If you’re married to a narcissistic husband, chances are that you’re well aware that he is different than other husbands in a lot of very clear ways.
To allow us to break through the barriers that arise when we are unable to understand our partner, here are a few truths about narcissistic husbands.
What is a narcissistic husband?
If your husband is a narcissist, you might not feel very good about yourself and your relationship. Because of this, you’re probably wondering if you’re identifying with this article or if you’re just as crazy as you’ve been told. If that resonates with you, stick with me and take a look at a few traits of a narcissistic husband.
A narcissistic husband might have narcissistic personality disorder if he’d actually allow himself to be diagnosed; or at least has narcissistic traits.
If your husband is a narcissist, chances are that he’s self-centered, lacks empathy, and has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
In general, narcissists tend to think they are superior or special and are extremely jealous of others.
A narcissistic husband desires admiration and is preoccupied with thoughts of unlimited success, power, brilliance, and beauty.
Narcissistic husbands are highly defensive with low self-esteem, though you might see them as strong and powerful. Underneath it all, he’s still just a scared little boy doing whatever he needs to do to get his narcissistic supply needs met.
If you are still with me, the next thing you need to do is to educate yourself a little more on what kinds of behaviors and traits you can see in a narcissistic husband.
Identifying Narcissistic Behaviors
If you’re living with a narcissist and aren’t sure what to do about it, you’ll want to learn how to identify them. After all, identifying narcissistic behaviors can help you realize and fully accept that you are being abused by a narcissist.
Plus, it offers validation of your experience, which can help you to leave the “FOG” (fear, obligation, and guilt) in the past and clarify your future. And when you know better, you do better.
What Are Some Signs of a Narcissist Husband?
If you think your spouse is a narcissist, there are several behaviors you should watch for to help solidify your suspicion.
He may have an excessive interest in himself.
He is unconcerned with your feelings and you can tell because he says the most profoundly painful things you can imagine and often leaves you hanging when you really need him (at least emotionally).
He puts his own needs and even wants above you and everyone else, regardless of the level of severity in need.
He feels very entitled and expects special privileges.
He might even think he’s above the law.
He cheats on you, or you suspect he would if given the opportunity.
He makes you feel more like an employee or servant than a wife.
You walk on eggshells and base most of your decisions on whether or not he will be upset by your choice.
He wants to be seen as the best at everything, and even if he doesn’t really believe it, he expects you to believe and will demonstrate serious narcissistic injury and/or narcissistic rage if you do not support this delusion.
Speaking of delusions, he probably has delusions of grandeur.
If you have kids, he may act jealous of the attention you give them, or he may use them against you in other ways.
These are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, but they’re enough to feel concerned that you might be married to a narcissist.
Are narcissists capable of loving?
This is a hard pill to swallow because while narcissists can seem to love you in some ways, especially early in the relationship, they’re also very emotionally stunted; as in they have the emotional capacity of a toddler – or at best, a teenager.
The fact is that when a narcissist declares his love for you, he might really mean it in the moment. But he doesn’t fully “get” love. He sees you more as an object – sort of like how you see your smartphone.
When you get a new smartphone, it’s powerful and amazing, packed with new features. It’s pretty and doesn’t have any scratches – and you love it for exactly what it is.
But after a while, you drop it a few times. It gets a little beat up, and before you know it, you hear about the latest and greatest NEW smartphone.
Right around then, your current phone becomes a little less functional – it slows down and doesn’t quite run as smoothly as it once did.
And that’s right around the time you break down and get a new one. You don’t miss the old one, and you pretty much don’t think of it again. Because it’s a smartphone, not a person.
But the narcissist sees you like a smartphone – disposable and dispensable. They love what you DO for them, but they’re not really capable of loving YOU as a person, at least not in the same way as you may have once loved THEM.
How long can a narcissist stay married?
Narcissists, both male, and female, sometimes stay married for decades. Many male narcissists won’t leave ever, at least not physically. Others will jump from relationship to relationship.
Those who cheat will often want to keep their wives around as their “mother figure,” if possible. Then they go out and do what they want with other women (and/or men), and they seem to really lean into the whole “Madonna/Whore” complex.
Long story short, a narcissist can stay married for the rest of their lives, and many will unless their wives finally have enough and initiate the divorce themselves. Often, the narcissistic husband will repeat the whole cycle of abuse over and over in their marriages.
So you may never be permanently discarded, but you’ll be temporarily discarded repeatedly through painful manipulations like the silent treatment, for example.
In fact, if a narcissist husband were to successfully change, it would require him to engage in long-term therapy and to really do the work required – and it’d be no picnic.
He’d have to first discover and acknowledge his core wounds, those traumas that caused his personality to develop this way. ( He’d have to recognize that his core wounds probably began as early as birth, if you believe in attachment theory, which I do.)
Then, he’d need to accept and meaningful work through what happened to him and the fact that it caused his personality flaws (which, of course, must also be seen, acknowledged, and resolved).
Finally, he’d need to go to the next level and learn emotional and compassionate empathy. This would require the work of a skilled specialty psychologist/therapist and may even involve certain prescriptions and additional therapies, depending on his comorbid mental health issues.
How do you deal with a narcissist in a relationship?
Once you identify the problem, it’s time to take action. You’ve got choices here – you can stay, or you can go.
If you stay, prepare yourself to continue to deal with emotional and psychological abuse for the rest of your life. It may never get better and if it does, it could be because you’ve resigned yourself to accepting the abuse.
Of course, there are plenty of ways you can make the narcissist less difficult. You can even sort of train them to treat you with more respect.
But these tactics will only make your life more tolerable, and only if you’re willing to actively play the narcissist’s game. Trust me when I tell you that it’s only worth it if you’re also actively planning to get out of the relationship.
That said, I know it isn’t always possible to leave right away, thanks to things like financial abuse and having kids.
Otherwise, you’ll want to use the gray rock method when they try to gaslight and manipulate you, and you’ll want to get busy planning your exit. Even if it’s going to take a while, you’ll feel more empowered when you know you’re working toward your freedom.
