7 thoughts on “Statements That May be Helpful for “Normal” Couples, But are Destructive in Abusive/Narcissistic Relationships

  • July 9, 2018 at 7:16 am

    With narcissistic abuse and autistic abuse being almost identical, it is important to mention the latter in any related articles. Partners of autistics, the so-called “high functioning” suffer immensely and invisibly, with no support from professionals, family, friends.
    We end up sick, exhausted, and crazy with the world telling us that it’s our fault, just like our “partners” do.
    How many women and their children suffer in this incredibly debilitating scenario? While the abuser enjoys validation, support and kudos for being such an amazing guy?
    Time to wake up.

    • July 10, 2018 at 10:49 am

      I wrote an article on the differences between narcissism and Asperger’s. Here’s an unformatted copy:

      As a therapist working with people affected by someone else’s personality condition, I’m often asked the question, “How do I know if my partner is a narcissist or if they have Asperger’s?” This is an interesting question. I did some research in order to give justice to this topic.
      For one thing, both are on a spectrum. Narcissism is a personality condition that ranges from mild to severe. In the most severe instances, the person demonstrates sociopathic tendencies or antisocial personality.
      Autism also resides on a spectrum. It is a neurologically caused developmental condition. Prior to 2012, people with mild symptoms, considered “high functioning,” were identified as having Asperger’s syndrome. With the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this label disappeared, replaced by autism spectrum.
      Since mirror neurons are part of the brain’s social interaction system—involved with social cues, imitation, empathy, and the ability to decode intentions of others—some scientists have found that people on the autism spectrum have a dysfunctional mirror neuron system (University of California, San Diego, 2005). It appears mirror neurons also play a role in personality condition-related issues.
      An emotionally neglectful childhood, involving parents who did not empathize, may result in narcissistic traits in adulthood. It has been suggested that this occurs because of under-utilized mirror neurons in childhood, which leads to dysfunctional mirror neurons in adulthood (Kellevision, 2015).
      Here is a table depicting some of the similarities and differences between the two conditions. Can you see your loved one’s symptoms in either column? Could it be your loved one displays symptoms of both?

      High-Functioning Autism (Asperger’s) Narcissism
      Does not understand social interaction Manipulative

      Does not do silent treatment Uses silent treatment as a weapon
      You can say no May punish you if you say no
      Does not do guilt trips
      Uses guilt trips as a manipulative tool
      Does not sit on the “pity pot” Feels sorry for themselves and envious of others’ successes
      Clueless about damage they cause even though they can be hurtful and selfish
      Hurts other people’s feelings and doesn’t care
      Lacks empathy, but is not malicious Lacks empathy, and may be malicious
      Lacks intuition Has intuition and uses it to get narcissistic supply
      Not connected to their feelings Hyper-connected to their feelings
      Tends to be one-dimensional Tends to flip into different modes or personalities (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde)
      Does not blame others Tends to blame others
      Wants a playbook (structure and predictability) Wants chaos and control
      Triggered by lack of familiarity Triggered by ego threats

      On a spectrum from low functioning to high functioning On a spectrum from “normal”-range behavior to psychopathy/antisocial personality

      Not sensitive Insensitive

      If Someone You Care About Is on the Autism Spectrum
      If you are in a relationship with a person on the autism spectrum, it is helpful to know how to take care of yourself. Here are some tips:
      • Be in the right “head space.”
      • Take charge of your own life. It is helpful to be flexible and adaptable.
      • Understand you have to do things on your own. Your partner will probably not be able to do the things that are important to you—at least not in a satisfying manner. Rather than getting upset by this, I recommend practicing acceptance. It is liberating to understand the situation and adjust yourself accordingly rather than expecting the situation to adjust to you.
      • Realize you can teach a person on the autism spectrum how to be different. This will require patience and perseverance. Do not be satisfied with the status quo; instead, get in there and help your loved one learn how to relate to you in a healthy way.
      • Recognize that if your partner hurts you, it is not intentional. Don’t take it personally and don’t be surprised. They do not do this to be controlling, feed their ego, or fulfill a personal need for superiority.
      • Research and study autism and learn what you can to have compassion for your partner.
      If Someone You Care About Has a Personality Condition
      If you are with a person with a personality condition such as narcissism, then you may have similar unfulfilled relationship issues, as well as the added bonus of emotional abuse. Following are some suggestions for coping with this type of relationship:
      • Observe the person’s behavior, don’t absorb it.
      • Understand that people with narcissism do not cooperate or collaborate well; you will have to learn to be independent in this type of relationship.
      • Do not expect the person to ever have empathy or compassion for you.
      • Develop healthy, happy connections within other relationships. Don’t expect them in your relationship with the person with narcissism.
      • Recognize that your partner may derive pleasure from hurting you. Why may be difficult to understand. Study the concept of “narcissistic supply” and you will discover that people with narcissism are “fed” by the reactions they get. It may help the person feel in control, superior, or powerful.
      • Realize you may not be able to teach a person with narcissism how to be different. No matter how much patience and perseverance you have, you may discover nothing works to change the other person. You can only change yourself.
      • Research and study personality conditions and learn to have compassion for yourself.
      1. Goulston, M. (2011, November 17). Just listen – Don’t confuse a narcissist with Asperger’s syndrome. Retrieved from—dont-confus_b_316169.html
      2. Kellevision, (2015, August 6). Psychopaths, autism, empathy, and mirror neurons. Retrieved from
      3. Oberman, K., & Ramachandan, V. (2007, June 1). Broken mirrors: A theory of autism. Scientific American. Retrieved from
      4. University of California, San Diego. (2005, April 18). Autism linked to mirror neuron dysfunction. Retrieved from

      • August 2, 2018 at 4:28 pm

        I believe it is a grave mistake to assume that these two spectrums are mutually exclusive. I personally had a relationship with someone who was on BOTH spectrums. Since their origins are dissimilar, it is illogical to think they could not co-exist. Yes! We need to be careful not to assume a person on the autism spectrum is a narcissist because of their inability to show the empathy they actually have; however, it is dangerous for a victim of someone on the autism spectrum to assume their behavior is only due to their autism, when in fact their abusive behavior (which you pointed out is not typical of autism) is actually due to the co-existence of narcissism.

