Love – Putting the Horse Before the Cart
In order to form healthy relationships, certain elements or building blocks are necessary for healthy attachment: Intimacy or knowing the other person, trusting that person, relying on that person, committing to that person and then depending on the type of relationship, adding the element of sexual intimacy.
It’s very common in the aftermath of this abuse that targets have a great fear and mistrust of ourselves in the area of “love” that we shun the idea all together. We fear that we will not be able to discern healthy love from toxic love whether that comes from another narcissist or someone equally unhealthy.
In order for us to build the type of healthy relationships we desire after having endured narcissistic abuse, we must come to understand how the 4 elements mentioned above build upon eachother and form the foundation of a healthy relationship.
Narcissistic Abuse – What Went Wrong?
In narcissistic relationships, the narcissist’s disorder skews the formula and discombobulates and confuses us; it ensures that we put the Cart BEFORE the horse.
Intimacy is defined as
Targets who grew up in narcissistic households weren’t shown the example of authenticity and honest knowledge by our primary narcissistic caregivers. We learn to accept “verbal declarations” of love as a replacement for action oriented love & intimacy because narcissists insist that you don’t question their actions. In adult life, when a well groomed target encounters another narcissist, who hides behind their words and excuses, we are quick to deny our intuition and gloss over the knowledge their actions are giving us.
Narcissists hide their true selves behind a mask. Their shame core runs so deep that to be known for who they really are is too terrifying to risk. They present this “acceptable” masked image to the world in an effort to ward off the inevitable rejection and abandonment from being known intimately. However, Narcissists desperately need your connection, intimacy and your love.
The narcissist employs manipulative tactics to circumvent the normal “intimacy” process. Believing themselves entitled to receive the one-sided benefits of love from you, they do two very strategic tactics:
They love bomb their potential targets, mirroring targets characteristics and pretending to offer all the promises of unconditional love and intimacy. They do this in a rapid, whirlwind fashion so that we don’t have time to stop and discern the real knowledge of who the narcissist truly is. They fake us, they con us and they push us quickly into trusting, relying and committing to them before those next phases have been truly earned.
We don’t ever “fall in love” with the real narcissist. We fall in love with an image that they purposefully created for us to extract what they needed from us.
Only when we KNOW someone can we healthily move along to the next phase of relationship: TRUST.
Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Narcissists never earn the second stage of trust in a relationship, because they never give us the ability to really know them. However, in hindsight, targets learn a very important lesson about “knowing” the narcissist. It’s one of the reasons we focus so much on describing the narcissist and defining their actions, because with our new found knowledge, we now know to trust our intuition and look for the tell tale signs of a narcissist’s character (or lack of character) by their ACTIONS without being deceived by their words.
Other aspects of the narcissists disorder also prevent trust:
They can’t be mutual and reciprocal. They are one sided and self serving.
They are pathological liars. Their words are meaningless and empty.
They treat everyone with callous disregard and lack of empathy.
They have a history of harming others.
They are unreliable.
Their identity is undefined and chameleon like.
They are not loyal.
Narcissists DEMAND BLIND trust, they don’t command it. They strong arm their targets into trusting them, when there is NO LOGICAL basis for doing so. They expect the whirlwind of love bombing to be so effective that when it comes time for us to assert ourselves regarding our trust issues with the narcissist, we will continually back down from doing so. We can’t trust someone we don’t know and further, we can’t trust someone with narcissistic personality disorder because of their character. This is the stage where, based on our knowledge of who they are, we should be escaping the relationship not relying on it or committing to it.
Relying on a Narcissist
Here’s where we as targets begin to feel the cognitive dissonance between being demanded to trust the narcissist with love bombing as the “rationale” for doing so (because they love us) and having to fight our intuition that says, “do NOT trust this person”.
We deeply know we can’t rely on the narcissist to be there for us in any real way: they don’t listen to us, they don’t respect us, they don’t respect our boundaries, we are not validated, we aren’t shown genuine unconditional love, we are shown abuse. But we are expected to remember the love bombing, forget about the reality and proceed to commit to the narcissist without the expectation of any mutual reliance or commitment.
We are in great pain in this stage because we want the narcissist to be there for us in real ways. We’re under the “impression” that we’re in a “loving” relationship and that means to us, that we will be valued, heard, cared for, and can rely upon the people who say they love us to have our best interests at heart. NONE OF THIS could be further from the truth with a narcissist. It is during this awful managing down phase that the narcissist plays on our strengths of forgiveness, benefit of doubt, second chances and understanding that they use our strengths to keep us locked in the pain cycle and committed to our abusers with no relief whatsoever. This dissonance between what we believe “should” happen and what is actually happening (abuse) can go on for many many years.
Commitment is the next conscious stage of intimacy building that is entirely out of context with a narcissist. As we just described, we remain locked in a cycle of abuse that solely benefits the narcissist with our love and “commitment” to a relationship that serves the narcissist only but is full of pain and abuse for ourselves.
Healthy commitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, or person. At it’s worst, in a narcissistically abusive relationship it’s an engagement or obligation that restricts our freedom of action.
The narcissist is keen to know that they aren’t “earning” our intimacy or commitment they are FORCING IT, they are manipulating it and they are stealing it. Our rational brains would NOT allow us to commit to an unreliable, untrustworthy and unknown stranger. But our emotions and heart can certainly be manipulated by a skilled predator and sociopath and that is exactly what’s happening when a target appears to be “committed” to a narcissist.
Finally, no one who hasn’t earned our trust and reliance upon them by being a person of character who is fully committed and loyal to us, should receive benefit of our sexual intimacy. It is foolhardy to give our physical beings to someone we don’t know. Yet, with a narcissist’s careful manipulation of us, we do just that. We open ourselves up in our most vulnerable sense when we share physical / sexual intimacy with another person. We trust that they are loyal to us, won’t give us a disease, misuse or mistreat us and will honor and value the level of intimacy we are sharing with them.
This trust and reliance of and on a narcissist to respect us sexually is entirely misplaced, especially after all the evidence we have to the contrary regarding how they treated us emotionally and mentally in the initial stages. Again, narcissists rush and push for sexual intimacy. They are addicted to the feelings they get from having our sexual attention and affection; our supply is their drug. They will do and say ANYTHING to get their fix.
If putting the “horse before the cart” is the proper analogy to building healthy love based on predicated stages of intimacy, trust, reliance, commitment and sexuality, it becomes clear to see how the narcissist’s distortion of these elements becomes a toxic, confusing mess.
Further, a narcissists’s demands that the cart be put before the horse, that we give them our love, sex, and commitment prior to their earning it, is a disastrous set up for dependence upon and addiction to a toxic, abusive relationship.