The Complex Intersection of Cognitive Dissonance, Domestic Violence, and Narcissism

The Complex Intersection of Cognitive Dissonance, Domestic Violence, and Narcissism

One month ago, I discovered messages on my partner's phone from various women with different cities listed beside their names. These messages confirmed that he was still engaging in predatory behaviour, lying about his age, and spreading false stories about his life. Additionally, he has removed all the expenses he collected from our home through embezzlement, but left behind sentimental items such as pictures of his children and memories of his late mother and sister.

Three women contacted me, mentioning that he made them uncomfortable. In one instance, he even asked if one of them was dating anyone, which she found odd as he was trying to showcase that he had found somebody.

It turns out that he quickly moved everything valuable that we have accumulated, with my parent’s inheritance these past ten years, out of the house as soon as he met one of these women, without her knowledge. He hoped to latch onto her and have her solve all his problems. He pretended to sleep at home while taking pillows and blankets from our house, staying in a secret location, and lying to both of us.

Last night, when I confronted him about all of this, he wanted to know what she said about him and was upset because she has a new boyfriend, and not seeing the overall point. This addiction has reached the point of no return.


To add to the complexity, he has recently been involved in another accident while operating a locomotive, yet CN has neglected to provide him with the necessary mental health assessment and support. Surprisingly, upon returning home, he showed no emotional reaction to the incident and even went straight to bed, seemingly unaffected. It wasn't until two days later that he attempted to use this accident as an excuse for his abusive behaviour. However, coincidentally, I received messages during that time that I had not actively sought out, revealing his upset's true nature. It became clear that he was upset because his façade of a new life, which he had crafted in his imagination with this woman, was being exposed. Like I anticipated when I decided to leave this matter alone while it was happening; his real self would not take long to show up to anyone.


It's incredibly confusing to witness his lack of understanding and how oblivious he is to the gravity of his actions. He hasn't shown any remorse for the continuous abuse over the past 10 years. Yet, he still believes I should be the one to save him from the mess he created.

While I have a significant appointment tomorrow, I need to make a decision. It's disheartening to see him show no remorse and remain in denial, despite facing potential legal consequences, job loss, and the loss of his remaining family due to his actions and unique addictions.

I am at a point where I no longer want to take responsibility for his actions. Since my focus has had to shift to my babies, he has made incredibly bad choices and ruined his entire life, within 3 short months, proving how much of the emotional and physical labour that I have endured to keep his facade together for him, as his codependent caretaker. It's my choice to make regarding what lies ahead, and I don't want to continue in this situation. He has created such a mess and I am done cleaning them up. I have carried the burdens of everyone’s problems for my entire life, and that ends now. 

This is the worst situation I have ever been put into. That says a lot.


In the realm of interpersonal relationships, the dynamics between victims of domestic violence and narcissistic abusers can give rise to a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance. This psychological state occurs when individuals experience conflicting thoughts, emotions, or beliefs that challenge their existing perceptions. This blog aims to explore the intricate relationship between cognitive dissonance, domestic violence, and narcissism, shedding light on the psychological struggles faced by victims in such toxic relationships.

Understanding Domestic Violence:

Domestic violence encompasses various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, psychological, and financial. Victims often find themselves trapped in a cycle of power and control, where their autonomy and well-being are systematically undermined. The abuser's manipulative tactics, coupled with the victim's vulnerability, create an environment conducive to the development of cognitive dissonance.

The Role of Narcissism:

Narcissism, a personality trait characterized by excessive self-centeredness and a lack of empathy, plays a significant role in domestic violence situations. Narcissistic abusers employ tactics such as gaslighting, manipulation, and blame-shifting to maintain control over their victims. This constant psychological warfare further exacerbates the cognitive dissonance experienced by the victims.

Cognitive Dissonance in the Context of Domestic Violence:

For victims of domestic violence, cognitive dissonance arises from the stark contrast between their abuser's charming facade and their abusive behaviour. The abuser may initially present themselves as charismatic, compassionate, and loving, creating a stark contrast with their abusive actions. This discrepancy creates a cognitive dissonance within the victim, leading to confusion, self-doubt, and an internal struggle to reconcile the abuser's two contrasting sides.

Psychological Defense Mechanisms:

To cope with cognitive dissonance, victims often employ various defence mechanisms. These may include denial, minimizing the severity of abuse, rationalization, and idealization of the abuser. By distorting their perception of reality, victims attempt to reduce the discomfort caused by the conflicting thoughts and emotions they experience.

Breaking Free from Cognitive Dissonance:

Breaking free from the grasp of cognitive dissonance and escaping an abusive relationship requires immense courage and support. Recognizing the existence of cognitive dissonance is an essential first step. Victims need to validate their experiences, seek professional help, and build a network of support comprising friends, family, and trained advocates.