  • July 9, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Wow, I’ve never seen an article that addresses these things as succinctly as this, it pulls together the “advice” I experienced and still do to this day and I divorced my Malignant Narcissist 12 yrs ago! I can’t tell you how not being believed and these type of responses were extremely hurtful, I had to deal with this and his soul crushing abuse that murdered my former self. Ugh

  • July 11, 2018 at 4:06 am

    How can I read full comments?

  • July 11, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    The only other thing I would add to these wise words would be to keep your finances separate. Do NOT let them have any access whatever & make sure you have several ways out. Financial control is disastrous for you in the long run.

  • July 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    I could have used this ten years ago!! I was young (29) and believed all of those common phrases while my Narcissist spun the web around me.

    Every abuse had an explanation that I gave him the benefit of the doubt with. I never stopped to think it was a pattern; I always accepted it as an anomaly every time.

    I believed it DID “take two to tango” and that I was clearly part of the problem with all of my insecurities and lack of self-awareness of how those insecurities affected the people around me (these were the exact words of my Narcissist to me).

    I wholeheartedly believed that “the two of us were just a ‘bad fit’ bringing the worst out of each other.” Every time I bought into that logic, I was willing to “work on things” with him. Toward the end, I realized that he expected me to completely change while he sat back sipping Mai Tais and enjoyed watching me spin my wheels.

    And spun my wheels, I did! I believed in my heart of hearts that if I just loved him hard enough, he would finally wake up and see what an amazing person I am and how lucky he is to have me, the person who stuck around through all of the bullshit because she LOVED him so much. That’s real love. What a sucker I was.

    I forgave him over and over again (I left him four times during our ten years together). Each subsequent offense was worse and worse. It got to the point where he’d sleep with his ex-GF while we were still together because we were headed toward break-up-ville and thus “technically not together,” he’d say. He expected me to “just let it go” because “this was how he handled losing me; he couldn’t help it; he was simply wired that way.”

    It got so bad that he would tell me to “quit reading into things” and “stop being so sensitive.” Eventually, he said things like, “You need to understand the hierarchy here” and “Don’t trust your instincts.” He actually said these things to me verbatim at the very end!

    I finally snapped awake when he tried to call the cops on me to remove me from his home because I dared to ask him politely not to call our 4-year-old son names (he was using expletives). He roared at me, “Get the F— out of my house or I’m calling the cops!” How dare I stand up to him in his own house. Before I had stood up to him, I had chills going down my spine. He raged at our 4-year-old for getting off the couch and asking for juice and thus interrupting our adult conversation. This is why he raged. Then, very calmly turned back to me and said, “Now where were we?” as if what he just did was no big deal and not soul-crushing to our child. I realized, in that moment, that he did that in front of me with no concern for my reaction because HE EXPECTED ME TO JUST ACCEPT HIS ABUSE AS NO BIG DEAL. He expected that I would be complacent. He expected that I would, if necessary, be behind him and support his abuse. I couldn’t do it anymore. THIS WAS WRONG! I was tired of him telling me that me feeling what he did was wrong was WRONG. No, HE was wrong. His treatment was wrong. When I called him out, he said I was the one making it about right and wrong, as if me doing that was WRONG. I was always wrong in his eyes. Always. But, I knew my kid was learning two horrible things from my complacency and my trying to love him well:

    1.) Adults can treat children however they want in their own homes (my children told me that my Narcissist tells them this on a pretty regular basis), and therefore, children just have to accept abuse from adults!

    2.) When my children become adults, they can finally be able to do this to others themselves.

    I don’t want my children growing up learning this. My 4-year-old is already exhibiting signs that he could become Narcissistic because of the abuse he suffers from his Narcissistic father. For example, we were swimming in the pool and I asked my 4-year-old to come with me into deeper water. My other three kids trust me completely and never had a problem coming to deep water with me. My 4-year-old refused. He told me, “You’ll drown me.” I said, “Honey! Mommy loves you. She would NEVER drown you! Oh my gosh!” And my 4-year-old said, “Nobody loves me. I trust no one.” Wow, just wow. From a 4-year-old. My ex has had 50/50 with me since my 4-year-old was 8 months old. Out of my three children with my ex (my oldest is not from my Narcissist), my 4-year-old is the only one who for most of his childhood did not live with the both of us under one roof where I could buffer things from my Narcissist. For the last three and a half years of his life, my 4-year-old has had to deal with abuse from my Narcissist for half of the week. It’s shaped him considerably.

    I wish I could take my Narcissist to court and win full custody of my children, but my Narcissist is a covert, cerebral Narcissist with a MFT degree and is licensed to practive psychotherapy. He can outsmart a court-appointed pysch evaluation like no other. Plus, his family is fairly well-off and can afford to foot the bill whereas I have no family left and little resources to do a full-fledged war in court with him. I feel really helpless when it comes to protecting my babies from him. All of my kids, virtually every week, beg to live with me. I’m waiting until they are old enough to choose where they live (there are some cases where a child as young as 12 can decide).

    If you or anyone else reading this has resources to help me, please let me know!!!!!!


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