When you are in a place of needing someone to the point of obsession you are on very dangerous ground. Not only have you surrendered your power, you have also traded your inner peace for chaos.
Being all-in in a relationship doesn’t mean surrendering your identity and allowing yourself to become lost in it. It means that you are committed to the relationship and your partner, while still maintaining your autonomy, interests, hobbies and other meaningful relationships.
Intimacy is an incredible gift, but it’s only one part of a full life. It’s not supposed to destroy you. Ask any healthy couple and they will tell you if their partner suddenly started acting irrationally – became an addict, cheated, or started spending the family finances erratically, you can bet they’d be on their way out.
Healthy people love their partners and they build attachments that go far beyond the physical or any manner of gain a relationship might grant them, while still maintaining a healthy level of detachment. Self-care is always at the forefront of their actions and they do not tolerate anyone or thing that threatens that for very long.
Life In The Fish Bowl
When you’re involved with an emotional manipulator it’s like falling for an antagonist who disguises themselves as a love interest. From the get-go they are on a mission to harm and take from you, to get you to fall for them and to cloud and confuse your judgement. The lying, the gas lighting and all the manipulation are all designed to keep you from the truth and to keep you in a fog.
The more they disappoint and hurt you, the more eroded your expectations become. They condition you through emotional abuse and you become numb to your reality. So numb, in fact, that acts of cheating, lying, using, disrespect and their indifference, become standard practice with little to no objection or reaction from you.
it’s like being in a mental prison, where your will has betrayed you. Your will stops seeking a level of self-care and instead becomes bent towards their happiness and not rocking the boat.
In this reality you’re constantly anxious wondering when they will come and go and leave you again. You’re always on your toes trying not to do anything that will get them to leave. You’re ignoring your instincts and instead of fleeing, you cling tighter and tighter. All you want to do is make them happy so you do things you never thought you would. You go to great lengths to hold their interest and in so doing, you are lost. Your self-esteem is lost and your dignity is lost. All of you becomes so heavily invested in keeping their interest, that everything else is abandoned including yourself.
When they leave, which they inevitably will, you are destroyed. You couldn’t have given any more of yourself and it still wasn’t enough and that is a crushing blow.
The first time around you are destroyed, the second time a little less, the third and forth times you have come to expect it. Each time they keep you in a fish bowl where you’re kept marinating, while they do whatever it is they need to do. You are feed a constant diet of ghosting and disrespect. Your expectations for the relationship have been reduced to getting to spend time with them whenever it suits them – everything is totally on their terms. Whenever you have a request, they are vague and non-committal in their response. You can’t pin them down for anything. It’s as if the slightest possibility of doing anything else is preferable than spending time with you.
Life in the fishbowl is agony. You spend all your time thinking about what they are doing and whom they’re doing it with. You’ve been conditioned into a state of obsession. The damage this has done to your psyche and self-esteem is beyond measure. You are in a constant state of anxiety and chaos and the impact on your day to day functioning is severe. You’re no longer focusing on you, your goals, your interests or friends. Your whole life is a mess and yet you are bent on getting them to come back to you, so that this time you can give just that little bit more, so that they will choose you. They may come back, they may choose you, but it will just be temporary and back in the fish bowl you go.
A Healthier Way of Being
When you have lived in the fishbowl you will come to realize that the most important thing in life is your peace of mind. When you’re in a place of calm and contentment you feel good, in control and optimistic. You feel like you can do anything. You’re not anxious and afraid. You’re able to focus on your goals, you’re empowered and your mind is free to go wherever it wants to, free of obsessive thoughts and negative emotions. There’s no fog. You’re connected to your emotions, not numb. You make better decisions, and you focus on your own well-being.
You come to realize that everything that you were so afraid to let go of was killing you. When you escape the fishbowl, you will never ever want to go back in. The fishbowl is like a time-sucker and every minute you spend there, you’ll never get back.Inner peace is not a place you have to find, or get to, it’s something that you create inside of you. It’s your inner strength, your commitment to you. It is precious and must be protected at all times.
When you find yourself in a relationship and your emotions are pulling you to a place of discomfort, that’s when you know you’ve gone to far away from your power. Pull back and learn to love without giving yourself away. If you’re in a situation that requires that of you – get out of it. That’s your cue, your warning signal.
If you choose to engage in toxic relationships know that the person you’ve fallen for has consciously been out to destroy you since the day you met. Know that there will be no happily ever after, no sunset to ride off in, everything is artificial.
