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Narcissism is subtle. Your partner may be kind, loving, and caring in public, but at home the disguise is removed, and they are completely different. You feel exhausted... always on edge. You are afraid of making your partner angry… of doing something wrong. You feel alone… confused… and guilty for your “mistakes.” You have apologized over and over… You keep hoping... but nothing seems to change.

Narcissistic behaviors destroy relationships and are painful and destructive to family members and partners. Over time, they can completely devastate the partner’s sense of self. These behaviors are abusive.

Abuse is a strong word but, simply put, abuse is about power. One partner seeks to obtain and hold power over another. We often think of abuse as being physical but take a look at the various types of abuse and see if you can identify how power is a driving force.

Physical – throwing things, hitting, pushing, controlling access to medication

Emotional / Psychological – gaslighting, silent treatment, threats, derogatory terms

Verbal – threatening violence against a person or pet, threatening self-harm or suicide, telling someone that they are worthless, name-calling

Religious / Spiritual – using religious or spiritual beliefs as a form of manipulation, quoting religious texts to justify abuse, insisting children are raised with religious practices not mutually agreed upon

Sexual – forced or manipulated sex, birth control sabotage, unwanted sexual jokes or comments, ignoring sexual boundaries

Financial – insisting a person work outside of the home or not allowing them to work, denying access to bank accounts or income sources, sabotaging education or work

Cultural / Identity – using slurs, withholding identity documents, using cultural norms to justify abuse, isolating from cultural community

Technological – not allowing someone to get their own email address, constant calls or messages, changing or demanding passwords without permission

Not one of these areas is unreachable by a narcissist seeking power or control in a relationship.

Are you in this situation? Due to the manipulative, gradual nature of narcissistic abuse, it can be difficult to obtain clarity. This short quiz, taken from Spin Cycle Coaching, can help in determining whether you are in a narcissistic relationship. Read through the list and, for each “yes” answer, give yourself 1 point.

The Toxic 12 Quiz

  1. Does the person always put their needs and priorities first?

  2. Does the toxic person respond in a way that makes you question your own thoughts, memories, and events occurring around you? And yet are the tables turned when you bring up a valid complaint, leading you to forget the issue and focus instead on your own behavior?

  3. If you disagree with an opinion or decision, are you called disloyal, negative or antagonistic?

  4. Are you made to doubt simple actions such as buying a household product at the store?

  5. Do you find yourself taking the blame for things that aren’t your fault?

  6. Do you find yourself apologizing a lot?

  7. When your friends or family members express concerns about what’s happening, do you defend the abuser or come up with excuses for their behavior?

  8. Does this person behave negatively towards you, but pleasant towards others? And, when you ask for the same treatment, are you told you’re the only person who has a problem with them?

  9. Have you lost your identity, ambitions, values, and beliefs?

  10. Do you feel belittled, devalued, or dismissed?

  11. Are you made to feel that you’re too much or not enough?

  12. Is your voice not heard, validated or welcome in the system?

Looking at your list of “yes” answers, if you have five or more, you are most likely dealing with a narcissist.

If so, please remember these three important points:

You are not crazy.

It’s not your fault.

You are not alone.

Recognizing the relationship dynamic is the first step. The journey of healing and recovery from a narcissistic relationship takes time. Remind yourself as many times as necessary… You are not crazy. It is not your fault. You are not alone.

KS Services is here to walk with you… to stand beside you… to remind you of the truth. Please give us a call if you would like to learn more or have questions about your relationship. In addition, below are a few resources for further information or study.


First and foremost, make contact with a therapist who understands the nuances of narcissistic abuse.


The M3ND Project

Surviving Narcissism

Spin Cycle Coaching

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Association for NPD/Psychopathy Survivor Treatment, Research & Education

Safe Relationships Magazine


Healing from Hidden Abuse – Shannon Thomas

Exposing Financial Abuse – Shannon Thomas

The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist – Debbie Mirza

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? – Dr. Karyl McBride

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage – Leslie Vernick

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship – Leslie Vernick

Please call or email if you would like further information or a presentation on this subject.

