Do you think you are in a relationship with a narcissist? Do things happen that confuse you?

Most people who report being in a relationship with a narcissist share that they were swept off their feet by the most charming, sweet, kind, caring and loving person. You probably told your friends and family that this person has the best ‘life resume’ and that they couldn’t be a more perfect fit. Please note, it is easy to fall for someone who is customizing their own history and personality to be the perfect mate for you. It’s almost impossible to notice anything bad at first, because everything is so amazing and you thought you found your soulmate.

If you are here looking for information on being in a relationship with a narcissist, then you might have felt that way once too, but now things have changed. You are confused because the person you fell in love with is gone and they are replaced by a person you don’t even know.

Let me explain, the person you fell in love with“is being who they really are now” and the person you fell in love with was fake. A narcissist creates a false persona we call a ‘mask’ to capture the object of their desires, which is you. The reason they were so perfect for you is that they created this mask/role/act to model exactly the person you were looking for.

Perhaps you are here now because they have broken your heart, lied, cheated and started acting so crazy to the point where no one believes the things you are telling them. You are confused and need answers.

Please don’t blame yourself for not knowing what a narcissist was. You were targeted because you didn’t know that people could be this deceitful. It’s time to understand what happened.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Before we get deeper into the red flags of narcissistic behaviors and abuse, you need to first understand the DSM’s Criteria for any narcissist.

The disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by at least five of the following to be medically diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder

An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes he/she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement
Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
Lacks empathy
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

Prefer to learn by watching videos to learn red flags of narcissistic abuse?

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Learn the signs you're dating a narcissist

They are often covert at first when they are trying to hook you. Look for theses signs and behaviors

DOES YOUR PARTNER DISPLAY THESE BEHAVIORS?

The Interview   No matter if you met this person in college, online or through a trusted friend; the patterns of narcissistic people are all too similar. Both men and women can be abusive narcissists and there is not much difference in the tactics and behaviors. It is important to note how stealth (covert) their behaviors can be and that is why you got hooked. While they all seem to play by a heartless rule-book, not all narcissists are created equally. There is a spectrum and they can fall anywhere on it. Their true colors kick in in the end when they become entitled and aim to destroy anyone, they perceive to have injured them.

I am going to call your first date “the interview”. While normal people go on the first date eager to learn more about a new person, a narcissist goes on this date to gather intel on you. It starts off by you asking them questions about their job and interests and other common first date topics. You are doing this believing that the person you are talking to will share the truth with you as they had no reason to lie at that point.

A narcissist starts off interviewing you to see where your life has taken you, what previous relationships you had, what went wrong and why it ended. This shows them what you have tolerated before and what they can get away with. On the surface it feels quite normal and you are often met with what looks like oozing compassion and empathy for your journey. If you had a cheating partner, they also had a cheating partner and they feel for you because they too were a victim. This is called “mirroring”. They reflect back to you the qualities that make you. You’ll be amazed to have found someone who shares your same morals and values and who can relate to many things you’ve been through. As the interview continues you probably found so many things in common that it’s almost too good to be true. You hate football, they hate football. You love to cook and entertain, so do they. What a perfect match!

Over the next few dates a narcissist starts to tap into your family background, but not because they care They are trying to determine what type of support system you have, so they can understand how easy it will be to isolate you for better control. Watch for them to mirror your experience with your family. If you don’t have a close family, they could also have tensions in the family. The other part of this con could be that you are looking for a ‘real family’ to be part of since yours was never there for you. Then presto! They have the perfect family that will love you like their own. This is what happened to me, I was presented and promised a fake family, because I wanted one.

A narcissist is looking for what type of supply you could be if they deem you a worthy conquest. Your assets may be something they look at. For example, do you have a good job? Do you make good money? Own property? Perhaps they are interested in knowing if you have been saving for retirement. Wanting to be a mom or a dad and having strong values could be what they are shopping for, but not because they want the kids. It’s more the potential that you could make a good supply to them to care for them and take care of the kids … if you make it into primary supply position. Read more about the Green Flags of what a narcissist is evaluating you for here.

