(Prefer to watch/listen? See video on YouTube) Narcissists have this way of exploiting your need for connection. It’s part of how they get you stuck in toxic relationships and feeling like you can’t leave, even if money or family isn’t an issue.
See, as humans, we are wired to connect with other humans. In fact, according to scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of the 2013 book Social, it is as necessary for us as food and water. He notes that social pain (as in being snubbed or having someone say hurtful things to you in a social setting) is as real to us as physical pain.
Lieberman points out that phrases such as “that breaks my heart” and “that hurts my feelings” are cultural evidence of the fact that emotional pain is so significant. And he says that while we might not like it, our wellbeing as humans is literally directly affected in profound ways by our connections to other people. He says social pain IS real pain – so not connecting can be as detrimental to our physical and mental health as not eating healthy food.
And this is confirmed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, which notes in a 2019 report that connecting with other people is far more important than we might think. In fact, we are told that “social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.”
So literally, by not connecting with other people, we put our health at risk. In other words, the evidence shows that we NEED to connect with people in order to be relatively healthy. But when you’re dealing with a narcissist in a toxic relationship, you might often find yourself isolated and feeling very alone.
Worse, narcissists seem to instinctively exploit our basic human need for connection and use it against us to control and manipulate us. How? Well, let’s talk about it.
Narcissistic Abuse Affects Every Aspect of Your Life
Say the narcissist in your life is a partner or former partner. Do you remember the time when you were with that person and you thought that they were your soulmate? You could not believe that everything you loved, they loved, and everything you didn’t like, they didn’t either. And then they would be so sweet and charming until their narcissistic side came out. They were at first like a dream come true to you and became your worst nightmare.
While the narcissist cannot truly feel compassionate and emotional empathy, they certainly watch and learn what you like and how you want and need a connection. Therefore, the only type of empathy that the narcissist expresses is cognitive, superficial, and agenda-driven empathy. They simply just know that you have a need for connection. And they will do anything they can to exploit it.
But why would they do that? Let’s discuss it.
How Narcissists Exploit Your Need for Connection
How would it benefit a narcissist to exploit your need for connection? Two words: narcissistic supply – they need it. And they will whatever they need to get it – including pretending to care about you and expressing false empathy. Here are five different ways narcissists will exploit your need for connection.
1. Narcissists Idealize You
Most of us who end up in long-term relationships with narcissists have experienced at least some form of trauma in childhood. Often, our childhood experiences led us to become people-pleasers or codependents.
In so many cases, we also don’t truly see our value and we have rarely experienced unconditional love. We don’t know how it feels to have someone who is really “on our side” and we’ve rarely been given the opportunity to be the center of anyone’s attention. If we have, it has often been short-lived and spotty at best.
But when you first meet a narcissist, and they see you as a good source of supply, everything changes. The allure of love bombing and idealization – it’s powerful! Because for those of us who have had difficult upbringings, or who didn’t feel loved and seen by others, the kind of validation and perceived love that we get in the beginning of a toxic relationship is literally like a drug! It FEELS incredible and brings out all kinds of feel-good neurotransmitters in us. And since narcissists are so intense, we think we’ve practically won the lottery of soulmates.
We feel like we are walking on air! Not only will some narcissists go to extremes with wooing you, but during that idealization phase, they can literally make you feel you are the most important thing in the world. And when you’ve spent most of your life feeling like you aren’t important or like no one really “sees” you? Yeah. You’re going to fall in love, and fast. And how can you possibly run away from that since this is all a wonderful dream? This is how they trap you and you cannot help but fall for it because you are simply being treated like royalty. But all that is before the other shoe drops, which brings me to my next point.
2. Then They Devalue You
Once the narcissist has you in their trap, they will then show their true colors. They know you value your side of the relationship and while they’re intent on keeping you as a source of narcissistic supply, this is around the time that they notice that you have flaws – you know, that you’re human.
See, during the love-bombing and idealization phase, the narcissist is enamored with you – they can only see what is good about you. And since they lack object constancy, the moment they decide you are in fact human and they begin to mentally tally your flaws, the person you met initially seems to disappear. They start to criticize you, think less of you, and tell you all about it, one way or another.
