Protecting yourself in couples therapy with a narcissist

Protecting yourself in couples therapy with a narcissist


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  1. I’ve had a failed couples therapy session before. Now we are going again and I want it to be successful but I’m afraid there is no helping the situation…

  2. if a toxic person won’t VOLUNTARILY seek out therapy for themselves FIRST, going to couples therapy with them is just a fool’s errand imo. Like everything else, they will weaponize it against you while simultaneously tooting their own horn to anyone that will listen because they’re in therapy. One session in & they will consider themselves the most spiritually advanced, together person on the planet. If it isn’t just another source of supply for them, they’ll probably lose interest after a couple of sessions. There is so much work a toxic person needs to do before couple’s therapy. Skipping that isn’t going to result in an optimal experience. On the contrary. It will probably turn out to be your nightmare. If they really saw the value in therapy, they’d seek it out for themselves. They really just want to take YOU to therapy, because it’s got to be your problem, not theirs. I just see it as another trap.

  3. I asked my wife to go to therapy with me to work on communication issues
    Her response was yeah, that way she can tell them about all the stuff I’ve done to her!!!

  4. I am very concern about the therapist who found narcissistic traits on my husband is mixing it with his Autism that he has as well. This is a very complicated situation and I can see at the same time how she can fall for his “charm” and treating me like I am the one with the psychological problems in the relationship. This video really applies!!!!!

  5. From my own experience:
    1. Anything in therapy the narc perceives as a win for them will be used against you in the future. Any validation of a single aspect of their self-perception they can interpret as a validation of the whole.
    2. Any moment of vulnerability you show will be identified, mentally recorded, and replayed against you as a means to mock you, or as an angle of attack to gaslight you.
    3. If, after a private appointment with the narc, the therapist starts asking questions that make no sense, they might have been fed lies by the narc, and they may be trying to dig into a non-existent issue. It could also be a misunderstanding. Whatever the case it may be good to ask about the direction of conversation.

  6. I tried couples therapy for about a total of 4-5 sessions, the couples therapist seemed to vibe quite well with her. There were conflicts about money and other concerns, such as her words not matching her actions, and myself constantly feeling invalidated, not helping out financially, feeling used for my money, head spinning, etc. I couldn’t make sense of it. She seemed to be the victim in the therapy sessions saying I was the problem and appeared to be getting the therapist on her side. I finally voiced my feelings in the session and she absolutely attacked me right in front of her, after that she then was absolutely dead quiet the next two sessions and I seemed to be the difficult one and "see you’re the one with all the problems thats why she’s talking to you during the sessions" came out afterward and her even calling me narcissistic for wanting help from my partner financially! I felt so invalidated, confused, just overall horrible. I broke it off with her right afterward. Just like one of the comments below, "You have to stay until you can walk out that door and never look back." Growing up with some terrible parents it makes sense why I kept trying to make this relationship work and attract women like her. Im currently now using EMDR therapy to cope with all the CPTSD that I had from these relationships. This stuff is INCREDIBLY HARD and these types of people can be WOMEN I want other men to feel validated in that regard as men usually get the wrap for being the NARC. Stay Srong!

  7. If you feel elated at the beginning of therapy and you start viewing the therapist as a saviour, you are experiencing the ‘high’ of love bombing. Consider that the therapist himself/herself may be a narcissist and you are being set up for a massive messy retraumatising train wreck. Rapport is built slowly and steadily, if you feel ‘high’ at the beginning of ANY relationship, professional or otherwise, that’s a massive red flag because narcissistic abuse survivors experience trauma bonding and there is a strong element of addiction in the dynamic. If you’re a recovering alcoholic and a drink marked as water gives you a high, you must question whether what you are drinking is indeed water.

  8. Never use a priest as a couples therapist – especially with a female narc. Priests have no marital experience, and they are easily charmed.

