“Emotional Abuser, Narcissist, or…?”

by Annie Kaszina on December 1, 2015

confused“ Emotional abuser, or narcissist, Annie?” E. asked. For a lot of women, whether or not their partner is an emotional abuser – or Narcissist – becomes the most important question.   Someone has to be accountable for the mayhem in the relationship.  If their resident tormentor and fault-finder is emotionally abusive and/or a Narcissist, then he is, clearly, at fault.

If, on the other hand, he doesn’t tally with the textbook definition of an emotional abuser or Narcissist then, clearly, everything that has gone wrong in the relationship must be their fault.

I went down that road myself, many years ago. Unfortunately, my best efforts at establishing whether or not my Mr Nasty was a Narcissist (back then, I hadn’t even come across the term ‘emotional abuse’) ended in dismal failure.  I was bright enough to get a Ph.D. but not, it seemed, to establish whether or not Mr Nasty was a true Narcissist.

How many of the Narcissist boxes did I need to tick to be certain I wasn’t making the proverbial Horrible Mistake? 

In the end, his constant Nasty outbursts* distracted me from my quest.

That’s is as good a starting point as any from which to approach the whole conundrum of what kind of toxic Mr Nasty really is.

Ego Depletion

The reason I couldn’t come down on one side of the fence or the other regarding my Mr Nasty was this splendid thing called Ego Depletion.  Now, I’m not a great lover of psychological labels, but Ego Depletion makes a lot of sense to me.

Ego Depletion simply argues that emotional resources are finite.  When you run yourself ragged trying to deny reality and make your life with another person other than it is, that consumes a huge amount of emotional energy.  That’s energy you don’t have for other things.

To put it another way; suppose you have $1,500 in the bank to cover all your costs for an entire month.  Your car breaks down.  You have to have a $1,000 repair.  That leaves you with a balance of $500.  Simple as that.

Like so many other women, I couldn’t get clear on what kind of toxic my Mr Nasty was because  – owing to the serious lack of ‘funds’ in my emotional bank.- I couldn’t think straight.

When you’re low on emotional funds, first off, you need to tighten your emotional belt.  You can’t afford to waste limited resources on pointless luxuries.

Eliminate pointless luxuries

Worrying whether your partner is an emotional abuser, or a Narcissist is precisely that: a pointless luxury.

How can I be so sure?

Because you feel SO bad around him.  That happens because his behavior is some kind of toxic.

Not all of the time, maybe.

But enough of it.

When you’re with this man – your ‘partner’ – you can feel worse than you’ve ever felt in your entire life: more worthless, more isolated, more judged, and more rejected.

Sure, it doesn’t start like that – he’s not a complete idiot, after all.

But once the relationship becomes ‘established’, you find you spend more and more of your time around him feeling AWFUL.

You could choose to put that down to pure coincide, and focus on his elusive ‘Potential’.

Or else, you could face up to the obvious: someone who loves you in the way you need to feel loved would never make you feel that way.  While someone who – at best, doesn’t care how bad you feel and, at worst, actively wants you to feel terrible – doesn’t love you.

So, does it really matter what kind of label he best fits if you’re stuck in some kind of war of attrition – and you’re the one constantly being worn down?

It’s hard to imagine how someone who behaves that way could possibly be anything other than a deliberate emotional abuser.  Whether or not he is a Narcissist may be harder to establish.  (For an interesting and informed view on the whole Narcissism debate, you might like to read “Cracked” by James Davies.)

Are you justified in walking away?

Suppose, purely for the sake of argument, Ego Depletion clouds the issue, and you don’t feel he ticks enough of the emotional abuser, or Narcissist, boxes.  Do you still have a legitimate right to walk away?

He’s someone who makes you feel very, very bad.

If you feel it is your duty – or your destiny – to accept endless ill-treatment at the hands of a ‘partner’, then you might as well stay. If you are okay with conferring on him a de facto License to Be Nasty, then you don’t need to do anything.

But if you experience his emotional cruelty, neglect, and contempt, as a violation, then you need to focus on an effective exit strategy: walking away, but without losing any more than you have already lost.

And if you need an ‘industry label’ to replace emotional abuser and Narcissist, and validate what you’re feeling, here’s one that fits like a – well, glove:  a**hole.  Even if he scrubs up well on occasion, wears his clothes well, and can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, he’s an a**hole.

Do you really want to be around someone like that?

*A ‘Nasty outburst’ is shorthand for critical, blaming, hurtful, unprovoked, spiteful, and rejecting behaviors.

 

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