In honour of February, while we celebrate all that's great about love, I feel it's important to also talk about what -- or who -- to avoid when it comes to matters of the heart.
Do you remember learning about the myth of Narcissus, the handsome man who fell in love with his own reflection? He broke the heart of a mountain nymph named Echo and so the goddess of revenge, Nemesis, lured Narcissus to a pool of water where he saw his own face looking back and became forever depressed that he couldn't have what he wanted.
Today, this kind of self-centredness is called narcissistic personality disorder, named after the ill-fated Narcissus, and describes an undesirable character who is unfortunately rampant in today's society...and in many people's relationships. With all the pressure on men (and women) to succeed in business, in school and in life, it's no wonder that many people 'big' themselves up. Society rewards confidence; it's how you get to the top. But where does healthy confidence end and unhealthy narcissism begin? How can you spot this behaviour pattern, and why should you avoid those who have it?
Narcissists believe they are the sun that everything -- including you -- should revolve around. Dating a narcissist can be really exciting at the beginning. They're attractive, successful, charming, popular... and you're their partner! Yay you! But scratch under the surface and you'll find that's all you are to them... a sidekick, a trophy, someone to amuse and distract them. You're there to feed their ego, to flatter them. You're a part of their life, but are they a part of yours? Do they spend time with your friends... or are you always with their circle? Do they only see you when it's convenient for them? Do you only do the things they like to do? It's a one-sided relationship when you're with a narcissist and they're always the star of the show.
They thrive on attention and require constant reinforcement. Narcissists need you to praise them. All. The. Time. You'll start off giving them genuine love and attention for being the amazing person you think they are (or for the potential you see in them) and they'll love the compliments. They need you to constantly tell them (whether you mean it or not) "You are the smartest... you are the most brilliant... you are the most talented... there is nobody more skilled than you." But one day you'll realize that you might as well make a recorded message and play it to him because it doesn't matter who delivers these messages... he could be having them with himself... for all you really matter. The narcissist is being fuelled by your compliments. And if you have some honest feedback or constructive criticism? The narcissist will turn on you, throw a tantrum or sulk like a child. Being with someone like this will drain you... emotionally, physically, and mentally... but it will fill up your narcissist lover.
Narcissists need to put you down to build themselves up. When you date a narcissistic man or woman, chances are they're not going to shower you with the kind of love and attention they expect you to give them. If anything, they'll give you the opposite. Narcissists don't want an equal partner. They won't like it if you're in a job that doesn't measure up to their standards, but they'll be even more upset if you're a success... because they're extremely competitive and need to be the best. They will make you feel like they're the boss and you're the protégé, that you need to live up to their extreme ideals of achievement and that they know better than you what you should do with your life. Some narcissists may tell you how to dress or wear your hair; they may even try to tell you how to feel! You tell them that they made you sad; they'll reply 'No, I didn't.' Nothing is ever a narcissist's fault.
They often behave how they think they should, not how they really feel. This kind of pretense can include false modesty, politeness and courtesy... but also pompousness and extroversion. Narcissists surround themselves with sycophants and admirers; they want people to look up to them and envy them. The flipside of this is that narcissists have incredible envy of other people's successes. They hate feeling inadequate or less anything than someone else. If you try to discover a narcissist's weaknesses, you'll likely find yourself kicked to the curb. One thing a narcissist does not want you to know is that they have any insecurities or shortcomings. If you push them for answers, they'll get their back up fast. They do not seek self-improvement, they do not want to expand or evolve; narcissists want to grow bigger and better, yes, but it's in an illusionary way. No one is better at keeping up appearances than him...and narcissists lie so much that they actually start to believe their own delusions.
Narcissism is a learned behaviour and is often a response to childhood abuse. Chances are, the narcissist became this way because of something that happened in his or her past. Whether they had an overbearing parent or if they were constantly told they're not good enough... this or another type of traumatic experience affected them deeply and created the self-defence mechanism of extreme egotism and lack of empathy. The problem with this is that the narcissist eventually comes to think he or she really is their new, grandiose persona and forgets who they truly were inside. This is the opposite of living an authentic life... something I believe very strongly in!
