Culture bomb #1: When your Narcissist is from the Middle East

Do you wonder why your Narcissist ticks that way? Ever marvel at how ruthlessly he can use you to get what he wants? Do you reflect on whether he was born a soul-killing predator, or made that way through environmental influences?

Photo by float

Photo by float

In the first of a series of co-authored posts exploring how nature and nurture can work together to reinforce Narcissistic behavior, Kim Saeed’s Let Me Reach and Avalanche of the Soul draw on their own experiences to explore the optimal conditions in which your tyrant can thrive. Here, we talk about how culture can play a big part in nurturing abusive, dictatorial Narcissists – and what that means for you.

Top of the Heap: Choosing the Optimum Culture

Prime real-estate for your male Narcissist can be found in societies where men are at the top of the pecking order.

Our Narcissists were born and raised in Middle Eastern cultures, where – generally speaking – boys are seen as a particular asset to the household. Men are expected to care for their family, which includes elderly parents and unmarried sisters. This expectation can mean that, even from an early age, the whole family puts the boy’s needs at the top of the priority list. An educated, well cared for child is more likely to be able to fulfil their obligations to provide for their family.

Society Rewards Narcissism

narcissusYour self-obsessed Narcissist will bask in the attention, which reinforces his belief that his needs ALWAYS come first.  Your needs are unimportant because, in his mind, your only purpose is to serve him.

In times of conflict or competition for scarce resources, Narcissistic tendencies are especially rewarded by society. People who are skilled at puffing themselves up usually score more than the lion’s share of success and wealth – particularly if they can convince others that they are superior, too. Which Narcissists usually succeed at doing.

This is not to say that other cultures don’t produce Narcissists: they most certainly do. Similarly, if your junior dictator is of female persuasion, don’t be led astray.  The narcissta’s sense of grand self-entitlement can still be nurtured. To do this, you simply need the right attitude – more on that another time!

The Best of Both Worlds

Narcissistic Middle Eastern men who relocate to the west often target successful, independent and connected women to be their partners.  There is a strategic purpose for this:  the Narcissist doesn’t have to be the responsible caretaker that traditional expectations often demand – particularly, as would be expected by a woman raised in this culture.

In Middle Eastern cultures, the man and his family often have to put down an expensive dowry and offer a respectable place to live to the new wife.  If a man is unable to provide this, he may be looked over as a prospective suitor.  When the Narcissists touches down on overseas soil, there is an array of women who already have their own place, a career, and are self-sufficient.  And because of their strong sense of independence, they don’t like having to depend on someone for their livelihood.  From our experience, these traits present a prime target for the Narcissist.

Gender-role Switching

In these relationships, the gender roles become ill-defined.  The woman becomes the caretaker, the money-maker, and head of household while the Narcissist lounges at home a ‘kept man’.  He may give the impression that he is starting a business or a partnership with a friend, but nothing lucrative ever comes from these scenarios.  They’re just a means to enhance his false image.

Unfortunately for the woman who pairs up with a Middle Eastern Narcissist, she shoulders the role of the man and the woman.  While she assumes the ‘male’ role of working and taking care of the bills, she is still expected to fulfill the more traditional expectations of a wife.  She literally becomes two people, which is impossible to sustain over the long-term.

Stigma fuels an elaborate illusion

Narcissus of Greek Mythology

Narcissus of Greek Mythology

While this gender role-switching happens with other Narcissistic men, there is more of a stigma attached to the Middle Eastern Narcissist because people from his culture frown upon his taking advantage of a woman.  That’s why it’s crucial that he maintains the perpetual illusion that he is taking care of a family emergency, or negotiating business deals that never transpire.  He may go further, telling everyone who will listen that he wants you to quit your job while he provides for you and the children – whilst choosing an irresponsible and chaotic lifestyle that makes this utterly impossible.

Important Health Warning:

Understand that investing everything in the Narcissist will not be reciprocated or even acknowledged. Nor will you be respected. Ever.

While pouring your heart and soul into the Narcissist, your time, energy, knowledge, and any material resources will be focused almost exclusively on him.  We were personal assistants, mothers, baby-sitters, cleaners and bank managers to our Narcissists – who were expert exploiters.

