How To Avoid a Relationship With a Narcissist

How To Keep Narcissists Out of Your Life

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a Narcissist, you probably think (like most other victims) that you know what to watch out for, and that it won’t happen again–that the odds of you getting into another relationship with a Narcissist would be about the same as getting struck by lightning.

Unfortunately, you’d probably be wrong about this.  …I know I was.

See, there are lots of Narcissists and Antisocials (Sociopaths/Psychopaths) prowling around out there. Lots. Like anywhere from 5-10% of the population if you combine the two disorders. That breaks down to upwards of about 1 in 10-15 people! Yikes.

It’s important that you realize just how many of these people are out there, so you don’t get discouraged and depressed if you find yourself with yet another Narcissist in your life–because odds are you will. Hopefully you won’t have another intimate relationship with a Narcissist, but odds are that they will surface as a coworker, a neighbor, a member of the PTA, that crazy lady in your book club, and so on.

There are lots of Different Types of Narcissists out there.

What really tripped me up, is that I didn’t know for the longest time that there are different (unofficial) types of Narcissists, and each come across in totally different ways

This is why all my lessons learned after dating a really dangerous and destructive Narcissist in high school were totally useless when I came across other types of Narcissists!

What I came to learn is that there are two main types of Narcissists: overt and covert, and a handful of subtypes: malignant, delusional, cerebral, and somatic. 

In a nutshell, Overt Narcissists are the more obvious ones. They are often grandiose, loud, controlling, and arrogant, whereas Covert Narcissists are less obvious. They often come across as charming, kind, and sincere. Covert Narcissists can be really hard to spot (often charming everyone around them into thinking they are the world’s greatest person) if you don’t know what to look for. (Which is why knowing ALL of the red flags is so important.)

And to add insult to injury, I’d bet that a lot of victims who’ve had relationships with overt Narcissists/Antisocials in the past are probably even more susceptible to relationships covert Narcissists, simply because they are the polar opposite of the jerks they were with before, which made these men/women just that much more appealing!

So if this is you, please don’t get down on yourself.

All Narcissists are charming and/or convincing to some extent. After all, they are emotional (and often financial) con artists, and in order for their cons to work, they have to be come across as sincere (or at least persistent) and frankly, decent, normal people who don’t know the signs of a Narcissist don’t stand a chance against them. 

You may have had so many Narcissists in your life that you are beginning to wonder if you attract them. This was my biggest fear for the long time. I’d get to thinking back on many of the “significant” people I’ve had in my life, and the vast majority of them have been Narcissists, or at a minimum, somewhere in the “Cluster B” personality disorder grouping. For awhile there I was giving myself anxiety attacks by questioning whether or not I was giving off some sort of vibe that was attracting these people. But then I can to the realization that it didn’t matter if I was attracting them. Seriously.

It doesn’t really matter if you attract them.

Many people (including most mental health professionals) believe that Narcissists are attracted to codependent and/or empathic people. And while I’m sure that they are to some extent, I feel it’s dangerous thinking to think that they are only attracted to codependent and/or empathic people.

Like I said, I have often wondered if I was a magnet for them. And maybe I am. I’ll never know for sure, and frankly is doesn’t matter. There is no power in the belief that I, or we, attract them, so that’s why I spend no time or energy on it. If I believed that I attracted them because I was co-dependent or empathetic (which I believe I am empathetic), then I might as well get used to the idea that they are going to be in my life abusing me.

I refuse to accept this belief.

After all, we all attract a wide range of people. It’s not who you attract that matters. What matters is who you keep in your life, and for how long.

So after many nights laying awake thinking about red flags I missed, and how Narcissists were getting into my life, I came up with some answers to those questions, and what I believed I needed to change in order to stop this madness. Maybe my plan will help you too.

