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TIPS FOR 'LOVING THE SELF-ABSORBED'

Loving a self-absorbed person is hard work and, author Nina W. Brown writes, a person's own needs and desires most often take second place to their significant other's or are ignored all together in such a relationship.

In "Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner," (2003, New Harbinger) Brown's fourth book on what she calls the "Destructive Narcissistic Pattern," the Old Dominion University faculty member says it can be frustrating and demoralizing when a person wants desperately to have a mutually satisfying relationship with a self-absorbed person and nothing seems to work. They often try to minimize the person's negative or destructive behavior for the sake of the relationship.

Brown defines the Destructive Narcissistic Pattern as an inappropriate focus and preoccupation on one's own needs and desires, as well as a lack of empathy and unconscious deficits in self-esteem. Brown's previous research has detailed the pattern in the workplace and in parent-child relationships.

According to "Loving the Self-Absorbed," the following types of self-absorbed partners:

"Hungry" -
· Need, cling, depend;
· Look to you to take care of their personal needs;
· Allow their impoverished or "poor me" selves to assume dominance;
· Need excessive attention, but are grandiose at the same time; swing quickly between the two.

"Suspicious" -
· Fear being hurt, rejected and destroyed;
· Believe that others bear them ill will at all times and are constantly vigilant and self-protective;
· Are hypersensitive to perceived criticism;
· Tend to devalue others and their motives.

"Manipulative" -
· Believe they are superior to others and that they have a right to exploit anyone and everyone;
· Believe that they are doing what everyone else does and knowingly lie, distort and mislead;
· Can get others to do his/her bidding by being charming and seductive.

"Exhibitionist" -
· Act on a grand scale in an attempt to garner attention, admiration and envy;
· Are impulsive, reckless, seductive, controlling, intense but also remote;
· Are always "on".

Unlike Brown's 2002 book, "Working with the Self-Absorbed," strategies to cope with the behavior of a self-absorbed partner might differ from those used in the workplace.

The difference is it's a close, intimate relationship where you're supposed to be depending on each other," she said. "Some techniques you can't use because you want to preserve the relationship. You have to find a way to fulfill both of your needs in a sensitive, caring way."

In response, people in relationships with the self-absorbed can:
· Give up the fantasy that the partner will change;
· Avoid confronting the partner to meet your needs;
· Shape more realistic goals for yourself, your partner and the relationship;
· Employ emotional insulation or boundaries to ward off the person's projections and your own triggered feelings;
· Avoid empathizing; it will not be reciprocated;
· Withdraw from the struggle, conflict and battle of wills;
· Find someone you trust to confide in and vent to.

To obtain a copy of the book or for more information, contact Jay Lidington by phone at (757) 683-4683 or by e-mail at jlidingt@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: July 21, 2003

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