You can look forward to him being dependent upon you for life, even as he treats you as an annoying and unwanted burden. When he loses his job (as Narcissists inevitably do), and his risk-taking lifestyle winds him up in prison, buried in an avalanche of debt, or disowned by exasperated family members – expect to be the fallback for this ungrateful man-child.

Expect intimidation, disappointment and misery

For your efforts, you can expect to be the target of uncontrolled and unwarranted meltdowns. This looks like rage – but is actually manufactured anger, as your Narcissist works himself into a frenzy designed to intimidate and subdue you. Our Narcissists had no qualms whatsoever about hateful tirades – whether directed at us or their parents.

You will experience the miserable existence of being let down and embarrassed. Our Narcissists could always be relied upon for a spot of public humiliation – whether childishly stealing olives from the local deli counter or deliberately trying to alienate your nearest and dearest. Jealous over-reactions to random strangers will be common, especially if your Narcissist grew up in a patriarchy where a woman’s virtue is seen as a direct reflection upon the worth of the men around them.

What happens when you challenge the Narcissist?

Photo by matchstick

Photo by matchstick

If you object to any of this crazy-making behavior, you’ll meet the Narcissist’s ego head on.  Expect more rages, and manipulative tactics designed to make you feel deficient, worthless or mad. Watch out for stock phrases such as:

  • ‘No-one else could ever love you the way I do’
  • ‘You are crazy’
  • ‘You don’t love me enough’
  • ‘I only get angry because you won’t believe me’
  • ‘Why can’t you be more like a traditional woman, (as well as keeping me in the standard to which I’ve become accustomed)?’

You’ll soon find yourself unable to make a decision without checking first with him. You’ll forget that your world didn’t once revolve around this emotional leech and wonder how you ended up in this thankless position.


Do not be fooled into believing you need to be more understanding of cultural differences in order to make it work with your Middle Eastern Narcissist. Though Narcissism can be culturally reinforced, is not a Middle Eastern trait. Like a Narcissist from any culture, your man cannot and will not change. So, bear in mind that you are always stronger than your abuser and that at any point, you can choose to use your power to cross the bridge to your other reality.

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-2014 and © Kimberly Saeed and Let Me Reach, 2013-2014

21 responses to “Culture bomb #1: When your Narcissist is from the Middle East

  1. Absolutely, as the post says: all cultures produce narcissists (unfortunately). In this post, Kim and I talk about the nuances of narcissistic abuse with men from the Middle East, in an attempt to help women who (like I once did) think that maybe this is how all Middle Eastern men are – which it certainly isn’t.


    • Aha yes, the abusive neanderthal man’s views on women transcend all cultures 😉

      When we live with an abuser whatever we do is ‘not enough’ in their eyes – and for narcissists in particular, it is perfectly natural to expect that our whole being is focussed on meeting their needs.

      The biggest danger is when they convince their targets to buy into this self-serving worldview.


  2. My Narc was a westener obsessed with Japanese culture…. Nuff said i think!
    He’s due to move there soon god help any nieve soul he encounters.


    • I am sorry to hear you had a narcissist in your life. You’ve learned the hard way just how much devastation they can cause, I imagine.

      Narcissists exist in every culture but their cultural background of course nuances their behaviour. Also, the manifestation of narcissism as a cultural phenomenon varies according to culture.

      In Japan, they have something called taijin kyofo sho. More info on this in a really interesting study, here:


      • Cheers!
        I do wonder how living in that society will affect his Narcissim, i know that he thinks he will find a sufficiently subservient lady to fulfill his needs there but i cant help but think, having pinned all his hopes on being saved by this move for so long, that when he gets there and he discovers that his problems have traveled with him he might go into meltdown? It would be interesting to watch from a purely clinical point of view but there is no way im risking my own sanity to do so!
        He seems to think that when he gets there his life will be roses round the door, i personally believe he’s made a fairytale out of it in that sense and i wonder how when reality rudely interrupts his dream as life will, what exactly will he do as this is the problem solving move for him?
        If this type of character wasnt so destructive a force it would be fascinating to watch!
        Im recovering now slowly but its gonna be a long road to happy x


      • Well, my view is that narcissists are incapable of happiness – regardless. He’ll continue being unhappy, and likely find a new woman to make unhappy too. I’m guessing when his planned utopia doesn’t pan out the way he wants, it could be a whole new level of destructive behaviour – the only way to stop that cycle is for him to recognise his disorder and actively engage with help. I haven’t come across a narcissist that has done so, yet.

