When Insecurity Looks Like Extreme Confidence: A Narcissistic Example
When I was just starting my business, I decided I needed to do local networking. I’d heard it would be good for the business, so I did some digging and started looking at small business groups on meetup.com.
I felt so lucky when I quickly found a local small business meetup that was happening just a short distance from my house.
At the first meeting, we were each invited to briefly introduce ourselves and explain our business. When it was my turn, one woman looked up sharply like she’d been stung by a bee as I started to talk about my business.
She caught my eye as I spoke, and I smiled at her. At first, she just stared, but then I saw a small smile form on her face. I felt relieved and went on.
After the introductions, we had lunch. I went over to say hello to the woman, and she seemed really friendly.
The Facade is Cast
She was a gorgeous, charming, and seemingly very successful woman. She seemed to be someone I could really learn a lot from.
She said she’d been in business for years (though in hindsight, I realize that she didn’t really explain her business when given the chance and was pretty vague about it). Still, she seemed quite successful.
She talked the big talk. And as far as I could tell, she was walking the big walk.
She drove an expensive car, had an expensive bag, and had those expensive shoes with red soles. You know the ones I mean. And her jewelry! I could tell it was all real – a stark contrast to my costume knockoffs.
I was on the hunt for a mentor, and she seemed like a perfect fit! She was confident, attractive and seemed quite intelligent.
The Private Meeting On the Pedestal
She asked me a lot of questions about my business and offered little snippets of advice that seemed legit. At the end of the meeting, she invited me to meet her for lunch the following week.
The day we met for lunch, she asked for more details about my business, which I happily shared. Then, much to my delight, she was telling me all about her upcoming executive board meeting.
She said they were considering investing in other local small businesses and that if I played my cards right, they might invest in mine.
Of course, I was over the moon! I practically worshipped her – I wanted to BE her!
It was a lot like when I almost interviewed Sam Vaknin, but she was more covert than he was in her narcissism. She came to me as a would-be mentor, and I ate it up like so much cake.
And since the lady promised to bring me up at this meeting, I started pulling together all sorts of documentation and information about my business.
The next day, I emailed the information as she had asked, and I waited for her to get back to me after her meeting. But then she went silent. I was a little sad but figured maybe my business just wasn’t up to snuff for this executive board.
I understood – after all, I had just started my business and wasn’t super successful yet.
And there was a stark contrast between my business and hers – she, at that time, was clearly well beyond me, it seemed.
I counted myself lucky for our time together and moved on.
I mean, she had an EXECUTIVE BOARD. All I had at the time was me.
The Shocking Truth
Then, a couple of months later, I noticed that she’d created a brand new Facebook page. It seemed she had just launched a new business – and when I started looking into it, it turned out that her business was eerily familiar.
In fact, it was like she literally copied the business plan and structure that I had outlined for her months ago.
I reached out to her and asked what she was doing. She told me that I was mistaken, that it had been her idea the whole time.
She said that the business plan I had submitted to her was a joke, and THAT was why she’d gone silent. In hindsight, I realize that was straight-up gaslighting.
She subtly tore me down, implying that I was stupid to think that someone like HER could possibly take an idea from someone as small potatoes as ME.
Of course, when I pointed out that she had literally done everything I’d put in the business plan, she got offended and screamed at me, telling me she was tired of people always accusing her of stuff like this.
She called me jealous and immediately blocked me. I had been officially discarded.
Then, from what I heard, she started talking to our few mutual connections about how I thought I owned my niche and how she practically invented me anyway. (Sounds a lot like a smear campaign, no?)
It went on from there.
What I missed was that her apparent confidence was more like grandiosity.
I missed that she had used me to get an idea for a short-lived business.
Later, I would learn that I wasn’t the only person she had done this to – apparently, several people who had been part of the group at different times had experienced the same thing.
I learned that her fancy bag, car, and shoes were thanks to her wealthy husband.
And she was a bored stay-at-home wife (no kids) with too much time on her hands. And as for her stealing all of my business? I admit I worried for a minute.