Divorce is always difficult and life-altering. When you’re divorcing a narcissist, there’s a whole other layer of manipulation and controlling behaviors involved. And, as painful as it is, it is less uncommon than you’d hope.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost half of all marriages end in divorce. If you are planning, experiencing, or have recently gone through a divorce with a narcissist, there are things you should know about starting over.
How Divorcing a Narcissist Affects Your Health
Research tells us that while most people are resilient after a divorce, surveys indicate that 10-15% of divorced people find it very difficult to manage to start over. If you’re dealing with a narcissist during divorce, you’re probably in that 10 to 15%, sadly. This means that your divorce was or will be quite traumatic. You may be feeling stuck, confused, lost, and abandoned.
Mental Health and Stress Issues When Divorcing a Narcissist
You might feel like dealing with narcissistic abuse for as long as you have could leave you without the skills to cope with loss and start over. And you would not be alone in that feeling – as it turns out, we have seen thousands of narcissistic abuse survivors struggle through divorcing a narcissist. You might suffer from increased anxiety, depression, and a variety of symptoms related to C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) related to narcissistic abuse in your toxic relationship, both during and after the relationship.
You might also feel excessive stress that can lead to additional mental and physical effects. Due to the rejection you feel during divorce, you might struggle with even deeper mental health and emotional wellness issues. In a study published by Ovid Technologies, researchers found that oxytocin, a pleasure hormone associated with social bonding, may have protective health benefits. A separate study published in the American Journal of Science showed that the brain areas that sense pain are also activated with social rejection.
And, according to one researcher, dealing with your parents’ divorce as a child increases your risk for divorce. This makes sense for narcissistic abuse survivors on a deeper level, as a large percentage of narcissistic abuse survivors are also the adult children of narcissists, according to my own research and experience.
The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), which measures the relationship between life events, stress, and illness, tells us that divorce is rated as one of the top stressors – and this is just general divorce – not necessarily divorce involving a narcissist. Divorce is topped only by changing jobs in the list of stressors. Other top stressors include moving to a new place
Physical Health Issues When Divorcing a Narcissist
Divorcing a narcissist can be all-consuming, but it’s very important that you put yourself and your health first if you’re going to survive this safely. If you’re not careful, divorcing a narcissist can have serious physical health ramifications. Not only could your brain health be affected in surprising ways, but you might even die earlier than you would have otherwise. A study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal shows that people who are separated or divorced have a 23% greater mortality rate than married people.
With that being said, ongoing narcissistic abuse is known to cause mental and physical health issues that might even be more profound – and divorce may be the first step you must take in order to begin to heal yourself from the long-term trauma you’ve been dealing with. In any case, when you’re dealing with divorcing a narcissist, you’ve got to take good care of yourself.
Research tells us that staying physically healthy and mentally positive are the most effective ways to overcome the health risks associated with divorcing a narcissist.
Starting Over After Divorcing a Narcissist
Staying mentally positive can help you overcome challenges and be resilient when starting over after a divorce. You can do some basic things to help yourself be resilient.
Learn What Other Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Have Experienced in Divorcing a Narcissist
Since divorce with a narcissist might be more common than you’d expect, there are many others who have survived it. Their stories, ideas, and advice can help you start over. See some narcissistic abuse survivor stories here.
But be careful here and don’t allow anyone else’s experience overshadow what you are going through. How you feel may be different from what others have experienced, and my friend, that is completely okay. You are not required to relate or to do anything because of anyone else’s experience. Divorcing a narcissist is difficult and painful and the experience, as well as the healing, is going to be completely individualized for each person who experiences it.
That’s why it’s so important that you give yourself time to process your feelings instead of bottling them up or pushing them aside. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my own recovery from divorcing a narcissist was not allowing myself to take the time I needed to grieve the relationship. I thought that because I was “out,” things would just immediately get better. And in some ways, they did – but I needed to take the time to mourn the relationship.
Things to Avoid When Divorcing a Narcissist
Going through narcissistic abuse is, on its own, an extended trauma in your life. Pile divorce on top of it, and you’re looking at a whole new level of concern. It is never easy, and we all make mistakes in the process. But if you are at all able to avoid the following, you will be doing yourself a big favor when it comes to your narcissistic abuse recovery process (not to mention the process of moving on after your divorce).
Avoid doing anything, especially making life-changing decisions, out of desperation. Always take time to THINK before you act, even if that means you refuse to make any decision related to the divorce on the spot. Get away from the narcissist and take some time to think in a stress-free zone.
Don’t allow the narcissist to treat your children as negotiation or manipulation tools. Do your best to keep any kids you have out of discussions that do not involve custody or the business of raising them. Stay calm and only focus on FACTS when you must communicate about the children. Try to keep your emotional energy to yourself during the divorce – at least when it comes to the narcissist and their flying monkeys.
Be careful to avoid developing or resuming bad habits or addictions. This one is harder, but while occasional indulgences might not hurt, long-term bad habits can be hard to break. Focus instead on what you can do to make yourself and/or your life better in this process. So, rather than eating ice cream every day to feel less stressed, or having a glass of wine (or three), maybe you could add in a stress-relieving walk or a daily meditation session. (Or if you’re like me, your walk can BECOME your daily meditation!)
Avoid becoming a hermit. Divorce can lead to social isolation. Don’t get back together with your ex or date anyone available out of desperation or loneliness. Try socializing with friends or using your time for medication and self-care instead of engaging in risky behaviors. I suggest you wait a minimum of one year beyond the finalization of your divorce to allow yourself to have plenty of time to heal.
You should not be going this whole “divorcing a narcissist” thing alone. There are plenty of resources available to you, whether you’re looking for one-on-one coaching narcissistic abuse recovery coaching, one-on-one divorce coaching, a support group, or even a therapist. In any case, it definitely helps to talk to someone, be they a coach, counselor, or another mental health professional during a divorce. In some cases, you might even be lucky enough to have a friend or family member who is willing to listen and who may understand.
Since divorce is one of the top life stressors, don’t take this lightly – your health is essential, and NOT getting the help you need can put you at unnecessary risk. Even just talking out your problems with a friend can make a difference and allow you to develop resilience.
Remember too that self-care should have a space on your priority list. While there may be practical issues to manage, like living arrangements and dividing property, do not forget to make time to allow yourself to heal. You will need to practice your coping skills to start over and seeing a professional can help you build the resilience you need. Embrace the challenges of starting over with the knowledge that you are creating a new, different, and better life for yourself.
Divorce is almost never easy, and narcissists make it miserable. At times, it may feel like your whole world has changed, and that’s because it has – but my friend, that can be a very good thing if you allow it to be. Point your eyes toward your future and start intentionally choosing what comes next. You can take charge by starting over with an intentional mindset with focused and specific goals as you move forward. You might even want to consider strategizing your own personal “comeback” with one of our coaches.
Do you know a woman who seems to love being a perpetual victim? Someone who blames everyone else for her misery?
Whether she’s your mother, your wife, an ex or a friend or relative, have you met a woman who seems to have sort of lost her ability to get what she wants?
If you do, let me ask you a few questions.
First, is she of a certain age? And if so…does she seem to have an over-inflated sense of her own self-importance?
Is she ridiculously entitled, and does she require excessive and constant attention and admiration from the people around her?
Does she clearly think she is more important than others, even if she pretends otherwise?
Might she tend to over-exaggerate her accomplishments and/or talents?
Does she often talk about how she used to be famous, beautiful, or rich?
Does she seem to think she might only be able to associate with people she deems special?
Is it difficult to have a conversation with her that isn’t…well…about her?
Does she tend to take advantage of people and their kindness?
Is she the kind of woman who seems to want special treatment above everyone else, and does she forget or not seem to be able to care about how people feel?
Is she conceited or stuck up, or arrogant?
Does she always need to be the best and have the best of everything?
And what happens if you dare to criticize her? Does she get upset or angry when she doesn’t get what she wants or when people don’t treat her better than they treat everyone else?
Does she seem to always have issues in her personal relationships and friendships?
And despite the fact that she tries really hard to seem perfect and infallible, do you ever secretly think she might secretly be insecure or that she might be dealing with a lot of shame about herself?
If so, you might be dealing with an aging female narcissist. In fact, she may have found that she’s not quite as capable of getting the kind of narcissistic supply that she’s used to. This can happen when the narcissist’s family and friends have just had enough and, one by one, abandon them.
In some cases, the narcissist loses their ability to attract new supply because they get older and lose their looks, or because they become so self-involved that they forget how to do the whole love bombing thing – or any combination of these things.
But a narcissist really NEEDS that supply to continue to exist, right? So what happens then? Do they become a real person, or do they just sort of lose it?
What is a Collapsed Narcissist?
When a narcissist is unable to obtain narcissistic supply, what can you expect? Some people call this a narcissistic crisis or a collapsed narcissist. Whatever the label, it’s a big problem – and often, not just for the narcissist but also for the people around them.
For the record, let me define the collapsed narcissist: it’s what you get when a narcissist has stopped being able to obtain the proper amount and type of narcissistic supply.
And narcissistic supply is, in most cases, a person to help bolster the narcissist’s self-worth, self-esteem – value as a human being.
In essence, a collapsed narcissist will feel like they’ve been denied the very supply they need to exist – their proverbial life’s blood.
This leads to narcissistic injury, and as the collapsed narcissist writhes helplessly in the pain of not getting what they believe they’re due (whether it’s meeting some big goal or simply getting the admiration and praise they feel they rightly deserve), their whole world feels like it’s falling down around them.
Psychology of the Collapsed Female Narcissist
When it comes to the collapsed female narcissist, they will quickly find themselves losing self-esteem, and in so many ways, their self-image is nearly erased.
They begin to self-devalue and self-doubt. They literally hate themselves to the point that they project this self-hate onto everyone else around them.
So, since she figures that everyone “hates” her anyway, the female narcissist may as well hate them back. She sees no other option.
There is no more (or very little) social life for the collapsed narcissist.
People, the narcissist reasons, are all fake and stupid anyway, so why should they bother to be kind to anyone?
At this point, the female narcissist practically lives in constant attack mode, attempting to force people around her to provide the much-needed supply to which she was once accustomed.
Female narcissists might also appear quite altruistic, but they only do this to get attention, not to help anyone. Grandiose and covert narcissists project themselves differently, but they are both just as manipulative and dangerous and lack emotional and compassionate empathy.
All narcissists thrive on narcissistic supply that they get from others who they use, manipulate, and abuse. In so many ways, female narcissists are just like those mean girls you hear about.
They do what they can to make their appearance flawless, and narcissists who become mothers manipulate and control their children. Their kids quickly join the ranks of their main sources of supply.
That is why children of narcissistic mothers don’t get to experience unconditional love growing up, and many of them were abused physically, psychologically, or both.
What happens to these female narcissists when they age?
What do you think happens to them when their appearances change and they end up getting wrinkles?
What happens to them when their children leave the nest? And may even go no contact on them?
And if she is divorced or widowed, how would she gain supply?
You can see that when the world of the aging female narcissist begins to crash down on her, she’s at risk of collapsing. How can you identify a narcissistic collapse in an aging female?
The Collapsed Female Narcissist in Action: What to Expect
While they are still unable to deal with any sort of blame, criticism, or perceived disrespect of themselves, they are actively projecting their own self-hate to the people in their lives – or maybe random targets such as people of different religions, races, or even political affiliations.
This is when the gloves come off, and the female narcissist blasts out her blatant bigotry and small-minded ways. You’ll see that anyone who is different from the narcissist is quickly minimized and put into a “not good enough” box (to put it very mildly).
This is also often when narcissists will go all-out to abuse their partners, whether physically, mentally, or otherwise. And yes, even female narcissists will abuse their partners and anyone else who comes into their inner circle.
The loss of narcissistic supply triggers defensive behaviors, such as the whole “leaving my family and starting a whole new life” behavior – in which the narcissist literally flees what he or she sees as the scenes of their failures and attempts to literally start over again.
