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Do you often engage in conversations with your narcissist that leave you feeling like you were talking to a brick wall – or worse, maybe leave you feeling like banging your head against a brick wall? Perhaps, it has even crossed your mind that you would have been better off conversing with a brick wall because the wall would have more capacity of providing understanding, validation, and empathy than the narcissist in your life!

Real life conversations with a narcissist are exhausting, dizzying, nerve-racking, and make you feel like you’re going crazy – or at least drive a compassionate person to question their own reality, and even their sanity at times. The circular conversations lceave you feeling worse off than if you had never had them in the first place. You begin to blame yourself, doubt your instincts and wonder what the heck is going on?

REVERSE PROJECTION

Before we realize the truth about the narcissist in our lives, we relate to them as if they are normal human beings possessing a conscience, integrity and some degree of self-awareness. We trust their words because we don’t deceive and manipulate people and trust that the people who claim to love us will do the same. We give them the benefit of the doubt because we believe they truly love no one who truly loves us would purposely say or do anything to hurt our feelings and us. We are in essence projecting our good qualities on to them, and when they don’t respond the way we expect a normal person would, we become confused and hurt, question our reality and believe we must be to blame in some way. The problem is that narcissists don’t think, operate or play by the same rules as us, and our failing to recognize this sets us up for manipulation and misery by default.

Conversations with a narcissist, especially if you hold opinions about anything that contradict with their opinion of what is the gospel truth, are jam-packed with a barrage of covert manipulation tactics that are intrinsic to the narcissist and entrenched in their personality. They will make you wish you never disagreed with them in the first place and regret that you had ever dared to express your point of view. A simple disagreement will often incite a full-fledged attack on you. Somehow, they manage to twist the conservation, so you wind up feeling like the bad guy/girl, while they assume the role of the innocent victim – of you.

CONVERSATIONS ARE NOT CONVERSATIONS; THEY ARE VERBAL COMPETITIONS

When you challenge your narcissist’s lies, discrepancies, and groundless accusations; suggest that they are less than perfect; try to get them to understand your point of view; confront them on their cruel behaviors; or approach them about the lack of reciprocity in the relationship, the discussion will likely decay into a crazy-making, chaotic, drama packed, mind-spinning, migraine induced headache that is intended to wear you down and punish you for suggesting or exposing a fact that doesn’t support their grandiose view of themselves or maintain their need to feel superior and all mighty.

Narcissists never enter into conversations. They enter into verbal competitions. Their goal is to win at all costs. They have no interest in seeking understanding, clarification or compromise, or in reaching a meeting of the minds. Their conversations are only meant to manipulate, confuse, control, destabilize, deflect accountability, cast doubt, distort reality and create drama.

ENABLERS AND TONGUE BITERS

Narcissists only surround themselves with people who are either so charmed by them that they blindly believe every word they say is true or people who have learned that it’s easier to keep their mouths shut rather than reap the wrath of expressing an opposing opinion.

Anyone in a narcissist’s life that doesn’t fall into one of the two categories of Enablers or Tongue Biters will certainly be given the boot. But first the narcissist will discipline you with their collection of manipulation tactics, so when they do give you the boot, you will be sure to go out believing the reasons for your dismissal were all your fault.

HERE ARE THE 8 MOST COMMON CONVERSATION MANIPULATION TACTICS

1. TOPIC SWITCHEROO

Here’s how this works. You and your narcissist are in the middle of a conversation; it’s going well until you disagree or present facts that contradict the narcissist’s point of view. The narcissist knows that your facts are indisputable and you have the upper-hand, so to gain control of the conversation and win the argument, the narcissist will deviate into a tangent of verbal vomit attempting to hoodwink you and pull the ole’ topic switcheroo. Before you know it, you’re discussing something totally unrelated to the original conversation, and you find yourself in defensive mode about some issue the two of you disagreed on last year.

2. THE BLAME GAME

Blame shifting is usually a tactic used subsequently to the Topic Switcheroo. The narcissist, like a magician, successfully changes the topic and diverts your attention by pointing the finger at you, and you suddenly find yourself on the defensive end of the conversation stick. The narcissist will raise questions about any and all of your real or perceived faults and pummel you. You, in turn, instinctively defend yourself, and the narcissist, just like Houdini, makes the original topic of their bad behavior disappear and escapes having to take any accountability for their actions. Meanwhile, you’re tricked into taking on the defensive position and accused and blamed for creating problems and drama in the relationship.

3. PROJECTION

Hypocrisy is the narcissist’s middle name. What they say and do when no one is watching is drastically different from what they say and do in the presence of others. Since they are all about maintaining their false persona they use projection to rid the unwanted traits in their character. But since they are the emotional equivalent of a five-year-old, they magically disown the parts of themselves that reflect negatively on their personas and accuse you of the exact things they’re guilty of doing. Did you ever notice how they will accuse the most generous person of being selfish or having a hidden agenda behind their generosity? The most honest person is accused of being a liar. Their faithful partner is accused of cheating? The narcissist’s projections are really confessions that reveal what the narcissist is guilty of and/ or believes about himself/herself.

In contrast, emotionally healthy people don’t use projection when they’re on the defensive. When and if they resort to character assignation, their comments more closely resemble the truth and tend to resemble slander. Not the outright lies that characterize projection.

4. TURNING UP THE VOLUME:

When narcissists act with a disproportionate amount of anger or rage by increasing the volume and tempo of their voice, you can bet that they’re trying to shock and bully you. Their actions are an absolute declaration of psychological warfare. Their increased volume is a ploy to get to you to back off. The sudden, shocking, cruel and disproportionate attack is an offensive maneuver aimed to destabilize, confuse and intimidate you. When you’re under attack and in a state of shock, your defenses naturally become weakened. The stress of being attacked and yelled at decreases your mental acuity and leaves you open to suggestion. As a result, your weakened state renders you less of an intellectual threat to the narcissist’s need for control and dominance.

