How Narcissistic Abusers Convince Friends and Family that the Victim is to Blame

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE: WHO IS THE REAL VICTIM, written by Lauren and posted on her Lucky Otter’s Haven blog, makes some excellent points. As Lauren and I have both experienced, malignant narc abusers have a diabolical way of discrediting and isolating their victims through character assassination — triangulating and gossiping to friends and family behind the victim’s back.


As Lauren also points out, abusers further discredit their victims by making them “go a little crazy” through sneaky gaslighting techniques. The bewilderment of being gaslighted, coupled with the trauma of verbal and/or physical abuse, can cause a victim to develop nervous or quirky behaviors that may seem odd or even crazy to an outside observer.

When friends and relatives notice how anxious, emotional, and “overly sensitive” the victim has become — especially in comparison to the abuser, who deliberately comes across as calm, cool, and unruffled — these outsiders are likely to assume that the victim is the cause of any problems in the relationship.

The most malignant abusers will make themselves seem very caring, while publicly assassinating the character of their scapegoat. A religious abuser will say, for example: “I am so worried about Linda! I pray for her morning, noon, and night. But nothing that I do to try to help her is making any difference. Do you know what Linda has done NOW?” — followed by lies and distorted half truths, all told with the attitude of deep loving concern. (This is my momster.)

As I was reading Lucky Otter’s insightful post, I flashed back to an occasion where I was able to be the proverbial fly on the wall and listen in as my narcissistic boyfriend talked dirt about me behind my back to our friends, setting me up to be the crazy one, before we had even had any real problems in our new relationship!

Here is what happened: sixteen years ago I was going through a divorce. Living alone for the first time in years, I started attending a lot of AA meetings, both to ensure that I did not start drinking to medicate my pain, and to get out of my lonely apartment and be around other people.

I joined a sobriety club that is located in a picturesque setting on a river in Pennsylvania, near where I lived at the time. The clubhouse was an old dance hall that had been purchased by a local AA group. It had a great sound system, a stage, a large wooden dance floor, dart boards and pool tables. Twelve-step meetings were held morning, noon, and night, seven days a week, even on holidays. There was a full commercial kitchen and a long wooden bar in the back where only non-alcoholic drinks and snacks were sold.

The club had bi-monthly dances and frequent social events such as talent contests, holiday parties, picnics by the river, and the occasional potluck dinner. It was a great place for a newly separated person who needed help not to pick up a drink through the ups and downs of an unwanted divorce. (I had been sober ten years at that point).

Another great thing about joining the sobriety club was that I suddenly had a large group of instant “best friends.”

Yeah, right.

Almost immediately, the most charming and popular man in the group latched onto me. He was especially popular because he had a small vacation property on the shore of Delaware that he had inherited, where he regularly took people from the club for free weekend fishing trips. All they had to do in return was buy the food, cook, clean, and wait on him hand and foot, like a king.

“RH” was single at the time because his last girlfriend, whom he had also met at the AA club, had committed suicide the year before. All of his other previous AA girlfriends had gone back out drinking. He had been married once, more than thirty years before, when he was in his twenties. But his wife had cheated on him and left him for her lover. The poor man had terrible luck with women.

RH quickly became the best of my new best friends. He called me every day and we talked for hours. He asked which AA meetings I regularly attended and then started coming to all of my meetings. He always sat beside me, and insisted on taking me out to eat afterward. He loved the fact that I, in turn, insisted on always paying my own way.

Every word out of his mouth during this time was flattering. According to RH, my estranged husband was a fool. He told me I was the woman of his dreams, far better in every way than every woman who had been in his life before me.

He told me all the things that a heartbroken almost-fifty-year-old divorcee desperately wants to hear. And I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

We were a couple of months into a relationship and RH had not yet started his gaslighting and verbal abuse, when the following thing happened. He was still in the love-bombing phase — to my face. The devaluation and cruel discard was yet to come.

