And there would be little tells that not everyone would notice – dog whistles in a way. For example, when we first started dating, he would say certain things when he flirted with me that may have sounded innocent if you didn’t know he was flirting. For example, when I would say, “I’m sorry,” he’d say, “You’re gonna be.”
Now if you didn’t know this was a flirt line, you might just think he was trying to be funny. But I knew what was really going on. And when I’d witness him playing this game with my friends or other random women, it caused a lot of conflict. I would not say anything in the moment, but would later confront him. At that point, I’d be told I was crazy and he’d start tearing me down, telling me I was always too jealous and that if I was going to accuse him of it, he might as well go ahead and do it. Of course, this only led me to feel less secure in the relationship and got me walking on eggshells – exactly where he wanted me.
During our relationship, I’d catch him in a lot of somewhat compromising situations, which he’d always explain away. It drove me insane.
I became so obsessed and jealous that I started watching his eyes to see what he was looking at all the time. In hindsight, I’m shocked that I allowed myself to act this way, but it was such a pervasive way to manipulate me that I almost couldn’t see past it. So much so that it followed me into my next relationship and caused drama that didn’t need to be happening. I was eventually able to move past it, thankfully, but it took much longer than I would’ve liked. Can you relate?
Did you have a narcissistic ex who always wanted to make you jealous? Did they seem to constantly have random “mysterious” people to text, or spend a little too much time watching or reading dicey stuff on the internet, or maybe have their eyes on your “competition” too often?
Something you should know: If the narcissist is purposely making you jealous, this is yet another form of abuse. But why do they do this? What in the world could they get out of making you feel jealous? You might be surprised that they get more than one benefit out of it. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why narcissists seem to want to make you jealous and what you can do to stop feeling that way.
Examples: How Narcissists Try to Make You Jealous
First, let’s talk about some of the ways that narcissists might try to make you jealous, outside of the example I shared. Some common narcissist tactics to incite jealousy might include:
Choosing to spend time without you, doing whatever they like, and not telling you who they’re with, or telling you and not caring how you feel about the company they keep.
Blatant flirting with people of the opposite (or same) sex, whatever y’all are into.
Gawking at people who have certain qualities you don’t, and pointing them out to you, or just ignoring you while they look.
Making you feel invisible.
Constantly talking about their exes and how certain parts of their relationship were amazing, even getting into their intimate experiences in detail.
Sharing too many details about their new supply when your relationship does end, or about the person they’re cheating with this week.
Making sure to tell you and everyone else how much better their relationship is with the new supply than their relationship with you turned out to be.
Suddenly changing their appearance in some way – they lose weight or start dressing better, for example. You wonder who they’re trying to impress.
Where they used to give you all of their attention, they suddenly start to give attention to anyone and anything, while now totally ignoring you. This might be their phone or another human, or certain online people and websites that might bother you.
Ignoring your calls and texts when they’re not with you, leaving you to wonder what they are doing and who they are with.
These are just a few examples, of course. But why do they do this?
Why do narcissists want to make you jealous?
Let’s discuss the reasons that narcissists enjoy making you jealous.
1. The Narcissist Needs to Have Power Over You
You may already know how desperately narcissists feel the need to maintain control over you and other people in their lives. By intentionally making you jealous, they sort of gain control over your thoughts. You become obsessed with figuring out what they’re thinking about, what they’re looking at. You can think of nothing else. Now, the narcissist has exactly what they want: you, focused almost completely on them as you are attempting to be perfect for them. In the meantime, you’re torturing yourself and feeling threatened by everyone who seems to have whatever quality it is the narcissist seems to want but that you just don’t have. Plus, making you jealous is just a way to give them extra power to feed their ego.
2. The Narcissist Needs to Feel Secure in the Relationship
Your average narcissist might seem to exude confidence, but under all of that bravado is often a desperately insecure person. One thing they desperately seek is some level of security in their relationships. They want to know for sure that you want them and that you won’t leave them. So if they can make you feel and behave like you feel jealous, it is just one confirmation that you want them and that you are not going anywhere. This makes them feel secure in the relationship, which is ironic considering it leaves you feeling quite the opposite.
3. The Narcissist is Testing You
Narcissists have a way of wanting to test you constantly. Whether they’re trying to test their bond with you to see how strong it really is or they’re trying to see if you’ll retaliate (or something else), this is a common reason they want to make you feel jealous. They want to know if you REALLY love them, and often, if you don’t react strongly enough, they will up their game and push even harder to get the reaction they so strongly desire from you. Of course, once you do react, they get the confirmation they need – they feel that you really do want them and you have “passed their test.” Even so, they will never let you feel like you’ve passed. In fact, they’ll probably complain that you’re SO jealous and controlling that they can barely breathe. Manipulation at its finest.
4. The Narcissist Wants Revenge
Let’s say someone flirted with you at the checkout counter at the store, or the server gave you some free bread or something at the restaurant you went out to last week. Your narcissist, in their insecurity, most likely felt very threatened by this, even if you didn’t react. And God help you if you were even remotely friendly to the person in question – this would lead the narcissist to spiral into the need to get revenge on you. If they have any reason to feel jealous or threatened, then their first move would be to intentionally make you jealous in an effort to get some sort of revenge. Again, even if what you did was completely innocent, it would not matter. Even just by ignoring them when you have to work or by smiling at a stranger, you might be flirting or at least trying to make them jealous as far as they’re concerned. Remember: It does not take much to make the narcissist jealous. And this leads them to try to get you back by making you jealous, too.
5. Narcissists Need Narcissistic Supply
It is a known fact that beneath that grandiose front that most narcissists have that they are deeply insecure. They have very low self-esteem and they need a partner for approval. In fact, many narcissists feel invalid without a partner to prop them up. So, even if they’re not being faithful to you, they want to be sure you’ll be faithful to them. Since they don’t see you as a real person, they don’t see any reason to be faithful, ironically enough. And a sure way to confirm that you really do care about them is if they purposely make you jealous and you react as a result of it. Your jealous reaction feeds their ego and gives them a false sense of pride. This is what we call narcissistic supply, and the narcissist needs it like a vampire needs blood.
