So much time, energy and emotion is spent trying to understand why emotional manipulators do what they do. The answer has never been a secret. It’s always been in plain sight, but perhaps due to its simplicity and our inability to relate, we shrug it off and continue the search for some way where we can blame ourselves.
Why do Narcissists make such terrible partners? Why are they so hurtful? The answer is of course empathy, or rather a lack there of.
Empathy is defined as – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings and thoughts of another, of either the past or present, without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. – Webster
The DSM tells us that psychopaths lack empathy and that a Narcissist’s ability to feel empathy is impaired. This means that they cannot understand or have concern for the feelings of others.
Why are Narcissist’s so self-centered? – Because your feelings, your needs do not compute. It’s as if they are emotionally color blind, thus, missing colors in their emotional color palette.
What does a relationship look like with someone that lacks empathy?
Lack of Empathy Symptoms in a Romantic Relationship
Everything is always about them. Your thoughts, feelings, needs and wants are not considered, unless they serve a purpose.
Emotional Manipulators ruin the holidays, birthdays or any special event that is important to their partners. They do not like to share attention and therefore, do not care to be a part of anything that doesn’t thrust them in the spotlight. They have an expectation to receive and feel uncomfortable with the concept of giving. They will, on occasion give, but the gift will often be off somehow, usually not exactly what you wanted or asked for. They do the absolute minimum in terms of effort, when it comes to bestowing something that does not directly benefit them.
When their partners are ill or have some type of pain or injury, the Narcissist will view this as an inconvenience to them and either be bothered by it or ignore it. They are not caregivers. They don’t do nurturing – unless it’s to get praise by others – “Look at how great Tom is being while Anne gets over her appendicitis.”
They are they never wrong, so don’t expect to get an apology. You will always be wrong, and they will always be the wronged party.
No issue is ever resolved. They thrive in ambiguity. When you can’t pin them down for a time or a decision they can never be held accountable when they disappoint. Disappointment is what they do. Don’t expect to be able to count or rely on them for much, unless there is a benefit to them.
They have a real problem discerning cause and effect. They cannot see a link between their behavior and your reaction. They will look at your reaction to what they’ve done as the problem, rather than their behavior.
Because of their fear of abandonment, they will try to control you through emotional, psychological and sometimes physical abuse. They will not care how this abuse affects you. They will not care if they have traumatized you, hurt you or that they are grounding your self-esteem into dust. The effects of their abuse do not generally even register with them.
Even if a Narcissist targeted you because of your wealth, business, fame, talent or connections, they will quickly start to resent you for these things. They are not supporters. They don’t do the cheerleader role. They will try to assert their control and methodically try to take over and try to take credit for your success, by undermining, demeaning and manipulating.
They will attack you verbally, emotionally sometimes physically if they feel that their ego is being threatened. You will usually be their emotional punching bag when things go wrong for them.
They have no interest in your growth and expansion. They don’t care about what’s best for you, your happiness or success. They will try to suppress these things, to maintain your compliance and their control.
They will make it very unpleasant for you to maintain outside relationships with family and friends. They want you there, focusing and serving them. They don’t want you to get any ideas, any hint of a better life. They don’t want people that love you to reach out and give you options, so any time you want to go out and socialize without them there will be a problem.
They will think nothing of flirting, spending time with or giving attention to another in your presence. They seek to be revered and the center of attention, it will not compute that their behavior is inappropriate or upsetting you. In fact, they will thrive on pitting one against the other, a term called triangulation. They love the feelings and attention that your jealousy gives them.
Nothing is ever equal. On matters that they care about they will insist on complete domination. In matters that don’t, they will not lift a finger to help or compromise.
They will not love you for you. They will constantly be trying to change you. They will criticize you and never let you feel comfortable in your own skin.
Their presence and energy will dominate your space. You won’t be able to work or focus on your own projects.
You will never be able to trust them. You will walk on egg shells because you will never know what’s coming or when the next shoe will drop. There is no relaxing, only high stress and anxiety.
You will never feel truly loved. You will never feel comfortable. You will never feel safe.
Why didn’t your relationship work? Stop searching. Stop looking for a way to make it your fault. If your relationship resembled many of the above behaviors, it’s time to stop obsessing. Stop the FBI analysis and start accepting the truth. Your relationship didn’t work out because you were involved with someone who has a Personality Disorder. It never had a chance.
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Spent 9 years with one. Always knew some thing was wrong with him. Holidays and birthdays were ruined, He twisted the world quite successfully to fit his superior view, of course I was always the blame no matter how good my intentions were (usually involved a good deal of money) went south due to him. He had gambling and alcohol addiction, 3 kids whose lives are absolute messes because he offered no support. They dont care to see him. One goes in his bedroom when he visits. His children dont call him on holidays .the poor guy . Ha!
