The healing journey after being in a narcissistically abusive relationship for two decades, following being raised by a narcissistic parent, feels like it has no end.
Some days are good. I’ll be standing in my newfound power and freedom where nothing can bring me down. Then other days, I’m back down there, in amongst all of the sadness, shame, guilt and inability to trust anyone outside of my small support crew.
One of the biggest trauma points that continuously shows up for me is the absence of trust after narcissistic abuse.
Here, I share a little of my own struggle around learning to trust again after a long-term, abusive relationship. If you can resonate, feel free to share some of your own story in the comments at the bottom, because we aren’t alone, although it can certainly feel that way when you’re deep in the healing.
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Trusting After Narcissistic Abuse… the struggle is real
Whenever I think about the fact that I miss being intimate with someone, a deep feeling of sadness rises within me. And then come the tears that just do not want to stop.
Directly intermingled with intimacy (for me, anyway) is trust. Something that I no longer possess.
Until the moment that I left my narcissistic husband, I’d always been such a giving and trusting person. Always.
In hindsight, that’s what drew him to me like a magnet in the first place. My ability to give people the benefit of the doubt and show compassion and empathy were second to none. The skill of always putting others first and preempting their needs even before they knew them, was right up there.
I trusted this guy wholeheartedly. He was so attentive and allowed me to be vulnerable, while quietly listening for hours. Finally, someone saw the real me and accepted me for who I was – the one thing that I’d been craving throughout my whole childhood.
If only I knew then what I know now. The gift of hindsight, right?
Enter the toxic tale of the empath and the narcissist.
Where does the lack of trust stem from?
To be honest, I think my biggest lack of trust after narcissistic abuse is the inability to trust myself.
I was with the guy for twenty years and although so many moments did not feel good, I didn’t acknowledge that it was an abusive relationship until after I got out.
After all, I was primed by a narcissistic mother from the moment I was born. My boundaries were so incredibly low (almost non-existent). My highly sensitive nervous system’s default setting was constantly in ‘survival’ mode. I was functioning on permanent eggshells.
|READ: Common Things Narc Mothers Say →
I was so used to living with high anxiety and a fried nervous system, I didn’t even recognise that that was the place in which I was living. It was just my ‘normal.’
Again, gaslighting and manipulation were also ‘normal’ for me, to the point where it was extremely hard to even see it happening. Of course, I trusted the words that were coming out of my husband’s mouth. What reason did I have to not trust him? Everything always seemed so plausible and he would say just the right words to get me on side with him.
Only since I’ve left have I learned that words mean absolutely nothing. A person’s actions, however, will tell you everything you need to know. Looking back, armed with that piece of knowledge, his actions spoke out the manipulations and the lies, loud and clear.
But again, the co-dependent’s ability to give people the benefit of the doubt feels more like a curse than anything else. It’s what he used as one of his many weapons time after time, like Groundhog Day on repeat.
Ultimately, I feel sick that I trusted someone so incredibly pathetic and deceptive, with all of my heart, only to have it used against me and breadcrumbed back to me. How can I open myself up to anyone again after that? How can I trust myself to not be hoodwinked again?
It’s going to have to be a very slow journey with someone who’s kind, caring and respectful.
Sexual narcissistic abuse
Not only did the garden variety of covert narcissistic abuse erode all of my trust, but my suspicions and research have dug up another integral piece of my personal puzzle.
I believe my narc ex is also a sexual narcissist.
I didn’t even realise that sexual narcissism is an entirely different entity until I started looking into it. I guess I just figured that all narcissists displayed these egotistical attributes in the bedroom, however, that’s not necessarily the case. While not all narcissists are sexual narcissists, the two traits are very closely linked.
Let’s have a look at sexual narcissism.
Sexual narcissism is where a person has an extremely self-centred perception of sex. They can display behaviours of entitlement, grandiosity, manipulation and selfishness around sex.
• Entitlement – believe they have a right to sex whenever they want it
• Sense of Superiority – an overinflated view of their own sexual performance
• Demand Admiration – need validation for their performance
• Low Empathy – don’t really care about your needs or wants
• Payment – expect sex in exchange for things they’ve done or given
• Manipulate – gaslight, guilt and coerce you into having sex
• Withhold – take away their love, affection, money etc. if you refuse sex
I’d like to share some examples of sexual narcissism in my ex, as it may help you identify whether or not that was a part of your narcissistic relationship as well.
My ex would expect sex a bare minimum of three times per week, no matter what was going on in life, how tired I was or whether I wanted it or not.
