I admit, I totally brushed off the early signs… and continued to make excuses for the narc-ex’s poor behavior throughout the ENTIRE relationship.
And no, it’s not because I’m “stupid” (as I’ve been told many, many times. I’ve also seen/heard other survivors say this of themselves for having repeatedly fallen for the NPD manipulation tactics) or addicted to “drama” (do not allow yourself to be invalidated or gas-lit by anyone. Emotional/mental abuse IS ABUSE).
For me, it was primarily because I had no idea what NPD abuse looked like… and my almost non-existent boundaries and unhealed emotional wounds made me the PERFECT target for narcissistic predators.
If you recognize any of the following signs, CHOOSE YOU over the phony soulmate/BFF with the make-believe future plans and run the other way as fast as you can.
Because while the “highs” can feel great, they’re far and few and NOT genuine love or happiness. The “good” feelings are sadly the result of manipulation and intermittent reinforcement and absolutely NOT worth the pain, confusion, and all the work it will take to recover from emotional and mental abuse (and in my case, multiple calls to the crisis hotline during my darkest and most hopeless moments).
I was his saving angel… he was crazy about me beyond words. He was constantly in tears as he confessed, he’s never felt love or happiness like this, until I came along.
So… how fast were you told you were “unlike anyone else”?
Love bombing – or idealization, is the first stage in the narcissistic cycle of abuse. It’s when the narc figuratively bombs his or her target in as many ways as possible with love, affection, attention, and gifts.
Everything about you will fascinate the narc and he/she will love every little part of who you are, what you do, and how you do everything.
I was starting to feel suffocated but remained silent. Why? I’ve never had anyone make such a huge deal about me like he did, and…
- I didn’t want to discourage him, so
- I justified my discomfort as not knowing what being truly appreciated felt like.
The truth is, narcissists grow ridiculously excited over all the “supply” (love, affection, attention, status, financial gain, etc.) they anticipate on squeezing out of you, that they cannot contain themselves. (They’re TRULY excited! But not because you’re amazing… nope, it’s because they’re counting on you to make them look good to everyone else.)
And because people with narcissistic personality disorder are unable to emotionally bond, their “feelings” are shallow and fleeting. They NEED to QUICKLY hook their “source of supply” (YOU) before they flatline.
If they thrust you up on a pedestal and claim you’re their soulmate shortly after you’ve just met… go immediately into ALERT MODE.
Use Social Media to Provoke Jealousy
Narcissists will use social media to stir up feelings of jealousy & chip at your confidence in the relationship. This is also to manipulate you into working harder at “earning” the narc’s attention, so they don’t give it to someone “more deserving”.
The narc-ex told me, “It’s so strange, baby… everyone else has faded away and you’re the only one in color.” Yet, he was constantly “heart”-ing and commenting on photos of scantily dressed women… as well as posting questionable comments hinting about his “availability” on posts made by newly divorced or other vulnerable women.
Each time I inquired about his activities, he’d immediately apologize, “I don’t ever want you to feel disrespected”… yet the shady behavior always resumed after only a few days.
Don’t fall for the sweet nothings… actions speak louder than words. If the crappy behavior doesn’t improve, CHOOSE YOU and make improvements to your space by removing the disrespectful and inconsiderate presence that causes you grief.
You Start Playing Detective
You’ve never been the jealous, suspicious type, but you suddenly find yourself digging for explanations to their stories and behavior because they just don’t seem – quite right.
Some of the “mysteries” I had to dig up…
- Didn’t he say he’s been separated for 2 years? So why is there a post from 2 months ago celebrating their anniversary at a fancy restaurant?
- Why is that woman posting comments as though she and the narc have a private joke/conversation going?
- At one point when the narc posted a photo of his young, special needs son (whom he exploits every chance he gets) winking at the camera, several women commented, “Look at him, a womanizer just like his dad!” (What would prompt not one or two… but several women to say that?)
You have the right to feel happy and safe. If this person’s words and actions constantly make you feel uncomfortable – and they fail to resolve this issue… you need to resolve it by removing yourself from that mess.
Accuse You of Feeling Emotions They Intentionally Provoked
They will accuse you of being jealous after openly flirting with others. They will withhold attention and affection for an entire weekend – then accuse you of being needy.
And if you don’t notice their bad behavior, they’ll serve it to you on a silver platter.
When I was totally swamped with projects, I made sure to keep my focus and emotions in check so I don’t end up being distracted and falling behind. He wasn’t too pleased with my self-awareness, so he made it a point to shine a spotlight on his bad behavior when I didn’t notice them.
For example, everything would be totally fine when he suddenly asks, “Ummm are you mad at me? Ugh! Did I do something stupid again?” I eventually learned that when he did this, it meant I can expect to find inappropriate posts/comments he made on FB or IG.
Of course, when I would eventually bring these activities (slapping ??? all over boob pix or commenting “yummy” on provocative selfies) to his attention, he would accuse me of spying on him and reading into things that meant nothing… then demand that I learn to trust him because, “You’re pushing me away again.”
But because my self worth was pretty much ZERO at the time, I found myself THANKING the narc for being so patient with me while I “work” on my jealousy. If that’s not messed up, I don’t know what is.
See, you’re a grown adult… there’s no room in your life for these types of stupid games. People who want to control your thoughts and emotions are MANIPULATORS and these behaviors should never be tolerated.
They Flatter Your Deepest Insecurities
If you’re self-conscious about your looks, they’ll be in awe of your unrivaled beauty. If you feel your kindness has gone unnoticed, they’ll celebrate how beautiful your heart is. Whenever you need validation, they’ll be your strongest supporter and biggest fan.
The narc-ex’s favorite phrase… “I SEE who you are at the core. I’m so fortunate for being able to see the extent of your kindness and beauty that others are too busy to notice. Thank you for letting me be the one.”
This is done to build your trust & dependency in the narc. Finally, someone who can see and accept me for who I am! When, all they’re really doing is grooming you to provide narcissistic supply for the “one person who appreciates you for who you really are.”
Make no mistake… the narc WILL eventually use your insecurities against you.
I remember this about a narc I dated many years ago… I’ve always been pretty self-conscious about my appearance. I felt like I was always the “ugly duckling” of the crowd. This guy knew this… and whenever I finished doing my hair and makeup for date nights, he’d always tell me… “Wow! Look at you! I will always think you are beautiful no matter what anyone else says!”
What da serious fork…
The abuser manipulates his/her victim into questioning their thoughts and memories… until they begin to doubt themselves, their judgment, their memories, sanity, and even their reality.
For example – The narc-ex offered to unfriend and block a woman he kept engaging with inappropriately. At first, I declined because I wanted to trust him… however, after several repeated occurrences, I took him up on HIS offer. His reaction:
“When is this going to stop, baby? Why are you trying to control me? This is becoming a serious problem – I confided in my friends about this and they ALL told me that telling me who I can/can’t be friends on FB is taking this to the extreme!”
Ok, hold up. HE offered to block that woman in the first place, remember? Plus, he doesn’t have any friends! (Of course, if he confided in anyone, it was likely my potential replacement.)
The first time he pulled something like this, I didn’t know what to think. He seemed so far removed from reality, my brain couldn’t keep up with the crazy-talk. But after the 2nd or 3rd time, I started to speak up. “Why are you talking like your brain is broken?” And as you can imagine – all hell would break loose.
If you’re the family scapegoat, you can probably relate. We don’t keep our mouths shut, do we? We speak up and ALWAYS point out what we think is wrong or unfair… regardless of the consequences.
Gaslighting can also look like:
- Publicly flirting with others, then accuse you of being paranoid over nothing.
- Constantly denying something they said – and claim you’re either blowing thing out of proportion or that you’re only hearing what YOU want to hear.
- You question their crappy behavior and they ask you – if it’s so horrible, why hasn’t anyone else complained about it?
- Why are you crying? Can’t you take a joke?
- Hiding your things, then acting as though you’re losing your mind.
Gaslighting is dangerous. It is the cause of crazy-making. When you start doubting yourself (even when you KNOW you speak the truth), you need to step away and shut off the gas leak before it completely destroys your mind.
Behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable, too good to be true, doubt your thoughts and judgements, and make you feel crappy and unsafe are all RED FLAGS.
Practice caution if you so choose to proceed… and lock down your boundaries. Keep your heart and deep, vulnerable feelings locked up in the safe at home until this person has proved themselves worthy to access your heart.
Recovering from trauma ain’t fun… sadly, some don’t make it out… awareness and prevention are your BEST FRIENDS.