We all know that malignant narcissists like to provoke, taunt and destroy people – all with clean hands. But what are some of the sneakiest ways they manipulate and terrorize their victims? I asked over a hundred survivors what the most insidious way a narcissist has abused them and the answers were shocking.
Here are just some of the highlights of the sick and twisted things these pathological partners have done:
Lead a double life where he tried to destroy me and the people he had affairs with.
“All of his affairs – especially the final one in which he is still with his victim. I had no idea he was living a separate life after grooming and establishing a relationship with the very same young girl who got the job he believed he was entitled to. He told me he would destroy her life and her career. I had no idea the last 6 months with him was what is defined as the discard. It was pure hell on earth as he tried to destroy me to the point of wanting to commit suicide. I found out he was with this specific girl months after I escaped. She is in so much danger and she hasn’t a clue.” — Relle
Would invite me somewhere, only to abandon me and flirt with other people.
“I have a book worth of examples of the betrayal, lies, and manipulating he did. They are all cruel, heartless, damaging. But the worst was when he would beg me to go to a certain place to “visit” and then either leave me there or ignore me, or worse – flirt with whoever was there. This one incident sticks out in my mind – it was so sad, so painful, I can’t explain how badly it hurt and confused me. He brought me to his family’s house and left without telling me. When I asked his sister-in-law where he went she said, “The boys took the girls for a ride to the lake.” They were smoking pot together in a truck at the lake while I sat there waiting for him to return. When I called him, he didn’t answer the phone. I had to wait for him to come back. I was accused of being a jealous nagging bore. This is one of a million examples – and I am in intensive therapy trying to figure out what happened to me.” — Mimi
Used spirituality as a cover for his hypocrisy.
“In the early part of our relationship, he talked all the time about the importance of integrity and his interest in Buddhism. It made me feel like I was getting involved with someone honest and gentle. What I actually had was a full-blown pathological liar who undermine me at every chance he got, with constant belittling, gaslighting, and double standards. I was so convinced I had a great man in the beginning that I stayed for 3 years, looking for that guy to come back. Turned out my guy – someone who claimed to have integrity and said he’d never cheat because he had been cheated on and was ‘so painful’ had been cheating on me with his 20 years younger employee.” — Lisa
Played mind games with listening and hearing.
“He would bait me. I would say something and he would say “What? I didn’t hear you!” so I would talk a little louder. Then he would repeat the same thing. I talked a little louder, then he would put his hands over his ears and say “See, you are always picking on me and bullying me!” He would then walk out and give me the silent treatment.” — Patti
“Mine would say “I can’t hear you, you speak too low, speak a little louder.” Then, when I would repeat what I’d said a little louder, he would yell at me, saying, “You don’t have to yell. Why are you yelling?” — Carmen
“When he’d talk to me he would leave out a word here and there, mouthing the words but no sound coming out. He had me thinking I was losing my hearing.” —Pauline
“Said I mumbled and called it ‘drizzling the cheese.’ Then, when I repeated myself more loudly, he would say I yelled it and became angry.” — Crystal
Subjected me to covert put-downs about my body.
“He’d make jokes and insults about my weight. He’d even take small jabs that were small but you just know he’s insulting you on the sly.” — Sharron
Gave me intermittent praise followed by put-downs.
“By repeating a pattern of put-downs followed by a period of how great I am. Screwing with my mind and keeping me unbalanced so that I never know what to expect.” — Angela
Screwed my friends and screwed me over.
“He would screw my friends… and I would not have a way to prove it other than the intense energy and awkwardness between the two. To the point where my friends couldn’t be around me or talk with me.” — Angie
Pathologized my emotions when they were actually valid.
“Being made to feel I was at fault for being unsupportive and jealous when actually my suspicions were correct and I was totally being lied to.” — Sarah
Used what he knew would hurt me as ammo, stonewalling me and threatening divorce during every argument.
“The sneakiest way he manipulated me was with extreme psychological warfare, gaining my trust and then exploiting it. In the beginning, anytime we’d get in an argument, he would quickly just threaten to divorce me, even while I was pregnant. I read so many marriage books that said never to utter those words during an argument. It shocked me how easily he said it. I believed that all couples had problems, so I believed we had to work it out and never take it to that level. I told him he should never use the term “divorce” in a fight. I told him it really bothered me, and I even wrote it on a piece of paper and made him sign it, saying no matter how upset we were, we’d never threaten the other with divorce. He signed it and said how sorry he was, and how much he loved me and could never stand to lose me.
After he found out how deeply it affected and hurt me when he said it, he used it to torture me. It was like his ammo. He’d say it repeatedly in almost every argument, even though he signed that paper. He was lying so much and never there for me, yet made me feel crazy and horrible if I ever brought anything up. Then, we’d argue and he’d say, “You just want to fight don’t you?!” If I cried or got mad, he’d again threaten divorce, then he’d say “I don’t know why you’re getting upset, you’ll never do anything about it anyway!” referring to the pact we made. It was taunting to an extreme level, it made me feel so worthless.
But he never filed for divorce. When I finally had enough and found the strength to file for divorce myself, I ignited a narcissistic rage I never could have possibly imagined. Every single thing that I’d ever shared with him became his twisted warfare against me. Every single person I’d ever had a falling out with became his new best friend. Every person and thing that was near and dear to my heart he tried to take away to destroy me, all while portraying himself as the victim. Every single time I tried to stand up for myself he’d come back 10 times harder to abolish the truth.” —Hope
Gaslighted me and isolated me.
