So you’ve been thinking about going to couple’s counseling with your abusive partner.
After all, you’ve apparently committed some serious grievances against them. According to her or him, it’s a wonder you’re not on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. With their help, you think back to the times you snapped as you pick up the phone and dial your insurance company to find marriage counselors in your area. You have been feeling high-strung and confused lately …and it seems you’ve been forgetting some of the horrible things you said to your partner, including how you wished harm upon their family, and their cousin, twice removed from their third step-father’s side.
Before you start going down the list of marriage and relationship counselors, it’s important to consider that going to therapy with a Narcissist will accomplish three things: 1) waste time and money, 2) keep you in a relationship that is doomed to fail anyway and 3) likely result in your feeling like more of the “monster” your partner keeps claiming you are.
The sad truth is that in my experience working with clients who have suffered narcissistic abuse, as well as the hours of research I’ve done, I’ve not come across one success story as it relates to couple’s therapy with a narcissist. Not one. (It sure did nothing to help me!)
Sure, your narcissistic/abusive partner might agree to go to counseling with you, but it’s not to make any improvements or lasting change. They only do it to keep you enmeshed in the relationship and to enhance their false image of trying to “make it work”.
There are reasons for the lack of counseling/therapy success with a narcissist, including:
• Narcissists are masters at creating great impressions. Because of this, some naïve therapists side with the narcissist regarding the extreme and despicable claims made against the true victim – the one being emotionally and mentally abused.
• Because there’s such a lack of applicable experience dealing with narcissists, most therapists have been trained to address subjective perceptions. Due to this, narcissists get away with playing the victim, which puts them in a one-up position in regards to the abuse dynamic that will inevitably get worse at home.
• On the topic of subjective perceptions, the victim often goes along with what the therapist says, thus working double-time to improve the relationship…all in vain. (This is also due to the victim being co-dependent, which causes him or her to put in more than their fair share, anyway). The narcissist will not appreciate any efforts extended by their victim, and in fact may mock them, causing further emotional damage.
• It’s not unusual for the narcissist to insist on seeing the therapist first. This gives him or her the opportunity to lay down false accusations and give the therapist a wrong impression of what’s actually going on in the relationship.
• The victim, feeling safe and encouraged by the therapist, usually expresses their pain, disappointments, and may possibly confess to serious emotional or physical assault. This often makes things much worse for them at home, and strengthens the trauma bond, thus making it harder to leave.
• Typically, the narcissist goes into the therapist’s office and morphs into a fictional, decent character. Once back at home, they return to their normal, abusive selves.
Please understand that this article is not meant to discourage anyone from seeking individual therapy. This post was written to highlight some of the reasons why therapy with the narcissist is a recipe for disaster. Further, there are some very skilled therapists who can detect a cluster-B disordered person within minutes of meeting one. Those who are skilled in this area will usually inform the abuse victim of their observations regarding the emotional abuse and exploitation dealt out by the narcissist.
Victims of narcissistic abuse and emotional trauma should always incorporate professional therapy as part of their recovery program to address conditions such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, phobias, family of origin wounds, and the like. There are some wonderful and skilled counselors out there, though it may take some exploration to find one who resonates with you.
There are some websites on the internet that claim to help you “make it work” with the narcissist, or even to help you “tame” the narcissist. I would exercise extreme caution when visiting these sites. While there may be some great info regarding codependence and changing oneself, there simply is no way to remain in a relationship with a narcissist and maintain a sense of self, much less heal inner wounds that need to be healed in order to recover.