It's not your job to save them. What's sad is they are actually unhappy people because they can never attain true happiness...it is fleeting for them...they're never satisfied with anything...nothing is good enough. American humourist Emily Levine has a great quote about narcissism that really hits home..."I thought narcissism was about self-love 'til someone told me there is a flip side to it. It is actually drearier than self-love; it is unrequited self-love." Narcissistic personality disorder is a psychological abnormality; anyone who suffers from it needs professional help. Narcissists are very smart... they study you... they make you believe that they are exactly what you have been waiting for your whole life. It is not your fault that they are so unhappy; you can't save a narcissist... even if you tried. If you look closer, their life is actually a mess... and you don't need their self-centred drama. The best thing you can do for yourself is run - don't walk - away and never look back!
I was quite surprised to find out many people I know have had a relationship like this but didn't realize it until they were in too deep. Have you ever dated a narcissist? Do you know someone who has... or still is? The more we talk about narcissists, the easier we'll be able to spot -- and avoid -- them!
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The number of divorced and separated women in the U.S. is on the rise, according to a July 2013 report by Bowling Green State University's National Center for Marriage and Family Research (NCFMR). The report, titled "Marriage: More Than A Century Of Change," found that 15 percent of women in the U.S. are divorced or separated today, compared with less than one percent in 1920. Dr. Susan Brown, co-director of the NCFMR, explained in a press release that this increase is due in part to cultural changes. "The divorce rate remains high in the U.S., and individuals today are less likely to remarry than they were in the past," she said.
A November 2013 study concludes that heavy drinking is a marital deal breaker when spouses consume different amounts of alcohol. Researchers at the University at Buffalo followed 634 couples through the first nine years of marriage. What they found? Fifty percent of couples in which one partner was imbibing significantly more than their spouse ended up divorcing. However, that number dropped to 30 percent for couples who possessed similar drinking habits, regardless of if they were heavy or light drinkers.
According to a book published in November 2013, your smile, or lackthereof, in photos from your youth may predict your likelihood of divorce later in life. In his book, The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths about Who We Are, DePauw University psychology professor Matthew Hertenstein digs deeper into his 2009 study that revealed that people who smiled widely were more likely to have lasting marriages than those who smiled weakly, or not at all, in their childhood photos.
According to a paper published in the Journal Of Men's Health in September 2013, divorce can take a great mental and physical toll on men. Specifically, divorced and unmarried men have higher rates of mortality and are more prone to substance abuse and depression than married men. The researchers also found that divorced men are more likely to partake in risky activities such as abusing alcohol and drugs, and divorced or separated men have a suicide rate that is thirty-nine percent higher than that of married men. Depression is also more common for divorced men than married men, and divorced men undergo psychiatric care ten times more often than married men do.
According to research published in August 2013 by Erica Sandow of Umea University in Sweden, people who commute at least 45 minutes one-way to work are more likely to divorce than people who have shorter daily commutes. The study analyzed data that tracked millions of Swedes from 1995 to 2005. Sandow focused on people who were married or living with a partner for her research. She found that around 11 percent of the couples she studied had split by 2000, and more commuter couples separated than those who worked close to home. Fourteen percent of couples in which one or both partners commuted at least 45 minutes called it quits, while only 10 percent of non-commuter couples broke up.
A study published in December 2013 in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the fear of being single may drive adults to stay in bad relationships or settle for less-than-desirable partners, all because they'd rather have someone than no one. Stephanie Spielmann, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto, conducted seven different studies focused on how the fear of loneliness affects romantic relationships. The researchers concluded, "During relationship initiation and maintenance, those who fear being single may prioritize relationship status above relationship quality, settling for less responsive and less attractive partners and remaining in relationships that are less satisfying."
Research published in June 2013 suggests that people who use Facebook excessively (interpreted by the researchers as checking it more than hourly) are more likely to "experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners, which then may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce.” Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, surveyed 205 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 82 -- 79 percent of whom reported being in a romantic relationship. Clayton explained his findings as follows: “Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners. Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating.”
Research published in September 2013 suggests that children whose parents divorce when they are very young have a more difficult time establishing close relationships with their parents later in life. The study, which appeared in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that children whose parents divorced when they were between birth and 3 to 5 years old had a greater level of insecurity in their parental relationships than children whose parents divorced when they were older, according to a press release.
A study published in November 2013in the Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that people who have experienced hardships in the past, like divorce, savor things more in the present. The researchers surveyed 14,986 adults and discovered that "individuals who had dealt with more adversity in the past reported an elevated capacity for savoring." In other words, those who had previously experienced pain were more likely to appreciate life's small pleasures.
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