Narcissistic Abuse 101: How To Spot The Signs - Part 3
Healthy relationships are about give and take...compromise. They're built on mutual trust, respect, love, and compassion. But, when you're in a relationship with a narcissist those elements will often cease to exist after a short period of time. Narcissists are not empathetic. They aren't willing to support and hold a partner up because they need ALL the attention and focus to be on them. They fully expect their partner to put them on a pedestal and somewhat "worship" them in all their self-appointed glory and greatness.
We’ve already covered some signs of things that you may not have even realized were abusive. However, if several are happening in your relationship, collectively they could signal trouble. The second post in the series highlighted some behaviors that you as the victim may have been displaying as a reaction or defense mechanism to the abuse going on without even realizing it.
There are deeper facets to narcissistic behavior than just their selfishness, huge egos, and lack of compassion. In this final post of this series, we will explore some key signs of abusive behaviors that a narcissistic spouse or partner will exhibit in a relationship. Throughout the post, I’ll also do my best share some real life stories from my own experience with a narcissist. Let’s just dive right in, shall we?!?!
Know The Signs
THEY PROJECT A FALSE IMAGE: Right away, you’ll notice they use external things to display their superiority. This façade is well designed to cover up their “true self.” One psychologist calls this the “trophy complex” where the narcissist often uses objects, people, status or accomplishments to represent the “self” – again substituting these things for their inadequate “real” self.
My NarcEx would go on and on….and ON about his high school and junior college basketball accolades. In his adult years, he couldn’t get enough out of rehashing his stories of grandeur and popularity as a male exotic dancer. (Yep, you read that right! LOLOL) But as an adult in his 40’s, those accomplishments stopped there and he eventually set his sights on becoming the CFO for a government contracting company. Until then, he was the best basketball player AND male dancer in the DMV…AND on some (false) quest to become the “BEST” husband, father, son, brother, friend, employee and “Christian” man he could be. (Give me a break!!)
THEY HAVE A GRANDIOSE PERSONALITY: A narcissist’s ego knows NO bounds!! They will brag, exaggerate, name drop, and outright LIE about their abilities, experiences, accomplishments...EVERYTHING just to put themselves on a pedestal. They are super arrogant and conceited. They have an air of superiority about them and act like they know everything and in some (or a LOT of) ways like they are better than others.
My NarcEx had one of the biggest egos I'd ever seen. But, I've never seen a narcissist quite as big as President #45 and his grandiose personality!
THEY ONLY WANT TO DISCUSS THEMSELVES: If you're in a relationship with a narcissist, conversations will never be a two-way street. That's because they will only want to talk about themselves. If you even start to talk about what's going on in your life, they'll perhaps act interested initially, but they'll quickly interrupt you to veer the attention on to themselves. You'll either end up just letting them talk or ignore them completely. The narcissist will generally do one of two things: do all the talking or not respond to you at all because what you're saying is of no importance or interest to them at all.
This would happen to me on a daily basis. My NarcEx would often ask how my day went after I got home for work. But, I would barely get into my response when he'd interrupt and tell me EVERY minute detail about his ENTIRE day! I'd hear every little freaking thing about every hour of his day. Eventually, I learned to give him a very short (often one word) response and prepare myself for his monologue.
THEY USE MANIPULATION TO SUIT THEMSELVES: A narcissist will make unreasonable demands from those that are closest to them in order to satisfy some self-serving need. This applies to parents, spouses, children, and friends. In a relationship, the narcissist will use guilt to get what they want from their partner. Narcissists use guilt-tripping quite often to scheme others into doing what they want and getting their way. They will use dizzying, circular rhetoric to exhaust you into submission.
OMG, my NarcEx was an expert on guilt-tripping and manipulation! This happened regularly throughout the 8 years we were together. And, I can testify that he did it to me, his sons (mainly the youngest), his female best friend (yeah, that's an entire book of story all by itself!), and his parents - especially his dad. He didn't and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He would do whatever he needed to in order to "wear you down" so that you'd finally just give up and give in to whatever he wanted. He'd bribe his youngest son and if that didn't work he'd bully or threaten him.
