Every so often a new client arrives in the therapy room asking for help with managing a relative or partner. The client is desparate to understand why the other person is constantly humiliating others, critizing everybody and everything, for apparently no reason. The clients look for confirmation of their own perception which are also constantly questioned by the other person. So, the client experiences a great sense of loss of self-confidence and tries ever so hard to appease and please the other person who very often will sabotage any attempt of reconciliation. Arguments can get out of hand and the other person might not speak to the client for a long time, sometimes for years.
The clients I see do not dare to raise their voices or set boundaries in order to prevent the eruption of uncontainable and sometimes violent anger of the other person. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NCP) seem to lie to themselves and the outside world about who they are or possibly would like to be. The outside world admire but do not like the other person who may be a high achiever, entertaining, and seductive. However, these people do not think that the relationship is dysfunctional or that they are causing distress. Mostly, they are self-absorbed and in denial. Therefore, they do not seek help but we find the children or partners in our therapy room.
My experience is that clients are being helped by a) sharing the experience with people who are or have been in a similar relationship, b) by testing reality with others of their assessment of the client’s behaviour and c) by gaining a better understanding of the other person’s efforts to hide and protect any very vulnerable aspects of himself by all means, d) to learn to set boundaries; and e) it is also important to work with the client on how she/he married a person with NCP and only saw the problems with it after many years into the relationship.