6. Narcissists Need to Tear You Down
A lot of us do our best to conform to the narcissist’s rules in these toxic relationships because we grow tired of fighting and begging them to understand us. So we kind of numb out and we do what we have to do to get through the days. This can reduce the level of drama in the relationship significantly, and the narcissist gets bored. They need something to tear you down about, so they will often use jealousy to incite conflict in the relationship. See, the feeling of being jealous of your partner paying attention to other people can be likened to an evolutionary behavior. Back in the caveman days, we needed our partners for safety, security and to be able to have children – all of which are very primal instincts and needs. The narcissist probably doesn’t realize it cognitively, but by making you jealous, not only are they playing on one of our biggest human fears (the fear of abandonment), but they are also giving themselves a sure-fire way to make us feel bad (or worse) about ourselves. Then we begin to obsess and research and figure out what is wrong with US – and that definitely takes our focus off what is wrong with them.
So how do you deal with this?
What can you do to stop feeling jealous when the narcissist is actively cultivating jealousy in your relationship?
Truthfully, the best option is to end the relationship and start over. But I know that isn’t always an immediate option. Still, outside of simply going no contact and trying not to feel connected to them in this way, anything else you do will simply be a bandaid that will only temporarily relieve your stress.
You’ve got to remember something really important here. Any narcissist in your life never has the best intentions for you. It is all about them, all the time.
So, in general, you can try to focus on building your own self-esteem, and on not reacting to the narcissist’s attempts to make you feel jealous. You can attempt to do a lot of things, but remember that you’re dealing with someone who just isn’t like a normal, healthy person.
Just think about it. In normal, healthy relationships, low self-esteem can affect how you feel about your partner, but in those relationships, the partner doesn’t foster your jealousy or attack you for it – instead, they will reassure you, and your jealousy will go away in time.
When your partner attacks and belittles you for feeling jealous, especially when they’ve actively fostered that jealousy in you, it should be a huge red flag for you – this is abuse. You have to recognize that the narcissist is doing this on purpose, and do your best to avoid taking it personally. With that being said, it can feel nearly impossible to stop feeling that way when you’re in the middle of it. So again, aside from becoming emotionless and just ignoring their behavior, you can work on your own self-esteem. And if you’re lucky in that process, you’ll recognize that you deserve SO much better than someone who would intentionally cause you to feel so small and insignificant.
Prefer to watch/listen? See video on YouTube.
If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. At least that was the case for me. For years, I lived with a kind of anxiety that made me almost physically sick at the idea of disappointing or upsetting someone. I couldn’t stand the idea that anyone didn’t like me or felt like something was not acceptable about me. This is probably because, growing up, I believed that my value was dependent on the way my mother felt about me. This would continue well into my adult life, and if I’m being honest, that was a pretty dangerous place to base my self-worth since my mother was not super fond of the person I’d turn out to be, to put it mildly.
I wonder if you can relate. Have you found yourself dealing with a narcissist or toxic person who actively tore down your self-esteem or devalued you in some way? Did you find yourself struggling with anxiety and feeling not good enough? Rejected even? If so, you’re going to want to stick around, because today, I’m going to explain to you exactly why you feel this way, and how it relates to your relationships with narcissists. See, there a theory that could explain narcissists and the way they behave in relationships, as well as how you fit into all of this. It’s called attachment theory.
What is attachment theory?
Let’s start with a brief overview of attachment theory. Attachment is defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. Attachment theory basically helps us understand that our relationships with our mothers can affect us and our lifelong development (and even our relationships with others) in profound ways.
In psychology, attachment theory as we know it today first originated in 1958, when child psychiatrist John Bolby recognized the importance of a child’s relationship with their mother. It turns out, he realized, that our emotional, social, and cognitive development are directly affected by our attachment to our mothers.
Along with fellow researcher James Robertson, Bolby found that children who were separated from their mothers experienced extreme distress, which led to anxiety. This, they assumed, could have been related to the idea that their mothers fed and cared for them, but they noticed that the separation anxiety would not diminish even when the kids were fed and cared for by other caregivers.
Before this, other researchers had underestimated the bond between a child and its mother and had assumed that it was the feeding of the infant that bonded a mother and child.
Bowlby was the first to propose that attachment could be an evolutionary thing – the child’s caregiver obviously is the person who provides safety, security and food. So, he reckoned, being attached to the mother would increase a baby’s chance of survival. Makes sense right?
What are the four attachment styles?
There are four primary attachment styles, including secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant, though many sub-types have also been identified. For today, we’re going to focus just on the four main attachment styles, which, for the record sort of explain why families tend to see generations of healthy – or unhealthy – relationships and why it’s so important for those of us who have grown up with toxic parents need to intentionally change our own lives so that our kids, if we have them, can do better than we did in the future.
Secure Attachment Style
A secure attachment style is probably the most desirable – it’s where you feel comfortable and connected to the person, and where you trust them and the integrity of the relationship. You feel secure in the relationship.
People who have this style of attachment had healthy relationships with their parents and also felt secure enough in those relationships to explore the world and other people in it. They felt loved and supported in childhood. This helped them to grow up feeling safe in to grow and involve themselves a variety of situations and activities, knowing they could always still get support and love from their parents. And their parents were likely also securely attached to their own parents, so this healthy pattern would continue through to the next generation.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
If you’ve ever met a hopeless romantic, you may have met someone with the anxious-preoccupied attachment style. This person desperately wants to be connected to others, and craves the emotional intimacy that comes along with it. The only problem is that this person also tends to want to jump ahead in the game, even if their partner isn’t ready for it. So, they’re likely to say, “I love you” too quickly and to push ahead even when the red flags are everywhere.
They need constant approval and reassurance from their partner, and they feel anxious if they don’t it. They doubt their self-worth, probably because they need others to validate them – and when their clingy behavior pushes away their partners, they feel like they were right all along – they might really be worthless. They have a positive opinion of their peers, but not so much of themselves.
Their parents may have intermittently met their needs – they were loved and cared for, but not on a consistent, predictable basis. Interestingly, this kind of person develops when their parent seems to need the child to meet their own emotional needs. Their mother might have been the type to think to herself, “Well, if I have a baby, then I’ll have someone to love me.” Once again, you can see how this would carry on throughout the generations.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
This is where you might find your narcissist. Someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style appears to be emotionally independent and is often likely to be afraid to commit to a single person in a long-term relationship.
This person would have had parents who were either not around a lot, or who were negligent in their care in other ways. They may have been ignored or undervalued in childhood. They felt rejected, not good enough or unwanted. One or both parents might have been completely absent for this person. Their needs may have been partially served, but not fully. For example, they may have received enough food and were bathed regularly, but they weren’t held often enough.
They may have been rejected by peers as they got older and may have lived their lives feeling not good enough entirely. This would leave them afraid to trust people and, as a result, likely to be really dismissive of others. They tend to cover up their insecurity with a sort of false sense of self-confidence. But when someone is dismissive-avoidant and manages to find a secure, loving relationship and works through their own issues, they can manage healthy relationships. Unfortunately for most narcissists, they don’t develop the emotional maturity to do that and stay stuck here.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
This person might always date the “wrong” people for them, and on the flip side, they might also end up rejecting those who would be good for them. They might find themselves feeling “normal” in unhealthy relationships where they feel the need to earn the other person’s approval and feel scared or threatened when something seems “too good to be true,” or when things are going toward a bigger commitment such as marriage.
Their attachment style might lead them to actually sabotage a really good relationship, maybe because they are afraid it will end and leave them feeling devastated. They struggle with jealousy and distrust in relationships, even when it isn’t warranted. This person grew up with parents who made it clear they were unwanted or maybe that they were not acceptable as they were.
They are a walking conundrum – they desperately want emotional intimacy, but they also push it away. They want to be in a committed relationship with the right person, but actively seek out the opposite or avoid relationships completely out of fear of rejection. Psychologists say that this kind of attachment style is sort of a combination of the dismissive-avoidant and the anxious-preoccupied attachment style and that it is a result of dealing with a lot of trauma or loss in childhood.
Like the dismissive-avoidant, their parents may have been unable to fully meet their needs in infancy – they might have been fed enough and always wearing a clean diaper, but they might not have been held or interacted with enough, for example. They may have really difficult relationships with their parents or they may even become completely estranged from them in adulthood. Their parents may have been alcoholics or addicts – or narcissists – and they may have been physically and/or emotionally abused.
Which Attachment Style is Yours?
You might have any of these attachment styles and end up dealing with a narcissist, but those of us who end up in longer-term relationships with a toxic person are most likely to fall into either the anxious-preoccupied or the fearful-avoidant attachment style categories.
If you have an anxious attachment style, you’ll find yourself completely bowled over by a narcissist. That is because you might tend to have high anxiety responses to their behavior. Think about it.
If you have the anxious-attachment style, then you have a tendency to be sort of emotionally hungry. You might find yourself holding on to the idea of being deeply bonded with someone else, even when it’s just a fantasy and not reality in your relationships. What I mean is that you might sort of self-invent a bond that your partner isn’t feeling at the same time. That is due to the history of how you were not nurtured enough as you probably had at least one parent who did not give you the love and nurturing you need. You’ve dealt with a lot of turbulence in your life and felt unloved and unwanted, so you might have a tendency to latch on and hold on for dear life.
Narcissists see this and sense this, which is why you are vulnerable to them. They know how anxious you become and that alone gives them the narcissistic supply they need – which is why they see you as the perfect prey. Since narcissists are known to have the avoidant attachment style, they can be abusive and will always find faults with you. They will place blame on you as well because since anyone with the avoidant attachment style will not take responsibility at all. The more they do this, the more you become anxiety-ridden that your bond with them will disappear and the vicious cycle keeps going.
Which Attachment Style Does the Narcissist Represent?
As I mentioned earlier, while technically a narcissist might classify themselves under any of these categories, they are most typically identified as the dismissive-avoidant attachment style. That is why they maintain a certain distance when it comes to their relationships and why they make you feel like you’re unwanted or unneeded – even if they do clearly depend on you completely for narcissistic supply, among other things.
The dismissive-avoidant style leads to being overly self-reliant and downplaying the importance of relationships. However, they are quite vulnerable when there is a big crisis as they don’t handle crises well. They may have a super-inflated opinion of themselves and be very critical and suspicious of others, making their relationships miserable for their partners.
This is where you’re likely to find the overt narcissist, anyway. But the covert narcissist can fall into the avoidant-fearful style – which seems counterintuitive since their victims can also fall into this category.
The Wild-Card Attachment Style: Fearful-Avoidant
Many people who could be classified as codependent might fall into the fearful-avoidant attachment style. As adults, fearful-avoidant types might become overly dependent on their relationships. While they may have had similar experiences in childhood, the difference in whether they become a narcissist or a more empathic kind of codependent depends on how they deal with their childhood experience.
In either case, those who could be classified as fearful-avoidant are terrified of rejection, and they are constantly dealing with inner conflict. They sometimes thrive on drama and they nearly always suffer from low self-esteem. They show anxiety when it comes to relationships as well, whether they’re super-clingy or constantly avoiding intimacy.
So how could codependent, people-pleasers potentially fall in the same category as a covert narcissist? Well, it is the codependency factor – both narcissists and their victims could be considered codependent. At its most basic level, codependency represents someone who has sort of “lost themselves,” or never found it in the first place.
The ‘Lost Self’ Disorder
In other words, a codependent person has no connection to their innate self. Rather, probably due to being raised by toxic parents, they have learned to base their lives – as in, their thinking and their behavior – around someone or something else outside of themselves. This could be a person, or a process or even a substance.
For narcissists, the lack of connection to their true self can lead to a connection with a made-up or ideal self- the mask we often discuss. In contrast, a people-pleaser might find their identity in the approval of others instead, or at least find value in themselves this way.
Interestingly, narcissists in general are also thought to be emotionally immature. Like I’ve said before, they are emotional toddlers. See, when an infant is cared for by its mother, it does not think about the mother’s needs at all. Most people begin to develop this awareness of the needs or feelings of others on a really basic by the age of two or three. Narcissists never develop it fully – so in some cases, even people who had really attentive parents can become narcissists, especially when their parents did not actively teach empathy.
So what does all of this mean? Are you doomed to a life of miserable relationships if you do not have the secure attachment style?
Hope for Narcissistic Abuse Victims: Earned Secure Attachment
Good news! There’s hope for you yet. I’ve been telling you for years that it is possible to heal from narcissistic abuse and to create the life you want. And studies confirm this, telling us that with intentional healing and focus on creating the life you want, you can actually develop something called “Earned Secure Attachment.”
At its most basic level, it means you can sort of build a new attachment style that is healthier and better for you on every level. This just means that you’ve done the work and managed to deal with and heal from any dysfunctional parenting you had growing up. Even better, you can do this at any age. It’s about taking the time to understand where you came from and working to sort of rewrite your story in the process. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can do this, take a look at the video I’m going to leave for you right here.
Question of the Day: Have you looked into attachment theory before? Where do you think you fall into these categories, and where do you see the narcissist in your life among them? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!
A former client once told me how her husband of 30 years and the father of her children had seemed totally perfect. Even at home with the family, he was mostly a decent guy. The client said he was actually easy to live with. Obviously this made me wonder exactly why she had signed up for sessions with me, at first. This wasn’t the usual narcissist story.
The guy was prominent in his community and well-known at church to be a generous, decent person. He regularly went on mission trips with his men’s group and was loved by all who knew him. And until fairly recently, his wife had been happy.
But as it turned out, things weren’t as rosy as they’d appeared. It seemed he’d been having affairs for the majority of his marriage, and she had recently learned that he’d been introducing their kids to some of his conquests. And this guy wasn’t just a one-night-stand kind of man – he would have long-term relationships with these women.
In fact, the client confessed, there was a situation several years ago where a woman contacted her and said that he’d been living with her for the past decade in another state. It turned out that at least some of these mission trips he’d been so dutifully attending were actually a cover for his need to go and live with his mistress.
He got so good at it that the mistress in this case actually believed she was the only one for most of that decade, so she was completely bowled over when she learned that she was actually the other woman. She ended the relationship as soon as she found out, and my client thought maybe that would be the end of it.
But she had learned that he was now with a new woman he’d met at a local bar, and now she was done. As it turned out, that was why she’d called me. This particular narcissist was especially skilled with manipulation and hiding – to the point that he’d managed to have, the client later learned, several other long-term relationships within the time they’d been married. And, thanks to his manipulation, he’d also turned their children against their mother, blaming her for all of his affairs – despite the fact that she was a loving and devoted wife.
Worse, he’d somehow managed to convince all of their friends and extended family members that his cheating was somehow warranted. So, rather than supporting her when she needed it most, they shunned her and supported the cheater and his new source of supply, which the narcissist paraded in front of his wife without shame or remorse.
Why does the narcissist have affairs?
This was an extreme example of a cheating narcissist who clearly had a double life going on, without a doubt. But many narcissists have a need to cheat on their partners, and as research suggests, often even when things seem to be good in their marriages. And their reasons for cheating as well as their behavior around their infidelity are different than your average person. If you’re concerned that your partner is or might be cheating on you, or you’ve experienced this in the past, you’re going to want to stick around for this one. Because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why narcissists cheat on their partners and the signs of a narcissist who is cheating on you.
Narcissists are well-known to be disrespectful to their partners and anyone who is close to them. Their marked lack of empathy makes it possible for them to actively cheat without remorse. For the most part, a narcissist’s primary focus is getting their needs met – and one of their biggest needs is for narcissistic supply. While narcissistic supply isn’t just about physical intimacy, it can certainly be a big part of it in many cases.
How Narcissistic Cheating is Different: Secondary Supply
Let’s talk about what I like to call “secondary supply.” See, unlike your average player or pickup artist, many narcissists will become habitual cheaters in their relationships. This is one way narcissists can be different when it comes to cheating. Because, rather than having a one-night stand here or there, a narcissist needs the supply provided by a secondary partner. In addition to getting their extramarital physical needs met, this secondary partner can provide emotional supply as well. In some cases, this can get as serious as the example I mentioned – where the narcissist creates a whole double life involving their secondary supply.
The secondary supply and the double life setup offers the narcissist something extra – another person to control and manipulate. Someone who, in many cases, doesn’t know them quite as well and is more willing to look past some of their flaws than a longer-term, live in supply like a spouse who has kids with them. This person might be a little younger or less established, and they might give the narcissist an ego boost more directly and more often than the emotionally numb spouse who is at home worrying about them, taking care of their kids and doing their laundry. And, this secondary supply may be one of several members of the narcissist’s own private little harem.
What is a narcissistic harem?
The term “narcissistic harem” actually means a group or “collection” of friends/admirers (AKA sources of narcissistic supply) that a narcissist gathers up to stay topped up on their daily supply of love and admiration.
Since no single individual person could ever fill the void that is the hole inside a narcissist’s soul, they seek to fill it with whomever they can – and often these relationships are interchangeable. Now, the harem doesn’t usually include only intimate partners. It could also include friends, relatives and others. Put more simply, a narcissistic harem is a group of people who are happy to stroke the ego of the narcissist as needed.
