Do you really feel heard by your partner? Is your partner really there for you?
Sincere, genuine listening to understand and empathise is the key to a lasting, loving and satisfying relationship.
If you only focus on one thing, make it listening; – but I’m talking real and sincere listening – not the pretend listening that many of us offer up. You know what I mean: you’ve got the look on your face that says I am listening; you might even nod occasionally, but your mind is a million miles away.
Or perhaps you’re a “Listen to respond” type, where you listen enough to gather evidence for your rebuttal – so you can use your partners thoughts almost as ammunition against them?
Our relationships are built on a foundation of love and trust. We all want to know that our partner genuinely cares about us, so that when we express ourselves, we are important enough to them that they take the time and energy to understand what we want to share.
That feeling that our partner “gets us” impacts us deep to our core. This feeling of being understood creates more deposits in our love bank than most other things our partner can do. Trust blossoms when we feel heard and understood.
In my 25 years as a Relationship Psychologist, every couple I have seen who are struggling with their relationship have underlying problems listening to each other.
So, what are the 5 essentials of genuine listening?
Care enough to be curious about your partner – enter their world
Firstly, it is the intention to park your own thoughts and feelings for a moment, and to travel over to the other person’s world with a curiosity for what they are thinking and feeling.
It is essential that you put aside your own thoughts and feelings, so you can as much as possible inhabit the world of your partner, just for a few minutes. As they are talking, imagine being them, imagine how you would be feeling living in their shoes; What would you be worried about, sad about, happy about?
Reflect back to them what you have heard and understood
Once they have finished telling you what is important to them, tell them a quick summary of what you have heard them say. This may sound contrived and unnecessary if you have never done it, but it makes a huge difference to whether your partner feels you “get them” or at least are trying to get them. They will let you know if you have fully got them, or if there is something you don’t quite understand.
Ask if there is any more
Here again, it makes a huge impact to your partner for you to ask what else might be on their mind. By doing this, you are showing that they matter to you and you are not just brushing them off. Often when we are asked that, we will feel we have been given permission to give more explanation, which might help you understand the background of what is currently going on for them. Listen to what else in on their mind, and reflect back what you have heard, all the while keeping your own thoughts and feelings on the side.
Speak your truth
Now that you have fully heard your partner, you have your opportunity to speak about what has been happening for you, or your view on this topic or situation.
Now you will have your partner’s full attention.
I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference it makes for you to be fully heard too, if you have listened fully to your partner first.
So many couples get stuck in a mutual withholding dance when it comes to listening. “Well if you’re not going to listen to me, you needn’t think I’m going to listen to you!!!!” ending up with NO listening, instead of both listening.
So speak now, and have your partner listen with the same care and attention you used with them, and reflect back to you what they have heard you say, making sure you clarify anything that needs clarifying, in the same way you did for them.
Discuss both views and come to a resolution
Now that you have both listened to both views or thoughts and feelings on the situation, discuss from an equal and respectful place what might be some solutions to the issue. Sometimes there is no solution needed; just being listened to and feeling heard is all that is required.
If a solution is needed, and you can’t come up with one immediately, agree to take a day or so to consider everything, and come back to talking again soon about it. Often new creative possibilities can emerge once you both are aware of both of your views, and you have some time to reflect on solutions.
There will always be differences of opinions, thoughts and feelings between a couple, but how you manage these is crucial to your long-term happiness and satisfaction in your relationship. Take the time and care to fully listen, and you will be richly rewarded.
An integral part of a healthy relationship is a sense of equality and consideration and empathy for each other. In fact no relationship can feel rewarding and supportive if either partner is mostly self-absorbed.
It was once joked that “a Narcissist is someone who after taking the trash out gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house”.
If you have ever felt that your partner feels superior to others, or more entitled to things than others, then this may mean that he or she may have more than their fair share of Narcissistic tendencies. Perhaps he/she finds a host of ways to devalue you or ignore you, or perhaps try to control you?
Or perhaps, if you are honest with yourself, it might be you who has many of these characteristics?
If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, it will feel like a very one-sided relationship.
Narcissism is considered a spectrum Disorder, which means that there are degrees of manifestation of the characteristics, so a person could have a couple of Narcissistic traits, which is considered fairly normal, or have many and be considered to have a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSMV, or sit anywhere in between.
To discover where you or your partner sit in relation to these characteristics, here are the 9 Essential Characteristics of the Narcissistic Spectrum.
The 9 Characteristics of Narcissism
1. An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self-importance that isn’t supported by reality. He/she believes that his/her priorities, interests, opinions and beliefs are better than or more important than others and as a result, they feel entitled to dominate and control those around them. He/she can even seem quite modest in public about these views, but usually at home these are evident.
2. A preoccupation with fantasies of extraordinary success, power, beauty or love. He/she lives more in a fantasy world of their own making, rather than the reality of both successes and recognised failures.
3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people. He/she sees himself/herself as more special than others, whether it be more accomplished, more feeling, more giving, more ethical, more long suffering, more insightful, etc.
