Narcissism and LGBT relationships: A toxic combination

By Fin Hewitt
Guest writer

Living as a member of the LGBT community is never easy. Despite the random acts of hatred from different directions many face on a daily basis, the mental and emotional scars from growing up LGBT can have lasting effects. Often these pinpoints of trauma require professional intervention to overcome. More often, the trauma goes unrecognized into adulthood and beyond.

Navigating the minefield of the LGBT community is often a challenge. From offers of no-strings-attached hookups to finding supportive friendships, the struggle is more real than most care to admit openly. It is not uncommon for someone to refer to their local gay communities as a widespread, real-life version of the movie Mean Girls. Trust has become a precious commodity for many people in the LGBT community.

Seeking a relationship as an LGBT person also presents obstacles, not just from society with its split support for those with same-sex orientations, but because of the emotional upheaval and residual damage many members of the community experience. Making connections with others who share similar unresolved issues can spell disaster from the beginning and only deepen the loneliness and heartache that was already present. Losing a relationship, no matter how dysfunctional it was or wasn’t, is like tossing another soul into a black hole.

Another hurdle to happiness for LGBT people is falling victim to a narcissist. For an average, well-adjusted, confident person, spotting a narcissist is not an impossible task, but for those already struggling with emotional difficulties (like the average LGBT person), the signs may not be as apparent. Most people want to love and be loved, and a narcissist preys upon this basic desire and uses it to his or her advantage.

The term “narcissist” implies that a person is enamored with oneself to the point of obsession, stemming back to the myth of Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his own reflection. A narcissist will use others until those people’s usefulness runs dry. When the victim of a narcissist attempts communication with their partner, the following results are most common:

Gas lighting — When a narcissist attempts to brainwash their partner by convincing them that they are losing their mind. This can include all manner of subtle manipulation. Most common is reinventing the past. The narcissist will tell his or her partner that they remembered something incorrectly and berate them for it. A narcissist will use their partner’s love for them as a weapon in this way. This can be particularly toxic in an LGBT relationship as many members of the community already have emotional difficulties and cling to their partner out of a lack of experiencing a healthy relationship.

Reacting Poorly to Critiques — A narcissist will take harmless criticism as a personal attack. Attempting to provide information that is contradictory to a narcissist’s perception using factual information will usually result in an argument with pre-formed phrases like “you’re always putting me down” or “you make me feel bad about myself.” This is another form of manipulation borne out of the narcissist’s need to be in control at the risk of being factually inaccurate. This is akin to playing a trivia game with a player who is so sensitive that every answer given by that player must be accepted as correct by the other players in order to avoid making a scene.

Inability to Empathize Empathy is being able to understand the feelings of others and offer altruistic care for someone else. The narcissist lacks this skill and doesn’t feel the need to make any personal changes regarding this flaw. A narcissist’s partner can be distraught, crying, or completely beside themselves with feelings of sadness and receive nothing in the way of comfort. This is particularly troublesome in a LGBT relationship as structure and stability play a big role in individual affirmation for both partners. A narcissist will ignore his or her partner’s need for genuine affection. As an extension to this flaw, often the narcissist will blame their partner for being hurt by the lack of empathy. Further, the narcissist’s reaction can become more distant and cold as the lack of empathy is noticed by his or her partner.

Entitlement — A narcissist expresses the need to blame others and circumstances for their own shortcomings. In a relationship setting this could mean that the partner becomes the target of the narcissist’s ire when something goes wrong. Despite all best efforts, there is no pleasing a narcissist when life happens.

Expectations Not Communicated — A relationship with a narcissist can include expectations that are either not communicated to their partner or are constantly in a state of change. This is like making a valiant attempt to negotiate with quicksand; there is no winning when the surroundings are always shifting and changing. Eventually this type of situation will engulf the partner and drag them down, resulting in all manner of mental issues including, but not limited to depression and anxiety.

Excess Amounts of Arrogance — As to be expected by definition, a narcissist possesses copious amounts of arrogance. This seemingly unlimited wealth of hubris keeps the narcissist blinded to their own faults. They will often see their partner as inferior to themselves whether they communicate this in words or simply actions. Being in a relationship with a narcissist will chip away at the partner’s self-esteem, usually leaving a diminished sense of worth behind. The narcissist’s arrogance is a social vampire that drains all sense of self from their partner and leaves behind an empty husk of a human.

There are several other aspects that make up the personality of the narcissist. More information on these traits can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V).

Discovering these signs in a partner can be deeply troubling and the damage from being in a dysfunctional relationship with a person like this is never an easy thing to overcome. The partner of a narcissist can develop trust issues, lack of self-esteem / self worth, take on blame when it’s not necessary, become isolated from family and friends and suffer from depression or anxiety. What the partner of a narcissist needs to keep in mind is that a narcissist is mentally ill / unstable and sees other people as the means to an end for their own sake(s).

There are resources available to members of the LGBT community to help victims of narcissists overcome the residual feelings resulting from being in this kind of toxic relationship. Having a personal support network (friends, family) is a primary first step to rebuilding what the narcissist worked to break down. Seeking out professional resources (counseling) are always a step in the right direction. There are also life coaches available who specialize in treating those who are striving to find themselves again after the effects of the narcissist.

Take heart, you are not alone and as a community, the LGBT members of our society must take notice of the pitfalls of falling into a negative, non-affirming relationship. Recognize when “love” makes you feel “bad.” This is not how it should ever be.

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