“Gaslighting: he would change the story of what happened a couple days later, in an attempt to look better. He also kept telling me my family were all narcissists, to get me to not trust them, and cut off my support there. And he said our relationship problems were all my fault. I believed him for so long. It was easier because my brain was so foggy, so I depended on his.” — Tamra
“He would casually admit to his misbehaviors – having online accounts, collecting naked pictures, responding to craigslist ads etc. Then, he would either deny it when I asked to talk about it or he would just sit there and stare at me or he would say he never said that and that I was just making things up. He would disappear for days at a time and lose his shit and say I made things up.” — Eddie
Made me believe no one liked me.
“During our break up, he told me that none of our mutual friends liked me and that he constantly had to defend me to them when I wasn’t around. After our break up, our mutual friends were reaching out to me with genuine care and compassion, and explaining to me that it was the other way around, and that they hated the way he acts, and that they no longer associate with him.” — Lindsay
Called the people he was sleeping with “just friends.”
“He introduced me to his “just friends” coworker and insisted we become friends. We helped her leave her marriage and deal with her ex. I became suspicious and begged him not to sleep with her. He told me I was paranoid. Her ex insisted they were having an affair. I told him he was crazy. Of course, it turned out that my now ex-husband was sleeping with her. I took pictures at her son’s birthday party. We hung out without my ex. I feel sorry for her now.” — Ginger
“So many. He once left his cell phone on the table set to not turn off with a text from the woman he cheated on me with and discarded me for the first time. But of course, they were still “just friends.” Discarded me again within a month of it for her. Left mail and only that mail repeatedly around that had her son’s name on it who used his address to avoid child support. Always had a quick excuse. Claimed I just was over thinking or creating things in my head that weren’t there when I questioned both these things.” — Desiree
Complimented me and then used those compliments as excuses to justify abuse.
“My ex would compliment me randomly and “thank” me for all that I did as a parent and a wife, only to turn around and use those very same compliments against me. He’d use them as leverage to justify his abusive behavior. Example: If I were to call him out for negative comments or false accusations he made towards me, he’d deny it and spin it around by reminding me that he just told me the other day how much he appreciated me cooking dinner or helping our son with his homework. This would shift the subject to me being the one making false accusations/negative comments about his behavior instead, claiming that I never appreciate how ‘good’ he is to me.” — Ashley
Deprived me of sleep with crazymaking arguments.
“He would create huge arguments out of thin air. Then, he would walk back in the next day as if nothing had happened. I would still be licking my wounds and recovering from no sleep because of all the ruminations as a result.” — Karen
Manipulated me with sex.
“He would manipulate me with sex. After a nasty fight, he would charm me and have sex with me even knowing I did not want to. I just felt forced to do it in order to bring peace to our marriage.” —Cynthia
Got me pregnant to get me to stay.
“He got me pregnant, knowing that would make me stay. I had planned to divorce him.” — Renee
“We had just talked about trying to have another baby and waiting a year to start. The only time in 20 years that he “forgot” the condom was about a week later when he knew I would be fertile. And yes, I became pregnant.” — Bonnie
Guilt-tripped me and made me dependent on her approval.
“My sister was my narcissist. From an early age, she would control me by playing on my love of family. To get me to do what she wanted me to do she would say, “Go ahead, just forget about it, but we aren’t sisters anymore. You love me and you need me, but I’m just fine without you.” I was always extremely fearful that I would need her. She would do things for me to ingratiate herself, making me feel dependent on her. Then she would take it all away. It was a very confusing way to grow up. I watched her go through friends in the same way. She would idolize them, work her way into every detail of their lives, and then she would leave them.” — Jill
Blamed it on the meds.
“When I left him the first time, he said that his awful behavior was because of the Oxycontin he was taking. He told me that his doctor had put him on a new medication and that his behavior had changed and he wanted us to try again. Two weeks after I moved back in with him, he told me that he had seen his doctor who not only put him back on Oxycontin but actually increased the dosage to higher than what he was on before I left. Shortly after, he told me he didn’t love me and only wanted me back to punish me for leaving. It was 7 months of hell including sexual assault and verbal/emotional abuse before I could get out again.” — Shawna
Threatened to commit suicide.
“First of all, he threatened to commit suicide if I didn’t marry him. I was young, naive, afraid, insecure. He manipulated me into marrying him. After that, lying, cheating, living a double all along, from the beginning. For the whole 40 years. Deep within me, I knew something was not normal, but he had me under his control, playing mind games, telling me he loved me and promising how he would always be there to take care of me. How I could not make it without him. Kept me from having friends. Trying to keep me from speaking when we were out in public places. The list goes on and on.” — Carmen
“He held a gun to his head and said that he’d kill himself, make it look like murder to ensure I was to blame if I didn’t shoot myself after. He’d tell his family and our close friends that we had true love, yet behind my back tell them I was crazy suicidal and he was doing the best he could to help me. I have never been suicidal. This all caused my closest friends/family to lose all faith in me and totally secluded me from the outside world. Lastly, he limited me to 1 meal a day, while nursing our newborn.” — Molly
Pathological lying and drip-feeding me the truth.
“Lying about anything and everything, for his own benefit. And he was damn good at it. If I suspected something he would so easily lie right to my face. I could have a blue piece of paper and he would call it orange if it benefited him. His lies would come out as if it was the absolute truth. Never letting me know the whole truth about something, and if I questioned why it sounded odd he’d tell me not to worry or say “what are you even talking about?” Over time, his behavior made me out of tune with my own intuition and common sense I had always had before him. What a roller coaster those two years were.” — Lauren
Told me he would take care of me financially, just to control me.
“Don’t worry. I will take care of you. You can quit your job.” Worst decision I ever made. I let him take financial control under the guise of him “taking care of me.” He controlled and manipulated me through finances.” — Amy