Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship

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Wilderhearts

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I've had a friendship for a few years, that over the past year has really turned.  We started out doing an extreme sport together, and became each other's primary partner in this extreme sport.  She has an educational background that means she understands body mechanics well, and often had suggestions that really helped me.  I always showed my appreciation for that.  We really enjoyed doing that together, and having great conversations about everything in the process.

We branched out and started doing things where I'm the more experienced, and therefore knowledgeable, partner.  The dynamic completely changed for the worst; she put tonnes of energy into trying to make me forget I'm the more experienced one.  She'll disagree with me even when it makes her look ignorant, nitpick at me when she herself is doing something similar that's much worse, and whenever I warned her she was doing something hazardous, would dismiss me by setting her jaw, literally turning up her nose at me, and waving me away.  Even though it affected my safety.

The worst part was when she more or less abandoned me in a potentially hazardous situation, without even communicating what she was/wasn't doing.  I took a week to calm down, then wrote her a well thought out email explaining the safety hazard, and what I consider best practice.  Her response was to DARVO.  She accused me of assuming her intentions, even though the statement in question was "I don't know if X or Y or Z happened" (turns out it was exactly Y!!!), then in the next sentence assigned intention to my words, saying I meant to "make them feel bad."  She and another person disregarded the safety factors I listed that they reasonably should have known, accusing me of expecting them to mind-read and know that I wasn't feeling well at that time, something I had only mentioned as it related to context, not to safety.  They basically ganged up to scape goat me.  It was awful.

She and I got together to talk about it.  Her response there was an even worse DARVO.  It was my fault that the had said all the things she said.  I was too direct.  I didn't give her any indication at the time there was a problem, so she thought things were fine and it came out of left field.  Communicating via email gave her no reassurance that I still liked her, so how could she respond better?  She owned nothing, agreed that in theory every person is 100% responsible for their own behaviour, then just kept trying to force me to own how I contributed to her behaviour (the DARVO'ing) rather than taking any responsibility or apologizing.  I eventually snapped "that's fine.  Just blame me for your behaviour."  Her jaw dropped, she looked ready to cry, and exclaimed...get this..."THAT HURTS!!! It HURTS that you would THINK that of me!!".

So you're blaming me for your shitty treatment of me, but you're the victim.  Right.  F off.

I know I'm confronting.  I know I can say what I mean in a way that not everyone can while I'm being DARVO'd, and that's both powerful and intimidating.  I go for brutal honesty delivered gently and graciously (although not when I snapped at her.  That popped out in anger.).  Not everyone has the self-esteem to handle it.

So I stepped back from doing all extreme sports with her - her fragile ego is a safety hazard of its own.  Any time I mentioned on social media I was doing a course she wanted to do it too.  I perceived it as her needing to know everything I know, so she can feel justified harping on me and insist she knows at least as much as I do, if not more.  So I stopped advertising those things publicly so she wouldn't join, and now reach out to individual friends who support team work (good change in boundary practice, right?).  We can just do chill, fun things together.  Nope.  Can't have any kind of conversation without her either explaining my area of professional expertise to me (barf) or....!!!! explaining to me that I un-muted myself!!!  She's a worse mansplainer than any man I know. 

I think this is vulnerable narcissism...and I'm starting to see all her behaviours differently.  What were once funny and charming jokes about her "formidable" skills and intellect is actually drawing attention to what she thinks is positive about herself, with a kind of mock-bragging, but not actually mock.  She needs to be superior in our relationship (and for me to be inferior), she needs my validation of her skill and knowledge.  Extreme sensitivity and reactivity to criticism. 

We've distanced enough I could just fade away from her...except for one thing.  I started an activity based Facebook group that she's part of.  Invited some of my newer friends.  We've all been posting, including her.  I'm faced with a conundrum.  She can come, and I'll have to find a way to speak my boundaries in the moment that doesn't cause tension for anyone.  I don't want to deter others from participating in the group.  Or, I can try talking to her ahead of time.  If she DARVOs, I'll say I don't think she should come, because I wouldn't have fun or feel respected if she continued this behaviour during group activities.