They may lose not only their primary source of supply – spouse or partner – but also their children, friends, and anyone else who used to offer supply.
This leads to the ultimate collapse and, often, a mental breakdown from which they may never recover. If you look at the narcissistic personality as a sort of house built on stilts, imagine that the lack of narcissistic supply is a strong wind that causes the house to come crashing down.
The Choices of the Collapsed Female Narcissist
The female narcissist has two choices if she wants to move forward here. She can try to become a whole person and develop real coping skills (and in some cases, obtain a new source of narcissistic supply), or she can remain collapsed and poison everything else in her world in the process.
So back to the house metaphor – the narcissist could burn down all the houses around theirs in order to take revenge on everyone and everything else.
In the end, regardless of the reason for the narcissistic collapse, the narcissist blames everything and everyone EXCEPT herself. She must believe, ultimately, that she is a victim and that nothing is her fault.
Do you know an aging female narcissist?
If your mother was that narcissist and you decide to go no contact with her, you can bet that her world feels like it is ending. She same will go for any female narcissist you’ve dealt with – but when she is unable to find and secure a new, worthy source of supply, she will become openly mean to literally almost anyone she deals with, and she will believe she is in the right, every single time.
You might call her a Karen (if you were the sort of person to call out Karens).
Remember this. When a female narcissist is collapsing, she might feel like everything is falling down around her.
Her world feels like it is nearly ending – and as she pathetically tries to hold on to the self she used to be, to hold on to her past, she will secretly loathe herself – but she will blame everyone but herself for this issue.
She may not even recognize that she’s no longer the self she used to be. She may become more insecure than ever, and chances are that she will do her best to keep faking it.
She might spend a lot of time in a plastic surgeon’s office and find herself competing with other women in odd and uncomfortable ways.
The truth is that she hates herself for what she has become, even though aging is natural and part of life.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – as someone who is 45 years old and living in a society that values youth and shuts down women of a certain age – I understand why it can be difficult – especially for a woman who bases her entire value on external things and the ability to manipulate people to get what she wants.
The female narcissist would prefer that reality to be covered up – she wants to hide her current self so badly.
As the female narcissist ages, her beauty begins to disappear, her kids are no longer around, and she is losing her sources of supply – those people who inadvertently were her “shield” to the world.
And now that she’s no longer able to control people the way she used to, all of those terrible parts of herself she has been working so hard to hide are bubbling to the surface.
That means she will do lots of crying and will not make an effort to hide how pitiful she really is. Expect plenty of hoovering at this point as the collapsed narcissist will do what she can to get her kids back if they’ve gone no contact, not to mention other former sources of supply.
You’ve got to remember: She is desperate right now as her world has crashed down.
A collapsed female narcissist can be even more dangerous and crueler than her younger counterpart, believe it or not, and be careful with her because she will be the dangerous type who has nothing left to lose.
It isn’t pretty, and while it would be really easy to feel sorry for her, don’t let her pitiful appearance fool you – she is more toxic than she appears.
(Prefer to watch/listen? See/hear on YouTube) If you’ve ever been in any kind of relationship with a narcissist – a toxic parent, friend or family member – or even a narcissistic ex – chances are that at least on some level, you found yourself feeling pretty alone in the world. If this person isn’t a family member, you might even find yourself thinking back and remembering the good old days when you might have had a best friend or even a whole group of them. And if the narcissist is or was a romantic partner, you may have had a family that cared about you, and other friends who had your back before you had met the narcissist.
But what happens all too often is that we get so wrapped up in these toxic relationships that we miss something really big – the fact that narcissists have this way of pushing people away from us. We are kept away from people in our lives who might either take our attention away from the narcissist or worse, who might support us against them once we realize exactly what we’re dealing with.
How Love-Bombing and Idealization Play Into Self-Isolation in Toxic Relationships
Now, at first, if this person is a friend or especially a romantic partner, this will seem almost natural. You might find yourself sort of foregoing time with others for a while, voluntarily. And this is pretty normal up to a point at the beginning of a new relationship. But when you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist, it isn’t just that you’re dealing with a normal sort of early-relationship infatuation. Instead, something much more sinister is going on.
On a deeper level, whether consciously or not, the narcissist has a goal to isolate you from others, both for the reasons I mentioned, as well as because it causes you to become more dependent on the narcissist. This ensures that not only will you stick around until they’re done with you, but also that you’ll be more easily controlled by the narcissist.
And, in so many cases, you might find yourself self-isolating as a result of emotional exhaustion that you deal with when you are constantly bombarded with the narcissistic manipulation tactics and games they play with your head. As if that wasn’t enough, you might also develop crippling social anxiety after or during a relationship with a narcissist.
Crippling Fear, Shame and Guilt Related to Narcissistic Abuse Leads to Self-Isolation
And, if you’re like a lot of narcissistic abuse victims and survivors, you won’t always feel comfortable discussing it with the people you’re close to, not to mention anyone else. If you’re being honest, the truth is that even though you do your best to put on a good front and generally appear to be totally fine, and even though you’re totally capable of engaging in friendly conversation (and have good social skills), there can be an underlying feeling of isolation when you’re in a relationship with a toxic, controlling narcissist – one that feels sort of like a dull ache. You know it’s there, and you want to soothe it, but you also feel like you’re not really equipped to do so.
You feel like you can’t trust anyone, not even yourself, thanks to months or years of gaslighting and manipulation. And listen, my friend – you’re not alone here. So often, I hear this from my clients – they feel like they don’t even know how to be vulnerable anymore – and they find themselves feeling very gunshy, constantly on alert.
Do you know how it feels? It’s where you carry a lot of tension in your body. You have aches and pains and you’re tired. Your stomach is weird. You’re always in “fight or flight” mode, or worse, you freeze. In fact, I’d venture to guess that you sometimes forget how to even talk about yourself, much less how to connect with others on a deep level. Even the idea of having to put yourself together enough to go to the grocery store might feel like too much.
