Charm. Friendliness. Kindness … Narcissists.
They say you shouldn’t associate with a narcissist. That you should avoid them at all costs. Anyone who does get involved with a narcissist is likely to sustain permanent emotional and sometimes physical harm. Yet, mental health website PsychAlive says “that the world is becoming increasingly narcissistic.”
We may not realize a narcissist until it’s too late.
That happened to me. I married a narcissist.
This was way before the whole “look at me” mentality kicked off with the social media networking of the modern era. Narcissists always existed. Even in the 90’s.
But it’s getting worse. Narcissism is now becoming a widespread mental health issue. Hard statistics are pointing toward a narcissist epidemic in the contemporary world.
This doesn’t make for good relationships.
Professor Brad Bushman of the Ohio State University: “Narcissists are very bad relationship partners.”
I can certainly vouch for that.
This rise in narcissism may have a potentially dire impact on our personal relationships. More narcissism means more narcissistic relationships.
Equaling more struggle and pain; and more manipulative and game-playing behavior.
I didn’t know that my first husband was a narcissist. I’m not sure that I’d ever fully made the connection between his behavior and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), until I was years invested in the relationship.
It might sound daft. Maybe a little naïve.
I wasn’t accustomed to people who behaved in manipulative ways. None of my family members were inclined to exploit the feelings of others for their own personal gratification. None of them were self-absorbed, mean or egotistical. Everyone who was close to me were straight-shooters.
When they loved, they just loved. Simple. I love that about my family.
I think that when you are someone who doesn’t know or practice intentional manipulation, you tend to be blind when faced with someone who does. It’s not in your data-base — you are unfamiliar with the language. So, you don’t expect it from others.
When you encounter someone who is narcissistic, it hits you like an atomic bomb. Boom. Debris all around. You claw for your life and desperately scramble for shelter.
The Charm. Friendliness. Kindness — The Narcissist.
This guy was finesse. He was very attractive — baby blues, perfect jawline … just the right amount of masculinity. Throw in a gentle demeanour and we have a killer combo.
He had style and took care of himself; his appearance and personal hygiene. A totally important trait in a partner if you ask me. No one wants someone whiffy.
He knew all the right moves. He knew how to make a woman swoon.
Dinner for two complete with candles and music?
Gifts made of gold?
Thoughtful, concerned and considerate?
Check. Check. Check.
Narcissistic people are passionate about the love-game. It’s the nature of the beast. They show great interest in romantic prospects and proceed to enact out their seduction with generosity, expressions of love, flattery, sex and romance.
He had wanted me.
In hindsight, I realize that he wanted me for all the wrong reasons. He wasn’t interested in me for the person I was on the inside. He had no desire to really connect.
I was a representation of his ego.
He said all the right things and I believed him. I gave him my heart.
“I love you more than life itself,” he said.
But he never really knew what love was all about.
Alas, there were fleeting moments throughout the years when I would get a glimpse of something else beneath the fake façade.
Something authentic and … humane.
I believed it was there. It’s not that narcissists don’t feel emotion. They just forget that everyone else does.
He hated to be vulnerable. Yet, it was in his most vulnerable moments that he felt real to me. Sadly, these were usually the same moments that followed a particularly traumatic ordeal. It was the only time he would appear sincerely apologetic for his behavior and how it impacted me.
He might have cared on some level.
It never lasted long enough to make a difference, though. He would never follow through on his promises to change.
It can be difficult to know when you first meet and become involved with a person who qualifies with Narcissist Personality Disorder. These individuals are experts at concealing the qualities that may reveal their narcissist tendencies. I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker.
Let’s flesh it out some more.
From Healthline: Narcissist Personality Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by:
· an inflated sense of importance
· a deep need for excessive attention and admiration
· lack of empathy for others
· often having troubled relationships
Furthermore, a person only needs to meet five of the following criteria to clinically qualify as a narcissist:
· grandiose sense of self-importance
· preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
· belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
· need for excessive admiration
· sense of entitlement
· interpersonally exploitative behavior
· lack of empathy
· envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
· demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
I spent twelve years married to a hardcore qualified narcissist. Here’s three of the most prevailing things the experience taught me about narcissism and most importantly, myself:
1. Say what? No Reasoning.
You cannot reason with a narcissist. Very little makes sense in their world. I’m certain the narcissist wasn’t around the day they were dishing up common-sense in-utero. At least, not my ex-narcissist.
Effective communication was non-existent.
It’s like your speaking to someone barricaded by an invisible screen constructed of ignorance and an acute incapacity to relate.
Impossible to penetrate but quick to ridicule and demean.
I learned how to hide myself — to conceal my vulnerabilities, my thoughts and musings, and to deny my true self to appease his vision of me.
My vulnerabilities were his power and ammunition. I learned how to protect them.
2. Devalue — Twisted Tongues.
A narcissist is a master at gaslighting. They possess the ability to inch into your mind and play with your sanity. Manipulative tendrils expertly seep into your thoughts so efficiently that you actually begin to question yourself.
Every word. Every action. Each gesture was his for taking.
Through emotional abuse and psychological manipulation, I learned to trust myself. I learned to be strong; I discovered the meaning of self-worth. Nobody has the right to devalue or use me as some kind of twisted amusement.
My thoughts are valid. My feelings do count.
I learned to find and believe in my voice. I learned to value myself.
3. Narcissistic Men are Really Weak.
When a narcissist can no longer deal with a confronting situation; when they begin to feel out of control, often it is violence that becomes their next move.
Women and children are fair game. Men, however, are a different story.
I never told my family the truth about the abuse until I ended the marriage. He was wary of my brother; of other men. He knew if my brother discovered how he treated me that he was done for. I knew it too.
It’s strange how we can protect an abusive partner. Fear is responsible for that.
It breeds all kinds of negativity and disempowerment. But you have to be strong; you have to believe in a better life to get through. You have to know that it’s not impossible to change your circumstances.
I found my fire and learned how to stand up for myself. I realized that nobody was going to save me. No one could pull me out of that life except me.
Only I could protect my spirit and make change.
I dug deep to face my fears and find that extra strength; and I had to push past the threat of violence long enough to form a plan to get out.
I could make it happen.
And then, I did.
. . .
Sharing your life with a narcissist is like existing in a warped world made of eggshells, guilt and self-condemnation. It’s a shadowed life where everything is literally the opposite of happiness.
Connection is just something you read about.
Narcissists don’t see the fault in their behavior and seldom do they learn from the past. It is as if people aren’t real to them; that feelings are nothing but a narrative in a fictional story and you’re their main character.
The woman who replaced me ended up in hospital. He beat her to a pulp.
If you asked him about it, he’d tell you it was nothing. He’d tell you that it was her fault; my fault; the fault of the girl who was before me.
Nowadays, I rarely think about those years. They belong with the wind. Yet, they are the same years that shaped the woman I am today.
A woman who sits down to write an article about lessons learned from a narcissist.
I hope they are wrong about the evolving narcissistic world. I hope that more people will find a way to look within to discover their authentic beauty rather than to “look at me”.
I would much rather look at someone who embodies the rich qualities of empathy and love any day.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos