my lens, not yours! It’s my job to show complete disinterest in your emotional needs, hurts, wants, and to train, dismiss and punish accordingly, until you learn your “lesson,” that is: To take your place as a voiceless object, a possession has no desire except to serve my pleasure and comfort, and never an opinion on how it’s treated!)

(That you can’t figure this out, after all the ways I’ve mistreated you, to me, is proof of my genetic superiority. In my playbook, those with superior genes are never kind, except to lure and snare their victims!)

I love that I can make you feel insecure at the drop of a hat, especially by giving attention to other women (perhaps also others in general, friends, family members, children, etc., the list is endless). What power this gives me to put on public displays of what you don’t get from me, to taunt and make you beg for what I easily give to others, wondering why it’s so easy to give what you want to others, to express feelings or affection, to give compliments, that is, when it serves my pleasure (in this case, to watch you squirm).

I love the power I have to get you back whenever you threaten to leave, by throwing a few crumbs your way, and watching how quickly I can talk you into trusting me when I turn on the charm, deceiving you into thinking, this time, I’ll change.

“I love you” means I need you because, due to the self-loathing I carry inside, I need someone who won’t abandon me that I can use as a punching bag, to make myself feel good by making them feel bad about themselves. (This is how I pleasure myself, and the way I numb, deny the scary feelings I carry inside that I hope to never admit, ever. I hate any signs of weakness in me, which is why I hate you, and all the “nice” weaklings I view as inferior, stupid, feeble, and so on.)

“I love you” means that I love fixing and shaping your thoughts and beliefs, being in control of your mind, so that you think of me as your miracle and savior, a source of life and sustenance you depend on, and bouncing back to, like gravity, no matter how high you try to fly away or jump.

I love that this makes me feel like a god, to keep you so focused (obsessed…) with making me feel worshiped and adored, sacrificing everything for me to prove yourself so that I don’t condemn or disapprove of you, seeking to please none other, and inherently, with sole rights to administer rewards and punishments as I please.

I love how I can use my power to keep you down, doubting and second-guessing yourself, questioning your sanity, obsessed with explaining yourself to me (and others), professing your loyalty, wondering what’s wrong with you (instead of realizing that … you cannot make someone “happy” who derives their sense of power and pleasure from feeling scorn for the weaklings who let me take advantage of them … like you!).

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when I see myself through your admiring eyes, that you’re my feel-good drug, my dedicated audience, my biggest fan and admirer, and so on. Training you to look up to me, never question me, and bow down with pleasure to serve me as your never-erring, omniscient, omnipotent source of knowledge is my end-goal — my drug of choice.

(You may have noticed how touchy I am at any sign that you would question me; I hate how fragile I feel in such moments,  worried that failing to train you in silent submission could tarnish my image in the world, something I care about more than anything else, even life itself!)

And I love that, no matter how hard you beg and plead for my love and admiration, to feel valued in return, it won’t happen, as long as I’m in control. Why would I let it, when I’m hooked on deriving pleasure from depriving you of anything that would make you feel worthwhile, be wind beneath your wings, risking you’d fly away from me? Besides, it gives me great pleasure to not give you what you yearn for, the tenderness you need and want, and to burst your every dream and bubble, then telling myself, “I’m no fool.”

I love that I can control your attempts to get “through” to me, by controlling your mind, in particular, by shifting the focus of any “discussion” onto what is wrong with you, your failure to appreciate and make me feel loved, good enough, etc. — and of course, reminding you of all I’ve done for you, and how ungrateful you are.

I love how skillfully I manipulate others’ opinions of you as well, getting them to side with me as the “good” guy, and side against you as the “bad” guy, portraying you as incapable of making me happy or manly — or as needy, never satisfied, always complaining, selfish and controlling, and the like.

I love how easy it is for me to say “No!” to what may give you credit, or increase your sense of value and significance in relation to me, with endless excuses; and that instead, I return your focus to my unfulfilled needs and wants, my discomforts or pain.

I love feeling that I own your thoughts, your ambitions, and ensuring the only wants and needs you focus on are ones that serve my pleasure and comfort.

I love being a drug of choice you “have to” have, regardless of how I mistreat you, despite all the signs that your addiction to me is draining the energy from your life, and that you are at risk of losing more and more of what you most value and hold dear, to include those you move love and love and support you in return.

I love that I can isolate you from others who may nourish you, and break the spell of thinking they ever loved you; I love making you mistrust them, so that you conclude no one else really wants to put up with you, but me.

I love that I can make you feel I’m doing you a favor by being with you and throwing a few crumbs your way. Like a vacuum, the emptiness inside me is in constant need of sucking the life and breath and vitality you, and your determination to be kind, brings to my life, which I crave like a drug that can never satisfy, that I fight to hoard, and hate the thought of sharing.

While I hate you and my addiction to your caring attention, my neediness keeps me craving to see myself through your caring eyes, ever ready to admire, adore, forgive, make excuses for me, and fall for my lies and traps. (I could never appreciate or value you for this, how could I? I hate myself for needing these caring, yet unmanly gestures, which disgust me.)

I love that you keep telling me how much I hurt you, not knowing that, to me, this is like a free marketing report. It lets me know how effective my tactics have been to keep you in pain, focused on alleviating my pain — so that I am ever the winner in this competition — ensuring that you never weaken (control) me with your love- and emotional-closeness stuff.

In short, when I say “I love you,” I love the power I have to remain a mystery that you’ll never solve because of what you do not know (and refuse to believe), that: the only one who can win this zero-sum-winner-takes-all game is the one who knows “the rules.” My sense of power rests on ensuring you never succeed at persuading me to join you in creating a mutually-kind relationship because, in my worldview, being vulnerable, emotionally expressive, kind, caring, empathetic, innocent are signs of weakness, proof of inferiority.

Thanks, but no thanks, I’m resolved to stay on my winner-takes-all ground, ever in competition for the prize, seeing you as my fiercest competitor, gloating in my narcissistic ability to be heartless, callous, cold, calculating … and proud, to ensure my neediness for a sense of superiority isn’t hampered.

Forever love-limiting,

Your narcissist

PS: I really, really need help — but you CANNOT do this work for me (not without making things worse for both of us!).  Remember, we’re co-addicted to each other, so we’d never go to an addict to get help, right?

Only a therapist, with experience in this, stands a chance, and even then, only if I choose to really, really, really let him/her! (That’s because I’d have to face my greatest fear that, not only am I not superior to those I regard as inferior, and thus not entitled to make and break rules as I please, but I’d also have to own — that my own actions, thoughts and beliefs about myself and others — are THE main cause of the suffering in my life … and changing them, THE solution. I could not would not ever want to do this for the sole reason that, from my worldview, only the feeble-minded and weak do such things! Death is better, than losing.)

Athena Staik, Ph.D. – Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik shows clients how to break free of anxiety, addictions, and other emotional blocks, to awaken radiantly healthy lives and relationships. Dr. Staik is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says ‘I Love You'”: Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit www.drstaik.com, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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