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Narcissists Keep Testing You

Updated on January 22, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

It's a very common occurrence in narcissistic relationships that the narcissist will test their partner. Some of them even say flat out that they are doing it. They will do things on purpose to anger, provoke and upset people. There can be a few reasons for this behavior.

Narcissists are very often the product of childhood abuse. They never received the unconditional love children are supposed to receive from their parents and many of them are seeking that from their adult relationships. They believe they are entitled to that and if they don't get it, they become hurt and outraged. They of course don't get it, because this is unreasonable. Unconditional love between adults is not usually possible and it's often unhealthy. You probably shouldn't love someone no matter what they do. Love can be destroyed. It can be ruined. The narcissist does not understand this. They believe that their partner is supposed to love them unconditionally no matter what they do. They will often test people to see if the partner loves them the way the narcissist believes they should be loved. If people react by rejecting the narcissist - or if the narcissist perceives the reaction as rejecting them - then they are considered not to care at all. And of course, with many narcissists, even mentioning something they did wrong is perceived as a rejection so it's really a no-win situation.

It's really a very childish behavior. These are people looking for the unconditional love they feel they never received from parents, who don't understand that it is not possible to receive this from another adult. They are re-victimized over and over again by their own unreasonable expectations and the pain from that causes them to victimize the people around them. Narcissists are looking for the acceptance they never received as children, and they don't seem to realize that these things are a two way street. This is again, very child-like. Children have no responsibility in relationships with an adult. The mother loves the baby and it is her responsibility to do so. The baby has no responsibility to love the mother back. This is not expected. Nothing is expected from babies. The entire emotional burden of the relationship is on the mother. She loves the baby, cares for the baby, does everything for the baby. The baby does nothing except be a baby. When the mother is sick and hurting and exhausted and crying and cannot go another second listening to the baby scream, the baby has no empathy for this. The baby cannot understand or acknowledge the mother's pain or situation. They don't understand. All they know is they need something and they cannot do for themselves. This is the narcissist's understanding of love. All of the responsibility for love and care is on their partner. They have to do nothing but receive.

The irony is, though narcissists are looking for unconditional love, because of their history and because of their arrested emotional understanding, most of them don't actually believe in love at all. They will not understand it when they see it and they will not believe in it if they find it. This makes it doubly unfair to their partner, because the partner may in fact attempt to meet the narcissist's unreasonable expectations, to show the narcissist unconditional forgiveness and acceptance but still be punished and considered a failure because the narcissist is looking for something they cannot recognize. Even though they don't believe it, they still love to hear you say it, which is why they have you jump through endless hoops to try to prove you love them. But it never works. There is always something else and something else and something else you have to do, and they still say you have not done enough. The truth is, they don't believe you love them and they don't know how to love you. They would probably like to believe you love them, but they can't and most likely they never will.

Another reason for this testing can be something that is also very childish. Narcissists often test people's limits to see how far they can go or what people will put up with. This is the same way a child tests the mother's limits when they start trying to assert their independence as human beings. You say to your child, "Don't you pour that milk out!" and your three year old will look you right in the eye and pour their milk on the floor. They are testing your limits. How firm are the rules? How far can I go? This is essentially the same thing narcissists are doing. They want to see if people will put up with their endless provocations and abuse. If someone won't, they move on. To the narcissist, this is proof that this person does not care about them. After all, if you loved them, you wouldn't care what they did. You'd want them around regardless. They don't understand or care that treating people badly makes them stop loving you, any more than a baby understands or cares that to continue to scream their needs out when the mother is fainting with exhaustion is unfair. They can't understand because their emotional development is too arrested.

Narcissists are unable to understand that healthy love has limits and they confuse the love they should have gotten from their parents with the love people receive from adult relationships. They are looking for someone to fill that hole, to make them whole. This is generally true of all narcissists, even those that don't seem insecure or needy. They are fundamentally broken people who - for whatever reason - cannot understand or recognize love. The problem is, adult relationships are not supposed to do that. You're supposed to be already whole when you enter into an adult relationship.

When people cannot perform a miracle and reach the narcissist's unreasonable and childish expectations, they feel hurt and betrayed. They are outraged that they are not getting the love they are due. It's essentially a never-ending childhood trauma playing itself out over and over again in these people's lives. They have never processed this trauma from when they were children because their minds were too focused on simply surviving to develop correctly. They are essentially "stuck" in a certain pattern of development and cannot get out. They re-experience the pain of that trauma every time their expectations are not met. It's a very sad situation, because the way they behave guarantees that eventually, virtually everybody will leave them. Even if their partner doesn't leave, they will never experience the love they are so desperately seeking because they cannot recognize it. They will punish and attack their partner for not being able to perform the miracle that would make them feel loved and whole. This is just one of the many things that make them so toxic and so dangerous.

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