For a decade, I loved a man who was handsome, charismatic, funny and, on the surface, close to ideal. If he were a record, that's the A-side. The B-side (the far less popular part) is he was also a commitment-phobe, emotionally unstable, dishonest, and someone who had the gift of blindsiding you in a way that was both amazing and disturbing simultaneously.
In short, he was a total narcissist. I didn't know what that word meant until I experienced it firsthand and then went to do some research on just what a narcissist is.
Because narcissists start off being mad charismatic and uber-charming, I genuinely didn't know I was falling for one. Over time, even though I saw signs that he was relatively unstable (he actually told me that I brought stability into his life) and, in hindsight, totally emotionally unavailable, I thought our "holding pattern" was because he needed more time…and in that time, if I loved him enough and tolerated enough, he'd come around.
NOPE. Narcissists never intend on settling down. Not really and truly. They are more about seeing who can meet their needs—whatever those needs are—then once they don't need that person to supply them anymore, they move on. Platonically, professionally, romantically. It really doesn't matter.
How do you spot a narcissist?
If a person love-bombs you and they they go ghost, they are a narcissist. If they hurt you and show absolutely no signs of remorse or regret, they are a narcissist. If you start to lose yourself trying to keep them happy, that's another big clue that they probably are a narcissist.
That said, if you've recently experienced a break-up with a friend or an ex and it feels particularly devastating, like nothing you've ever felt before, it could be because they were a narcissist—and you never knew it. While the aforementioned characteristics are some of the tell-tale signs of a textbook narcissist, there are some signs that aren't always obvious. What are they? Chile…
1. You're ALWAYS Doing Most of the Work, And They're OK With That
Narcissists are a trip. In their mind, they are so arrogant that they think that you should be so grateful to be a part of their world that it's a privilege to do most of the work in the relationship. They'll even take it a step further and act like the moment you ask them to meet some of your needs that you're being semi-ridiculous; that a mutual exchange of caring and sharing isn't what they signed up for, so you either need to smile about being their glorified servant or leave them in peace. Because a lot of them are attractive, charismatic, and have a great sense of humor, they trap you because you confuse charm with character (a sermon within itself) and so you just keep giving…and giving…and giving.
It's not until you ask them for more than just some drive-by time, attention, affection, gratitude, or reciprocity, and they act like you asked for their kidney that you start to realize something is "off". That things are only all good so long as they are good. Whether you're all right is totally irrelevant.
2. They NEVER Apologize, And You're OK With That
As someone who is also a marriage life coach, I can't tell you how many times one person has come to me with a laundry list of all the things their spouse is doing wrong, yet when I ask what they could improve on, I get the blank stare.
Listen, I've made a living putting pen to paper on the mistakes I've made in my relationships. "He" is no exception. But when I tell you that I can't recall ONE TIME when I told him about something he did that hurt me (like telling me he had feelings for someone else…on my birthday and then yelling at me about it later on…on the same birthday) did he meet with a response of "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong" (which apparently is something narcissists hate to say)…NOT. ONE. TIME.
Unfortunately, a lot of us have so much pride that we don't want to apologize. That's not good, mature, or healthy though. Same goes for remaining in a relationship with someone who won't do it. Someone who refuses to humble themselves enough to acknowledge their offenses and then seek to make an amends.
Take it from me, if you're even remotely OK with being in a friendship/situationship/relationship with someone like that, you're definitely headed towards my next point. Because someone who doesn't see the err in their ways is someone who is, 9.5 times out of 10, going to repeat them. Totally at your expense. Unapologetically so.
3. You KEEP Taking Them Back, And The Same Crap Keeps Happening
I believe it's the YouTube channel Sarah Speaks that shares that typically people will go around and around with a narcissist for a whopping seven times (I did three; that was more than enough for me!) before they end it, go into deep depression, or consider suicide (no joke). It's not because they are "stupid" or "suckers". It's because while they may love you for the long haul, narcissists never intended on things working out; seemingly, from the get-go.
In fact, a lot of relationship coaches and therapists say that narcissists are so dysfunctional when it comes to intimacy that they go into friendships/situationships/relationships with an end date in mind. As soon as their "supply" (umm, that would be us) no longer serves them, they are ready to move on—no warning, no explanation, and definitely no remorse.
Because shame usually comes with being narcissistic, sometimes those of us who love them confuse that with them being repentant. But you see, repentance is about wanting to make an amends; shame is still all about self.
I gotta admit that it will be a while before I'm totally OK, but if there's a silver lining in that particular chapter of my life, it's that I can detect a narcissist a mile away now—arrogant, entitled, no empathy. Not all of the time but right when you need them to be anything BUT, they rise to the occasion and discard and dismiss you.
Trust me. If you're nodding your head because you can relate, you're not crazy.
You simply fell for a narcissist. Bless your heart. Literally.
Featured image by Getty Images