Home » Abuse » The Illusion of Choice with a Narcissist


Any presentation of choice in your relationship with an abuser is really an illusion. They will cajole, pout, or threaten to get their way. Or simply just never stop talking about it until you give up. In addition, if you stand your ground and DONT agree with whatever crazy idea they’re trying to get you to go along with, they act out.

So, if you disagree with his suggestion, on anything, you’re punished for it, even if they appear to go along with your plan. They will pull out all the stops to make sure you know they didn’t want to do whatever, and heaven help you if anything goes wrong, you will for sure be on your own to fix whatever problem there is since it was “your” idea.

So then, there really is NO choice, even as they give you the illusion of options, it’s all a farce to keep themselves in the position of right, and to keep you second guessing yourself.

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20 thoughts on “The Illusion of Choice with a Narcissist

  1. Jose says:

    I remember he wanted a 3d tv. I said you go to the store i dont want one. We could use the money otherwise. A week later we went grocery shopping, of course he stopped at a tv store. He kept asking which one i liked. Finally i pointed one he bought another. Later he said i was irresponsible for buying that tv. Since we had bills to pay……go figure

    1. hope faith says:

      OMG… my ex did that with an RV and then gave it to me in the divorce settlement. I have to sell it now and the odometer doesnt work,,,

  2. Kim McCulley says:

    This is my husband to a tee. Infact, I am blamed for any and all things no matter what it is. Yesterday he picked me up from work and on the way home his radiator fluid line popped off and he pulled over, looked at it and cussed a mean streek. I was sympathetic and he said that I would never understand and went on to tell me everything that he feels is wrong with me.

    The funny part is, is that everything he said was wrong with me is what’s wrong with him. When we use to go out, he would get a table and we would sit down, a minute later he’s with his friends and the girls are hugging him and I’m left alone. I no longer go out with him anymore.

    John’s phone “pocket” dialed me at the most inopportune moment. He was with a girl that is known for doing every guy she meets. I heard “You remembered I was coming right”? and she said “Oh yea”. The conversation and more goes on for awhile.

    John also says mean things to me infront of his friends, so they don’t respect me either. I use to be a great hostess, but not anymore. I go to the bedroom and read. I no longer love my husband and am trying to save money so I can get out of this nightmare. It will take some time to get free from him, but it will be worth it.


    1. Sam says:

      I’m really sorry that you’re going through this horrid situation but keep in mind that nothing is constant apart from our Creator and this phase will pass as well. Stay strong honey and I hope and pray that you find the strength to leave him and soon! Xs

      1. Veronica says:

        I live with a Narc! Leave him!

  3. Recovering says:

    This is one of the BEST POSTS I have EVER READ on Narcs. Wow! “There was only always an Illusion of Choice”! No more beating myself up for past “choices”, I never really had the “choice” to make or not make. Brilllant! Thank u!!!!

  4. Bethanny says:

    I really understand. I was married to one, a pastor, for 34 years. He found a younger version of me (30 years younger) and set me free. I have been free for 4 years and doing great. He not only divorced me, he divorced our children. So now I am mom and dad to them. He gave us the angry silent treatment until we (the kids or I) caved in just to be rid of the tension.

  5. Cat says:

    I can relate to what you are saying about control and always getting their way. Most of the time I give in, on occasions when I have stood my ground I am usually punished emotionally. It seems like once a month I am faced with a large conflict where he wants his way. Major things such as financials, care and future of our children, major purchases such as a car and such. If he can avoid it, he usually won’t even consult with me. Like when he will purchase a brand new car and just drive it home. Sometimes he will lie or use gas lighting such as, “I did tell you about it, you just don’t remember. I have caught my husband in lots of lies (small to large) and he told me last month that he has to lie because I am unreasonable. Most of the time he denies them, them minimizes it and then moves to blaming me. He justifies getting his way because he earns a much larger salary than me. One thing I have done, on occasion, is record our conversations and play them back for me to gain insight into his process of denial and blaming. This blog and the the label of CN really helps me to have insight. It has helped me not be so reactive. I also know that one day I will be free. I stay for now for my kids, to build better and stronger bonds with them. There was a point that my husband eroded that by constantly undermining me and blaming in subtle ways to the kids. My husband wanted me to believe that if I left my one son would not visit me. Well are bond is much stronger now as he has become older, more insightful and more empathetic. I feel positive that I am moving in the right direction.