  9. We have done theropy together and seperately. Sometimes it helps for a bit. I know if has helped me in that having a third party there they have been the voice of reason. But I don’t think my husband has wanted to listen to how he could be a better partner. But that gaslighting has gotten worse and we are going to couple’s counciling or I am leaving because he did individual theropy but I saw no change and he recently as a got ya moment tried to use his theropists words against me by saying he said to give me a chance. And I said wait….your theropists who only got your side of our problems and everything else told you that you should give me a chance to do what? And he had no responce. I think he missed the point that I was making. My individual theropy was over the grief of loving our son to stillbirth in full term labor. But it was the theropists that we saw together. So it centered around our relationship more than me. But I needed that for my mental health. That was during covid and now he has jumped off the deep end. I think because he is losing control of things at work and he is losing control of things at home- i.e. i am not staying home all day alone where he gets to control all interactions and food shopping etc. I started getting my masters degree and he was livid because it wasn’t a good time for him. This past six months I got my yoga teaching certificate and he was upset but I was able to do it anyways and now I have multiple avenues to make money and have a flexible schedule. I also have a way to make friends and interact with people and that is driving him nuts.

  10. The first therapist I saw with my ex-husband bought his act and gaslit me. It reinforced my husband’s refrain that I was the problem. Luckily, my psychiatrist and a individual therapist saw the pattern and supported me.

  11. I can relate to this so much. We were zooming during our last session with a therapist he had totally manipulated (covert narc). Me and the narc were in different locations because I’d asked her again for support to leave the relationship after his hundredth tantrum over nothing. I was always “complaining” and asking for support to leave while he “wanted to move things forward in a positive direction.” One of his favorite catch phrases. As I listed off my grievances (ie recent incidents of abuse), the therapist interrupted and said “yeah blank feels pretty beat up.” I slammed my laptop closed and that was the last session with her. She was so clueless and completely triangulated

  12. My narc ex and I tried couples therapy when we were together and at his suggestion I went for a solo appointment (I was the only one with Issues after all. He was the long suffering husband). When I was finally able to express myself to the therapist safely she was completely on board with me and said that I needed out of the abusive relationship pronto. She agreed to help me extricate myself from him at our next couples session. The next session came after a long week fraught with stress for me. It took all of my courage and planning to prepare myself. And when I got there… everything had changed. The therapist told me that I needed to ask him for forgiveness and not destroy my family. He had clearly spoken to her during the week and manipulated the situation. He convinced her that I was deeply mentally ill. I was devastated and felt so betrayed by her. I quit couples counseling. It took several more years before I was able to leave the relationship.

    Fast forward six years and it was my 11 year old daughter who needed therapy to process the abuse that she had experienced from her father. ( different therapist!) He called the therapist after her first session ( due to her age and our joint custody he had to consent to therapy for her) and convinced her that our child was mentally ill and he was a concerned, loving parent. The therapist spent my child’s next session telling her to treat her dad better. We ended up accessing support for her through our local womens shelter so he couldn’t control her He has since spoken to every teacher, doctor and any other professional that she has come into contact with to try to ensure that he looks good and she looks bad. He has never stopped harassing and punishing me for leaving him. My lawyer said that my ex is the worst most controlling ex that he’s met in his career as a divorce attorney, and that he will never stop coming after me. It’s been 10 years. My lawyer, unfortunately has been right. I worry that he will do the same to my daughter in the future. Thankfully some professionals out there can see through his manipulation.

  13. VIDEO IDEA: how to tell if a therapist might themselves be a narcissist.

    I’m convinced, based on several bad experiences with therapists, that the occupation tends to attract a disproportionately high number of narcissists (compared to NPDs prevalency "in the wild")

    Over the years, I’ve come to discover certain LMFTs to themselves be narcissists. Usually tho these discoveries took too many sessions (and so, only after great damage had already been done). It’d be great if you’d discuss ways that one might more quickly vet them


  14. We just started family counseling and the ex-wife (the controlling, entitled bully) found this therapist. The first session was an absolute nightmare!! She (the ex) was screaming, wouldn’t let us get a word in, she was name calling, raging, lying, accusing us of nonsense (cherry picking different situations from different years and merging them together to make us look bad), was being cruel and hostile. I actually walked out of the session because I couldn’t take it anymore. She was so nasty that it wasn’t a safe space. The therapist literally let things get out of control. How do I question the therapist l’s ability or knowledge without looking like an asshole. All the therapist kept saying was “there seems to be a communication problem”. It was so awful:(

  15. I was with a BPD in couples therapy and the therapist turned to her and said "do you want this man? Do you seriously want this man because you’re going the right way to loose him". One of many amusing call outs.

