A post in my online support group recently detailed the acts of a father, a narcissist, who dropped food on the porch for his sick son. The father’s pattern is to see his son only once or twice a month for dinner, although the divorce decree says he must have him forty percent of the time.  Some people responded to the post with positive comments about this dad’s actions, while others were outraged at such a minimal effort.

The remarks made me start thinking about why we lower our standards after being involved with a narcissist. Does dropping a bag of BBQ on a porch equate to an involved father? Why do we deem this act heroic, when it’s a gesture meant to appease the narcissist’s beliefs that he’s a great father? Why do we settle for less than we deserve, and we teach our kids to do the same?

After researching and reviewing my own choices, I found some of the reasons we are susceptible to lowering our standards after narcissistic abuse. The motives include:

  1.  We lose our self-love.  Previous injury has conditioned us to think we aren’t worthy or lovable and trained us to accept the minimum the narcissist has to offer.  We don’t love ourselves enough to ask for more from the narcissist or anyone else. 
  2. We allow the narcissist to define our standards for us. We change our thresholds for behavior that we set decades ago. We allow the narcissist to tell us what we should expect. Or, we already have low expectations from a narcissistic parent, and those standards fall even lower.  
  3. We think we must be in a relationship. We would rather stay in a toxic relationship than be alone in peace. We have been conditioned by society, family or both to believe we must be in a relationship to be healthy and happy. Often, being alone with peace and joy is much healthier for us, although others will show contempt at that choice.
  4. We give up.  We tell ourselves that’s just the way it’s going to be. We are so conditioned to the abuse and exhausted from the fallout that we can only survive each day.   We fear the future, and the thought of leaving and starting again is overwhelming.  It’s easier to stay with what we know, even though it’s abusive.

We can do some things to empower ourselves for change, whether remaining in the relationship or leaving.  First, revisit the standards that you had before you met the narcissist. Be critical. Were you a woman or man of integrity and confidence?  Were you focused on helping others? How did you approach life then? Start living your days that way once more.

Secondly, remind yourself that what you settle for is what you’re going to get. If you expect nothing, you will likely get even less from the narcissist.  Start telling yourself that you deserve love, peace and emotional safety.

Also, speak your truths and affirmations out loud to yourself.  Remind yourself every day that “I am enough,” “I am worthy,” and “I am loved.”  You are those things!

Finally, think about this.  When we say, “But I love this person.  Isn’t that enough?” Often, making a relationship work isn’t about how much you love him or her. Only in songs does love move mountains.  Your peace, happiness and future depend on how this person treats you.