If you make it into the next round, they saw potential in you. The game goes into the fast track of them wanting to see you, text you and talk to you all the time. This feel so good that it’s hard to believe, but here you are living a fairy-tale dream. How could this person be so perfect, where have they been your whole life? The word soulmate is often thrown around to show you how committed they are to you. They are rushing intimacy not for the reason of falling in love, but to begin the isolation process by taking up your time. This is the first test. Look back at the beginning of your relationship. Did they insist on seeing you every moment of your free time? It probably felt so good that someone felt this intense so fast. You may have never had the feeling that this was control training, but you were being tested.

When a narcissist rushes this relationship, you get hooked so fast that you don’t take the time to see the game or see them for who they really are. Their goal at this point is to get you into the funnel of showing them that you can be conned. If at any point you set boundaries or want to go slower, they react in one of two ways.

Plan A – they will try to up the charm and the con until you see things their way.  They’ll love bomb you with special plans, flowers, calls and pleas to give this love a fair chance.

Plan B – if the above tactic doesn’t work, they will try to weasel into your life plans, the ones you want to do with your own friends and family. At this point in the game their goal would be to become a bigger part of your life by friending all your friends and family. Expect them to put on a show that has everyone falling in love with this perfect catch they pretend to be.

To the would-be victim in this case; you get validation from your friends and family as they give their approval and encouragement to take the chance on this perfect love that you so deserve. Look at the traction they gained by coming to your friend’s dinner party. They have secured themselves endorsements from the people you trust most.

While you are openly sharing your story, your truth and your vulnerabilities, it probably never occurred to you that someone would make their life story up. Narcissists are con-men and women and they are actors projecting off a false image (mask) they create customized to you. Their story is based on what you are looking for and what you want in a partner They match as many of your desires as possible: romantically, culturally, materially, music, spirituality and social interests. They create this false image of themselves to hook a victim and then con them into getting into a relationship with them.

You unwillingly fall in love with a fake persona, an act, lie, an illusion. This new love is based on a false narrative customized and created to present themselves as the perfect person for you. This false mask or act will be the foundation of who you think they are and later, in the devalue and discard stages, you will believe that if you love them more, this fake person will reappear.

We call this stage the idealization stage and expect to see these behaviors:

Overwhelming similarities with your dreams and experiences.

It seems so natural with them wanting to be with you all the time, that you put your friends, family and needs last just to spend time with them. But this is the foundation of isolating you and it was a test. If they can successfully isolate-you so you lose your support, then it makes it easier to begin the abuse process.

Intense desire to monopolize your attention. They love you so much, that they want to be in constant contact with you when they are not with you. It seems so sweet at first, but this is the beginning of control and you probably didn’t recognize it.  A little text before bed, or a ‘good morning beautiful’ text when you wake up certainly does the trick to make you feel loved but expect this pattern to diminish later in the relationship. They are really doing this to hook you and monitor your whereabouts. It is only control and the fairy-tale love you were being sold is just a lie.

Devalue stage
Like the spider that catches a fly in their web, once a narcissist has convinced you to join them and give this unbelievable love a chance, things begin to change. You may start to hear conflicts in their stories and things just aren’t adding up. Most victims speak of a feeling that something is wrong, is off, and that they are confused. At first, you might speak up to this perfect partner, because they said they believe in good communication and you have questions.

This is when the excuses start and you will see your natural concerns met with either anger or dismissiveness. An excuse example could be in the form of a believable explanation: “they are tired and had a bad week”, so they overreacted or said something that caused you to see the story not adding up. They are testing you to see how far they can push you, how easy it is to ease your concerns and how quickly they can turn your concern back into something you are being paranoid about. Can you think back to a time where their actions stopped aligning with their words?

In this stage, you will see a decrease in communication and time they can spend with you. Of course, when you bring this up it is met with comments that tell you they need to get back to “real life” and that all these other things they needed to do were put on hold when your love was new.

The honeymoon is over.