  16. Hi Dr. Ramani,

    I’m currently being trained in the Gottman approach to couples counseling. They vet for domestic violence during the intake process. I was wondering if you were familiar with the Gottman approach, and if so, what are your thoughts on how effective that screening is in flagging narcissism and naricisstic abuse. Would you even suggest the Gottman approach for a couple where one or both of the people struggle with NPD?

  17. What could be the possible outcome of the therapy that would be helpful for the couple then? Helping the victim learn to let go of their expectations that their partners could change? What can a therapist do given that the therapist is aware of and understands narcissism. .

  18. I was married to a covert narcissist and was emotionally traumatized by a therapist that did not get what was going on.
    I now am a psychotherapist and specialize in this area
    I listen and value the great information you discuss in your podcasts. I refer clients to your podcasts
    Thank you Dr. Ramani

  19. 24 years I have been with my partner, we have 2 kids girl 22 boy 19. First time we went to therapy was about 15 years ago and it is exactly what you describe, I had no point of reference, I did not even know what was going on, so I had no idea how to explain it. So, he was always justified. Years after trying all kinds of things, I can say I found my ‘therapist’ right at home. My son is calling out his dad on gaslighting, manipulation, etc. Things like ‘that’s not what she said’ or straight telling him, you are making that up, it’s not what happened or what does that have to do with … He calls it at he sees it. Am I an asshole for enjoying those moments? Inside I feel happy when this happens, which is a lot lately.!

  20. Years ago after my husband had an affair (one of many it turns out) our therapist told me I could either move on and cherish my husband or I could keep bringing the affair up as an issue and have him continue to think of this woman….. True story! Next therapist a couple of years later. Asked us if we would like to return. My husband’s answer "well I don’t think I have a problem but she probably does" (referring to me of course) I’ve been seeing that therapist now for many years because he was right I did have a problem….him! My therapist told me about this series and it’s been a game changer for me. Thank you from the bottom of my slowly refilling heart

  21. When I talked about my ex partner’s overwhelming rage and how much it was impacting me in one of our first few sessions, the therapist normalized it and said that she had rage explosions, too.
    I really thought that I was exaggerating and making too big a deal out of it after that. I tried to make sense of it and to convince myself that it should not bother me so much, that *I* should be more understanding and accommodating.
    What a disaster.
    But I have a wonderful individual therapist and still very much believe in the therapeutic process despite this very invalidating and harmful experience in couples therapy.

  22. I was gaslighted horribly in couple’s therapy by my soon-to-be-ex in 2008. 14 years later he wants to go again because the marriage is ending…I’m done wasting my precious time and will never agree to therapy with him unless he addresses his narcissism with a therapist for a very long time. Kids are almost grown. Youngest will be 18 in June. I think it’s time for me to make my exit.

  23. Boom! Right on target. Went to therapy and my husband could always play the role of charming. Before I knew what had happened, the tables were turned and I became the problem. The whole thing left me never wanting to return to any sort of therapy.

  24. Also, beware that the narcissist can confuse the therapist so much that the therapist starts to dissociate. That happened in couple’s therapy sessions with me and my ex. Either the session becomes so turbulent that the therapist loses track of what is happening and can’t follow what the couple is talking about, or the narcissist is gaslighting, acting erratic and talking word salad to such an extent that the therapist’s head starts spinning. If I ever was to go to therapy together with my ex again, or someone like him, I would demand TWO therapists in the room, so that they can support each other and if one of them gets to confused the other one might be able to watch what has been happening a little bit more from a distance and can step in and take over.

  25. Going to meet her now. He went to ‘get help to save his marriage ‘. She wanted to meet me. I’m glad you had a video on this. Thank you. We’ve been to many therapists and it was never long lasting change. 😞
    I’ll be honest, and truthful and see what happens.🤷‍♀️

  26. How do you find a couples therapist that works in this narcissistic realm? Is there specific or specialized training (ie: gottman) that would be in their profile or additional letters after their name? (ie: LMFC)

  27. Hi,
    My ex is narcissist. We have boy kid. I have problems with system (Social workers) and terapist who doesn’t get it just right. Now I am forced from system to have couple therapy that they will see if I am "a problem". Can we get in touch with DM.
    Best regards

  28. Thankfully, I just found this video. My husband has been gaslighting me for over 20 years and it’s almost like I just woke up this past year and realize what was happening to me. We started doing couples counseling, and the therapist was seeming like she was listening to what I was saying and understanding, and then he sent her a private email, and after that email things changed. All of a sudden it turned into me projecting everything onto him and that’s why he was acting the way he was. I decided to terminate that therapist because I knew that that wasn’t going to help. Still stuck but I have options. At least I know now that not all therapists are able to figure this out and some of them do you get charged by the narcissists and I’m going to have to remember that and look very carefully at our very first and second sessions again if we try it again.