And in some cases, this harem can also involve a number of “virtual” friends in the form of an online harem – and those can sometimes be the most dangerous because they are the most underhanded and easy to hide. Plus, if you think about it, it’s much easier to manipulate a person’s perception if they’re only seeing your world through your eyes.
Do All Narcissists Cheat?
Despite popular opinion, not all narcissists are cheaters. And not all cheaters are narcissists. But being a toxic narcissist or having narcissistic personality disorder certainly makes cheating more likely, and the reasons narcissists cheat are different than your average cheater.
Why Do Narcissists Cheat on You?
For narcissists, cheating on their partner isn’t just about having sex with someone else, although that can be part of it. But it is also about being in control, getting narcissistic supply and more. Narcissists also have a sense of entitlement that would shock most people. This feeling of superiority and their genuine belief that they should have the right to do whatever they want is a dangerous combination.
Along with their known tendency toward impulsivity and the number of narcissists who are known to have a high sex drive, they are among the most likely to cheat on their partners.
The other thing that you have to remember here is that, in their search for narcissistic supply, one of the biggest things they’re seeking is validation. Ironically, validation is one thing they also starve their partners of in the process of trying to get their own needs met. Combined with the excitement of an extramarital affair and the sneaking and hiding involved with it, narcissists almost can’t resist the thrill. They can become predators who will at any cost get what they want, leading to a seriously high risk for their partners to be emotionally devastated in the process.
On top of this are two other factors: narcissists believe they are above the rules, so they can rationalize their cheating as acceptable due to what they consider extenuating circumstances – and the fact that they don’t see you as a whole person. What I mean is that they see you as an extension of themselves or an object – so in their minds, they might not actually think you even deserve the fidelity they promised you in the beginning.
Like the client’s husband I mentioned earlier, many narcissists are really good at putting on the mask of decency and convincing everyone around them that they’re standing on high moral ground even as they cheat on the person they once vowed to love and to be faithful to. They gaslight and manipulate everyone involved, and leave their partner (and often, also their secondary supply) with cognitive dissonance, confusion and a completely destroyed sense of self. It is very painful and can make you feel like your world is ending.
What are the signs the narcissist is cheating on you?
If you have been cheated on by a narcissist, you understand the pain that is associated with it. The signs of a cheating narcissist might be a little different than the signs an average person is not being faithful. Perhaps at the time, you weren’t able to tell, but you might see in hindsight that the signs were there all along. Let’s go over the 5 signs of a cheating narcissist right now.
1. The narcissist tells you a sob story of how their ex cheated on them.
Narcissists are really good at playing the victim, and one of the first signs that they might cheat will often happen very early in your relationship. If you think back, you might remember exactly what I’m talking about. Did they tell you sob stories about how they were cheated on? They can appear to be quite vulnerable in those moments, and this lends to you sort of rallying around them. As they see you do this, they know they’re getting somewhere. Since they seem to be completely genuine when they describe the pain they felt when their ex cheated, they sort of tug at your heartstrings. It can feel like you’re bonding with them. You end up feeling so sorry for them, and you promise you’ll never cheat on them as their ex did. And, while you feel sorry for them, you also think this means that they would never cheat on you. The two of you end up forming what you believe is an unbreakable bond. And then if and when they do cheat on you later in the relationship and you confront them, they may throw these moments back in your face and act like the fact that you suggested they might be cheating is an insult in itself. This would, in most cases, lead to you feeling bad for even thinking it, and then the narcissist feels vindicated and continues their affair, unimpeded.
2. You get accused of cheating.
We all know how narcissists have a tendency to project their own bad behaviors on to us. Well, in this case, the narcissist will start to notice anyone in your life who could be a potential partner for you. They’ll accuse you of being too flirty, or of wearing that outfit you love because you’re trying to impress other people. In some cases, this will lead to you sort of dulling-down your look in order to ease their minds. This inadvertently also might lend to your already-struggling self-esteem taking a big hit – and combined with the constant need to reassure the narcissist that you’re not their cheating ex, you might find yourself so busy and unfocused that the narcissist finds it much easier to actually cheat on you. This particular tactic is also helpful for the narcissist because, even if you do believe they are cheating on you, it is difficult to actually make this accusation as you try to defend yourself. And if you do, they’ll claim that you’re just trying to hide your own guilt by blaming them. This is ironic because it is quite literally what the narcissist is doing to you in this moment.
3. The narcissist suddenly gets too busy and starts canceling plans.
You make a plan to go for dinner and a movie with a narcissist, then they cancel at the last minute because an “emergency” came up. Or you’ve planned a vacation together, and suddenly they have to work all week. So they tell you that you should go ahead without them – after all, the deposits are non-refundable, and you sure look like you could use a break. You take this as kindness and think how selfless they are as you hop on the plane, clueless that they’re actually going to spend the week with their secondary supply. Or they start taking a lot of unusual business trips, or long weekend fishing trips.
And you’ll notice that, suddenly, this is something they are doing over and over again. Not only do they cancel the plans, but they might even end up disappearing for days. Then they randomly show up out of the blue. Sometimes they even apologize and promise to make it up to you – but then they never do. In fact, they often end up repeating this behavior.
4. Something seems off with their social media stuff.
Narcissists are known to create love triangles on social media. They sometimes sneak around with dating and hookup apps and they also can be known to share provocative status updates on their networks. You might notice that they suddenly stop using their usual accounts, and that can be an indication that they’re using alternate accounts. Or they suddenly become friends with a new person – and/or an existing friend starts liking all of their photos and statuses. In some cases, they won’t post photos of the two of you together, or they will hide their relationship status, if they don’t refuse to put one up at all. The social media age makes it so much easier for the narcissist to cheat and hide their double lives, and you know narcissists: they’ll take advantage any way they can.
