When I started reading a lot about narcissism I was oftentimes surprised by the characteristics that were listed as being typical for narcissistic behavior. I was made aware of the fact that narcissists often exhibit modes of behavior that I wouldn’t have associated with narcissism beforehand. Reading more on the topic was therefore an eye-opening experience for me and helped me learn more about the unhealthy relationship I had clung to for several months. Before I started engaging myself with the topic of narcissism, the idea didn’t even cross my mind that the guy I had been dating might have been a textbook narcissist. I just wasn’t fully aware of the signs of narcissism. Had I known what I know now right from the beginning, I would have found the strength to let go a lot earlier. That is also why I find it so important to share my experiences: It is not only meant to ease my mind after months of emotional abuse, but also as an eye-opener for others who might find themselves in similar situations. It helped me tremendously to finally be able to put a label on and find an explanation for what happened to me. A few weeks ago, I was convinced that the blame for everything that had happened lay with me, as I was codependent and therefore allowed others to disrespect me. Now, I know that a large portion of the blame needs to be redirected to the narcissist who exploited my insecurities and emotionally abused and manipulated me in a very shameful way.
One of the characteristics of narcissistic behavior that I wasn’t aware of beforehand is their tendency to make themselves out as lone wolves. I was always convinced that narcissists were typically surrounded by lots of admirers and had a very busy social life. While this might indeed be true for some narcissists, there are also those who seemingly take pride in their existence as lone wolves and their penchant for solitude. The narcissist I dated definitely belonged to the category of lone wolves: He didn’t have any close friends, he wasn’t in touch with his parents and he had no social life to speak of. The only people left in his life were his exgirlfriend and his sister, and his relationship to both of them was strained. He was in constant conflict with them, but at the same time he continually affirmed how much he loved and respected both of them with all his heart.
One could certainly argue that the fact that he lived in a foreign country (Germany) and didn’t even speak the language could be a factor adding to his solitary existence. However, he worked with many fellow Americans and they often invited him to events. He just never showed any interest in joining them and instead declared that he thought they were all fakes and suck-ups and that he didn’t want to spend his free time with them. I also often wanted to interrupt his solitude by spending time with him. He often said that he had too much work to do, or preferred to be alone. During the five months we dated, he never once went out with friends. The only things he ever did was going to concerts or city trips with his exgirlfriend, and during those activities they usually had fierce arguments. He sometimes went to meet his sister, but those encounters were more often than not also accompanied by conflicts.
It wasn’t enough for him to wallow in his solitude. He also tended to badmouth others, labelling them as suck ups and “stupid motherfuckers”. He made it seem as if the world consisted of fake and evil people without integrity, and as if he was the only sensible person walking this planet. He often drew me right into his negativity: He pointed out countless times how much he hated our work colleagues, and I was almost induced to take his side and share his opinions. It never occurred to me that his assessment of others might be wrong – a product of his narcissism. Looking at it in retrospect, I feel ashamed for attaching so much importance to his negative opinions on others. As it turned out, he was the one without integrity.
He never seemed to have a problem with his solitary way of life but rather wore it like a badge. For him it was more a sign of distinction than an indicator that others might be avoiding him. He readily talked about his meager social life and declared that it had always been this way. Even when he still went to college he was – as he called it – a loner. He would prefer to stay in his room, playing guitar and studying, while others went on dates or to parties. I don’t want to convey the wrong impression here: There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time on your own and with not wanting to go to parties etc. I’m also a rather introvert person who occasionally enjoys being alone. However, this penchant for solitude becomes problematic if it includes badmouthing others, and if it is trumpeted out into the world as a tool to make yourself seem more attractive or mysterious. It is also problematic for those people who are emotionally involved with them and who would love to spend more time with them: More often than not narcissists declare a desire for staying alone, and use their image as lone wolves to keep you at bay. It is exhausting and frustrating and you get the nagging (and valid!) feeling that you are being avoided.
So to sum it up, the narcissist’s tendency to pride himself on his existence as a lone wolf can be difficult to deal with for those who are involved with them. Narcissists often use it as a strategy to get our affection and to make themselves seem more attractive and mysterious. We tend to fall into their traps as our hearts often go out to the mysterious, unappreciated outsiders. We think that all it takes for them to feel happier and less lonely, is our attention and affection. In our imagination, it is exactly what they need. Once they got us hooked, they use their supposed penchant for solitude to keep us at distance and to avoid having to spend too much time with us. In addition, their tendency to badmouth others often leads us to adopt their negative opinions and we turn against the people we have liked so far. Their supposed preference for solitude can therefore be seen as part of their narcissistic strategies to play us like puppets on a string: They use it to get our affection and later on to keep us at bay. So whenever a guy acts all mysterious and solitary, be skeptical! You can do yourself a big favor if you just take to your heels and run as fast as you can…