My YouTube Channel has hit over a thousand views in about three weeks. I have no way of knowing if that is “typical” or below average or whatever. But the thought of people spending over 128 hours watching videos of me talk about narcissism. Strange thought.
Here is “Arguing with a Narcissist” a little five minute video. Enjoy!
Tomato red pants were the only thing that we could find given the parameters of our shopping trip. We were in a hurry. There were things that my mother would rather be doing. Unfortunately for her, I was not yet capable of going shopping for myself.
I had been wearing the same pair of pants to school everyday for as long as I can remember. This is a pattern that lasted until I went to high school and got my own job and my own money. At that point, I could buy my own clothing and dress however I could afford. I was not there yet.
I was about ten or eleven years of age and the demands of having children were just too inconvenient for my mother. Clothing shopping, well any shopping for that matter, was just not her idea of a good time, so she did as little as possible. When she did shop, she would let us know how expensive we were and how inconvenient we were, but I digress.
On this particular day she had other plans. She always had other plans. I had ripped the only pair of pants that I had. I probably had outgrown them. But, I had ripped them to the point that I could no longer wear them. My mother had been angry. First, she was angry because I had ruined my clothing. Second she was angry because now she had to take me shopping. Third, she was angry because buying me clothing was going to be expensive and finally she was angry because, as she let us know, she would’ve been an opera singer if she had not had children.
So we had hurriedly gone shopping. There was not enough time allotted for us to go to several stores and the department store that we were in did not have a lot of selection in my size. In hind sight, this is hard to believe and I now wonder whether or not she was trying to buy from the children’s department only because they have less expensive items, but I have no way of knowing. If she was, I was probably at the high end and that would explain the limited selection.
Unfortunately for me, a red pair fit. They were hideous. They were unacceptable. They were purchased. I was concerned about going to school in these red pants. I did not want to be seen.
My mother said, “Your ass looks like a big red tomato in those pants.” Nice.
I wrote my first book above, before I knew my mother was a narcissist.
Renee Zellerger, in more than one movie, illustrates the thrill of dating the “bad boy”. In “Bridget Jones Diary,” she chooses Daniel, her inappropriate boss, who flirts with her at work and is a notorious womanizer over the quieter, more boring lawyer. We all understand.
In “The Holiday” she is once again with a man who treats her badly. He wants to continue to see her after he announces his engagement to another woman.
Now, of course, these are both examples of romantic comedies and not real life, but a lesser discussed reality, when it comes to having a relationship with a narcissist is intense drama.
Most of the men and women I coach want the drama and the partner they have chosen. What they are seeking is a way to decrease the negative aspects of the relationship. With a narcissist this is not possible. If you continue in an intimate relationship with one, you will suffer.
In order to get their nourishment or narcissistic supply, a narcissist creates havoc in your life. This is seen as “great” times in the form of special treatment, lavish vacations, pampering or whatever you happen to like. Then sudddenly, you are being ignored again, possibly belittled, taunted and lied to.
Life can seem rather plane and uninspiring if you have been with a narcissist. The problem is that if you want to get off of the roller coaster ride of great times followed by terrible times, you must let go completely.
So, if you are deciding to stay, I must ask, “Are you addicted to drama?”
There were fifteen minutes left before the job interview. I knew that if I called a taxi right now, I would still be late. I only had enough time if he showed up immediately with the van. I hadn’t called a cab earlier because I had reminded him that I had an interview and asked him to come right home after his lecture. He said he would.
So, here I was, ready, dressed and starting to panic. I was almost finished my masters of science and I was actively looking for a job. One of my supervisors was working for a government agency that was a perfect fit for my degree. She was an accomplished woman that I had gotten to know a little during my studies and I thought that I would enjoy working for. She was highly respected and I had come across her name a disproportionate number of times while researching scientific papers for my research, so I knew that she would be good to work for.
Casually, or so I thought, she asked me to come by her office and discuss, next steps, as in, after my master’s. I took it to be a job interview, and she had insinuated that was what it was, but it also could’ve been a discussion about another advanced degree. In either case, it was a great opportunity. If you are pursued to do your PhD it is much more prestigious than if you have to go and try to find someone to supervise you.
