Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

We all know that narcissists love to throw their victims off-balance by relentlessly gaslighting them, and with other various forms of abusive manipulation.The Hell on Earth that is Narcissistic Limbo

It’s no secret. The narcissist needs to feel like he (or she) is in control of every situation.

One of the tactics that many victims of this kind of abuse report, but that few people talk about, is what I call the narcissist’s limbo.

What is narcissistic limbo, exactly?

Whether they do it subconsciously or otherwise, narcissists have a way of refusing to commit to literally anything, and this is especially the case when someone needs to know their answer in order to plan their day/week/month/life.

It’s almost like the more desperately you feel you need the answer, the less concerned the narcissist seems to be with giving you one.

This causes the victim to feel on-edge and “up-in-the-air” – eventually to the point where it causes a great deal of stress that may lead to a change in her behavior. She may stop making plans at all for fear that the narcissist will ruin them.

It’s all part of the narcissist’s sick mind game, of course.

How is narcissistic limbo a form of manipulation?

When the narcissist refuses to commit to some event or outing, for example, he leaves his victim in limbo.

Should she plan to go? Will he join her? What about others who might be involved?

It’s exhausting after awhile. The victim becomes afraid to accept invitations or to even attempt to make plans. She learns that he needs to be in control or he will ruin any attempt she makes to plan.

And, of course, he never stands up and admits he’s the problem. He just leaves her hanging out to dry – typical of a narcissist.

She may have found herself feeling humiliated one too many times after the narcissist ruined her plans. She may have grown tired of trying to smooth things over with other people who are involved.

Eventually, she gives up and stops trying. She may even reduce or eliminate contact with the people she loves in order to reduce the stress and friction she gets every time she makes an effort to connect with them.

She’s probably dissociating by now, and she may even be showing other signs of PTSD.

She feels guilty, alone and depressed. And there’s no one she can tell. The narcissist has made sure she’s isolated and she’s tired of hearing people ask her why she won’t leave if it’s so bad.

How can you deal with narcissistic limbo more effectively?

The first step, assuming you’re not being physically abused, is to make a choice. (If physical abuse is involved – stop reading now because all bets are off. Get out ASAP. See this page for emergency resources.)

Ask yourself what happens if you go ahead and make plans and go, regardless of the narcissist’s opinion and/or ability to attend.

Does he go crazy and burn the house down? Or does he throw a fit? Whatever happens – is it something you can handle? Can you just go, or will he make it so miserable for you that it’s not even worth the attempt?

Related: What You Need to Know About Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

If you’re going to stick with the narcissist, you do need to be aware of his limitations – and keeping you in limbo is one way he controls you. So what you might consider doing is telling him that YOU are planning to attend the event and that he is welcome to join you. But if he chooses not to do so, you have to make sure you do anyway – this will be the first step in cementing your social independence.

Or, and I know this isn’t what you want to hear, you have to suck it up and allow yourself to be controlled.

That answer sucks. But it’s the truth – you’ve only got three choices – and those are the ones.

So to clarify, here’s a quick recap on your options for dealing with a narcissist who keeps you in limbo to control you.

1. Leave and go no contact or low contact (in cases when no-contact is not an option due to situations such as co-parenting).

2. Stand up for yourself and stick it out – that is, stay in the relationship, but enforce and maintain your personal boundaries and freedoms. This takes an incredibly strong person and a mildly affected narcissist. Try the gray rock method, or one of these ideas – and if you were recently gaslighted or otherwise emotionally abused, pick up this free Post-Gaslighting Emergency Recovery Kit.

3. Shut up and take it. Because if you’re not willing to make any changes and you’re willing to allow a narcissist to continue his psychological terrorism against you – then you just need to accept that you are making a choice to live in this situation.

Ultimately, you’ve got to decide whether the narcissist’s happiness is truly more important than your own.

So how will you respond? How DID you respond to these kinds of manipulation tactics if they were used on you in the past? Share your insight and experiences with me – and your fellow survivors – in the comments. You never know who you might be able to help by sharing!

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3 Responses to Narcissistic Limbo: Living in Last-Minute Hell

  1. Angela,

    HELP! After reading about narcissism and psychopaths on the internet for the last few months, I have come to the realization that I too am involved with one. I feel so foolish. I NEVER knew about this disorder – EVER! Every behavior, and then some, describes this gentleman who “thinks” he is my BF and claims to be in love with me. Thank goodness he lives in another state! He is emotionally draining, argumentative, enjoys conflict and is patronizing and condescending. After a few fits of enraging anger, he told me that he won’t be contacting me anymore, whether it be by phone, text or email – a blessing in disguise!!! However, he has done this “no contact thing” once before on FB for about two months and found a way to re-connect. I would love to have someone to chat with about this. It is consuming me, particularly since my husband passed three years ago and I was enjoying the attention. I’d like to know if there is any assistance/advice available to me in my area. I live in the city of Atlanta.

    Thank you for your time.

    Susan Towers

  2. I have been in a truly mind-numbing narcissistic relationship for 2 years now. Two years ago I met him, coming out of a Walgreens, in the throws of a new separation from a 24-yr-long marriage. I was a former TV personality and coming out of a very toxic political position and confused about my career/future, my marriage, my children etc. I was extremely vulnerable and here he was like a freight train, straight at me. He leveled every kind of gift, alcolade, mountains of compliments, passion, love, excitement — all that I thought I had been missing in my marriage, upon me. The honeymoon started with all of this incredible passion and obsessive love which I thrived on, and it took a nose dive within a year. Suddenly, last August I began to have a spiritual awakening, an epiphany and realized that I was a walking zombie — I had gone from TV personality, print model, public speaker to not even recognizing myself. I’d spent a whole year-1/2 doing his bidding — he’d hired me to do his administrative work (because I couldn’t seem to get myself back in my broadcasting mode) and paid me well to become completely dependent on him; he helped me to get the legal help I needed to complete my divorce, etc. My God-Blessed epiphany of this “game” came just months before the divorce was to be final. When I found ANOTHER JOB, and began communication with my husband/father of my children and rekindled the friendships I’d alienated — the narcissist changed! Gone was the money for my work — he no longer had time for “us,” he seemed frazzled and emotional. Then, of course, before I could even tell him that I was considering reconciling with my husband and that he should find another “assistant,” he had ALREADY found another “assistant” only she wasn’t just an assistant, he was seeing her and “LOVE BOMBING” her, courting her in the same way he had me just a over a year ago! That is when this all became CRYSTAL CLEAR to me — this narcissistic relationship that I had gotten myself into. The devastating thing is — in trying to reconcile with my husband I felt like a ruined woman , unable to properly love and connect with my husband behind the ever present memories of the kind of passion, love and heightened unreal love and adoration the narcissist had now introduced me to — how could ANYONE possibly rise to that kind of attraction for me? I am beginning my true healing, through the grace of God!

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