Note: This is the first of a three part series.

In successful relationships, people find ways to compromise and work out differences.  Ideally, each person will be able to satisfy some of his/her needs and whims at least part of the time.  Often we can accommodate and support another person’s priorities without doing damage to ourselves.  But you are likely to become angry and resentful—and begin to feel that your love is being abused—if your partner frequently fails to pay attention to your priorities, needs and desires.  Both people want to know that they are being heard, honored and respected.  Yes, they both enjoy giving, but they also appreciate receiving.

This is true of all of us.  If a relationship is going to work, there has to be—more or less—an even give-and-take.  If one person’s agenda dominates too much of the time, or if one person is getting their needs met but the other person does not feel the same, that other person will almost inevitably feel burdened and unhappy.

But some of us feel as if we are in love with people who are incapable of being sensitive to our needs and feelings.  Some of us are in primary relationships that appear to be overwhelmingly dominated by the other person’s wishes and priorities.  One person’s attitude is “It’s all about me!” while the other would be mouthing “What about me?”

Relationships are an exhausting business; they ask us to learn and relearn the concepts of compromise, communication, reciprocity and every now and then, even sacrifice.  But what do we do when we find ourselves in relationships that feel completely lopsided?  If you are in love with a narcissist, your relationship with him/her isn’t organized around things like compromise and reciprocity.  Instead, these relationships are organized around the issues, needs and demands of only one individual.

When we care about somebody, we want to be loving and supportive; when we care about somebody, that person’s concerns engage and worry us.  But somehow in the process of constantly attending to the other person’s “stuff,” we start to feel lost.   No one is focusing on us.  No one is attending to our issues, both large and small.  No one is thinking about our priorities.  And, in time, we can feel completely obliterated and taken advantage of.  When somebody else’s all-about-me demands have you wondering “what about me?” you have found yourself entangled in the painful dance of the narcissist.

Narcissism has come to be applied to anyone whose absorption with self outweighs any interest he or she might have in anyone else.  A narcissist is someone whose needs are so great that s/he cannot see, feel or hear the needs of other people.

All of us are tying to get our needs met.  But when “my needs” become the only needs that count, serious trouble is brewing in our relationship.  It is very easy to get into the habit of being the one who is shouldering most of the responsibility and catering to our partner’s needs, and that will eventually lead to great anger, resentment, hostility and distance.

Are you tired of always being the one who accommodates and tries to please?  Has your partner betrayed you, abused you or taken advantage of your good nature one time too many?  Are you wondering why you keep meeting and falling for these people?

I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.

Source:  Help! I’m In Love With A Narcissist by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol (M. Evans and Company)

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