Narcissistic Abuse Takes a Toll on Your Whole Life
See, emotional abuse (not to mention physical and even deeper forms of psychological abuse such as gaslighting) can really teach us to shut up – to stop talking about ourselves – and this leads to our becoming paralyzed in certain ways – one of which is developing the need to be alone! So, we self-isolate and even though we might feel lonely on occasion, we feel safer this way – or at least we think we’re less stressed. This will prove to be a false sense of peace, on some level, since isolating ourselves can be dangerous for our physical and mental health.
And the really messed up part of all of this is that if and when we do find the strength to leave the narcissist, we look around and find that we’re all alone. Our family might be estranged, our best friends have moved on and we don’t even have anyone to invite out for a cup of coffee.
But how is it that the narcissist is able to have such power over you? Maybe you were previously the sort of person who had decent friends and at least a few connections.
The Underhanded Ways Narcissists Make You Self-Isolate
Just like other kinds of narcissistic abuse and manipulation, it’s all very sneaky and subtle, especially if you aren’t watching for it. And the narcissist rarely just comes right out and says, “You need to dump everyone in your life in order to be with me.” In fact, they might even straight up tell you that they LOVE your friends and family members. They might charm them and get them on their side, even. And at first, the people in your life who go along with the narcissist and fall for their charm might be safe – especially if the narcissist can get them to team up with them against you. This might be a little joke at first, but the narcissist hopes for (and sometimes gets) a good flying monkey out of that deal – you know, someone who will assist them in their smear campaign later.
But there will be many people in your life who, initially or over time, might admit to you that they really don’t like the narcissist, or who actively challenge them. They might refuse to “get” the narcissist’s bad jokes, or actively question them when they sense that the narcissist is lying or hiding details. Or, there might people who will act protective of you, like that one friend who sweetly gets up in the narcissist’s face the first time they meet him or her and says something like, “I really like you but if you hurt my friend, I’ll rain down on you like the wrath of a thousand bumblebees,” or whatever.
These people are a problem for the narcissist, because not only might they point out that you’re being emotionally and psychologically abused or manipulated, but they might even help you stand up to the narcissist and get you away from them. Since this would foil their evil plan to dominate and control you, the narcissist sees them as a threat and needs to eliminate them from the equation. And, as I’m guessing you’re painfully aware of by now, there’s no level to which they won’t stoop to get what they want.
Five Things Narcissists Say to Make You Self-Isolate During a Toxic Relationship
So how do you know if this is happening to you? I know, you’re probably thinking it should be obvious when it’s happening, right? But it isn’t, not always, because narcissists can be very subtle and sneaky – and because narcissistic abuse is so pervasive and confusing that you sometimes don’t even know it’s happening to you WHILE you’re in the middle of it. That’s why I’m going to share five things that narcissists will say and do to cause you to self-isolate during a toxic relationship.
1. You’re my person. I’ll always be there for you.
If the narcissist is not a parent or family member, the love-bombing or idealization phase will be the stuff of legends and romcoms alike. Believe it or not, one of the biggest ways non-family narcissists get you to self-isolate is by promising you that they’ll always be there for you – and that they’ll always have your back. It is often the first thing they will audibly say that will lead to this unfortunate situation.
Why? Because a lot of people who end up in relationships with narcissists were also raised by toxic people and/or suffered trauma during childhood that led to them feeling alone in the world. Without realizing it, this leads us to desperately seek someone who is willing to be “our person,” as in, someone for whom we are the most important person in their lives. And, whether or not this person is toxic, because of our own issues developed in childhood, we are at tremendous risk of becoming codependent. This means that we grew up in such a way that we didn’t feel loved and supported – and we are so happy and surprised that someone wants to be “our person” finally, we allow ourselves to be seduced and hooked by the idea of it.
2. This person doesn’t like me, and you need to choose: me or them.
Ah, yes – the good old “me or them” thing – the ultimate ultimatum that no one should ever have to deal with. But sadly, this is another common thing that narcissists say to make you isolate yourself from your family. Not only do they want you to not be with your friends, but they don’t want you to have anything to do with your family, especially when they might emotionally (or otherwise) support you in any way. They will manipulate you into believing that your family or friends don’t seem to like them – or they will DO something to ensure that this is the case. And whether anyone they’re pushing away actually said or indicated any issues with the narcissist won’t matter. The narcissist will literally say whatever they need to say to get your full and undivided attention – at least when and if they want it. Of course, if you don’t immediately dump the offending person, the narcissist, without remorse, will pull out the old narcissistic injury card and tell you how hurt they would be if they were forced to leave you for not dumping this person. You’re put in a position that leaves you with almost no choice.
3. Your best friend did something awful…I just thought you should know.
As you know, narcissists are pathological liars and at times, they are so good at it that they could even pass a lie detector test. That’s because they have a very limited ability to empathize on a genuine level – and because they aren’t likely to feel remorse. This is especially true when they feel upset and threatened, which they are bound to do when you’re close to someone who isn’t them. And your friends, especially your best friend, can become a serious threat to the narcissist’s sense of control. That’s why the narcissist will do the unthinkable to push them away.
For example, the narcissist might make you isolate from your friends by telling you that they are saying not so nice things behind your back. And you might believe them because since they’ll focus this little campaign on your shortcomings and/or insecurities. For instance, if you have a habit of laughing nervously, the narcissist will pick that up and not hesitate to tell you that your friends make fun of how you do that laugh. You know you laugh that way…and you can’t help yourself at times, therefore, you would immediately believe what the narcissist says. That will make you cut your friends off.
Or, and this is the worst, they might make up a story about a specific friend. It might be a total lie, but the narcissist will throw in enough “facts” and so-called evidence that you’ll at least doubt the person in question, if not totally fall for it. For example, they might say your best friend made an inappropriate move on them in some way. This will follow the narcissist having told you (or your friend) that they found the friend attractive. Then, they might have started little innocent flirtations in front of you and later confided to you that your friend made a comment that turned them on or that they saw or heard something that otherwise got their attention.
