It can take a long time before you recognize that you’re in a bad situation. The toxic nature of a relationship with a narcissist is often hidden at the beginning. Indeed, it probably started like a dream come true. That’s because narcissists use a strategy called “love bombing” to reel you in. They portray themselves as the perfect partner, making you feel special and worthy. But this is just a way to hook you, and it’s frighteningly effective.
Over time, we begin to experience our partner’s true toxic nature: the blaming, the gaslighting, the criticism, the lying, the future-faking, the withdrawal of affection to punish you. When this shift begins, we often think it’s our fault things aren’t as good, and we double down on our efforts to get things back to “normal.” We hang on to the hope that the partner we saw in the beginning will return.
As these toxic behaviors take their toll, you might begin to feel sad, confused, cautious, frustrated, anxious, lonely, discouraged, and disappointed. You might experience health effects like headaches, insomnia, and indigestion. The longer you stay in this toxic environment, the worse it will get. Eventually, feelings of hopelessness, despair, and helplessness can settle in, and even thoughts about whether life is worth living.
It’s critical that you recognize that you’re in a toxic environment, that the changes you’re experiencing in the relationship and in yourself are not your fault. It’s not you; it’s the narcissistic abuse and manipulation you’re being subjected to. Identify the negative effects this relationship is having on you. Write them down. Talk with someone you trust. Believe yourself. You’re not crazy. You’re being poisoned.