“When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people are going to be very disappointed that they are not it.
Narcissists are a lot like zombies – they are a popular topic of conversation but no one wants to be within 100 yards of one. There’s been much written the last few years about Narcissism and its negative effect on relationships. You may be familiar with some of their prominent and dominant traits (link to http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/10/understanding-the-language-of-narcissistic-abuse/). Ninja traits are camouflaged and a bit more subtle.
The following observations are derived from my own experience being in relationships with three narcissists. Admittedly a small sample size – not exactly a thousand person double blind pharmaceutical study. I don’t blame the narcissists – they were just acting out of their programming. The primary characteristic of a narcissist is that deep down inside they are incredibly insecure. In order to hide that insecurity they lash out and treat the ones around them like disposable paper towels in order to appear confident.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist once it starts to go sideways is about as enjoyable and emotionally fulfilling as being water boarded or having a rattlesnake chew on your ankle. When something goes seriously wrong in your life, sometimes a slightly tongue in cheek look is the best way to view it.
- Narcissists anthropomorphize small animals. They prefer smaller animals like pure bred cats and Paris Hilton like pocket puppies. Narcissists treat their pets like the extremely spoiled children they are. Dates will get canceled because Morris seems troubled or Fido seems depressed. Dinners will be interrupted by them begging on the table. “Fido just peed all over the wood floor and pooped on your new Persian rug – oh it’s so cute”.
- Narcissists are racist. A significant trait of the narcissistic personality is they consider themselves above all other human beings. One significant difference between them and a person with genuine empathy for the human race is the narcissist will blurt out ethnic slur’s and slanders and see absolutely no reason why anyone should be offended. What? Me? Racist? Never.
- Narcissists have three or more addictions. Addictions arise from a person’s inability to be present to certain feelings from their past. Addiction allows them to distract themselves from an uncomfortable feeling such as loneliness, sadness, frustration and insecurity so they don’t have to feel it in the present moment. Combinations observed included alcohol/diet pills/Kardashians and smoking/phubbing/ sex.
4.Narcissists are always late. Not 5 to 10 minutes late. More like 30 to 60 minutes late. They show up an hour late for reservation and demand to be seated immediately. Of course being late is never their fault. There’s always something or someone they blame for their tardiness. They’ll use excuses like “that’s just the way people of my heritage are. You can’t deny me my heritage and expect me to be on time”.
5.Narcissists are chronic phubbers. Few habits are as annoying as having someone constantly using their phone while they are at dinner. We all have responsibilities to work, family and friends. Very few are true emergencies that require immediate attention. Texting your girlfriends during a lunch date or talking to your child about what color ski jacket they should buy during a romantic dinner or interrupting an awesome kiss to read a Facebook notification is just rude.
6.Narcissists disappear like clockwork about every six weeks. When a narcissist senses you may actually begin to realize their complete insincerity they will suddenly disappear. For a day or for a week or more. They inform you they need to “think about the relationship” and decide “if it works for us“. The only thing they’re really doing is withdrawing their affections in order create a void for the partner which they hope will draw them back into the narcissist’s web. They conveniently disappear for events in which their partner would truly like sincere support, like a quarterly oncology checkup or death in their partner’s family.
7.Narcissists are extremely jealous. The immense insecurity a narcissist feels is manifested in their insane jealousy in the most benign situations. A dinner meeting with a medical colleague is only acceptable if there are no female doctors attending. A lone hair in the bathroom sink elicits a comment of “who stayed here last night?” “Hmmmm….let’s see -the hair is the exact same length and color as yours; and you stayed here last night”. Sitting in a bar waiting for her because she is again 30 to 60 minutes late is forbidden. She expects you to wait in your car in the parking lot or in your office so no women are nearby.
8.Narcissists were abused in adult romantic relationship. That abuse makes them hyper vigilant and hypersensitive to anything that resembles that abusive man or that abusive time even in the smallest ways. Bumping into them while cooking in close quarters in the kitchen will result in a deer in the headlights look or defensive comment. No person, adult or child, raises their hands and arms over their face in a self-defensive posture unless they’ve been struck previously. Narcissists will never admit to past abuse in any relationship. Other past partners were always “wonderful” and “perfect”.
9.Narcissists expect and demand emotional support – but return none. They will tell you how important it is that you support their working and home endeavors in everyday life. Accompany her to work functions help her at business events. Supporter her in times of family crisis. Be a cheerleader for her aspirations and dreams. When it comes to you receiving support you are strictly flying solo. Have a death in the family? You’re going alone to the funeral because she’s busy. Have a huge speaking presentation you’ve worked months on that she promised to attend? She’s got a “thing” to do at home. Have a sick family member who needs help? You are neglecting her if you go visit them in the hospital.
10.Narcissists rewrite and change history to fit their stories. They have incredibly selective memory. Narcissists have a unique ability to rewrite or erase history and change it to fit their stories and their lies. You know that cute French restaurant you went to three weeks ago and sat in the second booth, joked about snails and she wore a gray skirt and white top? Never happened according to her. The promise you made to each other to go away for a specified weekend in Wisconsin to enjoy biking? Never happened. Multiple times she promised to quit smoking? Never happened.
11.Narcissist can never utter the three important words in a relationship. No, not “I love you”. They can say that with ease during the love-bombing phase because they aren’t sincere. Narcissists can never utter “I am sorry “ because they are never ever wrong. So why would they need to say sorry? You should be in awe of someone so perfect that they have never been wrong.
12.Narcissists only cry as means to an end. They are devoid of a true scale of emotions because they see themselves as superior. Narcissists don’t cry during sad movies because that might make them look weak. They will definitely cry in one instance, though, to serve their own agenda. During a disagreement or argument, when confronted with indisputable facts that contradict their position they will cry crocodile tears to take the attention off the facts and to elicit empathy.
13.Narcissists refuse to make plans for the future. An important part of any long term relationship is planning for your future together. The goals and dreams you both have, for yourselves and for the relationship. Narcissists will not commit to any long-term plans or shared meaning. They are non-committal about the future, which gives them a window to change their mind, or do what is convenient for them.
If there were a narcissist union, each woman I dated would’ve been a card carrying tenured executive member. The lies, the broken promises and contemptuous treatments were constant. These traits are not a condemnation of narcissists as much as a revelation that these are people I attracted into my life, and abuse I tolerated. It’s important to take responsibility for giving them permission to treat me badly and allowing them to do so.
How do you prevent a narcissist from running rough shod over your life?
- Healthy boundaries must be set early on for what behavior you will and will not accept from the narcissist, as you would in any relationship. Those are not the boundaries the narcissist believes you should have, but the healthy boundaries you believe in your heart work for you. A relationship is a balance of the values and priorities of both individuals. Otherwise, its just a dictatorship.
- Notify the narcissist in a calm manner when those boundaries are violated. They will do everything they can to convince you what they just said/did/did not do never actually took place (see #10), but hold firm. You are not crazy, as the narcissist would have you believe. They are.
- Decide how many times you are willing to put up with the narcissist treating you badly and violating your boundaries. One time? Ten times? Personally, I believe in the three strike rule. It is perhaps generous but I believe a good place to cut them off. (The only exception is physical abuse. The first time that happens the narcissist gets shown the door.) That means if you set that boundary, you must end the relationship when that is violated, or the narcissist will keep talking advantage of you and never take your boundaries seriously.
The first time you are abused by a narcissist, or anyone for that matter, you can consider yourself a victim. Anytime you allow them to abuse you after that first incident, you are a willing participant.