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Surviving a sociopathic / narcissistic relationship

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I'll post this in excerpts as a reflection and journal, maybe others experienced something like this and can contribute as well.

At first, most people think a narcissist is someone who is 'into themselves' that's very flawed perception and assumption. Bodybuilders are often stereotyped as narcissists because we're 'too focused' on our bodies / image. Maybe some bodybuilders are narcissists (you may not even know you are one), but working out, self-improvement/maintaining health/strength/looks does not necessarily mean you are a narcissist.

One may simply have body image issues (or not), you may simply be driven by dedication and work, you may enjoy the endorphin feeling, you may like constant self-improvement, or for me stress relief. Where narcissism comes into play is when you are selfish and don't care how or why or when you hurt others at the selfish desire of your own self. You may not have any empathy towards those around you, you simply see yourself and what you desire and don't care about how you make others feel.

There are also certain traits that narcissists exert, such as being irresponsible, unaccountable. You may never say sorry or feel apologetic, you never own up. You never stop and reflect have I hurt someone, you don't go to that person and say I am sorry, you just maintain what you want in your head and don't care how you make others feel. You force others to serve you or make others do what you want, but you never do the same for others. Now these are the kind of traits that will make you closer to actually being a narcissist.

The experience I had has left me severely traumatized. I have never been treated this horribly by any human in my entire life, and the harder I tried to be better, the worser the result. Even people I hated or that hated me never treated me this bad. I'm overall a very confident and driven guy, but this relationship, I felt stuck, trapped and was constantly treated like dog shit every day, for whatever reason, I never left.
I never left maybe to an extent because I loved and believed in love and being blindly in love played a role but only up to a point, after a while your feelings turn cold from constant mistreatment, why would you want to love someone who treats you crap even if it's in your nature to love. It was ultimately the false hope that we can change people or that things will change that kept me stuck. The idea that I am married and must make things work played a factor; personally for me having been previously married it mentally made me never want to start all over again which is why I put in so much extra effort. Finally, false promises, when you are told so many things but that other person forgets, but you don't forget, then you start to rethink, but may still be feeling trapped.

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My previous (and my third marriage) was like this. To this day I have some PTSD from it.  Not to mention all the physical aspects being stacked on top of the mental. 

Having people follow you, threaten you and your co-workers (at knifepoint), your apartment (post separation) being broken into etc.  Good times.  I actually almost died from one altercation do to a severed artery resulting in severe blood loss. Best part is when the police wont help you since domestic violence against men is....well, not supported. 

Divorce ended up costing me everything financially as well and putting me in pretty heavy debt.  My current girl is great and my daughter is an angel, so I am in a better place now but I still have moments where I get caught in a memory and it can throw me into a panic attack.

I feel for you man and hope you get it resolved asap.  You need to do what is best for you and get that weight off you.  Rebuilding yourself also takes time. 

Moral of the story...know when to call it. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The more I read about narcissists the more it all makes complete sense what I was going through. A malignant narcissist / sociopath. I just got to say, now that I am out of this, I feel so incredibly much better in my life! I realize how abnormal the whole thing was and that it really wasn't a relationship, it was a one way road. The entire relationship was all just about her and what she wants. I completely gave up on myself, what I want, what I feel, etc... and the reason I was trapped I realize is because I did not want to fail a second time, the mentality of don't throw things out, mend/fix them, which is okay if both people are normal people, but lol in this situation no way!

I will share some quotes I found which really opened my eyes.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/malignant-narcissist#:~:text=In the popular conception%2C malignant,and other things they desire.

What to know about malignant narcissism

Malignant narcissism is a personality type that causes extreme narcissism, aggression, and, sometimes, abuse of others.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list malignant narcissism as a diagnosis.

Some people describe malignant narcissism as a form of psychopathy, which the DSM-5 also does not list. Psychopathy is an unofficial term for people with antisocial personality disorder.

As there is not a well-validated scale to measure malignant narcissism, its characteristics are not clearly defined. It may serve as a moral judgment rather than a diagnosis, especially in online abuse recovery and self-help spaces. Whether malignant narcissism is a real diagnosis remains controversial.

Keep reading to learn more about malignant narcissism, including the signs and traits and how to deal with someone who may present characteristics of this personality disorder.

Person walking in the background of several chairs, to represent a malignant narcissistShare on Pinterest Sarah Mason/Getty Images

The notion of malignant narcissism originates in the self-help and law enforcement communities, not in psychiatry. These communities have focused on malignant narcissism as a behavioral judgment and a specific form of abuse rather than a mental health diagnosis.

