Abuse-Can Be Subtle and Deadly

People hear the word “abuse” and assume physical violence, but there are many forms of abuse. There are your run of the mill a-holes, wife beaters and cheaters and then in a class all of their own, are narcissists/psychopaths. Even narcissism has varying levels of abuse and degrees of severity, some narcissists, although cheaters and liars never physically abuse their partner and are able to hold down jobs. At the other end of the spectrum are the narcissists who destroy all who come in contact with them. It has taken me a long time to accept I was involved with a narcissist and even longer to realize and accept how truly evil he was and the danger I was in. One of the most powerful weapons the abuser has to keep the victim in the relationship is the victim’s own denial.

In my quest for answers I came across a couple who claimed he was a narcissist and she, through her love for him discovered how to “cure” him. For anyone to claim they can cure a narcissist is a dangerous game to play. As is typical of the victim, my hope was restored and I clung to any remote chance; I could “cure” JC also. I was quick to grasp at anything that indicated if I tried harder, was more understanding and loved unconditionally I could save the relationship and JC. That was almost 10 years ago, I don’t know if they are still around but you would figure if it was possible to cure a narcissist the internet would be full of testimonial about their discovery. Never think you can love the narcissist well, or if you try just a little harder to please him things will be ok. We are strong women, we tend to think we can give a little more, bend a little farther and then we find ourselves in too deep to extricate ourselves.

I read somewhere that a woman will stay in or go back to an abusive relationship as long as she feels there is something she can do to “fix” it; until she feels she has done everything she can do, she won’t leave on her own. With my experience I can only say that the longer I stayed and the more times I went back the more severe and insidious the abuse got.

With physical abuse there are often signs of abuse, bruising etc and people are much more apt to believe the victim, come to their assistance, and support them emotionally or financially.

Emotional abuse is ambiguous and hard to prove, the victim is less likely to get support and people tend to think they are exaggerating, overly sensitive or antagonizing the abuser. Society in general does not view psychological or emotional abuse as “dangerous” and feel that if the person isn’t treating you the way you would like just leave. They don’t understand the damage done to the emotional state of the victim or the potential danger to the victim.

All abuse stems from the abusers need to control the victim, whether it is physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse.

A narcissist at his worst will use a combination of all the above abuse tactics and can leave the victim paralyzed, unable to make decisions, hopeless, depressed and lacking the self-confidence to help themselves. They no longer feel like themselves, having lost their soul to the narcissist, they don’t even know who they are any more and have lost all trust in a fair and just world.

The most dangerous of all abuse is Ambient Abuse, (and the kind of abuse JC is so adept at) Often called “crazy-making”, or “gas lighting”, it is the stealth, and subtle, underground maltreatment that sometimes goes unnoticed even by the victims themselves until it is too late. It is ambiguous and atmospheric and very hard to pinpoint or prove; hence it’s insidious and deadly effects.

Ambient Abuse is the fostering of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There is no tangible evidence of abuse but the victim constantly senses a bad omen or premonition of impending doom. It is perpetrated by dropping subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant and unnecessary lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning and by inspiring an air of unmitigated gloom and doom. Insisting the victim did not see or hear what they did, hiding personal items of the victim but blaming the victim, insisting the victim said or did certain things that the victim did not do but eventually starts to doubt their own perception of reality.

Over the long-term this environment eats away at the victim’s self esteem and their self-confidence is severely damaged. Many times the victim starts to act paranoid and highly emotional, which makes them look like the mentally unstable one and the abuser is the poor suffering soul. Some examples of ambient abuse would be withholding affection or intimacy, rolling their eyes when you express an opinion or criticizing your actions “for your own good”.
(With JC the rolling of the eyes was SO frustrating, and made me feel my opinions or feelings weren’t of importance).
(For most of our relationship he refused to come to bed, at first he always came to bed then he would stay up until 3 or 4 am, then he was coming to bed just in time to have sex before we had to get up for work, and the last few years he rarely came to bed at all. He said he just didn’t need sleep, but he would fall asleep any where and every where, he could sleep standing he’d be so tired)

There are 5 categories of ambient abuse:

Inducing Disorientation

The abuser causes the victim to lose faith in her ability to manage and cope with the world and its demands. She no longer trusts her instincts, her skills, her strengths, friends, family, or the benevolence and predictability of her environment.

