How comfortable do you feel with drawing a line in the sand and saying, “You know what? This is actually your problem and I am not going to make it mine?”
Or does it make you feel uncomfortable because it was something that an abuser used to detach from you – most commonly when you most needed their support?
You see, being about to distinguish between what is and is not your problem is a big part of healing from narcissistic about. You need to be able to place a successful boundary about what is and what is not your responsibility. It is profoundly liberating to be able to say,
“Yes, I accept that this much is my “stuff” to deal with. But that is not. That is yours.”
I heard my ex-husband’s voice
I’ll admit that when I started writing the first draft of today’s blog post, I was thinking from one standpoint. Then, when I looked at what I had written today, I suddenly heard my ex-husband’s voice saying,
“Not my problem”.
Pretty much anything that I was going through was “not his problem”. When my father was dying of leukaemia, that was not his problem. It wasn’t happening to him and he had no particular fondness (reciprocated) for my father so had no intention of engaging with the situation.
He had no intention of making my distress his problem.
Instead, he told me, in so many words, that he could not support me through it.
The narcissistic denial of support
Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissistic person has experienced that chilling denial of support. Narcissists operate on the principle that the more you need support – unless there are some very real rewards in it for them – the less support you will get.
So, what happens when we empaths are subjected to that kind of rejection?
4 key responses to rejection
I believe that four key things happen that will affect the way we do all our relationships until such time as we rethink our responses.
1) We learn just how painful it is to be cut loose when we most need someone to be around for us.
2) We vow not to do that to anyone – because, as ever, we seek to compensate for your suffering by trying to ensure that nobody else has to suffer as we did..
3) We become incapable of assessing the difference between offering appropriate emotional support and feeling that we have to make everything right for someone who is undergoing difficulties.
4) We spare the other person the trouble of responding like an adult.
How we end up carrying a narcissistic partner emotionally
Let me give you an example which might help to clarify what I am saying. Early in my married life, Mr Nasty and I emigrated to his country. We both were deeply unhappy there and decided to relocate to the UK. However, his narcissistic parents (the in-laws-from-hell) wanted us there for the head count.
They pulled every possible mind game and guilt trip on him that they possibly could. We had our flights booked, everything packed but even when we got to the airport I wasn’t sure that his parents wouldn’t prevail.
(What I didn’t realise at the time was that I represented the slightly less bad option because, unlike his parents, I was encouraging rather than controlling. But I was young and naïve at the time.)
We left his country, got to our next port of call and he underwent something akin to a nervous breakdown. He was acutely depressed and barely functional.
And he got me to carry him emotionally – despite the fact that I was pretty traumatised myself.
Only years later when I was talking with a woman whose brother-in-law had been through the same kind of mental collapse did I rethink that period of my life. The woman’s sister told her husband,
“I love you and I want to support you. However, I cannot be responsible for coping with your mental health problems. You need to see a psychologist/psychotherapist. All I can do is be your life. But if you are not willing to take responsibility for your own mental health, then I cannot be around you.”
Support does not mean trying to solve another person’s emotional problems.
You are there to be their loving companion.
Love does not mean carrying a dead weight who refuses to help him or herself.
And that is the difference between the narcissistic way of saying something is “Not my problem” and the empath’s way of doing it.
We empaths want to be there for our loved ones. But we cannot afford to do that at unlimited emotional cost to ourselves.
Narcissists, on the other hand, refuse to tolerate anything – such as a distressed, bereaved or sick partner – that interferes with the smooth running of their life.
How comfortable are you with setting a boundary?
How comfortable do you feel with putting a limit – or, if you prefer, a boundary – around what you are prepared to take responsibllity for? How good are you at saying,
“Yes, I will accept that this is my “stuff” to deal with. But, actually, that is not.
A Narcissistic relationship can brainwash you so effectively into thinking that everything is your responsibility that it can be hard to break that pattern.
This week I’ve been hearing from a few clients who naturally assumed that anything and everything that happened in and around the relationship with an abusive partner was their problem. These are women who have done a certain amount of healing and know that you cannot heal from what you do not take responsibility for.
That is true – as far as it goes.
But another part of healing means saying,
“You know what? That is actually not my problem and I am not going to make it mine.”
There really are limits to your responsibility and it can be incredibly empowering to start to recognise them. If you struggle with setting a boundary, then my Breaking Old Patterns Toolkit could be just what you need to provide you with the tools, the blueprint and the confidence that you lack.
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.
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.