5. PLAYING THE VICTIM

There is much truth in the quote, “Deceit’s favorite role is playing the victim.” It’s no wonder why when the narcissist isn’t playing the role of the hero, he/she is playing the role of the poor victim. Through garnering pity, narcissists will play the victim, while vilifying the real victim, as a way of concealing their abusive behavior and avoid taking responsibility for their cruel and deceitful actions. Narcissists capitalize on the compassion of others and exploit their sympathy in any way they can, depending upon what their goal is at the time. If the narcissist doesn’t want to keep a promise and you become upset, your feelings won’t be validated; there will be no apology or display of empathy. Instead, the narcissist will get angry at you for being upset and blame you for your lack of empathy in not considering that they may be having a bad week, stress at work or so on.

You will be labeled selfish or accused of being needy or demanding for expecting the poor narcissist to honor his/her word. However, if you have a bad week, don’t expect to receive the same treatment. The narcissist will expect you to keep your promise and will minimize and invalidate your feelings by portraying themselves as the victim. The narcissist will always one-up you by reciting a litany of reasons why their week was so much worse than yours or lecture you on how your life is so much easier than theirs, and so on. Whatever you can do, they can do better. Whatever bad thing happened to you, something worse happened to them.

6. GASLIGHTING

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse so insidious that many articles have been written about it.  Narcissists use this tactic in conversations by purposely altering or not sharing information and replacing it with false information. This tactic is designed to systematically dismantle the victim’s ability to trust their own judgment and undermine their confidence to the point where they begin to doubt their own memories and judgments, thus rendering them highly suggestible to the narcissist’s opinion.

For example, a narcissist may casually but consistently suggest how their memory is superior to yours, especially if you ever admit to being forgetful about anything. They may even go so far as hiding or rearranging your belongings, intentionally tricking you into believing your memory is faulty. Then when a difference in opinion arises or you expose a discrepancy in their story, the narcissist, with absolute conviction, will use your faulty memory as evidence to make you doubt what you heard or saw and second guess yourself, causing you to ultimately accept the narcissist’s rendition of the truth.

7. INTERRUPTING

Narcissists are notorious conversation interrupters. They love to be the center of attention and control the focus of the conversation. They have no interest in having a two-way discussion with you. If you dare attempt to get a word in edge-wise or make your point of view heard, if it at all contradicts the narcissist’s point of view, your opinion will most likely be ignored or dismissed. While many people with ADHD and other mental disorders struggle with problems of poor impulsivity or poor communication and often interrupt others, the narcissist intentionally interrupts to redirect the focus of the conversation back to themselves since they believe their opinions are superior and correct, and that whatever they say should be accepted as the gospel truth.

They genuinely have zero interest in hearing other people’s viewpoints or reaching compromises or win/win solutions to disagreements. They have a ‘my way or the highway’ frame of mind and interrupting allows them to control the conversation and manage it in a direction that parallels their point of view and agenda. By monopolizing the conversation, they exert their control and avoid taking responsibility or addressing important issues. In their minds, their ability to dominate conversations confirms their superiority.

8. THE SILENT TREATMENT

The silent treatment is probably one of the most common forms of emotional abuse used by narcissists when all the above tactics have been tried and have failed. Narcissists use the silent treatment as a form of punishment for not acquiescing to their point of view or as the way to gain the upper hand and control in their relationships. It’s also a way to avoid discussing important issues in the relationship and avoid taking accountability for their wrong-doings. When a narcissist uses the silent treatment, they will do it in a way that is so out of proportion to the situation. Narcissists will also tend to demand a perfectly delivered apology. If the apology is not said correctly or in the right way, the narcissists will extend the length of the silent treatment. By demanding a perfectly delivered apology, narcissists confirm their dominance and support their exaggerated importance.

The silent treatment is intended to make the victim feel completely unloved, invalidated and insignificant. The use of the silent treatment is usually about control. Sometimes the narcissist will use the silent treatment just to assess the amount of control they have over people. Often, it will be used as a tactic to create distance and free up space to engage in infidelity or pursue new admirers. Victims are left feeling destroyed, as the silent treatment kills any possibility of reconciliation.

THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

The many people who’ve been expelled from the narcissist’s life know there is something terribly wrong with the narcissist. However, many of them never bothered or cared enough to connect the dots and define the craziness they were subjected to.

But for those who have had intimate relationships with a narcissist for any length of time, it almost becomes an unsettling necessity to search for answers and put the pieces together to restore their equilibrium and unearth the reality of the absolute insanity that had become their normal existence.

This is what drives most former partners of narcissists to hit the internet and actively Google the WHY DID questions – for example: Why did my partner always think they were right? Why did my mother never apologize? Why did my spouse always give me the silent treatment? Why did my sibling always make me feel like I was to blame? Why did my perfect partner change?

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY ABOVE THE CLOUDS

Their Google search queries lead them to articles about narcissism and narcissistic traits. Survivors voraciously ingest the massive amounts of information permeating the world-wide web. The descriptions are so eerily accurate that if they didn’t know better, they would swear the articles were written about their relationship. The precision in which the articles depict their relationships, from the golden beginnings right down to the horrid end, to the t becomes the indisputable validation that precipitates the cloud of confusion to dissipate, allowing enlightenment to illuminate the truth of their situation with profound clarity. No, narcissism is not limited to vanity or arrogance, as they originally believed. It is so much more pathological and insidious than they could have ever imagined; and even worse, there is no cure.

Gradually, through their research, they realize that the narcissist never really loved them or anyone for that matter, as narcissists are wholly incapable of love and devoid of a conscience. Survivors slowly accept that the person they were in love with was just a façade and never really existed. Finally, this awareness forces them to mourn the loss of three people, only amplifying and adding to their grief. First, they must mourn the loss of the person they loved who never really existed. Second, they must mourn the loss of the person they believed their narcissist had the potential to be. Third, they must mourn the loss of their identity that had been eclipsed under the crushing weight of the imbalance and inequity of their relationship.

THE LENSES OF AWARENESS

Terms they had never heard of before – like love bombing, future faking, false-self, idealization, devaluation, projection, gaslighting, smear campaign, flying monkeys, cognitive dissonance, and triangulation – become part of the survivor’s regular vocabulary. Sadly, they become more adept at explaining the definitions of these terms than most mental health professionals because they are not just terms learned through memorization, but rather words learned through painful, real-life experiences.

Their new-found vocabulary becomes powerfully liberating as they finally offer a palpable term to explain the insanity that once was their reality, but that they were previously at a loss for words to describe. They grow so knowledgeable about the subject of narcissism and traits of NPD; they deserve to earn honorary doctorate degrees in the subject.