References: (n.d.). Narcissist toxic 12 traits quiz. Retrieved from

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“Tina likes her coworker Janet. However, when they are interacting with their superiors or colleagues, it always feels like Janet has to “one-up” her. It’s a new year, and they are sitting in a meeting with their supervisors and executive team. During the meeting their boss asks about the status of their latest projects. Janet quickly interrupts Tina when she is describing her project… In most meetings, Janet takes over the conversation, their boss focuses on her, and Tina stops talking because she knows she will never be able to finish her sentence. Often, Janet’s comments interrupt the flow of the meeting, and progress is derailed. Janet exhibits similar behavior when they are among their other coworkers. For instance, if the coworkers are in a conversation, it isn’t uncommon for Janet to intrude on the discussion or change the subject to divert the attention onto herself or exhibit flattery for her colleagues. Sometimes, Janet can be lovely to Tina. In fact, she often has nothing but complimentary things to say about Tina when speaking to others. However, this is contrasted by how she minimizes Tina and makes Tina feel like expressing her opinion about Janet’s behaviors would make Tina look bad… Tina often thinks no one would understand that Janet’s self-focused actions steal Tina’s chance to shine and in the end, all eyes stay on Janet.” (The M3ND Project, 2020).

“Susan fell in love with her husband Rob because he was considerate and sweet, always flattering her with compliments and lavishing his love . . . in the beginning. But after a few years of marriage, she noticed that Rob began to mistreat her, almost as if, because they were married, he no longer had a reason to be kind. He criticizes her in disagreements, blames her in arguments, and doesn’t admit when he is wrong or apologize to her. He expects her to apologize profusely to restore peace even if she has done nothing wrong. Rob doesn’t ask Susan how she is feeling or try to help her if she isn’t doing well. He only pays attention to her when he needs or wants something. Susan feels like a servant who has to tip-toe around her master; she knows he will only be nice if she does everything his way. And it doesn’t help that when they are out in public, Rob seems like such a nice guy. People consistently tell Susan how lucky she is to have him” (The M3ND Project, 2020).

What do these two scenarios have in common? Narcissistic behaviors in relationship. If some or all of these experiences seem familiar to you, what do you do?

Take a look at the following steps for help in managing overt and covert narcissistic relationships:

Note: The words “narcissist” and “narcissistic” are used as shorthand to describe

someone who displays narcissistic tendencies.

1. Avoid Taking It Personally. When you are on the receiving end, the manipulation, deceit, disregard, and entitlement can feel very personal—like you are doing something wrong. However, it is important to remember that they have nothing to do with you. While you can certainly “own” your part, the unhealthy behaviors are due to something unhealthy in them.

2. Set Boundaries. Take some time to consider what you value and what is important to you, then create boundaries. If you value time with family, you may need to set a boundary with your boss around answering calls or responding to emails on weekends. If you are dating, you may need to ask for some breathing room—especially if you are an introvert. Because narcissists do not like boundaries, be prepared to consistently reinforce your requests. Boundaries are healthy and let others know what you value and how you would like to be treated.

3. Advocate for Yourself. Speak up for what is important to you. Like boundaries, you may need to first identify your values, goals, and who it is that you would like to become. Then, say what you need. “I need you to not call on the weekends.” “I am happy to listen to you when you speak to me kindly and with respect.” Your words enable the narcissist to see that you will no longer allow their unhealthy tactics. Not easy, but worth it.

4. Create a Healthy Distance. Interacting with a narcissist can be exhausting. When possible, try to create space and time between conversations and collaborations. Maybe consider communicating through email only versus texting and/or calling. Can you move to another part of the building or take breaks more often? In a family, generating distance can be much more difficult. Consider organizing a regular evening out with friends, taking up a new hobby, or joining a group that looks interesting.

While these four general steps will help protect you during any type of contact with someone displaying narcissistic tendencies, if you have been experiencing an intimate relationship with a narcissist (i.e., married, dating, etc.), these four steps may not be enough. The consequences in these situations can be great which is why we will devote next week’s blog to this topic. Areas covered will include accompanying impact, resources, and where to find help.

As always, if you would like more information about navigating a relationship with someone who demonstrates narcissistic tendencies, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services, LLC for a free 15-minute consultation. We would be happy to answer any questions!