Also, sorry for the book.  Apparently this is my substitute for journalling  :roll:

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2020, 01:33:21 AM »
I should mention the real issue here for me is that I don't want to explicitly go NC.  We're kind of in the same communities of extreme sport-doers, and I don't want to fuel tension.  But I also am really sick of being treated as inferior, and don't want her to show up to this group.  So my issue is that I can't have my cake and eat it too.

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clara

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2020, 01:59:03 PM »
Wilderhearts--I never thought of it as "vulnerable narcissism" but that's a good way of putting it, about how so many of them have egos so fragile they need constant pumping up and attach themselves to us because they know we'll give them that ego boost.  It's narc supply but it's also something more than that, something a little more "needy", if that makes sense.  These are the types of NPD who can't easily find someone else to provide that supply since we're giving them something special, or more, than they'd get from someone else, and they know it.  Getting validation from you means more to her than getting it from another friend, and so often it seems to come down to their need for validation, their need to reinforce this glorious and awesome image they have of themselves (while at the same time knowing deep down that it's not true). 

I have a NPD friend who imagines he's a great writer but he's not.  He's okay, but just okay.  So, early in our relationship he got me to help him with his work which I did because I enjoyed it, but after awhile I noticed how he started taking credit for my work and when I'd try to reassert myself he'd do things to sabotage the project.  I once even pointed out how he ruined a piece by his "editing" and he acknowledged that yeah, I did do that, didn't I?  He wasn't sorry, just admitted it and expected me to move on.  Eventually I went NC with him for a few years because he figured out I was on to his behavior so was always arguing with me, starting fights etc. and I got sick of it.  He then worked his way back into my life but it's extremely casual now and I can get together with him and enjoy his company but I keep the barriers up, keep a distance that he's picked up on.  He still tries to play his tricks now and again but I ignore them and keep on my path. 

So, I know what you're going through.  You're looking for a win-win and that's next to impossible with a PD.  So you have to settle for "good enough" if you want to maintain the relationship, and do a lot of accepting of the person for who they are.  They're never going to change, so you have to change your response to them.  It can be done, but it takes time and effort.  A lot!

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2020, 07:09:25 PM »
Wilderhearts--I never thought of it as "vulnerable narcissism" but that's a good way of putting it, about how so many of them have egos so fragile they need constant pumping up and attach themselves to us because they know we'll give them that ego boost.  It's narc supply but it's also something more than that, something a little more "needy", if that makes sense. 
It's apparently interchangeable with "covert," but yes I agree, much more useful in its descriptive ability; it captures the insecurity and fragile ego that is surfacing, once I was the "expert" and no longer the adoring supplier.

These are the types of NPD who can't easily find someone else to provide that supply since we're giving them something special, or more, than they'd get from someone else, and they know it.  Getting validation from you means more to her than getting it from another friend, and so often it seems to come down to their need for validation, their need to reinforce this glorious and awesome image they have of themselves (while at the same time knowing deep down that it's not true). 
How do you think our validation is special/more?  Is it because they recognize our abilities, so the validation would mean more coming from us?  For example, you write as well so your friend wanted validation of his writing specifically from you?  I think since I grew up in such an invalidating environment, I do probably make a concerted effort to validate others, giving them what I didn't have.

I once even pointed out how he ruined a piece by his "editing" and he acknowledged that yeah, I did do that, didn't I?  He wasn't sorry, just admitted it and expected me to move on. 
So funny - I had a covert narc I supervised do this to my writing.  She didn't have basic university level comprehension of grammar and punctuation, or diction for that matter.  She changed my "following X process" (as in adhering to steps) to "subsequent to X process."  Drastic efforts to seek validation, for sure.

