with Your Abuser
Dr. Sam Vaknin
Emotional, Verbal, and
Psychological Abuse, Domestic and Family Violence and Spousal Abuse
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How to cope with your abuser?
Sometimes it looks hopeless. Abusers are
ruthless, immoral, sadistic, calculated, cunning, persuasive, deceitful - in
short, they appear to be invincible. They easily sway the system in their
Here is a list of escalating countermeasures.
They represent the distilled experience of thousands of victims of abuse. They
may help you cope with abuse and overcome it.
Not included are legal or medical steps.
Consult an attorney, an accountant, a therapist, or a psychiatrist, where
First, you must decide:
Do you want to stay with him - or terminate
If you want to leave him and your
children are above the age of 18 Click HERE
If you have Children with Him (under
the age of 18) Click HERE
1. I want to Stay with Him
FIVE DON'T DO'S How
to Avoid the Wrath of the Narcissist
- Never disagree with the
narcissist or contradict him;
- Never offer him any
- Look awed by whatever attribute
matters to him (for instance: by his professional achievements or by his
good looks, or by his success with women and so on);
- Never remind him of life
out there and if you do, connect it somehow to his sense of grandiosity;
- Do not make any comment,
which might directly or indirectly impinge on his self-image, omnipotence,
judgment, omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even
The TEN DO'S How to Make your
Narcissist Dependent on You If
you INSIST on Staying with Him
- Listen attentively to
everything the narcissist says and agree with it all. Don't believe a word
of it but let it slide as if everything is just fine, business as usual.
- Personally offer something
absolutely unique to the narcissist which they cannot obtain anywhere
else. Also be prepared to line up future Sources of Primary Narcissistic
Supply for your narcissist because you will not be IT for
very long, if at all. If you take over the
procuring function for the narcissist, they become that much more
dependent on you.
- Be endlessly patient and go
way out of your way to be accommodating, thus keeping the narcissistic
supply flowing liberally, and keeping the peace.
- Be endlessly giving. This
one may not be attractive to you, but it is a take it or leave it
- Be absolutely emotionally
and financially independent of the narcissist. Take what you need: the
excitement and engulfment and refuse to get upset or hurt when the
narcissist does or says something dumb, rude, or insensitive. Yelling back
works really well but should be reserved for special occasions when you
fear your narcissist may be on the verge of leaving you; the silent
treatment is better as an ordinary response, but it must be carried out
without any emotional content, more with the air of boredom and "I'll
talk to you later, when I am good and ready, and when you are behaving in
a more reasonable fashion". Treat
your narcissist as you would a child.
- If your narcissist is
cerebral and not interested in having much sex then give
yourself ample permission to have "hidden" sex with other
people. Your cerebral narcissist will not be indifferent to infidelity so
discretion and secrecy is of paramount importance.
- If your narcissist is
somatic and you don't mind, join in on group sex encounters but make sure
that you choose properly for your narcissist. If you do mind leave him.
Somatic narcissists are sex addicts and incurably unfaithful.
- If you are a
"fixer", then focus on fixing situations, preferably before they
become "situations". Don't for one moment delude yourself that
you can fix the narcissist it simply will not happen.
- If there is any fixing that
can be done, it is to help your narcissist become aware of their
condition, with no negative implications or accusations in the process at
all. It is like living with a physically handicapped person and being able
to discuss, calmly, unemotionally, what the limitations and benefits of
the handicap are and how the two of you can work with these factors, rather
than trying to change them.
- Finally, and most important of all: Know Yourself.
What are you getting from the relationship?
Are you actually a masochist? A codependent? Why is this relationship
attractive and interesting?
Define for yourself what good and
beneficial things you believe you are receiving in this relationship.
Define the things that you find harmful to
you. Develop strategies to minimize the harm to yourself.
Don't expect that you will cognitively be able to reason with the
narcissist to change who he is. You may have some limited success in
getting your narcissist to tone down on the really harmful behaviors that
affect you but this can only be accomplished in a very trusting, frank and open relationship.
(1a) Insist on Your Boundaries Resist
Refuse to accept abusive behavior.
Demand reasonably predictable and rational actions and reactions. Insist on
respect for your boundaries, predilections, preferences, and priorities.
Demand a just and proportional treatment.