Rebuilding and Healing:

Recovering from the trauma of domestic violence and narcissistic abuse involves a journey of self-discovery, healing, and personal growth. Therapeutic interventions, such as counselling and trauma-focused therapy, can aid victims in processing their experiences, reestablishing their sense of self, and developing healthier coping mechanisms.


Cognitive dissonance, as experienced by victims of domestic violence in relationships with narcissistic abusers, is a complex psychological phenomenon. The interplay between the abuser's manipulative tactics and the victim's internal struggle creates a challenging environment for healing and recovery. By understanding the dynamics at play, raising awareness, and providing support, we can help victims navigate the path to reclaiming their autonomy, well-being, and self-worth.

Common signs that individuals may experience when suffering from cognitive dissonance as a victim of domestic violence:

1. Conflicting Emotions:

Feeling a mix of love, fear, anger, and confusion towards the abuser, which can create emotional turmoil.

2. Rationalizing Abuse: 

Making excuses for the abuser's behaviour or trying to justify their actions to minimize the severity of the abuse.

3. Self-Doubt: 

Questioning one's own perceptions and reality due to the abuser's manipulative tactics such as gaslighting, leading to a loss of self-confidence.

4. Minimizing the Abuse: 

Downplaying or dismissing the seriousness of the abuse, often attributing it to temporary circumstances or the abuser's stress.

5. Idealizing the Abuser: 

Holding onto positive aspects of the abuser's personality or past behaviours, despite the ongoing abuse, in an attempt to reconcile the conflicting image of the abuser.

6. Fear of Leaving: 

Feeling trapped and fearing the consequences of leaving the abusive relationship, such as retaliation, loss of financial stability, or harm to oneself or loved ones.

7. Self-Blame: 

Assuming responsibility for the abuse, believing that one's actions or behaviour triggered the abuser's actions.

8. Disconnection from Reality: 

Distancing oneself from the reality of the abusive situation, creates a mental divide between the abusive incidents and the rest of one's life.

9. Difficulty Making Decisions: 

Struggling to make decisions due to conflicting thoughts and beliefs, often resulting in a feeling of being stuck or paralyzed.

10. Seeking Validation: 

Constantly seeking validation from others to affirm one's experiences and perceptions, as the abuser's manipulation may have eroded their trust in their own judgment.

It's important to note that cognitive dissonance is a complex psychological state, and individuals may experience these signs to varying degrees. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, seeking professional help and support from trusted individuals or organizations is crucial.

If you're experiencing cognitive dissonance as a victim of domestic violence, it's essential to take steps toward your well-being and safety. Here are some actions you can consider:

1. Recognize and Validate Your Experience: 

Acknowledge that the conflicting thoughts and emotions you're experiencing are valid. Understand that cognitive dissonance is a common response to abusive situations.

2. Seek Support: 

Reach out to trusted family members, friends, or support organizations who can provide emotional support, guidance, and resources. Share your experiences and concerns with them.

3. Educate Yourself: 

Learn about domestic violence, narcissistic abuse, and the dynamics of power and control. Knowledge can empower you to understand the tactics used by abusers and make informed decisions.

4. Safety Planning: 

Create a safety plan to protect yourself in case of immediate danger. This may involve identifying safe spaces, keeping important documents secure, and having emergency contacts readily available.

5. Professional Help: 

Consider seeking professional help from therapists, counsellors, or support groups specializing in domestic violence. They can provide guidance, therapeutic interventions, and tools to help you navigate the challenges you face.

6. Self-Care and Self-Compassion: 

Prioritize self-care activities that promote your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy, practice self-compassion, and prioritize your needs.

7. Establish Boundaries: 

Set clear boundaries with the abuser to protect yourself. This may involve limiting contact, seeking legal protection through restraining orders, or involving law enforcement if necessary.

8. Develop an Exit Strategy: 

If you're considering leaving the abusive relationship, develop a comprehensive exit strategy. Seek assistance from professionals who can help you plan for your safety, housing, and financial independence.

9. Document Abuse: 

Keep a record of incidents of abuse, including dates, descriptions, and any evidence available. This documentation can be useful for legal purposes or when seeking assistance.

10. Stay Informed About Resources: 

Familiarize yourself with local domestic violence hotlines, shelters, legal aid services, and other resources available in your community. They can provide valuable support and guidance.

Bluewater Health and other resources for intimate partner violence are linked here, for Sarnia.

Remember, leaving an abusive relationship can be a complex and challenging process. It's important to prioritize your safety and well-being. Reach out to professionals who can offer guidance tailored to your specific situation.

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