I’m very aware of the fact that not every narcissist acts the same way, that some characteristics are very prominent in the behavior of some narcissists and not in that of others, and that there are both overt and covert types of narcissists. I can only talk about the experiences I made with the narcissist I dated, and illustrate those characteristics of narcissistic behavior that were mirrored in the way he interacted with me. One characteristic of narcissism that was highly developed in him was hypocrisy, which became particularly evident in his penchant for pretending to be a nice guy and a model human being, who would never harm anyone.
This narcissistic mode of behavior can – as almost everything he does – be extremely harmful for those people interacting with him on a deeper level. Whenever they assure us of their innate goodness and tell us about their inability to hurt anyone, we desperately want to believe them. We have often been hurt many times in the past, and hearing him say that he would take good care of us and would never ever hurt our feelings, is like heart-balm and makes us feel like we just won the lottery. When we realize much later that he turned out to be a heartless, manipulating narcissist, our entire belief system is shattered. We were so convinced that we had finally found a guy who would never toy with our feelings and leave us heartbroken. Now we have to come to terms with the fact that we have been fooled and that what he presented us with was nothing more than a facade. Accepting that Mr. Nice Guy never existed is extremely painful, and we often cling to the hope that maybe if we are just patient enough, we will eventually get him back. The cold hard truth is: We won’t…
The narcissist I dated was a textbook hypocrit and a master at pretending to be a wonderful, caring human-being. On one of our first dates he even lamented that life was not easy for a guy who was so caring and worried about other people’s feelings. He said that because he was so caring he often had to fix the damage done by others (especially in relationships) and that it would therefore be so much easier to be more of an asshole. He even seemed to be genuinely upset about his inability to be cold and indifferent towards other people’s feelings. Whenever I asked him why he still lived with his exgirlfriend, he assured me it was because he was so worried about her feelings and didn’t want her to feel abandoned and let down. He made it seem as if he was always neglecting his own ambitions, plans and wishes, in order to please others and be considerate of their feelings. Everything he did was seemingly a product of his big and noble heart, and I was naive enough to believe him. I never would have thought that this model of selflessness would later turn out to be a textbook narcissist, a selfish monster who treated other people’s feelings with cold indifference.
At the beginning of our relationship he told me that he had the feeling I had sold myself short in the past due to my low self-esteem. He assured me I had every right to be more confident, as I was – according to him – extremely smart, pretty and kind. He knew that I still had to stuggle with trust issues due to an earlier relationship in which I was also used and manipulated. I found it hard to put my trust in Mr. Unavailable, because I feared being let down again. He was really upset about me having those trust issues, because for him it was just another proof of the fact that he had to fix the emotional damage done by others, as he was such a nice guy and others were just plain assholes. He assured me in every possible way that I could let those trust issues go with him, that he was not like the indifferent asshole I had last dated, and that he would always care about my feelings and treat me with the respect I deserved. He even got angry whenever my trust issues would come to the surface again and urge me to finally let them go. According to him, he was not like the asshole I last dated and it was unfair to let him suffer and to not trust him because of him.
Of course he made me feel extremely guilty and I was convinced that I was not being fair by letting my trust issues affect our relationship. I worked really hard on letting those issues go and was eventually able to do so. I began to really believe that Mr. Unavailable was indeed interested in me and worried about my feelings and my well-being. I found it save to put my trust in him and to let go of my suspicions. Looking back at the relationship now, I deeply regret that I believed him and that I let my guard down and made myself vulnerable. He basically urged me into trusting him just to manipulate and emotionally abuse me. I let my guard down and got nothing but heartbreak, disappointments and despair as a reward. I never would have thought that the guy who so vehemently assured me that he would always treat me right, would turn out to be the guy who would break my heart in the most painful way possible. I was so convinced he would never let me down and would always treat me with respect: In the end, he was the guy who disappointed me most in my entire life and the guy who caused me so much pain like no one else has ever done before.
His supposed innate goodness seemed to extend to everyone around him: He prepared coffee for his students, he went out to buy tea for his colleagues, he motivated his exgirlfriend to give up the job she hated so much and to upgrate her education (at least that is what he told me). One time he even told me how he talked to a prostitute in Costa Rica, trying to convince her to make more out of her life. Back then, I was impressed by those stories and believed that he was a model of nobility and selflessness. Now I’m extremely angry and find most of his stories ridiculous.
He would constantly assure me of his deep regard and respect for me, continually complimenting me for my good-looks, my intelligence, my kindness (blabla). He would motivate me to have more self-esteem and to believe in myself. He uttered sentences like “I never want you to have to worry about anything, baby” or “I always want you to feel cared for and protected.” I desperately wanted to believe him. I was convinced I finally found the perfect guy who would never dare to break my heart and let me down.
Because he was so talented at pretending to be Mr. Nice Guy all the people around him seemed to adore him. He was a very popular teacher and his students just loved him. His colleagues valued him for his good-manners and his conversational skills. Everyone had something nice and appreciative to say about him and it seemed as if he could do no wrong. After he had finally shown his true colors to me, it was extremely difficult to let go of the illusion that he was the perfect gentleman. Everyone adored him and so I questioned my own judgment. After all, how can someone who is so popular, be the monster you think he is? I found it extremely hard to believe that his nobility and goodness was a facade. He even managed to fool my family and friends: They all loved him after meeting him and my best friend even jokingly told me that she gave me permission to marry him. Letting go of the illusion is difficult and painful and I was very reluctant to do so. I didn’t believe in my own judgement. It was also nearly impossible to talk to others about the way he emotionally abused and manipulated me. They all still believed that he was the nice guy he pretended to be, and I feared they maybe wouldn’t believe me. Fortunately, I have a loving family and a great best friend and they believed and supported me unconditionally.
So to sum it up, the tendency of many narcissists to put on a facade of nobility and goodness is very harmful for their victims. We let down our guard and put our trust in them, only to be emotionally abused and manipulated. In the end they have not only broken our hearts, but completely destroyed our trust and left us feeling confused, angry and empty. It is difficult not to question our own judgments and to accept the fact that everything they presented us with was nothing but a facade. In addition to that, we often find it hard to reveal our feelings to others, as they are still convinced he is the model of goodness and nobility he pretended to be. We fear they won’t believe us, we fear that our judgment might be wrong and that we might be at fault…It is extremely confusing and painful.
Whenever you find yourself in this trap, you need to believe in your own judgement and free yourself from the unhealthy relationship to your narcissist. We should never hold on to them out of a misguided belief that we might be at fault or that they might at some point go back to being the nice, caring and loving guys they were at the beginning of your relationship. Face the cold hard facts and save yourself some time and energy: It was nothing but a facade!