When I first met my ex-husband, I actually tried to hook him up with a friend of mine. He wasn’t my type, but he was charming and seemed like a nice guy. I kept talking to him, pointing him at my friend and trying to get the two of them talking. But by the end of our lunch (where he was our server), he’d asked me for my number. I didn’t give it to him, but I agreed to take his.
Then I didn’t call him. In fact, I threw his number in the trash.
But a week or two later, my friend called me from a local bar. She told me she’d run into him and he’d begged her to call me. Reluctantly, I went up to meet them. Over the next couple of weeks, I got the love-bombing of my life. And while things were moving fast, I kind of wondered if this guy could be the soulmate he claimed to be.
Fast-forward several months, and my company decided to move me to a different town several hours away. Though he had been charming and sweet, I intended to move and leave him behind. But when my mother accidentally met him, thanks to the same friend I had tried to hook him up with (long story), she instantly claimed to like him.
It’s almost funny to me now, since they seemed so different but were in fact two sides of the same coin. Anyway, she ended up suggesting that he move to the new city with me, and while we’d only been dating a few months, I invited him to do exactly that. In hindsight, I realize that I did this because I just wanted to please my mother, who was never happy with me anyway. That’s a story for another day.
Anyhoo, once we lived together, everything changed and his true toxic face came out.
Still, I thought I loved him and we snuck around and got married two months after the move. Long story short, I regretted it. His charm was lost for me very quickly, but one thing kept bugging me: he was so kind to people who weren’t me – so nice and charming and awesome. Everyone loved him when they met him – at least until they got to know him.
But for me, he was cruel and plain-old mean. I actually remember asking him questions like: Why do you treat strangers better than you treat me? Why can’t you just be nice to me?
In fact, it got so bad that when it would come to the holidays or my birthday, I’d always tell him I didn’t want a physical gift (not that he’d get me one anyway!), but I’d ask for him to just be nice to me for the day. It rarely worked out in my favor.
I couldn’t quite understand what was going on – but when I later realized that he seemed to be a toxic narcissist, I finally figured out why he was so cruel to me and so kind to others.
So that’s what we’re talking about today: exactly how and why narcissists can be so cruel to you and so kind to everyone else. See video here.
Narcissists can be incredibly, painfully rude, mean and downright abusive in the way that they speak to you. But why is it so easy for them? What is it about their cluster B personalities, or their personality disorders, that allow them to treat people so horribly without even a second thought?
Why Narcissists Are So Cruel to You But So Kind to Others
Why does the narcissist show their charming side to strangers, while you are stuck with having to put up with their cruel true colors? Let’s talk about it.
1. Familiarity Breeds Contempt for Narcissists.
It is plain and simple, really. People who don’t know the narcissist well will see their nice and charming side because the narcissist can’t trust that they’ll feed their ego otherwise. But you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable source of narcissistic supply. And let’s not forget that fact you have, on occasion, had the nerve to attempt to get your own wants and needs met. Obviously, this would anger the narcissist and create resentment since they see you as an extension of themselves rather than a whole person. So, if your needs and wants aren’t in line with what they believe they should be, the resentment soars. And if there is so much resentment, then they no longer have a reason to share their charming side to you. In fact, they are abusive and cruel as a way to punish you for no longer feeding their ego by expressing that you have wants and needs as well. Remember that the narcissist is extremely egotistical, entitled, and will do what they can to get what they want at the expense of you. This leads to their devaluing you (and in many cases, it can also lead to permanent or temporary discard – but we’ll get to that in a minute). In any case, it isn’t quite that simple. There are so many other factors to consider – which brings me to number two,
2. They Have No Empathy.
The most obvious reason narcissists are cruel to you is their lack of empathy. But why are they then able to be kind to other people? It shouldn’t make sense, but for narcissists, it’s all about the attention and supply they can get from others. You may have become “old news” or too available to them. They see you regularly and they know that you’ve seen behind the mask, so they can’t fool you anymore. Others are still enamored with their false selves, so it makes it far more exciting to the narcissist to get supply from these people. We will dig into this a bit deeper in a minute, but for now, let’s talk about the psychological component that everyone forgets.