5. They won’t let you near their phone.
Whether they’ve always been secretive about their phone or it just started, a narcissist who actively hides their phone or who freaks out anytime you go near it is probably hiding something from you. This could be an actual affair, or it could be whatever they happen to be doing on social media. In some cases, you might find questionable messages and photos from someone, or they might just want to hide the people they’re following or otherwise engaging with. In any case, when they are overly concerned about their phones and your ability to see what they’re doing there, it can be a red flag.
6. They shove their phone in your face and dare you to find something wrong.
I know, you’re probably like wait…I thought you said they hide their phones. And, yes, in many cases they do. But, in some cases, the narcissist gets really devious. So, when you accuse them of cheating, they may throw their phone at you and tell you to go ahead and dig through it. They’re doing nothing wrong, they say. In these cases, if they are cheating, they’re either really on top of deleting stuff – and have made arrangements with their secondary supply to only contact them when they say so, or they’ve got a secret secondary phone.
7. They change the way they spend money.
If a narcissist is cheating on you, the way they spend money might change. This could be because they are now spending money trying to love bomb and woo the secondary supply, so they suddenly have no money to spend on the bills or other stuff they usually buy. Or, if they are on the higher end of the income spectrum, they might suddenly start buying all kinds of unexpected gifts for you in order to throw you off and keep you from investigating them. They might also have unexplainable charges on their credit cards or in the bank account.
8. You’ll get a heads up.
In some cases, you’ll get a heads up – either from an ex or from someone the narcissist has actually had an affair with. This may happen because the ex is genuinely concerned about you, or because they are angry at the narcissist. And in the case of the person they cheated with, they may tell you because they didn’t know the narcissist was married or had a partner, or because they are upset with the narcissist for some reason. There could of course be a number of other reasons for such an admission. But in any case, the important thing to remember as well is if you encounter someone who was cheated on by the narcissist that you are seeing, or who cheated with the narcissist, then at least consider looking into the allegations.
These are just a few of the signs that a narcissist is cheating on you. Of course, just like any cheater, you’ll also see things like a sudden concern for their appearance, where there wasn’t before. Or you’ll see a change in routine – like they might join a new gym. You might notice that they are different in the bedroom – you’ll see them being intimate more or less often than before, and suddenly they might show up with a new trick after being married for 20 years.
Should you confront a cheating narcissist?
This is entirely up to you. But you should know what to expect if you do confront a narcissist you believe is cheating on you. Here is what to expect.
The narcissist will deny everything.
Narcissists are known liars, and this is especially true when they might otherwise lose you as a source of narcissistic supply. You will not get the truth ever from a narcissist when it comes to cheating – even if you actually catch them in the act. They will gaslight you and tell you that you didn’t see what you did. They will also attempt to discredit whatever information you have, as well as its source – even, again, if you caught them in the act. Since they have no respect or empathy for you, they see no reason not to lie. They figure if they never admit the truth, you’ll never know it.
The narcissist will say it’s your fault.
We all know that narcissists can’t or won’t take personal responsibility for anything they do that’s wrong. In the case of cheating, the narcissist might actually blame you for their bad behavior. For example, they might say you’re too boring, or that you’re not interested in them, or they might complain that you don’t spend enough time with them, so they had no choice. In any case, they’ll make you the bad guy.
The narcissist will rage.
When you don’t agree that it’s your fault, the narcissist is likely to go into a rage. Narcissistic rage is a common reaction to not getting what they want. It is unreasonable and illogical, but the narcissist doesn’t care. In many cases, they will convince you to shut up and accept whatever they’re doing – and this is especially true when you aren’t aware of what they are. When you do know, though, you might hold out using the gray rock method. And that will lead to narcissistic injury.
This is where the narcissistic injury comes in. They act like you’re hurting them or you’ve done something to them by accusing them of cheating. The idea that you’d actually expect them to take responsibility infuriates them – and if you don’t respond to the rage in the way that the narcissist prefers, they will make you out to be the aggressor. They will tell everyone what a terrible person you are – and how mean you were to them. Don’t fall for it – it’s just a smear campaign and a last-ditch attempt to get what they want.
Personally, I don’t believe you should tell them right away, given how you know they will react. If you do tell them, you will be unable to get the satisfaction you hope for – and if you tell them before you’re ready to take action (such as leaving them), they will make you completely miserable in the process.
But if you hold your cards close to your chest, you can decide when and how you tell them. This gives you a little power back, at least.
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery, right now.
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Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
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Narcissists have perfected the art of emotional abuse, fulfilling their need to be adored and idolized in a way that keeps their partners (and other loved ones) in check. But what if you’re not affected by this kind of emotional abuse?
What happens when a narcissist can’t control you?
How does he or she react? The lack of control is what makes narcissists go berserk. The thought that you might be going off and having a life that they don’t know about drives them into a fit of narcissistic rage. They tend to become irrational, emotional, pushy, and demanding. They may show signs of physical aggression or even threaten to take their own life if they feel that they’re being left behind or not getting their way. Yes, it’s THAT serious.
Growing up, I was always “under my mother’s thumb,” as in, she was, as far as she was concerned, in control of every aspect of my life: my activities, thoughts, feelings, ideas – everything. And this didn’t end when I grew up and moved out. In fact, it continued until I was 35 years old.
I learned that her feelings, thoughts, and ideas were more important and more “real” than mine. She taught me that I needed to keep her happy and that I wasn’t ever good enough because I couldn’t be, say or do whatever it was she thought I should. It never seemed to matter how hard I tried, either. Even as a dang adult.
But that day, everything changed. See, I had recognized that she had betrayed me, in an unforgivable way that I could never have imagined. It woke me up and fast.
The very moment I realized what she had done, I almost physically felt something break inside of me – that seemingly indestructible cord of obligation that had always been there and had always caused me to bend to her will – it broke.
In one single moment, I lost the ability to care how she felt. And more than that, I lost the fear of her. She had always intimated that if I stopped doing what she wanted, or refused her too many times, she would abandon me, and then I’d have no one. I lived in that fear for 35 years.
