Narcissists are people who believe and act as if they are apart from everyone else – they have a grandiloquent ego, they feel they are above anyone else, they are entitled and expect others to show them a special appreciation and consideration.
At the first contact, the narcissist will disguise themselves as a warm, charismatic and righteous individual, deeply preoccupied for the wellbeing of the people around him. But beyond that mask lays a problematic personality, selfish, with a very low or non-existent empathy, fastidious, emotionally fragile and insecure. The narcissist needs to be appreciated, validated and worshipped.
The narcissists see relationships to be like business transactions and they will try to get as much as possible, offering as little as possible. They want to dominate and enslave others, to gain a profit from them. To do that, they first have to ensnare the victim in their web of deception.
They hate to lose and they feel extremely hurt if rejected. Oftentimes, if they can’t get the thing they want, they will just devalue it. And because they consider themselves to be extremely special, they feel they can have anybody. And indeed, they usually make a very good first impression, because they very carefully craft their image, down to the smallest details. They know how to make themselves pleasant and they want people’s validation and love.
The relationship with a narcissist is an emotional roller coaster, going from bliss to agony and back, a long cycle of ecstasies and crashes. In the end, you will end up trying to survive on the scraps the narcissist throws at you. And, after that, prepare yourself to be utterly rejected.
When a narcissist is in a relationship, only one person matters. And that person will never be you. You will slowly end up in his or hers sphere of influence. But before that can happen, he/she will make you believe you are the luckiest human being alive - finally, you found your true soulmate.
How does a narcissist grabs hold of you?
In the first phase of your relationship, the narcissist will act flowless. He or she will perfectly adapt to your needs and wishes. Like in a honeymoon, you will be the focus of attention and his/her manifestations of love and adulation. The narcissist will start planning your future together, telling you exactly what you want to hear. Promises will be made, but none kept.
The narcissist speeds up the normal course of the relationship. Sure, a relationship can grow fast if the people involved are really attracted to each other and have a lot in common, but when it comes to narcissists, that growth is based on deception and lies. The narcissist will manage to speed things up by lying, telling you exactly what you want to hear, crafting a perfect image for himself/herself and for your future together. After a very short period of time, sometimes just days, they will want to make your relationship official, to introduce you to his/her parents. After just a few weeks, they will be talking about moving in together, about marriage, kids and where you will spend your holidays.
You will probably feel that things are rushed more than you are comfortable with, but you will convince yourself that there is no reason to feel that discomfort, that everything is ok, even though you never experienced that sort of thing in your previous relationships. You will probably think it is your fault, maybe it’s something wrong with you, maybe you have a fear of intimacy or maybe your past traumas are acting up, but you will definitely feel some sort of resistance to the way the relationship is manipulated by him/her.
Listening to your intuition will prove to be indeed very difficult, because the narcissist will overwhelm you with attention, affection and tenderness, gifts and flattery, phone calls and messages. Going out, he/she will be the perfect date – exactly how you dreamt of. You will be publicly praised and flattered and you will become more and more convinced that his/her feelings are real and genuine. The narcissist will make you pleasant surprises and tell you how important you are for him or her.
The things that the narcissist will often tell you are:
- You are my soulmate;
- I’ve never met anyone like you;
- I’ve never felt like this before;
- Destiny brought us together;
- We don’t need anyone else as long as we have each other;
- You understand me better than anyone else;
- I want to be with you for the rest of my life;
- I will not allow anyone to stand between us;
- You are the love of my life;
- I can’t imagine life without you;
- You are the most wonderful, beautiful, special person I’ve ever met.
The narcissist will listen to you very carefully to get to know you as much as possible, in order to understand what your vulnerabilities are, so he/she can later on use to manipulate you . But you will think you are so lucky to have a partner that is such a good listener and is so interested in you. The narcissist will want to know as much as possible about you, as fast as possible.
The narcissist will shower you in his/her love proclamations and will relentlessly repeat that your connection is so special that it transcends the human nature. You are soulmates, finally together, after so many searches. Usually, you need time to get to know someone and oftentimes, if you really do meet your soulmate, pompous love declarations are not needed. Be careful, pretentious love declaration are rather a red flag, not a measure of true love.