You can choose to have a partner that you can’t trust, who will drop you at a moment’s notice, who makes your body, mind and soul a living hell. Who the ‘f’ wants that? No thank you. I’ll take peace, stability, harmony and balance, thank you. It is priceless and the most important thing in the world. With it you can create universes. Without it you sit in a pit of despair, watching your own mind turn on itself.
You decide – stay in the fishbowl or inner peace?
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I have just about come out the other side of being with a covert narcissist for a few years. Cutting the final cords to the little chameleon of darkness now. The best thing is I now no longer search for answers as there are none so after accepting that I became free of her.
I am somewhere now I wasn’t sure I would ever get to after going to places I didn’t know existed in me – stronger and at peace. I can see right through people now and when they speak I know if they are genuine or not. My perceptions have been heightened for the better and I can deal with what is ever thrown my way. It actually feels good. I can actually feel what it used to be like before and I like it.
I have stopped my incessant reading of articles about how they operate but this is the ONE article I come back to now and again for comfort out of all of them to just reaffirm my thoughts about what I went through and more importantly what I need to do. Thank you Savannah, Your writing style and ability to communicate the pain and way forward in such a manner is a credit to you.
To all those reading and still in the midst of pain and darkness, It is so hard isn’t it but my advice is to look objectively at the actions of the narc you are with and not their words. Silence their voice in your head, turn down their lies and manipulation, and again, look at their actions. What does it tell you? Nothing else needs to be said or considered. I used to let out a long loud expletive when I thought of their actions but they are not worth it. Not one bit.
When I read what others have written above I feel like I know you, and if I met you, I would give you a big hug and nothing would have to be said as we would have an understanding. Mind you, the conversation would be crazy wouldn’t it.
Just remember when you say enough is enough you are saving yourself and you need to realize that with all of YOUR heart.
Final thing, this experience has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life and, for that, I am grateful because it has made me a better person, not only for me, but for everyone around me. I never ever thought I would say that but it is true.
Love yourself. Its beautiful.
So well explained.
I feel like i have not just married a narcissist but a psychopath.
Together for 8 years, after the 4th I was being prepped to go from the ocean into the fishbowl, only i didn’t notice because of naivety…Young, dumb and free.
Next week I have court, to fight for my right to keep my child.
The fishbowl is one of the worst feelings on this world we could get lost in.
However it defines us as a person how we deal with situations and people, wether this is a week after or 8 years after.
Amazing way of playing a with words, and touching hearts because it was so hard for me to give a real explanation on where I was stuck for years… and you def. describe it best as fishbowl.
Thanks. Wish I had the funds to pay you for a session !!
Thank you Savannah! This article descibes exactly how I was feeling in the relationship with the narcissist. We were only together for a few months but during that time I changed completely. He doesn’t fit the usual description of a N – not physically abusive, didn’t put me down, didnt’ talk himself up etc but what he did do was make me feel so unsure and insecure. I developed anxiety and insomnia as he would manipulate me by withholding his time, affection and attention. Build me up then gently tear me down so I didn’t even realise what was happening. It was a a lot of little behaviours that eroded away at my self-esteem. I felt like I was on egg-shells most of the time, worrying and wondering, second guessing and over thinking everything. This article has put in words what I was feeling but couldn’t express. Thank you.
We were married for 12 years before the narcissistic ways started showing its ugly head. For 12 years there were love notes, flowers, great sex, and as fast as you can snap your fingers he changed. I was told I was a hoarder, a thief, and other names. He told me he was through traveling, he had finished his bucket list. When I replied I still had places I wanted to see and go, he told me to go. Then I was told he did’t love me anymore. I was wife number 4. The lies were horrible. He told me that his PTSD doctor said he needed to get on the deed of MY home. He told me he had stage 3 almost stage 4 kidney disease. I said you haven’t even seen a kidney doctor or on any meds, Or on dialysis . He said there was nothing they could do for him. Now he claims he needs a Cornia transplant.
My oldest daughter and husband came in as the kidney disease conversation was on going. My youngest daughter said she never saw any of the things I mentioned. After we seperated friends and relatives couldn’t believe he was that type of person. He hid the narcissism well.
I asked him to go to couples conciling, he said NO. By then I was already in conciling.
The final straw was when I fell “shattered” my wrist and he refused to take me for medical care because it was 1:30 am on a Friday and ERs are poorly staffed and besides he said it was only sprained. Then he tried to get me to lie that it had happened the night before. (I don’t drink). Now I just had my 3rd wrist surgery.