Besides this withdrawal of attention, the narcissist starts to make small digs at you. Maybe you don’t load the dishwasher the way they think it should be done. Maybe they think it’s odd that you have different food tastes then them or maybe you are the one that is doing something causing them to withdraw. This is where things start to become your fault, and if you a codependent like most victims you will take their attacks to heart and begin to do everything to make it right again. If you think about this tactic of them pulling away, they end up getting you to lean back in and do more for them in the relationship; It’s manipulative. The tactic works most of the time because they have bonded to us and we don’t want them to leave.

The lies have been running the entire time since you met them, but during this stage, you notice them more. The charming personality is met with a diluted model of this charm only being pulled out in front of other people. They flaunt your good qualities to others, but behind closed doors they withdraw and become distant.

You probably missed the part where things became unequal and the love became one-sided. The covert way in which the manipulation starts can fool anyone, but to the victim, they rarely see the way things became one-way. Survivors also report that they do everything in the relationship from doing everything in the home to needing to perform in the bedroom. The narcissist is riding their ‘tired victim role’ to get you to do everything. You see, this was the goal all along. They accessed your value for supply, they hooked you, then they start to pull back causing you to react like this is somehow your fault. You try to fix yourself and do more to get them to go back to that person that loved you so quickly. Can you see this game run in your relationship?

Behind the scenes to your friends and family, the narcissist starts to share their concerns about you with others. They begin to lay the foundation of a smear campaign with concern about you, often these little smears contain a nugget of truth to make it more believable. Maybe at a dinner party, you had one drink too many, they will use this opportunity to tell people that you drink too much and they are very concerned. Often when you get home you are yelled at for embarrassing them and you are made to feel like you did something wrong.

The devaluation stage will leave the victim feeling lost and confused and they usually will do whatever they can to save this relationship. This is a win for the narcissist because they can now have you clamoring around them to please them, so you can get back in good graces. At this point in the cycle, everything from this point on is going to be your fault.

The cycle of abuse is idealized, devalue and discard and it is much like being in a washing machine going around and around and repeating itself. Most victims go back to their abusers seven times before either they see the light, or the abuser has found a better supply and they leave you in a terrible grand finale.

COMMON STAGES AND PATTERNS (continued from left)

We call this stage the devalue stage and you can expect to see these behaviors.

A sense of entitlement to do what they want, take what they want and generally say what they want without regard to how it will make you feel.

They are always right which means you are by default always wrong. Everything will become clear that there are double standards. They might have the password for your phone, but they will never share theirs.

You will start to see flickers of the lack of empathy to your needs and desires.

They will break all your boundaries for the above reasons, they are entitled, they are always right so your boundaries mean nothing to them, and they need not comply. They test you at every turn to see if you understand boundaries and to see where your line in the sand is.

To test you, they will threaten you to keep you in line. Some examples might be “I am going to tell everyone you are an alcoholic”, “Go ahead leave me, I am too good for you anyway”. They will always attack your greatest strengths, simply because it hurts more, and you will defend your greatest strength from being attacked.
Rules don’t apply to them.

They are hot and cold and you get exhausted trying to keep them off the edge of cold.

You feel like you are walking on eggshells, because they can lose it on you for anything, and you never know when they will attack. So, you try to keep the peace by not speaking up and not voicing your opinion.

They become two faced acting friendly to people they claim to dislike and mean to you the one they love.

You might be met with accusations that you have memory issues (gaslighting), and they call you crazy just for asking them about one of these things that don’t add up. Once that crazy label comes out you can expect it to be used in the next stage, the discard stage.

They might not be cheating yet, but they do get bored easily. So its usually just a matter of time. Remember they feel entitled to have other lovers in their lives. The covert behaviors, usually missed and written off with a snarky comment, happens when they start to flirt with others: the waitress, the man coming to clean the pool… This is also a test; will you allow them to flirt even if they say it’s all in fun? They will blame you for being jealous when they outwardly flirt.

If you find yourself making excuses for them or canceling plans with your friends, then they have you where they want you.