After all, she had a lot more money than I did and, as far as I could tell, would be far more successful than I could.
But I didn’t have to worry for long because after failing to become immediately successful, she moved on to someone else’s idea. (Plus, if we’re being honest, she was trying to be someone she just wasn’t.)
Narcissists seem to have an unusual perspective about marriage, probably because of their own childhood trauma. They don’t see marriage in the romantic or long-term sense, but rather as a contract: a deal, a trade, and an arrangement between two partners.
What do narcissists think about marriage and why do they get married?
It’s no secret that narcissists, as a rule, have a tendency to be incapable of fulfilling the role of a decent marital partner. And, we can probably agree that people with NPD aren’t going to change overnight – if at all. But this is precisely why they wind up in relationships where their character flaws are not so much manifest as they are magnified.
So why do they even bother getting married if they’re only going to fail miserably in their spousal role? Stick with me, and I’ll fill you in on the psychology of why narcissists get married and what it means for you. But first, let’s define what I mean by “narcissist.”
What is a narcissist?
A narcissist is a person who may have a diagnosed Cluster B personality disorder who demonstrates a grandiose, overblown sense of self-importance and marked lack of compassion and emotional empathy. Narcissists need to feel that they are superior to everyone else.
In other words, narcissists are identifiable by their marked lack of compassion and emotional empathy, which leads to the noticeable inability or unwillingness to recognize or identify with anyone else’s feelings and needs – especially those closest to them, since that’s the only time they actually relax enough to let their “mask slip,” as in revealing their true selves.
Do narcissists intend to hurt you when they marry you?
One of the biggest questions I’ve heard from narcissistic abuse recovery coaching clients is this: did the narcissist marry me just to hurt me? The truth is that while there are some narcissistic sociopaths and psychopaths who might literally get married for the purpose of hurting their spouses in some way, the majority of them might (at some point) genuinely believe they married you because they loved you. Of course, you have to consider the narcissist’s definition of love. That’s why, when you find out that you’ve been dealing with a narcissist, your mind is completely blown; it’s why you are having such a hard time believing that the narcissist has been fooling you into thinking you were the problem this whole time.
You’ve got to consider that while narcissists are known to love…differently than most of us, we know they can experience what might, in the moment, actually feel like genuine feelings of love to them. Narcissists seem to have a painfully misunderstood and misdirected need for love. Like every other human, they crave connection, and they need people in order to feel secure and remain functional. But rather than get security through love, genuine connection, or the narcissist feels they need to claim it, control it, take it for themselves.
What made them become a narcissist?
Trauma, often beginning in childhood, seems to lead people to become narcissistic. Narcissists develop their personality disorders like anyone else – the majority have been deeply affected by the events in their lives. For a small percentage of narcissists, there are “other” kinds of causes for pathological narcissism, but for most, it all started with something traumatic that happened to them during their childhood. Their trauma has just manifested differently than ours.
Consider the narcissist’s definition of love.
They are taught early in life that they’re pathologically and painfully alone in the world. So, love feels like a sense of ownership and control, all focused on the facilitation of their own needs and comforts. From my own observations, they seem to lack the natural urge for full reciprocation in a relationship and feel instead entitled to the approval, admiration, service, and subservience of their closest sources of narcissistic supply.
Narcissists, underneath it all, are human.
They, like all of us, want to be loved and accepted and to belong somewhere. But deep down, they are well-aware of their flaws, at least on a subconscious level. This leads them to believe that they’re broken, flawed, or otherwise not good enough. Just like you and me, they also often suffered trauma that destroyed the person they might have been – but while you may have become a people-pleasing codependent, the same kinds of trauma might have led to their personality disorder.
If we take a closer look at the lives of these toxic people, we can see that they’ve got some things in common. For one, their role models and parental figures in childhood were often selfish and hurtful. They were either exploited by others or neglected in favor of the other parent. This childhood experience leaves them with deep emotional wounds, which make them feel unloved and unworthy.
