Narcissism as a condition dates back thousands of years, however it has only been identified in the last 50 years. The condition can affect both men and women and often gets thrown around during a break-up. However, it’s more than a term – it’s a condition that can have a serious impact on relationships of all types. While most of us are used to hearing it tossed around rather loosely, let’s dive into what it really is and its history since it was clinically classified.

Let’s talk about the “fine 50’s.” While we definitely had a group of rebel ladies during this period that were way ahead of their time, the 50’s were full of A-line skirts, perfectly coiffed hair and men in suits. The Mrs. stayed home, the Mr. went out on the town and women were conditioned to “stay small.” A woman’s role was to stay at home and take care of the kids while the men handled the finances and the lifestyle in which the couple lived. For a narcissistic man, this could look like conditioning a wife to feel that she is small minded, incompetent, and result in her being completely trauma bonded. Meanwhile, society said that this was the only way a woman could be a good wife and mother. Abuse of any kind was hush-hush. Women mostly stayed in abusive relationships far too long due to lack of education or finances; instead, honoring the phrase “love and obey your husband.” How fitting for a narcissist on the hunt. Gaslighting in toxic relationships was in full effect during this period of time.

The term narcissism was definitely on the rise during this period, with professionals outlining it as a personality disorder and educating people on how to spot it. Narcissists were, (and still are), recognized as regularly displaying negative traits such as selfishness and a strong sense of entitlement. Their ideas are grandiose and the people in their lives are no more than pawns in their games. Their ability to show empathy is very low and their need for admiration is extremely high. This personality type is dangerous because they captivate you swiftly and completely just before the toxic behavior becomes apparent. Then the challenge to unweave the web starts to look daunting.

Fast forward to the 1980’s; flash flash flash. If you got it, flaunt it. The 80’s were all about bold, bright, and excess. To the toxic narcissistic types it was a playground. Money, drugs, rock and roll, fueled abusive relationships. Who drove the fastest car, had the biggest house, and was with the hottest girl took center stage. All of which were expendable of course by the narcissist’s latest whim. Excess and narcissism went together like PB&J and ran wild during this time. Not ideal for a good girl looking for love, who got swept up in the show. However, women were way out of the house by the 80’s and merging into the workforce. It was a period of time where women were embracing the juggle between career and family. It was a time where women owned their actions and had high standards for their spouses. They wanted to be seen as equal in the workplace, but still felt restricted, and many times sexually targeted by narcissistic men in the workforce. During this time toxicity in relationships was being recognized to a degree and some support was offered, but as a society still nothing was being done to protect the victim.

Now here in 2021 women have their full voice. We have gained knowledge to help in the identifying of toxic relationships and have access to resources that can help us get out of them. The global “Me Too” movement created safe space to discuss abuse of all types. More and more perpetrators are being held accountable. Family Courts are starting to take into account personality disorders. Emotional and sexual abuse as well as physical abuse is now mainstream in social media and global news. Women are banning together in support of each other in new and exciting ways. Thus, removing the stigma and shame from speaking out about abuse that has or is occurring. Narcissism is notably a personality disorder that only worsens with age, yet strong women continue to rise up in every way. Women are learning to take their relationship slower and allow the relationship to develop more authentically, all while being mindful of their boundaries. Unlike in the 50s where marriage was expected earlier on in life, some women are choosing not to get married at all. Not entirely due to the movement, but women no longer feel the need to “belong” to someone else; they are fulfilled on their own. Women are demanding equal status in the workplace, and expecting to be received as an equal in their personal relationships as well. They are speaking up when the relationship feels toxic, and have more support to leave if that ends up being the healthiest choice. Today, narcissism doesn’t have the same umbrella of support as was seen in earlier decades.

All in all, there is no doubt that women have come a long way – but we are far from done. Although there are many exceptions to these timelines and many, many women who did not fall into these categories at the time, the above were some of the social norms that today we are grateful to see remain where they belong – in yesterday’s news. As we know, women have proven that there is nothing we cannot handle on our very own. The relationships in which we choose, we define, we seek out, and we have accountability for. And that’s just the way we like it.