100% accurate. when i confronted my narc and told her she has no empathy, she replied, what do yo u mean no empathy? (she cries with sad movies) LOL. gosh, her definition of empathy is sooooooo shallow. no empathy = no intimacy = no love.
it took me sooooo long to find out 20+ of hair-pulling, head scratching, doubting, frustrating years.
and we have kids so it’s not so easy.
i’ve started to heal and love myself, listed to music from 20 years ago when it was pre-narc and gosh, was it so freeing.
it’s going to be a long journey, but one that i am determined to finish and will succeed to be free.
Well, I’m back at trying to break free…again.
The emotional and verbal abuse escalated each time I let him back. He’s a ruthless punisher. Blameless. The more tender I am, the more aloof he becomes. I’m A ‘selfish bitch’ in fact! Nice.
But this time I’m armed with more knowledge than I had before.
Or I should say, I’m finally willing to accept the reality of who he is.
Gosh this was good to read. I just got back from the funeral of my narcissist father and I got to see ALL but one of my 7 siblings. It is amazing how not messed up we are for where we came from. But my youngest sister is a narcissist and caused most of the problems. She really fits the adage that 10 percent of the people cause 90 percent of the problems. It has been awhile since we were altogether and I have done therapy specifically about my narc father and the narc finance I left about four years ago. Really — hard as it is to believe — I am grateful for my ex because it helped me finally understand what was wrong with my cruel sadistic father. I am so RELIEVED that he is gone. The stress levels in our family are so much less. I understand our family dynamics now and could observe them without too much hurt thanks to my understanding. I am the oldest and most of my family seems to blame me for leaving home at sixteen and moving five states away. I see now that the limited amount of love my mother had to give dwindled and dwindled and dwindled the farther down the ages you go. I was a kind of mother to everyone and they saw me as abandoning them. But, you know, this blog about codependency has helped so much. It was the first time I understood why I am shunned and I was able to accept and observe and not be too hurt by it. Understanding really helps. And forgiveness. They can’t help it that they needed more love. We all did. A narcissist vampires his own family.
I’ve just recently been told by my phys. that one of reasons they choose us is because we will do precisely that…try to understand them. Over think… Personally, I see this as an endearing feature until it’s abused. She said there are people that fall into the catogary of being over/hyper sensitive- us- we want to understand the other. I think most people do want to understand the other. However, due to our upbrining /circumstances we are too keen to understand. We feel their hurt as if it was our own and worse it’s happening to someone we love, a love that we don’t even accord to ourselves! They, on the other side of the spectrum are also damaged and are so needy, they love the attention…that is before it bores /aggravates them because there is no way they want you to understand them and for you to see the evil that lies within… I have difficulty because I empathise with them, I can feel their fear…imagine how horrible it must be to live with that? This is where you have to be cruel to be kind! Kind to yourself, cut the ties that bind and move on, keep in mind it was they who sucked out all your goodness, pressed on all your insecurity buttons. Yes, we played our part, putting in super human kindness in exchange for their ‘love’. Not your fault, in fact nothing to do with you, they would do it to anyone who would fit the criteria. Hard to accept isn’t it? You weren’t special after all, just a tool for them and you wasted a part of your life serving that purpose. But if you are wise, use that experience as a stepping stone to your own growth. Make inquiries with specialists, discover why you put up with such terrible behaviour and determine to change it. One life, make it a good one for you and those you love. P.S. it’s a short life, so act now!
You hit it spot on for me. I am in narcissist recovery. Need everyone’s words.
Thank you Savannah and thank you Margaret.
I came to Esteemology five years ago when a relationship with a narcissist came to an end.
It took me three years to recover thanks to posts like this.
I never dreamed I’d get sucked in again but I was. I thought I knew all the signs of a narcissist but this one was different. Now, when it’s over, I can see the obvious similarities between them. I feel really foolish.
I just want to warn everyone that unless we arm ourselves with information and work hard in ourselves to raise our love for ourselves, we are still susceptible to these people. Looking back, I can see the red flags waving. Why did I ignore them at the time?
I am working on myself now to stop being codependent. They see us coming!
Hi Savannah. I am your (used to be) silent reader from Indonesia. Your blog & articles had helped me a lot through my painful journey after breaking up with a narc, back in the end of 2016. I went no contact since the day I left. And never looked back.
Two months ago, he showed up and contacted me. I didn’t reply, I deleted his message without reading it. And I can’t be more happy. Yaiiiy! Knowing that finally…finally….he has become irrelevant in my life, and Im not interested in anything about him. Any thing!
Ofcourse during my recovery, there’s things like: a girl suddenly contacted me, and told me that during my relationship with him, they also were in relationship. And even after I left him, he still cheated on her with another girl…….I got insomnia, constipation, and acne popped out on my face….My will to move on was far bigger than my desire to stalk his life….or to pretend I accidentally dial his number…I joined 4 months business class out of town…made new friends and relations….I went on a big hiking trip as a reward to myself…and to embrace a new life
Trust me, it was not easy but its possible…He hurted me a lot, in unimaginable ways….until I drastically lose weight….lose friends….lose my self esteem…and (almost) lose myslef. Rhe decision to leave was hard, but I thought “If not now, when??”
