The possible ambivalence of women in the face of men with narcissistic personality traits

In my clinic work, it is common to see a lady repeatedly trapped in relationships with men who were abusive and manipulative.  Sometimes, these women were unable to get the support they needed because the abusive partners were exceptionally friendly, charming and altruistic in public.  In closed door at home, these men were abusive and controlling to their partners.  As a result, it was difficult for these ladies to disclose their sufferings because their friends or family members might not believe in them.  Furthermore, being influenced by gender roles and social expectations, females are expected to be quiet and submissive.  Thus, these ladies might have been conditioned to adapt to danger instead of speaking out and to protect themselves from harm.

It is not uncommon for these females to grow up in a family with a father with narcissistic traits.  In fact, narcissists sometimes managed their persona in public really well.  Their public image do not match with their unempathic and cruel treatment to their daughters at home.  Their daughters was habituated to accept interpersonal danger at home with closed ones.  When these women grow up, they tended to invalidate their own sufferings and their feelings of being in danger when having relationships with men with narcissistic traits.  This is understandable because sometimes, their closed ones were reputable and charitable figures in the community.  What’s more, these ladies also experienced a lot of gaslighting from their partners, family members and friends.  They gradually also learned to gaslight themselves.

It is important for these women to validate and acknowledge their feelings and experiences with these men.  When being in doubt, they might seek consultation and psychological treatment from professionals who are experienced in treating survivors of narcissistic abuse.  They need to be firm and prevent themselves from allowing the opinions of others to detract them from the reality of the abuse.  If seeing the abusive family members is too overwhelming and triggering, these ladies may consider limiting contact with them.  They may only see them in special days, such as Christmas or New Year.  It is empowering to take back the power to choose when and how frequent to see ones’ family members with narcissistic traits.  It is also important to choose when to walk away from potential harm by them if the meeting were escalating to be abusive. 

In intimate adult relationships, these ladies may choose to separate with their narcissistic partners if there is no possibility that their partners willing to seek psychotherapy themselves.  Sometimes, it may be helpful to seek couple counselling first before deciding to separate.  Since there may be a potential for them to gain some insight about their abusive traits, seeking professional help first may be an option if these women want to give them a chance in the relationships.  However, if these women see no hope in their abusive partners to seek psychotherapy, it is important for them not to feel guilty for deciding to separate with their partners.

Self-care and nourishment are important for these ladies after validating their feelings and experiences.  They need to seek emotional support and connections with family members or friends who are understanding and supportive.  They also need to learn more self-soothing exercises, such as meditation, when they are experiencing emotional distress.  It is a long-term journey for them to heal their wounds caused by narcissists.  In fact, it takes a lot of courage to heal and care oneself after these abusive experiences.

In this long journey of healing and nourishing, it is important for these women to find as much social and emotional support as possible, rather than keeping silent and tolerating the abuse.

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