I remember falling asleep on the couch one night (I was wrecked) and woke up to him helping himself. When I said, “What are you doing? I was asleep,” he denied that I was sleeping and said I was just, “Pretending to be asleep and was enjoying it.”
Sense of Superiority
His sense of superiority was more in the way he did things. He had a very egotistical air about him, within the activities themselves and even just prancing around naked after showers, trying to get attention.
I never felt true love or respect from my ex and while he appeared to show generosity in the bedroom, I always felt the underlying ego about it.
He enjoyed seeing me in pleasure, not because he was a loving partner who cared about me, but because it inflated his ego and he took it as a direct result of his performance.
Then afterwards, he’d want a medal for his efforts… because at the end of the day, it’s all about the narcissist.
My ex seriously treated sex like an exchange for goods and services.
If I was too exhausted for sex by the time my head hit the pillow, he’d say, “Oh… I just thought my wife would want to have sex with her husband after working hard all day.”
“I thought my wife would want to have sex with her hard-working husband.”
Then after manipulating me into giving in (because he’d worn me down), he’d go on to berate me for not being in the mood. “I don’t want to have sex with someone who looks bored or doesn’t look into it.”
|READ: Do Narc’s Like Kissing? →
Manipulate & Withhold
If I didn’t ‘put out’ whenever my husband wanted it, he would try and make me feel guilty, compare me to “all the other horny chicks who want it all the time” (i.e. pornography) and tell me that I was frigid (even though he offered no love or affection).
Then, if I didn’t cave, he’d withhold what he could from me as punishment.
Sounds like dealing with a toddler, right? If I lent over to say goodnight, he’d put his back to me. If I talked to him, he’d pretend that I didn’t exist.
Intimacy after narcissistic abuse
Considering that I got together with my narcissistic ex quite young, I’d only had a few casual partners before settling with him. So, it’s safe to say that my sexual experiences have not been largely positive, loving or emotional.
To be honest I feel too broken to even be with anyone else. I am not at all trusting after narcissistic abuse. I toyed with the idea of having a friend with benefits, without having to commit to anyone, but I just can’t open myself up to trust anyone.
I’ve been on a few dating apps, but it feels like the guys on there are only after a quick fling. I have spoken to a few guys online, but always bailed when I thought, “Oh crap, they’re probably going to want to meet up soon.”
I did meet a nice guy while out with friends one night and I think he would have been super gentle, patient and caring, but I just wasn’t attracted to him. After being with someone who I was not attracted to for so long, but stayed out of loyalty and familiarity, I just couldn’t do that to myself again.
Ultimately, I’ve come to realise that I just can’t even go there until I authentically meet someone who I get to know over a healthy amount of time (no fast-moving love bombing) and 100% completely trust.
Learning How to Trust After Narcissistic Abuse
Evidently, I don’t yet know how to be able to trust after narcissistic abuse. This feels like an impossible mission for me and I can’t even visualise a day where that exists.
I have no idea what a healthy relationship looks or feels like, so I don’t trust, after a lifetime of dealing with narcissists, that it’s even possible in my world.
But I’d like to think that one day, I’ll be able to experience a kind, loving relationship with a man who’s emotionally secure and takes personal responsibility. However, for that relationship to be successful, I have to face the demon of trusting after narcissistic abuse. It wouldn’t be fair on that kind, compassionate man for me to bring all of this baggage to the table. After all, they also deserve someone secure.
So, I’m writing down these key points on how to trust again after narcissistic abuse as much to help myself as anyone else.
Trusting after narcissistic abuse:
- Learn to trust yourself first – your reality is no longer the false, gaslit storyline that the narcissist had you believing
- Learn to listen to your intuition again so that you don’t ignore or miss those early warning signs
- Take as much time as you need to heal the trauma as it comes up – there is no time limit
- Acknowledge how much extra information you’re armed with now and how much you’ve learnt and grown since the beginning of that past narcissistic relationship
- Set healthy boundaries for yourself and get comfortable in holding them
- Choose who you have in your life (only people who take personal responsibility & reciprocate the same level of love and compassion as you do)
- Get to know people slowly, in a healthy manner
- Don’t overshare – let people earn your information
- Be your own source of love, approval, joy and security, so that you will no longer feel the need to seek those out from others
- Always listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, it’s not
- Take note of red flags to avoid getting caught up in the illusion of someone
- Take people as who they are today, not who you think they could potentially be
- Good people will respect your boundaries, not rush you and they won’t pass judgement on you or your journey
Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
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