Nowadays, narcissism has become a popular word. Sometimes it is used to describe an individualism and self-centeredness (What is good for ME and how to get what I want?). Other times the word to describe a lack of capacity in somebody to care about others.
Nevertheless, what you have to know is that narcissism is not just a slight deviation from empathy that can be excused with the drive for success. The truth is that narcissism is a serious personality disorder with great toxic power over any relationship.
Only after you have been through the ordeal of being into a relationship with a narcissist (marriage and friendship both count!) will you know what pain and emotional chaos a narcissist can truly cause you.
Having a relationship with a narcissist will not be a bad experience – in the beginning! Just the opposite. It will be exciting and passionate. You will feel completely understood and seen, probably you will get to enjoy the best treatment in your entire life. Initially.
During the initial stages of the relationship the narcissist will worship you, putting the world at your feet.
They will call and text you frequently, sharing openly how much they admire you, how smitten they are by you, how indispensable and unique you are to them. They will flatter you and want to be around you at all times. This technique is called “lovebombing” and its aim is to suck you into a very dangerous state of emotional dependence on their constant praise, attention and validation.
And when they are sure that you have successfully fallen under their spell, hell will break lose. For you. You will feel terrible without being able to quite explain why, you will feel guilty, wrong, selfish and what not. And you will fight for more of the old tasty praise and care they used to give you. You will find yourself apologizing for what you have done and what you are. You will be obsessed with the memory of how great things used to be between you and you will be ready to do almost anything to get back there.
Here are the 3 main things that a narcissist will do to make you feel completely lost and shattered – and never let you know it was them all along:
1. Devaluation after worship
After the idealization phase is over – which usually happens abruptly, without any signs – you will be thrust off your pedestal. The narcissist will unexpectedly (and inexplicably) become cold and distant. It is then that they will start criticizing you. They will compare you to other people – always to your disadvantage.
When you try to talk to them they will give you the silent treatment and make sure you know how gravely disappointed they are with you. You will then come to believe you are at fault and you will make attempts to deserve their former sweetness again – to push the relationship back to the honeymoon phase.
Your desire to win them back will lead to the narcissist calling you needy, jealous and suffocating. Occasionally, the narcissist will bathe you in the loving behavior they demonstrated in the beginning of the relationship. And then they will go back to stonewalling, disinterest and inconsistency. Making you feel thoroughly unimportant after you “meant the world to them”.
Gaslighting is a manipulative technique employed by the narcissist to make you lose track of how they are causing you pain. Basically, every time you rebel against their accusations, they will make you feel even more inadequate – for bringing up the subject, being crazy, stressing them out, generally pushing them away, and provoking their anger.
The narcissist will convince you that is not them, it’s you. They will explain to you how emotionally unstable you are, how your issues are being projected onto them. The regular phrases they will use are:
- “I never knew you were that sensitive”
- “I never said that”
- “You make it sound like it’s my fault”
- “You always take things so personally”
- “I can’t take this anymore”
Gaslighting makes you believe you are the one that endangers the relationship with your claims, questions, and neediness. You will somehow always seem to be the one that has to behave better and understand them more. So, even when the relationship becomes really toxic, you will try to stay and fix it – because you will think it’s your responsibility to make amends for your “wrongdoings”.
You know how much it hurts when somebody says somebody else is so much better than you in this and that. Well, that is what triangulation is all about – making a person believe they’re less valuable or accomplished, or attractive than somebody else.
The person who the narcissist will compare you to can be anybody – a friend, a mutual acquaintance, a parent, a mistress, even a complete stranger. Nevertheless, most often they will compare you to someone of your own gender making sure you feel not only humiliation and sadness but also jealousy.
For the narcissist it is very important to keep you second-guessing their affection for you. This is because their manipulation works best when they make you compete with a third party for their attention and approval. You will feel insecure and inadequate, afraid that they’re losing interest in you, and you will desperately try to stick to your best qualities in order to seduce the narcissist back into loving you (and only you!) more.
How to save yourself?
Simple but painful. Leave.
You will never be able to beat the narcissist at their own game as you stay in the relationship waiting for them to change their behavior. Their cruelty will eventually turn into tenderness and care. You cannot and will not love them enough to cure them or fix them. They will not return the love in the end. As painful as that may sound, it is your only ticket to an emotionally healthy life. Leave the relationship and don’t look back even when they try to win you back with tears, promises, regret, re-ignited passion or whatever manipulative trick they might pull out of their hat.