Why Your Relationship with a Narcissist Just Won’t Work in a Nutshell

06 Jul 2021

Nobody leaves an abusive relationship without having asked themselves, endlessly whether, if they had just done more, they could have kept it alive. The answer which, of course we all know but most of us struggle to believe, is that no amount of “more” would ever have been enough. At this point most survivors ask, “But why should that be the case? Why can’t they change? Why won’t it work?” when a much, much better question would be “Why am I not seeing that?”

In this post, I would like to see if I can offer an emotionally satisfying answer to both questions.

Why can’t I make my relationship with a Narcissist work?

First, the “Why can’t I make it work?” question.

Some time ago, I was facing a culinary problem to which my beautiful, stainless steel colander seemed to be the best answer available at the time.  There was just one small problem: to make the solution work, I would need to stop up the holes.

The one possible solution that I came up with (and I blush even writing this now) was to try covering up all the holes with plastic wrap (cling film). For me, plastic wrap has always been the next best thing to magic. However, there is a difference between real world magic and Lala Land magic.

My plastic wrap – or more correctly, my thinking – was just not up to the job.

As I washed my beautiful, costly Alessi colander, I remembered the wasband’s words when I bought it. “What a waste of money! That thing will look like sh*t in no time.”

Not for the first time, he got it completely wrong. Decades later, my colander looks as good – while the wasband looks like… well, you can fill in the blanks for me.

That stainless steel colander has been a better friend to me than the wasband ever was because one served a practical purpose.

The other, like all abusive loved ones, was just an emotional colander.

An emotional colander

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter how much love, support and care you pour into an emotional colander, it will still wash right through it.

Nor can you plug the holes.

No amount of emotional cling film – as we call it in the UK – will stop all the love that you pour into that emotional colander slipping through it.

That is the actual reason why your relationship with a narcissist will never work.

The real reason why your relationship with a narcissist won’t work

Their design is all wrong.

In the normal way, we have a love tank that we keep filled by giving and receiving love. All that the Narcissist has is a colander. They hold onto nothing and they give back nothing.

Yes, we all know that they can stay in a relationship. But you know exactly what kind of relationship they can stay in – a For Appearances Only relationship.

That takes us on to the second question:

“What am I not seeing?”

In an abusive relationship, the thing that you are not seeing is what is really going on. You are not seeing the proverbial wood for the trees.

Having done this work for as long as I have, I know that the reason why even highly intelligent, intuitive women – and men – don’t see the reality because they have been totally bamboozled by the Narcissist’s sleight of mouth.

Narcissists are verbal and emotional illusionists

They are great verbal and emotional illusionists. They constantly use language to take you down a wrong path.

On the one hand, they always find a way to “prove” that everything is your fault. On the other, they keep drip-feeding you the promise of Everything You Ever Wanted.

They will promise you:

  • The dreams
  • The family
  • The lifestyle
  • The Happily Ever After
  • The acknowledgement that they do really care…

Provided you just keep trudging towards the Rainbow’s End, performing a particular version of the 77 Labors of Hercules that they set you – only with the twist that Hercules finally made it home, while you have your heart set on a home that you never actually had in the first place.

What you are not seeing – or at least not believing – is the evidence.

Trust the evidence

I know that in some of the best detective stories the apparent evidence can lie. But reality tends to be less Byzantine. What you get tends to be a pretty effective indication of what is there to be got.

All the evidence points to the fact that you are dealing with an emotional colander. Not just that but an exceptionally poorly designed one that scrapes your skin off virtually every time you touch the damned thing.

When you are trying to turn that damned emotional colander into a magnificent stock pot that you could use to nourish an entire family – or whatever else your heart desires – the whole world seems to narrow down to that one faulty utensil. You forget that there is so much more to Life than one faulty utensil.

What we all miss in an abusive relationship is that the only way NOT to lose is to stop fighting reality. Reality won’t stop you from fighting with it for as long as you want to. But you will lose. An emotional colander will never change. All that you can ever have “with” it, is an empty love tank.

Your relationship with a Narcissist was predestined to fail because they were unfit for purpose from the get-go. You don’t need to focus on their likely personality disorder, damaging upbringing or anything else. Facts don’t lie. Narcissists surely do.

P.S. Never, would I have thought all those years ago that my actual, beloved colander would make a guest appearance on my blog. And yet, here we are. I can almost see it grinning with delight. Some things are just meant to last. Others are not.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

6 thoughts on “Why Your Relationship with a Narcissist Just Won’t Work in a Nutshell”

  1. I would just like to say thank you for taking time to eamil me something i needed to hear very much its the most support ive had since 2 months the pandemic started im just happy to read rhis today very much and will set a session as soon as i can and thank you so much i hope you have an awesome day and loved hearing everything you helped me see

  2. This is spot on! I’ve become free of my narcissist, but I’m going to remember this analogy when trying to help other people. Thanks!


Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd