Why Were You With a Narcissist? — Part 3

20130723-135839.jpgThis post is continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

We need to examine two things at the beginning of any relationship:

Are they capable of love?

What is reasonable to expect when someone says they love you?

Here are some of the clues to the answers:

1. How they act is more important than what they say.

It is easy for a narcissist to tell you what you want to hear, so let’s look at how those types of statements actually look and if they are doing what they say.

They say they support you.

Support is not a verbal thing. If they are your partner, support means that they do part of the work, talk to someone on your behalf, do things that make it easier for you to get whatever it is done. They do not just say they support you; they do something to show it. In addition to that, they will express kindness and encouragement. If someone is providing support, the work is easier with them around.

Ask yourself if your partner is helping you or if they are emphasizing that you should be ‘independent’ and not so needy. Does their “support” actually mean “allow”?

They say that they respect you.

Someone that respects you honours your privacy, priorities, opinions and accomplishments. They do not use jokes to undermine your self-confidence. They do not belittle you or insult your friends.

Is it possible for you to have a different opinion from your partner or do they have to have the last word? Can they see the grey areas that allow you to disagree without being shamed or treated like you are in the wrong? It is not respectful if you are forced to see the world the same way that they see the world.

Try setting boundaries around your private time, interests and friends and see how they react. Do they respect your right to choose how you spend your time and with whom? Do they respect your right to have your own opinions and be independent from them? Do they like you as you are, or are you expected to look and behave in certain ways?

They say that they are your best friend.

Best friends are people that bring out the best in you, make you feel good about yourself and enjoy doing some of the same things that you do. They listen to you when you speak. They share excitement about your accomplishments, celebrate when you are happy and console you when you are upset. After spending time with a friend, you should feel good. Friends will try new activities with you. Does your partner rejoice when you share good news?

Observe whether or not your partner is a sore loser and has an unhealthy need to win or be right at all costs. Invite your potential partner to try something that you enjoy and that they have never tried. What type of reaction do you get? Do they go through the motions or do they actually get involved in the new activity to see if they like it?

They say that they love you.

When someone loves you, they love you all of the time, not just when they feel like it or when they want something. Even if they are mad at you, they do not put you down, insult you, attack you or undermine your self-confidence. If they do lose their temper they are immediately remorseful and will offer an apology. If a balanced person is angry with you they may not speak for a couple of hours, but giving you the silent treatment for extended periods, or often, is an attempt to control you. A person that loves you will not be trying to control you.

In a normal relationship, the affection ebbs and flows without attachment to what can be gained from the exchange. Sex and time spent together is followed by warmth and contentment, not abandonment and being ignored. You deserve love, attention and affection that you can depend on. If you are ignored or treated like an inconvenience, at any time, this person does not love you. How do they respond when you are sad, happy, concerned, late? Are they capable of showing love when you need it? Are they capable of showing empathy and understanding?

2. Observe their other relationships.

How do they treat people that they don’t know?

At a minimum, a nice person is courteous and may also be helpful when dealing with people that they encounter during the day. Does your partner show concern for other people? Or do they make jokes at other peoples’ expense? Is their humour mean or based on how stupid, incapable or unattractive people are? Is it racist or sexist?

An honest person acts with integrity. Sometimes a narcissist will boast about being able to “pull one over” on someone. They will be just as dishonest with you.

What types of friends do they have?

It is important to meet your partner’s friends. Normal people have friends that share the same interests, get together to do things they enjoy and support each other in good times, working times and bad times. Does your partner act differently around their friends? Behaving in a different way around friends is a red flag because it means that they are dishonest. Especially around friends, an individual should be comfortable relaxing and being themselves. A person capable of loving someone will be capable of forming strong bonds with good friends.

What types of dynamics are at play in their family?

Visit. See how they treat each other. Are they supportive and kind or are there a lot of mean jokes and put-downs? Is the mood festive, or subdued? Are the family members sharing stories and anecdotes? How are these stories received? Is there a feeling of openness and sharing or are one or two people asking a lot of questions?

Despite how family gatherings are stylized on television, many, many families actually enjoy each other’s company. Is your partner kind to their family members or do they “hate” some of them? Are they “annoyed” by their families? A person capable of loving someone will show love and respect for their family.

How did their last relationship end?

An individual may have been hurt, disillusioned or abandoned by their last relationship, but it is important to ask detailed questions about what happened. A person capable of loving another will be able to explain in concrete terms what was wrong, how the relationship ended and why it didn’t work. Claiming that their Ex was just “crazy” or “insane” is likely a major red flag.

