Another common pattern of behavior among narcissists is their tendency to blow hot and cold. One day, they shower you with their attention and passionate affirmations of their affection and care, only to later on completely withdraw their attention for several days in a row. This strategy allows them to kill two birds with one stone: They make you hold on to them, while at the same time they manage to keep their distance. Being treated so inconsistently is extremely nerve-racking, frustrating and exhausting for those people involved with the narcissist. It creates a strong feeling of insecurity, as we never really know why we are treated that way and where the relationship is headed. When treated affectionately we dare to hope, only to have those hopes crushed later on when they start to withhold their attention again. It is a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride with no opportunity to get off.
Another reason why this strategy of blowing hot and cold is so damaging for those involved is that it makes us hold on to toxic relationships for far too long. Instead of realizing that we will never get what we want from the narcissist we are dating, we cling to their occasional signs of affection. Our need and wish to be loved and respected leads us to blind out all the clear signs for their cold indifference and we focus on the sparse signs of their supposed affection instead. Whenever we finally muster the determination to opt out, they manage to keep us hooked through their fake affirmations of how wonderful we are and of how much they care about us.
The narcissist I dated was a master at blowing hot and cold, and he turned me into an emotional wreck through his inconsistency and ambiguity. During our entire relationship, I was always in doubt, I never knew were the relatioship was headed, and I always questioned the sincerity of his feelings towards me (and rightly so, as it later turned out). On some days, I was convinced that he really cared about me, that he respected me an genuinely enjoyed being around me. On other days, his cold indifference led me to assume that he was probably not that interested in me, and that I was just a nice distraction, a way to pass some time.
His ambiguous way of treating me already started right at the beginning of our interaction. Just as so many other narcissists, he used a strategy called “love bombing”, which means that he made a huge effort to get my attention and affection. On our first date, he was funny, smart, entertaining, affectionate and I felt like I had just won the lottery. Things moved ahead quite fast and so we already kissed on our first date (he initiated it, of course…). On my way back home, I was convinced that he was genuinely interested in me, and that this was the beginning of something wonderful and exciting. However, my dreams were already shattered the next day: He completely ignored me at work, and didn’t even say goodbye before he left. It was a slap in the face and the first indicator of all the pain and disappointments that were still awaiting me.
His inconsistency would turn into a fixed part of our relationship: He would tell me to come with him to visit his sister, and then never mention the idea again. He would assure me he intended to move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment, only to say a few days later that he had no intention to do so. He would express the wish to call me on skype, and then I just wouldn’t hear from him (he didn’t even take the time to tell me he changed his plans). Sometimes I didn’t hear from him in days, and then he sent several texts all at once. On some days, he sent me the loveliest emails, full of signs of affection. On other days I got cold and indifferent sounding emails consisting of no more than two sentences.
His inconsistency became particularly evident on two different occasions: One time, I was already sitting on the train to meet him, when I got a message in which he told me that he was all of a sudden not feeling well and had to cancel our date. He didn’t even apologize for the fact that I just wasted hours on a train for nothing. He ended his message by telling me how smart and pretty he thought I was. It was a typical example of blowing hot and cold: He blew me off in the last minute, and at the same time used sweet-talk to keep me from getting frustrated and mad. It worked: Sure I was extremely frustrated because I had just wasted two hours on a train without getting to see him, and because he waited until the last minute to cancel on me. At the same time, I was soothed by his nice words. This is why their strategy of blowing hot and cold is so harmful: They trample all over us, disrespect us and play us like puppets on a string, and we allow them to do so due to their occasional assurances of how perfect we are, and of how much we mean to them.
The other prime example for his inconsistency occurred towards the end of our relationship. Before I went on a weekend trip to Hamburg with a friend, he sent me a long email, telling me he wanted to make things work in Germany and he wanted our relationship to finally be fun, easy-going and relaxed, instead of dramatic and inconsistent. Once I got home again, I didn’t hear from him in days. When I finally got an answer, he told me bluntly, that he would leave Germany in only a few weeks, that he had already booked his flight, and that he would until then be very busy preparing everything for his departure. I was completely paralysed: Only a few days ago he fueled my hopes by talking so positively about the future. All of a sudden he presented me with a fait accompli, telling me he would leave without giving any reasons for his sudden change of mind. It was the perfect example for his indifference towards my feelings. He just did whatever he wanted to do without a care for other people’s feelings or opinions, and he didn’t even show enough respect to be honest and straightforward, or to give an explanation for his sudden decisions. He completely changed his mind within only a few days, and I just had to deal with it: He sure as hell didn’t care about the fact that he had ripped my heart apart. The only thing he ever cared about was himself and that is also why he was able to toy with other people’s feelings without feeling remorse or shame.
The narcissist’s tendency to blow hot and cold is a very powerful tool of manipulation: It allows them to keep their distance, without having to fear that we might lose interest in them. We nearly go insane trying to make sense of their inconsistency and having to live with the insecurity of not knowing where the relationship is headed. Their fake signs of affection fuel our hopes and keep us from leaving them and saving ourselves. It only prolongs the inevitable and causes us to stay in toxic relationships for far longer than is healthy for us. In the end, the inevitable will happen nevertheless: They will suck the life out of us through their ambiguity and leave us heartbroken. They only care about themselves and are indifferent about our feelings. They will hold on to us for as long as it is convenient for them, and for as long as we are still a nice source of distraction. When they no longer have the need for us, they will just blow us off without feeling any regret or remorse. The fact that they just ripped our hearts apart and left us depressed, frustrated and emotionally exhausted is of no interest to them. Their cold indifference will add a lot to our pain and make our journey to recovery very difficult and long. More often than not narcissists will completely break our spirits and the longer we hold on to them, the more painful it will turn out to be in the end. The inevitable will happen despite all our efforts to make things work. The reasonable strategy is to always be skeptical about their sweet-talk and try to opt out as soon as possible!