THEY FEEL ENTITLED TO EVERYTHING: A narcissist often feels as if they "deserve" something that they haven't earned. Doing the work required to earn it is "beneath" them and they will insist on someone else doing it. The narcissist will often seem like a child that throws tantrums to get attention. If they're not feeling like they are getting enough attention, money, support, love, etc., they'll display eccentric and selfish behaviors in an attempt to get what they want.
I witnessed and experienced my NarcEx throw several child-like temper tantrums and endless rants to get his way. Once, I saw him throw a temper tantrum during his elderly father's birthday weekend. He turned that event into being all about him and threatened to boycott the family celebration. I used to say he was like a pit bull or a crocodile who would clamp down on something with its jaws and thrash it about until it was dead. Well, when he got through with his tactics you were exhausted and emotionally dead! He would work your last nerve and wear you down until you would just give him what he wanted to shut him and keep the peace. God forbid you didn't...there would always be consequences - temper/anger, silent treatment, punishment of some sort, etc.
- THEY ARE CONTROLLING The narcissistic persona is overpowering and goes above & beyond obsessive compulsive behavior. They want to control EVERYTHING from finances to decisions in the home. Sometimes the control can become physically abusive and that's when it's time to set huge boundaries for your safety!
My NarcEx would argue me down that he was not controlling. But, what do you call it when your spouse literally stands over you in the kitchen and tells you how to wash the dishes and how to cook?!? What do you call it when he tries to tell you what you "should be" reading or watching on TV? Ohhh, did I mention how HE made ALL the "rules of the house" that NEVER seemed to apply to him?!?! One bank account. One joint Facebook account. Even IF he asked for my input or opinion, the decision was already made. Yup, the decision HE MADE! My stepson and I used to get so frustrated and upset because it was like a game in the house. I remember meeting someone who grew up with him in the projects of Pittsburgh. He bet me that he could tell me two things that were still true about my NarcEx. He said that my NarcEx had a helluva temper AND that he bet it was always my NarcEx's "way or the highway!" Hmmmm, how did he know?!?!?!
- THEY ARE JEALOUS: Narcissistic people are envious of EVERYONE who may overshadow them. They require to be the center of attention at all times, but especially in a relationship. They need to be the ones who take the power and who succeed. They might seem like amazing gift givers, but TRUST ME it comes at a price! There is NOTHING they do for you that doesn't or won't cost you in some way. Just remember, jealousy is destructive to a relationship.
My NarcEx would accuse me of checking out other men if I even looked in the direction of one for a nanosecond too long! He made me cut off ALL of my male friends and could sniff a guy out if he was "too close" for his comfort. He was extremely jealous even of my time and attention being "away from him" too long if I was spending time with my girlfriends, working too much, traveling for work, or with my family. Part of that was about control too, but it was also about his jealousy.
- THEY CAN'T COMMIT: Narcissistic people suffer from lack of emotional commitment. They must be the "star" of the show at all times. As relationships go, they need to be praised and "affirmed" often or they will go find the attention they seek elsewhere. They have a hard time providing stability to their partner when the "newness" of the relationship wears off. The narcissist is always in fear that his insecurities will be exposed.
My NarcEx was always saying that he need constant "verbal affirmation" from me. I felt that his ego was one bottomless dark hole for which there would never be any filling or satisfaction. He'd scour my social media activity and throw up in my face anytime I'd positively comment or encourage any of my friends. Yes, he'd be uber jealous! But, when I say this was a huge source of contention and fighting for 8 years...believe me it was!
- THEY ARE OVERLY CHARMING AND CHARISMATIC: Narcissists will use these attributes as their form for manipulation. They are great at selling themselves to anyone and suffer from grandiose perception. Narcissists are charming in a fault! They can sound like the epitome of truth and honesty, but it's a very toxic, unhealthy pattern.
I will be the 1st to admit that my NarcEx was a charming mutherfu@$% He was definitely easy on the eyes, nice body and quite the charmer. His gorgeous white smile and caramel mocha skin was attractive...even sexy. But hell, Satan seduced Eve with something as innocent as a healthy apple. I swear to see how my NarcEx charmed the hell out of all his coworkers, strangers, friends, etc. was eerily disturbing. They ALL think he's a "great guy" and the best thing since sliced cheese! They have NO IDEA the narcissistic destructive monster he truly is behind closed doors. One piece of advice: DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!!!
