Toxic Relationship

Why We Stay With Energy Vampires as Intimate Partners


There is a reason people call people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), histrionic personality disorder (HPD) and anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) energy vampires. People high in traits of these personality disorders really do suck the energy from us. Often extremely childish in nature, they demand constant attention, wreak havoc on those closest to them when they don’t get their way, and they are constantly engaging dragging us into high drama situations where we slowly take on their dramas with neighbors, friends, family members, etc. as part of their high-conflict tendencies. After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do when we love our spouses and how romantic to believe that it really is “us” against “them.”

In the aftermath of these pathologically toxic relationships, most of us delve into periods of deep reflection and introspective thinking as part of recovery from PTSD and to avoid ever getting involved with energy vampires again. We want to unravel our toxic relationships to help ourselves and our children recognize the red flags that we ignored or excused. Most of us find that after healing from the aftermath, we have a strong urge to help others because we have high levels of empathy and compassion and want to give it to those who deserve our good traits and don’t set out to take advantage of our good traits. We don’t want to lose these great parts of ourselves just because we’ve had horrible relationship experiences and have suffered great relational harm.

Some of the common reasons I’ve found that we stay with energy vampires involve the following:

Raised to ignore pathology, minimize pathology, and make excuses because of our upbringing in our family of origin.

Maybe you saw one parent treat your other parent with disdain and contempt, constantly devaluing them and then, once every so often, praising them. It must have been so confusing for you, but you develop the belief that this must be every marriage. After all, what child wants to really believe that a parent is toxic and an energy vampire?

Maybe your parents constantly expected you to serve their needs at the expense of your own, so that it only becomes hardwired into your behaviors that you are only worthy when you forsake your own desires for others. Did you ever hear that you were selfish for wanting or doing X? Well, that hardwiring becomes your programming for future partner selection and selecting a selfish and narcissistic partner is as natural as your family or origin. Did your parents constantly invalidate you and send the message that your concerns and feelings were inappropriate or unimportant?

You Believe that you Can Temper or Manage the Toxic Person’s Bad Behaviors

Similar to a form of magical thinking, we really come to believe that by issuing ultimatums, that person will change and stop drinking, cheating, lying, etc. We come to believe that once we learn about good boundaries, that the toxic partner will respect our boundaries and like a seismic shift, will magically shift into a different type of person. However, narcissists fear being controlled or engulfed by others and are addicted to impulsive behaviors as part of their urge for instant and constant validation or feeling superior to others (narcissistic energy and fuel). You will painfully learn that people with NPD cannot emotionally mature and grow appropriately and can’t really sustain that growth or change because of their constant need for instant gratification and need to chase feeling so empty. A person who lacks insight and responsibility for her own behaviors certainly won’t care about your boundaries.

You become more and more unhinged when you constantly check up on what they’re doing because you believe that by keeping them on a short leash, you can control their bad behaviors, and each time you set an ultimatum, they know you will not enforce your boundaries. Just like telling a child that if he throws another tantrum, you won’t buy him any more toys, and then he throws the tantrum, only to have you give in to another toy purchase, the person with NPD isn’t really that different.

You Want that Intense Pursuit to Return that was so Mesmerizing during the Honeymoon Period

Who doesn’t like feeling pursued and like the most handsome partner or beautiful woman in the world? Toxic partners are wonderful at quickly charming us into believing that this honeymoon period would last forever…until she sees your human foibles and flaws. It quickly turns into constant comparisons and devaluing the things that she professed she loved when she first met you. You became so mesmerized and addicted to the illusion of a perfect lover that you try harder or do more to get him to return to that perfect person who actually never existed, either.

While you were in the narcissistic relationship, the pathological partner pursued you quickly and intensely, and as quickly as the relationship seemed to progress, that partner seemingly – almost overnight – found your “awesomeness” to be a source of anger. Although you were successful, driven, and high achieving, now he sees you as a henpecker, too demanding, and stuck-up. When you ask him to help you around the house, he threatens leaving or tells you that no one can deal with your high expectations, so you swallow your desires, and you ask for less. You start doing more around the house, working more, asking for less, and thus, the vampirism begins, and you are always tired and anxious. By doing more, he may give you a crumb of attention or compliment, and you believe you’re getting that charming man back, but you’ll always be disappointed because that person will never come back now that he’s ensnared you.

Summary and Healing

I write these blogs as part of my own healing and as part of my goal to help others understand that there is so much more happiness on the other side of divorce after a pathologically toxic relationship. My own personal experience as well as my professional experience have taught me that the cyclical nature of these relationships is a hallmark of a toxic relationship.

When a narcissist has no viable intimate relationships in her horizon to fulfill her narcissistic supply tank, she may attempt to come back to you, and again, the honeymoon period is very short-lived. Know that the person you believe you fell in love with was more about you – what validation can you not give yourself? As soon as you stop looking for approval in your actions and you learn about the nature of toxic relationships, you will stop going back for more abuse. A healthy relationship takes time, and anyone who professes their love to you within days or weeks is most likely very emotionally damaged, but that person will never have the insight or honesty necessary to accept responsibility, and each relationship with another adult will end the same way for him/her. Becoming unstuck will be your ticket to emotional freedom and give you the ability to finally start healing from the aftermath of an abusive relationship, but you have to get out first.

Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: An attorney with experience in divorcing a narcissist can help you redirect the blame to the narcissist, and help you understand that although people can fall out of love, it doesn’t happen so abruptly and silently, as it does in a marriage to a narcissist.

If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 865-7710 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. We have decades of legal experience in high-conflict divorces.

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