4. An intense need for admiration. When in conversation, he/she can’t listen attentively and will bring the conversation back around to him/her. Often partners of a Narcissist will refer to the one thing they have in common with their Narcissist partner is that they both love him/her.
5. A delusional sense of entitlement. He/she feels that rules, regulations and normal standards don’t apply to them, and also may find hard work, working toward a goal, illness and injury difficult to cope with, as they believe themselves to be above these kind of common things.
6. A tendency to exploit others without guilt and remorse. He/she is a “user” who may manipulate situations such that others end up doing all the work (and the Narcissist often gets the glory), or may end up losing their money. He/she will also promise things that they never deliver on.
7. An absence of meaningful empathy for others. This is almost a universal trait with all Narcissists. He/she is so caught up in their own grandiose fantasy life that they pay no real attention to others in
any genuine way. In the courting stage, he/she will use “fake empathy”, but beyond this stage, partners of Narcissists feel completely unsupported and not understood.
8. A tendency to be envious or to assume that he/she is the object of others envy. He/she will be very envious if others close by have more than him/her, and will usually express this as contempt, distain and belittling towards them.
9. An arrogant attitude. He/she will often be judgemental and condescending toward anyone who they feel is not up to their high standards and will regularly “put down” others to bolster their own self esteem.
Now that you know the overall characteristics of Narcissism, here is a list of the many specific and subtle characteristics. The more you find in your partner (or yourself) the closer they (or you) are to a Narcissistic Personality Disorder end of the spectrum, which means the more difficult (or impossible) they will be to live with, or to maintain a healthy relationship with.
Research has shown that approximately 75% of those with Narcissistic traits are male and 25% are female.
How Can I tell if my partner is Narcissistic?
Our 100 point Narcissist Profile:
1. One minute he/she appears loving and appreciative, the next minute he/she is putting you down, punishing you or giving you the silent treatment.
2. He/she feels entitled to special or preferential treatment because of who he/she is.
3. He/she lacks humility and will avoid admitting that he/she is wrong or to blame for anything.
4. You get the sense that he/she is always trying to gain the upper hand with you and others.
5. He/she always talks of himself/herself in glowing grandiose terms.
6. He/she never admits his/her problems or insecurities.
7. He/she says words with such conviction, but you get the strange feeling that they don’t represent the real or whole truth or are a distortion of the truth.
8. It’s hard to feel completely relaxed and good in his/her presence.
9. He/she seems very agitated and angry when you are happy of your own accord, unless he/she has been the source of your happiness.
10. He/she often feels misunderstood by others.
11. He/she appears wonderful to outsiders but is often very mean at home to you and the children. (street angel/home devil)
12. He/she doesn’t seem to have any real presence or depth to him/her.
13. He/she is most happy and delightful when you are admiring or adoring him/her.
14. He/she is not honest or truthful. He/she will bend the truth to suit his/her own ends.
15. He/she doesn’t understand you well at all.
16. He/she has no real empathy or compassion for you when you are distressed, or for any of your feelings.
17. You are starting to question your own truth and reality as you are being told how bad or wrong you are with such authority.
18. You are starting to believe his/her criticisms that you are no good as a person.
19. You notice that when you are away from him/her and with other people you feel so much better, happier and can have fun and relax.
20. He/she tells you untruths that torment you.
21. You find yourself in discussions that are so twisted that it feels like you are losing your mind
22. You often find you are trying to justify yourself and explain what you think reasonable people already know.
23. He/she says cruel, uncaring and dismissive things without any empathy for the hurt he/she is causing
24. He/she makes agreements that he/she doesn’t keep, and then does not acknowledge ever making them.
25. You often feel he/she wants it all his/her own way, and is not really interested in finding a win-win solution.
26. You often feel that he/she is against you, and that you are being cast as the enemy.
27. He/she doesn’t take any of your expressed needs into account
28. You are blamed by him/her for problems.
29. He/she undervalues contributions you have made, and overvalues his own.
30. He/she never or rarely apologises for anything he/she has done.
31. He/she is not accountable for his/her actions on many occasions.
32. He/she will rubbish and blame you to others, behind your back.
33. He/she will regularly bring in allies (family and friends) to back up his/her view that you are to blame.
34. He/she will pathologize you to others, family and friends saying that you are not psychologically stable.
35. He/she will use sensitive information you have disclosed to him/her when you were vulnerable and trusting of him/her as a weapon against you.
36. He/she doesn’t follow through on promises.
37. He/she has no tolerance for even the slightest criticism, or even constructive advice.
38. When you need help, he/she gets depressed, angry or abusive.
39. His/her behaviour vacillates between very delightful and very mean and nasty.
40. To gleam praise from others he/she will appear helpful and generous.
41. You often get the sense that his/her criticisms of you are exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself.