Eventually I went NC with him for a few years because he figured out I was on to his behavior so was always arguing with me, starting fights etc. and I got sick of it. 
I think this is the point we're at.  I'm not supplying her because I won't do our previous activities with her, so she has to tear me down in subtle ways, being argumentative or always finding fault, in order to feel superior.  I'm so sad about it.

I'm thinking of how I can "withdraw" without cutting contact and creating tension - I need to become less of a supply so she'll lose interest.  If we're working on projects and she starts picking away at me and what I'm doing what MC things can I say to get her to leave me alone?  "Is that so?" *ignore and carry on*.  "I don't need you to agree with me."  "I'd rather learn by doing it myself."  Last time, when she explained how I had un-muted myself, I just gave her a sad smile and didn't say anything.

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clara

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2020, 02:12:23 PM »
When dealing with someone with NPD, I always try to keep in mind that their relationships are almost entirely transactional.  I know, in essence, most relationships are, but in NPDs they specifically target someone for a chosen relationship just because of what that person can do for them.  The more you can do for them, the more desirable you are.  I suspect your friend is keeping in your orbit because she values what you have to offer her and won't easily let you go as long as she thinks she can get something from you.  She could also be associating with your friend group in the hopes of keeping close or perhaps even to look for your replacement if she senses you pulling away.  I think they like to downplay the value we have for them by insults, dismissals, arguments etc. because they can never let you or anyone be better than they are and they have to keep you in your "place."  But you see the reaction when you start distancing yourself--she pursues you in some way.  NPDs never want to let a relationship go until they're ready, and she's clearly not ready.  Often we ask ourselves why we tolerate them and their behavior, but we seldom ask why they're tolerating us?  If we're so terrible, such a bad friend, etc. then why do they stick around? 

One of the things I used to do when my NPD friend would start with the more florid expressions of his disorder, I'd shut it down by changing the subject, same as he'd do to me when too much attention was being given to me (i.e., I was talking but not about him).  He'd start on some long-winded discourse and I'd look for the first opportunity to talk about something else.  Often I wasn't even subtle about it.  And most of the time, it worked.  He'd get momentarily confused but then would engage with the new topic.  Again, it was also something of a test to see what he'd tolerate from me, and since he was willing to tolerate that, I knew he wanted to keep the friendship going because he was still getting something out of it.

For me, it became all about whether or not it was worth the effort.  When I got to the point where I decided this isn't worth it was the point where I went NC.  Probably the best outcome for you if you start to do MC is she'll get tired of waiting around for her supply/affirmation whatever it is she needs and seek it elsewhere. 


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Wilderhearts

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2020, 02:02:02 AM »
Relationships with pwNPD being primarily transactional would explain why I felt so used - I definitely felt like I was just an object for her to assert herself over.  Before, when I was affirming her of my own accord, at least I was acting out of my own volition.  Being used against my will in a way that belittles me now...I'm done with that.

There are a number of ways in which staying connected to me could facilitate her involvement in these spots.  Especially because I have networks of (also kind, supportive, community minded) spot-doers.  And she's probably always hoping that I'll validate her knowledge/skill in others areas, where she doesn't have nearly as much and has very little real confidence.

That's my other concern about her becoming involved with the group - even if I manage to stop supplying her, without causing her narcissistic injury, I surround myself with people who I think are kind, supportive, and community minded who would probably also be great supply.  I've seen her feed off of some of my friends last time I got a group together.  I don't want her to have incentive to stick around.

Jeez Louise.  This is why I never make events or groups on Facebook.

I like your strategy - I actually did start turning the conversation away from her and making inquiries about other friends.  She struggles to participate in conversations where she can't fake "expertise" or talk about herself.  I'll have to find a few things to keep in my back pocket that are completely unrelated to her interests!!