You’ll start to be confused. You’ll try to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and you’ll do things to try to change yourself to be better for them. You’ll think it’s all your fault and that is partially because this is exactly what the narcissist wants you to think.
Plus, you’ll find that even when you do “fix” something the narcissist complains about, they’ll find something else that’s wrong. You cannot win. So, as you might imagine, this is when they begin to instill fear into you, make you insecure, and this is where the heavy-hitting manipulation tactics like gaslighting come into play.
All of this ends up confusing you to the point that you literally don’t even know which way is up sometimes. You feel like you aren’t capable of making your own choices and you start to lean on the narcissist more and more for affirmation of any decision you have to make. So, as you might imagine, you become increasingly dependent on the narcissist, despite the fact that they become increasingly cruel and negligent of you and the relationship you’re in.
They will play with your thoughts and feelings but will keep you afraid to do anything against their wishes because they also know at this point that you would never leave them because you just simply need a connection. You are dependant on them and they will abuse that and will abuse you. That means you at some point will fight back and this also provides them with the supply they need because even negative attention is still attention.
3. They Will Discard You If They Find New Supply
Even in a long-term relationship, narcissists always seem to be on the lookout for new supply. And while not all narcissists cheat, many or most do. And sadly, regardless of the level of commitment they’ve promised you and to which they’ve caused you to be obligated, the narcissist can easily disappear if they find a new source of narcissistic supply.
This is true even if they are still in a relationship with you. At this point, they might have even been cheating on you to find the new source. Because they can’t jump from one branch of a tree before they’ve got a good handle on the next – or, to put it more directly, they can’t ever be alone. So in most cases, they’ll hold on to you while they’re looking for their next victim.
And, of course, before they discard you, they will appear to act indifferent to you which will make you even more anxious. And this is another way the narcissist exploits your human need for connection.
See, because they know you fear that they will leave you – and they often do – they will manipulate you by giving intermittent reinforcement during this time. This is where they give you tiny glimpses of kindness, of love, and of that person you originally signed up to be with. You know – little “crumbs of affection,” just enough to keep you hooked and intermittently sprinkled between bouts of gaslighting and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse.
Often, this will lead to the narcissist ghosting you without warning – which will leave you confused, and if you are already dependent on them as it is, it will leave you frazzled, to put it mildly. A lot of times, what they want is for you to chase after them and to beg them to come back. And if you don’t, just wait – many, if not most, narcissists will come back around looking for more supply from you. We call that the hoover maneuver – and it means exactly what it sounds like. Just like a vacuum cleaner, the narcissist will try to “suck you back in.” You might even fall for it, thanks to that need for connection.
How to Deal When a Narcissist Has Exploited Your Need for Connection
With all of that being said, the best thing you can do for yourself if this happens is to never go back to a narcissist that discards you. If you are able to, go no contact. So so block them from your phone and platforms if they haven’t done that already to you. If you can’t go no contact because you have kids with this person, you can always go low-contact, meaning you can just only communicate with them about the business of raising the kids and never about emotional stuff.
Lies Narcissists Want You To Believe – An empath friend of mine, let’s call her Jane, was in a relationship a guy – we’ll call him John – and while they didn’t seem to be an ideal couple to the average eye, they managed to stay together almost 10 years. If we’re being honest, this was all thanks to Jane and how good she was to John (even though, if you like me, he didn’t deserve it!). John had many narcissistic qualities, but he was also a good-looking guy who, while he had kind of a weird personality, was okay to be around most of the time.
Anyhoo. A few years into the relationship, John started acting weird. He would disappear for hours at a time, or he’d say he was going to work late, but when Jane would call his office, he wouldn’t be there. But Jane would always say he had a good reason and apparently whatever he told her made sense.
Fast-forward a few years, and something weird happens. I get a call from Jane, and she wants me to help her figure out who is stalking John. She says someone has been sending both of them really scary and cryptic messages. The mysterious person has been texting Jane that John is cheating on her and pushing her to leave John. The person also insults her personally on a number of other shocking levels.
