These are two of the most common questions people have about their relationships with narcissists.
Source: Segacious News (CC BY 4.0)
There’s a strange phenomenon with people who have narcissists in their lives. As noxious as it is to deal with one of these individuals, you would think that once you’ve managed to get them out of your life, you would be hypervigilant about other you may come into contact with and steer clear.
Yet most people who have an extensive history with a narcissist will tell you that as much as they’d like to avoid any further relationships with this kind of person, somehow, they find that without recognizing it until it’s too late, other narcissists manage to break through their defenses. In fact, it can seem like just when you get out of a relationship with one narcissist, another one enters your life, while you feel powerless to stop them.
If you find this is the case, you’re not alone. No one is immune to being manipulated and controlled by this type of person. Some are just more vulnerable to them, or are drawn to narcissists, such as those raised by a narcissistic parent. Since this was all they knew, and they accepted the narcissists psychopathology as normal, no matter how much it caused them to suffer, this type of behavior is familiar to them and doesn’t unusual. Narcissists are experts at detecting this in others and zeroing in on those they have the greatest chance of manipulating and controlling to meet their needs.
If you were raised to believe that narcissistic behavior was normal, even if now you realize it wasn’t, you may dismiss the negative behavior of other narcissists until you are already in a relationship with them. Because the behavior was considered normal when you were growing up you have more patience and a greater tolerance for this kind of emotional dominance. It’s not unusual that people raised by a narcissist dismiss early warning signs and don’t fully accept what the person is until they become overtly abusive, It’s not that narcissists don’t know how others expect people to behavior socially. They do and while they don’t believe they should have to subscribe to these social rules, they are very adept at using them at the beginning of a relationship to appear charming, attentive and caring. Narcissists start off small with new targets, only beginning to gradually increase their manipulation when they feel they have you already hooked.
When you first meet a narcissist, they will be friendly, supportive, complimentary and even doting. Over time there may be infrequent indications that they aren’t who they are pretending to be, such as when they side with someone who is hurting you instead of supporting you, suggesting the blame is all yours. As this doesn’t happen often at the outset, you tell yourself they’re just having a bad day or that no one’s perfect. It’s only once they know you are committed to them that they start showing their true colors.
To stop this cycle, you need to first accept how wrong the behavior of your parent or other narcissist from your early life was (and maybe still is). It’s important to no longer accept double standards or different rules applied to you but not others in your family. You also have to accept that with narcissists it’s not that they don’t know what they are doing and you just have to get them to realize to make the behavior stop. They are well aware of their behavior and engage in it purposely to gain something. There is no “ah ha!” moment that will cause them to suddenly understand how much damage they’ve done to your life and stop.
Become determined that you won’t dismiss such behavior in the future. No matter how charming or sincere the person may seem at the outset, make up your mind that you won’t allow anyone to emotionally abuse you and your goodwill. Address the first warning sign and see what the response is. Is the person genuinely willing to work through it and do they understand why you were hurt? Do they apologize and does the reason it happened seem normal, like they just experienced stressful situation or are anxious about something? Over time is there take and give and efforts to maintain the relationship? Can you be yourself around them and do you turn to them when needing a friend or someone who you know will be on your side? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may have a problem. If the answer to several or all of these is no, you likely have another narcissist in your life. If possible, the best thing to do is end things quickly and move on.
It’s difficult for someone with a past that includes a long-term relationship with a narcissist to catch the signs early. But if you are determined to live your best life without the interference of someone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart, you can train yourself to recognize the red flags quickly which will save you a lot of pain in the future.