  6. Kathy says:

    Hello Samantha,

    The narcissist never draws an authentic breath. They are so focused on control, they are always several moves ahead of us. They don’t care what they have to say, or neglect to say, in order to get what they want. The end game consists of their absolute control, and our ultimate surrender.

    We keep trying to “make sense” out of what they say and do. Unfortunately, there is no sense to be made of their thoughts and actions. While trying to convince us that we’re crazy, they actually are. We can’t make any sense of their attitudes and behaviors, because we are not crazy. We don’t think/believe as they do. We are not the same as they are, and we never were. We both fell in love with an illusion. A mirage that did not, and does not exist.

    Acceptance is the only key we need.

    In Love and Light,

    1. Barbie says:

      Thank you that makes “perfect sense”. I keep trying to figure out why he’s acting in ways I cannot understand but to know that it is impossible to try to “understand” him is somewhat of a relief. But he’s very convincing to the kids, my one son said he actually feels sorry for dad! What a manipulation when he’s the one who walked out on me and two teenage boys a year ago. Now I think he did me a huge favour by leaving. The boys don’t want anything to do with him. We’ve tried to reconcile and we have court in Aug I still don’t know what the outcome will be. I’m tired of his control, blaming others and emotional abuse but yet I still love him. He thinks he’s the victim and says does anyone care why I left? I don’t know if he can ever make the necessary changes to his mindset. I asked him do you want to be right or be happy? He wants both. He hasn’t tried really hard to win us over, doesn’t even ask if I have enough groceries. Hasnt lifted a hand since he left. Why do I still want to be with this person? We’ve been married 19 years, it’s hard to throw in towel.

  7. candy says:

    I prefer to not even think about it, the truth being so evident, maketh one sicketh!!

  8. Kaili says:

    If anyone is interested I have a support group for this type of abuse on FB. It’s called Break the cycle now. Please feel free to join and share your story!!! We don’t judge. We encourage and we are all healing together..


  9. Lori Paris says:

    I found your blog, quite by accident, trying to find my way through the chaos of dismantling my 20 plus year marriage to a narcissist. I started my own blog as a way to help my soul heal. Your blog has helped to put a name to and define the cycle of verbal abuse and atrocities that I endured on a daily basis. I have found my way to the other side, thankfully. However, the Post Traumatic Stress is real and it can rear it’s ugly head on even the greatest day, seemingly without any catalyst. Your blog helped me to believe that not only was I not crazy,but that I could be whole again. Thank you.

  10. Sucked in, and completely unaware. I write this as one who has TWO narc relationships behind her, and is neck deep in a third. I had no idea what narcissism was until I was trying to go no contact with the second. I was two YEARS into my current one, when I put two and two together to see that my current narc is not only narcissistic, but that he is the worst of them all.

    Each narc manifested their poison differently, but they all went/go to varying degrees with using the illusion of control.

    My first and second both accused ME of being controlling. Apparently in #1’s mind, I was unreasonable to think that he maybe should not be cheating, disappearing for days to binge drink, taking my pay cheques, taking his father’s pension money, drinking himself into a blind rage, beating on me or prostituting me out. According to anyone he talks to, I was severely controlling and wouldn’t let him do anything.

    My second narc determined that I needed to take care of the family budget because he ‘wasn’t good with numbers’, which really meant that it was my responsibility to ensure he had money to buy whatever shiny new toy he set his sights on to buy – whether the latest model of cell phone, recreational vehicle or pick-up truck with all the fancy options. It was also my job to ensure all the bills were paid. When I ended that relationship, I received a letter from his lawyer that stated I controlled the family budget and never gave him any money for his ‘personal needs’ (I am pretty sure he didn’t mention to his lawyer that those ‘personal needs’ included his porn supply). It was only then, that I realized he was singing the same song and dance that he told about his first wife – that he was the victim. This narc ruled the house with his mood – we all needed to gauge our actions based on how he was feeling at any particular time, and the rational/irrational roller coaster would cycle over a matter of minutes – heaven help any of us who would not warm up to him 2 minutes after being ripped apart.

