We’ve heard all the stories.
He seemed like the perfect date. Caring, attentive, generous and enthusiastic.
You’re flattered by the attention of a man who seems to have it all.
You think you have the perfect relationship.
But suddenly you wake up to find you’re in bed with a narcissist.
Small things interrupt the perfect image of romance.
A hint of rage at a waiter who innocently mixes up your order. Impatience at your need to catch up with close friends. Disparaging comments about people you thought were important to him.
At first you ignored them.
Now as the hints pile up, you understand them for what they really are. Red flags.
A charming and seductive man, the perfect date, becomes angry, controlling and frightening.
It doesn’t take much to flip him. A small spat or disagreement. Rescheduling a date. Not wanting to spend all your free time with him. Your disappointment when he cancels at the last minute.
You unwittingly become the target of rage, or cold inhuman anger.
Internet dating brings together people who in the past might never have met. We’re thrown into relationships and interactions that probably wouldn’t have happened without the internet.
There’s a lot of profile marketing on dating sites.
A tiny adjustment here, a photoshopped image there, an admin support person morphs into an office manager and voila, the perfect date.
We also don’t know much about the people we meet - except what they tell us themselves, and what we can find out from Dr. Google.
The people we meet online aren’t always as they appear to be - DOH!
But we need really good instincts to uncover the narcissists in the internet shark-pool.
Narcissists are initially charming.
Their attention is flattering, especially for those of us who have been starved of affection and attunement in our past. We can end up more vulnerable because we just don’t have that sense of inner stability and security. Nor do we understand how healthy relationships work.
So the warning signs just pass us by.
We must have misunderstood. Maybe he’s just having a bad day. Perhaps we are being a little oversensitive. Maybe if I try just a little harder he will be grateful and love me the way I know I truly deserve. You can wait forever for a narcissist to give you reciprocal and committed love.
Although they may appear committed, they normally have a hidden agenda.
This might range from needing you to look after them, to siphoning off your money, friends, contacts or your energy. Not all narcissists are overtly manipulative or greedy, but they are, underneath it all, needy and and self-focused, unwilling to take the risk of truly committing to love someone, warts and all.
All relationships go through bad patches and require give and take.
But a relationship with a narcissist isn’t reciprocal. The generosity and compromise in a relationship with a narcissist is one-sided.
You are doing all the giving and he is doing all the taking.
SIGNS YOU NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR
They can’t or wont validate your hurt feelings.
If they do something that upsets you, narcissists generally wont be prepared to acknowledge their mistake or soothe your upset. They are too focused on trying to manage the shame elicited by your implied criticism.
They expect you to be available for them, but are not reciprocal in their availability.
Narcissists tend to make themselves very busy when you are sick or need their help. Although they may initially appear to be available, this availability tends to diminish once they feel more sure of your interest.
They want to control you.
Obviously no one starts a relationship saying they want to control their partner, but buying you a phone so that they can check on you is probably a bad sign. They might also discourage you from seeing your friends, monitor your social media or pressure you to spend all your time with them. Controlling behaviour isn't limited to narcissists, but it’s definitely a sign that a relationship is not healthy.
They belittle you.
Narcissists will sometimes use sarcasm or belittling language to humiliate you, perhaps in front of others. They may fob off your concern with excuses such as “can’t you take a joke?”
They might try to manipulate you.
The manipulation can be quite subtle, causing you to question your doubts and fears. Being afraid to say no to someone because you fear their disapproval or anger is not healthy.
They think they are above the rules.
Narcissists prefer not to have to follow the rules that apply to us lesser mortals. The sense of entitlement that accompanies narcissism can manifest in expectations of special treatment. If they are not allowed to jump the coffee queue or secure their favourite table at a popular restaurant, they can become disproportionately angry.
They are unpredictable.
Narcissists often wax and wane in terms of their attention and availability. They may shower you with affection and attention (love-bombing) when they want something from you. Their involvement is dependant on their own needs rather than any genuine commitment to you as an seperate and autonomous being.
It’s all about how things look.
Because they are largely dependant on social cues to manage their self-image, narcissists will be focussed on how things appear, and most importantly, how they appear to those whose opinion matters to them. So its OK if you like trakky daks, but if his self-important friends see you together when you are inappropriately attired, you are in trouble.
They cannot see your point of view. It is OK to disagree. But if your partner is unwilling to acknowledge your point of view or ignores, belittles or undermines you, you need to ask yourself if they are really there for you.
If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, then the best option is to leave while you still can. They probably wont change unless they see it as being in their interest.
The fundamental problems which cause narcissism are not something that can be fixed through self-reflection, although that would be a good start.
People suffering from narcissism tend not to seek therapy, unless they fear that they will lose something important to them or reach a crisis point.
Staying in relationship with someone who is narcissistic until that happens will require patience. You may also need to accept that you might never receive the acknowledgement you long for in your relationship.