3. Are they capable of discussing emotions and feelings?

Balanced individuals express a range of emotions. They can be happy, sad, excited, angry and content. Is the full range of emotions expressed? Are you allowed to express the full range of emotions or are you told to “suck it up”? How does your partner respond when you need comforting, emotional support and attention? These should all be available when you need them. I do not mean that your partner should be available 100% of the time, but when you feel sad, for instance, they should recognize that you need comfort.

It is not unreasonable for you to want someone to spend time with you if you are in distress. There are limits to this; if you are distressed all of the time, but you should be able to rely on emotional support.

Is your partner open about their feelings? Have they managed to work through old painful memories or do they still find them overwhelming? Can they express the full range of emotions or do they mainly express the familiar narcissistic ones, which are: “poor me”; “I hate something” and “Wow! I’m great”.

So, the final thing that you must face head-on is, “Are YOU capable of loving someone?” Do you feel empathy when someone else is being emotional or does it make you uncomfortable? Any relationship that you are in should be an equal partnership and if you are not capable of forming these bonds, you may not be capable of having a relationship with someone that can.

My Newest Book, The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

8 thoughts on “Why Were You With a Narcissist? — Part 3

  1. i have been reflecting on this very issue. after the night terror in which he was a monster, devouring me, my fear of him is more under control. i recognise the pure evil. but. he did such a damn good act of making me happy for 9 months. was it a pure calculated act? i don’t think so. just as survivors develop ptsd, and ptsd can be thought of as chemical changes as a result of fight/flight/freeze situations, helplessness, changes our make up, that is why it is 2 yrs to recover, with help. well the psychopaths/narcs/sociopaths, i think, are also affected in this way. with success – i.e. dominant, controlling, manipulative behaviours achieve the desired results – there brains change too, if allowed to operate unchecked the abuse always escalates over time. so was my ex always a monster? he was always on the edge, always different, magnetic personality, lots of fun, but he wasn’t always a monster. the saddest thing is he stull doesn’t see it. he thinks i have let him down, i have changed. when i met him he was doing his best to be the perfect partner and father. i think he really wanted this to be true, and on one level, it was, i had never been so happy as that 9 months – happier now though – . he showered me with adoration and if his wife had not come along, after our first 9 months, with her allegations, then i expect he would have discarded me after a few more months, when he saw i was not up for the sexual extremes he appeared to need. instead all that being perfect became a defence strategy, he must be innocent, look he is so happy now, and she is so nice, she would never tolerate abuse, not like his wife, she is a basket case. it became true for him i suppose, the only way he could live with himself. so he is capable of what he thinks of as love, an exchange, an eye for an eye. when i gave him my eye, after coercion, he adored me. i was the same as him then, i was his soul mate as far as he was concerned. as in his understanding being limited to boredom, thrill seeking and manipulation to get your needs met. he doesn’t know the range of feelings we have. he thinks he is superior for not being dragged down by empathy, anxiety and worry. so he is not capable of love but he thinks he is, he thinks it is me who stopped loving him. and i did. interestingly for me it was his belief in me that has kick started my belief of myself.


    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through this, but you are describing a “typical” narcissist. The pattern of wonderful at the beginning, followed by extremes of good and bad times is what I’ve written so much about. It was very confusing for me to consider that someone that could say that they love me and be so great one minute would be so nasty the next. One of the tell tale signs though is that the ups and downs are not the expected ones from all relationships, they are severe contrasts. The narcissist is either fantastic or nasty and they swing between.

      It is also expected that their “last” relationship was with someone that was “crazy”. These are often normal people that are pushed to extremes. In addition to that, your narcissist may be lying about what this X is doing, or why they are doing it or even if they are doing it.

      To answer your first question, was he always a monster? Quite likely. They are just good at pretending when they first meet you.


  2. I really relate to the above experience and this is a really important blog for someone coming out of a relationship with a narc to read so they can know WHY they believed what the n said was love, was not love and changed so dramatically.

    My narc ex would phone every night and there would be long conversations, but mostly about his painful past and all the women who “failed” him with their “selfishness”. Alarm bells when I met his first wife and she was a lovely, kind person, nothing like he described.

    Its confusing, frightening and scary when the outbursts start in response to very innocent things and the dramatic ups and downs and shut outs occur after months of him or her flooding you with attention and affection. Its like being addicted to a drug, you want the former “high” and the pain you feel brings up past pain from unavailable parents which is why PTSD starts, for me difficulty staying asleep, startled waking and I had a touch of PTSD when we met.

