If there’s one thing I was always afraid to do in every one of my relationships with a narcissist, it was asking questions.
Every time I asked a question it seemed like there was a punishment or a consequence; or a reaction that was way too aggressive for the question that was asked.
With my father, I was always terrified of asking him questions because I would either get —
- screamed at
- cursed out, or
- told no
In my relationships, I was terrified of asking questions because I would either be —
- devalued, or
There was always a consequence to getting my needs met; some emotional sacrifice for having a voice. This is why I was usually timid and walked on eggshells in my relationships until I started dating Jamel.
Jamel is the malignant narcissist I mentioned, here:
My relationship with him would teach me a very important lesson. A lesson involving the true nature behind my fear of asking the narcissist questions. And the one question I should only ask one,
Once I’m ready to leave.
It Happened on October 24th, 2020
(Two days before my birthday.)
My ex, Jamel, brought me to his house to “celebrate” my birthday since he was off that day. But the events that followed would be the reason I didn’t last an hour at his place.
I was at my ex, Jamel’s house, where he took me to “celebrate”. The issue was, by this time, Jamel’s behavior toward me had drastically changed.
He had become distant and withdrawn, and making time to see me was now a chore. Where I saw him virtually every day (on his own accord) I was now seeing him once a week.
Similar to the pattern I covered in the following article:
My discard was impending.
(I realize this, looking back because he had been that way for a while up until that point — plus I could feel it. I sensed the new supply.)
While at his house, he didn’t seem to want to interact with me
In fact, he was acting as if he was angry about it. As though he was doing this out of obligation (he was). But there was another strange behavior he was displaying.
I noticed he kept turning away from my direction to use his phone (despite being across the room) and putting it face-down every time he was done with it. And I already knew why.
I Had a Gut Feeling He Was Cheating on Me
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash
I was struggling with this intuitive instinct for two years at this point, but now it was being made obvious.
Jamel always kept his phone facedown (which is a big red flag) but on this particular day, he was picking it up more often than he ever did in my presence.
He was genuinely more interested in his phone and was devaluing me with his energy by making it obvious he didn’t want me there. It only took minutes for me to get fed up.
I had known for a time that I had t get out of this relationship but I was waiting for evidence if I’m being honest.
I couldn’t tell if he was getting sloppy or trying to emotionally torture me. Considering, the stress of wondering had been making me increasingly ill over the course of the time I was picking up on it.
Remember, he’s a malignant narcissist.
They actually like seeing their victims sweat; they intend to hurt you. I know this to be true because I actually asked him if he was cheating on me on the birthday prior to this one, during a breakdown.
As terrified as I had been of asking him that question I was just at the beginning of a mental breaking point. I just wanted to know and he, of course, said “no”… but with a smirk on his face.
A year later, I was exhausted but I was also done asking the obvious question. So as I sat there trying to figure out what to do.
Another method came to mind
Ask him for his phone.
I started shaking because some part of me knew this was going to be it, my life was about to forever change because my heart was about to break. As he sat near me on his phone,
I asked him —
If I ever aked you for your phone would you give it to me?
He looked so pissed off and clenched his jaw before saying —
So… I said —
Can I see your phone?
Everything went silent.
And he just sat there, without moving,
Before saying “No.”
I asked why and he got defensive and just said —
No. I’m not giving you my phone.
I got up and gathered my things and said —
Take me home.
He Drove Me Home in Complete Silence
He asked if I was serious.
I said absolutely because what he was doing is bullshit. He was angry but quiet — because he was caught.
He drove with a look of pure rage written all over his face and I didn’t say anything either — because there was nothing left to say.
Let him stay mad.
(I didn’t owe him shit, and I wasn’t chasing him. We were done with that.)
Whoever she was was important enough for him to protect, that was all I needed to know. Whatever was in that phone was incriminating enough for him to find our relationship worth the sacrifice of keeping it hidden.
And he clearly underestimated me for him to say “yes” when asked if he’d ever give me his phone if I asked — just to refuse to give it to me once I asked for it. He made himself out immediately to be a liar.
He dropped me off and I said nothing as I got out of his car and went home. I didn’t even look back. Once I was upstairs I received a text from Jamel, almost instantly, saying —
I feel like I’m never going to hear from you again.
There was no point in responding so I didn’t… because I was too busy learning a very sobering lesson —
The real reason we fear asking the narcissist questions
This is because we know they won’t respond well. We know they’ll punish us or leave us if we ask so we avoid the experience by keeping our mouths shut.
But when it comes to matters of the heart, such as cheating, the real reason we never want to ask is that we actually already know.