Once again, thanks a lot Savannah……Keep writing..keep inspiring, and encouraging all the women in the world.
Love from Indonesia
A relationship without Empathy…exactly what it was, well said but so depressing to waken up and realise you have spent your finest years with that. And not only that, for as much as I wanted to give my children a better life, it was too hard trying to give my all and receive nothing back. They suck all of your energy, throw out crumbs when absolutely neccessary. Inspite of my best intentions , I would snap and apparently have traumatised them more. I was their mamma, there for them but apparently could be very frightening… What a shame. It breaks my heart now. If we could only do it all over again but we can’t. Just have to somehow to go forward and make amends. Somehow.
I know, Savanah, this site is about growth after the abuse of a narc but do you have any tips on repairing the damage done to the family once we have separated?
Wow! If only I had seen my relationship with my last SO coming! He was verbally abusive and always blamed me for his shortcomings – complete narcisstic behavior. No empathy, no feelings, no expression of love unless it was of benefit to him. I have moved on and looking for Mr right 🙂 now I know what and what not to look for ! Thank you for a great article 🙂
Thank you for sharing your wisdom here on your blog. I feel like this was written just for me. It is a very unsettling place to be caught in the crazy Narcissist cycle. Thank you, Savannah for helping my through your private sessions. They have been invaluable in getting my life back on track.
You are so right on as always. This feels like you wrote it for me… thank you for all your wisdom and for sharing it on this blog so others can break free. And THANK YOU for helping me break free.
omg…this description is so on target…I kept expecting to see a pic of my. I don’t know what to call him…significant other…fiance…
we’ve been together 11 yrs…and I’ve know this is him for 3-4 yrs…and tried to quit the relationship so many times I can’t count….how we are still together is beyond my brain power…
I’m the classic codependent to the max degree….this relationship was a perfect storm…so many levels of misery….
I’ve learned to weave and dodge the pitfalls most days so there is some ascemblance of peace….
but it will always be a house of cards…
I was in a new relationship quite a while back. Everything was going smoothly. He asked me out for a first date. I was looking forward to it. He seemed to have been too. Then poor! 12 hours before the date he texted to cancel. I was hurt. MEVER told him, he continued to text me; but thank God never asked me out again,because I would have said no.
I keep him at arms length. He seems to have a running alphabet list. About every six weeks he gets back to the E ,& attempts to text gaslight. I find it mildly amusing considering our ages. His favorite line three to five texts in is: ” Are you ignoring me? ”
I always want to say Yes, but instead stay as no contact as possible. You would have thought he would have figured out early on when we were first working at the same place that I ignored his flirting in front of me with others. It might have bothered me that he did this, IF we had ever gone out on that date.
Thank you, Savannah. Your articles always come right at the moment when I’ve moved on and begin to think, “was the narc really that bad?” …. YES. It wasn’t just bad – it was hell on earth. Thanks so much for the reminder!
omg. This is spot on.
after a 10 year relationship, you again give me the “ah-ha” moment to see myself in my relationship with my bipolar wife. This blossomed after my stroke, and seizures began a few years ago. Now, as fopr holiday, Christmas at her daughters was horrible disaster. 5 1/2 hours of my attempts to be polite and nice were greeted by insolence and silence. After a hour ride home in silence, completely unnoticed by the wife until i asked what that was all about, did i do anything to these people, only then did she acknowledge what had happened. first, nothing was wrong, no one did or said anything, to you had it coming, to finally rage, i’m going to kill them for this. she didnt mean this really. more for the embarrassment and trouble unleashed it had caused for her.
I am wondering if these behaviors can be passed down either by family genes or by their raising by my wife?
The way the daughter twists and shapes words into hurt with out the specifics, is what the wife as well does.
No one is ever responsible. Never at or admit fault or even the being involved with anything.
Always looking to be rescued and saved for a situation of their own shortsightedness.
in and out of jail, the lot of them.
living from public assistance to juvenile and drug abuse, jail time, 4 of them in family, and all have lost their driving license. dwi. drugs.
oh, lets legalize marijuana, yet, we have not solved the alcohol problems.
its safe , they say!! Its another crutch. the latest and greatest.
How many must die before we wake up?
How many lives must be ruined until this is seen as it really is?
I honestly think these dependence on substances are a indication of our worlds failings. not the height of accomplishments.
Their contribution to mental health issues is greatly being ignored. why?
I was so stupid, to think this woman,my wife,(ex) was someone who could be helped and saved, and made whole to for once in her life be happy and loved.As never before.
This is one area where America is falling flat. The world as well.
condescending to the loud voices of people is never a good idea.
Thank you for the wake up call savannah.
This articel came just at the right time. I’ve recently ended a relationship with someone that fits most of the criteria you described and being a perpetual overthinker (I’m working on that) it answered so many questions for me.
You’re a life saver.