The crazy-making conversations of the past start to make more sense through the new lenses of awareness. Survivors begin to finally be able to put the finger on and pinpoint the emotional abuse they suffered but failed to perceive was abuse at the time. The layers of blame, guilt, doubt, confusion and uncertainty of their reality that had tormented them start to erode, as they recognize that the layers were deliberately and deceptively deposited onto them by their narcissist. This is the pivotal point, where recovery from narcissistic abuse begins.

Without awareness and education about narcissistic abuse, the chances that a survivor will end up in another abusive relationship are infinitely higher. Emotional abuse is as devastating as any other kind of abuse. It’s intentional and malicious exploitation and manipulation of the heart, soul, spirit, mind, and often the wallet of another human-being, cloaked in counterfeit expressions of love and concern.

Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay.  All Rights Reserved.

img_9351-1Bree Bonchay is a Los Angeles based licensed psychotherapist who believes relationships are the currency of life. She specializes in helping people heal from break-ups, recover from toxic relationships with narcissists and sociopaths and never to settle for a life less than the one they dreamed of. She is a Blogger, Advocate, Facebook Toxic Relationship Recovery Forum Administrator, Radio Guest Expert, and is the Author of the book; I Am Free.

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216 thoughts on “The 8 Most Common Narc-Sadistic Conversation Control Tactics

  1. Does anyone know of any Narc survivor abuse groups in the UK that are currently running? Many thanks for any info. In particular I’m dealing with a high level Narc and sadistic FIL and cult like In law family that have tried to ruin me for over 14 years. I would be massively relieved if I could have to real contact with others who struggle daily with this type of issue and give and receive moral support for it.

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  2. Is the person I’m suspecting of being a narcissist. really a narcissist? Or am I the narciissist? Is it possible that both people have narcissistic traits… ?

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    1. The simple fact that you’re asking that question is proof enough that you’re not a Narcissist. A Narcissist won’t usually view themselves with introspection. They aren’t concerned with right or wrong. They don’t question their own fairness. Their goal is to get everything they want without giving in at all. This includes a very reasonable compromise.

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  3. I have read, more than I’d like to admit, articles and such on narsasitic people and I have to give you credit where credit is due. Your work is spot on!!! I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to stop reading and go wake this man up I have been with for over 10 yrs and just punch him in the face. I have a broader vocabulary than most ppl I know. The way i describe things to him and others about the things he does/doesn’t do can range from extremely profound and deep places, sarcastic and hateful, to extremely funny defending on a number of factors. I was astonished at the number of my words as well as theories we’re jumping off the page back at me. My feelings were/still all over the place. It feels good to know that I’m not alone and I was right all along. I’m still in the vicious cycle because years of mental abuse, isolation, degradation, humiliation, shame of myself and inability add well as courage to leave FOR GOOD that is left me like an overdrawn bank account. I had insufficient funds stamped on my forehead like a scarlet letter or so I thought. Anyways I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I laughed, I insulted, I sought from compassion, regret, doubt, anger and hostility all the questions and accusations, you have listed in many of your writings, yet you already know I got nothing but confusion and madness in return. He is/was my second husband we met when my children went to stay with their father and the woman he left us for after 13 years. I was a mess because my children had never been away from me and I was angry but I could never keep them from him no matter what he did. So my current ex husband whom turned into my boyfriend without a day apart from divorce. Yeah that sounds just as messed up as it is. I promise. Lol I won’t give his real name so I’ll call him Dick. Dick was there when I needed someone most. Showered me with any and everything and I loved it even though he got under my skin with his know it all b.s. I figured tge good outweighed the bad. I know now I was SOOO stupid. Anyways after years of abuse I decided to step out of my marriage because he was never home always working or his hobbies came first. No cuddling, no time together I was lonely. It took everything I had to set up an account to talk to tge opposite sex. My daughter laughed abd made fun of me because of how shy and awkward I was. Eventually I got the hang of it and I had fun. I didn’t care if he came home,yet I was still hurting because now I had tasted some freedom and affection yet terrified to leave. I ended up meeting a guy who not only worshipped me but sold drugs. Long story short I did him and drugs TOO well. I lost ALL i loved and valued my children one to the streets and one to their father. So I was even more ashamed. This entire two years dick chased me, stalked me, begged me to come back and I refused I stayed in my new hell cause I was high, numb, and even harder on myself than before. A few times my new man went to jail dick miraculously found out and found me so I actually did go with him. That only lasted until my dude got out then I took off. By the time I was last arrested my new/old dude was locked up again and not getting out soon and I was the drug dealer going to jail. I was relieved at first to be out of the game that was until I was facing 5 yrs prison for violating a 10 yr probation sentence after I’d done 9 1/2 years successfully. WOW!! Also I had new charges of manufacturer and delivery. My daughter is still on the streets but now on the needle. I’m horrified because she’s prostituting as well. CAN YOU IMAGINE MY GUILT? I was the soccer mom. My house was the safe haven other kids were welcomed. I have fought ppl with fists and knives for my children. Now I’m dying inside because I have sobered up, time to think, and know I’ve ruined my children’s lives. By the way my daughter got out of safp for drug charges yesterday so she’s clean and safe! Thank you heavenly father! ! I was sentenced 4 years and God’s grace got the others dropped. Dick stood by me in prison. I changed and found my soft side again

