Dating a Narcissist

The Beginning

the beginning Many have experienced the heady pursuit of a narcissistic man. Typically, he is charming and treats you like you are oh-so-valued and wanted. You fall for the charm, and then you fall for the seemingly endless abyss of his adoration. You wonder how you existed without him. The attention you receive is so complete, so focused. You’ve never experienced anything like this before. This is true love. You’re ecstatic and cannot imagine anything better.

The Tide Turns

Once the honeymoon stage is starts to end, it takes with it the constant loving adoration you got so used to. Everything changes to eventually an unrecognizable opposite from the relationship you once knew. He no longer compliments or adores you. In fact, quite the opposite. He now criticizes and finds faults. He is indifferent, cold and even discourteous. He conveys that being with you is a burden, that you are not worthy of his attention and hard to love, and that he has sacrificed himself to be with you. This message is conveyed in small and big ways.

You’re confused because his behavior fluctuates. At times he is cold, distant and critical, and just when you start to synthesize this, he turns on the loving, understanding charm, reeling you back in. Until the cycle goes back to silence and gaslighting. He knows how to keep you believing that you can earn back his love. He knows you’re in love with the man you think he is deep inside. The same man you saw him be for all those heady months at the start of your relationship; the man you fell in love with.

You work harder to please him, to change yourself if that will help. In the process you begin to believe you are flawed, you begin to question your worth and ultimately you start to lose yourself, and your own understanding of right and wrong. You work hard not to trigger him, or his anger at you.

You are on an emotional roller coaster. You wonder what is true… are you unworthy and undeserving? Or is he cruel or sick and messing with your reality? Or do you just need to work harder to keep the love intact? Or…

It is confusing that he doesn’t want you to leave him. Yet when you’re in the relationship and committed, he conveys in no uncertain terms how flawed you are. This abuse is cyclic and creates a trauma bond in which you’re caught because you don’t want to lose the potential for such a grand love.

You wonder if he can change or is it you who needs to change. You cling to your memories of the honeymoon phase when he adored you, and you yearn to earn that back and to revive in you what he once saw. You worry that he may find someone better than you.

The Ending

the ending When he is finally done with you, he drops you and you’re left wondering what really happened. You’re not given any explanations, reasons or closure. He has likely latched on to someone new and is pursuing them, and the dance begins again. You were nothing but a game to him, and now he’s bored and has found a more interesting game.

The Takeaway

  • Defining yourself, and your needs is your right alone.
  • If your partner is consistently telling you what is ‘wrong’ with you, take that as a red flag.
  • You come first. Mixed messages, moodiness, unexplained aloofness, and asking you to consistently prioritize their needs are signs to alert you that you are not in a healthy relationship.
  • Abuse can happen to anyone and it can take time to recognize what is really happening.
  • Boundaries are healthy to establish and enforce in relationships. If you are expected to compromise your boundaries, likely you are with a narcissist.
  • Realize your self-esteem and self-worth are not defined by him, nor dependent on his love or approval.
  • Define your relationship as an equal give and take. No one person needs to do all the giving.
  • Know that in a healthy relationship your partner will respect your priorities.
  • Disengage and walk away from an argument that’s going in circles and you’re not being heard.
  • Take the time to get to know someone. Do not rush into ‘heady love’.
  • Make your peace with rejection, do not compromise yourself to ‘earn’ back love.
  • If you’re confused about your relationship, talk to a counselor or at least to a trusted friend.