I could never have imagined (nor would I have believed) that she would stoop so low to hurt me. I cannot even come up with the right words to describe the way I felt – it was almost like the time I was running in the dark as a kid and tripped over a branch, knocking the wind out of myself. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.
But then, I got mad. Well, not just mad. After years of being a people-pleasing, self-hating codependent, I was filled with blistering, blinding rage.
You know, the kind of soul-twisting, screaming, ugly rage that comes up from deep inside and nearly forces you to take swift action. The kind that causes you to get crystal-clear on what you want and what you deserve real quick. I was filled with what I now know is justified rage. I was indignant. And in that very instant, I was done. I went no contact and I have not looked back.
But it wasn’t so simple. My mother wasn’t done yet. She had been in control for 35 years and she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight. First, she got very angry. Then, she told a lot of lies about me and spread malicious gossip to everyone in the extended family, as well as to some of her friends.
And later, she’d end up publishing my name in her little work newsletter, asking people to pray for me and my “mental health issues.” After that, I heard through the grapevine that she was playing the victim, telling everyone how she had absolutely no idea why I wasn’t talking to her “after all she had done for me.”
She minimized me and justified her feelings by saying things like, “She’s always looking for attention.”
In fact, I was doing the opposite: I was looking for peace. I wanted nothing else from her. But a few months after I went fully no contact, I heard that she planned to send my brother over to my house during the holidays to straighten me out. The plan, according to the grapevine, was that he would just show up without calling. I nipped that one in the bud.
But why did she play all these little mind games? I suspect it was for one simple reason: because she was no longer able to control me. See, narcissists don’t like to lose control over any source of narcissistic supply. And when they do, they have some fairly predictable ways of reacting. Nearly every manipulative thing a narcissist does can be broken down into a pattern if you look for it.
So that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – the standard pattern a narcissist will use when they lose control over you. Plus, what you can expect when the narcissist in your life realizes that you have taken control of your own life and how you can and should respond when that happens.
What Happens When A Narcissist Can No Longer Control You?
Let’s say that you have figured the narcissist out, and you have realized the hard way that someone you believed in and trusted turned out to be a complete nightmare, to put it mildly. Now that you have seen through the mask and understand what the narcissist is all about, you have set your boundaries. You are no longer letting that narcissist control you. And while you already know that you should expect some kind of retaliation, you are worried about what comes next. And, given what you’ve been through, who could blame you?
The Narcissist Will Begin A Smear Campaign Against You
The first thing they will do is utilize the smear campaign tactic. They will never accept the fact that they cannot control you. This means the narcissist will find other ways to be controlling. They will demean you, ruin your reputation, and they might even intentionally expose any sensitive private information about you to everyone who knows you – and even to some people who don’t. And because the narcissist is so good at believing their own lies, they’ll seem genuine. They will seem like they’re “worried about you” or just so “shocked you’d do something like this.” In other words, they’ll play this game in a way that makes it believable – which means your reputation will be ruined in no time.
The Narcissist Will Play The Victim
During and after the smear campaign, the narcissist will play the victim. They’ll act like you’re the one who caused the whole issue, and/or they’ll pretend that you just went crazy and ran away. By going to others causing them to feel sorry for them, they reiterate their point: they believe that they have been “wronged” by you. Yes, they will take advantage of that “poor me” act and they will do this without remorse, for as long as they want. An added benefit of this tactic is that it helps them get some replacement narcissistic supply in the meantime. The people they whine about you to will of course be sympathetic towards them – because, after all, the narcissist actually has convinced themselves that what they’re saying is true. So even the most skilled empath can’t tell that they’re lying in some cases – which means they will happily dole out the attention that the narcissist craves.
The Narcissist Will Refuse To Take No For An Answer
Some very tenacious narcissists will never accept the fact that they can no longer control you. Rather than just backing off, these particular narcissists will instead step up their game. They will utilize manipulation tactics such as showing up unexpectedly to your doorstep, or they might even show up at your job to make it clear that they will always be in control. They might even actually stalk you and literally show up whenever they want in an effort to send the message that they will always be the ones in charge. They will call you in an apparent emergency and try to get your attention that way. They’ll make stuff up as to why you need to come back and provide the necessary supply they are missing. This is what we call the hoover maneuver – because they are literally trying to suck you back into the toxic relationship.
The Narcissist Will Ghost You
If you can hold out and get through all of that stuff, you’ll finally be rid of the narcissist because, once their little bag of tricks is empty, they’ll ghost you. This is the best-case scenario because the narcissist will be out of your life. Eventually, you’ll be lucky enough that they will realize you’re truly done, and they’ll just go dark for you. This is because, without another move to make, they might just finally give up and move on to a different source of supply. You can bet you won’t get closure, though. And you can expect they will continue to tell sob stories and spread lies about you to anyone who will listen. But at least they’ll be leaving you alone. At least you’ll have peace, finally. Since they realized that the narcissistic supply that you used to give them sort of “ran out,” they will focus on someone else for a while. Fair warning here: don’t be surprised if, at a later date, the narcissist shows up again looking for more supply from you – they’ll try to suck you back in with a standard hoover maneuver. This is usually because they are bored with, angry at, or in some way removed from their new source of narcissistic supply.
How Do You Deal With the Narcissist’s Retaliation?
So, now that you know what to expect when the narcissist knows they’ve lost control of you, you’re probably wondering what you’re supposed to do next. Well, I want you to keep standing behind your boundaries. I want you to stay focused on yourself and your healing. I want you to keep control of yourself and your own life. If you’ve gone no contact, I want you to stick it out.
Watch for Flying Monkeys
You should also keep an eye out for flying monkeys – the people who will happily do the narcissist’s bidding for them. These are the ones who try to talk to you on behalf of the narcissist or who try to convince you to see them. They’re the ones who take whatever you tell them and run back to the narcissist with it.
Steer clear of areas you know they’ll be and keep your business to yourself. If you are worried about your physical safety, do not hesitate to contact the authorities and do whatever you need to do to get and stay safe.
