The Most Tell-Tale Sign of Narcissistic Abuse ~ When Saving Face Matters Most


By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

We often hear about the signs of domestic abuse as though these were specific behaviors and traits of individuals who get their way through overpowering their partner. These tell-tale signs are indicators that lead us to see a larger picture of the danger inherent in abusive relationships.

To me, the most glaring of these signs can be noted in confronting the actual abusive behavior itself. For example, take a look at Suzette and Robert. (As usual, Suzette could be Robert and Robert could be Suzette.)

Confronting an Abusive Behavior Pattern

Suzette and Robert are in a relatively new relationship of less than a year. And with each passing month, more and more narcissistic abuse signs rear their ugly head.

Suzette reaches a point in which she will no longer take Robert’s abusive controlling demands. Without and before even giving the dynamics a name, she points out Robert’s behavior that she cannot and will not subject herself to …in her relationship with him.

The red flag sign is in his reaction. Watch this…

Suzette sends Robert an email essentially saying the following. I do not feel safe in this relationship with you as it is now. The reason is because you force your agenda on me until you bend my will, even when doing so puts me in harm’s way.

Essentially, she is saying that he doesn’t allow her to say “no,” because it does not stop there. He will go on and on until he gets his way, irrespective of the consequences to his partner. And this refers to both the consequences of the ask, as well as the consequences of the “asking” process.

The Flip, Saving Face and Lack of Accountability, All in One

In their next face-to-face encounter following this email, Robert declares that he now is the “victim” in their relationship. There is absolutely no sensitivity to the impact of his relentless pressure and coercive control so chronically employed to get his way.

Instead, he wants her to know that he is the endangered party. He is the vulnerable person, because his transgressions during the course of the relationship are now “threatening to him.” Eventually, he wants her to know that if she attempts to charge him with criminal activity that she could be counter sued for attempting to hold him accountable for a specific named transgression.

Is Robert’s reaction more about his unwillingness to be held accountable for his offensive and toxic behavior? Or, is he having a knee jerk response to potentially being exposed…to being seen as the opposite of what he must have others believe?

Saving face is the key element here. If assuming responsibility for specific behaviors and/or patterns of behavior places one at risk, then see their vulnerability for what it truly is. Their endangerment is more about losing their mask. Period.

If you recognize this ever so glaring sign of narcissistic abuse, understand the larger dynamics before they spiral out of control. For more information on domestic abuse dynamics, visit and break this unhealthy , dangerous dynamic. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King  Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention


One response to “The Most Tell-Tale Sign of Narcissistic Abuse ~ When Saving Face Matters Most”

  1. Claudia Bryan says:

    I lived with an abusive husband for almost 20 years. I was taken advantage of in every way. Is there any legal action that I can take against my ex husband. I have been divorced since 2004.

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