A narcissist is not just someone who is vain or self-absorbed. True narcissists cause actual emotional harm to their friends, partners, family members, colleagues and loved ones due to their callous lack of empathy, excessive sense of entitlement and their unwillingness to change their abusive behavior.
True narcissists control you, manipulate you, coerce you, belittle you, isolate you and sabotage you. But first, they charm and ensnare you into their toxic web, presenting a false mask that bears little similarity to their true selves.
Although this article specifically focuses on male narcissists, female narcissists also exhibit these same behaviors.
Here are five things you don’t realize he is doing because he’s a narcissist.
1. Love-bombing you with nonstop attention, then withdrawing.
You think he’s just “busy” or having a “bad day” when after days of nonstop texts, phone calls, and 24-hour laser-focused attention, he suddenly and abruptly withdraws from you, treating with a stunningly cold indifference. Perhaps you make excuses for his hot and cold treatment of you, but deep down you know there is something terribly wrong.
You might initially mistake his devaluation as a normal cooling down phase from the honeymoon period of a new relationship. The difference is, this sudden “Jekyll and Hyde” character switch becomes a repeated pattern throughout your relationship and you continually bear witness to someone who disrespects and psychologically torments you before reverting back to their loving facade.
He might subject you to cruel insults, overt and covert put-downs and even gaslight you into believing that you’re losing your mind. The person he’s acting like bears little to no resemblance to the person he presented himself to be in the beginning. The honeymoon periods with him are fiery hot and addictive, yet the callous way he ignores your feelings, neglects your needs and belittles you speaks volumes about his true character.
2. Giving you the silent treatment for seemingly no apparent reason.
He disappears for days and you don’t hear from him; he shuts down discussions about his behavior before they even begin (this is known as stonewalling and it leaves a harmful psychological impact on the brain and the psyche). When you reach out to him, he fails to respond to you while making it clear that he’s still communicating with and paying attention to other people. As a result, you’re left believing that you’ve done something wrong to “provoke” his silence and withdrawal.
He might engage with others at an event you’re both attending while pretending you don’t exist; he may excessively flirt with people on social media while ignoring your texts and phone calls. He may even be in the same room with you and not say a word, all while orchestrating loving conversations with others through phone calls or texts right in front of you to provoke you. True narcissists “stage” these scenarios to manufacture feelings of insecurity in their victims and to get their victims to plead and beg for their attention.
It is all about control for a true narcissist.
Whatever medium he uses, this silent treatment is used to invalidate your feelings, make you feel invisible and cause you to wonder if you’re “less than” and less worthy of being treated with respect and consideration.
3. Creates love triangles between you and other people, making constant comparisons to demean you.
He might start to mention a friend he has who’s very attractive, or praise someone else for the same qualities he ignores in you. He might have a running list of exes he spends time with or crushes that he “invites” along on your time together. He might compare you to other people in terms of appearance, status, desirability, personality traits, professional success, or the ability to meet his needs.
You might believe you’re just being insecure if you feel reactive to these manipulative machinations. Make no mistake: if he does this chronically, he’s trying to provoke you and make you vie for his attention and approval. A healthy partner does not deliberately try to compare his or her partner to other people or make them jealous.
4. Withholding attention, compliments and affection with contempt.
In the beginning of “hooking” you, your partner may have given you the impression he couldn’t get enough of you. However, once he’s seen that you’ve bought his ploys hook, line and sinker, he starts to control you by withholding his attention in the exact same areas he used to be excessively attuned.
This can present itself in a number of different ways. Perhaps in the beginning he wouldn’t stop pursuing you sexually, but only after a short period, he now barely holds your hand in public and berates you if you dare to ask why. Maybe he used to give you sweet praise about your talents or personality, and now he can’t stop criticizing you for the same traits he once praised.
This is different from a partner simply losing interest; this is someone who, as soon as they know you’re sufficiently invested in them, purposely pulls the rug out from under you as a power play so that you’re compelled to chase after him with more intensity and longing. That way, you’ll always be “working” for his validation rather than realizing that the crux of the matter is his abusive behavior, not you.
5. Minimizing your good qualities, accomplishments and independence so he can control you.
Perhaps in the beginning he made you feel special and unique for the things you achieved and the amazing person you are. Now, he reacts with rage, condescension and contempt in response to anything that gives you joy. This is because narcissists are pathologically envious of their partners. They deem anyone who has anything they covet as “beneath them” to protect their fragile ego. If you have anything “shiny” that the narcissist doesn’t have (or feels entitled to) and it gives you some form of agency, this naturally translates as less control for the narcissist.
When a victim is independent and can self-validate, it sends a true narcissist into a frightening rage. They belittle you for the very things you’re proud of. You might be led to believe that you must be arrogant for being proud of yourself or outshining the narcissist. Yet the truth is, any normal, healthy partner should be happy for you and encourage your independence.
A true narcissist, however, relies on his or her victims being dependent on them. They condition their victims to associate any healthy pride they have with the narcissist’s punishment and cruelty. That way, their victims are less likely to pave the path back to freedom as they pull away from the very hobbies, passions, interests and goals that give them a fulfilling life outside of the narcissist.
What To Do If You’re With A Narcissist
If you’re involved with a malignant narcissist in any way, know that their toxic behavior is not your fault. You are worthy of respect, attention, affection and consideration. You are worthy of consistency and healthy communication. You are worthy of being cherished as an equal partner. You are worthy of having your basic needs and rights honored in a relationship.
There is life after narcissistic abuse – but first you must accept that this person is unlikely to change. You have to be willing to walk away from what no longer serves you, even if it appears impossible at first. Know that any “love” you may feel for them stems from a traumatic bond that has been cemented through their manipulative abuse. True love is not abuse or mistreatment; true love will help you more than it will harm you.
Be willing to love yourself more than you love the narcissist – and you will find that anything that you think the narcissist has to offer you pales in comparison. You deserve real love. You deserve to thrive and to be victorious. You deserve to accomplish your dreams. You deserve to heal. You deserve to be free.