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.
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!
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.