Reject or ignore unjust and capricious behavior.
If you are up to the inevitable
confrontation, react in kind. Let him taste some of his own medicine.
Never show your abuser that you
are afraid of him. Do not negotiate with bullies. They are insatiable. Do not
succumb to blackmail.
If things get rough- disengage,
involve law enforcement officers, friends and colleagues, or threaten him
Do not keep your abuse a secret.
Secrecy is the abuser's weapon.
Never give him a second chance.
React with your full arsenal to the first transgression.
Be guarded. Don't be too
forthcoming in a first or casual meeting. Gather intelligence.
Be yourself. Don't misrepresent
your wishes, boundaries, preferences, priorities, and red lines.
Do not behave inconsistently. Do
not go back on your word. Be firm and resolute.
Stay away from such quagmires.
Scrutinize every offer and suggestion, no matter how innocuous.
Prepare backup plans. Keep
others informed of your whereabouts and appraised of your situation.
Be vigilant and doubting. Do not
be gullible and suggestible. Better safe than sorry.
Often the abuser's proxies are
unaware of their role. Expose him. Inform them. Demonstrate to them how they
are being abused, misused, and plain used by the abuser.
Trap your abuser. Treat him as he
treats you. Involve others. Bring it into the open. Nothing like sunshine to
(1b) Mirror His Behavior
Mirror the narcissists actions and repeat
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If, for instance, he is having a rage attack
rage back. If he threatens threaten back and credibly try to use the same language
and content. If he leaves the house leave it as well, disappear on him. If he
is suspicious act suspicious. Be critical, denigrating, humiliating, go down
to his level.
(1c) Frighten Him
Identify the vulnerabilities and
susceptibilities of the narcissist and strike repeated, escalating blows at
If a narcissist has a secret or something he
wishes to conceal use your knowledge of it to threaten him. Drop cryptic
hints that there are mysterious witnesses to the events and recently revealed
evidence. Do it cleverly, noncommittally, gradually, in an escalating manner.
Let his imagination do the rest. You don't
have to do much except utter a vague reference, make an ominous allusion,
delineate a possible turn of events.
Needless to add that all these activities
have to be pursued legally, preferably through the good services of law offices
and in broad daylight. If done in the wrong way they might constitute
extortion or blackmail, harassment and a host of other criminal offences.
(1d) Lure Him
Offer him continued Narcissistic Supply. You
can make a narcissist do anything by offering, withholding, or
threatening to withhold Narcissistic Supply (adulation, admiration, attention,
sex, awe, subservience, etc.).
(1e) Play on His Fear of Abandonment
If nothing else works, explicitly threaten to
You can condition the threat ("If you
don't do something or if you do it I will desert you").
The narcissists perceives the following as
threats of abandonment, even if they are not meant as such:
- Confrontation, fundamental
disagreement, and protracted criticism
- When completely ignored
- When you insist on respect
for your boundaries, needs, emotions, choices, preferences
- When you retaliate (for
instance, shout back at him).
2. I can't Take It Any
Longer - I Have Decided to Leave Him
(2a) Fight Him in Court
Here are a few of the things the narcissist
finds devastating, especially in a court of law, for instance during a
- Any statement or fact,
which seems to contradict his inflated perception of his grandiose self.
Any criticism, disagreement, exposure of fake achievements, belittling of
"talents and skills" which the narcissist fantasizes that he
possesses, any hint that he is subordinated, subjugated, controlled, owned
or dependent upon a third party. Any description of the narcissist as
average and common, indistinguishable from many others. Any hint that the
narcissist is weak, needy, dependent, deficient, slow, not intelligent,
naive, gullible, susceptible, not in the know, manipulated, a victim.
- The narcissist is likely to
react with rage to all these and, in an effort to re-establish his
fantastic grandiosity, he is likely to expose facts and stratagems he had
no conscious intention of exposing.
- The narcissist reacts with
narcissistic rage, hatred, aggression, or violence to an infringement of
what he perceives to be his entitlement. Any insinuation, hint,
intimation, or direct declaration that the narcissist is not special at
all, that he is average, common, not even sufficiently idiosyncratic to
warrant a fleeting interest will inflame the narcissist.