Even if you don’t believe it at first, this could cause you to have doubts about them as people which will in the end cause you to pull away from them. And along with your own mind’s ability to connect details and to feel protective of your relationship, this will change the way you feel about your friend – and that will lead to a moment of desperation in which you cut off contact – either directly or indirectly. You’ll lose touch and before you know it, you don’t even know each other anymore. Meanwhile, the narcissist is getting exactly what they want – you, isolated and under their full control.
4. Your family doesn’t think much of you, do they?
Whether your family is amazing and supportive or painfully toxic, the narcissist doesn’t want them in the way. That’s why they will often say things to you about how they notice that your family does not respect you in any way or form. Or they’ll say your family uses you, or that they don’t care about you at all.
They’ll say that they’ve seen this before, and they’ll point out little idiosyncrasies that you’ll start to hyperfocus on (such as the way your mom’s left eye twitches every time you talk about your relationship or the way your sister rolls her eyes when you talk about your dream of writing the great American novel). And to really put the nail in this coffin, the narcissist will do their best to exacerbate and exaggerate actual issues that you have shared with them about different people in your family. They’ll amplify and magnify anything you’ve shared and actively cultivate doubt, anger, and the feeling of betrayal in your mind. This will begin to poke at you over time. The narcissist will keep pushing it, maybe even blatantly lying and saying things that aren’t true, or things that have a whisper of truth to them, such as pointing out how the family is always talking about you behind your back.
And since you already know that every family talks about its members among themselves, you’ll assume they’re telling the truth. Why wouldn’t you? What kind of person would want to intentionally push someone’s family away from them? (Yes, that was a touch of sarcasm.) But, all joking aside, you will find yourself falling for this stuff, especially during the love-bombing or idealization phase. If it happens later, you might even push the family away in order to show the narcissist how loyal you are to them or even to get them off your back. But only rarely will you consciously understand what is going on while it’s happening, because the narcissist can be so sneaky and subtle in their manipulation.
5. I’m the only one who really loves you, you know. It’s us against the world!
This kind of manipulation might look different in different relationships. For example, let’s say the narcissist in your life is your spouse or partner. They pulled you in with promises of having someone “on your side,” of a “soulmate” or whatever your version of that was – but ultimately, you were brought in thinking you were getting your dream person. So, they’ll pull the old “us against the world” thing, which will initially feel really good to you because you’ll feel like you belong somewhere and are a part of something special – maybe for the first time in your life. Or, if your narcissist was your parent or parental figure, it looked more like “I’m the only person who REALLY loves you so you better do exactly what I want or you risk being completely abandoned in the world.”
And in either case, it looks like “if you don’t do what I want, you will be alone” – and the narcissist KNOWS instinctively that everyone’s secretly afraid, at least on some level, of ending up completely alone and unloved in the world – whether we admit it or not. So, in order to properly secure you as a source of narcissistic supply, they’ll play on your very human fear of abandonment. And if you do happen to have a touch of codependency in you, this will feel like a life or death decision, which the narcissist will seduce you into making before you even realize what has happened.
Bottom Line: Narcissists make you self-isolate for control, manipulation and to secure you as narcissistic supply.
In the end, just know that without hesitation or remorse, the narcissist can easily and methodically manipulate you into believing that your friends and family are no good for you for one reason or another. You will believe the narcissist either because you’re head-over-heels in love with them, or you will do it out of fear because you don’t want to lose them. Of course, once you see the truth, that they are abusive and toxic, it’ll be too late, because they have managed to make you push everyone out of your life and you’ll be alone. This will leave you struggling to find support and, if the narcissist has their way, without access to the help you need to get out of the relationship.
If this situation sounds familiar to you and you’re struggling to figure out how to deal with it, you might want to watch this video, which I’ll also link in the description.
A narcissistic abuse recovery coaching client told me that when she was school-aged, her mother would have a lot of trouble getting up on time in the mornings to get her off to school. Back then, no one had cell phones, and my client’s mom hadn’t bought her an alarm clock of her own yet – so she had no way to get up on time herself. My client would later learn that her mother had been dabbling in certain activities that were messing with her sleep schedule, but at the time, she wasn’t aware of it.
Anyway, she told me how, each time her mother would wake up late, she would be sort of verbally attacked. Her mother would say things like, “Well, you’ve made us late again!” And then would tell the school that her tardiness was because her daughter wouldn’t get up on time.
Another client shared that the one thing that gave her comfort growing up in her toxic family was her cat. Sadly, he passed away when my client was 14. And when he found out about it, her father told her to stop crying because she never really loved that cat anyway.
That same client ended up meeting and marrying a narcissist in her early 20s and was going through an ugly divorce when she first reached out to me. She told me that her soon-to-be ex-husband had a way of playing the same kinds of games with her. She said he was always making her doubt herself. He’d say things like:
“I never said that!” (When he’d CLEARLY said that!) followed by “You’re always making up stories,” when she insisted on what had actually happened. It made her feel like she was losing her mind. She literally started doubting her own perception and experiences. She said it went on for years and it wasn’t until she found an article I had written that she realized it really WAS NOT her.
And then there was the client who told me that her mother was always trying to make her think everyone was using her and would leave her when they were done with her. For example, her best friend in high school, her mother said, was only friends with her because no one else liked her. And when she got married, her mother told her that her husband was only tolerating her and that he would leave her when someone better came along. The underlying message was that the client better stay connected to her mother, lest she find herself lying in a ditch and alone when the bottom fell out of her life, which, as her mother said, it inevitably would.
I heard another story where a man kept telling his girlfriend that she smelled bad. This went on for so long that she became obsessed with being clean. She would ask perfect strangers to smell her, and of course, no one ever caught a whiff of anything unsavory – except for her boyfriend. She would later learn that his father had told her to always tell his girlfriend that she was smelly, because, he said, it would make her be extra clean and not want to get too close to other men.
Identifying and understanding Gaslighting in Narcissistic Abuse
What do these stories have in common, besides the fact that each of these people was clearly dealing with toxic people who might have also had narcissistic personality disorder? Each is an example of a very specific manipulation tactic that is used by narcissists and other toxic people called gaslighting. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about, today – gaslighting. And I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about it – what it is, how it works, the signs and how to recognize it in your own life – and what to do if it happens to you.