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clara

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2020, 12:18:37 PM »
I understand your concern over your friends getting involved with her.  You know what's coming but it's like an accident you can't avoid.  All you can do is hope for the best.  What I've noticed, however, is that a lot of people who aren't PD "magnets" have an awareness of PD behavior even if they don't know it's PD behavior.  They know when they're being manipulated, they know when a person is a potential problem, and they act accordingly to protect themselves. Since this is a chosen relationship, they don't choose trouble, and they tend not to get burned twice.  My NPD friend recently told me he doesn't really have many friends, I'm one of his few, and I told him of course not, you treat people badly.  Amazingly, he didn't disagree.

I think everything will work out okay.  I belong to a rather large social group and for me it's pretty easy to spot the PDs or others with behavior issues, and while I want to warn others against them, I've noticed that they have their own way of dealing with such people.  Not all of them, of course, because I've seen plenty of abuse, but generally when it happens it gets corrected over time and the problematic person starts running into barriers and boundaries so they get "contained," if you will.  Those who allow themselves to be abused over and over are a small minority and really can't be helped until they work on their own issues.  I only comment on a situation when the other person approaches me about their concerns over what happened, then I give them my opinion.  Otherwise, I've had to learn to let it go.  And yeah, it's hard at times. 

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2020, 05:39:02 PM »
What I've noticed, however, is that a lot of people who aren't PD "magnets" have an awareness of PD behavior even if they don't know it's PD behavior.  They know when they're being manipulated, they know when a person is a potential problem, and they act accordingly to protect themselves.

Yes, so true.  I am an absolute magnet, having been groomed to be my uNPDf's GC.  It's good to remember that many people in my life don't struggle with that, and PD'd attempts to bait them and draw out supply just roll right off them.  They'll probably be as annoyed by her ill-informed "corrections" as I am, and just disengage, like healthy normal people do.

My NPD friend recently told me he doesn't really have many friends, I'm one of his few, and I told him of course not, you treat people badly.  Amazingly, he didn't disagree.
That's hilarious  ;D  Good on you.  She's told me a fair bit about how people in her life aren't particularly good to her - they're as poor extreme-sport partners as she is, she refers to her love interest as a "f-boy" and I agree.  I always wondered why she had such crummy friends, since she was initially a good friend and activity partner.  Now I know why - she's the same as they are.

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TurkeyGirl

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Re: Gracefully withdrawing from vulnerable narcissist friendship
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2020, 09:34:13 AM »
Hi Wilderhearts!

My, are we in the same boat. My CovNarc and I have a huge shared friend group. I feel you, but I'm starting to figure out what we want to do is a mission impossible.

You're looking for a win-win and that's next to impossible with a PD.

 :yeahthat:

I'm thinking of how I can "withdraw" without cutting contact and creating tension - I need to become less of a supply so she'll lose interest.  If we're working on projects and she starts picking away at me and what I'm doing what MC things can I say to get her to leave me alone?  "Is that so?" *ignore and carry on*.  "I don't need you to agree with me."  "I'd rather learn by doing it myself."  Last time, when she explained how I had un-muted myself, I just gave her a sad smile and didn't say anything.

I don't know everything about your relationship, but in my case it can be good for a while, but she will always try to lure me back in. She keeps on pulling and pulling, and I keep holding off the boat. It's exhausting. Not all CovNarcs are the same, so your story might be different, but for me it hasn't been possible to withdraw without conflict. If I don't respond enthousiastically, fast, kind enough (in her eyes) I'm the bad guy and she'll resent me and let others actively think the same about me. And if I do try to respond in a kind manner (but not too kind, because I don't want to end up in the same "close" friendship), she'll just keep asking personal questions, acting as a magnet.

Sometimes it can go quiet for a month or so, but she'll always reach out again. I wish there was an island for CovNarcs, but there isn't. We will have to live with them, and really not give them a crumb of our kindness or attention. They'll try to take it all.

I hope the questions you are asking might help (it's called grey rocking: https://www.healthline.com/health/grey-rock), but it will cost you huge amounts of energy. Be aware of that. And one little 'misstep' and you're back to square one. I would ask myself if that is all worth it.