Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

i'm in the relationship narcissistic abuse narcissistic relationships Apr 03, 2024

We all know that relationships have their ups and downs, but narcissistic relationships are especially tricky to navigate, and they can take a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So, in this blog, I’m going to answer the question: What are the signs that you might be in a narcissistic relationship? In particular, what are the signs that you are going through narcissistic abuse? It’s important to note that this blog is not about any kind of abuse, but specifically abuse at the hands of a narcissist.

Let's break it down. What exactly is a narcissistic relationship? It is one where a person takes the reigns and dominates the other person for their own satisfaction. Typically, this person has narcissistic personality traits. This kind of relationship doesn't just have rough patches here and there; it consists of chronic patterns of exploitation, manipulation, and a lack of empathy.

A narcissistic relationship isn’t a two-way street. It is all about the narcissistic person: their needs, desires, and ego. Everything is about them. The other person in the relationship often feels like they are only there to serve the narcissist’s agenda. In short, this relationship isn’t a give-and-take. It’s a one-way street where the narcissist calls all the shots, and the other person finds themselves used and devalued.

Warning Signs

Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for. These are the little warning bells that might indicate you are dealing with a narcissistic person. You can find a downloadable copy of these warning signs here. I’ve also included a diagram of the cycle of narcissistic abuse and the wheel of violence in that same download. These are informative, valuable tools to help you discern if you or someone you know is being abused. Take a look at those documents for more information on what narcissistic abuse looks like. In the meantime, let’s go through the main signs together.  

If you resonate with most or many of the signs listed below, chances are you're experiencing narcissistic abuse. The term 'abuse' might seem overwhelming, particularly if this is your first time hearing it. As you navigate through this list, try not to fixate on labeling your experiences as "abuse." Instead, focus on the fact that healthy relationships, designed by God, should not encompass the red flags outlined below. Toxicity is not your destiny.

1. Feeling constantly criticized or belittled:

No matter what you do, it's never good enough. The other person is always nitpicking, putting you down, making you feel like you're not measuring up. You're walking on eggshells, afraid to say or do the wrong thing because you know it will lead to more criticism. That constant barrage of negativity? Yeah, that's not healthy, and it could be a sign of narcissistic abuse.

2. Feeling confused or doubting your perceptions:

Do you doubt yourself, your perceptions, even your emotions? Do you often feel confused in this relationship? Believe it or not, this is a sign of chronic gaslighting. Gaslighting is when the other person twists reality. One minute, they’re saying one thing, and the next, they’re denying it ever happened. On top of that, they’re shaming and berating you for pointing out their contradictions or inconsistencies. By doing this, they mess with your head, making you question your own memories and doubt reality. It's enough to make you feel like you’re going crazy. But trust me, you're not – This is just another tactic narcissists use to control and manipulate you.

3. Experiencing extreme highs and lows in the relationship:

Your relationship feels like a rollercoaster ride. At times, you're soaring high, feeling like you're on cloud nine. The other person showers you with affection, attention, and praise, making you feel like you're the center of their universe. In these moments, it's easy to get swept away by their care and devotion. You feel validated, loved, and cherished.

However, just as suddenly as the highs come, the crashing lows are just as sudden. Out of nowhere, the narcissist's demeanor changes. They are distant, cold, or even hostile towards you. It's as if the love and affection they showered you with have evaporated, leaving you feeling empty and worthless in their eyes. The contrast between the intense highs and the crushing lows is disorienting and emotionally exhausting.

This dynamic is often referred to as the "idealization and devaluation cycle,” and it’s one of the hallmarks of narcissistic abuse. During the idealization phase, the narcissist may put you on a pedestal, where they idealize you and make you feel special. However, this idealization is short-lived, and the devaluation phase follows soon after. During this phase, the narcissist may criticize, belittle, or emotionally distance themselves from you for no apparent reason, leaving you feeling unworthy and unloved.

4. Feeling isolated or cut off from friends and family:

A narcissistic person often finds ways either overtly or subtly to cut you off from the people who matter to you the most. I'm referring to non-toxic friends and family members. They may find reasons why you shouldn't spend time with your friends or why your family's not good for you.   Or they may habitually be in a nasty mood when you come back from spending time with friends. As they subtly (or not so subtly) discourage you from spending time with others, you may feel like they are trying to control every aspect of your life. Eventually, you feel isolated and alone. No healthy person needs you to give up your other relationships to prove your loyalty. However, a narcissist sees your other relationships as competition and interference in your relationship with them.

5. Feeling manipulated or controlled:

A narcissist’s manipulation and control can leave you feeling suffocated, trapped, and powerless. This manipulation may take on various forms, including guilt-tripping, where they use your sense of empathy against you, making you feel responsible for their unhappiness or dissatisfaction. The narcissist may twist situations to make you feel guilty for asserting your own needs or desires, using phrases like "If you really loved me, you would..." or "You're letting me down."

Emotional blackmail is another weapon in the narcissist's arsenal. They leverage your deepest fears and vulnerabilities to coerce you into complying with their demands. They may threaten to withdraw their love, affection, or support if you don't do what they want, leaving you feeling threatened and helpless to resist.

6. Lack of empathy or understanding from the other person:

A narcissistic relationship is characterized by the narcissistic person habitually dismissing your feelings, minimizing your concerns, or ignoring your needs. This may happen occasionally in a healthy relationship and then be resolved. However, in a narcissistic relationship, this is not a one-off incident, but it is the status quo of their behavior towards you. It’s like they're living in their own little bubble, and you're on the outside looking in.