The answer is yes they are cheating on us.
(And we know that.)
This is what makes the practice of asking that much more important to our development. The one skill you have to sharpen as a victim/survivor of narcissistic abuse is knowing,
- how to read the signs, and
- get your own closure
Most narcissists will never offer you the closure of the truth, that will be up to you. Especially, if the issue is a matter of cheating. Narcissists are going to cheat on you because they actually have to,
(I’ll touch on this in a separate article).
Therefore, in order to get the wisdom you’re looking for you will have to experience them more than once in order for the repetition to assist you in picking up their patterns. Although it may seem like a curse, it’s a benefit.
Your experience will be the reason you not only get good at identifying the warning signs early, but you will believe what you see (and feel) the first time around. You won’t need proof.
Your intuition will be enough.
The Reason This Strategy Works
And the reason I consider it to be a “polite gesture” is because it’s better than an accusation.
Instead of telling them you know they’re cheating or calling them a “cheater” (and risking unnecessary gaslighting),
You’re simply asking a question.
It’s also right on par with the type of gaslighting narcissists do because they can’t accuse you of accusing them… because you technically never accused them. All you just did was ask a question.
You could have gone through their phone (as most people would have) and been called all types of names,
Such as —
- jealous or “crazy”
- a cheater (reverse psychology)
Because you took it upon yourself to snoop through their personal belongings, but you didn’t.
You didn’t do that.
Instead, you chose to carry yourself like an adult and open the lines of conversation by asking for the answers you wanted instead of looking for them via spying.
(See where I’m going with this?)
It’s the perfect strategy because you never even need to see the phone, or the contents, in it to get your answer. Their reaction will be enough.
Especially if they say “no”.
Prepare Yourself Before Using This Strategy
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Be very careful because there are a few ways a narcissist is going to respond to this strategy, and some of these responses might trick you into thinking —
- you were wrong for asking, or
- guilty/at fault for the outcome of asking
For starters, they might accuse you of being any one of the traits in the list given in the last section. Especially —
- “Insecure”, and/or
(Ignore this, they’re grasping at straws because it’s just as toxic to create the type of environment that would cause reasonable doubt in your partner.)
You will also witness this question unmask them, very briefly, especially if your question catches them totally off-guard (by coming out of absolutely nowhere).
When this happens, observe:
- the way their faces fall, or
- the way they tense up
- how angry they get, and
- how they point the finger at you (for having your trust issues)
- The vast majority of your narcissists refuse to show you.
- some narcissists will be so injured by the question that they will initiate an impromptu discard (and blame you for it).
(All the while never showing you the contents of their phone. This impromptu discard is a definite confirmation you were being cheated on too.)
Make your move once this happens,
Once they refuse.
Only Use This Strategy Under One Vital Condition
I need you to keep one thing in mind at all times here:
Narcissists notoriously hate to be questioned.
Especially if the questions you ask will lead to you gaining any type of information that may work against them later on or put them in a position that they view as a disadvantage.
For example; Jamel had been keeping his cheating under wraps because he knew that if I found out I would leave and never look back.
He would lose a valuable source of supply.
(Asking for his phone was the initiation process of that loss.)
The thing is narcissists like to ask questions so that they can attain information because knowledge is power and information is the key to gaining knowledge. This is exactly what works in your favor.
Because any behavior the narcissist introduces into the relationship, you should be able to display as well (technically).
(Completely ignore the “we’re two different people” excuse they will throw at you to circumvent having to deal with this double standard.)
Therefore, you shouldn’t feel guilty about getting the answers you need for your emotional security.
Don’t bother going through their phones, or any of their other electronics. Leave the laptop and social media accounts alone. Do not hurt your own feelings.
You don’t always need the details. You don’t always need to know everything. Sometimes, all you need to know is that you’ve been betrayed.
(And you have been.)
Ask because you know the answer and aren’t in a place to trust your intuition and leave. Ask because you need the validation of evidence, in order to believe the harsh truth.
Ask because their reaction will be the evidence you need. But don’t ask them if they’re cheating (you already know they are).
Ask to see their phone.
(Because it’s the only question you need to ask.)
But only ask this question when you’re ready to walk away.
The outcome of asking, coupled with the responses you will get, won’t end peacefully by any means.
Therefore, ask this question knowing your relationship with the narcissist is already over.
There is no point in asking this question or inquiring about any alleged infidelity if you’re only going to stay with the narcissist.
It’s pointless to go out of your way to learn information that is definitely going to devastate you only to remain in a devastating situation.
© Linda Sharp 2023. All Rights Reserved.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Photo credit: Charlie Foster on Unspalsh