The narcissist loves nothing more than messing with your head. It gives them power over you and effectively renders you defenceless. This is why recovery can be so hard. They have numerous ways of doing this but this post will look at the five most dangerous.
Before we examine the ways they do this, let’s first look at the three main types of narcissists.
At the beginning of the relationship the narcissist will tell you how wonderful you are, claim you are their soul mate and that they have never felt this way before. They will lavish attention on you and it can be incredibly hard to resist. They will continue with this idealisation stage until they believe you are dependent upon them. Once they sense this they will begin to devalue you. They will withdraw their attention and affection but project that onto you, saying that you aren’t as loving as you used to be.
In an attempt to redress this accusation, you may contact them more at which point they will tell you that you are too needy and smothering them. This leads them nicely onto the final stage which is the discard. Here they cruelly discard you like trash. Literally cutting you off completely as if they never knew you. This can feel intensely painful and confusion as your feelings were genuine, even though theirs were not.
This phase is to make you question yourself, doubt your memory and perception by giving you false information. They may tell you that they have an appointment on Monday and then when you ask them how the appointment went they tell you that they never had an appointment, you must be making it up or going mad. It is a deliberate attempt to weaken your cognitive abilities and allows them to lie with ease, blaming you for getting it wrong.
The narcissist will have started the smear campaign early on in your relationship, dropping little nuggets to anyone and everyone about how you are the problem. It could be that they imply you drink or do drugs, have a mental health problem or are aggressive. They are clever enough to choose people who they know will never question you about it. Once the relationships ends, they use all of their previous claims to support the reason for the relationship failing. They are completely unable to accept any responsibility for any part in the break up – you are absolutely the inadequate one.
At this point the narcissist will bring another person into the relationship (doesn’t have to be in a sexual relationship sense) to make you jealous. They will tell you how great this other person is, how well they get on, how attentive they are and then put you down by saying “why can’t you be more like them?” Again this can cause you to react in ways which may reinforce the behaviour the narcissist has implied in the smear campaign. For example, on the way to pick up the children the narcissist tells you that this third person has asked them to have an affair. You may be upset or angry at this and so when you go to pick up the children, all anyone else sees is your behaviour and not what has preceded it thus reinforcing their perception of you as described by the narcissist.
False Self versus True Self
Narcissists have had years of practice at creating a facade about themselves. They will initially present as being very loving, caring and mild-mannered. This is to fly under your radar and increase their attractiveness. They often mirror exactly what you are looking for (hence the “too good to be true” idea) in order to strengthen that connection. Unfortunately this is all false. Their true self will slowly start to reveal itself, usually in times of stress. At first you will probably brush it off as a one off but eventually it will become clear that this version is the REAL them. The rest was all a lie. And that realisation you were in love with a fake can hit victims the hardest.
They hate you because you represent something they feel they don’t have. It really isn’t about you. It is about the hatred they have for themselves. So smile today because there is something you are doing right that has a lot of people thinking about you.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Focus on yourself!
Do things that make you happy. You will have played second fiddle for the duration of the relationship so get back to doing things you enjoy.
Set boundaries and go low or no contact
Narcissistic personalities thrive on the possibility of combat. Develop a mantra for every interaction you have with the narcissist or where possible use third parties for any necessary communication (children etc)
Don’t give your ex any ammunition to use against you
Never acknowledge any mistake you may have made as they will use it against you at a later day. As the police say “anything you say, can and will be used against you” so kept schtum!
Don’t be afraid to call the police or services if the abuse continues
This will send a clear and powerful message to the ex that you won’t tolerate his behaviour anymore. It also shows your children, if you have them, that it is not OK to be treated that way. And it is evidence should you have to go to court.
- Make sure you have plenty of support
I found that having a variety of friends who bring out different sides of your personality is so helpful when you are recovering. Have the friend who will hug you whilst you cry, the friend who will get you drunk and make you have fun, have the friend who always knows the right thing to say to put a smile on your face. Oh and the friend with the shotgun. You know, just in case 😉
If you are struggling with a narcissistic relationship and would like some support. Please do reach out and contact me. I really do want to help and am happy just to listen in those times when you just need a shoulder to cry on.