        I’m glad to hear you’re putting yourself first now – I’m guessing you weren’t able to consider your own needs throughout your time with him. Recovery is a long journey, and a something we have to work hard at. But it sounds like you’re well on your way – and kudos to you for that! x


  3. From reading your story, immediately I could tell you were in a relationship with a man from the Middle East. For others reading this, please don’t take this as racism, there is just a very specific cultural thing in relation to violent Middle-Eastern men. The connection I have with what you have written is scary, the lies and lies and more lies especially, I thought I was going to go insane, like I was wrong for questioning everything that came out his mouth. The problem is the charm offensive that I fall for time and time again. I would love to speak to you more, in confidence. Right now, I am on my 4th/5th/6th/lost count “final break up” from my partner. The last time was when he gave me a black and blue eye (prior to this, he was careful not to mark me in such an obvious way) he smashed a vase and threw me onto the floor into the glass cutting my legs open in the process, slapped me numerous times, spat in my face and in my eyes, screaming I’m a whore, smashed up my home, smashed my phone, and caused havoc where I live. My crime? I was a cold hearted bitch and never had time for him, I was according to him, having sexual relations with a work mate (I am afraid to even look in the direction of another man, never mind even dream of cheating- that would be a death wish). He was btw, drunk during all of this, a sin according to his religion. The humiliation was intense I was so scared my neighbours would hear all of this. Part of my battle is my privacy and my pride and I find it incredibly difficult to tell anyone what happens, I do everything to hide the monster he is and almost prefer to get back just to avoid explaining the whole thing. Even as I fought back and finally gave up begging him to stop, he continued to slap me slap me and slap me. Whore, slut, whore, grabbing me between the legs. And the worst most soul-destroying horrific part, I am doing everything I can to maintain “no-contact” is he full on stage 5 hoovering. We have been together over 3 years and the lies he has told during that time would blow you away. I feel like an absolute loser for even considering that this man is who I should end up with. The problem is when times are good, they are really good. It’s an addiction. It’s an illness. I know I need to fix myself, I am so lost and alone.


    • You’re not alone in this. You’re right, violence affects every culture / religion / race, my ex just happened to be from the Middle East and therefore there were particular ways in which violence and abuse manifested. You’re doing the right thing in maintaining No Contact, the hoovering can be extremely intense, exhausting and frightening. It was for me, but I got through it and I promise you that you can too. I’m here to talk if you want, I know how it is to feel nobody understands. My email address is on the ‘Lets Talk’ page.


  4. Well, my father is from Texas and was a narcissist and a physical abuser. My mother is also a narcissist, she is originally from Syria.
    I don’t know what to say, except I have been through hell with the two of them. My mother and her golden child, my sister, have stolen my fathers last will and testament from me and the family? They couldn’t care less. Why? Because I am the scape goat child. The bad one that deserves everything bad.


    • So sorry that is happening to you. Unfortunately, narcissists are extremely difficult to disengage from – especially if they are close relatives. But it’s not impossible, if that’s what you need to do to remove toxic people from your life.


  5. You think narcissism is a male only trait in the Middle East? Women and mothers in the Middle East are the most narcissistic people on the planet. It is their upbringing that turns most men into narcissists.


  6. Wow. I just found your blog and started reading. In most articles but especially this one, it’s like you literally described my abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband who grew up in Iran. I thought we didn’t have too many cultural differences (my family is from a neighboring country, but I was born and raised in Northern Europe). Thing is, I can get along with the culture but not the narcissism. He blamed so many things on his – our – culture: Me not being the perfect wifey; him having to lead and care for the family as its head (but not acting responsibly and basically just freeloading despite having an own business); and whatnot. It’s bullshit. He made it up for not having to take personal responsibility for his abusive shitty behavior. I’m not putting up with this anymore. Lots of love to you girls and I hope your personal stories turned out fine ❤


    • He is immature and not confronting his own bias. He was more than likely physically abused as a child by his father and mother. Also it sounds like e is extremely insecure. I would like to add that this is an upbringing issue not just culture. I know many westerner men with the same issues.


  7. Excellent article, it happened to me, my ex husband was like that. When you end the relationship you have no self esteem, nothing, you have lost everything you have, you don’t know who you are anymore. I am glad I realized in time, now I am free to find myself again…


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