The Double Life of the Narcissist…. How didn’t I know?

Living two, three, four, or more lives is typical for many narcissists. It truly is amazing how they can compartmentalize and keep everything straight for so long. Many do get caught, but they tend not to learn their lessons and just pick up a few more lives next time around. Finding out that you are in a relationship with someone who has another wife, girlfriend, family, or identity is devastating. I have been here twice and each time discovering the level of deceit and duplicity of my former partners was extremely shocking and painful.

Let’s start off by having a look at why a narcissist does this. First of all they lack empathy, they think of themselves and their needs first. They do not feel guilt or sadness when they are betraying a partner. They do know that what they are doing is wrong, they just do not care. How can they be so cold? Well many narcissists lack object consistency. This means if you are out of sight, you are out of their mind. When they are with you, they can make you believe that you are the center of their world but once they are not in close proximity to you, they don’t really care about you or your feelings.

Remember some experts consider narcissism to be associated with attachment disorders. Narcissists struggle with intimacy, loyalty, and connection and do not attach in relationships in a healthy way. They can put on a great show and make you think that they are in love with you, but their feelings for you are likely very superficial and fleeting. I know this stings because they really do convince us their intentions are pure.

Narcissists also are excellent at compartmentalizing their lives and easily place individuals in boxes that meet their needs. Plus, narcissists fear boredom and are excitement seekers, I personally think that they like to play a “catch me if you can” game and get off on pushing the limits to see how much they can get away with. And to top it all off, narcissists need supply, an external source of attention and validation, and always having the same source of supply is dull to them.

Unfortunately all of these negative traits line up nicely with living multiple lives. Narcissists get a rush, excitement, attention and usually a lot of extra things that they are seeking with their multiple lives like housing, money, gifts, sex, attention, vacations and the list can just go on and on. I can barely manage my life and one dog, I cannot imagine how anyone would want to have multiple personas and relationships! It just seems like so much work and energy! I also crave stability and security, and these are two traits that narcissists do not value one bit. The desire to lead a double life is just not in my nature (or in the nature of any other decent human being).

My two narcissists both had double lives. One a physician who was jet setting around the world and impregnated a woman behind my back and the other a police officer, who had multiple girlfriends all living in the same town as us that I didn’t discover for years. How didn’t I know? And how did this happen to me twice? Well there is a saying that deep down inside women always know when they are being betrayed.

I think most people suspect something fishy when they are being lied to over and over again, it is just hard to put your finger on it. This is your brain and body’s natural inclination to protect you. I didn’t listen to my intuition, I felt that something was off or that at times their explanations didn’t make sense, but I was trying to be my “people pleasing self”, not make any waves, and tuned out that feeling in my gut. I also rationalized their behaviors and decided to live in denial and just focus on the good stuff. These decisions were all big mistakes! Always listen to your gut Guys and Gals and be honest with yourself about what is going on in your relationship. Even if you have to admit things that may end the relationship, make sure you are checking in with yourself about what you are observing and feeling.

I think another reason I was easily fooled by my ex narcissists was because I would never ever do something like live a double life. I have too much empathy and would be haunted by guilt and anxiety. I would hate the feeling of always looking over my shoulder or being afraid of getting caught but most of all I wouldn’t want to hurt and disappoint my partner or ruin my relationship. I like to think most healthy people feel the same way, remember narcissists are not healthy people!

It is easy to feel embarrassed and to beat yourself up if your narcissist was living multiple lives. Remember, they are the ones who should feel embarrassed for their selfish actions, do not put that on yourself. When someone manipulates, lies and deceives you that is on them, always. If you didn’t have experience with a “double lifer” previously and if you are an honest person with values, you would never anticipate that someone would behave this way. This does not mean that you are stupid or that any of their behavior is your fault.

Hey I had two narcissists who lived multiple lives and I’m a psychologist, it really can happen to anyone. The good news is now you know that there are people out there who have double lives and double identities, you know to pay attention to your intuition, and you know to look out for red flags. These exploitative and manipulative people are very dangerous in interpersonal relationships. Once you discover the double life of a narcissist, it is time to develop an exit plan ASAP. I know it is tough, but you are strong and you will be better off in the long run.

Sending you lots of love,

Jenny Tamasi, Survivor and Author of The Psychologist & Her Narcissists A Guide to Surviving Toxic Relationships

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