(Read time: 1-2 mins)
Narcissists hate boundaries. Here’s why:
When the partner attempts to establish and maintain boundaries with a narcissist, the narcissist experiences this as a total loss of control, a form of “disobedience” by the partner, and profound rejection of self – a negation of him/herself. He experiences intense anxiety and rage. He aggressively attempts to demolish whatever boundaries, real or perceived, and tries to re-establish his sense control over the partner, and his sense of self.
Perception is important, because a narcissist will perceive boundaries in merely everyday commonplace instances, such as the partner not answering the phone – it doesn’t matter if she can’t get to the phone, is busy with work, etc. – the narcissist will see this as a boundary and a rejection of him, and he will react accordingly.
He will get angry, try to exert more control over the partner, become even more abusive, and guilt-shame his partner – such as accusing her of being selfish and uncaring. Often the narcissist will use these occasions to throw in the threat of leaving the relationship.
Over time, the partner is conditioned by the narcissist’s abusive reaction to her boundaries to believe: “Boundaries = I am selfish, uncaring, I will be punished, my partner will leave me.” Establishing and defending boundaries becomes traumatic for the partner, so she stops trying. Enmeshment follows.
A narcissist simply does not acknowledge or respect the partner’s “otherness” in any way. He co-opts his partner, and in his mind she becomes an extension of himself (and eventually becomes his detested internal trash can, into which he dumps his rage, self-loathing and abuse.)
Over time, if the partner does not leave this toxic dynamic, the narcissist will continually and intentionally provoke conflict, aggressively use emotional, verbal, and even physical abuse, manipulate and invalidate his partner. Eventually he will establish complete control. This dynamic dismantles the partner’s identity, and she will become a just a fractured shell of her former self.
The good news is, this is not permanent.
Healing begins as soon as the partner leaves the narcissist. Leaving is the catalyst. It may not feel like healing, at first. But it is, and it just takes time.
1) Know your boundaries and stick firmly to them. Follow your gut instincts, from the very beginning of a relationship. If something doesn’t seem right, sound right, feel right, or look right; it’s not right. If you feel a boundary has been violated, it has. So cut it off, and cut off contact. And don’t look back.
2) Love-bombing, no matter how wonderful it seems, is a major boundary violation and a significant red flag. Healthy relationships do not start this way. Toxic relationships; relationships with narcissists, always start this way.