Here’s my plan:

1. Learn the Red Flags. Start by reading/watching the series here.  I’ve dated one Sociopath, and two Narcissists seriously (at least, I was serious about them), and I went on a few dates with a few more. The first guy was slick and very quickly became a scary jerk. Once I learned the red flags of controlling, scary jerks, I stopped dating them.

Fast forward twenty years, and *boom* I found myself in two almost back-to-back relationships with covert Narcissists. These guys didn’t have ANY of the red flags that the first guy did, so my spidey sense wasn’t tingling, as I didn’t know that men that seemed like Prince Charming were just as dangerous and destructive. 

Knowing the red flags is about 70% of the battle. Seriously. Learn them, talk to you children about them…hell, talk to anyone who will listen about them. Knowledge is power, and in dealing with Narcissists and Antisocials, knowing the red flags can radically change your life for the better–in some cases, it can even save your life. 

2. Give your relationship time to grow slowly so you can see if any red flags surface.  See, Narcissists and Antisocials come on fast and furious. They often charm their victims into a whirlwind relationship within the first few weeks of knowing them, and then once their target is hooked, things start to change– their lying, cheating, stealing, manipulations, and addictions all start to surface.

This is why this step is CRITICAL.

The victim has a hard time making sense of who their partner really is. They usually spend years, if not decades trying to figure out if they are with a good person who has bouts of bad behavior, or a bad person who has bouts of good behavior.

You need to be the one to set the pace of your relationship, and that pace needs to be to move slow enough to see if any red flags are surfacing.

3. Have high standards for behavior that you expect from others. Get your standards in place before you start dating. This is something you can do right now. Get crystal clear that you won’t tolerate chronic lying, cheating, stealing, addictions, manipulative or sketchy behavior from a partner. If these behaviors start to surface in someone you are dating, then it makes it really easy to walk away and not second guess yourself. All too often we enter into relationships with no clarity as to our standards, and then try to figure things out on a case-by-case basis while we are in lust or love with that person. Trying to use good judgement when you are in lust/love is a recipe for disaster, and is the reason we tend to justify bad behavior.

4. Have solid boundaries. It’s important that your boundaries are strong enough so that if someone does violate your standards you can quickly redefine their role in your life–either get rid of ’em (go no contact), or minimize contact if that’s not possible (go gray rock). I get asked lots of questions where basically a woman has 1,000 reasons to leave, but yet is looking for that one reason to stay. She’s willing to gloss over red flags, and justify behaviors that she’s seeing in order to make her relationship be what she wants it to be. Narcissists and other abusive/manipulative people are relying on you to have your head in the sand when it comes to their behavior. Just keep in mind that if you have you head in the sand, you have you ass in the air.  A person can’t screw you over repeatedly unless you let them. Learn that you are worthy of having quality people in your life–it’s one of the best mindsets you can cultivate.

5. Assess yourself for your vulnerabilities.  We are all human, therefore, we all have vulnerabilities. Narcissists and Antisocials do a great job of exploiting them. I read something interesting the other day in an article on abuse. It said for us to think back to our childhood, and what we felt we didn’t get from our parents.  It’s what we felt we didn’t get is what we are seeking out now–either we are looking to reinforce that believe, or we are looking to change it.

Wow.

That was really eye-opening for me. Growing up, I felt unloved and unimportant. I feel guilty and bad for even saying that. My parents are good people, and I think they did the best they could with what they knew–but it still doesn’t change the fact of that’s how I felt.

Looking back on my history with men, I can see that I have a pattern of mistaking attention, flattery, and sex for love. Obviously it’s easy to see how Narcissists keep sliding under my radar–I keep mistaking their superficial charm and false flattery as real.

Now that I’ve realized this is a huge vulnerability for me, I can go into my relationships with my eyes wide open.

Of course, different people have different vulnerabilities, and (unfortunately) people can have more than one. I met Jack when I was fresh out of my divorce. I thought I was thinking clearly, but I really wasn’t. I also had really low self-esteem at that point in my life–so again, another vulnerability. Your vulnerabilities will change throughout your life as you and your life situation do. Be aware of what they are, and do the work that you feel you need to in order to minimize them, and to become more accepting of yourself as you are.