The abuser challenges his target’s perception of the world, right and wrong, her judgment and offers plausible but false alternatives. JC would always say he couldn’t handle my warped perception of reality, until I questioned myself for getting upset he was seeing other women and whether I was actually being abused. By continually criticizes her decisions he makes her doubt her ability to make wise choices. With his pathological lying he blurs the lines between reality and nightmare. He constantly violates her boundaries and disrespects her values, feelings and opinions, “deal breakers” such as drug abuse, infidelity, lying and stealing become common place and she is made to feel she is in the wrong for confronting him on his indiscretions or that some how she is to blame for them.

By overreacting to the slightest mistake on her part and setting her up with demands impossible to meet he intimidates her to the point of paralysis.


The abuser gradually takes control over the victim’s freedom and ability to be self-sufficient (i.e.: their vehicle is never working, they lose their job, loss of friends and support system due to never being able to entertain or attend events because of the N) it is very subtle and done in such a way that the victim doesn’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Then they find themselves isolated from the outer world and a hostage to the goodwill – or ill will of their captor.

The abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, and unpredictable situations where his skills or knowledge is sorely needed. He orchestrates circumstances where his specific skills, connections, or traits are the only ones useful and helpful. In this way he creates his own indispensability; giving him another reason to resent his victim and another excuse to be angry with her for being needy. (JC used to sabotage my vehicle, I would have no choice but to call for his help and he would make me wait hours and make it sound like it was a HUGE inconvenience and effort on his part to help me, but acted like the benevolent rescuer when he got there. He also got me evicted from every place I lived or we lived making us homeless and me dependent on him for everything) Right up to the last day we were together he constantly told me I would never find a man who would rescue me like he always had and I believed him. The truth is, I had many men willing to help me when JC was out of the picture but my vehicle didn’t break down like it did when I was with JC either.

Shared Psychosis

The abuser creates a fantasy world inhabited by the victim and himself besieged by imaginary enemies. The enemies may be people they know, (or totally made up) these people are plotting against them, lying to them or about them, basically “out to get them, and destroy their relationship” and she is expected to stand by him, fight against these enemies, lie, and pretend. She is continually “tested” and must prove her continued affiliation and support of him.

Eventually this constant stress reduces the victim’s resistance and ability to “see straight”. (JC used to watch videos and talk about the “one world power” coming and how we would have to live in the hills, the holocaust that was coming and I became very afraid of the future without him there to protect me. He said “they” had erased files on his computer etc)

Abuse Of Information

From the first moment the abuser meets his victim he is collecting information. He will reveal just enough dirt about his past to put his target at ease so they feel safe opening up about their fears, indiscretions, and weak areas. The more he knows about his potential victim the easier it is for him to coerce, charm, manipulate and extort her. Whereas he was sympathetic when he first meets her once the mask drops he will use any information he has to belittle, criticize, discredit, and embarrass. He has no qualms using information he gleans to achieve his goals or destroy the target.

Control By Proxy

If all else fails the abuser will recruit a third-party to do his bidding. That 3rd party could be family, friends, institutions, teachers, the media, the authorities, and he uses them to cajole, threaten, stalk, harass, communicate, and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware accomplices exactly as he controls his victim and dumps them unceremoniously when the job is done.

Many narcissists do not physically abuse their victims, they are able to control them through psychological and emotional abuse which is much less likely to be detected and it’s much easier to deny and make the victim look crazy. In JC and my relationship he did strangle me once (and denied it, according to him he didn’t strangle me or choke me, he just had his hands around my neck) and he hit me a handful of times in the 10 yrs we were together. There was no need to hit me, like most women after he hit  me the first time all he had to do was come at me with his fist raised and I would back down, but near the end even backing down didn’t stop him. It was as if he knew it was ending and he had nothing to lose by not holding back.  We went several years without him actually hitting me, but like my son said, that doesn’t mean he’s changed it just means you walk on eggshells.