    I don’t know if it is helping me to be able to identify the narcissistic episodes in my current relationship. On one hand, when I remind him several times in the weeks leading up to his son’s birthday that he should be thinking about what to do for him, only to have him explode on me the day of, for MY failure to remind him, it assures me that I am not the crazy one. But on the other hand, I berate and bash myself for being so stupid as to getting myself tangled up in yet ANOTHER narc relationship. I wonder if ignorance of what this is, would have allowed me more peace.

    It is not just the narcissist who is pumping out the illusion of control that leaves the narc supply’s head spinning. Anyone in a narcissistic relationship who has been told they have the power to put a stop to it is being victim blamed by someone who doesn’t see the full picture. We don’t have the amount of control that outsiders think we do. I am so angry that I am again, secretly preparing to get out. It took 14 years the first time, 8 years the second time. I dragged my kids through hell because there was no help available to me to get out and start over. I have caused my kids so much pain because I could not get out, unless of course I was willing to raise four kids in a one bedroom, roach infested apartment in the part of town run by gangs. How is that making a better life for myself and my kids?

    I love this blog – it is comforting to know I am not alone and it helps me hold my head up and fight back when ghosts from the past join forces with the current tormentor to control my self-worth.

  11. Afoona says:

    I know that when my narcissist offers me a choice, like “what do you want to do?”, what he is really asking me is among the options most agreeable to him, which will he most like me to choose:
    a. the one that shows I really “get” him in a way he thinks is important,
    b. the one I most hate so I’m demonstrating my “love”, or
    c. the one that most coincides with the image he has for himself today.
    d. the one I think he is genuinely most in the mood for today
    e. the one he likes that I might have some shared enjoyment in too
    The one he really likes me to choose is “b”.
    That way he can either revel in my self-repression, or he can magnanimously suggest his preferred option, resulting in day-long prompts (from him) of repeated approbations (from me) of gratitude and praise. However if we are with people he wants to impress, the correct answer is clearly always “c”. “e” can be considered a legitimate choice in some circumstances but MUST be prefaced by having been a good wife who will surely show appropriate joy in a Hallmark-like loving way, NOT lost in one’s self or appearing to forget about him.

  12. Leslie DeMarco says:

    I’ve been reading your entire blog for days. I swear I’m married to the same person except my husband is an alcoholic, has punched holes in the walls during his rages, pushed me down, and then about six weeks ago grabbed my throat after a three day 24/7 drinking binge. At that point I got a restraining order, kicked him out and laid down pretty clear boundaries.

    I’ve been with him for five years. We have a two year old daughter and I have a 15 year old and 11 year old sons. It’s taken years for things to get worse. It happened so slowly I didn’t notice the conditioning and abuse until it was too terrible to ignore.

    I let him come home when the order expired. He promised abstinence, AA meetings, love, compassion, boundaries, respect, etc etc. I’m a therapist so I know how to cognitively set boundaries and how to analyze a situation, except emotionally I want a loving family and normal husband. I realized I can’t provide for my three kids and keep my home on a single income and unlike some of the other stories, I do not have a family that supports me. No parents, siblings, or extended family. No close friends anymore as they couldn’t stand him and have since walked away. Realistically not many people will financially support a woman and three kids to escape and deal with this level of drama except family. I’m truly trapped and I feel horribly alone.

    He isn’t drinking but the verbal, emotional, economical and gas lighting abuse continued a week after returning. Telling me he got angry because I’m horrible, that I said things I didn’t say, that I feel things I don’t feel, that I’m lazy despite doing all child care, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, budgeting, house repairs etc while he’s tired and I wouldn’t be stressed if I did it right with the right mindset continues daily. The threats of taking my daughter if I leave, refusing to let me have the house and telling his dysfunctional wealthy family how awful I am that is willing to pay for an attorney to “destroy” me keeps me in this hell hole. He says court is fun, it’s meant to win, and there’s plausible deniability for everything he has done to me.