I hope this article helps. If there’s any other tips you have for avoiding Narcissists or other manipulative people, please let me know so I can pass the info along!

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 252 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

10 Comments

  1. I married and divorced one who is now still like dad to my daughter (18yo) and he has made a child with another woman. My daughter is no struggling with her relationship with this “dad” as he has his mom believing that my daughter is at fault for his bad behavior ( st.anding her up, not communicating proactively ).

    The next one was an ex pro athlete and for 3 years I was sucked in to his charm. I recently let that go and hope not to have contact. I sent his few belongings back to him via fedex.

    At work I am dealing with a boss who seems the same and/or passive aggressive and now my job is on the line. I think you should do a series of how these people rise to high power and destroy others around them. I am left with no credibility or respect for my profession that I’ve done for 20 years because of this type of boss.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that your daughter sees how ridiculous and outrageous it is that her father would try to blame her for him deciding to have another child. …As far as your work life goes, if you have 20 years in a certain area, perhaps you could consider doing some consulting work and/or work for yourself? An NPD boss is a no win situation. I hope if you do decide to stay, that you will find a way to stay sane. Life is too short to let these people steal anymore of your joy. <3

  3. Love how this site gathered so much about the types of narcissists and our effects on relationships. But, may I mention, that the pendulum may be swinging a little too far against narcissists?

    Here’s what I mean…

    There was a time when narcissists were thought of as people who couldn’t contribute to society effectively. Then, people realized that many narcissists could actually be ‘high functioning’ and productive. (remember your EMT narcissist boyfriend?)

    There was a time when narcissists were thought of as people who couldn’t foster positive relationships for more than a few months. Love-bombing, etc. was seen as Short-Term ploys. Then, people realized that narcissists can maintain a positive “face” for a few years.

    You should know, that I know of several narcissists who maintain positive, highly-functioning relationships for entire lifetimes. Yes, the fairytale, love-bombing, affection intensity can be carried out for decades without any mask-slippage. (and, is it so bad to be swept up in a princess story for more years than your typical marriages between “normal” people?)

    It can be tough living with a narcissist. And, it can be tough living with a bipolar; and, it can be tough living with a depressant.

    But wouldn’t it be in bad-taste to write titles like, “How To Avoid A Relationship With A Bipolar?” or a person with depression?

    Depressed people, bipolar people, etc. can be just as destructive in relationships as narcissists. Would you write “prowling out there… upwards of about 1 in 10-15 people! YIKES.” about people who have lifelong depression? Unlikely. Instead, coping skills would be given to depressed and bipolar people. But think of it, who is more likely to incorporate life-coping skills to their toolbox than a high-functioning covert narcissist? Let’s reign-in some of the demonizing towards narcissists that you would never aim at other people in the DSM-5.

    Because remember, I can point to a number of high-(relationship)-functioning covert narcissists who have created a Disney-life for their mates for entire lifetimes.

  4. You bring up a lot of really great points–and just for the record, I have moved away from focusing so much on Narcissists and am focusing more on spotting problematic behavior, as that’s more the point I want to get across (well, that and developing healthy boundaries). …If a relationship with a Narcissist was ONLY a fake fairy tale that would be one thing, but I’ve never once heard of it being that. The fairy tale comes with a price (putting up with a lot of lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, addictions, and so on)–that most victims would agree is not worth the love bombing and charming behavior.

  5. As usual, you offer the best food for thought. Yeah, the price of the fairy tale has been interesting to watch in the covert narcissists that I’m aware of. The blame-gaming definitely started, basically, from day one. The lying, however, seemed to have been compartmentalized and left at work (like it’s a game or personal challenge) to keep it out of the home. And the cheating didn’t crop up in the group until around 15-20 years (they’d argue that that stat is pretty good versus ‘normal’ cheaters in North America). But you’re right, the price for the Princess-treatment eventually creeped into the homes after about 20 years when the husbands’ masks slipped.

