How do I know if I am in a Relationship with a Narcissist?
Melanie Tonia Evans
Melanie Tonia Evans is a healer, author, and radio host considered to be the world’s leading online authority on narcissistic abuse recovery.
As a survivor of Narcissistic Abuse herself, she is the founder of Quanta Freedom Healing (QFH) and the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program (NARP). Through her programs, Mel has helped thousands of people worldwide – there are now over 20,000 graduates of the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program who are presently Thriving in abuse-free lives.
To find out more visit: melanietoniaevans.com
A narcissist is someone with an extreme sense of entitlement, blames you for their problems, is manipulative and has no empathy. Narcissistic abuse may be mental, physical, financial, spiritual or sexual. If you have been through an abusive relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you will know that no one understands what you are going through unless they have personally experienced it. In this excerpt from her book, You Can Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse (Watkins November, 2018), Melanie Tonia Evans describes the five ways you will know you are in a narcissistic relationship…
Five Major Signs of Narcissism
Having worked with thousands of people around the world, I have found that, irrespective of age, race, gender, race, religion, sexual preference or who the narcissist is (such as a spouse, lover, family member, friend, colleague or boss), narcissism is narcissism. If you are having any doubts about whether or not you are involved with someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), take a look at the following:
1. Emotional insecurity
Despite the commonly held belief that ‘narcissists are full of themselves’, the experience of living with a narcissist shows us a completely different reality once their mask has started to crack. Narcissists are hugely insecure and react on a hair-trigger to things that average adults simply don’t get upset about. Their over-sensitivity is extreme. When narcissists erupt into a narcissistic rage, their anger is a reaction to a perceived threat to the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem or self-worth. This type of threat is known as ‘narcissistic injury’. Perhaps you spoke appreciatively about a colleague—and all of a sudden, the narcissist is ripping your head off for being disloyal, or even accuses you of having an affair? If the narcissist doesn’t receive enough attention in a group setting, he or she may stir up trouble or exit the scene, only to chastise you later and degrade you and anyone else perceived to have stolen the limelight.
This insecurity may be so extreme that it provokes incredible jealousy and envy that can’t be assuaged. No matter how many times we tried to include the narcissist, share our lives with them and convince them that we were loyal to them, the abuse continued. It is devastating not to have the trust, love and support of a person who plays such a major part in your life. It doesn’t matter who the narcissist is in your own life – you will painfully experience their insecurities in the form of accusations directed at you. Taking it out on you is just something that narcissists do.
2. An extreme sense of entitlement
If you share your life with a narcissist, you will quickly discover they have an unreasonable sense of entitlement—it truly is all about them—and very poor peripheral vision when it comes to anyone else’s needs. A narcissist’s self-absorption, which is an integral part of their inner wiring, means they believe they deserve preferential treatment over and above all others. They will push people’s boundaries without hesitation and go for whatever they can get away with, while their real agenda remains cloaked in charm, flattery and feigned care.
No matter how good it looks to others, any deal brokered by a narcissist is underpinned by a desire to obtain the best of the spoils, regardless of who else might suffer in the process. Without conscience or as much as a backward glance, a narcissist will throw all and sundry under a bus when the time comes for them to collect, including their spouse, family and even their children.
The narcissist’s sense of entitlement ranges all the way from normal everyday events such as ‘I’m not listening to your conversation, let alone engaging with you in it – I will spin everything back to me’ and ‘I will watch whatever I want on TV and turn the volume up regardless of your trying to have a conversation on the phone’, to major life decisions such as property settlements and the splitting of assets: ‘I deserve all of what I want because…’ (cue the narcissist’s version of events).
If you grew up in a narcissistic family, this kind of behavior constitutes your ‘normal’ version of life. When it comes to boundaries, you will be used to the idea that whatever is yours is the narcissist’s; and as for your rights—what rights exactly? However, if connecting with a narcissist later in life, in all likelihood you didn’t see this coming, because initially the narcissist made you believe they had your back; that they cared for you and loved you genuinely, and that they saw, heard and valued you. After trusting and allowing someone in to your life at the deepest level, it can be devastating to realize this person is actually gobbling up your space, energy, attention and resources, and emptying you out, without any remorse while doing so.
3. Circular arguments that don’t make sense
One of the surest ways to identify an NPD sufferer is the way they argue. Over the years, I have identified numerous ways in which narcissists use diversionary tactics when in conflict situations. Their defense mechanisms range from being subtly manipulative to displays of downright nasty, out-of-bounds behavior. These tactics are so common among narcissists and the expressions they use are so consistent word for word that it is almost eerily uncanny; frequently used phrases include refrains such as ‘you didn’t let me finish what I was saying’ and ‘just because I didn’t say what you wanted to hear’ and ‘you are the only person I have any problems with’. (Believe me, there are so many others!)
Long before you have identified what is going on during these sorts of conversations, you may well feel terribly anxious and traumatized, and wonder if you are losing your mind. You will probably be bamboozled as to why you appear to be arguing over and over about basic points with someone who apparently refuses to get it. It’s like disagreeing with an angry five-year-old who won’t remain on topic, or be held accountable, or learn from previous behavior. Finally, perhaps after hours, days or even weeks, you think you’ve won the debate and the narcissist really does understand your point of view, only then to discover evidence that, shockingly, nothing was resolved in the first place—and now you are back at square one.