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  4. Wow! This was written about my life. I was with her for 26 yrs. I thought she was the love of my life. And she said she was so in love with me. We got married, then I instantly started to see the person she really was. She would start fights over the smallest of things. I didn’t light her cigarette fast enough, I put a quarter in a parking meter instead of using the free parking, I let an elderly lady off the bus before her, and it wasn’t just an eye roll, she would totally explode into fits of rage, hate and discontent. We would go on wonderful vacations and she would always find the most insucnificant little reason to start a fight and the fun was over for the rest of the trip. It was mind boggling. I couldn’t understand this behavior and would try to talk to her about it but she never wanted to discuss it. She would immediately go to defense mode and many times she wouldn’t talk to me for days if you can believe that. Then she’d say I never listened or never wanted to talk. I ALWAYS had to be the one to say let’s not fight anymore or I’d end up saying I’m sorry for the fight she started. In 26 yrs she only apoligized to me twice, and i had to ask for those. They were too ironclad for her to fight her way out of. Then just like that she would go into nice mode again, but it never lasted long. And because of the length of time we were together there were hundreds of these episodes. She would also do mean and cruel things to me (name calling, cursing, and just no appreciation) then turn it around and act like thats what i was doing to her. But I wasn’t ! She was always saying i was controlling. But I let her handle all the finances, and always asked for her opinion or thoughts. A controlling person would not let their partner handle all their money. Right ? I thought I was starting to go crazy. “Why do I keep staying around ?” Id ask myself. Or “how can someone who says they love you treat you like that” I was very confused. I knew I loved her very much and could always see the beautiful person that was inside her but that person never arrived. I put up with her abuse year after year until I could take no more so i filed for divorce. I thought i was finally free but my prison sentance was far from over. I helped her find a very nice new home in the country. I put in a sprinkler system and landscaped it for her. We decided to continue to see each other and try to reconcile. But we still always had trouble communicating and fighting. She would always throw the divorce in my face and how I put her through hell. She could never think of anything she ever did wrong. And she believed it. This lasted for another 5 yrs. I was back under her spell and totally in love with her again. (Why? What is wrong with me?) Then the beginning of the end started. She told me she was moving her sister and her husband from another town into her place to help with money and yard maintenance. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea but this was her decision to make not mine. Three months later her sister came to me crying saying her husband and sis were totally ignoring her and making her feel unwanted. He also in that short of time put over $25,000 into my gals property in permanent structures. A remodeled patio, new fence, new shed and a large metal shop. This guy moved fast and clearly had his sights set on my gal. His wife was understandably upset, and when she voiced her opinion she was immediately attacked by both her husband and my woman. (Who by this time wasnt mine anymore) Then he asked his wife to move out. I asked my gal how he could kick her sister outta her house and her reply was “I’m not getting in the middle of their fight” and just like that the sister was gone and filing for a divorce. My gal said she had a clear conscious because her sister left on her own, she didn’t kick her out. She shows absolutely no remorse or guilt. How could anyone do that to their own sister (and me) not to mention all the rest of our family. Nobody can understand what she is doing. And nobody approves of it either. It was clearly obvious what was going on but my girl kept trying to convince me nothing was going on so she could keep me on the hook. I was crushed and heartbroken. I tried to believe her, but kept catching her in a web of lies and deceit. I finally found my self respect again and told her where to stick it. After 26 yrs it was very difficult and like cutting my right arm off but it was absolutely necessary. I was still uncertain who’s fault it was for our failure. Was it her ? was it me ? Probably both. I except I’m not perfect. Then I started doing alot of reading and I found your article about narcissists. You hit the nail on the head. Now i understand why she acted the way she did and I know she would never have changed. I now know I did everything possible and gave 100% to a relationship that never had a chance and I have no regrets and am thankful that’s it’s over. I am finally starting to heal, I know its going to take time, but it’s worth it. I want to Thank You ! For educating me and saving my mind, spirit and life. Sincerely Bryan

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    1. Dear Bryan,

      Your story is much like mine. I was married to NPD for almost 28, if you count the 2 it took to get divorced, during which he adopted a scorched earth policy regarding our family, home and finances so there was nothing left.

      His “Waterloo” was being set up by a business partner who took him (and thus me and the kids) for almost everything in 07. Then he turned his anger and self-loathing on me and began encouraging our daughter to do likewise. She was hospitalized for self-injury in 08. In 09, he began inviting me to kill myself for the good of our family because I was bipolar, unstable and abusive to our daughter. He said he was locking me out of the house at her request. I knew it was bait, an attempt to make me (and her) become hysterical. And there were guns in our home because my ex hunted. I didn’t go back.

      I lost everything overnight–my home, identity, possessions, family and most cruelly, my daughter. This will be my 8th Christmas without her. She has cut off anyone who has supported me, including her brother and my parents, who are now in their mid 80’s and bereft. The damage goes on and on.

      I agree that this is an excellent article. It captures both the behavior and my recovery process. When my life crashed and burned there was almost nothing on the internet about NPD or narcissistic abuse. Though I had many symptoms for PTSD, they were interpreted by a misogynist culture as bipolar disorder. My ex orchestrated it all. Now you can choose from all kinds of sources and blogs and forums about NPD and CPTSD. There are programs for dealing with the trauma. I’ve watched them all materialize the last 6 or 7 years. Find the resources that work for you because there’s no single path out of this hell.

      Above all, please know this: You did nothing to cause or deserve what you got. This is not a 50/50, he said/she said kinda thing. Your ex’s behavior (i.e. the moment she didn’t have you to control anymore, she began narcissistically abusing her sister) shows the level of her disorder. Sadly, it’s also damaging you and your kids by proxy. Do what you can for her sister.

      I think those of us who spent the majority of our first adulthoods (20+ years) on NPD fall into a special category. Our cognitive dissonance and exhaustion is more pronounced. Our CPTSD is more acute. We often lack the resources to rebuild our lives both emotionally and financially. Had my life crashed and burned at 40, there would have been time to start over. But I was 55 at the time of my divorce and had enormous physical complications which resulted in a double hip replacement, so it’s also taken me a lot longer to heal in a variety of ways.

      You probably need to heal in a lot of different ways, too. Give yourself time. Talk to your kids. Get help for you and/or them if necessary, but do so with the knowledge that the therapeutic community is really just coming to terms with the pervasiveness of narcissistic trauma and what to do about it. Take a look at the work of Bessel van der Kolk.

      Good luck in reclaiming your life.

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  5. Thank you so much Bree. I have been scouting the Web do answers as to why? And you have given me the most definitive of what I have suffered. I am almost afraid to say and am ashamed that in the end I struck out at my wife after 13 years… I live in regret of this forever. I am a man and I swear this is exactly what happened to me, but I could never explain to anyone. Thank you so much

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  6. Thank you so much for your site.
    I literally can’t catch my breath after reading the material.
    Thank you for validating the hell that was my existence trying to love someone
    who embodies every single aspect of what you describe.
    I thought I was crazy…

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  7. What if the narcissistic person is the single mother of your grandchildren and keeps the kids from you if you question her about leaving them alone so often? She is all these kids have now and I am so worried about them.

