It was a calm Friday evening in Nairobi. I had met with my best friends, all middle-aged ladies in a downtown hotel for dinner.
We had a history together, one of long-suffering, and steadfastness in the Lord. We also shared a common story of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
We had not seen each other for a while and therefore had much to discuss. We talked about good and bad times in our middle-age lives; jobs, bringing up teenagers, relationships, aging parents other niceties and non issues.
These are the ladies that I could call any time whenever I needed to share a laugh over a cup of coffee. They are the ones who stood with me during my downtimes and with whom I had cried and laughed many times.
Like all human beings, each one was struggling with something. Jane (not her real name) was going through a messy divorce. She narrated how for a long time she felt like she was going crazy.
She said any time they had a disagreement with her husband, he would accuse her of being mean and selfish. He would rationalise her problems and completely ignore her pain and suffering. Most arguments or disagreements left her devalued, demeaned and doubting herself worthy and sanity. Jane said she ended up feeling confused and guilty and crazy. Many days she felt sick, had low energy and suffered insomnia. Her concern was that her husband was a Christian, treated other people kindly and was likable to many other people. As a result, when Jane complained to friends or relatives she looked like she was the bad one.
There was tangible silence around the table. We all felt sorry for Jane and we mumbled words of comfort.
Amid the conversation, Mercy, a trained social-psychologist commented, “Jane, your hubby sounds like a narcissist (narc).”
We changed the topic, mostly because we did not know what to say to comfort Jane but more so because we did not want her to feel like the meeting was about her struggles.
“What is a is a narcissist?” I asked Mercy who while staring straight to my eyes said… “I don’t want to spoil our evening, go find out.”
I left the dinner that evening with a heavy burden. My friend Jane was in trouble and she did not look well. Why would she go through so much pain and none of us could give any useful advice? Is it possible then that what Mercy said was true –that our friend was married to this being with this uncommon personality disorder – a narcissist?
I began to research “narcissism” and what Christian counselors had to say about it. What was surprising was that narcissism seemed to be so rampant there were enough teachings both from Christian and non-Christian counselors about the topic.
All definitions narrowed the term narcissism as a personality disorder characterized by selfishness, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and a high need for admiration.
Further research showed that when in relationships, these personalities create a situation in which he or she becomes impossible to please, leaving the spouse in a victim status. The victim will always feel inadequate, insecure and guilty and in an effort to please the narcissist, keeps trying and becomes what psychology defines as a co-dependent. If the victim does not get help, the remain distressed and they may become clinically depressed and acquire emotional imbalances which eventually lead to physical illnesses and diseases.
As long as the narcissist partner is happy, there may be some temporal peace but once a problem arises, the narc may shut down, demean and isolate the victim until she or he has to beg. Things may work for a while then, when the victim thinks all is settled and is ready to have a score of peace, the narc shifts the goal. This lifestyle becomes a vicious pattern leaving the victim to live a life that is caged to pain and helplessness. They may eventually suffer from a condition psychologists refer to as “trauma-bonding” in which a traumatic life becomes the norm.
From my research, I have curated some resources which I hope would be useful to anyone in a relationship with a narcissist. These resources are an eye opener to victims and they offer relevant counsel on how one can face the challenges, buid core strength, faith and an awareness of what one can do in such a situation.
Ross Rosenburg is a Christian Counsellor. In his book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, he explains why despite their dreams for true love, find themselves hopelessly and painfully in love with partners who hurt them.