What we all forget as victims is: IT IS NEVER OK FOR A MAN TO HIT A WOMAN (vise versa) there is absolutely no excuse for hitting a woman unless she was coming at him with a knife. There is nothing a woman can do that justifies getting hit, he can walk away, hit a wall if he has to hit something but she can not MAKE him hit her. Another thing we have to remind ourselves of: He knows exactly what he is doing and that it is wrong, he expects you to lie about it to everyone and if someone came to the door he would stop. If he was so justified in what he was doing there would be no need to lie and IF life with you is so unbearable that he feels he has no choice but to hit you then he needs to leave the relationship, BEFORE he finds your replacement!

Narcissists control by keeping their victim off-balance, another tactic for this is to not respond to something that would normally send them into a rage. They appear unaffected by an argument and act as if nothing happened leaving the victim waiting for the shoe to drop. Have no doubt that the narcissist will get revenge; he is the king of passive aggressive behavior that punishes the victim. He will take or destroy something of value to the victim. It could be weeks or months after the incident when the victim realizes a treasured possession in missing or broken, of course the N will deny knowing anything about it. This is most likely to happen when her focus is shifted on something other than the N, perhaps a child or other family member she is concerned about, anything that takes the attention off the N. (In 10 years I had all my clothes stolen, my photos had anti freeze dumped on them, memento’s were lost, my son’s baby teeth disappeared but the container they were in was in JC’s music room, 3 vehicles were stolen, my vehicles were tampered with, the amount of hours I spent broken down on the side of the road would boggle your mind, almost weekly I would need him to rescue me, he made me miss events that were of immense importance to me, I was unable to finish my college education, every single piece of personal property I had was destroyed or stolen. I do not own anything today that I owed 14 years ago, nothing. Oh sorry, a few Christmas decorations, that is it)

The best indicator that you are a victim of ambient abuse is your gut; throughout the 10 years of my relationship with JC I denied what my gut was telling me. And I wish with all my heart that you believe me when I say; it does not get better, his apologies mean nothing, he is only manipulating you further. Get out!! Before it’s too late.

Link to a post from 2012 one year after JC and I split, You can’t be first but you can be next http://wp.me/p1wKh3-kb


205 thoughts on “Abuse-Can Be Subtle and Deadly

  1. Neil g

    Much depends on the force used when striking, rather than just gender alone. If a female boxer were to strike her fella Everytime she didn’t like something that is as bad as a male using his dominant strength to weaken a woman. I know this as my ex was smaller than me but dealt heavy blows and I never hit back. Anyways ive identified a few Narcs in my time on this planet and I avoid them like the plague that they are…nuf said 😠

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Adoring mum and nana

    Thank you so much for this article and sharing. It has helped enormously with understanding the pain my beautiful daughter and grandaughter have suffered after this Italian Narsassitic man lured them away to his country with promise of being the “love of my life” and a “wonderfully happy life”. After just a few days they were subjected to which we now know as the traits of the Narc. My daughter was a happy successful person in her own right. My grandaughter a privately educated musically talented beauty. They are now broken but with the help of your article can start to rebuild their lives together. So thank you again to all those ladies who shared their pain and hope for the future.


  3. lisa anderson

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARRIE!!!!!! friend and follower from Texas, USA

    -formally from FLorida and living in Texas presently pursuing Nursing field! I AM DOING FOR ME!!!!

    *NEVER stop growing
    * ALWAYS be positive
    * GOLDEN RULE still applies

    …….and smile because YOU ARE WORTHY!!!!!!!

    live ,love, laugh

    Lisa Anderson, 50 today


  4. Auspicious Bunny

    Thanks – I was engaged to a man like this. He constantly manipulated my memory. I was a trusting, naive person. And loved him. We would sit down and talk and make plans. When the day of our plan came it would never happen. He would deny we even talked about it. Or would say — remember we decided to put it off? Or we never decided on any plan. I swear I could write the plan on a calendar in front of both of us — he would sit there and reinvent reality when the time came. Insane. He was insane.