I had agreed immediately. I knew that I could make it to the appointment. I was so excited that I came home and told him about it. It turned out that he had one lecture that afternoon, but there was plenty of time to come home and then I could take our only vehicle to the interview. We also had one preschooler at the time, so I needed to have someone to take her for the 45 minutes, or so, that I would be out of the house.
So, the clock was ticking. He had not come home. This was a time before cell phones, so I could not call him and remind him. I had no way of knowing where he was. I called his office and he had not been there. He had done it again. He found a way to undermine me.
I called to tell her that I would not be able to make the interview and I tried to set up another time. She realized that I would always be this unreliable. She knew him as well and probably already had some preconceived notions about me based on her knowledge of him, and she declined. I asked her what she wanted to discuss and she begged off of the call and said that she had to go. She said that it was not important.
When he arrived he said that he had forgotten and that he had gone to the beer store. This of course, did not account for the amount of time that he was missing. I was angry and he attacked. He pointed out that I could’ve made other arrangements. He said that it was my own fault for not getting to the interview on time. He let me know that I was being unreasonable and that I was “losing it”.
Ironically, this turned out to work in my favour. There was no longer any question that he was sabotaging me every time that he got a chance. When I defended my thesis, he did not even know it was happening and I didn’t tell him about the next job interview until after I had the job.
We were in a hurry. We had a lunch to attend. It wasn’t so much that time was tight as the fact that he was the one that called the shots. If he was going to get the most out of his day, doing anything for someone else was always inconvenient. We were on the highway on the way home from a lodge. He had been working at the lodge, giving a talk, and because it was such a scenic setting, it was decided that I would go along.
I had golfed with him once at the lodge and I found it too challenging for me. He had wanted to golf again, so we went out that morning. I had no intention of golfing, it simply would have taken too long, and I knew that we didn’t have enough time, so I travelled along in the golf cart. The problem was that when we were as far as possible from the clubhouse, I realized I needed to pee.
Now, this is not normally a huge problem on a golf course. There are large relatively private places where you can take care of things discretely. Unfortunately, the people managing the course seemed to be a little suspicious of two people going out onto the course and only one person paying for a game, so they kept sending people around to make sure that I was, in fact, just watching.
Each time that I left the golf cart and tried to move into an area of relative privacy, someone from the club would come by in a truck, on a golf cart or simply walk in our direction. It was not going to happen. I was not going to get a chance to pee.
When he was finished playing golf he asked me not to go into the club house for fear that it bring up questions of whether or not I had played. We were leaving the lodge right away and it was decided that we would stop along the highway. I was becoming somewhat impatient.
As I write this story, it gives me that tense feeling that I get watching movies when you see the person making mistake after mistake and you know for sure that they are digging themselves into a hole. You want to scream, “Don’t do that!” or “Pay attention!” Little did I know at the time, but I was giving him great power. He fed off of this feeling of being in control, of having someone that desperately needed him to do something for them. He started to abuse this power.
I did not recognize at the time that he was probably amused by all of this. I could see that there was a place to pull off ahead and I said something like, “There is a Tim Horton’s up here.” He drove by it. Now, this is a four lane, restricted access highway that we were on and rest stops and exits were not that common on this stretch of the road.
I got angry. He claimed that I had not been clear enough that I had wanted him to stop. Now, I was at the point where I wanted him to just pull off to the side of the road. I would take my luck on the embankment. He would not stop.” We are in a hurry.” “I may be late if we stop.” “They are expecting us for lunch.”
Then the attacks started. I should’ve used a washroom before we left the lodge. I should be clearer if I want him to pull over. I was stupid for leaving things until I was so desperate. My choices were quite limited. I was uncomfortable now to the point that I was starting to worry that I might damage my bladder. I could just pee on the front seat of the van, or anywhere else in the van.
He was smug. He was certain that he was right and that my demands were unreasonable. Then I started to scream at him. Now, he pointed out, I shouldn’t get so emotional; I was insane and acting foolishly. I knew that if I was forced to void my bladder in the van I would never live down the humiliation. I did not know, at the time, that this all made him feel superior, in control, powerful. I didn’t learn that until much later.
