Narcissists tend to behave in a horrible yet predictable pattern when in conflict with another (especially a relationship partner). The narcissist will twist reality to weave a distorted story of their “victim” status and manipulate others in to believing that the partner/ex-partner was an abuser. The typical pattern looks like this:
- The Narcissist is living in deep levels of denial (bordering on delusional): Narcissists create a delusional world to protect their fragile egos. They are unable to cope with reality (i.e. maybe I am not as “good” of or “amazing” of a person as I thought) due to the difficult emotions that go along with reality (i.e. disappointment, sadness, fear, etc.). They have usually told themselves this story for so long (usually since childhood or teen years) that they absolutely believe its truth. Their denial and delusion sets the stage for creating an alternative reality and the ability to seamlessly lie to themselves and others.
- Spinning the Narrative to Receive (false) Validation: Narcissists are motivated by proving that they are “right.” Due to their low self-esteem they seek validation from others. They do this by weaving their distorted story (which is built lies upon lies) to receive reassurance from others. The basic story is that the narcissist is “good,” “caring,” “moral, “selfless,” was the “good relationship partner,” and the partner/ex-partner is “bad,” “abusive,” “cruel,” “immoral,” “selfish,” “toxic,” etc. Narcissists most commonly create this alternative reality by…:
- Projecting!: Whatever traits or behaviors they cannot accept about themselves they project on to their partner/ex-partner. If the narcissist claims their partner was abusive, the narcissist was abusive. If the narcissist says their partner was jealous or controlling, they were actually the jealous or controlling one. If the narcissist accuses the partner of cheating, lying, stalking, etc. then it was the narcissist who was actually engaging in these behaviors. This is not to say that the partner/ex-partner was completely healthy, but how the narcissist paints their partner/ex-partner is actually just a reflection in the mirror of the narcissist. Through projection the narcissist shifts attention and responsibility on to the partner, putting all of the blame on the partner. In the narcissists mind “If my partner/ex-partner is “bad” then I cannot be those things—I am the “good” one.”
- Presenting the Story to Others: When narcissists tell the story to others (and they’ll tell whoever they can…) they only tell the part where the partner/ex-partner responded to their toxic or abusive behavior. They give no context or backstory to the partner’s reaction or they will give the story in very deceptive language. Narcissists will not mention their own aggression—and will only tell others about the partner or ex-partners reactions to their aggression. For instance, after being bullied by her husband for years, one wife finally stood up for herself. Of course the story that went around to all of her family, friends and neighbors was that the husband (the narcissist) was just a good, guy who likes to joke around and the wife was actually mean and abusive to him. In his distorted story he was just being himself (i.e. a fun lighthearted guy who likes to joke and tease) and that the wife became a mean and awful person. Obviously what the narcissist left out was the backstory that the wife had been bullied by him for years, and that of course “being mean” (i.e. standing up for oneself) is a normal and healthy reaction to abusive behavior.
- Engaging in a Campaign of Untruths: I intentionally use the word “campaign” because narcissists will go to extreme measures including false documentation to manipulate others in hopes that they won’t discover the truth. Narcissists will gossip and slander their partner/ex-partner, and some engage in a full blown character assignation (i.e. the lies are much more severe and cause more extension damage). It is common for narcissists to file false police reports, file bad faith PFAs, file reports or complaints to their partner/ex-partner’s professional boards or place of employment, file false child abuse reports, etc. The narcissist’s behavior can have severe financial, professional, social, emotional and health consequences which the narcissist revels in and gets off on. To see the partner/ex-partner hurt or destroyed so badly makes them feel happy, as they believe the partner/ex-partner deserved it for being so “abusive,” “mean,” “evil,” etc. The narcissist sleeps well at night because they believe whatever happens to their partner/ex-partner is justified.