June 15, 2016

How To Escape a Narcissist

How to tell if you're dating a narcissist, and more importantly, how to get out.

A long time ago, when I was a teenager, I dated a narcissist. I didn't realize what he was until much later, when I was picking up all the shattered pieces of what my life had been before he came along, who I had been before, and trying to rebuild. It was the most damaging experience of my life, that despite time and a lot of self work still resonates with me to this day. It was that awful. 

When I met another narcissist in January and walked away in February I was thrown. Really, really thrown. It brought up a lot of old feelings, most of them self destructive and discouraging. But then I realized that my first encounter with a narcissist lasted over three years and nearly ended me. This one didn't make it to two months, and I walked out when I realized what was happening with my self esteem intact. 

Narcissists are dangerous. Truly, truly dangerous. And often it's way too late before you realize what they are. 

So here's how to spot a narcissist


1. Instant chemistry 

In a whirlwind that feels too good to be true they'll sweep you right off your feet. They're extremely charming. They're excellent at reading people and know all the right things to say, all the right buttons to push. You'll think you have so much in common and that you want all the same things, but the truth is they're just telling you what you want to hear to disarm you. 

2. Shameless heavy pursuit

A narcissist attempting to woo you is coming out guns blazing. Whatever you want, you will get in very...high...doses. Remember the five love languages? There are five main ways individuals experience love: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. A lot of people struggle to recognize other people's love languages, and many couples struggle to acknowledge each other's, leaving them feeling unfulfilled. 

But a narcissist will detect your love language immediately and will speak it fluently. What does this look like? Well, my languages are words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch, in that order. So when the new narcissist met me, he said everything. He wasn't going to let me know he liked me by putting his hand on my hand or shimmying up next to me. He expressed everything verbally. Because I did. I like you. You're really something. He talked to me every minute of every day that he was awake. Because quality time is important to me. When he was with me he was always touching me in some way, because watch me for five minutes around someone I care about and it's obvious I need to be touching them at all times. 

3. Constant Flattery

This is important. It seems like it's part of heavy pursuit, but it isn't. This isn't a narcissists way of trying to lure you in. This is a tell. A narcissist won't engage with someone who they don't deem worthy of their attention, but their admiration is coupled with resentment. Be careful if you're hearing your qualities listed again and again. Beautiful, strong, independent, confident, talented. These are the ones the new narcissist just couldn't stop saying. Beautiful was always first. 


4. Attack

So here you are in your fairy tale romance with this person who swept you off your feet, who not only has so much in common with you and wants the same things you do, but who also somehow just gets you and gives you everything you need that you probably never got from any other relationship, at least not all at once and with little to no effort to even communicate your needs. 

You won't trust it at first. You won't be easily won over. If you did, you'd be no fun. To a narcissist you're nothing but a challenge. A mark. This is how they validate themselves, because if they can win you, that means they're just as good as you. In fact - better, because the thing about narcissists is that they're better than everyone. They walk into the room, pick out the person they think it will be most difficult to make fall in love with them, and then become obsessed with that end. 

Until they get it. 

The moment you start to trust that maybe this isn't too good to be true. The moment they realize you're in it. That's when it's over. You will know it immediately. Because that constant, steady stream of love will quickly dry up and you will be under attack. 

Narcissists believe they are superior to others and they do no like it when reality threatens to disrupt that view. Their goal is to make you small, and once they've gained your love and trust they will have you at a disadvantage. This is when they start to slowly chip away at your self esteem, the goal being to have this once "beautiful, strong, independent, confident, talented" person reduced to someone who is completely dependent on them for validation; for love; for happiness.

For everything.  

Spot the Signs


Don't immediately jump up and run out of a first date if you start hitting it off thinking the chemistry is fake. Real chemistry is out there. 

Watch out of inconsistencies. 

A narcissist's power comes from their charm, and a lot of their tactics are reactive and based in the moment. That said, they don't follow up with their own lies very well over an extended period of time. So pay attention. Did they say they feel one way about something on the first date but then state it differently on the third? Are they always agreeing with you, even if you contradict yourself? Are they trying to relieve concerns you haven't expressed? 
i.e.: My new narcissist told me very early on that he hated when guys called girls crazy but didn't own their own behaviors that made the act "crazy." He also told he appreciated "real" bodies as opposed to the kind you see in magazines. 

This was a tip off to me, because I'm not worried about being called crazy, and I'm not the least bit insecure about my body. So why was he telling me this? It was almost like he was reading from a script, or going down a list. Possible things she could be concerned about. Must disarm. 