If you would like a reminder of those traits and behaviors, they can be found on the first and second blog in this series.

Debbie Rackham, MA

Licensed Resident in Counseling


Bee, JR; Verywell. (2020, July 27). How to cope with a covert narcissist. How to recognize

someone with covert narcissism. Retrieved from

Clarke, J. (2020, July 27). How to recognize someone with covert narcissism. Retrieved from

Verywell Mind:


The M3ND Project. (2020, January 4). How to spot a narcissist. Retrieved from The M3ND


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Gaslighting. Flying Monkeys. Love-bombing. Do these have anything to do with narcissism? Yes! Granted, these terms do sound ridiculous. But… they accurately describe many narcissistic behaviors. Before we go further, let’s first do a quick recap of last week’s post.

Remember Narcissus? The Greek god who fell madly in love with his own reflection? This tale of long ago depicts the origin of narcissism. Today, there are two fundamental types of narcissism—overt and covert—which both display common characteristics such as exaggerated self-importance, need for admiration, disregard for others, and lack of empathy.

While it would be pretty easy to notice narcissism if you came upon someone gazing deeply at themselves in a pool of water, that does not often occur in our day-to-day lives (if you have had this happen, please let us know!). So, how can we recognize it? Glad you asked…

Although not exhaustive, here are a few warning signs to help you identify narcissistic behavior. Let’s start with the ones mentioned earlier.

Note: The words “narcissist” and “narcissistic” will be used below as shorthand to describe someone who displays narcissistic tendencies.

  1. Gaslighting. Derived from the 1944 movie, Gaslight—where the husband attempts to make his wife believe that she is insane—a narcissist will use manipulation to confuse and cause another person to question their own reality, memory, or perception.

  2. Flying Monkeys. In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch uses an army of flying monkeys to accomplish her evil deeds. Likewise, a narcissist will gather their own group of “henchmen” to complete their desired persecution and smear campaigns.

  3. Love-bombing. This term describes the over-the-top strategies used to obtain someone’s trust. These may include lavish gifts, romantic vacations, continuous compliments, and promises of endless love. The giving is only temporary and stops once the goal is met.

  4. Refusing Responsibility. A narcissist will shift blame to cover any notion of personal fault, weakness, or error. To avoid being seen as “human,” they will resort to making excuses and shaming others. “It’s your fault that I forgot - because you didn’t remind me!”

  5. Dismissive. Narcissist’s think in black and white terms. If you think like they do, you are “right.” If you have a different opinion or thought, you are “wrong.” There is no middle ground. You are expected to adjust your thinking to match their “correct” one.

  6. Win/lose Attitude. Being in a relationship with a narcissist feels somewhat like living a chess game—someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. And… you will not be the winner. There is little room for discussion or collaboration. They are “right.”

  7. Alternate Reality. If the real-life situation does not fit the narcissist’s desired view, they will make up their own reality. Even if facts are available to support the truth, it will be denied or brushed aside. “That’s not what happened.” “You’ve got this all wrong.”

  8. Sensitive to Confrontation. Narcissists, when confronted, may throw up their hands and walk out of a room or be passive-aggressive through silence. They may give veiled threats or intimidating glares. You may even hear, “Do you really want to challenge me?”

  9. Joking. Making fun of another, while wrapping it in humor, is a red flag. These statements demean the one on the receiving end, while eliminating all responsibility from the giver. “I was just joking.” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re so sensitive!"

  10. Heavy Agenda. While there are essential things that we need or want to get done each day, a narcissist will use commanding language to obtain obedience. They will use words like “must,” “better,” “have to,” “should,” and “ought to.”

Wow… that is a lot, I know. Being aware of these warning signs can help prevent you from being drawn into an unhealthy, often damaging, relationship. So, what can you do if you recognize some of these behaviors in a co-worker or someone you are dating? That… is our focus for next week! See you then!

In the meantime, if you would like more about navigating a relationship with someone who demonstrates narcissistic tendencies, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services, LLC for a free 15-minute consultation. We would be happy to answer any questions!

Debbie Rackham, MA

Licensed Resident in Counseling

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