1. ‘I love you’ is used as a form of manipulation.
‘I love you’ means something entirely different to a narcissist than to a ‘normal’ person; they’re three little words which can be thrown around as an ‘apology’ or a method of control. Whether you catch them lying to you, betraying you or causing you upset by any other means, they’ll tell you they love you as a way of sticking a band-aid over the wound, but never dealing with the infection.
2. Nothing is ever good enough.
It doesn’t matter if you are the most doting, loving, generous girlfriend- it won’t be good enough for the narcissist. You can shower them with affection and they’ll say you’re over-bearing, you can hold back and they’ll tell you you never show them any love. You can plan a surprise, romantic, city break for their birthday and it won’t be where they wanted to go, it won’t be as good as the trip they took you on. You can make an effort with their friends and they’ll tell you, you didn’t try hard enough and made them look bad. You’ll kill yourself trying to impress the narcissist because he will constantly be moving the goal posts.
3. Walking on eggshells will become a way of life?
It’s incredibly difficult to know what is going to set them off on any given day, but you’ll very quickly learn to think about every single thing you say before it leaves your lips. Anything can be perceived as a threat to the narcissist; anything you say may be taken as an insult causing them to lash out and verbally attack you. You’ll begin to try and read their expressions, to try and predict their mood, you’ll filter yourself out of fear you are going to start a fight.
4. They will never take responsibility.
It isn’t their fault if they flirt with other women in front of you; they can’t help being so attractive and so likeable. It isn’t their fault they keep texting other girls behind your back, these girls won’t leave them alone and they don’t want to look like a bad person- why can’t you understand that? It isn’t their fault they slept with someone else, they were drunk, depressed, you stopped paying them attention. It isn’t their fault they grabbed you or harmed you, you pushed them too far. You ask too much, you are too demanding. Nothing will ever be their fault and the more you try to force them to take responsibility, the more they will come up with excuses, invent situations or apologise with a follow-up of ‘but you did this.’ You will never win with a narcissist and it will only cause you more pain to coax any genuine remorse.
5. Lying is second nature.
Lying is second-nature to the narcissist – mostly because they lack any empathy or guilt- it makes it very easy for them to deceive people whilst looking them directly in the eye. My narcissistic boyfriend lied to me about countless things during our relationship, from who was texting him to where he was, even petty things about what he had done with his day. I usually found out which would be met with an onslaught of verbal abuse- which included accusations, insults and the classic line ‘you’re psychotic.’ I never trusted him and it infected every single part of our relationship and my life.
6. They’ll use gas-lighting if you dare doubt them.
One of the most difficult parts of being in love with a narcissist is their constant use of gas-lighting to alter your reality, make you question your sanity and ultimately leave you feeling so confused that you forget what it was you had tried to talk to them about in the first place. I had many conversations with my narcissistic boyfriend about his flirtatious ways, his infidelity and his inability to understand boundaries with other women. But whenever I dared to broach the subject with him (which often took me days to psyche up the courage to do, and was fuelled by the anxiety of the attack which was to come), he managed to leave me feeling to dazed and so mentally battered, that I dropped it altogether and ended up apologising. He used phrases such as ‘that never happened,’ ‘it’s your anxiety that’s making you think that,’ ‘you’re a crazy bitch,’ and ‘you’re psychotic and need therapy.’ I would spend days after the attack going over and over everything in my mind, trying to work out if I was actually losing my mind. I even had therapy at his demand, which he told me was a ‘waste of time’ because I was still ‘fucking crazy.’
7. And stonewalling as another method of control.
When the narcissist feels like something is out of his control- whether that is because you have irrefutable evidence against him, or you’re crying and he doesn’t want to take responsibility for it- he will use stonewalling as a way to punish you and make you think twice about questioning him. My narcissistic boyfriend would often put his earphones in and watch youtube videos with his back to me, or roll over and go to sleep, or even walk out of the bedroom and tell me he can’t talk to me when I’m ‘behaving like a child’ , for simply being upset for his terrible treatment of me. He knew this used to drive me insane, he knew it made my anxiety sky-rocket, he knew it would make me want to give up and say sorry because I couldn’t bear for him to ignore me. And when I reacted with screaming, crying or threatening to leave, he would turn around and tell me I was ‘crazy’, ‘irrational’ and had ‘anger management problems’, making it become about me and my downfalls and making me question my own sanity, wellbeing and mind.