Gaslighters actively and intentionally confuse their victims in some pretty terrible ways. They might cut you down and build you up in the same day – and then tear you down again. And while they might come out with an unexpected positive point (think of this like a “crumb of affection” – it’s intermittent reinforcement and it leads to trauma bonding), they will often alternate this with outrageous accusations toward you with no logical reason.
The thing is that gaslighters make you feel crazy because they act like your reactions to their abuse aren’t rational. So if you find yourself feeling like you might be a little crazy (which is, of course, the end goal of the whole gaslighting technique) or even if you’re aware that you’re dealing with a narcissist and want to recognize it as it happens — understanding the signs can be the first step to making your life a little better.
That’s because, when you’re aware of the behaviors that cause the narcissist to engage in gaslighting, you can react differently and change the course of the outcome. Plus, this gives you the option to sort of look at it like a scientist – as in, logically and not emotionally. For me, that was one of the most important things I learned during my own recovery. I needed to be able to categorize and label the behaviors on a logical level. Once I understood on that level, then I was able to go back and figure out how my own emotions had been affected. At that point, I could connect the emotions and the facts, and move forward in a healthier way. I want to help you do the same thing.
Even the so-called normal relationships in our lives can suffer from misunderstandings and miscommunications, but when someone starts using the manipulation tactics involved in gaslighting, chances are they might also be a narcissist — and if you’re going to maintain a sense of self, you’ve got to understand what this is and learn what you can do about it.
The gray rock (or grey rock) technique was named and first published by a writer called Skylar, who advises that you act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. The tactic is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience. If you’re going to use the gray rock method, you’ll need to do so carefully if you are dealing with any physical abuse, as the narcissist may not react well.
About a year after my divorce was final, I got a call from my ex-mother-in-law, letting me know that my ex was getting remarried. I was only mildly surprised – mostly that it had taken him almost two years to meet, successfully propose and schedule a wedding with his would-be second ex-wife. In hindsight, I’m actually kind of surprised it took him that long because usually, narcissists move much quicker. Still, I have absolutely no doubt he was dating and being “in love” with someone – more likely, more than one person, shortly after I left him, but for me, I didn’t even start dating until the divorce was final, and that itself took close to a year after I left.
Even though I did not in any way want him back, part of me felt some kind of way about this whole situation. It wasn’t that I felt jealous. I felt…confused. I felt like I wanted to contact this woman and tell her what she was in for. But if I’m being honest, I wanted to know how he was treating her. Was he being nice? Had he suddenly become the person I’d always wanted him to be? Had all the time and effort I spent trying to help him get it together finally benefitted someone, even if it wasn’t me?
Part of me hoped that he would be different for her. But the other part of me knew he wouldn’t.
It would be about five years later that I’d finally speak to her. When my now-husband decided to adopt my oldest son (the one I’d had with my ex), I had to reach out to the ex. He agreed to sign the papers because it might mean that he would no longer be on the hook for child support. Understandably, despite the fact that she’d never met or spoken to my son because he’d spent literally no time at all with my ex, his then-wife was quite concerned about the situation and showed up with him when I met him to sign the papers.
Once everything was resolved, she ended up calling me several times to discuss her husband and their relationship. She wanted to know if her experiences were like mine. It turned out that her marriage was nearly identical to mine, except she didn’t tolerate as much of his crap as I had. This led to his increasing the intensity and frequency of manipulation and gaslighting. Either way, though, she ended up divorcing him not long after. He’d end up married twice more after that, as far as I know.
The one thing I had felt worried about was that he would be better for someone who wasn’t me. But after having the opportunity to talk to both his second and third wives, I learned the truth: he was the same person for them as he’d been for me. He never changed.
Will the Narcissist Change for the New Supply?
Have you ever felt worried that your ex would somehow change for their new “source of narcissistic supply?” If so, you’re not alone. In fact, I hear this question all the time. People want to know: will the narcissist change for the new supply? Will they take everything I tried to teach them and use it successfully in a new relationship? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – narcissists and their new sources of supply – how they treat them and whether their new relationship is as good as they make it seem from the outside.
So, you’ve finally had the nerve to leave your partner, who you’re pretty sure is a toxic narcissist. And now, after years of psychological and emotional mind games, and you’re finally starting to breathe again. You are finally free of this horrible, selfish energy and you feel like you’re a brand new person! Life is just starting to get really, really good.
And then it happens. In-person or on social media, you spot your former would-be soulmate with someone new. You are startled and it feels like you’ve been slapped in the face. But pretty soon, you notice that there’s something different about them. They seem happier, brighter. Relaxed, even. They’re having a good time with a new person – maybe even someone who looks a little like you or who has something in common with you. They’re laughing, talking and even being charming.
“Who IS this person?” you wonder.
You’re confused. You’re hurt. You’re angry, maybe. A far cry from the narcissist you recently knew, your ex has somehow transformed themselves back into the amazing person you fell in love with. But seconds later, almost as if time is moving in slow motion, you realize what is happening. Your narcissist has found their next victim – and they’re in the process of love bombing this person, and for just a moment, you get a front-row seat.
Listen. I know it stings. I know it hurts when you see the person you fell in love with re-emerging after you’re away for a while. And I know that you wonder (at least a little bit) if somehow he narcissist was right all along – and if it really WAS just you.
(Side note: I PROMISE you that it wasn’t you.) Let’s talk about it.
The Truth About Narcissists in Relationships
Time for a reality check, my friend: you were never the problem in your toxic relationship. I’m not saying you were perfect. I’m not saying you didn’t make mistakes. I’m just saying that the majority of your issues in the relationship were a direct reaction to the mind games and manipulation that you were putting up within the relationship.
First, let me acknowledge that while every step in the healing process after a toxic relationship with a narcissist can be very painful, this one is probably one of the most confusing. See, while the bigger part of you knows that the narcissist is never going to REALLY change, this other little part of you still loves them – or, to put it more accurately, the version of them that you once believed was real. The one you signed up for in the first place. And that’s the part of them that they’re parading around now – so it’s like you’re mourning “that version” of the narcissist all over again.
