By Jordan Landrum
I saw his face in my computer screen.
We had over 45 mutual friends and he is beautiful. Perfect cheekbones, a crooked smile that I literally think could stop a war in much the same manner it has stopped my heart, green eyes that crinkle at the corners, and a vibrancy that makes me think I need to turn the brightness down on my monitor. I’m in a weird headspace due to the implosion of my last relationship, I feel like I need companionship but I have convinced myself I am not looking… What could it hurt? I’ll just send him a message. I do and it starts a correspondence that is easier than it should be. I am bombarded by compliments. I am made to feel handsome, important, viable, intelligent, funny, and, most importantly, I feel desirable. I cannot believe this has fallen in my lap.
Over the next few months I am bombed with love. I am provided affection, I am promised I’m loved, and I am here for it. It’s like a movie when I see his face in person for the first time. I am overcome, and I’m made to feel like I’m the center of his universe.
I fall in love but quickly discover that none of it is as it seems. I start to notice little things – small white lies that are barely a blip on my radar. When I ask about them they are easily explained, easily forgiven, and quickly forgotten. Then I start to notice new little lies, but our relationship continues to progress and I think it is all going to be ok. He has a problem with the truth, he had a rough childhood, he was raised to placate people and that’s all he is trying to do for me now. He is just trying to make sure I am happy.
You all know how this ends: every bit of it was a lie, and there isn’t a single aspect of our relationship that wasn’t a falsehood.
He was always talking to other people; in fact, I even saw those messages where he called someone else by a name that was supposed to be just for me.
So, the relationship is over and I realize the person I’d been with the entire time is a narcissist. Where was this clarity while I was blinded by their appearance, charm, love, and lies? My entire existence has been firebombed and my heart is disfigured. What do I do when I am left with this love in my heart but knowledge in my brain that makes me question what my heart is telling me?
Many of us have been through this. That doesn’t belittle our personal trauma, but it does ease it somewhat. It eases my heart to know I am not the first human duped in this manner.
I wouldn’t wish this experience on any person, so I hope with these words, my friends, you can protect yourself from this special kind of predator. I’d like to preface this list by making it clear that I’m not a psychologist or social scientist in any way, and this list is based on my personal experience.
So what do you look for?
Signs You Are Dating a Narcissist
The first thing I noticed were the lies. A narcissist will lie about every single thing that they remotely think they can get away with, and many things that they can’t get away with. They will have ready explanations for these lies, a quick smile, an apology and a small bomb of love to make you feel better about the scenario, and make you think the lies were necessary in the moment.
This one took me a lot longer to figure out. Typically, when you catch a narcissist in a lie they will create other lies, or flip the fact that you figured out they were lying around on you. They are masters at knowing how to make their partner feel crazy in the moment and will put this to fantastic use. When I argued with my ex, I left every altercation with a sense of being a terrible person for ever questioning the validity of his actions.
- Fantasy of Fame and Envy of Others
I noticed quickly that my ex wanted to be noticed. This manifested at first in downloading and engaging with numerous people on various ‘hook-up’ apps. This moved on to posting more and more risqué and revealing pictures on his social media in order to cultivate a group of followers. This eventually worked for him, but the strange thing is when we first got together he would complain about others on various social media platforms and how they are “just here for the likes and followers.” This was always confusing to me because the only validation I typically want when it comes to the way I look comes from my partner.
This became apparent to me when my partner began signing into my social media accounts and messaging people there to see if I was talking to them in an inappropriate manner. He went so far as to catfish me on Craigslist with a fake ad that mentioned my name directly. Looking back now, I can see the insanity in these actions, but when they were presented to me in the moment, I thought they were just a sign that he was worried I would leave him.
- Constant Validation
A narcissist requires constant validation. As a partner, this will become exhausting, and, as with most relationships, it will become difficult to maintain. The worst part about it is that they will create imagined slights on days when you’re the person needing a little bit of validation.
A narcissist must always be the most important person in the room. They will have an inflated sense of ego and will expect intense validation for the simplest of actions and if they don’t get it, they will search for it elsewhere. I remember numerous times when my partner would receive criticism through work that he felt were undeserved and he would threaten to quit or stop performing the tasks required of him at work until he received the praise he thought he deserved. I know many of us feel this way at work, but I am talking about an extreme reaction to the slightest of slights, and many of them are mostly imagined.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind
I noticed that when I was in the company of my partner he would be fully engaged with me and what was going on with me, but the moment I had to go home or to work, our lines of communication would start to close. He would ‘fall asleep’ but be active on every social media platform that he frequented. He would find any excuse to end conversation with me so that he could seek validation from other sources.
A narcissist will utilize those in his coterie to further his aims. I consistently sent my partner money when he would overspend, gifts when he would exhibit interest in something that he couldn’t afford, food when he was “broke” and would pay his way into many scenarios just so he could enjoy the same things that I was enjoying at the time. A narcissist will use you in anyway they can. This is actually still happening to me – I am still being contacted by him for financial help.
- Reward/Punishment Cycle
This is probably the most insidious and horrifying thing I have noticed in the aftermath of my relationship. My ex creates reward/punishment cycles for each person in his life. Sometimes the reward is sex, sometimes the reward is his time, and the punishment is the withdrawal of these things. If asked about this, he will immediately shut down the conversation, and withdraw my ability to speak to him about anything substantial.
- Changing Faces and Personality
This is a culmination of everything a narcissist is. Their face and personality can change from each person they interact with. Their personality is hollow so they will fill it with all the things that you love in a person, and that is what they will present to you. I have seen this in the end of my relationship in almost funny ways. He is now interested in sports… since when? He has now read many of the classics – nope. He presents a false persona to every person until he can discover what they like the most, and then that is the face he wears for the time being.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the traits of a narcissist, but they are traits that exist in almost every single one I have ever met or heard tale of. A narcissist has an inflated sense of self and any person who has any insecurity will be easily pulled into their orbit and utilized until nothing is left, then discarded succinctly and without prejudice.
These are warning signs. Things to look for and protect yourself against. None of us are perfect people, but none of us deserves this either. Protect yourself and realize you deserve a partner who meets you on equal footing in every way.
I hope this helps someone dodge a relationship like the one I was in because it is catastrophic to your psyche. I am still dealing with the fallout, and I believe I will deal with it for a long time.
One final thing, I am an intelligent, thoughtful, funny person. I have a Master’s Degree, and a pretty good handle on psychology and warning signs to look for. I was still taken in, so keep this in mind if you have a friend who is dealing with this. They already feel stupid, they already feel used up, and they need some compassion. They have had enough anger and rejection. Listen to them, support them, and make sure they are ok.