8. They only care about how you make them look, not about you.
Narcissists don’t care about how they make you feel, they care about how you make them look. During my three year relationship, I was told my bangs made me look like a child, I wore too much make-up and that I needed to exercise. Whenever I had days where I felt unhappy with my body, he would tell me it was my own fault- right down to him ridiculing the parts of myself I was most insecure about, whilst I was naked, and when I got upset, he told me it was my own fault for always taking everything so personally. The thing is, he never cared how I felt on the inside, he only cared how my appearance made him look on the outside. He never uploaded photos to social media unless it made him look good, whilst at the same time, he hated if anyone told him he was punching above his weight (which often happened). If men commented on that fact, he would later mentally attack me for ‘showing him up.’ He would even withhold compliments because I ‘already got plenty from other men’ and I would ‘get a big ego.’ He simultaneously wanted me to look good on his arm whilst making sure I knew he was better than me.
9. They’ll have a constant source of narcissistic supply on the back-burner.
During our three year relationship, my narcissistic boyfriend had a constant source of supply in the form of ex-girlfriends, ex-friends with benefits and female friends he would flirt with via text, meet up with for lunch and drink with before coming home to me. His phone was blowing up at all hours and he had mastered the art of putting it on silent, turning it face down and only replying when I wasn’t in the room. I often caught him out and when he did, he told me I was insecure, jealous and never able to trust him. Of course it was my fault. But in reality, he needed that constant source of validation, ego-boosting and admiration from outside sources. I learnt how to accept that I would never be the only girl in his life receiving his attention, leaving me feeling unworthy and not good enough.
10. Everything must be equal.
From the morning Starbucks to your birthday dinner, absolutely everything must be equal, or the narcissist must be putting substantially less into the relationship than you are. Nothing went unnoticed with my narcissistic boyfriend; every single date was split right down the middle. He could never just take me out for a meal or plan a romantic date for me (which didn’t need to be expensive) because that would mean him spending more or putting in more effort. He went so far as to calculate everything we had each spent to ensure it was balanced. If I wanted to go for coffee, I had to pay for us both because he didn’t even drink coffee and I was forcing him to go. Every single birthday or Christmas I was left feeling disappointed and hurt when we had agreed upon a spending limit and he had bought me a pair of socks or some other, thoughtless, cheap present which he would insist was meaningful and ‘all he could afford’ when he had a trust fund and I was working 70 hour weeks to make ends meet.
11. Leaving will feel traumatic and impossible.
There are many reasons why women struggle to leave an abusive/toxic relationship- from finances and convenience to the belief that they will never find love again and fear being alone. It’s very easy from the outside looking in to think someone should leave but from the inside, it feels like the most impossible and exhausting option. It took me a year to leave my ex, from those doubts which began to creep in where I just knew it wouldn’t get better, that he wouldn’t change, that if I stayed I was setting myself up for a life-time of pain, fear and unhappiness, to finally saying the words out loud, to actually putting a plan in place. Everything had to be done in secret, everything had to be well thought out, I had to think of my safety and my mental health, but I knew I absolutely had to get out. Leaving the narcissist will sometimes feel worse than staying, but it will be the best decision you make.
12. They’ll use hoovering to pull you back in.
When you finally find the courage to leave and begin the process of untangling yourself from the narcissist, they will try everything to win you back. They will say exactly what you want to hear- they will suddenly be full of displays of affection, loving words, and apologies. They will promise you it will get better, that they were just depressed, that the universe was working against you both, that if you just gave it one more chance, it could be the most beautiful relationship in the world. They’ll suddenly seem understanding, empathic and remorseful. But it’s a trap; they’re simply terrified of losing you as a source of supply and if you remain strong and adamant that you can’t do it anymore, they will simply discard you and tell you that, ‘it’s fine if you want to give up, you clearly aren’t as good of a person as they are.’