John swears that he has no idea who would do this. He says they must be crazy! Jane is very concerned, she tells me, and knowing that I have a gift for finding out information on the internet, she wants me to dig around and see what I can find out. She sends me the phone number of the person sending the texts and we dig into her and John’s Facebook friends lists. Before long, we have a name.
We ask John if he knows this person, and he says they work together, and that he’s “been there for her as a friend.” He claims she’s been talking to him about her husband and how he is abusive. He even says he’s been referring her to my videos and websites. But he has no idea why she’d say this stuff.
Jane confides in me around this time, letting me know that while John has cheated on her in the past, she really believes that this time, it’s different – she knows he loves her. And they’re living together now, so she can’t imagine he’d do it again. I want to believe it too.
A few weeks later, Jane has a dinner party, and sure enough, the stalker happens to send a message during the party. Only this time, she describes Jane’s house. She’s literally sitting outside, it turns out. Jane and John go to the police and the incident the next day.
Jane and John later figure out where the stalker lives, and they go together to confront her. There, they meet her husband, who defends the stalker. They have a really difficult interaction, and they leave. Jane tries really hard to continue to believe John, but she’s finding it increasingly difficult.
A few weeks later, it all comes out. John has in fact been cheating on Jane with the so-called stalker, and in fact, he tells Jane, they are now in a relationship. But, he says, he’s going to continue to live in Jane’s house since he can’t afford to move out just yet. (Side note – that didn’t last long. Jane came to my house a few weeks later complaining that he wouldn’t leave. But you know me. I helped her figure out a plan and he ended up leaving the same day).
Anyway. Here’s the thing. The truth is best seen in a person’s actions, and if you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist, you already know words don’t mean much. After all, most toxic narcissists are pathological liars who can, at times, be so convincing that they even believe their own lies. (No, I’m not kidding!) And it can be hard to catch a narcissist in a lie since they’re so very skilled at gaslighting and manipulation in general. It doesn’t hurt that they are also able to say anything, whether it’s the gospel truth or a blatantly invented lie with total conviction. And, their complete lack of concern for you and other people kind of rounds out the idea that when it comes right down to it, you can’t really trust a narcissist any further than you can throw them.
Literally anything that serves them. Oh, and sometimes, they lie just for the sake of lying. But today, I’m going to share a dozen of the most commonly uttered lies narcissists want you to believe – as well as the truth behind each one – read on or watch this video on YouTube.
12 Lies The Narcissist Wants You To Believe
1. “Everyone else agrees with me on this.”
Narcissists will tell you this when you question or argue with them for any reason, or anytime you offer anything that feels like criticism – as in, anything that doesn’t sound like “you are so amazing!” They’ll say things like, “What do you mean the sky is blue? You are clearly color-blind! Everyone agrees with me that it’s really green and yellow striped!” or “How DARE you question my judgment or choices? You are clearly not very smart. Everyone knows I’m the only expert in the world on this stuff – and they all agree with everything I say, literally all the time!” But what that really means is, “I don’t actually know what I’m talking about and I realize that you are well-aware of it, but maybe if I tell you about all these pretend people who agree with everything I think, say and believe, you’ll doubt yourself enough to think I might be right. And my self-esteem can’t handle a hit right now, so…” In other words, for narcissists, saying it out loud is an attempt at self-validation, as well as a way to gaslight you into believing that you are the problem and that everyone else must be right. Yeah, they’re lying to you – but they’re also lying to themselves. Deep down they are often really insecure, which is why they have the need to say this phrase. This brings me to my next point.
2. “Everyone says you’re (lazy/no good/insert other insult here)
Despite the fact that you are a decent person with good intentions, the narcissist is always finding reasons to have you believe that they regularly poll the general public about you. They say things like, “Everyone says you’re difficult to get along with,” or “Everyone agrees that I’m too good-looking to be with you,” or “Everyone says you’re a gold digger,” or “Everyone knows you’re a bad parent.” Anything to hurt you. Now, you can test this one pretty easily – just ask for names. Who, specifically, said that? Sure, they might say that “everyone” is their friends, family, or even coworkers. But 9 times out of 10, if you ask them specifically WHO said whatever they’re claiming, they either won’t give you any specific name, or they’ll give you the name of someone you don’t know or can’t contact. That’s because this is another big fat lie narcissists tell you.