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    1. Sam, If you are concerned that the children are being neglected or are in any sort of danger, please report this to your local child protective services agency. An investigation will be done if the agency finds cause, and you can remain anonymous. You might also consult a family-law attorney in your area to find out what your rights may be with regard to seeing your grandchildren, particularly in light of the fact that you suggest that the children’s support system is limited and you are showing such concern for their well-being. I wish you well.

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  8. You have put words to my life, thank you. I lived exactly what you describe. When I finally realized through research what the narc was, I grieved for what could have been, and then I moved on. I am 53 now and starting my life over from scratch. I could have done without the last 10 years but I will take the lessons learned and do something with them. I hope to help people out of bad situations. I am working on my psychology degree right now.

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    1. I should think so; you are likely a source of supply if your significant other is a narcissist. The narcissist, in my experience, demonstrates the same pattern with all of his/her significant relationships that provide narcissistic supply. In my case, my narcopath ex used, abused, and manipulated both me and his alternate supply — a female acquaintance with whom he became romantically involved. I know this because he disclosed to me lies he’d told her in order to keep her on the hook. As long as you are involved, the narcissist will continue toying with your mind and emotions.

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  9. Wow. Thank you. You just described my relationship and the effects of my relationship on my heart and mind. I am stunned how accurate your article is.

    Thank you.

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  10. “My” covert narc had a gaslighting technique that was so insidious that it took me 6 years to see it for what it was. I am not even sure I can describe it properly, but I will try. I always wanted to spend time with him, be taken out by him, go places with him – even just mundane things like shopping. Most of the time he’d find excuses not to. Then, every now and then, he’d ring up and invite me to go along somewhere with him, in order to create ‘incidents’ out of thin air. He did this by beginning the outing by treating me with a mixture of courtesy and charm, then act extremely irritable and moody, constantly either offended or annoyed by everything about me. My *every* expression, gesture and comment is cited and leaped upon by him as the wrong thing to say, as a criticism of him or his choices. So the entire outing became a misery, and I always ended up in tears, trying desperately to find some way not to annoy him. If I stayed silent then I was “sulking” and if I said anything then it was the wrong thing to say or the wrong tone of voice, or the wrong look on my face when I said it. Sometimes he’d actually blow up in a rage over nothing, then blame me for ‘provoking’ or ‘baiting’ him and I genuinely had no idea what I had said that fitted that description.
    If I interacted with a waiter or shop assistant, he’d wait until the person was gone and then tell me off for the way I spoke to the person. I would protest and deny it (of course!) and he’d sit back very calmly and say, “My god, you can’t even see it, can you?” He’d say I was “talking down” to a waiter, for example, or giving a “dirty look” to a salesman. Then he’d say he was “embarrassed to be seen with me”, because of the way I was. I would literally sit and sob, because I had displeased him, because we were out of sorts with one another, because he was telling me what a horrible person I was – and I believed him because I would see no reason for him to make up lies. Plus I loved him – adored him, admired him, and so would take heed of what he said about me.
    He would sit and watch me sob in a shop or a restaurant and would not comfort me. I was a strong, successful woman in her mid-50s – a business owner, a published author, and yet, just by his words and his scolds, he reduced me to feeling like a little girl who has been told off by her daddy.
    By the end of the outing he’d drop me off outside my house, shaking with fear, usually still crying, and tell me that I had “ruined his day” and our outing, and no, he did not want to come inside for a cup of tea, as I had “put him in a bad mood”. He’d start our outing all happy, opening the car door for me, kissing me, smiling at me, and by the end he was in a dead strop, refusing to speak to me, letting me open the door myself, then revving up loudly and pulling away with a screech. Sometimes, he would not even say goodbye, just sit in the car staring out of the side window, waiting in silence for me to get out. I would then spend the rest of the day or evening in pieces, sobbing into a cushion, howling with emotional pain, sometimes even phoning the Samaritans. He’d go off and enjoy the rest of his day, which, I later discovered, included watching porn and searching sex contact sites for other women.
    After that, he would always wait for me to phone or email him. If I didn’t, then he didn’t. I have sometimes left it 3 days and he hasn’t contacted me. He made me feel that he was waiting for me to apologise for ruining his day. Then the next time we met up, I would be walking on eggshells *even more* in a desperate attempt NOT to irritate and anger him. So I would be simpering, extremely nervous, nauseatingly sycophantic, letting him have his way instantly over every little thing, and showering him with compliments so that he’d stay in a good mood. I was petrified of saying or doing anything that might piss him off. I would spend the entire time with him terrified of provoking his wrath.

    But I finally realised WHY he created all this angst between us. I think it was for three reasons. (1) to see me struggle to stay on good terms with him (2) to destroy my self confidence in the way I interact in public and (3) to show me that we “just don’t get on” and so it’s better that he did not take me out anywhere.