    I had spinal surgery in December and I have chronic pain that I ignore because of all my responsibilities. He won’t help me with anything. I work full time and have difficulty sleeping because of pain so it just makes it all that much worse. I’m afraid of him and if he’ll go back to being physically abusive once he realizes whatever tactic stops working because I can’t hide my hate and disgust. I’m looking for a higher paying job so I can save money and hide it and so I can pay the bills.

    We are going bankrupt. I had perfect credit but he decided to take huge personal loans and credit card debt, I had surgery, got laid off, I had asked him not to rack up debt ahead of time and what I feared most happened. Of course it’s my fault too. So is almost dying when I had my daughter. He was also bored when I was in ICU after giving birth and promised to care for me if I got discharged early. That didn’t happen and the extra exertion caused the spine instability.

    I don’t know what to do but it’s eating me alive. Thanks for listening. The legal system and women’s shelters can’t help unless you’re visibly bruised and broken. This has at least validated me and I’m not alone. We have to deal with a lot to just survive with a roof once we’re sucked into the pit of economic hell with innocent children.


  13. Kourtney says:

    Thank you for posting this. I needed to read this quote tonight. I endure so much on a daily basis that when I think I am ahead of the emotion…it always comes back full force. Finding this website has saved me from the emotional turmoil that I usually endure. I wish I could talk to each one of you face to face, give you a hug. I just want to get out of this alive, I want my soul to shine again…I am a natural happy person. I find myself just saying out loud, I just want real love, empathy, compassion anything to validate myself…for now I find it here on this site. Thank you.

  14. Jessica says:

    I needed to read this. This was my life. Thank you.

  15. searching says:

    I have been drawn to one NARC after another. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started researching my second husbands behavior, that I realized it is covert narcissism. I quit reacting to his triggers and it would drive him crazy. We have begun going to therapy and it seems to be going no where but down. The therapist observes that we are on ‘pins and needles around each other’. I tried talking to him after the session and it went south fast. We cannot have a decent conversation about our relationship, he is either defensive or stonewalls me. I recommended I start sleeping in an extra bedroom we have until we get this figured out and he said he didn’t want to think that we were that ‘weak’ that we can’t work it out. I think it takes a lot of strength to admit it’s not working out. I caved and climbed into our bed. WTF I am such a wimp it makes me so frustrated. Our lives are so tangled up I don’t know how to deal with it. I think of my daughter and how wise she is and there is no way I would encourage her to put up with the crap I am dealing with but I don’t give myself the same respect or expectation. At least I can see it and I am getting there a little bit at a time. Last week I had a dream that I was walking through a parking lot and there were bombers dropping bombs all around me. I have a feeling it is about to all break loose…

  16. CindyAid says:

    He wants to move to his childhood town and I don’t at all. Our kids don’t either. I would be fine with the move if it weren’t just another stepping stool for abuse. Moving away from my beloved city and friends so he can be close to his friends in their 30’s .

    Non of them have kids to play with ours and most of them ignore me when I am there or speaking. I feel awkward and annoying when I am around “his people”. Because if I am not generic than I am weird or odd in his eyes and I assume his generic friends and their wives. Nothing wrong with a girl who loves romantic comedies or guy who goes on about sports but I have a problem when they make a nerdy gamer girl like me feel weird or unlikable.

    On top of this my choices on the place was in fact an illusion. The first dump we were offered at $200 more monthly he jumped at. Anytime I politely expressed my concerns with the size, lighting, age or overall look of the house, I was dismissed or was reprimanded.

    Of course I had to pretend to like the house and the move because other wise I would be scolded or straight up verbally assaulted. I would be a lot more happy to move had I actually got to choose where we were moving.

    Now I will be at that house ALL DAY ISOLATED TO THE FULLEST because we cant afford internet and cable there and I won’t have a car.

    Once we were able to get the money for the move I he kept acting so excited and saying that he couldn’t read me because I can’t hide feeling this way.

    My home is my one comfort. My one constant and Its gone now. Now I have to pack, clean and get rid of things and I know HE WONT HELP ME.

    I hate him.

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