  29. You nailed what happened when my former wife, a narcissist, went to talk to our Pastor.

    She made it out that somehow I was the one causing all the problems. That when I said something was happening, she either minimized it or said it wasn’t happening. We agreed to do certain things to help our relationship, and she broke that agreement as soon as we were in the car. And again made it out that somehow her actions were caused by me.

    When we went back to talk to our Pastor and he asked how things were going, I pointed out the pattern of me doing what I needed to do and my that wife didn’t. And she, along with the Pastor, somehow turned it around that I was the one who was lacking and not doing enough in the relationship. After that, there wasn’t much use in going for some kind of further counseling until I!! got my wife’s crap together so we could move onto to making it all work.

  30. Hi Dr., I have a narcissistic ex-girlfriend / my daughter’s mother who wants us to return to a therapist for my daughter who would not address the current characteristics of narcissism in her parenting. He even said he prefers his own mother too! The judge here in California succumbed to her charm and ordered a return to therapy, but this is not good for my daughter! I already fired him but she brought my daughter back already! I don’t agree, what should I do?

  31. I am going through this now. I am a therapist and have been extremely shocked at how our therapist is handling our sessions. Had an extremely upsetting session yesterday where the therapist literally triangulated me and was questioning me about things my partner was completely lying about and mischaracterizing. I was so stunned I froze. How is she really not seeing his manipulation? Neither one of my adult children want a relationship with him anymore, and she STILL sides with him. I am losing my mind. I’m not going back.

  32. I need help. My husband wants to us to see a therapist. 😟
    I don’t have a good feeling about this at all. Thank you Dr. Ramani for posting this video. I feel better prepared for the session my husband scheduled for today.

  33. our couples therapist told mine, wow your spouse has so much power, she is very powerful to be able to get you all to do those things. (therapist was just pointing out that *EVERYTHING* i was being blamed for was pretty ridiculous). My spouse had a ‘wait❗what❓’ moment. Quick on his feet responded, "yeah if that means the power to ‘eff up’ this family then yeah."
    Long story short, this therapist on an *’aside’* warned me who i was dealing with, asked me a few poignant questions, referred me to read a book by debbie mirza, practically advised me to get out, warned me that continuing with ‘couples’ therapy would be dangerous for me and the reason for that.
    this therapist was at the right place at the right time, soon after-that therapist left that practice. Seems to me *divine intervention* because all this happened in only *one* session (therapist was not familiar with my history or my spouses).
    Now i get the "people come into your life for a *reason* a *season* or a *lifetime"* poem

  34. I have been married for almost 25 years. My husband has gone to a psychiatrist a few times and therapy a few times years ago only because he knew that I couldn’t take it anymore and he knew that other people (family witnessed his behavior). I am not sure he is a full blown narcissist. I have called him Jekyll and Hyde since the first few months we were dating. He used to think he was bipolar. My daughter thinks he is BPD/NPD. She is a NP in Psych. I have done reading for years on it and my husband fits this. If someone was a fly on my wall, would be the only way they could see how crazy my life has been with him. People have heard him and witnessed his behavior and they do not understand how I can still be with him. I love him so very much and I do not want to leave. I have tried to get him to therapy but he says I am the one who needs help and that he got help years ago and it is not him it is me. He is getting worse as he gets older and just today I told him if he didn’t get help, I was leaving. I said I will go with him. His response was, "Good, I cannot wait for the doctor to tell you that it’s you and then I am going to kick you out so fast". I am worried that I won’t have a good therapist and he will pull one over on them.

  35. I am afraid that couple’s therapy is just a form of triangulation, as the narcissist will use the therapist against his victim. The whole premise of couple’s therapy is incorrect if a narcissist is involved, because the narcissist is not coming to the therapy in good faith, but to meet his agenda and prove his preset points.

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