3. “I Promise You!”
Someone who is a good person will say this phrase and mean it. A narcissist says this with literally no actual intention of living up to their promise. So why do they say it if they don’t mean it? To shut you up, of course – basically get you off of their back for anything you happen to be upset about. The narcissist will say, “I promise I’ll never cheat on you again!” or “I promise to stop yelling at you every time I hear you breathing the wrong way,” but what they really mean is, “I see that you have needs, but I don’t want to deal with this right now. So I’m saying what I think you need to hear so that you will keep thinking things are okay, and I can keep controlling you.” In other words, they’ll promise to do whatever it is you’re hoping they’ll do in order to get you to behave in a way that they like – whether that means they promise you they’ll be better so you won’t leave or so you’ll come back once you’ve already left – hoovering – or it means they promise you they’ll change/grow/do better in some way. But they will only follow through if it’s convenient for them – or for only a short time (or as long as it takes for them to know they’ve got you fully enmeshed with them again).
4. “I’m Just Better Than You…and Everyone Else, Too”
Sometimes, the narcissist will literally say those words, but most of the time, it comes in the form of actively insulting your morals, ethics and behavior. They’ll say things like, “I can’t stand to look at you – you’re just disgusting,” or “You are clearly clueless and you never have anything of value to say.” But they mean, “You are making me feel less than or unattractive or in some way inferior, and I don’t like that. So, I’m going to make you feel like your feelings and thoughts aren’t as real or relevant as mine.” Oh, and don’t try to prove them wrong! Even if you show up with documented proof of your claim, they’ll blatantly deny it. in fact, they’ll also insult anyone else who offers advice or information that is contrary to what they want you to believe. This is even true if that person is an expert, such as a doctor or lawyer, or even someone like me – a subject matter expert. Just remember that this is less about YOU or even the other people they insult – it’s really more about the narcissist and their inability to see outside their own head. They are so sure they’re right about everything that to be open-minded enough to even consider that any opinion outside their own is valid would be nearly impossible. Remember too that anyone who goes out of their way to say that they are ‘better’ than you or anyone else has a need to say it due to deep, often hidden insecurity.
5. “Don’t Worry, I Got You, Boo”
When a narcissist says this phrase, then you really do have every reason to worry. Are they going to cause trouble for you? Will they fail to follow through on whatever it is that they’re saying they’ll do? Should you be worried? Yes, yes you should. They’ll say things like, “Of course I paid the mortgage! Don’t worry about it!” and “Yes, I will absolutely pick up our kid/your life-sustaining prescription/insert important thing here. I gotchu, Boo!” But what they really mean is, “I’d like you to stop talking about this now, so please shut up and let me get back to whatever else I’d prefer to be doing right now.” In other words, they’ll say whatever they need to say to get you to be quiet or stop bothering them with your silly questions. Just remember that narcissists don’t care about boundaries and rules. They are well-known to lack morality and credibility – so just be aware and double-check them when they utter this line – especially when whatever they say they’ll do could affect you in a big way if they skip it.
6. “I’ll be there for you.”
When the great Jon Bon Jovi serenaded the world with these words back when I was a pre-teen, I want to believe him so badly. I mean, who could look into those bedroom eyes and doubt anything he said? Yeah, I know. But can you blame me? I really wanted to believe that whoever I ended up with would actually be there for me. Unfortunately, I ended up with a toxic man who stereotypically proved to me that for a narcissist, this is the ultimate lie. They say things like, “I’ve got your back,” or “you can count on me!” But what they really mean is, “I only care about my own feelings and issues, unless it’s convenient for me to pretend to care about yours. And I want you to be there for me, so sometimes, I’ll pretend to be there for you. But when the chips are down, you’re on your own, boo.” Remember that narcissists have no empathy – so they don’t care how you feel, and they show you this with their actions. So don’t believe their words.
7. “No one else will love you.”
