Do you ever talk about covert narcissism?

Narcissistic Relationship Guide"It goes well as long as the partner thinks and feels the same thing"

Jan Drees: Ms. Wardetzki, your current non-fiction book is entitled: "And that should be love" - ​​and it is, among other things, instructions on how to free yourself from a so-called narcissistic relationship. That sounds downright scary. As a specialist, what do you understand by a narcissistic relationship?

Bärbel Wardetzki: This is a relationship between two people who have an injured self-esteem and who collide in the hope that the other can increase their own self-esteem - and according to this criterion, the partner is also selected. So that means: the partner has to be what I need them to be in order for me to feel good, and that is of course a very exploitative and very selfish form of relationship.

Drees: But at the same time it is a form of relationship that seems to be typical of our time, or is it wrong?

Wardetzki: I'm afraid it's very typical at the moment because there is a lot of hype on the internet about this topic too - and it seems to touch a lot of people.

Dream of the merging togetherness

Drees: You write, among other things: "The narcissistic ideal of a relationship consists of the dream of a merging togetherness: Both feel, think, experience and want the same thing. It is complete harmony that should weld the partners together forever." Literature is full of such stories. But what is possibly wrong with this ideal?

Wardetzki: Yes, the ideal is really just an ideal - and the people who try to translate this ideal into everyday life, into reality, that is, the relationship goes well as long as the partner thinks and feels the same as me. And at the moment when the partner - depending on the case - has a different opinion, or makes independent decisions, or maybe even says to me: "You, what you feel or what you think, I cannot empathize at all "- at that moment the whole construct is turned upside down.

It becomes very difficult because: Then something like: "Oh, I'm being attacked, I'm not good enough, I'm being criticized ..." And this narcissistic insult very often results in anger and an attack on the opposite - and then there are reproaches: "You have absolutely no idea, you don't even know ..." and so - "I'm right". And then they argue about who is right. And then the relationship is actually very destructive at that moment.

Drees: You have written a book by women for women and you can already find sentences in the foreword like: In narcissistic relationships, the man is usually the grandiose narcissist and the woman the depressive narcissistic counterpart. Why did you say "And that's supposed to be love?" not designed to be gender neutral or mixed?

Wardetzki: Because I interpreted a story from a woman, from Sonja R. - she came to me and told me her story, and then she wanted to publish it, and I then commented on it from a psychological point of view. That means: The book is about a more complementary narcissistic woman with a terrific narcissistic partner. But it can, I also write that, it can also be the other way around. There are very many women who also have a grandiose narcissism and then manipulate and suppress the man, but that wasn't the story - and I believe that at the moment it is still the case that more men are occupying the grandiose woman than the women.

Men tend to occupy grandiosity

Drees: Because men are still preferred in the job and earn more money as a result? We also have articles about it again and again in the book market - men are reviewed more often as writers and are more widely reviewed. Could it be because the structural inequality that still exists in our society means that men are the more narcissistically grandiose?

Wardetzki: I can well imagine. So I really believe that this story over the millennia, that the men have always been very elevated and idealized and exaggerated, and the women have in some cases been so extremely devalued that this is of course also reflected in the personal structure. We also speak of the collective unconscious. It's easy - and, as you say, our social structures are still very much geared towards men and not yet really equal; and that's why I think it is automatically the case that these men tend to occupy this grandiosity. But as I said: there are also men who just don't have it.

Becoming blind to what is wrong

Drees: How do you get out of a narcissistic relationship? They offer extensive assistance at the end of the book. Which are particularly important?

Bärbel Wardetzki: It is especially important to be aware of yourself and to take seriously what is not working in the relationship. Because the tendency is to gloss over everything and say: "It will be fine." And this hope that it will be as beautiful as it was in the beginning that binds you and makes you blind to what is wrong. That means: if a woman - or a man - if they experience: "I suffer in this relationship", then they should take it seriously first of all. It is good to get help from outside, because the view from the outside is of course much more neutral than from the people who are part of the relationship. Of course, they are more clouded in their perception. And then it's about serving your very basic needs first of all.

That means: I need money and I need an apartment - without an apartment and money, or: I don't even need to begin to want to part with my job and apartment and money, because: where should I go if I have nothing? That means that you have to prepare for it first, and of course that takes a while until you have created this basis for yourself; but that is definitely necessary - and you can then build on it, and then you can, so to speak, gather all your strength and see that you free yourself from this relationship; But you should do that really well, and not have boxes with your partner who then comes into the new apartment, or give his cell phone number or address to the other, but then you should really make a cut and say: " I don't want any contact now, at least in the near future, and that's why I'm going to disengage now. Of course, that's difficult when there are children, when there are small children that you have to look after on both sides, then of course you have to proceed differently.

You're completely crazy

Drees: The term abuse is used again and again in narcissistic relationships. Gaslighting is a variant of what is known as psychological abuse. You looked at it very, very early on. What happens at gaslighting? How should one use this term?

Wardetzki: Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that is used specifically to make the other person feel insecure and to take away one's own perception. Now let's assume that is what makes a man a woman. That’s easier to say then. If the man tries to irritate this woman so much that she no longer dares to perceive herself: what is wrong now? For example, if she says: "The wall is green" and he says: "The wall is red", and he does it in a way that at some point she says: "Yes, yes, the wall is red" even though she knows she's green. In other words, the point is actually to make the other person deeply insecure, to undermine his self-esteem, and to confuse him so that this person no longer makes independent decisions and feels and thinks independently.

Above all, the other person is devalued

Drees: But if someone says: "The wall has a different color than the one I see, he will never be able to convince me of it."

Wardetzki: Well, that doesn't just happen once, it happens very often. And that happens above all in a form where the other person is devalued. He will not say: "The wall is green", but he will say: "You are completely crazy. You are probably color-blind. It is clear that this wall is green!"

"I assume that it is a targeted technique"

Drees: They say this is being used purposefully. That sounds like a strategy - and this gaslighting, when you initially deal with it, acts like a form of manipulation that you have to learn properly, that you have to know in order to be able to use it. Is that really targeted; or can this also take place subconsciously on the basis of narcissistic schemata?

Wardetzki: So I assume that it is a targeted technique because it really aims to specifically suppress the other. And of course there are a lot of manipulation techniques, also in connection with narcissism, but they are often not used in a targeted manner, rather that is something that someone has learned in his entire development: that I only survive if I manipulate the other. And that happens automatically, and they often don't even notice how they manipulate their environment.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own opinion. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.

Bärbel Wardetzki, Sonja R .: "And that should be love - How to free yourself from a narcissistic relationship", dtv Premium Munich, 224 pages, 16.90 euros