The disappearing male in relationships
You know you are around a narcissist when you realise that all they do is talk about themselves. They will not be interested in asking any questions about your life, even when you return from an important day at the office, special family event or vacation. Narcissists are dominated by a grandiose and exaggerated sense of self and value such things as success, fame, physical beauty, wealth, material possessions and power.
Many women are confused and hurt by men who appear to be madly in love with them at the start of a relationship only to have these same men suddenly vanish from their lives without explanation. It is not uncommon to feel depressed or abused by men who promise the world and to act as though you are the love of their life and then suddenly there is no communication, no call, no response. Or, a relationship that was close and intimate suddenly becomes distant and cold.
There are a few different types of disappearing males
- The disappearing narcissist (the man who withdraws and isolates himself when narcissistically injured).
- The disappearing schizoid (the man who withdraws and lives inside himself).
- The disappearing obsessive compulsive (the man who can only exist in a perfect state of neat and order, who withdraws from need because he feels they are dirty and toxic).
- The disappearing passive aggressive (the man who will do everything tomorrow but never right now).
- The disappearing depressive (the man who withdraws outwardly and turns inside himself).
- The disappearing narcissist the artist (the man who is ‘married’ to his art or his job).
- The disappearing borderline (the man who acts as if he is invisible and feels as if he does not exist).
In reality, the narcissist cannot tolerate their own dependency needs. Their relationship style is to unwittingly project their needy selves onto others.
Ask yourself do you want to continue to suffer in the victim role or to be the scapegoat in an unhealthy relationship. The work in therapy can be about learning from your past wounds and understanding your pattern in relationships in order to transform your way of relating. Perhaps your boundaries were violated in your early life? Typically, when parents display irresponsible behaviour, their children will become irresponsible with theirs also. For example, if a father repeatedly rages uncontrollably at his child, that child will inherit feelings of rage and shame. Learning to compliment yourself and affirming that you are a good person is a helpful tool in unpacking shame.
It may be necessary to set emotional boundaries by explaining to a toxic partner something like this: “I don’t know why, but every time I am with you, I don’t feel good about myself.” The work can then be about developing the confidence to say “for now, I can’t be with you.” Narcissists will recoil from people with healthy boundaries and move on to others who are more easily manipulated. However, if you are in a long term relationship with a narcissist, your boundary setting might be the catalyst for improving your relationship and making it more equal.
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About Noel Bell
Noel Bell is a psychotherapist in private practice based in London.