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  11. “My” covert narc had a gaslighting technique that was so insidious that it took me 6 years to see it for what it was. I am not even sure I can describe it properly, but I will try. I always wanted to spend time with him, be taken out by him, go places with him – even just mundane things like shopping. Most of the time he’d find excuses not to. Then, every now and then, he’d ring up and invite me to go along somewhere with him, in order to create ‘incidents’ out of thin air. He did this by beginning the outing by treating me with a mixture of courtesy and charm, then act extremely irritable and moody, constantly either offended or annoyed by everything about me. My *every* expression, gesture and comment is cited and leaped upon by him as the wrong thing to say, as a criticism of him or his choices. So the entire outing became a misery, and I always ended up in tears, trying desperately to find some way not to annoy him. If I stayed silent then I was “sulking” and if I said anything then it was the wrong thing to say or the wrong tone of voice, or the wrong look on my face when I said it. Sometimes he’d actually blow up in a rage over nothing, then blame me for ‘provoking’ or ‘baiting’ him and I genuinely had no idea what I had said that fitted that description.
    If I interacted with a waiter or shop assistant, he’d wait until the person was gone and then tell me off for the way I spoke to the person. I would protest and deny it (of course!) and he’d sit back very calmly and say, “My god, you can’t even see it, can you?” He’d say I was “talking down” to a waiter, for example, or giving a “dirty look” to a salesman. Then he’d say he was “embarrassed to be seen with me”, because of the way I was. I would literally sit and sob, because I had displeased him, because we were out of sorts with one another, because he was telling me what a horrible person I was – and I believed him because I would see no reason for him to make up lies. Plus I loved him – adored him, admired him, and so would take heed of what he said about me.
    He would sit and watch me sob in a shop or a restaurant and would not comfort me. I was a strong, successful woman in her mid-50s – a business owner, a published author, and yet, just by his words and his scolds, he reduced me to feeling like a little girl who has been told off by her daddy.
    By the end of the outing he’d drop me off outside my house, shaking with fear, usually still crying, and tell me that I had “ruined his day” and our outing, and no, he did not want to come inside for a cup of tea, as I had “put him in a bad mood”. He’d start our outing all happy, opening the car door for me, kissing me, smiling at me, and by the end he was in a dead strop, refusing to speak to me, letting me open the door myself, then revving up loudly and pulling away with a screech. Sometimes, he would not even say goodbye, just sit in the car staring out of the side window, waiting in silence for me to get out. I would then spend the rest of the day or evening in pieces, sobbing into a cushion, howling with emotional pain, sometimes even phoning the Samaritans. He’d go off and enjoy the rest of his day, which, I later discovered, included watching porn and searching sex contact sites for other women.
    After that, he would always wait for me to phone or email him. If I didn’t, then he didn’t. I have sometimes left it 3 days and he hasn’t contacted me. He made me feel that he was waiting for me to apologise for ruining his day. Then the next time we met up, I would be walking on eggshells *even more* in a desperate attempt NOT to irritate and anger him. So I would be simpering, extremely nervous, nauseatingly sycophantic, letting him have his way instantly over every little thing, and showering him with compliments so that he’d stay in a good mood. I was petrified of saying or doing anything that might piss him off. I would spend the entire time with him terrified of provoking his wrath.

    But I finally realised WHY he created all this angst between us. I think it was for three reasons. (1) to see me struggle to stay on good terms with him (2) to destroy my self confidence in the way I interact in public and (3) to show me that we “just don’t get on” and so it’s better that he did not take me out anywhere.

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  12. Thank you for this.

    Everything from the silent treatment down to you explaining the progression of realization of what’s actually going on and seeing things in a different light is exactly where I am at. As I continued reading your ending my eyes begin to swell up. Because I am a man married to a narcissistic woman who I love dearly yet I see us headed seemingly full throttle down the exact path you explain. I’m sad, but thank you for sharing your and many others understanding of this.

    Like

  13. This is the best article on the subject, I have ever read. Thanks so much. I recognise both my mother and son here. I broke with my mother 20 years ago and even at 93, she does not give up, sending me guilt inducing letters for being a bad heartless woman. I get mad and want to reply to defend myself but I know it is a trick to get me back. It happened so many times before, I am now wise.
    My son is harder to bear. I don’t feed his narcissism and so he has given me the boot. On FB he had 600+ adoring friends and he charms them with his intellectual articles every day. For me he has no time.Little do these friends know what a monster he has been to me and some of his best and most honest employees.
    This is a terrible sickness and FB is a great platform for these empty boasters.

    Like

  14. 14 months of slavery , mind control haressment by sevan and sali madadian and babys mom jessica kanz ans edwin dergregorian poisned me , set the whole glendale ca , 91206 and made millions kisnapping my dayghter yvette dora kane arzmanians and turned her mom to prostetude nikki nieves

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  15. That may be the BEST detailed explanation of what we go thru discovering we are/were in an abusive toxic relationship with a narcissist that I’ve ever read. Really …. Well done. Couldn’t have written it better myself, in fact i know i couldn’t have. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great article. I don’t know for sure but I think my recent ex was a major league narcissist/borderline. Those 8 points all ring true. Now she (being a great projector) would say they describe my behavior. Not true but sometimes after months of crazy making nonsense I would lose my tempter. Sadly my life has been destroyed: i lost my marriage (for better or worse), house, job /career and 30!years of considerable savings. My memoir covers this in accurate detail. I blame myself more
    Than anyone but the factual content speaks volumes I think.

    Like

  17. Hi my name is Mike. I had a relationship with a married woman. I met her at the gym. One day she told me all guys should be like me always nice and willing to help others. She was attractive,and it great shape, and started to wear sexy outfits and told me she did this for me. Then she started parking next to me. One night we walked out after the gym and we kissed. She told me that next we will be doing this in my truck and then in a hotel room. That’s exactly what happened. For two mouths she was the love of my life she loved everything about me! I spent thousands of dollars on her anything she wanted. She told me she only married her husband because it just seemed right. She told me it’s like sleeping with her bother, and she only has sex with him because she has to. She wanted to divorce him and be with me and I believe her. Then she started to change she didn’t take about being with me anymore. The she started talking about me to her husband about me. Now he started getting involved. Now she said she has to be with him. I my birthday she discarded me just like that. I’m so hurt and emotional wreck, because why. Here’s some of what I experienced ( she always had to have makeup on lots of it, always had to be told how beautiful she looks, never spend a dime on me, intimacy was cold, this is her third marriage, she always had to be in front of the mirror when working out. I can do this all day . I truly believe she could be a somatic narcissistic. I thought this behavior was because we were having a affair. My Question is will a narcissist treat someone the same in an affair? Please help me!

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  18. I feel foolish for allowing my ex to come back. I had learned so much about narcissistic abuse (he has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder), but I still struggled with self-blame. I was experiencing several major life changes, one that we were both a part of, he came clean with me about past lies, I let him come back and the cycle continued until I was discarded again. There is no point having hope in narcissistic abusers. Whether or not they have the capacity to change, or would if they do does not matter. Every time I allowed him to re-enter my life it was worse. I know that BPD and NPD are two seperate disorders, but the symptoms sometimes overlap, and I saw the same traits in my ex that are mentioned here. Even as I sit here in an emotional shambles I long for answers that I know I will never get. It is very painful. Thank you for this article. Time to start the healing process, again, and stick with it this time.