Triangulation begins in this stage as they intentionally pit you against another person. Let’s look at their crazy ex for example. In the beginning they hated their crazy ex and now they are comparing you to them constantly. The reason they triangulate you with their ex is to make you jealous and confused. This also stops you from ever wanting to speak to the ex . It’s a win-win for them. Besides being able to call you jealous they have also secured distance between you two. They may also triangulate you with their new target, saying nice things about them in an attempt to make you jealous, while at the same time they’re telling the new target how crazy you are. They may make sure that the two of you never meet, but they do this in order to make you feel insecure, and the new target is being set up for a smooth transition once it’s time for you to be discarded.

Name calling usually begins in this stage where any concern you have for their behavior makes you get the label of being sensitive. That is a mild example of how the name calling starts. Later, the name calling will be more personally aligned with your strengths. If you are a great mom, you will be called an abuser. Since their goal is to ultimately destroy you, they may even secretly call CPS and report your ‘abusive behavior’. If you are great with money, they will call you irresponsible and a failure. Things you told them in confidence that you understand are your weaknesses, will be weaponized to call you names.

They stop letting you in and they withdraw their attention, this is confusing, and it hurts.

Ghosting or as I used to call it ‘darkness’, is when they disappear for a period of time. At first the testing begins and the darkness might be for a night or a day that you didn’t hear from them. Then, when they have learned the cost to them, meaning how you will react, they crank it up disappearing for weeks at a time. It’s frustrating, and the angrier you get, the more they can turn it around to tell you that you are being unreasonable and jealous for not giving them their space. You also might be called controlling for wanting to know where they are all the time. What?! Wasn’t that them last week?

Because of their competitive nature, you may find them competing with you and getting angry if you get more accolades. As an example, I will share my ex-husband’s photography skills. He liked to take pictures and he always had to have the latest camera with the biggest lenses, but that didn’t really make him a better photographer. It was something we had in common and I loved that about him. I grew up with a camera in my hand. I had a darkroom at 16 and I was always studying light and composure. When we joined a camera club and submitted photos, the club would pick the best of that meeting to be submitted in the newspaper. If mine were chosen and not his, he would throw a hissy fit and get so angry at the club for not picking him. He said I took away his joy of photography. Eventually he got bored and blamed everyone else for his lack of skills, but mostly it was my fault. In the last few years of our marriage I simply stopped taking pictures and let him feed his ego by being the man that takes great pictures.

The Discard Stage
In this stage the narcissist has already secured themselves new supply and usually without warning they leave you in a horrific way. This discard is called the ‘grand finale’. You saw those weird things they were doing in the last stage, yet in your mind you guys were working on it.

The behaviors in this stage can vary of course but there are some that are quite common.

Once they have decided to leave you high and dry without explanation, you will begin to understand how long they have been living a secret life. They have been planning for this since day one. They have befriended your friends and family and planted seeds that you are controlling and crazy. Bi-polar Disorder seems to be a popular claim at this point and my guess is that if they are the one claiming that you have a personality disorder, then they are the ones without one If they called you a narcissist, your friends and family might look it up and see the abuser’s behaviors, so throwing them off the trail with a diagnosis of bi-polar must seem like a good idea. Aren’t these lies describing them? Yes, it’s called deflection and it’s a tool in the narcissist’s belt to tell the world everything they are by calling you the label first.

Being dumped without warning is never easy and most healthy people give you closure, but not a narcissist. The fact is, as you lay there shocked by the rejection, abandoned by this heartless ending, you will now be faced with an odd betrayal that you never saw coming. They have moved on to another without any remorse or feelings for you. The new supply is often flaunted to the survivor The pain is unbearable – much like pouring salt on a wound.

We call this stage the discard stage and you can expect to see these behaviors.

They turn your friends and family against you.

They bait you with false allegations and blame you for the ending of the relationship

Things you told them in confidence will come out at this point to be used against you in a smear campaign. A smear campaign is designed to ruin you, not to just tell a little lie about you but a full-on false allegation. You will find yourself having to dig out and defend yourself to everyone that they met. Expect that you will lose lifelong friends at this point. These false allegations become the smear campaign – let’s go back to rule number one – they are always right, and you are always wrong.

The cheating becomes clear at this point, because they don’t feel the need to hide the new supply from you. In fact, it’s your fault that they are cheating.