He did eventually pull over at a drive through and I popped out as soon as the van was moving slowly enough that I could escape. He taunted me for getting out when we were still so far from the building, but I could see that if he pulled into the drive through that there was not enough room on my side for the door to open and I would once again be trapped.
We arrived early for the lunch but I was completely frazzled. I’m sure he pointed out to people that I was just a little unstable, most of the time, and that he had just learned to deal with my mood swings.
Vicki, my sister and I, were both in the hallway near the doorways to our bedrooms. I was sitting on the floor crying and upset and Vicki was way past upset. I could hear deep sobbing sounds coming from her. I was too distraught to offer very much comfort.
We were about 10 and 12 years of age and it was about suppertime, which is not accurate, because there was no dinner. We had both been hoping that this was one of the evenings that my mother would appear with leftovers from the Legion. She liked to volunteer at the Legion.
The Legion was a gathering place for people of her age. They would get together and play cards, listen to music, drink and sometimes dance. The building boasted a nice dining area and they would often put on meals for weddings, meetings and special occasions.
This was wonderful in our home. My mother did not cook. But these ladies at the legion could cook! They made mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, hams, beef, turkey, corn and every other type of vegetable that could be boiled until done. On many occasions, there would be so much food left over that they would send it home with the women that had helped serve and clean up. My mother would bring this fantastic food home — but not tonight.
She has just called. We were both hoping that she would show up instead, but she had not. The call had been to tell us that she might be bringing her boss home. This was the seventies and women generally did not work, but my mother did. This was one of her most recent jobs and she wanted to impress her boss.
She explained that she did not want him to think less of her because her house was a mess. It was important that she “look good” when he came around. The question of why her boss would be coming over to the house was never breached.
So we were distraught. Once again she had forgotten that as children we would require food. Well, that and some parenting. Instead, she had called to ask us to help her “look good”. Of course we would. We had no choice. Once we calmed down, we started to clean.
“This is the best relationship that I’ve ever had!” is often part of the description of the problem. You see, narcissists know what you want and like. They have no trouble lying and telling you what you want to hear. This makes it very confusing to determine if they are “the best” or “the worst” thing to happen to you.
Since they’ll say anything, without worrying if they are going to be required to follow through, listening to what they say, has no meaning.
It is important to observe what they do. Try to ignore the promises and excuses and examine the irrefutable evidence of what actually happened.
So, look backwards, do not consider what you’ve been promised. There are two key questions that usually get to heart of this:
Think of a situation where you wanted conflicting things. No chance for compromise like, if we buy this we can’t afford that, or, if we do this we can’t do that. I want to stress again, agreeing that “next time” will be your turn is just an illusion.
Do you ever get your first choice in these matters? I’m not asking whether or not he/she gets you to agree that their choice is better–that’s not the point of this. Do you ever get your first choice in these situations?
One small caveat. If you have been fighting and a concession is made to win you back or to keep you from leaving, this does not count. We are only discussing when you are deciding on making a choice, not in the “win you back phase”. Pause for a moment and consider a relationship where-in you only get your way by threatening to leave. That is a nasty arrangement, but I digress.
Second question: you’ve had a bad day, or you’re ill or you got into a disagreement with someone you like. How does he/she respond? There are two broad categories. She either does what she can to listen to you, support you as best she can or make your life nicer, maybe suggest dinner out or a good movie. Or, his day has been worse! He has a lot of work to do and he is busy. Things are bad for him as well. You should get over it. You always complain and are never happy. You are making things unpleasant for him. “Suck it up!” “Get over it.”
*I hate pronouns! Narcissists are just as likely male as female. Males make the news more, because these traits benefit men. Women with these traits can be seen seen as “bitchy” and tend not to be as visible or successful with these traits. This makes it seem like there are more men, but it is not my experience as a coach that works with people who have had to deal with a narcissist. So think of the pronouns as interchangeable.
The examples I’ve given are stereotypes and over simplified, but directly address whether or not he cares about you and your needs. If you do not get what you want when his needs are in conflict–ever, and if your emotions are downplayed and you are not supported, you are with someone who does not care about you. Lack of empathy is what defines a narcissist.
