Updated: Nov 16
What does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Some of us may be guilty of entertaining an unrealistic romantic notion when it comes to relationships. The idea of being whisked away from the 9 to 5 grind by a perfectly formed, sun-kissed body, clad in a dashing white Pilots’ uniform or a skimpy red bikini - depending on your preference, may appeal!
We've watched the films and lusted after the ideal image of a relationship, but most of us know that is exactly what it is; nothing more than an image; one brilliantly executed frame taken out of context and not a true reflection of real life as we know it.
Fakery has become common placed in our society in recent years, with surgically enhanced bodies and the forged lifestyles of social media influencers, which May put reaching the bar of belonging out of some people’s reach.
The problem is we tend to compare our own relationships to the relationships of others; envious of their apparent happiness and contentment, especially at times when our own relationship may be causing pain or concern. You may have come across the saying 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; put simply; we may 'imagine' other people's lives or relationships are better than ours; or that they do not encounter the same difficulties as we do.
In reality, every relationship experiences problems, it's just that most people are either 'presenting' their 'best selves' - (another case of thinking with our eyes and believing what we see! as explained in part 1 of the process) or they are both committed to taking the time and effort to discover what it takes to make their relationship work.
In reality 'The grass is never greener on the other side, the grass withers and rots on both sides of the fence unless it is properly maintained and cared for.
Real-life relationships aren't always easy. More often than not they a precarious balance of two egos; two lots of opinions and emotions balanced against the ever-increasing pressures of life. Healthy relationships are not perfect, they are a two-way street in which both parties are responsible for monitoring and maintaining. Romantic relationships, like any other; can become tedious and difficult at times. The 'honeymoon' period that often presents itself as I have described it in phase 1, usually lasts for a few months before reality kicks in and both parties settle into their individual roles which may start to feel mundane over time. For this reason, it’s really important that both parties are committed from the outset.
Healthy relationships are made up of 6 fundamental elements;
Mutual Respect, Trust, Equality, Honesty, Compassion, and Compromise.
These elements are the foundations of any healthy relationship and are a good guide to measure relationships by. Depending on situations and circumstances, these components will fluctuate, with the odd one or two missing altogether at times; people rarely agree with each other 100% of the time no matter how much they love each other, let's face it, life would be incredibly boring if we did. Compromise often goes out the window for a short time at least, when both parties have very different ideas about a particular subject; but for the most part - all 6 ingredients should remain present in the relationship throughout, applicable to all parties concerned and to all types of relationships.
Easier said than done? perhaps. Widely known but seldom applied? maybe;
but like all things in life, you only get out of anything that you are willing to put into it - and as we know, relationships are a two-way street; both parties have to be willing to work together. One person cannot do anything to change the behaviour of another. That is like one person drinking alcohol, expecting the other person to get drunk.
In a narcissistic relationship, while all components appear to be present in Phase 1, in reality, none of them are present - but this only reveals itself to the victim in phase 2, when the narcissist's behaviour suddenly changes, by which time the victim has an emotional attachment to the narcissist.
There is a misconception that relationships require 50/50 input. Which is to say each person is 50% responsible for their part in the relationship's success. In reality, each individual is 100% responsible for their part in ensuring their relationships succeed; 50% is an only half measure.
In order to achieve 100%, each individual must first be willing to know themselves and be fully aware of the impact that they and their actions have on others. Both parties need to be able to communicate effectively, so an understanding between the parties can always be reached. If one partner is not prepared to talk about any issues experienced in the relationship; the 6 fundamental components quickly start disappearing as far as the other partner is concerned. Life is about relationships, we all have to be willing to put the effort in if we want them to succeed, and if we don't want to put the effort in, we need to be honest about that with ourselves and everyone else concerned; Honesty is one of the key elements. In narcissistic relationships, the victim is usually giving 100% while from phase 2 onward, the narcissist is taking 100% and contributing the bare minimum.
There is only one thing worse than a loveless relationship; when there is love on one side only!
When we have experienced a traumatic event, we may become guilty of 'assuming or expecting' others to understand how we are feeling and why are responding the way we are. We may assume the other person in the relationship knows why we flinch, panic, jump or lash out - when in reality, they may have absolutely no idea. As a result, the ingredients that make up the basis of a relationship are called into question by the other party. Even if both parties have experienced trauma, similar situations do not amount to the same experience, as individuals we each experience and respond to things differently. Which is why the person-centered approach underpins all my work.
In my workshops, when appropriate, I refer to the POP; Personal Opinion Processor, a simple way to explain how we each interpret the world around us. As we each absorb the information through our senses from our surroundings; it passes through the POP before reaching the brain as thought. Each person's POP is unique to them, determined by thousands of variables; including Age, Gender, Education, Status, Mood, Medication, Experience, Beliefs, Prejudices, etc. thousands of different elements, that shape our view of the world; or to put it simply:
"We see things as we are rather than as they are" (Anais Nin).
Trauma, unless addressed and understood by the person themselves, may result in an entirely negative POP, potentially shaping their lives and future relationships with a negative slant. It is important therefore that victims are given the support they need to work through their emotions following a destructive relationship.
And Finally, a word about Victim Blaming
It is important to stress, that victims of narcissistic abuse, like all victims, are neither responsible nor accountable for what has happened to them at the hands of another, despite often blaming themselves and often victim-blamed by others tasked with supporting them. Victims cannot be considered at fault when they were in-fact completely unaware of what was happening to them, that's what a victim is, someone who has suffered consequences of another's actions, beyond their control. The person inflicting the damage; in this case, the narcissist, is responsible, because they have knowingly and purposefully found and targeted a person, deliberately misled them, lied, manipulated, and coerced them with the intention of achieving an outcome that is only advantageous to the abuser.
The idea that the victim should have known better or should have acted differently to avoid being abused is ludicrous! and is nothing more than a cop-out designed to shirk responsibility. Blaming the victim makes them feel weak, vulnerable, and stupid; causing them even further distress.
An excuse often offered by a narcissist for their callous and cruel behaviour is how they themselves have fallen victim at the hands of another; and this may well be the case. However, every person is responsible for their actions and how their actions impact others; having once been a victim is no excuse for creating another one. We each have a responsibility to ourselves, to ensure we understand and manage the adversity we experience, to ensure the cycle doesn't continue.
'It is easier to build strong children than repair broken (adults)' (Fredrick Douglass); Prevention arises through understanding.
If you have chanced upon this post because you are experiencing narcissistic abuse and need support - rest assured you have found a safe space. Get In Touch if you would like to talk in confidence
It is important to remember, this is #NotYourFault
Copyright ©2014. Falling for a Narcissist: A Victim Perspective. Deborah J Crozier