  6. Wow! Was I ever thrilled to happen across your YouTube videos- as part of my perpetual pursuit to understand my chaotic life. A first relationship of 30 yrs with a man I spent far too many hours researching if his behavior was premeditated or perhaps Aspergers. I still don’t really know – possible mix. . The clues were there but not answers. After our 4 kids were grown I left and got caught up in the web of a different style narcissist who howered me with attention. Very heady situation coming from a relationship of never having heard “I love you” except once as in “don’t be ridiculous I love you as much as anyone else in the world”. Tthose were my walking words. But there were hundreds of clues before. I’m still in my second sick situation but caught in a financial web that he holds over me, so I play nice and no longer try to fix things. I have left a few times but then he fell and is basically disabled and can longer drive. I handle finances and am less at his mercy. What kept him at bay for the most part – other than running off to get married for week while my family dealt with a suicide! Is that I refused to marry him. He is only about the pursuit. I knew I would be cast aside like the rest of his toys as the novelty wears off. No I don’t have a warm functioning relationship. But I feel now at 63 yrs!, I have recovered my peace of mind by not allowing his mental issues to impact me. He is old and feeble now and in no position to blind side me. I have friends and family. He has no one – big surprise, but he is intelligent and interesting to at least have discussions with, if not on a heartfelt, personal level. He just won’t be my “everything”. But who can be? It took a long long time to slog through the madness but I feel I am on the other side. Nonetheless. I agree one should trust their instincts and get out of the sick relationship. There is life confirming valuable info here. Your videos are even more informative than any of the Karen Horney books I poured over years ago. And with the help of your web site I know I can maintain.
    Remember people- if you are researching answers on these sites there is something really wrong with your situation. Make a plan before you are old and sorry.

  7. Hi DANA i am puzzled over my ex husbands behavior to let you understand i was married for 35 years, i knew my husband was deceitful gas lighted me put on a act for everyone had a porn addiction and much more but did not know why but only for the internet i would never have know, the thing is my family mum sister brother always took his part because they only saw the fake him, then the falling apart me because i had no clue what was going on or why plus he and everyone else blamed me to the point when i would try to leave my mum would say she would take him in but not me and the 3 kids,i had no job she refused to pick them up from school for me because she was to old but 12 years later watched my sisters kids from birth because she said she needed the money, so i had no way of leaving he l loved the fact that no one believed me and i had no support he could not have cared less about my mum but loved the fact she would take him over me her daughter,thankfully when my kids got older they could see who he really was and supported me i divorced him,he had a new girlfriend within 5 mins of leaving, he ignores hi s grand kids never acknowledged when the last one was born, has nothing to do with his kids because they saw through him, what i want to know is why does he every now and then turn up to visit my mum who he doesnt care about,is it because she gives him narcissistic supply or to get to me because she still thinks he is great even after all he has done to me and the kids, whats going on

  8. It sounds like he goes back to visit your mom because she still thinks highly even him. Narcissists (I guess all of us, really) like to spend time around people who like us. I’m sorry that your mom has taken his side, that must be very painful. I hope that you will be able to refocus your energy back into you and your kids and move towards a life of health and healing. (((hugs)))

  9. I’m so glad that my site has been able to give you the clarity and support you were needing.

    …Yes, listen to your intuition. It always knows best.

    I wish you all the health and healing in this next chapter in your life. <3

  10. I think it’s important to note that, being who we are i.e. : ideal victims for some reason (big injury, empathetic person, …), we are more likely to come across narcissists again in our life.
    Therefore, we should be aware of our vulnerability whic makes us more alert and humble when thinking about our own capabilities to not fall into the con again.

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