Final point. His words are not what are important. His actions are what matters. He can say whatever he wants and he never really has to do any of it. Look at the pattern of what has happened.
Once again, you find yourself struggling to remember what actually did happen. You are having THAT conversation again during which you are told your memory is bad, you are making things up and you must be losing your mind.
Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been told this. It matters very little if the narcissist is a co-worker, parent, lover, acquaintance, family member or simply someone who lives next door. This tactic is very common because it works.
Very few people are completely certain of everything they remember. Did I say that when I was angry? Was there any way I was misunderstood? I’m certain she said that, maybe I didn’t hear her right or understand what she meant.
For narcissists this is one of the many games they play. They want you to feel off balance, to question yourself, to spend inordinate amounts of emotional energy trying to remember what was said, the order things happened in and how the events unfolded.
When you realize they have been “gas lighting” you, making you unsure of yourself, your memories and perceptions, the natural response is to want to do it back. Unfortunately, they have several advantages.
Narcissists lack empathy. This means they do not feel bad when they hurt someone. They do not “feel” the pain they cause other people. So when you are trying to remember if you did say what she says you said, she is enjoying your discomfort, not feeling badly because you are in a disagreement.
Another tact a narcissist will take is to overtly lie. He may tell you he “forgot” or “got stuck at work” when in fact he simply did not want to show up because he knew you were relying on him. This may have put you in an awkward position, like sitting at a restaurant with two other couples waiting for your date to arrive.
The narcissist has an advantage here because when he does arrive, he tells the whole table that you made the mistake. You had the date or location wrong. You were supposed to pick him up on the way to the restaurant and you come off looking foolish for having let everyone down.
Another tact to make you look foolish is to keep “poking” you until you snap and behave “irrationally”. If the narcissist can get you to explode in public, this provides nourishment in the narcissistic form. The narcissist thrives on drama and causing drama, especially public drama. Most people, find this distasteful, which is part of the appeal to the narcissist.
Here are three examples of things that narcissists will do that most people will not do:
2. Hurt You on Purpose
3. Make a public scene
Even if you are willing to lie, do hurtful things and try to get them to act out in public, it will backfire on you.
1. If you lie to a narcissist, they are certain you are wrong.
Unlike a person with a conscience, narcissists do not doubt themselves. They just turn it around on you. Now they have “proof” that you are losing your mind. Then, forever, this example will be their way of reminding you how you have been wrong before.
2. If you hurt them on purpose, they will play the pity card.
You hurt them. You are a nasty person and they can’t believe how mean you are. Since, I’m assuming, you do have empathy, you will feel bad. You may even feel fully responsible for hurting them and they win this one as well.
3. Finally, a public scene is their dream come true.
If you try to cause a scene, where they look foolish you will end up looking more foolish than they will. They do not feel emotions like others do so it is much easier for them to regroup and turn it around leaving you as the only one who is acting out in public.
If a crazy person and a normal person are fighting,
it is NOT possible to tell who is who.
If you are a neighbour, acquaintance or a co-worker, you cannot win. The cycle will devolve into a nightmare of them trying to get back at you and you doing what you can to get back at them.
So, don’t try. Never rely on the narcissist or believe what they say. Never confide in them or speak to them more than necessary. This will allow you to keep it light and superficial and minimizes the amount of harm that they can do.
If you happen to be in a personal relationship with a narcissist (parent, sibling, lover) and want to outsmart them, develop an exit plan. Do not tell them. Make sure you have considered everything. Where will you go? Do you have your own money? Do you have extra clothing and personal effects? Then, get into an argument with them and have them either kick you out, or have them break off the relationship. (I have to add, think safety here. I don’t want anyone starting an argument if there is a possibility of physical harm as well.)
Then leave. You have won.
It is only by making them believe that they left you and they came out on top that they will let you go easily. In their minds, you will try to get them back. So, they are much more likely to leave you alone. They will wait for you to come crawling back, which you have no intention of doing. They have lost you and you no longer provide any emotional nourishment.