- Tell the narcissist that he
does not deserve the best treatment, that his needs are not everyone's
priority, that he is boring, that his needs can be catered to by an
average practitioner (medical doctor, accountant, lawyer, psychiatrist),
that he and his motives are transparent and can be easily gauged, that he
will do what he is told, that his temper tantrums will not be tolerated,
that no special concessions will be made to accommodate his inflated sense
of self, that he is subject to court procedures, etc. and the narcissist
will lose control.
- Contradict, expose,
humiliate, and berate the narcissist ("You are not as intelligent as
you think you are", "Who is really behind all this? It takes
sophistication which you don't seem to have", "So, you have no
formal education", "you are (mistake his age, make him much
older) ... sorry, you are ... old", "What did you do in your
life? Did you study? Do you have a degree? Did you ever establish or run a
business? Would you define yourself as a success?", "Would your
children share your view that you are a good father?", "You were
last seen with a Ms. ... who is (suppressed grin) a cleaning lady
(in demeaning disbelief)".
Be equipped with absolutely
unequivocal, first rate, thoroughly authenticated and vouched for information.
(2b) If You Have
I described in "The Guilt of the Abused -
Pathologizing the Victim" how the system is biased and titled against
Regrettably, mental health professionals
and practitioners marital and couple therapists, counselors are
conditioned, by years of indoctrinating and dogmatic education, to respond
favorably to specific verbal cues.
The paradigm is that abuse is rarely one
sided in other words, that it is invariably "triggered" either by
the victim or by the mental health problems of the abuser. Another common lie
is that all mental health problems can be successfully treated one way (talk
therapy) or another (medication).
This shifts the responsibility from the
offender to his prey. The abused must have done something to bring about their
own maltreatment or simply were emotionally "unavailable" to
help the abuser with his problems. Healing is guaranteed if only the victim
were willing to participate in a treatment plan and communicate with the
abuser. So goes the orthodoxy.
Refusal to do so in other words, refusal to
risk further abuse is harshly judged by the therapist. The victim is labeled
uncooperative, resistant, or even abusive!
The key is, therefore, feigned acquiescence
and collaboration with the therapist's scheme, acceptance of his/her
interpretation of the events, and the use of key phrases such as: "I wish
to communicate/work with (the abuser)", "trauma",
"relationship", "healing process", "inner child",
"the good of the children", "the importance of fathering",
"significant other" and other psycho-babble. Learn the jargon, use it
intelligently and you are bound to win the therapist's sympathy.
Above all do not be assertive, or
aggressive and do not overtly criticize the therapist or disagree with him/her.
I make the therapist sound like yet another
potential abuser because in many cases, he/she becomes one as they
inadvertently collude with the abuser, invalidate the
abuse experiences, and pathologize the victim.
(2c) Refuse All Contact
- Be sure to maintain as much
contact with your abuser as the courts, counsellors, mediators, guardians,
or law enforcement officials mandate.
- Do NOT
contravene the decisions of the system. Work from the inside to change
judgments, evaluations, or rulings but NEVER rebel against
them or ignore them. You will only turn the system against you and your
- But with the exception of
the minimum mandated by the courts decline any and all gratuitous contact
with the narcissist.
- Do not respond to his
pleading, romantic, nostalgic, flattering, or threatening e-mail messages.
- Return all gifts he sends
- Refuse him entry to your
premises. Do not even respond to the intercom.
- Do not talk to him on the
phone. Hang up the minute you hear his voice while making clear to him, in
a single, polite but firm, sentence, that you are determined not to talk
- Do not answer his letters.
- Do not visit him on special
occasions, or in emergencies.
- Do not respond to
questions, requests, or pleas forwarded to you through third parties.
- Disconnect from third
parties whom you know are spying on you at his behest.
- Do not discuss him with
- Do not ask him for
anything, even if you are in dire need.
- When you are forced to meet
him, do not discuss your personal affairs or his.
- Relegate any inevitable
contact with him when and where possible to professionals: your
lawyer, or your accountant.
How to avoid contact is the subject of the next article.
The Toxic Relationships
"Trauma Bonding" and
the Psychology of
Traumas as Social
Spousal (Domestic) Abuse and
Verbal and Emotional Abuse -
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Community
Studies on the Psychopath and Narcissist Survivors Support Group
on the Psychopath and Narcissist Survivors Support Group
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the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Forum
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