    It started out very romantic. That is what lured me in.

    Whenever we disagreed he would do anything to get me to drop the subject — so he could then go about things his own way even if that was the source of the problem. He would cause some explosive thing to happen and blame me for “escalating” it and making him angry. Never once did he ever take any responsibility for himself.

    After about three years he occasionally starting to smash something of value in the middle of an argument, as if to say “look what you made me do” and also — although I didn’t think of it then — “next time this could be your face…”

    He is a PhD and was at MIT at the time of the relationship – an overachiever, deceptively “wonderful”, a vegetarian, well-spoken, seemingly calm. For two years after we broke up friends would say to me “such a shame it didn’t work out — he’s a great guy.” And he was a great guy [to them!] They had no clue because his whole life was image-control. He was a walking, talking career, a resume. Whenever I pushed him to be more than that he freaked out.

    The last thing that happened was we had an argument in a hotel on a “vacation.” Which turned (of course) into him drinking and talking to colleagues and ignoring me. We argued about spending personal time together. Then he waved his fist at me in the middle of the argument. I picked up my suitcase, walked out of the hotel and got in the car we had driven there in (my car!) He could ask one of his special colleagues to drive him five hours back to where he lived.

    That was the last of it, thankfully. But it did damage to me.


  5. sandy

    I am 60 and have been taking care of my mother for 12 years in my home. I allowed a much younger man to come into my life and begin helping me with her. I have experienced this insidious form of emotional abuse that is called “ambient”. Things are better for a few days and then he does something he knows will both me. Often he has destroyed my furniture, my phones, put perfectly good chairs,etc out in the weather to be ruined. He has hit me, broken a tahini jar almost in my face at a friends house, suffocated me, chased me numerous times, told me my children moved away because I am so messed up, told me I am emotionally unstable which is true at times but I’m now realizing he is even more unstable. He has also helped me, supported me, massaged me, (I am in chronic pain), studying spiritual teaching with me, made me laugh, written a song for me and helped me literally save my mother’s life from the medical profession. He has a few friends and he is seen as a very caring person, gifted artistically and creative. I have tried with his blessings to find a partner and he has subtlely sabotaged each one. I have been dependent on him finacially because also I have paid him to do the elder care for my mom he also helps out even when he is not being paid. I have given him free room and board for over 9 years. There are periods that I kick him out after he has been violent and say he can not come back. Last time he came back was over 1 year ago and he was incredibly aware, repentent but again it became bad again this time taking a few months. There has been no physical violent in over a year but the threat is always there. He hurt my cat badly, he has kicked my dog, he has killed bantam roosters I had hand raised. He has attacked another caregiver for my mom when he was firing her. (I have left 5 years in a row to be in a warmer climate for the winter.
    It feels like such a complex and overwhelming situation. I could say more that would horrify anyone but this is enough for now.


  6. Pachee

    Wow! Just split from 10yrs of abuse fr my ex. I grew up with him. Known him for 20yrs. Boy i didnt realized the power he had over me. Til he mentallity made me believe i needed to do a suicide attempt to get into a mental institute because he convinced me i was crazy. He had planned for me 2 leave already he had another girl 10yrs younger. Its no wonder he drop me cause i was maturing and standing my guards finally and he found another innocent one to use n replace me. Thank god. But we have 3 kids together so its still tough. He manipulated everyone i was crazy. And he even got his new gf trying to get at on me on fb to make me be jealous. Lol. Not working though. Ive had 6 different therapy sessions and now know how to ignore the ugly and focus on important things. He got alot of ppl against me but i stand alone and i dont care. If i dont stand up for myself, how are my kids gonna stand up for themselves? Loving life. I love your posts of narcissitics and abusers. Everything makes total sense now! Thank u!