I am 72 years old and am doing ok after establishing a “no contact” because he is just to toxic to me. It took me 3 years to get him out of the house. Now I need to get him out of my mind so I can trust again.
I read and reread these articles over and over for strength. Thanks Savannah for the great articles, you have helped me a lot
Currently letting go and moving on… One thing that crossed my mind today was how to get revenge on a narc, I soon found out it’s best not to even try. I will stick to my guns and not do anything but get back to a happy place. Ignore him completely.
You have one of the best blogs on this topic!!
Everything you write rings true for me.
It’s so hard to accept how wrong I was about this person I thought was My beloved.
One of many truths I now fully accept:
someone insisting on ‘unconditional love and trust’ Without question
Is most likely the calling card of an abuser.
An additional warning: he lets you question him in the beginning. Until you’re hooked..until your HIS…
But there’s an expiration date on that beautiful transparency and communication you enjoyed in the beginning.
The milk sours and you’ll never drink fresh milk again.
Wishing all of you love and light.
“The fishbowl is like a time-sucker and every minute you spend there, you’ll never get back.”
So true. In my case about five years from age 54 to 59. All you can do is try to make up for it by looking to the future and living your own life to the full. I’m doing that!
“…falling for an antagonist who disguises themselves as a love interest…” That was one of the hardest things to accept when I was first reading “The Psychopath Next Door,” and other N books: that Ns actually want to destroy you! But its true, just like Savannah says. You have just entered the lair of a predator and enemy. I would say it took about a year after I left for me to truly grasp that fact. But now that I have I see how Ns of all types and in many different roles and walks of life do this. My father did this, several of the men in my past (that I now see for the father-repeats they were) and even co-workers and women I once had as friends. I guess they would rather create and battle with an outer enemy than their own inner demons. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I cannot afford to project my own motivations of love and win/win on these people. They just use my goodness against me. I have had to let go of a certain naivete but I am so much more at peace.
This couldn’t have come at a better time! Once again I wanted to believe him. Was co-orced into paying for my own ticket to meet him which he
Insisted I purchase but he would repay me, 🙂 insisted I address him as MASTER in my correspondence, had to sign emails as “ your bitch!” Refused to pick me up at the airport, changed his mind on that four times, finally was told to UBER to a museum & he would pick me up there. All he wants is REVENGE because a year and a half ago I asked him to leave my home earlier than he had planned. I had LOTS of reasons then for asking, of course he returned a few days later acting like we were fine. It’s been mentally and emotionally draining and exhausting for the entire TWO years I have known him but somehow he ALWAYS makes me think I am to blame. I have apologized about asking him to leave hundreds of times, he has NEVER apologized for anything! This time I texted him SIX TIMES in the day preceding my trip and asking him if I could be SURE he was planning on picking me up at that museum. Finally writing him that IF he didn’t confirm our plans I was not coming. No response. I cancelled everything am stuck with a $600 non refundable ticket and he says now he was busy writing and didn’t ck. His emails. He is a writer BUT I was very apprehensive about this flight because it was SO difficult with three plane changes which I am NOT use to. He finally saw the emails & I wrote the last one saying he was a sociopath and I couldn’t take anymore! He never apologized, instead writes I am mentally unwell and he is sending a “caregiver” to live with me FOREVER, says if I don’t agree to this we are “DONE!” He has done so much mentally to me during these two years I might be crazy by now BUT I know I am not. My friends are horrified that I continued to see him and agree to his increasingly wierder demands. He won’t give me his phone number now and he has moved to California so the only was we could communicate was thru emails. It’s over finally BUT I am left doubting myself, wondering how I could let him treat me like this for do long! I am not sure I have ANY self respect left. He has convinced me that I caused all our problems. I NEVER cheated, lied or did anything but expect a normal relationship. This article has helped me today, I keep reading it but I feel like I will never be myself again! Thank you for your great insight, I read them faithfully BUT obviously I needed more help in order to get away from him than you can provide. He has had me in a hypnotic state for TWO YEARS. These people are SO convincing and manipulative AND they destroy you if you stay involved!
Belle if you would like to book an appointment to Skype with me send me an email.
Excellent insight as always… Thank you, Savannah. I still refer back to so many of your articles..(harem one, interview w Max….SO GOOD!) You are awesome.
For anyone who has not left the fishbowl yet – yes, you can do it – and you can make sure you never go back!!! You go NC and stay NC with the narc. The fog will lift and be replaced with anger for allowing this POS into your life (most of us realize at this point, that we have known other narcs throughout our lives – but this one just tipped the scales — which was a blessing in a way because it gave us what we needed to say — NEVER AGAIN!)
and, eventually, the anger fades into disgust, and then into nothing.