    Like

  19. I have a dilemma. My wife believes that I am a narcissist but I am not. She had a major manic episode and was violent against our children. She was taken from our home by the police but was allowed to go to be picked up by a friend. I didn’t want her in a mental hospital. With the help of her friend she filed for divorce right before the holidays. We didn’t have any problems before this episode since she was diagnosed with a mental illness over five years ago, the last time she did a violent act in front of the children. So now she reads these things as justification for not taking her medication and drinking alcohol (which she hid all over the house, we found so many bottles after she was removed). My family is being torn apart.

    So how do I prove to her that I am not a narcissist? she doesn’t speak to me. I have to care for the emotional well being of the children (10 and 5y/o). She lives with a married couple and is unable to live by herself. But she swears by your articles that I am this even though before her breakdown I was her best friend, she was mine and we were the love of each other’s lives. I’m devastated and don’t know what to do as our family is being destroyed with the help of her friends.

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    1. Dear Jorge,

      I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re not going to be able to prove to her you aren’t the narcissist. She’s the narcissist and is projecting it onto you. This is just one more thing, in a probably long list of stuff, she has accused you of, blamed you for or used to justify the reality she creates in her mind.

      I am in a very similar situation, only reversed. I believe my ex had a complete mental break when he lost a business in 07. In 08 he began inviting me to kill myself for the good of our family because I was bipolar and abusive. He tried to get me hospitalized in 09 and screamed at me all the way home when they wouldn’t admit me.

      He has also manipulated our daughter into believing his story. She is now 25 and we haven’t spoken in 7 years. The day before a proposed meeting with us over a year ago, her god mom chanced to see a post on her FB page about staying away from narcissists. It was made by the girlfriend her dad acquired almost immediately after filing for divorce. My daughter stood us up. Her god mom said, “I guess you’re the narcissist”.

      This is why living with NPD is like being in a hall of mirrors. It’s hard to know whether you’re looking at your reflection or theirs and everything is distorted. The only thing you can do is walk out and see what it looks like outside.

      Good luck to your and your kids.

      Like

  20. My narc is an attorney who isn’t charming or handsome. In fact I would have never pegged him for what he is because I believed the NPD was always attractive, prone to rouguish habits and unreliable. Lord knows I have dated enough of these kind to know my choices were a real part of my problems. However, I’d only say a couple of my many beaus over the years were seriously disordered. Some had mental health issues like addictions, bipolar disorder, adult autism, and an all to obvious need for females willing to enable their Peter Pan syndromes, but I had never had any of the overtly destructive and hostile circumstances that I did with this man.
    There were plenty of red flags from the start. I understood he was sexually screwed up and apparently insecure. At the time we met I was looking for a mature stable man to merge my life with for the sake of my young child whose father was indeed a menace with an antisocial personality. Reeling from the rape that produced our son, his stalking and the system that allowed him to abuse me in the face of POs and his own lengthy record, I was happy to meet this homely single dad who was an attorney, a home owner and a fan of the things I loved most like literature, music, film and law. We had a lot in common but every time I turned around I was blindsided by things he did. We only saw each other once a week if that because we were busy professionals.
    The sex was great for him but not so good for me. Since it wasn’t a long ordeal and my appetite was not very strong it seemed like a small sacrifice. The kid he had and I were close and my son adored him. But I soon realized his friends hated me on sight and I couldn’t understand it. There were many things I wouldn’t understand and I often ended the relationship because it felt as if I was being used which was absolutely true. Still I agreed to remain friends and this ultimately led back to intimacy. He knew how to evoke my empathy and I am prone to being too forgiving and projecting my own good will upon others. I assumed his life of being rejected because of his lack of appeal was the reason he was often so insensitive and selfish.
    Several years into the relationship he moved 700 miles away, came by for sex and afterwards made it fairly clear he wasn’t really interested in maintaining a bond with me much less having me move up there when his son finished high school. For some reason the kid hated me and his father later confessed it was because he told them all the bad things I had done to him. I asked him what bad things, and he pointed out that I had dumped him.
    Well, he’d done some dumping too but I figured it was what it was and went on with my life which was too rich by then to be overly invested in romance anyhow. This man soon came back for visits which I discouraged as romantic for some time. But then he proposed as my professional life was being mobbed and destroyed because I was doing the right thing and blowing the whistle on abuse and corruption.
    I was touched by the proposal but wary. Sure enough he dumped me for no reason in the most cruel and horrible way. My son, who still loves the guy in his way, was devastated and assumed he was to blame. It was enough to cause my nervous breakdown. And the next year was an awful one. He came down many times but I refused to see him, but them my son had become a victims of bullies at school. I was unjustly terminated and our house went into foreclosure.
    I asked the man if we could stay with him awhile until my equity was paid and I could find work in the much more peaceful area 700 miles north of LA. He said okay and I volunteered a statement agreeing to leave whenever he asked so he didn’t worry about the nightmare I had when I took in borders in an effort to save my home. We were not sleeping together and I was no longer very fond of him but this act of generosity was hard to ignore. The first night I was there I went to bed in the boys room but this man came looking for me. I understood that to keep the peace I would have to indulge him. I did so. I then got up and proceeded to spend the mornings in his office sorting files and cleaning up his mess. I began buying and preparing meals that made us diabetes and HBP disappear. His doctors marveled and he lost weight. My son was s happy and the man seemed to be too. I had no space to call my own in a large house. I had no friends, but for the colleagues who were victims of the same unethical machine I was. We were fighting that together and I was deeply immersed in research, blogging, outreach and legal recourse. When the man asked me to marry him, he did so in front of my son. I was already looking at places to rent with the equity on the way but worried about finding employment because I was now blacklisted by the last job and still less than well .
    I decided to accept his offer because life was better and everyone was happier. I was committed to this marriage before there was a wedding and I think the two years that followed were pretty happy. We did things together, I encouraged the man to accept positions that helped him get ahead financially and met his mom, dad and other family. We are not young but when my fiancé decided to put a band together I was supportive. I never felt threatened by his interests or worded about him being faithful. I saw that he ogled young women and made a joke of it. If I caught him looking at a girl while he was with me he owed me a martini, To this day he owes e enough martinis to keep drunk well into the next decade.