One evening I had to cancel a date at the club with my adoring boyfriend because I was sick. I had the flu, I think. I hated not being able to go to the dance, but there was no way I could go anywhere. As I recall, this was the only time I ever called off a date with him, for any reason.

RH very sweetly told me he understood. He said he would bring me some cough syrup and ginger ale and leave them in a bag on my back porch, so he would not catch my germs. Then he would go to the club without me, because he was expected and did not want to let our friends down. Also, he didn’t want to drive all the way back to his place and spend the evening alone, in front of the TV. I told him I understood and hoped he would have a nice time at the dance.

Because I was so sick, I turned the ringer off on my phone and went to bed. I slept like a rock all night. The next morning I checked my voicemail and found a message from my boyfriend.

His message sounded syrupy sweet and deeply concerned. “Hi, Honey, I just wanted to check in and see how you are doing. I’m worried about you. Let me know if there is anything else you need that I can get for you. I hope the cough syrup and the soda I brought over helped. It’s not the same here without you! I miss you! Goodnight, lovely lady. I will call in the morning. Get some rest. Sweet dreams!” (Kiss-kiss sounds).

Then he put the phone in his pocket, forgetting to turn it off first. And for the next several minutes, until the timer on my voicemail finally ended the call, I heard his slightly muffled voice talking dirt about me to our friends! After all these years I don’t remember the exact words he used, but it went something like this:

“I don’t know what is wrong with that woman! Linda started out all sweet and loving, but now she suddenly has better things to do than be with me. She SAYS she is sick, but I don’t believe it, I think that was just an excuse. She was perfectly fine yesterday, and when I took the cough syrup and ginger ale by her place before coming here, she wasn’t even home! I had to leave it on the porch! I don’t know if she is playing games with me, or if she’s a psycho! You know about her time in the funny farm, right?….”

I broke up with RH over that. But then he begged and he cried and he told me a long sob story about how his ex wife was always backing out of plans to be with him, using some made up excuse. But, as he later found out, she was having an affair. She hurt him so badly that he’s had a terrible time trusting women ever since.

Not only that, but his last girlfriend, the one who committed suicide, had invented reasons not to go out with him when she first started getting depressed, and he was terrified of living through a nightmare like that again. RH had sworn off women forever after Molly was found dead in her trailer, until he met me. But I really, truly was the greatest, sweetest, most loving and giving woman he had ever known in his entire life, which is why he had dared to take a chance on getting involved with me. But when I broke our date for the dance, his fears and insecurities had taken over. He begged me to PLEASE be an angel and forgive him and give him another chance to prove how much he really loves me…. (cue the pitiful poor-me face and crocodile tears).

I stupidly gave RH a second chance. I wanted and needed to believe that his love for me was real. But then the subtle gaslighting started, followed by covert abuse, followed by overt verbal abuse, followed by devaluation, followed by a cruel, public discard.

And all of my new best friends took his side and blamed me for breaking the poor man’s heart, so soon after the crushing blow of his previous girlfriend’s suicide. Yet the truth was that I was the one with a shattered heart, while he had a new, younger girlfriend within one week, flaunting her in front of my face at the AA meetings where I was desperately looking for emotional support.

I wrote a song about it at the time:

The Diner

I drive past the diner
I look in and see them
sitting at the table where we used to be…
Alone in the dark night I make my way homeward
feeling like a fool for just needing to see.

Where did our love go?
Tell me, how did this happen?
Nothing makes sense anymore.
My friend says “Come over
I’ll make you forget him.”
My head wants to try
but my heart won’t let go.

Did I ever know you?
You seem like a stranger
aloof and uncaring
unwilling to try.
You and your friends
have joined forces to blame me
I have nothing left now
not even my pride.

As I drive past the diner
I look in and see them
sitting at the table where we used to be…
alone in the dark night I make my way homeward
feeling like a fool for just needing to see.

— —

Thank you for stopping by and God bless.