You have a fresh start! You now know all of the narc BS, and you will not stick around for any of this type of nonsense again. And, if you’re not sure about the person — ask questions — remember “dating is for gathering data” (R.C. Blakes quote).
Narcs hate questions and love to keep you busy with sweeping you off of your feet/getting you emotionally hooked–questions really grind that process to a halt. Anyone who really cares about you will take time to get to know you – give you plenty of time to ask questions and they will be building a foundation — they will want to make sure you feel loved, protected, cared for and a priority – exactly the opposite of the narc. Hopefully, as we all get uber-healthy 🙂 the only people left for narcs will be other narcs….but, really, who cares? Blessings <3
Oh my God! Everything you write is what I’ve experienced and now experiencing it again!!
After almost 5 years last September I finally broke loose from the narcissist. And guess what?!
A month later I come across another one but this time he was a gentleman. And he kept the mask untill I moved closer to where he live. Now it’s been 11 months I know him. I can say he was keeping this mask beautifully for 9 months. But later on gradually from time to time, I can see the the glimpse of the evil. Now I know who am I dealing with. And God I need to get away soon. I have started to lose my hopes about finding the person who is decent and my true friend and lover..
This is the one, Savannah!!!! . I reread this over and over when I’m feeling like I should have tried harder to make the relationship work. Your ability to put in writing exactly how I am feeling is EXTRODINARY. I can’t wait for your book.
With Gratitude for all your help
Spot on…they twist your mind to a state of confusion that is bewildering in itself…and in my case once he was gone I continued the behaviour I was used to by wandering down the path of self-destruct.
This article makes total sense of that…thank you.
I was a hazard of sex. My dad was the first fish in the bowl. I was the second. We were fished out whenever the narsicistic family member needed to look good. They say we marry our mothers.
I can attest to the fact that we do. Twice. Now I see me in my son’s girlfriend. And it scares me, because he is in some sick game with her narcissistic mother to win her daughter.
I have sent this to my ex.
No doubt it will not be read, much less understood.
Years of therapy, 12 years of my life of patient understanding and forgiveness. and spending. and storytelling. of poor me.
its nice to know i am not alone.
Ha, ha, ha! You sent it to your ex even that you know that even if he reads it he won’t understand it. That is a clever way of revenge! I just couldn’t help but chuckle!
It was a waste if time. You can also accomplish the benefit by writing his name on a cracker… crushing it… and throwing the crumbs to the fish in the nearest pond. At least it would feed something. Your pain and feelings are real. I used to think I had the share my revelations with the culprit… but, that was like barking at a wall. If it helps to share, great! Turn the page and start writing your life in more positive pursuits and colors. Avoid the grey.
“it” was a she. women do this as well. clinically diagnosed bi polar and narcissitic.
when i sent it, it was meant as a final ray of hope for her. To open her mind and eyes to her wasted life.
i feel nothing but compassion for her.
I have spent my life working with retarded and disabled adults. and learned to differentiate between the illness, and the person.
my sympathy to anyone on either side of this …
Fantastic!! Perfectly worded! I’ve been there, 25 years of it, and you explained it perfectly.
Absolutely true. Never tell them you do not feel like joining them to go somewhere or do something together,when asked. They will make sure you never go anywhere with them again, and they stick to it. These people are mentally strong, and don’t realize it. They are insecure and weak, yet strong enough to play these mind games.
I know how Narcissium starts, and or what it is due too. How young does narcissium begain within the brain ?
As a narcissist, I imagine it probably started – as most things do – when I was young. Now this is objectively speaking, here – not me trying to rope anybody in (lol) I had an older sister who died when I was 6 years old, she was 8. It completely screwed my parents up, and while they greived, I was mostly abandoned – again, this is not blaming them. I cannot imagine how painful losing a little girl must be. This is something we have spoken about as adults since then – they hvae apologized for not doing things like taking me to therapy and instead focusing entirely on themselves, and I have done my best to forgive them, etc.
However, the fact that they were often leaning on MY shoulder when I was at such a young age, the only way I could get recognized at all was to exaggerate whatever condition I was in – my apparent pain had to be strong enough to overcome not only their own depression and anguish over their daughter, but also the inertia and emotional distance there was between us. That is likely where the strategy began to take shape.
What a mess, being animals is.