3. They Won’t Take Responsibility.
In addition to the marked lack of empathy that narcissists display, they have a really hard time accepting emotional responsibility in a relationship. Therefore, they don’t see any reason to be nice to you, unless they can see a way that doing so benefits them directly. And while they don’t take responsibility for their hurtful behavior, they also lack the ability to become truly attached to you in a healthy way, which further distances them emotionally from you. So, when they are mean and cruel to you, rather than acknowledging and admitting it and doing what they can to make up for it, narcissists will ignore you – or worse, get even crueler and start to say things like, “Why can’t you ever be happy?” and “Oh, look, here comes the dark cloud.” And speaking of the inability to create healthy attachments…
4. They Lack Object Constancy.
Have you heard about the Freudian theory of Object Constancy? Freud’s theory basically means that most people have the ability to still have a positive emotional bond with someone when you are also feeling angry, hurt, or disappointed with them. In other words, your average person is capable of loving someone and still being angry with them at the same time. Narcissists don’t have this ability. So they literally aren’t able to love you and be angry in the same moment. So when they’re angry with you…they literally cannot love you.
5. The Pre-Conditioning Factor (Brainwashing).
You know the narcissist too well. The narcissist has spent months or years manipulating, controlling and conditioning you to accept their abuse. As a result, you know them better than most people and you’re sadly pretty used to dealing with their behavior. This, in healthier relationships, will Since you’re already in the position of being a narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels comfortable with you. Lucky you – that means you are among the privileged few who get to see the true face of the narcissist. Wearing their “mask” – or being their false self in public – is exhausting. So when they are behind closed doors with a pre-conditioned supply, their true selves can come out and play. That also means that you become their emotional dumpster – they take out all of their feelings of frustration and anger on you, even though, for the most part, it’s bottled up stuff from outside of you.
6. The Idealization Phase.
Narcissists have a typical relationship cycle: they first idealize you, where they love bomb and treat you like you are worth your weight in gold. But inevitably, something happens and they recognize that you are in fact a flawed human like everyone else. And this is about the time they begin to actively devalue you. At first, it’ll be little subtle insults and jabs, but before long, they will be directly mean, disrespectful and outright rude. This will lead to the discard phase, in which they abandon you – either emotionally or actually, or both. This can take the form of the silent treatment, ghosting or even actually ending the relationship. Worse, it can happen over and over for literally decades in the same relationship. So, this explains another reason that narcissists are so cruel to you and so kind to everyone else: because they are or could be in the idealization phase with anyone they don’t know very well. And in many cases, people who have the ability to set firm boundaries with the narcissist from the beginning are automatically going to walk away if the narcissist gets too rude or disrespectful, and the narcissist knows it.
So how do you deal with a narcissist who is cruel to you and kind to others?
You start by taking care of yourself and setting strong boundaries. See, when you are with a narcissist, they get upset with you for doing anything for yourself. So you just stop doing stuff for yourself. I did the same thing – it felt easier to NOT do what I needed to do, because it made the narcissist less angry with me if I could just do for him instead. Or at least to ignore my own needs. This, unfortunately, led to my becoming a shadow of myself. I didn’t even know who I was.
But the first step toward healing is to start recognizing that you matter, that your needs and even wants matter just as much as anyone else’s. And to remember that if you can’t take care of yourself, no one else is likely to do it for you – and I mean emotionally, physically and otherwise.
Narcissists don’t change, but you can. And if you allow yourself to begin by doing something nice for yourself every day, even something small, it’s a good jumping-off point. After that, start figuring out what your boundaries are, and little by little, you’ll be able to reclaim yourself and your life on a whole new level. Remember that you matter. Remember that you are as important as everyone else and remember to take care of your own needs. So what do you think?
The question of the day is: have you ever experienced a narcissist who treated you badly but was kind to strangers? How did you deal with it? What was the experience like for you? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.