Narcissists want you to feel REALLY bad about yourself. They want you to believe that you’re so flawed, bad or damaged that you are literally unloveable. They’ll say things like, “Go ahead and leave! Good luck finding anyone to take care of you,” or “You are a total piece of poop. I must be crazy love you – no sane person would,” or “of course I don’t love you anymore, you’ve gotten so old/ugly/fat/skinny/rude/dumb that no one would love you!” What they really mean is, “I want you to think I’m doing you a HUGE favor by being in a relationship with you, but the truth is that I’m not good enough for you and I’m afraid you’ll figure it out, so I am just emotionally and psychologically abusing you into believing this BS.” Yeah, they want you to think that they are doing you a huge favor by tolerating you in their lives. The truth? You’re freaking amazing and they KNOW IT! But if you know it too, then you’ll know that they aren’t good enough for you. In other words, they only say this to keep you around, firmly under their thumb, and under their control. And speaking of love…
8. “I love you.”
This one, for me, was the ultimate insult. Don’t get me wrong. I think they believe they love you in the moments they say it – at least in the early stages of the relationship. But what they really mean at that time is “I’m infatuated with you at this moment,” or “You’re super hot and I wanna get with you,” or “I think you could prove to be of value to me in some way, so I’m going to attach myself to your heart if at all possible.” It could even mean, “I want the validation of knowing that you love me, so I’ll tell you I love you and you can say it back.” Later in the relationship, it means something more like “I know that love matters to you, so I’ll pretend to love you in order to keep you around or control you in some way.” Narcissistic love isn’t the same as other kinds of love. It’s more like the love you have for your smartphone. You dig it when you first get it because it’s new and shiny and runs so fast. But later, when newer, shinier, faster models with better features come out, you kind of start loving it less, and before you know it, you’re finding reasons to dump your old phone for a new one. And that’s okay – when we’re talking about objects. Not so much for people.
9. You’re my soulmate.
I used to actually believe in soulmates and I still want to. But narcissists have a way of ruining everything, and for me, the concept of soulmates is one of them. They’ll say things like, “I’ve been searching for you forever,” or, “I knew I loved you before I met you. I think I dreamed you into life!!” (Yep, that WAS a Savage Garden song lyric from 2012, thank you for asking!) or “OMG! We have so much in common,” or “I know we’ve only known each other for a few hours/days/weeks, but I feel like I’ve known you forever!” What they really mean when they say this is “I am going to mirror you and pretend to be everything you’ve been looking for in a partner, but in reality, all of this is fake and once I’ve got you hooked, I’ll begin the devalue and discard phases. But until I’m there, I’m going to do my best to keep you in the dark about who I really am – because if you knew, you’d totally dump my sorry ass.” Or something like that.
10. My ex is crazy…or amazing.
Nearly every narcissist I have ever met has told me something about how crazy or bad their exes were early in the relationship And many times, later in the relationship, I’d be told that their ex was so much better than me – and/or regularly compared with the ex in a negative way. Stuff like, “Wow, you’re just like my ex,” which really meant, “How dare you try to have an independent thought, a backbone or disagree with me in any way ever!” Or, “You’re starting to make me miss my ex – I thought she was crazy until I met you!” And then there was the old, “I should’ve never left my ex.” In reality, their ex was probably not a terrible person and in many cases, they are actually projecting their own bad qualities and behaviors on to the ex. For example, if they say the ex cheated on them, chances are the opposite is true. On a similarly upsetting note…
11. This person is stalking me!
This one’s a fun one. The narcissist will claim that someone has become absolutely OBSESSED with them and in some cases, say they’re being stalked. But often, this is used as a manipulation tactic. And I’ve seen this work in a couple of ways. The narcissist might say something like, “I had no idea that the attractive, younger person I’m interested in cheating on you with would be at the party. They are TOTALLY obsessed with me!” That really means, “I totally knew they’d be there, but I didn’t tell you because I knew it would cause confrontation, and honestly, I just don’t have the time for that right now or I don’t want to deal with your emotions.” Or, the narcissist might say something like, “Those super-intimate pics and texts you found on my phone were TOTALLY not my fault! That person is literally stalking me and I’m scared! Save me!” And what THAT really means is, “I am SO already cheating on you with that person but they aren’t following the rules, so rather than own up to it when they try to reach out or connect with me, I am going to go ahead and tell you they’re a crazy stalker who has imagined this whole relationship with me. That way, you won’t believe anything they tell you, even though it’ll probably all be true!”