The arsenal that narcissists draw on in arguments includes:
• excuses for their behavior;
• minimizing an incident altogether;
• accusing someone else of wrongdoing;
• offering a false apology and expecting you to accept it;
• flatly denying that whatever you have brought to the table even exists;
• confusing you with antics or trivia to take you off the subject;
• projecting the blame on to you;
• using allies, real or fabricated, to back up their argument;
• stonewalling you and leaving the scene;
• using ‘tit for tat’ behaviors relating to something you did in the past;
• stating how disloyal your accusations of them are;
• discrediting your observations, owing to your ‘unstable’ past.
There are many more tactics, including making actual threats or downright abandonment if you continue the conversation. All of the above are a part of the construction of the quintessential narcissistic three-ring circus, which makes you feel like your head is going to explode.
4. Pathological lying
In his or her grandiose self-delusion, a narcissist is covering up a fragile inner identity—and thereby creating and acting out a different script of ‘who’ he or she would like to be. The lies begin very early on in relationships with narcissists, because lying is an ingrained part of their identity. A narcissist is likely to lie and brag about accomplishments in his or her past, as well as complain about how poorly they have been treated by those with whom they have had fractured adult relationships—which is usually a gross projection and distortion of what the narcissist has done to others. Moreover, narcissists believe their own lies, which is why they can be such convincing deceivers, often attracting a host of minions who believe in them. Grown adults with integrity can’t imagine why another grown adult would say such terrible things about anybody else—in explicit detail—unless it were true. Especially when that person appears credible and can look you in the eye while doing so.
Many narcissists lead double lives. They are attracted to breaking rules and subverting authority. Likewise, the sanctity and exclusivity of marriage threaten to reduce them to ‘normality’ (which feels like emotional annihilation to a narcissist). Therefore, they are often associated with criminal and extra-marital activities, behaviors that are concealed and lied about so that they can retain the things in their lives that provide them with enough stability to remain functioning. In over a decade of helping people to recover from narcissistic abuse, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told about narcissists eventually being caught out having affairs, or being involved in dodgy business practices and even illegal activities.
Because of the falseness, lies and deception associated with narcissistic behavior—forever seeking more acclaim, notoriety and the envy of others—no matter how successful a narcissist’s life looks, scratch beneath the surface and you will often find a countless number of disasters waiting to strike.
Due to the falseness, lies and deception associated with narcissistic behavior – forever seeking more acclaim, notoriety and the envy of others – no matter how successful a narcissist’s life looks, scratch beneath the surface and you will often find a countless number of disasters waiting to strike.
And narcissists do get struck down: they get caught out, people leave them, they go bankrupt and they are prosecuted. Yet many will divorce themselves as effectively from this sort of unwanted exposure – and everyone involved in it – as an actor moving from one movie deal to the next. These things and people simply don’t serve a purpose for the narcissist anymore and he or she may just up and leave.
I know that if you have been narcissistically abused, you too will have discovered shocking truths that you never thought could happen to you. Your life becomes a surreal bad dream and the person standing in front of you bears no resemblance to the person you thought you were having a relationship with.
5. Blaming you for their problems
One of the most insane and devastating parts of narcissist abuse is the projection tactics that narcissists use. Narcissists, quite simply, accuse you of all the things that they do themselves. I can’t remember the number of times I screamed at my ex, ‘Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?’ when I was accused of being selfish, uncaring, moody, using people to do my bidding, wanting him for his money (what money!) and of course adultery, which I later discovered he’d been guilty of all along.
With narcissists, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. As far as they are concerned, your actions will all too often represent a personal affront or even a direct attack, intended to hurt them or undermine them – and they claim this is the reason why your relationship is experiencing problems. In these situations, it’s easy to feel like you will never win, and that you are losing your mind. If, for example, you have discovered what narcissism is and accused a narcissist of being one, he or she will in all probability twist that accusation back on you until you seriously start to question whether you are the narcissist instead.
Too many people misguidedly end up staying in a relationship while suffering this sort of abuse in an attempt to prove to the narcissist that they are not to blame, or because they are genuinely trying to unravel who really is the abuser and who is the victim—while feeling great shame and confusion in the process. Rest assured, a narcissist will have no qualms about throwing you metaphorically to the wolves if they think the need arises. They will talk about you in disparaging ways to others—labelling you as the abuser and smearing you to the key people in your life. Narcissists are used to operating within the thresholds of drama and pain, and even in extreme situations which would stress out normal people, they appear high functioning and therefore credible. In stark contrast, you are likely to seem like a lunatic while you struggle to hold it all together. Devastatingly, the important people in your life will often start to believe the narcissist. You might even lose your job because of discussions that a narcissist has behind your back with your boss and colleagues.
All of this isolates the victims of narcissists yet further, pushing them into a deep abyss of helplessness and powerlessness, while, like a stealth bomber, the narcissist continues to pillage and rape their soul and life.