The narcissist will adopt an impeccable behaviour, not matter what the situation is. True love is not perfect, but the ones mimicking it have the tendency to get as close to perfection as possible, because they always try to be credible and they feel they have to go the extra mile so you don’t suspect anything.
The narcissist will mimic your behaviour: if you speak in a soft voice, he/she will do the same; if you are enthusiastic, he/she will also be; if you follow a sport, he/she will do too; if you don’t like certain foods, he/she will dislike them too. The narcissist will try to make you think “we are the same, we have so much in common.” But in this relationship, all these common treats are lies.
At the beginning of your relationship, the narcissist will offer you gifts that are a little bit over the top. Instead of giving you seven roses, he will give you 101. If you mention you need a new phone, he/she will buy it for you, even if you are just at the beginning of the relationship. He/she will shower you in gifts to make you feel in his/her debt – a feeling he/she will promptly exploit later on.
The narcissist is clingy, asking for all your attention, even if you are not in his/her physical proximity. He/she will send you a lot of messages and will call you several times a day, even when he/she doesn’t have anything to say.
The narcissist creates relationships that lack a healthy personal space. You will feel that you two are One and you must inform him/her on every step you take, on every decision you make. He/she constantly tries to create a comfortable space where you can lose yourself. The narcissist will slowly isolate you from the outside world, but the separation will be subtle and gradual. Oftentimes, you will not realise how damaging the separation is for you. For example, he/she will tell you how much he/she wants to spend your free time together, because he/she loves you so much and you make him/her so happy. And when you spend time together, the narcissist will give you a good time, so you will not want anything else. Slowly, step by step, the narcissist will weave a web of lies and deeds, casting a spell on you; and soon you will become an addict.
When you grow fond of someone, it is difficult to leave that person. But a narcissist, lacking empathy, can easily discard someone when that person is no longer fit for purpose. People care about those close to them, even when they are fighting or when their relationship is in trouble. When the emotional connection is alive, the difficult moments can always be overcome. But a narcissist cannot really care about someone and he/she will have struggle to have an authentical emotional connection. That is way is so easy for them to leave when the other person is no longer of any use to them.
At the beginning of the relationship, the narcissist will idealize you, but soon he/she will move to the second stage: devaluing you. It is worth mentioning though, those two stages are sometimes interlocking: in many instances, devaluing elements are followed by idealization instances.
The narcissist will hold you prisoner using the carrot and the stick method. You will experience real fear when anticipating his/her reaction when you don’t do exactly how he/she wishes. You will end up changing your priorities and your behaviour, because you will fear his/her reaction: threatening you, making scenes, being cold with you, relentlessly telling you what you do wrong. But you will stay in the relationship because you hope things will get better. And usually they do, for a while, each abuse session is usually followed by you being worshipped again.
The narcissist has a very fragile ego and is always afraid to lose control – over you, over the situation, over life. He/she hates to feel inferior or of lesser importance. That is why the narcissist devalues and threatens others. That is why they reward others (by grandiose gestures, gifts or affection) when they act just as the narcissist wants – when they give them their personal power and let themselves be ruled. And if the narcissists are not “bad” all the time, all you have to do to stay on their good side is to unconditionally obey them, to offer them whatever they need, to forget about yourselves, to put them on a pedestal and worship them.
A narcissist can treat you better than anyone ever had (he/she will make you feel extraordinary, the most beautiful and special person in the word). But a narcissist will also make you feel worse than you ever did. The intensity of the worship phase is the “hook” – knowing it can be so good makes you put up with the abuse and self-delusion in the hope the good times will be back. You hope that if you will subject yourself to his/her abuse, the narcissist will return to the honeymoon phase.
The narcissist starts showing his/her true colours when your devaluation begins. People stuck in such relationships often don’t even realise what is going on, they really don’t expect something so cruel and painful to happen to them. They remain caught in the narcissist’s web of deceit. They often ask themselves how can a person be so cruel, so void of compassion and empathy, even after they have offered their heart on a silver plate. They ask themselves how can their partner use against them all the intimate secrets they told them, after being so warm and tender at the beginning. They ask themselves if they are losing their minds…
But we will discuss the next phase, the devaluation stage, in the next article. See you soon!
Dr. Ursula Sandner