In the popular conception, malignant narcissism is a form of narcissistic personality disorder that is highly abusive. People with this personality supposedly get a sense of satisfaction from hurting others and may manipulate people or lie to gain money, acclaim, and other things they desire.

Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary suggests that malignant narcissism includes traits of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorderTrusted Source causes a person to seek constant acclaim and admiration, often by whatever means necessary. It also includes elements of antisocial personality disorder, which causes a person to engage in harmful, and sometimes criminal, behavior.

More recently, mental health professionals have attempted to determine whether malignant narcissism is a real diagnosis. A 2022 paperTrusted Source tried to develop a scoring inventory for malignant narcissism.

A 2019 paper emphasizes that malignant narcissism is a judgment based on beliefs about a person’s thoughts, rather than an actual diagnosis. This judgment relies heavily on legal and forensic frameworks rather than medical science.

Malignant narcissism includes characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. Those symptoms includeTrusted Source:

  • lack of empathy
  • using relationships primarily as a tool for gaining self-esteem
  • having little interest in others’ experiences, needs, or feelings
  • attention-seeking behavior
  • feelings of entitlement or being special
  • believing themself to be superior to others

A person with malignant narcissism may harm others to gain attention, feed their sense of superiority, and get what they want. For this reason, a person may also have traits of antisocial personality disorder. These include:

  • disregard for or hostility toward the rights of others
  • aggression and violence
  • lack of remorse for harming others
  • a tendency to lie
  • breaking the law
  • chronic irresponsibility
  • impulsive or reckless behavior

A person with malignant narcissism may appear superficially charming. They may manipulate people to gain praise or lie about others to depict themself in a more flattering light.

People with a narcissistic personalityTrusted Source crave attention and acclaim. They believe they are special and want others to believe this, too. They may seek the attention they want through positive strategies, such as getting a good job or being charming, or negative ones, such as lying to others or abusing loved ones.

The need for attention and love is also present for people with malignant narcissism. However, their strategies for getting this attention tend to be more aggressive, and they show less regard for the rights of others. They may have antisocial personality traits that cause them to abuse others willingly, and sometimes happily, for their own pleasure and personal gain.

There is not a clear distinguishing line between narcissism and malignant narcissism. Instead, malignant narcissism is a judgment about how a person’s narcissism affects others.


Some self-help literature labels people with malignant narcissism as sociopaths or psychopaths, both of which are unofficial terms.

Although the idea of a person without a conscience, i.e., a sociopath or psychopath, is popular in television, movies, and some psychology media, the DSM-5 does not list either as a diagnosis. These labels judge a person’s moral character or conscience, neither of which science can objectively prove the existence of or judge.

The diagnosis most similar to psychopathy or sociopathy is antisocial personality disorder. This disorder causes a person to disrespect the rights of others, disregard people’s feelings and needs, and lack empathy.

Individuals with malignant narcissism share many traits in common with those with antisocial personality disorder, including a lack of regard for others’ well-being. The label also often comes with a desire for acclaim or special treatment. Some people with traits of malignant narcissism may achieve these goals by harming, lying to, or using others.

Popular depictions of psychopathy and sociopathy emphasize that these individuals will not respond to treatment. There are several treatment optionsTrusted Source for antisocial personality disorder, though treatment can be difficult, and people with antisocial personality disorder rarely seek it. These treatments may also help individuals with malignant narcissism.

Avoiding a person with malignant narcissism is a key self-protection strategy. No one can cure another person’s mental health disorder, and those with narcissistic traits who refuse treatment can cause significant harm.

However, sometimes, a person must interact with someone with malignant narcissism. Some strategies that can help include:

  • Documentation: People working, co-parenting, or sharing a legal relationship with someone with narcissism should communicate in writing when possible and document conversations to whatever extent is safely and legally possible. This prevents the person with narcissism from making false claims and escalating abuse by, for example, trying to seek custody of children.
  • Gray rocking: Gray rocking means channeling a gray, boring rock — in other words, being as uninteresting as possible. Many people with narcissism want a reaction, even a negative one. When they do not get it, they may lose interest.
  • Establishing boundaries: Individuals with narcissism may routinely violate boundaries, so it is important to establish internal guidelines. These might include deciding to leave the room if the person becomes abusive or spending only a limited time with them.
  • Understanding narcissism: People with narcissism have a mental health problem. Learning about and understanding how narcissism functions can help others learn how to deal with people with the traits of this disorder.

People who interact with those with narcissism may experience gaslighting, a form of abuse that can make a person feel as though their reality might not be real. They may also find that the person with narcissism attempts to turn others against them. It can be difficult to recover from these situations.

