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By Dawn Cohen
My charming, romantic girlfriend turned into an unsympathetic nar-
cissist when I became ill. She ditched me and stole a lot of my friends.
What should I do? -- Perplexed
Narcissism can be a personality disorder. At the core, the person
does not understand that the world does not revolve around them.
They experience love primarily when someone is meeting their needs, or
is merged with them, but when their partner is separate, they are incapable
of deep empathy or compassion. They are good in the short term, but can-
not create lasting friendships, because they have no idea that psychological
realities exist beyond their own.
Stealing friends is a sign of profound envy of your capacity to create real
relationships. She erroneously believes she can acquire the bonds through
theft, rather than through the hard work of facing her defenses and develop-
ing an inner capacity to relate.
In psychotherapy, a narcissist has to discover the pain of her own sepa-
rateness and that of others. She often has to struggle with profound feelings
of envy, abandonment, fear and hurt. Slowly, over time, she can develop
It is easy to blame her, but more fruitful to take a hard look at yourself.
What part of you identiﬁes with her narcissism? Why did you choose charm
over substance? How does relating to a narcissist meet your needs?
She keeps buying stuff. And I want a simpler life. It seems such a
super cial thing to break up over, but we ght all the time. Should we
just cut our losses? -- Bare Necessities
The problem is not the differences between you, but your difﬁculty
in communicating about them. Relationship problem solving is a
skill every couple should develop. First she explains what she wants and
why, keeping the focus on herself rather than judging or manipulating you.
Meanwhile, you listen carefully without interrupting. Repeat her position
back to her neutrally, to check that you have understood. Then, you get your
turn. Your childhood and previous life experiences have lead each of you
to your view. Don't try to persuade, manipulate or judge each other. Don't
use sarcasm or negativity. See yourselves as researchers, trying to clarify a
problem before solving it. Then brainstorm compromises without debating
them. Finally go through each option, and discuss its feasibility.
Some couples repress differences rather than negotiating them. Others
ﬁght and separate. But the effort and time involved in good communication
will lay the foundation for a relationship that can allow differences as well
I have resisted getting a mobile phone because a friend wants me on
tap. Now work has given me one, and she is hurt because I won't give
her the number. -- Miscommunication
You have very little faith in your ability to maintain separateness
and her ability to respect that. Perhaps you have good reasons for
this. But it sounds exhausting. You run and she runs after you. Stop the
chase. Either talk it through and set boundaries, or turn around and pur-
sue her. Keep it up for a few weeks, and you will be surprised to discover
she starts running.
The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of the writer and are not intended as a substitute for
professional advice. If you need medical or psychological help, see your local GP or psychologist.
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