  7. melissa

    Thank you I am a year out of my relationship with a narcissist and cannot believe I ever blamed myself this is my story except replace cheating with gambling and drinking. I never got to the cheating phase or didn’t know about it. Unfortunately for me and my daughter he is the father however I ignore all his text calls etc… but I am worried that when my precious 2 year old becomes a teenager and stands up for herself what will happen


  8. Cindy

    I posted the below comment on a site and received an email telling me how narcissist are women too (as if didn’t know that). I spoke about men because I was dating a man. How I should be careful and say the person has narcissistic traits, because I don’t want to be sued. How these people are dangerous and can make me look crazy. (As if I care if a crazy person makes me look crazy to other people) I then realized that people like to listen to victims, pitty parties and tell you how it will get better and you will be okay, but if you show strength, fighting back, people question you. So although I have received good information about narcissist, I AM NOT A VICTIM and will not act like one. I assumed exposure would help to prevent another woman from being hurt, but no one seems to be interested in being proactive to help prevent these people, only reacting to pacify the person after they have already been hurt. (SEE MY PREVIOUS POST BELOW)

    Wow this is the first article Ive seen about narcissist that says, “Everyone has to keep speaking out,keep spreading the word about these people so they can’t hide behind their masks and lies any more.” All the other articles says run away, hide, no contact, dont confront, dont say anything. Is that because the victims are usually women and women are not expected to be fighters? Why doesnt anyone ever say the names of these men? Would that be illegal to say the name of the person you had a relationship with? I just warned the new woman my ex-narc brought to church with him after I broke up with him 30 days ago. I am a fighter, I challenged him every step of the way, I did not give him money, he gave me money and gifts to try to win me over. I told him I was never going to marry him or have kids with him and after another attempted three day silent treatment, I broke up with him abruptly, confronted him about his illness and refused to be friends unless he seek help. He then showed up to church last week with a woman he was clearly already seeing during our relationship. I told her everything, including showing her pictures, text messages, incoming phone calls and even let her listen to a voicemail. She was crying so I believe she will continue to date him, but atleast I was loyal to another woman and warned her. I told her to google the disorder and find out for herself. I also told one of his co-workers who happens to work with people with special needs and evidently the co-worker asked him about it. I want to post his name, and the information everywhere. He is a weak, manipulative, cheating, lying mentally ill looser and I want other women to know. He is a covert narcissist, so he plays the victim role, hiding behind a stutter, church and supposedly a verbally and physically abusive father. He is supposedly such a nice guy that women have taken advantage of. Does anyone else want to out these guys, can we start a website, blog, something women can check? Would this be illegal? Someone please let me know?


  9. Carrie Reimer Post author

    My deepest apologies to everyone who has commented here lately, I have not been receiving notification of the comment made on this post. Cindy I have thought of a website like you described and a few people have attempted to do that and I did add my info to the list but it never turned into anything, I probably couldn’t even find it again if I tried.
    One of the biggest problems with a site like that is; you would have all the narcissists putting their victim’s names on the list. There would be no way of verifying what people put down was the truth or not so anyone could say anything and it could end up being a tool for the narcissist to destroy another victim.
    They are known for accusing the victim of the exact abuse they are guilty of, I know my ex wouldn’t hesitate to add my name to a list like that,
    There are telling the new target that their ex is a psycho trying to destroy their life, the victim would believe him because all she has seen is this wonderful loving man. I know I would not have believed an ex if they would have warned me.

    Plus the biggest reason I would not advice something like that is it could cost you your life. I know now that I never should have done the blog in my real name, not if I wanted to stay safe and not have to watch my back 24/7. I didn’t start the blog to “out” James, I did want something out there, so that if one of his new women ended up dead and they Google my name, they would find this blog and maybe put him at the top of the suspect list, But since he found the blog he has had it in for me. What I fear would happen is a lot more victims would die because the last thing a narcissist wants is to be exposed and it is the one thing that will drive him to murder.

    I think a much more effective and safe course of action is to raise awareness in general, push to have it taught in middle schools, public awareness is going to save more lives than exposing one narcissist. informing people that they exist could be the catalyst that ends domestic abuse once and for all.

    Thank you for your comment and i understand what you are saying but first and utmost the victim/ survivor has to stay safe.