Ultimately, though, it’s important to see this for what it is. For just a moment, I want you to look at this whole thing from a different perspective.
Recognize That You’re In Control
The thing is that if you’ve managed to get away from the narcissist and out from under their proverbial thumb, it means you’ve taken back control of your own life. And if the narcissist pulls all of their standard tricks, you have to know you’re already succeeding in your goal to free yourself from the burden of being their source of narcissistic supply. You have to know that you’re actually already winning this so-called game.
How do I know this? Because the narcissist tells you with their behavior. Think about it for a second: the narcissist has recognized that they can no longer control you, and their reactions are literal proof of that. Do you see what I mean?
Considering that fact, I want you to recognize that you’re the one in control now – even as they desperately try to maintain it. And rather than feel weak and afraid, I want you to feel strong and empowered by these behaviors. Recognize them for what they are: a pathetic attempt to claw their way back into your life. These behaviors – these patterns – are a clear reaction to the narcissist recognizing that YOU HAVE TAKEN BACK YOUR POWER!
And listen, my friend: the only way you can lose now is by letting them back into your life. Not that I’m the sort of person who would ever recommend revenge of a standard nature, but if you ever wished you could get revenge against the person who ruined your life, here’s the key: live your life well and happily without them. Pretend they don’t exist. Live like they don’t matter. Be happy, and be unencumbered by their toxic energy. That is the very, very best way you can win this whole toxic game – by living a life you love, a life that you create and choose. Are you with me?
Embrace Your Power!
Take the time to recognize that you no longer need to give your power away to the narcissist. Recognize that you have every right to make your own choices, to like and love what and who you want, and to be the best, most fulfilled version of yourself in any given moment. It’s an amazing feeling, my friend, and I want you to have it too.
How do you figure out which limiting beliefs you’re holding on to?
It’s definitely a process to suss out your own limiting beliefs, but it’s a worthy one. For me, it took looking back at my childhood traumas and the beliefs I learned growing up before I discovered that they were holding me back. This is when it finally clicked for me; how could I ever live the life I wanted if those very thoughts and feelings were preventing it from coming to fruition? It was time to let go. Can you relate?
What are the limiting beliefs holding you back from narcissistic abuse recovery?
There are several limiting beliefs that can hold you back in your recovery from narcissistic abuse. You may have developed these due to childhood trauma and/or the trauma the narcissist inflicted on you. Regardless of how you came to believe these things about yourself, they will prevent you from healing and getting over your ex. It is time to let go of what’s holding you back so you can move forward and create a healthy future for yourself!
Why do we feel so powerless after narcissistic abuse?
One of the biggest struggles for survivors of narcissistic abuse is learning that they need to start putting themselves first or consider themselves a top priority. This seems easier than it might actually be, especially for those of us who have been through the hell of being connected to a toxic person. In addition to our own perceptions about what we SHOULD be, we have society telling us that we’re supposed to always put other people before ourselves.
Think about it: how many times did your mom tell you not to be selfish? How much social pressure is there for you to be selfless?
3 Limiting Beliefs You Need to Let Go Of Today
If you’ve been in a toxic relationship, you know how hard it can be to put yourself first. If you’re having trouble prioritizing yourself without guilt, there might be something holding you back. Now is the time to let go of those limiting beliefs and take control of your own life.
1. If I set boundaries, no one will like me!
You’re allowed (and, in my opinion, you have a responsibility) to set boundaries. But narcissists have this way of pushing your boundaries and eventually eliminating them, so you might be a little out of practice. The first thing I want to do is reassure you – if you start to take care of yourself, your friends and family will like you even better. They’ll be relieved to finally see you getting your needs met.
The unfortunate thing is that the people who might push away from you might also be toxic. But for those who are your real friends and who really care, you’ll find something very different happens. If you’re polite but firm, they’ll accept that you can’t run yourself ragged doing what everyone else wants all the time. They might even respect you more for your honesty!
2. Everyone counts on me to be the strong one!
You know that friend who is constantly inviting themselves to dinner at your house? The one who always seems to have the neediest, most dramatic problems ever? Who thinks that “caring” means you should spend time listening to their never-ending parade of complaints about how hard their life is? Are you falling into the role of the victim/rescuer? You’re having a tough time and no one hears you. Do they even care or are they just used to hearing your sad stories?
Having been scapegoated and played, the eternal caregiver is a self-inflicted victim role that narcissists make their victims adopt by exploiting their vulnerabilities. In a way, they are emotionally manipulating us into sacrificing ourselves on the altar of their false emotional needs, which are as hollow as their pathological ego. It’s time to step out of our people-pleaser roles and reclaim our true identities, to become more authentic and whole.
You might be wondering why you feel the need to take care of everyone and everything. And if you don’t start taking care of yourself, might you become someone who gets burnt out and resentful? After all, it can be exhausting to have other people always relying on you. So take some time to get some rest. You deserve it after all!
Cut yourself and everyone else some slack and let other people help too. As a bonus, if you make sure your own needs are satisfied, you’ll be in a much better position to give.
3. But, it’s not right to put me first!
It may seem counterintuitive, but putting yourself first is actually good advice. It is not selfish to start caring for your physical and emotional health. When you don’t put yourself first, you’re telling your unconscious mind that other people are more important than you. And listen – believing you can’t achieve anything, and you don’t deserve to succeed is a recipe for staying stuck.
Why do you need to leave these limiting beliefs behind you?
Are you drained of energy by putting other’s needs before yours? Or perhaps you’ve given up on believing your needs and desires will ever come first? These three core beliefs need to be challenged and overcome if you’re going to develop a healthier attitude to putting yourself first. Like changing any habit, you need to practice and take baby steps first.
Have a look at your own needs and desires, and practice saying yes to what your body, mind, and heart need.
Are you having trouble keeping yourself from falling back into your toxic relationship?