    I wish I had found this blog when I was healing. What you wrote here I had to learn from therapy and from working through the pain. We are attracted to this kind of relationship and stay due to never really having known unconditional love and support. This is something I know now to be true. It wasn’t my fault as the narcissist tried to get me to believe.


    1. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. I am hopeful that as more and more of us share our insights and experiences, fewer people will need to be exposed to the trauma that we endured.

      I caution you about the belief, “We are attracted to this kind of relationship.” I would like to believe that we feel a sense of familiarity and think that it is a good thing. Another consideration is that many of us have never been in a truly loving and caring relationship so we simply don’t realize that the behaviours are not “normal and expected”.

      Once we understand the difference between a good relationship and these relationships, we will be able to see the narcissists for who they really are and side step them, leaving us available for the kind of people who are capable of having a loving relationship.

      You might benefit from reading: 10 Ways to Discourage a Narcissist from Dating You. http://wp.me/p3scpP-7Hf

      Without having to determine whether or not they are pathologic, you can adopt “strategies” and “awareness” that allow you to side step them before they get their hooks in. The good thing is that this is not a way of playing games. The tactics I outline will not alarm a person that is normal and wants you to be happy.


  3. Thank you. Excellently-written, for its detail. Tonight, I am in the beginning of acceptance that my brother (and only sibling) is a full-blown narc. I have been feeling nostalgic about the ways we connected as young children, but his actions have been so far, far from his words, my terror in his presence consistent since he started to verbally abuse and berate me at nearly every interaction, for the last 3-4 years, and then his physically-violent explosion/assualt upon me. I’ve made so many excuses for him. He’s my ‘little’ brother, after all. But he’s almost 40. And just weeks ago, after we have been no contact, at my decision, he emails as if nothing has happened, as if nothing is awry, they way he has been the last few years. It is not my failing that we don’t have a relationship; I’m not being too picky to want real relating and to want an end to this madness. I have literally watched the making of a narcisist, from sensitive, shy, introverted boy, chronically-beaten by our overt narc father, to socially-awkward and manipulative schoolboy/teen/college person, buying people’s ‘love’, to deranged powderkeg, a military employee (who has never been in combat but who has been surrounded by ‘tough’ and ‘mean’ people for almost 20 years there). He married a narcissist (covert). His mother is a covert narc as well as an emotional incest perpetrator (she has been inappropriate with him, relating to him as if a lover/partner). He has shut down his emotion completely and let it spill out in the only direction it could — onto me, me being an empath who takes disproportionate responsibility for others and for others needs, feelings, etc. I am estranged from my “mother” and “father”, “brother” and “sister-in-law” (in quotes because they betray their titles). I am alone in the world, no family, no friends. I am more alone than anyone I know of. I would not pass the ‘test’ listed above of meeting friends, since I have none. I am beginning to embrace my aloneness as okay. I have myself. I have a relationship with Source and the world. I cannot explain my dire aloneness to anyone, and most random people can’t relate, so I just don’t. To most people, I’m kind, and well-adjusted. Internally, I am just coming out of numbness, just beginning to ‘come-to’ after realizing the nature of the family of origin last year. As to your question, at the end, about my being capable of loving…probably not. I am beginning to accept this, too. I am different than I have been. I cannot bleed for others as I have. I smile and relate to the grocery cleark, but feel anxious and agitated inside. Perhaps I am more like the ones I have separated from than I wish to admit. Perhaps it would be more honest to be as scowling and shut-down in the world as I actually feel in my world. I welcome your words of wisdom on any of what I shared, Wendy. Thanks in advance.


    1. I’m sorry to hear about what you have been through and that you find yourself all alone. You’ve taken the most important first step which is to begin to take care of yourself. That is ultimately the most valuable thing that you can do.

      Self-care is crucial. You are now on a journey to find joy in your life. It sounds like you are aware of some of the coping mechanisms that you developed to deal with your family. Read about “fleas”. Also, read about co-dependency. Some of the behaviours you learned will need to be examined and only you can decide if they serve you or not.

      The good news is that it is possible to come out the other side. When you arrive there will be joy and people to share it with.

      For now, take care of yourself, remember who you are, maintain your connection with source and give yourself time to heal.


  4. Narcissism is far more prevalent than being reported. It seems as if my mother, sister, and younger brother are all narcissists. It seems as if most women I meet are narcissist or at least self absorbed. In NY you are almost expected to be narcissist.


    1. Narcissism has been estimated at 1/20 to 1/10, so I agree with your observation. Be care not to confuse arrogance with narcissism. The key difference is lack of empathy. If the person does not know or care how their behaviour impacts others—that is the true narcissist.


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