Some strategies for recovering include:

  • Seeking legal help, where useful: People who have a boss or ex-spouse with narcissism may need legal help. They can work with a lawyer to identify their legal rights.
  • Seeking mental health support: Following abuse, mental health support can help a person understand how a healthy relationship should look and help them regain their self-esteem.
  • Finding peer support: Talking with others who have survived abuse can make a person feel less alone. Some people may benefit from joining an online or in-person support group.

People experiencing domestic violence can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).


Malignant narcissism is not a medical diagnosis, and its status as a potential diagnosis remains controversial. However, this does not mean that it is not real.

Many harmful behaviors and traits are not technical diagnoses but can still affect the person who has them, as well as the people around them. The label of malignant narcissism simply provides additional information about a group of symptoms that some people notice in others.

It is important to consider that popular ideas about malignant narcissism may not be true. For instance, there is no science supporting the idea that people with these traits can never change. However, there is also no evidence that third parties can compel them to change.

A mental health professional may be able to help people with malignant narcissism who wish to recover. They can usually also help victims of narcissistic abuse.


Last medically reviewed on February 7, 2022

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  • 4 weeks later...

So just an update, I am unfortunately still dealing with this individual due to necessity, but the more time passes and the more I am outside the box now, the more I realize how she used various specific techniques of manipulation and ways of abusing.

Gas lightning, totally constant to fire me up, work me up, provoke me, all to get her way or to absolve herself of any accountability or when her own action happened to absolve herself to reverse or mirror or deflect something back on to me such as mistreating me and raging to me being upset and then pointing the finger saying no you are actually the one with anger.

Deflection: a means to absolve oneself of any form of accountability and to somehow manipulate the situation and shift blame

Mirroring: similar to the above but if you are pointing something out, literally repeats what you're saying back onto you.

Projection: I was accused of cheating, but as it turns out she was cheating all year long, her friends who were also accusing me are also cheaters and sleep around LOL, so quite ironic... Projection is basically a reflection of what they are, what they feel like, what they are doing but projected onto you via various accusations.

Hoovering: She only literally contacts me when she needs something, it isn't a change of heart, just a moment of need.

Supply: This is another term I've learned about, essentially to a narcisist we are 'supply', you can have old supply, current supply and you guessed it, they will aim for new supply while they are even with you lol. My ex specifically was reconnecting with her ex when she didn't have a new supply and I was getting 'old', lol, long story short, she uses whomever she needs to make herself feel better. Mind you the stories I was given about her ex was that he was a horrible person, a cheater, a psychopath, etc... he turned out to just be a nerd lol. The moment I walked out she went on a date within a week, so that's how much they really 'love' anyone.

DRAVO: an acronym for "deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender" it's a common tactic of psychological abuse. A form of reverse abuse, so if she was punching me or kicking me and I restrained her from punching me, she would scream out that she is in pain or that I am hurting her, then call me an abuser. Or if she was yelling at me and screaming at me and I snapped from all the screaming and suddenly I was loud, then she would reverse and call me aggressive or abusive, etc... essentially a reversal of their own action to cry crocodile tears and play the victim themselves. She would even do this pre-emptively to say that I am the one playing the victim when I am retelling what she was doing. Pretty fucked up. Essentially not just playing the victim BUT ALSO blaming the Victim. Seriously fucked up.

Future faking: I found many letters she wrote to me promising to change and promising to get me help. These are letters from like 2020, 2018, 2021, even this year (where this year she made ME write how I would change or what I need to do). Essentially building up in my mind false hope that things will change and that I can cling onto hope and make me trapped.

Love bombing: I realized in the very beginning she was overly sweet, too perfect, got me in the first year so many little surprises and gifts and it melted my heart but then I am not certain if all of these were actually legit or just love bombing. I noticed this with another friend of hers who would use this as a pure manipulation technique to get her way by over complimenting my ex. I started seeing this way before I realized what I am trapped in though.


Then another thing I noticed was, a repetitive action where if she wants something she will say sorry (not legit) or I love you but then right away follow up with something she needs or wants. If I refused or said no, it was from the minor level just plain rudeness/bad mood to extreme range and tantrums.


So yeah now that I look back I can see how these have been occuring in my experience. It's really fucked up.

Another thing relative to love bombing I read about is the speed at which the relationship moves, now don't get me wrong many people married fast in the past and they have long healthy relationships, but this girl moved into my place within a month, we married shortly few months later, etc... I was blindly love and didn't know what I was getting myself into even though the red flags were there I was just stupid.

Edited by a_ahmed
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