Relationship advice. The internet is awash with it. Sites, blogs, question and answer sessions, videos on YouTube there is a plethora of advice about how to deal with the problems which arise in intimate relationships.
I decided recently to have a good look through many of these sites and gather together the common complaints which people raise when they submit their issues. There are plenty of submissions, thousands upon thousands of people complaining about the issues in their relationships. Oddly enough, I noticed a common thread with many of these complaints where people had written in to seek advice or explained their circumstances. Time and time again I saw the following:-
“Everything was wonderful to begin with, he swept me off my feet.”
“She made me feel like a king and it was just what I needed after how horrible my marriage had been.”
“I was taken aback by how loving he was, but it felt so good to be treated that way after everything that I had been through.”
“He told me how he had been hurt before and didn’t want to go through that again.”
“His ex-wife was horrible to him and he had been hurt but wanted to ensure everything was right between us.”
“Everything was marvellous for a few months and then he changed.”
“I didn’t know him anymore.”
“He started controlling me.”
“She told me who I could see.”
“He started to isolate me from family and friends.”
“He would flirt with other women.”
“She spent all of her time on the internet doing Lord knows what.”
“He never listens to me.”
“He became abusive.”
“The sex was amazing at first but then it just stopped.”
“He was so loving and attentive in bed but then he started suggesting threesomes and kinky stuff which I didn’t like.”
“He started to make decisions for me.”
“She would lose her temper over the smallest thing.”
“He would disappear for days on end and I was sick with worry.”
“He would not speak to me for several days even though I had done nothing wrong.”
“He started hitting me. He said sorry afterwards and seemed remorseful for what he had done, blaming it on seeing his dad beat him mum when he was young.”
“He doesn’t like anything I do any more, he puts me down.”
“Its like living with Jekyll and Hyde.”
“He just never contacted me again. I still don’t know what has happened.”
“He told me he couldn’t be with me anymore as he needed time to himself and then two days later I see him post about a new girlfriend on social media.”
“He was unfaithful to me repeatedly.”
“I still miss her after everything she has done.”
“I am financially ruined, stressed but I still love him.”
“Why can’t it be like it was in the beginning?”
“I want him back.”
I should imagine that all of you will be nodding at these comments for two reasons. First of all, you remember saying them yourself or something similar. Secondly, you now realise what was actually behind these behaviours. People like me.
Over and over again I saw questions and tales which all had the common theme of ‘Brilliant start, he became someone else, dumped me, I was heartbroken.’ Hundreds upon hundreds of these stories, these tales of misery and woe. A litany of despondency and confusion that has been piled up in the inboxes of the relationship advisors and gurus. I scrolled through them all, reading the replies, the advice and the suggestions. I read the analysis, I digested the observations and spent some considerable time doing so. What did I see?
Not one person raised the possibility that the person seeking advice had become involved with a narcissist. Not one.
Many of these blogs and relationship advice sites were clearly popular. Some were established names, linked to lifestyle magazines and newspapers. Many directed you to their services for counselling and relationship tool kits. Many of them trotted out similar comments and platitudes. Too often they read like the first world tribulations of a scene from Sex and the City rather than the abusive, destructive and harmful actions of dangerous narcissists.
Yet not one of them raised the suggestion that a narcissist was involved.
Now, naturally it is not the case that behind every relationship woe there is a narcissist but I know that those of you reading this, with the benefit of the enlightenment you have achieved knows that there is a good chance that problems of this nature as described repeatedly in the problems pages of these sites are something to do with people like my kind. Yet nobody was offering this as a possibility. That shows the scale of how easy it is for us to do what we do and pass undetected. It shows the staggering lack of knowledge about what we do say, think and do and the naivety of so many people, including those who apparently understand relationship dynamics.
Instead, I saw standard and repeated responses such as:-
“He is clearly a commitment phobe.”
No, he doesn’t want to spend time with you because he is devaluing you and is actually seducing someone else at the current time.
“You have outgrown each other.”
No, you never grew together to begin with because it was all predicated on an illusion and his lack of interest now is symptomatic of his interest being elsewhere.
“He may just be tired or stressed from working hard to support you and your children.”
Yes or he might be a narcissist who uses his rage to intimidate and control you.
“You may have unrealistic expectations about the relationship.”
Damn right you do and we all know why that has happened don’t we?
“You need him to take responsibility for his actions. He cannot keep blaming you for everything.”
Good luck with that one.
“He just might not be into you.”
Half-right I suppose, he just isn’t in to your fuel anymore, he is in to somebody else’s.
“He might be bored with life and not you. Try harder to interest him.”
Again, good luck with that one.
“Relationships require hard work. Don’t give up. Keep working at it and you can overcome the problems together.”
You have just been told to sign your own death warrant there.
“Some people have anger issues but that can managed with understanding and therapy.”
Or they have fury which ignites at the slightest provocation and always will.
“Being hurt is an inevitable part of a relationship.”
It is if you get ensnared by my kind.
I am not suggesting that every problem in a relationship is as a consequence of the other party being a narcissist, that is unrealistic. However, the number of times I read about what was clearly the narcissistic dynamic of seduction, devaluation and discard was significant. The monumental amount of times that I recognised narcissistic manipulations – rage attacks, silent treatments, triangulation, intimidation, bullying, gas lighting and so forth – in so many posts did not surprise me but they were not picked up on. Many times these manipulations were not isolated events. There were repeated occasions and also differing types of the manipulations which when combined and repeated point in one direction.
The advice and platitudes that were provided to people who were clearly, not just possibly, but clearly entangled with a narcissist, were way off the mark. The descriptions and answers I have listed above were the ones which were provided to people and at best this would mean the person would remain clueless and stuck with no appropriate solution and at worst they were providing advice which would harm the individual who had sought the advice.
I was not surprised by this erroneous advice. I was not amazed by this omission of our kind from the explanations. I was not taken aback by the scale of people complaining about what was clearly narcissistic abuse but not being told as such.
This is why we are able to do what we do.
This is why we are able to move amongst people, ensnare fresh victims and maintain our veneer of respectability.
This is why what we do is passed off as something else. Euphemised, diluted, lessened and made to seem like a standard relationship hiccup.
This is why ignorance is so harmful.
This is why we remain so effective.
This is why we remain so dangerous.