The narcissist sees marriage as a too; they treat their partners as subjects… objects, really…and they seem to intrinsically believe that these partners are not significant beyond their utility to serve narcissistic needs. In other words, whether they realize it or not, marriage for most narcissists holds one main goal: to obtain and secure an always-available source of narcissistic supply.
Think about it. Malignant narcissism, or pathological narcissism, involves a group of personality traits including grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration. They can develop a pattern of exploiting other people in order to get what they want. When you are looking for a partner with whom they will live the rest of your life might find some narcissists that seem initially appealing.
2. An extension of self.
A narcissist does not see their partner as a separate person, rather an extension of themselves. There is a point at which it becomes unhealthy – and that’s the point at which narcissists operate. Even if they seem to love their partners, they expect them to act as extensions, not really separate people.
3. An in-house ego booster.
The idea of seeing a therapist or even a doctor might seem foreign or off-putting to a narcissist who finds the idea of sharing secrets with another person for advice to be tricky. Though it can be a challenge to recognize, most narcissists struggle with low self-esteem and a poor sense of identity. Being in a marriage makes them feel valuable when they allow others to see them as valuable by loving them.
4. An emotional garbage dumpster for their self-loathing.
While they desperately cling to the idea that no one is quite like them, and like they’re the original, only, best, or true (fill in the blank with their grandiose fantasies) around, narcissists secretly live in the deep sludge that is self-loathing. In other words, they secretly hate who they are at the very core. So they spend a lot of time building up this false self-image that on some level, they even actually believe.
5. A built-in source of false image support.
The narcissist develops an image based on their false self, or the mask they wear to hide their perceived inadequacies from most people in their lives. This image must remain infallible to everyone outside of a select few when it comes to survival for a narcissist. So they need someone who will always be on their team and support their false self-image, while also being an emotional garbage dumpster to turn your life upside down.
6. Validation on tap.
Since they cannot self-validate, narcissists require constant validation to feel better about themselves. Relationships allow them to feel special and important. Having a properly-conditioned partner in place, they have found a way to get validation whenever they need it.
Do all narcissists get married?
No, not all narcissists get married. Not every narcissist desires or searches out relationships at all. Like all sentient humans, while they do seem to have a playbook, narcissists are still relatively unique individual people with specific lives. So, whether they even want to be in a relationship always depends on the nature of the narcissist. Some are solitary, some are attracted to power. To be fair, most are both, at least in their own individual ways.
Why do married narcissists cheat on their partners?
Narcissists are avoidants by nature, preferring to take their distance from others, rather than getting close to them. That also means that they have problems with intimacy, that is being close physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually to another person. Narcissists have a unique ability to take just about any situation and find a way to benefit from it. One of these situations is an affair.
One of the most disproportionately high personality disorders to find itself involved in extramarital affairs is narcissism. While statistics vary, it’s often said that between 20-33% of individuals who are involved in affairs are narcissists. That’s not to say that one-fifth of all people who cheat are narcissists (we wouldn’t want to make generalizations like that!), but it does seem to indicate that if you’ve got a narcissist in your midst, there’s a chance they could be cheating on you.
People with severe personality disorders often find themselves in relationship after relationship, cheating whenever something threatens their self-image, and fear of abandonment. Narcissists cheat because they feel entitled to do so and they can’t handle someone calling them out on that behavior.
Though many marriages are based on codependency, you should never feel like you need to act like someone’s mother or father.
Yes, narcissists DO get married, but…
Some people think that narcissists don’t get married at all. I guess that in some ways, this can be considered true; but in reality, narcissists don’t get married for the same reasons as everyone else. They won’t marry for the same reasons everyone else gets married. Narcissists see marriage differently than most people. To start with, they don’t really know what marriage is supposed to be.
For example, maybe they didn’t have the privilege of growing up in a family where the parents stayed married to each other. Or their parents stayed married, but they didn’t see their parents demonstrating selfless love for each other, for themselves, and others. So when they get married at some point in life, it has little or no meaning to them. They certainly might become obsessed with their marriage; but only because it gives them something that gives them narcissistic supply. Something that makes them feel powerful and important, or if this isn’t possible – needed.