  10. Claire

    I just recently left my N husband after 16 years. My kids and I have been walking on egg shells, isolated and disoriented by his moods, and ‘headaches’ that serve as excuses to be rude and intimidating. Its been 3 weeks of freedom, everything seems so solid and real now that I am off the disorienting roller coaster ride. I am lucky to have a lucrative career, he has been using me for my income, controlling the money & making it seem soooooo complicated and scary, I let him. He is a ‘dreamer’ with ‘ incredible business ideas’ or business opportunities that are ‘from God’ that no one can possibly comprehend, unless you share his exceptionality (which of course no one does). I was labeled the ‘dream smasher’ for asking obvious questions like, “How much will it cost to feed 20 horses?” or “if the business expenses are $14, 000 a month and it only brings in $7, 000, who is going to pay the difference?” He cursed at me, told me I didn’t understand business and his great ideas. Then the charm, the love bombing, and I would think I must not understand money and business. I left him in the family home, which is in foreclosure, he was spending the money on another business venture. He is playing the victim card, telling family (he has no friends) that he didn’t make as much money as me, so I left him. Truth is, he is a giant sucking black hole of financial destruction, it doesn’t matter how much he makes, the problem is he feels no need, no sense of responsibility to provide for his family and instead he seeks out ways to destroy us financially. Some weeks he said we couldn’t afford food, then would rage when I would ask where the money went. He started locking food in a footlocker-like chest with a combination lock. He would unlock it and stand guard, letting the kids have one item, then relocking.
    One thing that I have not seen mentioned is how the N finds ways to destroy holidays, or special occasions. We would never have $$ for Christmas or birthdays, or he would suddenly become hyper-religious and Christmas trees aren’t in the Bible, so we cant have one. Soo I get one anyway and he just sits and watches us decorate it making it uncomfortable, scowling. But Mr. Religious can look at porn, I must not understand the Bible, silly me, Christmas trees are so much more offensive to God than porn.
    Thank you for the opportunity to vent and thank you for showing me I am not alone.


    1. Carrie Reimer Post author

      Claire welcome, I have touched on the holiday thing, it is a very common trait that they destroy every special occasion. The first year we were together James was into every special occasion, made a big deal about my birthday etc the second year I got punched in the head on my birthday and left home alone all through xmas and he slept right through Thanksgiving. And it never changed, every single holiday was ruined by him somehow. I stopped planning anything, even if we were supposed to go to his family for xmas he would find a reason at the last minute to not go and we would be stuck at home, no turkey, no gifts, no decorations and him glued to the computer looking at porn.
      The food thing, James would refuse to buy food. He would buy himself a burger and fries and say he brought me home supper and hand me the box with what was left after he had his fill. I started to refuse it. I would rather go hungry than eat his left overs that have sat in his car God knows how long. He left his son and I home without anything but rice and oatmeal for 4 days, he would buy microwave meals at the gas station and bring them home to eat in front of us. Then his son ate a donut that his dad told him to eat and then later called the kid a pig and punched him and kicked him out of the house. It was almost 4 pm after promising to take us for food all day and eating in front of us. I sent the boy for donuts because there was a Tim Horton’s close and I had $6 and I thought it would tide his son over, he bought his dad’s favorite double chocolate and told his dad. His dad had a migraine and said for his son to eat it and 15 minutes later comes out and his donut is gone. I would never have eaten that donut but I knew what would happen. SOB!
      He even went to far as to hide the washing machine because he didn’t want me doing laundry with his laundry soap. I had bought laundry soap for 10 years, he buys it one time and I can’t use it. He literally took the washing machine that I bought and hid it somewhere until after I had moved out. Total whack job!!
      So frickin selfish, but he spent money on himself on guitars, amps, tools, and never take care of his things, leave them out in the rain, never took care of my things either. He used to brag about only buying the best quality stuff and I bought cheap shit that he would never use, but he always ended up with my stuff too. He would spray paint all his tools blue, and say they were his, I started spray painting mine all orange, he would just spray paint blue over the orange. Crazy!!!



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