12. I Would, But…
Narcissists use this kind of lie to kind of keep you hooked. In order to make you THINK they care and to also point out how important they are at work, or how popular they are socially, they say things like, “OMG, that sounds SO fun! I really wish I could help you or attend your event! But I’m just so busy right now…maybe next time, okay?” And of course, what that really means is, “I am just not interested in supporting you or showing any concern for you at all unless I feel like it can somehow benefit me or give me a good dose of supply. It sounds like whatever it is you want me to attend is going to be boring or too ‘you-focused,’ so I’m going to just sit around at home and watch old Price is Right reruns or go out with my friends in hopes of meeting someone to cheat on you with, or whatever. Because you don’t matter to me unless I need something from you – and btw, go ahead and ask me again next time because I just realized I get a big boost of narcissistic supply whenever I see the disappointed look on your face after I tell you no.”
Being fearless makes you incredibly powerful – but when you’re in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist, you are often full of fear! Narcissists and people with NPD and other cluster B personality disorders are full of venom and they absolutely LOVE to see you being afraid. In fact, fear is one of their go-to methods to keep you stuck in these toxic abusive relationships.
In this video, I’ve pulled questions and answers from my recent live stream (all the fluff has been removed!) and I’m sharing them with you for Self-Love Sunday today.
I’ll share several tested and proven healing exercises I’ve developed that work especially well for the various stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Exercises include help with getting through the devalue and discard phases, how to stay away when you go no contact and more.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Q&A: How to Be Fearless During & After Toxic Relationships – SELF LOVE SUNDAY!
On my YouTube channel, I offer free daily video coaching to help you discover, understand and overcome narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships! I like to call it toxic relationship rehab. If that sounds good to you, hit that subscribe button.
**LIVE EVERY TUESDAY! Never miss a live session! Just text “AngieLive” (no spaces) to 33222 and I’ll send you a text each time I get ready to go live!
One of the most effective kinds of gaslighting is when a narcissist sort of “flips the script” on you during an argument. I have dubbed this practice the “narcissistic flip,” and have found that it’s a regularly employed manipulation technique for many narcs.
The “flip” happens most often when you make a valid point or have the nerve to question the narc about anything. That’s about the time everything turns around and suddenly, you’re the one who’s sorry (mostly that you bothered engaging in yet another pointless argument).
Flipping the Script: How Narcissists Do It
How does “flipping the script” really happen? It’s exactly what you’re dealing with when the narcissist turns a conversation about something they did wrong into a conversation about something you did wrong. Let’s look at an example of how a narcissist will flip the script during an argument. As you read through the following paragraphs, do you recognize anything familiar?
Jeff and Alisha have been married for 15 years when suddenly, Jeff develops a drinking problem. Though he’s been a social drinker until now, he’s suddenly spending more time away from home, and when he is home, he drinks more often than not.
This causes the kids to complain to Alisha, who gingerly brings her concerns to Jeff. Jeff acknowledges that he’s heard complaints from the kids, but then says she’s the one causing the problem in the first place.
Why? Because, he says, they are only children and not capable of forming those thoughts on their own. So that means that Alisha must have told them her concerns, poisoning the children against him.
Now it’s Alisha who is under the microscope. As Jeff systematically pulls the old switcheroo on her, he not only removes the focus from his own bad behavior, but he begins a whole new process of putting Alisha on trial.
Before she knows what’s happening, Alisha begins to question her own thoughts. What if Jeff is right and she really IS a bad mom? What if she’s really been the problem all along? Maybe she’s as crazy as Jeff says – after all, she can’t seem to even make a simple decision anymore.
Alisha has just been gaslighted – and after 15 years, it’s just another day in the life of a narcissist’s wife (aka his narcissistic supply).