Take a step back

Narcissists rely on chemistry. Most of us are savvy enough to see the truth and act on it when it's right in front of us. Narcissists rely on clouding your view with their charm, creating a haze of chemistry around you so that you can't see the truth of who they really are and what their agenda is. 

It is much more difficult for narcissists to charm you to death over text or email. Here, their tactics start to become obvious. It's also easier to spot inconsistencies here, because all you have to do is scroll up. 

If you start getting that uneasy feeling that something just isn't right, keep it in a text space for a while and see if things hold up once the charm factor is gone. 

Beware of too much flattery

Not just that, but pay close attention to how the flattery is being offered, and what else is being said. It seems to me that my new narcissist was rejected a lot by the women he wanted. Not that no one wanted him, just often not the people he wanted. That's life, right? We all go through it. But for him, that turned into a resentment of beautiful women. 

Whenever he called me beautiful, he always threw something in about me not being like the others, not having turned into a shitty person even though I could have. Little quips here and there that made me stop and go huh? And finally, when I ended it, he said, "I guess you were nothing more than a pretty girl." 

If there's resentment hiding in the compliment, watch out. 

Also, if someone is constantly listing your qualities but you haven't known each other that long, take a step back and pay attention. Strong, independent...what had I done two weeks in to demonstrate these qualities? Nothing! He was going off of an impression of me. Just because I was sitting in a bar not looking for attention, he immediately assigned these qualities to me and made me his mark. 

A narcissists pursuit is never really about you, it's about them, and having them assign qualities to you that either aren't yours or that they just don't know you well enough to have identified can help uncover this truth. 

If they attack you, leave. Immediately.

Couple's fight. That's reality. But a healthy fight looks like, "Why do you always have to stay out so late?" or, "Why can't you just put the Fritos away when you're done, why do they have to stay out all night?" 

A healthy fight does not include attacking a person's self-esteem. It doesn't include belittling and disrespecting someone. 

If this is happening, get out right away. It isn't a fluke. It wasn't a one time thing. It does not matter if they apologize. Get. Out. Immediately. 

Narcissists may place nice until they've met their goal and gotten you to fall for them, but just because they've met their goal doesn't mean they're done with you. They need constant food for their ego, and anything you give them works. If you complain. If you get angry. If you get sad. If you indulge them in any way they will get what they need from you

You cannot change a narcissist. You can talk until you are blue in the face but it won't change them. They just don't care. They never did. 

The only way to survive a narcissist is to get away and cut contact indefinitely. My first narcissist found me almost ten years later and tried to pull me back in. I made the mistake of trying to kindly decline, and then he rounded on me, spouting off insults, basically implying that I wasn't good enough to say no. When I blocked his number he had family members call me, friends. He called from every pay phone in Harlem until he finally got bored. Not because he was crazy about me. He never cared about me. But because he wanted his power. He wanted his ego fed. And I had cut off what used to be a very reliable source. 

Rebuild Your Self Esteem


If you have been involved with a narcissist, especially if it was for a long time (like oh say three and a half years?) I'm sure it's left a scar. It isn't easy to rebuild yourself after someone you trusted has worked so hard to cut you down. 

I thought it happened to me because I was weak. I thought I was an easy target, and that's what had attracted him to me. It made me feel even worse about everything that had happened because I felt like it was my fault for not being strong enough. 

But the truth is, narcissists don't choose their marks that way. If they think someone is weak they think they are beneath them and not worth the effort. Narcissists target people they perceive to be a challenge. They chase universally esteemed (if sometimes superficial) qualities. Beauty. Wealth. Fame. Popularity. Talent. Confidence. They look for someone elevated to elevate themselves, especially if they can reduce them later.

So if it's happened to you, don't feel bad. There's nothing wrong with you. If anything you're shining a fabulous light and that's why that crazy ole narcissist saw you. 

Not every guy that it doesn't work out with is a narcissist. Not every bad guy, every jerk, every liar, every cheater, every whatever-he-might-be is a narcissist. Some guys (and gals, by the way) are just jerks. Handle them how you will. 

But if you meet a narcissist, understand that you are dealing with a person who lacks empathy. They don't love you. They don't even like you. They can't. You are a means to their own end, a piece of their self serving puzzle, and as such you are in danger. If you meet a narcissist, get the hell out as quickly as you can and never look back. 

Not even to see if they're chasing you. Just run. 

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