When I was with my narc, I never heard of a narcissist and obviously had no idea he was one. Actually, I admired him and felt lucky to be the girl he chose. He was a strong, confident person and I wasn’t. I justified his behavior by telling myself that my lack of boldness must be why I was uncomfortable with his ways. I even blamed myself for our relationship issues because everyone respected him and his “larger than life” ways.
Since I left him, I have read a ridiculous number of articles on how to spot, avoid, break up with a narc. Yet, every time I think to myself, “sheesh, they make it sound so simple, and it’s really not.”
How to spot them? Honestly, it’s pretty hard if you haven’t had personal experience with their true nature. They are masters of deception and lies.
The list of narcissistic traits can be deceiving. We all exhibit a few of the behaviors from time to time – that doesn’t make us a narcissist. Those actions can also stem from other trauma or insecurities and are not a personality disorder.
Occasionally, someone blatantly behaves like a narcissist. They check every box from the list, and they are easy to spot and avoid. But this is the exception, not the rule.
More often, though, they are charming and charismatic, funny and well-liked when you meet them. They appear to be everything you’d want in a friend, business partner, or romantic partner.
How to avoid? The short answer is you can’t. They come in every shape, size, background, education, religion, etc. You’ll run into them at work, church, on the road, at the grocery store, etc.
However, you may be able to distinguish the red flags more quickly once you’ve had the experience of dealing with one and getting burned. They keep the red flags tucked in their back pocket and hidden from the inexperienced mind. Sadly, unsuspecting people are often completely entangled in the narcissist’s web before they realize something isn’t quite right. This has happened to us all.
How to break up with a Narcissist? Buckle up – it’s going to be an emotional shit storm and not a single article will prepare you for it. Once they feel they are losing control, they pull out all the stops. Love bombing to reel you back in. If that does work, the 90-day cycle begins all over again. The trauma bond with a narcissist often makes the typical break-up tips ineffective for a survivor in the long run. If you do manage to break free, they will do everything they can to destroy you and your reputation.
While no article, list or how-to can prepare you for a narcissist, it’s important to still read them. Why? They are meant to raise awareness. Without this basic knowledge, we don’t know what we don’t know. Survivors get stuck in an endless loop of anger, guilt, shame, and blame until the article sheds some light on what they’ve been through. For those who haven’t been in a toxic relationship, the articles are a little misleading but provide some basic insight. It’s like reading about swimming verse actually getting in the water and trying to swim based on what you’ve read.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I didn’t know my ex was a narc until I read that first article. Even though my experience was quite different, I was shocked at how many things I could relate to. The more articles I read, the more the puzzle pieces fit together and formed the big picture. Holy shit, he was a malignant narcissist. I finally understood so many things about him and our relationship.
Understanding leads to acceptance. For me, acceptance, not forgiveness, was the key to finding inner peace and healing. (I am still not sure how to “forgive” someone who could be so demoralizing to other people and so cruel to animals. To me, forgiveness means “it’s OK” and his behavior will never be ok.)
Instead, we can accept people as they are and not as we would like them to be. Then we can determine their role in our lives. But, it all starts with awareness…
A Note from the Author:I am not a therapist or life coach, and I don’t pretend to be one on the internet. These blogs are my thoughts, perspective, and experiences based on my nine years with a malignant narcissist and my healing journey since leaving him.
The ideas suggested are simple for a reason. Trauma rewires the brain, and healing needs to start with simple, doable steps.
It’s not my intention to attack the validity or integrity of the info provided in self-help books and how-to articles. There is valuable information in all of them. It’s essential to read and educate yourself on the basics of narcissists and toxic relationships. I intend to point out that reality is much more complicated. Someone may not have all of the characteristics and are probably much less obvious, but they are still abusive. Don’t dismiss their behavior because they don’t fit ALL the criteria of a narc. And don’t classify someone as a narc just because they occasionally fit one or two of the criteria.
It’s also not my intention to imply this is a gender-specific issue. My blogs are written from a woman’s perspective because I am one. Men suffer from emotional abuse too. I hope they can overlook the gender terms and adapt the content to be relevant to their own experience.
All my best to you,