- THEY DON'T RESPECT BOUNDARIES: Narcissists use others for the extension of their needs. They will prey on the weakness of their partner to get what they want. They have NO respect or awareness for your privacy. They feel they are entitled to EVERYTHING in the home, in a business, and in every aspect of a relationship. Narcissists are highly judgmental and critical of what they want in their partner and from their home. Because of their charm, a narcissistic person doesn't show these issues until a person is already living with (or married to) them.
Ohhhhh, I could write a book on all the mind games and mental fuckery my NarcEx used to do to me in the first half of our relationship! It used to baffle me "how the hell did he know" certain stuff. Well, come to find out the mofo was going through ALL of my personal belongings from Day 1 of dating! I mean he went through my purse, my laptop, my email, my clothes, my drawers...EVERYTHING! Privacy???? WTH was that?!?! I certainly had none and he certainly "demanded" complete "transparency" aka full access to any and all of my bank, electronic, social, etc. accounts! I wanted my own space in our home and he made sure to let me know that EVERY space in "our" home was his and there was no where in it what was off limits to him.
- THEY ARE THE ONLY HERO IN THEIR LIVES: It's pretty obvious that a narcissist is not only in love with who they are, but they create dramatic stories to come out as heroes. They may have relationships with people who need them financially just to feel the desire of control. I know they definitely enjoy being in relationships with women who need them emotionally. Because the rules don't apply to them, narcissists will participate in dangerous matter and see destructive behavior as a positive trait. In the end, they truly believe there is no one else like them.
My NarcEx was always the "star basketball player" or the "best male stripper in the DMV" during his time dancing. At the time we met, I was an emotional mess and extremely vulnerable due to my father's death. His needy female best friend was emotionally dependent on him and definitely his primary "flying monkey." Who knows what other games he played to make himself someone else's "hero" but I'm sure we weren't the only ones!
- THEY ARE MASTER SCHEMERS: Narcissistic personalities require constant change. They have been plotting and scheming to keep the attention going. Often times, they fall into the "victim role" to get what they want. They will use the love and compassion of their partner to feel sorry for them. They will cheat, lie, and regret nothing!! These narcissists will blame and project their insecurities onto their mates.
If I had a $1.00 for every time my NarcEx was the poor victim in some crazy story told me, I'd be rich! According to him, EVERY woman he dated lied and cheated on him. All women are liars and cheaters. If you lie, you cheat. His father did him wrong. His mother did him wrong. His sisters did him wrong. His baby mamas did him wrong. Multiple former supervisors and bosses on past jobs did him wrong or had it out for him. What I know now is that as SOON as I left that monster and moved into my own apartment, his lies and schemes starting coming to light. He always preached "what's done in the dark will always come to light" and believe me they did! I can't believe what a manipulative, pathological liar he was all those years...from day one.
So ladies...PAY ATTENTION and don't be fooled!!
You're In A Narcissistic Abusive Relationship...So Now What?
How many of the signs above did you recognize? If you are sure you’re currently in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, know that you are NOT alone even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors and those in the same situation all over the world. This form of abuse is not exclusive to any gender, culture, social class, or religion.
The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it—even if and when your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise. If you identify with these signs, especially several of them, and you think you're a victim of narcissistic abuse, the main challenges for you at this point are:
- Clearly identifying it
- Building a support system
- Learning how to strengthen and protect yourself
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important to get outside support to understand clearly what’s going on, to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence, and to learn to communicate effectively and set healthy boundaries. Seek help through a therapist if possible. If not, seek out free resources – articles, exercises, online workbooks, etc. Google, Google, Google!! Call the national domestic abuse hotline number to ask questions.
I spent eight hellish years with my NarcEx. It took me about half that time to ACCEPT that I was in an abusive relationship AND to even hear the term “narcissist.” Now, I’m a very passionate advocate trying to bring awareness and educate women about this topic. I will continue to research, share my own story, and write more about this topic. If you ever want to join the “SpunkyDiva Tribe” and share your own story (even anonymously)...or you just need to vent, contact me! Don't forget to follow SpunkyDiva Diaries on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or check the website frequently for new articles! My own story is on the website called "I Have A Story To Tell."