7. Feeling constantly on edge or anxious:

You feel like you’re walking on eggshells in the relationship—afraid to breathe the wrong way. You never know what will set the other person off or make them explode in anger or frustration, so you're always on guard, trying to anticipate their next move.

8. Feeling emotionally drained or exhausted:

You are emotionally exhausted. You feel like you're running on empty, like there's nothing left in the tank. Your relationship leaves you feeling drained and depleted. At this point, you're just going through the motions. You’ve been giving and giving but not getting anything back in return. 

9. Feeling like you've lost yourself or your sense of identity:

You feel like you’ve lost yourself. You don't even recognize who you are anymore. This person that you are in a relationship with - their influence is everywhere, shaping your thoughts, your beliefs, your very identity. You feel like you live in their shadow, trying to mold yourself into someone you're not just to keep the peace. It feels impossible to function in that relationship as your own person, with your own dreams and desires. 

10. Experiencing a sense of powerlessness or dependency:

You feel powerless in the relationship like the other person has you wrapped around their finger. You feel like you can't make a move without their approval. This person exerts a lot of control over most or every aspect of your life, from your social interactions to your financial decisions. They may dictate who you can spend time with, where you can go, and even what you can wear. If you try to assert your independence or autonomy, you are met with resistance or punishment, making you feel even more trapped and powerless. 

Keep in mind that these behaviors that I’ve just gone through don’t have to be blatant. They may start out subtly. However, if you are experiencing many of these signs in a relationship, even in a subtle way, this is a serious red flag. These subtle signs could be the tips of an iceberg. Don’t underestimate the iceberg. Just like the Titanic sank because it ran into a hidden iceberg, you don’t want to deal with icebergs in another person. If this list has left you worried that you may be experiencing narcissistic abuse, check out this more extensive list of signs which includes a diagram of the cycle of narcissist abuse and the wheel of violence. This list should help you clarify things and give you more certainty.

What You Should Do:

If you have been experiencing these signs, here are some tips for moving forward:

Do not confront the narcissist directly:

First things first, if you recognize these signs in your relationship, please do not go straight to the narcissist and confront them, especially if you've tried to confront them before on various issues, and they evaded responsibility by gaslighting, manipulating, or projecting their issues onto you. I get it – you want answers, you want to fix things. But here's the deal: narcissists are masters at manipulation, and confronting them could be dangerous. They're so image-conscious that they might start a smear campaign against you or even cause harm in some way. 

Suppose the person you are in a relationship with is not a full-blown narcissist and has some ability to self-reflect and take responsibility. In that case, you may be able to confront them about some things and make some headway. However, if you've tried to confront them before on various issues and they've gotten very upset or violent, or you fear that they could become violent, then your safety should be your priority. Don't disclose any information about what you know to that person. Avoid mentioning your suspicions regarding their behavior, such as narcissistic tendencies or abusive traits. Revealing such details could potentially provide them with ammunition to use against you in the future.

Get armed with knowledge:

It's time to arm yourself with knowledge. Learn everything you can about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, and understand the cycle of being valued and devalued and the wheel of violence. This kind of knowledge can bring so much clarity, and with clarity, you have power. You are no longer powerless and out of control. So get knowledge. Understand what you're dealing with to navigate the situation more effectively. There are plenty of resources out there – books, articles, and support groups. My website has a lot of resources that can help you get more understanding, especially if you want a biblical, spiritual, and practical perspective. 

Get support:

You don't have to go through this alone. Reach out and find people you can talk to. Seek out and pray to find people who understand narcissism and narcissistic abuse. Whether it's a trusted friend, a support group, or a counselor or coach, having a support system can make all the difference. You need a safe space to process your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Get healed:

Most importantly, focus on getting yourself well. Strengthen yourself and your identity, especially in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, that might mean leaving or separating yourself from the toxic environment. Find some trusted people who could pray with you and for you, as well as someone who can coach or counsel you during this time.

You Have Hope in God

Recognizing these signs is the first step toward healing and getting yourself back. God is not the author of abuse. It is the enemy that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But God is a restorer. He calls Himself the God of abundant redemption. He can bring redemption for You and lead you on a path that will prosper you and not harm you. If you want to invite Jesus Christ to be your God and to be in charge of your life, take a moment now and invite him right now. He can do a much better job of leading through life than you can do for yourself. Feel free to say your own prayer or pray this one with me:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I choose to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

I hope this blog post was helpful. If you’d like to receive regular content from me, leave your email below. I’ll see you in next week’s video!

Related Resources

Watch the video version of this blog here.

  • 20 Signs You Might Be Experiencing Narcissistic Abuse [Download]
  • Am I Being Abused by a Covert Narcissist? How to Tell. [Watch]
  • How to Identify the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse (Versus the Narcissist Who Plays the Victim) [Watch] [Read]
  • Narcissist vs. a Carnal Person. The Main Differences Between the Two. [Watch]
  • Should I Warn Someone That They Are in a Relationship with a Narcissist? [Watch]
  • 5 Red Flags that You Are in a Toxic Relationship & Tips on How to Navigate in a Toxic Relationship [Watch]

Find more resources in our topic-based catalog

Downloadable Resources 

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