Narcissistic Relationships and Finding Your Voice
A crucial element for finding your voice in ANY relationship is being heard by the other person. The challenge with finding your voice in a narcissistic relationship is that your partner most likely does not have the capacity to hear you. When you consistently feel unheard by your partner, you are likely to begin experiencing feelings of despair, hopeless, anger, rage, and frustration. Having these feelings often and repeatedly is not good for your own well-being and does not bode well for the success of the relationship over the long run. Feeling heard by your partner is a normal thing to want and need in a relationship. Most people in a narcissistic relationship find that their partner cannot meet these needs at all, or, cannot meet these needs with enough consistency to make a difference.
Many of my clients have little experience being heard by another person. In our sessions we talk about what that looks and feels like, and through my own listening the client can directly experience what it feels like to be heard.
When another person is genuinely hearing you, you will notice some of these behaviors in that person:
The person can stop talking and be quiet
The person does not talk over you or interrupt you
The person makes eye contact
The person is curious about what you have to say and asks questions to better understand you
The person accepts what you said, even if they disagree, and respects your right to have your own point of view on things
The person can spend some time exploring what you have said before bringing the conversation back around to themselves
The person will verbally validate you and your experience
The person will reflect back to you what you have said
The person will be able to sense how you are feeling with a reasonable amount of accuracy
When another person is genuinely hearing you, you will notice some of these behaviors in yourself:
You can relax
You feel less defensive
You want to share more of yourself
You develop genuine curiosity about the other person
Your feelings about the issue at hand become less rigid
Your nervous system is soothed
You become open to more possibilities
You feel accepted as you are, and you can sense the lack of judgment
Often clients will want to try and change their narcissistic partner. Clients often ask, “Can a narcissistic relationship work?” They hope to cultivate these traits in the other person in order to have a different experience in the relationship. In relationships without narcissistic tendencies, this is definitely possible. All it takes is two people who are willing and interested. However, it is highly unlikely to be an effective strategy in narcissistic relationships. If your partner has more extreme narcissistic tendencies, he or she will not have the interest, or the capacity, to really hear you.
In my work with clients who have narcissistic partners, I support them to 1) articulate the actual experience they are having in the relationship (as opposed to the hoped for experience); 2) get clear on their feelings about the actual experience; 3) uncover unconscious drivers that create their attraction to partners with narcissistic characteristics; 4) experience what it’s like to be deeply seen and heard in the context of the therapeutic relationship; and 5) explore the complexity of thoughts and feelings they have around staying in the relationship as well as around leaving it.
Some tips and tricks if you find yourself in a narcissistic relationship:
If you suspect you are dating a narcissist, you might want to get curious about whether or not you feel heard in your relationship. You can experiment with sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner, and then pay attention to how he or she responds, and how you feel during this process.
Begin to take a more critical look at all your relationships. Who are the people who can hear you? Who are the people who cannot? How do you feel when you are around those who can hear you? How does that compare to how it feels to be around people who cannot hear you?
If you find that most people in your life aren’t able to hear you, consider getting support from a professional who values the healing potential in the therapeutic relationship and is experienced with listening, being present, and non-judgmental exploration. Simply having the experience of being heard can open up many new possibilities.
Know that you are not alone. Whether you are in a relationship with a narcissistic man or a relationship with a narcissistic woman, you can get help, heal, experience recovery, and even learn how to attract different types of people into your life going forward.
If you would like to learn more about healing from a narcissistic relationship click here.
About the Author
Diana Calvo is a psychotherapist and coach who helps people get unstuck and transform their day-to-day experience of work and life. After 20 years successfully climbing the corporate ladder, Diana experienced her own journey of healing and awakening. She discovered her true calling to guide others on their journey out of suffering and into a life of purpose and joy. Diana left the corporate world to start her own coaching business. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her dog Joey and a beautiful view of the mountains. She works with clients across the globe.