How to Outplay The Player: 6 Ways To Beat Narcissists In Their Dating Mind Games

Dealing with a narcissistic player in the dating world can be tough. Here are six ways you can outplay the narcissistic player in their mind games and protect yourself, according to an expert.

Withdraw first if you sense the love bombing is about to dwindle.

In the beginning of any dating courtship phase, the narcissist or player will make extravagant claims and romantic gestures to get you hooked. They will make you believe they’re interested in marriage and having children with you, or at least a long-term committed relationship. They will woo you with lavish dates and plenty of attention and affection. All honeymoon stages usually have an expiration date, but narcissists withdraw rather abruptly after making future-faking promises to get you invested. That is why you must never trust  the positive behaviors you see in the first three months. You cannot trust this will last until you’ve gotten a sense of someone’s long-term patterns. You can certainly enjoy the early chemistry with a dating partner without investing yourself too deeply in what may be a trap. Avoid rushing physical intimacy and observe how they react to your boundaries. Just as you sense the love bombing is dwindling, don’t try to invest further or work to regain their approval. Instead, match their energy and withdraw so you don’t waste any further time on them. Likely, they’ll start to chase you again because it’s an affront to their ego whenever a dating partner loses interest – but don’t give in. They showed you who they were the minute they treated you with any kind of disrespect or indifference.

Never show all your cards early on.

Narcissists view love and dating as a chess game. They’re the sadistic cat and you’re their chosen prey. When they ask you what you’re looking for, keep it vague. Don’t give them the explicit instructions on who to morph into or the characteristics they need to adopt in order to win you over. Chances are, when they’re asking you what your ideal partner looks like, they’re trying to understand how to behave so you will sleep with them or cater to them. If they ask you about your traumas or childhood history, do not disclose that either. They are investigating the weaknesses and vulnerabilities they will later weaponize against you.

Have a strong self-concept before you begin dating anyone.

A narcissist devalues you because they are prone to malicious envy and a lack of empathy. They may test you in the beginning by “negging” you with covert insults or backhanded compliments to lower your self-esteem and make you more compliant to their advances. Or, they may begin putting you down as soon as they sense you’re reciprocating their interest and invested. To resist these mind games, you have to know how irreplaceable and incredible you truly are. You have to be in touch with all the qualities that make you special and unique – a catch. Work on your insecurities before you enter the dating scene: whether by improving aspects of yourself you find yourself ruminating about or by building confidence in those areas. That way, you will enter dating with the mindset that you are a prize rather than placing any player on a pedestal. You won’t feel the need to try to convince any dating partner of your worth nor will you feel compelled to chase people who are unworthy of you. You will only look for partners who actively pursue you and add value to your life. You must also be able to internally devalue the narcissist in your mind by recognizing their malicious behavior and unsavory character so you stay in a state of detachment and know you are not missing out on anything if you leave them.

Do your research on a dating partner before you get seriously involved.

Online dating apps have taken over the modern dating world and it’s so important to keep your safety in mind. Do a basic background check to ensure they don’t have a criminal record, a current marriage or recent divorce, children, or anything important they may not be telling you. Before agreeing to go on a date with someone or at the very least before the date, vet them by exchanging videos or a short Facetime call to get a sense of their mannerisms, tone, demeanor: this helps you gauge any red flags that may not be captured fully over text.  Social media is another great way to vet a potential dating partner. If their account is public, create a burner account and have a look at their following list and posts to get a sense of what types of accounts they follow and engage with. Keep a lookout for any people who seem to be hugely engaged with their posts. This can be really revealing and can tip you off to whether the person you’re dating is a creep who follows shady and salacious accounts or is weirdly obsessed with their ex (or has an ex or “harem” of people obsessed with them). Remember: if you’re a woman in the modern dating world, safety takes precedence. You are not violating anyone’s privacy by looking at the information they’ve already made publicly accessible. Finding out if someone is married, stuck on an ex, or dating multiple people is key information you need to know if you want to outsmart a player who will likely love-bomb you into believing you’re the “only one” they’re interested in.

Keep your options open – always.

The narcissist will purposely go out of their way to provoke jealousy in you to gain power and control. This has been supported by research. They’re masters of manufacturing love triangles to keep you vying for them. Do not be exclusive with someone or give the boyfriend or husband treatment to someone you’ve just met. They haven’t earned that. You don’t deserve to be treated as a placeholder or as someone who waits around for someone to choose you. Continue to date others and keep other dating options in mind if you wish. If you get hyper-focused on a charming narcissist during the early dating stages, it’s much easier for them to trap you into the cycle of manipulation. Whereas if you’re keeping your options open, you know you can do better if they start to act up at any point.

Always lead a fulfilling life outside of dating and relationships and decenter your dating partners.

Narcissists want to create a sense of dependency in you. That’s how they gain control and isolate you, especially early on in the courting phase. Never make big sacrifices for a dating partner, such as moving for them or letting them move in with you, or quitting a job because they promised to take care of you. Do not make even small sacrifices early on in dating. Do not give up your weekly yoga class to squeeze in a date or forgo your self-care while waiting for a text back; do not stop hanging out with your friends just because a dating partner wants to spend more time with you. Instead, develop a habit of keeping communication to a minimum in the beginning. Keep your phone off and on airplane mode when you’re at work, at social events, and when you’re exploring your hobbies and interests. Be fully immersed in your own life so that no player who approaches you can infiltrate your life and take over or become enmeshed with you for the purpose of manipulation.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.