    His mother became very ill right around the time we were supposed to have the wedding and I went to Sacramento to look after her as she died. None of her kids were very committed to spending time with her which was sad. She and I became close and she told me all the things she regretted. My future father in law left her to raise 4 kids alone and she worked two jobs to provide for them while he indulged himself with women, booze, drugs and a Disneyland dad’s high esteem. My husband wasn’t always unwilling to see how much his mother gave up for him and his siblings. She was not always patient or generous in the way they expected her to be but one assumes her children would become adults and gain insight into the poor woman’s situation.
    They didn’t.
    Her death was draining for me.
    By the time she was gone my wedding plans were reduced to a rushed courtroom ceremony and a reception that included my son and two of my new husband’s church friends at a diner . I didn’t complain, as it was obviously a rough time for my mate and we had better things to spend time, energy and money on. We were married in late August. I was informed of our honeymoon plans in October. I had no say in what we did which atten a writers retreat so h could find an agent for his novel. With a few days notice and no experience with these things, I went into it completely unprepared to win an agents interest in my project which was much more complex and important than pleasure reading because it was journalism that exposed a corrupt and lawless public system.
    Ever since the wedding my husband seemed to wear a sneer, and he spent his weekends and evenings elsewhere. He had writing groups, band practices, open mics and a freshman poetry class that made no sense because he was widely published and far beyond the place these kids were. An adult workshop would have been more fruitful.
    At the time, I didn’t question any of it. He had told me not to work and as I invested all my equity and a few settlements from my previous employer into our family, he was losing the positions he had won with my encouragement thanks to his bad behavior, sloppy practices and sexism.
    I was no longer working for him and with only a $1000 a month left to contribute I began looking for work. We were married less than two months when the tantrums began. Any thing could send him into a rage. He began making trips without letting me know they were planned, he took off to spend the night in another county where he took cases and my son no longer enjoyed the attention he had before. I assumed it was a midlife crisis which is not unusual after ones mother dies. He was almost 60. He hated being a lawyer and I had suggested we sell the house, get a trailer in a less affluent area and that he tale fewer cases and do research and appearances while I found a full time job. He never told anyone about that, but he did make a lot of my unemployment and lack of money when he was smearing me soon after the wedding.
    When he left in mid march I was numb and miserable but for some stupid reason unable to see that I should be making my own plans to escape which is what he had been doing before we ever said I do. One night he was waiting for any excuse to storm out and when my son refused to wash dishes ( as my husband knew he would) he left. On a hunch I went to his Facebook page for answers. To my horror, I discovered he and his flying monkeys were cruscifying me and had been for weeks.
    The following afternoon he announced our divorce in an update. I was on the house computer and impulsively looked at his email which was open. This is where I found a letter from an agent agreeing to take the mystery and an email exchange between my husband and a girl in his writing group who made it clear she was not interested in him in a response to a love letter he’d written her a few onths after our wedding. I emailed the girl explaining that I was only looking to understand what was going on and had no issues with her. She called me ten minutes later and proceeded to explain what an asshole my husband had been, telling her and the group the marriage was a business arrangement and acting like his hitting on her was not wrong at all. She was 19 and had put up with him for more than a year.
    She believed the FB smear was for her benefit and to some extent she was right. However, when she stood up for me and thwarted his offers to get a restraining order against me so I would leave her alone, she became a target. I couldn’t believe that these middle aged women were condoning what he had pulled on me then jumping on this poor girl and calling her a neurotic tease.
    Later I found the lengthy and lurid exchanges between my husband and my former student. This included them both exposing their private parts and discussing me in very unsettling terms. The relationship went back as longs as a decade and apparently escalated a great deal after the wedding. Because we were not wedded long, my ex tried to put us out on the street. To this day he contends I was evil an lawless for violating his privacy even though I never had in the course of our relationship and the accounts were open when I finally did investigate. What I also found was a lot of betrayal and lies in his messages to others. His journals, which were on the computer and scattered all over the house revealed far more. He had used me to gain access to my female students and for sex. He hated me. He had been engaged to someone else, involved with many other women and actively pursing as many chicks as he could all along.
    He had hoped to drive me to suicide and spent his days serenading baristas, ogling teenagers and indulging himself in fantasies about fame and females who were too upcountry to drink. It’s all he ever thought about. Sometimes he got a great laugh at how hard I was trying . At others he complained that I wasn’t young enough, thin enough or willing to have sex with him without being asked to. He said my job was toserve him and even though it was essentially all I did by then, it wasn’t enough. He decided that his luck with women had improved when he met me– he added seven more to the ten he had after he met me. He assumed that women prefers men who are taken and came to believe that he’d be able to trade up for this girl in the group when his mystery which featured her as its female lead was published. He blamed me for foiling this plan because I contacted her. To date the novel is not published and the girl got the university to ban him from the group meetings because he refused to let her be.
    He coerced me into divorce and got himself a bachelor pad where he entertained street walkers. He saw that his reputation was on the wane and tricked his last few client out of retainers so he could take a job as a public defender in the desert. He had told his band they could do whatever they wanted with me and allowed them to stay at the house. I grew close to one and helped him with his son who is about the same age as mine. Our relationship was always undermined by the ex and it was not exactly romantic. Eventually, we transcended that problem when I pointed out that the ex was always divisive and sneaky when he engaged this guy who is incredibly gifted and suffers from his own unfair share of heartaches.
    Now I am living on nearly nothing and facing homelessness as my slumlord just evicted me from our moldy hovel. My efforts to find work are futile though I have a couple of promising call backs in another county and my writing and art has been selling lately. I’m glad to be free of this man and to know all that I have learned in the course of these last few years. I even fell in love with someone over the summer but we are both too screwed up by our divorces to embark on anything now. Still, it gives me hope to love someone and have the few memories I have of that short time.
    My present circumstances are always haunted by the need to make that ex of mine answer for the terrible things he did to me and my kid. It feels like letting it go is a huge mistake and I am obligated to expose him. This is a great deal of effort for an issue that may never be resolved. I want to clear my name, make sure he never practices law again and have a public record of just how sketchy and evil he is. I know there is no closure . I understand this man is an empty vessel full of self perpetuated misery, but then again… he’s got a great job, money to enjoy and sex partners as well as a new band. I may be sleeping on concrete in the rain next month as my kid hustles job corp to save himself.
    Revenge seems right, but let’s get real, I cannot even afford that unless I do something as crazy and scary as he accuses me of being and I am not up to anything like that. Any suggestions?

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