But let me repeat: the problem was NOT you! The problem was that the narcissist took you for granted. They got used to having you around. They got spoiled by your supply. And they got bored, or you demanded that they behave like an actual grownup. Or maybe they got shiny new object syndrome, or they said they didn’t love you anymore, and left you to pursue whatever it was they wanted in the moment. Maybe you just finally had enough and you left the narcissist yourself.
Why the Narcissist Becomes the Person You Fell In Love With When You Leave
Maybe it would help you to understand why the narcissist has suddenly become Mr. or Ms. Perfect again. Here’s the truth: now that the relationship has ended, whether it was the narcissist’s idea or yours to end things, the narcissist was left without a source of regular narcissistic supply – and it is not possible for a narcissist to exist for long without it. Sure, they’ll have their little circle of supply. Friends, family members, even people they’ve cheated on you with. But now that you’re no longer officially together, the narcissist is out there on the prowl again, seeking out the new source of narcissistic supply that they need to save them from themselves.
This is normal – it’s exactly what you should expect from a toxic narcissist. And while a small part of you might secretly hate the new supply, the other part of you sadly already knows that it isn’t going to be all hearts and flowers for this person either. That’s right – if you really think about it, you’ll know exactly know how this story is going to go.
Narcissistic Abuse Has a Standard Cycle
Now, as you know, narcissists are very hard to live with, and even a reasonably intelligent person would feel ashamed that they tolerate the narcissist’s manipulative tactics. This means that the new supply is probably keeping any drama and BS under wraps. And if you’re being honest, you might have done the same thing back then, especially on social media. I remember being really embarrassed if anyone found out what I’d been dealing with, so I told very few people.
This happens in varying iterations and it happens often inside the same relationship over and over for decades sometimes. But if I’m in your shoes at this point, I’m going to make use of the no-contact/low-contact thing and use it to my advantage. That means to block them both on Facebook so you can stop torturing yourself by stalking their profiles. It means you will not listen when some well-meaning flying monkey tries to offer you updates on the narcissist and the new supply.
It means you’re going to move forward and focus ONLY on what you can control (not what you can’t), and since you couldn’t control the narcissist while you were together, you sure as heck can’t now (nor should you want to – this person no longer your problem!). If you have kids together and you can’t go completely no contact, then you go low contact, meaning that you ONLY deal with the narcissist about the business of raising the kids. Nothing else.
But how do you deal with the painful reality of watching your ex narcissist be perfect for someone else?
How to Deal When the Narcissist Moves On with Someone Else
1. See the Patterns!
Start by remembering what you dealt with and by recognizing what the new supply will deal with soon enough, if they’re not already going through it. (And even if you’re tempted to warn your narcissist’s new supply about what they’re getting themselves into, don’t do it – even if your intentions are good. Since chances are they’re still in the love-bombing or idealization phase, and since your ex has likely told them a lot of lies about you, they won’t likely believe you anyway and you’ll end up regretting the decision to reach out.)
2. Realize the Truth!
Don’t sit around thinking that the narcissist’s new supply will end up getting the benefit of all the work you did trying to fix them. It doesn’t work like that. The narcissist is and always be exactly who they are. Narcissists do not change. I’m not saying they can’t – because I believe that if a narcissist were to really dig in to discover and heal their core wounds, it might be possible. But I’m saying they don’t. In all the years I’ve worked in this business, I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve never seen it happen with any narcissist in my own life and I’ve interviewed and worked with a number of psychologists and other experts who will tell you the same thing: a narcissist does not change (not for long, anyway). The most you’ll get is a temporary behavior modification, and that’s only if the narcissist gets something out of it.
3. Grieve the Relationship!
This is one place I failed in my early recovery. Rather than grieving the relationship, I decided to avoid my feelings and just move forward. That turned out to be a bad idea as it would later come back and bite me in the butt – and while the grief process will wait, it will not just go away. Eventually, you’re going to have to grieve the person you signed up for and let them go.
4. Be Honest with Yourself!
Remember that you’re not really mourning the person you lost; you’re mourning your illusion of who you believed they were. It’s an ever-turning cycle that the narcissist will repeat in varying iterations for the rest of their life. Be glad you’re off the wheel.
5. Put Yourself First for Once!
Stay focused on you, and on making your own life better. You have already been tortured enough – if you let this situation keep making you miserable, you’re only allowing the narcissist to continue the abuse and control you from afar. Take back your life, my friend, and choose to be happy, in your own way. Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.
6. Focus on Healing.
It’s time for you to heal and release the anger and sadness. As you work on your own healing, the layers of anger and sadness will soon disappear. One of the hardest things for me and for many survivors of these kinds of relationships was mourning the illusion of that perfect relationship we wanted to truly believe that we had. Letting that go was a big step for me and many other survivors have told me the same thing.
7. Don’t Overthink the New Supply.
NEVER compare yourself to the new supply, unless it’s to feel sorry for them as you take note of the pattern that you’re thankfully no longer subjected to in your life. Don’t do yourself the disservice of trying to think the new supply somehow “better” than you; the truth is that narcissists are very picky, so chances are, if the new source of narcissistic supply “seems” better somehow, it’s only because the hasn’t ruined them just yet.
8. Skip the “What Ifs.”
Don’t “if only” and “what if” yourself to death. It’s common to have feelings of regret after any relationship ends, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder what you could have done differently or whether something you did or said could have been the trigger that caused it all to go downhill. But that’s not the truth, and it’s not helping you – it’s only causing you more pain – and chances are, you couldn’t have changed the situation without going completely insane trying to make the narcissist happy. Remember that the narcissist will NEVER be truly happy, because true happiness comes from within – and they are empty on the inside, at least on an emotional level. Now it’s time to live in the moment and to think about how you want the future to go.
What do you think?
Question of the Day: Have you ever experienced watching your ex-narcissist get involved with a new person, or even just appear to return to the person they used to be, and how did it make you feel? What advice would you offer your fellow survivors in this situation? Or are you currently dealing with this issue? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.