42. He/she doesn’t seem to know or care how his/her behaviour hurts others.
43. No matter how much you do for him/her, it never seems enough to make him/her contented or happy.
44. He/she often refuses to play by the rules.
45. He/she is intensely jealous when there is no justification.
46. He/she is a pathological liar, and does not like to be pinned down.
47. He/she overestimates who he/she is and what he/she has achieved in his life in the past.
48. He/she is often erratic and unpredictable.
49. He/she tries to limit your contact with and enjoyment of others.
50. He/she doesn’t like it when people other than him/her are receiving attention and praise.
51. He/she is extremely defensive when confronted or questioned and will often attack.
52. He/she uses guilt and manipulation to try to influence you.
53. He/she has little or no sense of conscience.
54. He/she believes he/she knows what you are thinking and feeling, and will inform you what that is.
55. He/she often interrupts you when you are talking, changing the subject.
56. He/she will inform you that the matter is resolved without you feeling it is for you.
57. He/she will refuse to discuss a problem you have brought up.
58. He/she doesn’t sustain many close friendships.
59. He/she cannot work co-operatively or in teams.
60. You have noticed that he/she exploits other people
61. He/she doesn’t admit he/she may have a problem, or ask for help. He/she is above treatment.
62. He/she avoids any real intimacy with you.
63. You don’t get the sense that he/she has a genuine commitment to your welfare.
64. When you act with independence and autonomy, he/she is not happy, and tries to stifle this.
65. He/she rages when you disagree with him/her.
66. After he/she has tortured or belittled you, he/she will act with empathy to soothe you.
67. He/she never talks with you, he/she talks at you or lectures you.
68. You usually feel he/she is emotionally absent, and never fully there.
69. He/she cannot delay gratification. He/she believes himself/herself to be deserving, and doesn’t want to put the time into persisting.
70. He/she tells you in subtle or not so subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong or that your feelings are wrong.
71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of to upset him/her.
72. You often feel that issues don’t get fully resolved so that you can feel happy and relieved.
73. You frequently feel confused, sad, frustrated or outraged because you can’t get him/her to understand your intentions.
74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks you said and what you heard him/her say.
75. He/she rarely wants to share his/her thoughts or plans with you.
76. He/she often denies things that you know he/she did or said.
77. He/she seems to take the opposite view from you on many things you mention, but the way he/she says it, your view is wrong and his/hers is right.
78. You often feel unseen or unheard, and sometimes wonder if he/she perceives you as a separate person.
79. He/she is either angry or has no idea what you are talking about when you try to discuss an issue with him/her.
80. You feel abused or negated by him/her, but he/she insists how much he/she loves you.
81. When you try to communicate how you feel about something, you feel no empathy from him/her, or he/she negates your feelings.
82. He/she often frightens you with rage to silence you.
83. You often feel no empathy from him/her when you are describing how you feel about something.
84. He/she often manipulates you by ignoring you or withholding affection.
85. You feel diminished by the time he/she finishes his/her conversation with you.
86. He/she always needs to be one up or right.
87. He/she attempts to define you eg ”You’re only doing that for attention”.
88. He/she blames, accuses, judges or criticises you.
89. He/she counters, blocks or diverts your conversation.
90. He/she confabulates, ie makes up something negative about you and speaks it as if it is the truth.
91. He/she often is well behaved in public, but abusive in private.
92. He/she will not ask for what he/she wants, so that you can negotiate fairly.
93. He/she will not respond at all to your requests, or will respond with frustration, or will only seem to respond but not follow through.
94. Your attempts to enhance the relationship, improve communication, and find some happiness all lead to difficulties.
95. Whenever you try to explain that you are not thinking what he/she is saying you are thinking or doing, he/she will not hear or understand, or negates you in some way.
96. He/she behaves well towards you when you are of one mind with him/her, but the trouble starts when you express either different views from him/her or your own feelings.
97. He/she can’t have fun banter with you. The only way he/she has fun with people is if he is having fun at another’s expense.
98. The way he/she treats you has deteriorated radically since you became more settled together (move in together, got married, started having children)
99. You feel like you are doing all the work in your relationship.
100. You feel energetically drained when with him/her, and energised when not with him/her.
How partners feel when they are attempting to have a relationship with a Narcissist.
– In a way that you often can’t exactly identify clearly you can feel:
– Very disappointed and disillusioned about who he/she seems to be now, compared with who he/she was in the beginning stages of the relationship
– Confused because of the lies and half-truths he/she continually feeds you
– Hurt and shell shocked because of the myriad of ways he/she belittles, criticises and blames you
– The relationship feels unrewarding because it never feels that he/she is really there, and it is not possible to share any real intimacy with him/her
– Unhappy because he/she always tries to undermine the happiness you create for yourself
– Untrusting of yourself because you don’t know what to trust anymore, wanting a real and happy relationship but always feeling that it is not available to you
– Intensely frustrating when he/she can’t be reasonable or honour agreements or work with you for a win-win solution
– Utter perplexity at how he/she can be so sweet and nice one minute, and so mean and callous the next
– Despair at the dawning realisation that he/she doesn’t really care about you or how you feel
Continue discovering about Narcissism by checking out our other videos:
Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins. Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment. Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details).