I thought things were fine—even better than that, really.
“Nick” and I had been together for several months. We bicycled together. We laughed at the same dumb jokes. We both loved adventure, and we’d each forged our own successful paths. We had fun together, and we made memories.
The good times were so very good.
When I look back at my relationship with Nick, though, I see the holes. I see his quick temper. I see the times I walked on eggshells trying not to anger him. I see the times I held back my opinions to keep the peace, and I recognize the gaslighting, humiliation, and control.
And it astounds me that I let it happen.
I am a strong woman. Most of the time, I overflow with self-confidence. I’m independent, level-headed, and street-wise. I never thought I would fall for a narcissist, but I did.
The Internet is full of stories about narcissists. I thought that was just a label that people attached out of spite. I want to believe that love would conquer all, and that, by communicating in healthy ways (which I have always prided myself at doing), we could overcome any obstacle that came our way. I didn’t know what a one-way street that could be, or that I would be the one who gave up my light so that he could shine in his conquest.
Nick was a powerful man. He had a powerful career. He was decisive. He was admired. He was nearly worshipped by his friends. But his charm turned into a baited trap, and I walked right in.
I know I am not the only one. I know of both men and women who have fallen for the charming and manipulative ways of a narcissist. Now, I’ve come to recognize some truths I wish I would have seen along the way:
- It’s not about you. It does not matter who you are on the inside. A narcissist only sees a challenge, and the stronger you are, the more desirable you become. It’s like a game, and all they want to do is win by conquering you. Some narcissists pick easy targets; some pick hard ones, depending on how much of a challenge they’re up for.
- Pay attention to his or her past relationships. Does your partner have a long line of women or men from their past who strongly dislike them? He or she may have lots of excuses why this is so, but if there are more than a couple, chances are he or she wasn’t good to them. That’s a red flag that they probably won’t be good to you in the long run, either.
- They want to win. It does not matter what the argument is, or how intelligent, well-researched, or passionate your responses are; a narcissist just wants to be right. Winning is the ultimate goal, and they will pick fights and argue unfairly just so that they can prove to themselves that they are better than you. It is never about the topic at hand; it’s about being dominant.
- They are broken. Narcissists often have scars and wounds from the past, particularly in childhood, that have left them incapable of empathy or of healthy behavior in relationships. Frequently, the people they attract know this and allow a narcissist’s scars be an excuse for their actions.
- Pay attention to how they treat or talk about their opposite-sex parent. How a man relates to his mother, or how a woman relates to her father are often good indicators of how they will relate to you in the long run. If a man has nothing but scathing remarks about their mother, he will likely treat his partner the same way once the charm has worn off.
- There are red flags. You will see them and feel them, but a narcissist will recognize them, too. They will remain one step ahead of you, making you feel like your instincts are not legitimate, and forcing you to question your own truth. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Even when it means change.
- You will never have a healthy relationship with a narcissist. Things will not get better, not because you aren’t healthy or aren’t trying hard enough, but because they are not healthy and don’t know how to try. As good as the good times can be, the bad times will only get worse if you stay.
In the end, it took my teenage son’s pleas to leave to make me see the downward spiral my relationship was in. I am ashamed that he saw me at my worst, but also proud of him for seeing the truth when I could not.
Time has gone by now, and I see things so much more clearly in hindsight. It is as if I was under a spell I never thought I could fall for.
Mostly, I learned that even we strong ones can fall for a narcissist. From now on, though, I will listen to my heart and what it tells me, and I will speak my truth. We must love our lives, and love ourselves too much to remain on that path.
If you recognize yourself in this, know that you are worthy. You are worthy of something better. You are worthy of kindness. You are worthy of healthy love. And you are worthy of someone who sees your beautiful light for what it is, and who will not want to dull its shine to make themselves feel better.
You, my soul friend, are worth it.
Author: Amanda Christmann
Editor: Catherine Monkman