They may up the game and get physical with you or they will tell you that they will ruin you. And they usually try. A man I dated called the police and had me arrested, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of others that this ploy was used on. When we go back to them not having empathy, it is exactly this lack of empathy of what harm they are causing you by calling the police and lying. I have met people who lost their security clearance jobs because of this false allegation arrest.

The final discard is when you are left, with or without explanation and usually without notice or discussion. This isn’t just another breakup. This is pure evil and truly at this point you will know the person you were with was not who they claimed to be.

Even though they dumped you, many victims have the narcissist come back hoovering to get your attention. This might include a false apology and a promise to work on things or change. This attempt could be right away or after some period. Please don’t fall for it, because this is exactly how victims go back seven times. These are false promises because a narcissist cannot change. In most cases the new supply figured them out quickly and dumped them, so they come back to get you back on the hook.

Flying monkeys” is a term that is used to describe when a narcissist turns your friends/family against you. These flying monkeys are like the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz that does the witch’s bidding. Flying monkeys can be used to gather intel for them, or bring messages to you, or they can be used to smear your name and continue to injure you. If you have a friend that has drank the narc-Kool-Aid, please do not trust them. Cut them out of your life, block them, and protect yourself from additional drama.

Stalking you seems counter-intuitive to that fact that they dumped you. Narcissists hate to lose, and they don’t want you to move on, so they stalk you to keep you living in terror. If this is happening, take it seriously!! Call the police, document by taking pictures of them and get a restraining order if they don’t go away.

If you feel that you may be in danger, you might be. Your intuition is telling you to get away, so listen. Call the police and file restraining orders. They are NOT the person you thought they were and they are very dangerous.

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WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR PARTNER SHOWS SIGNS OF THESE BEHAVIORS?

Now you are left to pick up the pieces and learn about what happened. This will be a lonely time because your friends will tell you typical non-informed friend advice to ‘move on’, ‘get over it’ and ‘get back on the horse again’. They will not understand and so you will feel isolated.

This is a time to begin to understand why you were a victim and why you were targeted. Finding yourself again will be your goal and healing should be your goal.

Please don’t jump back into another relationship. There is a wound you have that will need to heal. No two people’s recovery will be the same because the factors that got us here are always different.

This is a partial list  of possible concepts you may need to learn and conquer in order to heal:

  • Trauma, PTSD and CPTSD
  • Depression
  • Betrayal
  • Anxiety
  • Understand codependency
  • Explore your family of origin for issues you may not have opened the lid on
  • Abandonment
  • People pleasing
  • No boundaries
  • Lack of self-love: the self-love to tell someone who is not who they said they were to get the hell away from you
  • Fears and how they control you
  • Understand your Vulnerabilities
  • Learn mindfulness and eliminate negative thought patterns
  • Learn resiliency and how to bounce back faster

Going no contact is you best way to heal. So please block them on Facebook and all your social media platforms. Blocking them is not the same as unfriending and despite that they might have blocked you, you need to double block them.  If they blocked you, they can unblock you, spy, and gather intel and cause you more drama. If you double block them then they can never see your posts or your life. If you unfriend them, they can always spy on you.

Change locks if they had a key, and report to neighbors to let you know if they see them coming around.

On a final note: narcissists targeted you because of these vulnerabilities, and while being caught in the web of a narcissist is not your fault, there are pieces of you that made you a perfect target. This is what you must explore and learn so you can prevent this from becoming a lifelong pattern. Most victims of this type of abuse get sucked up by another one narcissist quickly, and trust me they are always worse.

It’s time to break the cycle and patterns of attracting toxic people into your life

A narcissist listens to you on that first date, asks the right questions and sees exactly how they can abuse you. Heal these vulnerabilities now. 

I created a workshop that I have been teaching at my local support groups for three years. It is called ‘Change the Story”. The purpose of this video series is to help you identify why you were a target, what your vulnerabilities are and how to change the story, so you are not sucked back up by another abuser. If you can understand these pieces, you can change your story and stop attracting narcissistic people in your life. The four-hour workshop has worksheets and videos that will guide you through this work to break the patterns forever. It has helped survivors like you break the patterns that attracted this person into your life. Learn more

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