If you’ve been in a romantic relationship (or marriage) with a narcissist, then you’re undoubtedly very familiar with the huge amount of damage they can cause. They’re particularly virulent when paired with empaths, as they develop a really unhealthy codependency, but even an average relationship with a narc can result in a whole load of self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety, and worse.
Some people – namely those who have convinced themselves that they love their narcissist partner and want to try to make things work with them – think that attending couples counseling together will improve the situation.
They believe that if they can convince the narc in their life to seek therapy with them, then they’ll magically become the perfect partner they have so much potential to become.
No, it’s not going to happen, and you can end up feeling far worse after a therapy session or five than you did before you even attempted it. Here’s why.
It’s A Game To Them
In case you haven’t noticed yet, narcissists are charming beasts and masters of manipulation. If they’ve agreed to go to therapy with you, it’s because it amuses them to do so.
They’re toying with you like a cat toys with a mouse, allowing it to run free before pouncing on it, then repeating that for a while: it gives the mouse (you) hope that things are going to get better before crushing said hopes again. With their claws.
Remember how they charmed you at the beginning of your relationship? How hard you fell for their behavior? Well, therapists are people too, and they can’t always see through a narcissist’s machinations.
Everything you bring up will be turned against you as the narc in your life attempts to show this therapist how horrible you are. No matter what you say or how you desperately attempt to have your experiences and feelings validated, the narc will turn it around so they’re the victim, and you need to be medicated to stop acting so “crazy,” or you’ll give up trying and go back to your life, maintaining the status quo.
Either way, they win.
Gaslighting With The Therapist’s Help
One common thing that happens when a narc is dragged to couples therapy is (as was hinted at above) that they end up getting the therapist on their side, and they team up against you.
You’ll try desperately to make the therapist understand your perspective and explain what your partner is like at home, and said partner will look sad and hurt, and pour their heart out about how cruel and unfair you are to them, and how you make up stories to hurt them, and try to get attention or pity for your delusions.
Imagine how the scenario will look to your therapist: there you are, disheveled and manic and possibly close to hysterics, praying that someone might finally listen to you and believe you about all the abuse you’ve been subjected to, and your narc partner just looks sad and disheartened.
You may very well have PTSD and may lose your sh*t during the sessions because you are literally at the end of your rope, but rather than making you seem more sincere and in need of help, that desperate behavior will paint you as the unstable perpetrator in this unhealthy partnership.
The therapist will reprimand you for YOUR bad behavior, and will ask you why you are being so unreasonable towards a person who obviously has your best interests at heart, and is hurting from your unfair accusations.
Worse than not being believed by a person whom you’ve opened up to is being reproached by them, especially when you’re the one who has been suffering at the hands of a manipulative abuser. This can cause even greater long term damage, while your narc counterpart just smirks because you’re so weak and pathetic that you can’t even do therapy right.
Being Truly Honest May Be Dangerous
If your narcissist partner has been very verbally, emotionally, and/or physically abusive to you at home, it’s more than likely that you’ve kept pretty quiet about it out of fear.
Being in therapy with your partner might make you feel like you have a safe space to open up about such abuses because you have someone there who will believe you and protect you… but unless you and your partner are living apart, you’re going to have to go back home with them after the counseling session, and there may be hell to pay.
Keep in mind that narcissists despise being painted as “bad;” their entire existence revolves around being appreciated and admired, so if you come clean about their horrible behaviors and the therapist sides with you instead of them, you will undoubtedly bear the brunt of their incendiary fury as soon as your front door closes behind you.
Their rage can escalate more than you might imagine, and instead of just throwing insults your way, you may end up being on the receiving end of physical violence (or threats thereof). Even narc partners who haven’t been abusive in the past can be triggered into being more aggressive and violent if they feel that you have overstepped the mark and dared to make others believe awful things about them.