So far my entire blog has more or less been dedicated to the experiences I made with one particular person – namely the narcissist I recently dated during the course of several months. What I’ve only mentioned in passing until now is that I’d already fallen for a narcissist before I met that particular guy. Back then I wasn’t aware of the fact that he was a narcissist. I only knew that he used me, toyed with my feelings and broke my heart. Fortunately, our interactions were limited to a very short amount of time and consequently, the damage I took from him was not too overwhelming It took another painful experience to finally see that there was a pattern in my behavior and that I tended to attract and be attracted to shady guys who were unable and unwilling to offer a healthy and committed relationship to me. As I’ve learned through reading a lot on narcissism, many of us repeatedly fall for narcissists or other kinds of unavailable people. It often takes us several very painful episodes to realize that there is something wrong with our attitudes towards relationships and that we need to reassess our behavior. In my case, it took two painful experiences to see that I showed clear codependent tendencies, was willing to give to the point of self-sacrifice, allowed myself to feel too much too fast, and generally allowed others to overstep every boundary of decent human behavior without being able to disentangle myself.
About one and a half years ago, I started dating a very overt narcissist. Back then I didn’t know anything about narcissism and therefore never really questioned my willingness to go out with him. I met him at work, where he stepped by once in a while to fix our computers. At first, I didn’t even like him. He seemed to be incredibly arrogant and impolite – talking to all of us as if we were imbeciles and clearly feeling superior and very sure of himself. He was extremely handsome and also very aware of that fact – which only added to his aura of haughtiness. After a certain amount of time, he seemed to be showing an interest in me. He sent emails to my work email address in which he soon began to ask rather private questions. Eventually, he asked whether I was interested in having lunch with him. I somehow felt flattered and agreed – despite the fact that I thought of him as an arrogant ass. After that lunch he began to pursue me more adamantly. I wasn’t really interested in seeing him again anytime soon. I went on a three-week vacation and during that time he sent me a message every day – becoming ever more flirty in his wording. Again I felt flattered and replied to each and every single one of his messages. It was like a little game for me: I enjoyed the attention, but wasn’t that emotionally involved. My friends repeatedly advised me against getting too involved with him, because they too thought of him as an arrogant ass who would eventually only break my heart. I didn’t listen to them…and it turned out to be a grave mistake.
When I came back from my vacation we went on several dates together, and after only about a week he invited me to his apartment. Without giving the matter much thought I agreed. I was very aware of the fact that the game had turned into something more serious and that I had begun to fall for him. There was something about him – and his aura of aloofness and smartness – that I found highly attractive and I was looking forward to meeting him at his apartment. We had an incredible time together, I spent the night at his place and I was feeling elated and happy. I thought I had just witnessed the beginning of something great and incredible…Little did I know that I was being used only to be discarded once he had gotten what he wanted. When I arrived back home and contacted him, he told me without further ado that it was over, that he wasn’t prepared to enter into a relationship…and that was it. I never heard from him again. He got what he wanted, he managed to get me into bed…and that was all he was ever looking for. He just failed to tell me so beforehand. For him it was all about the chase, and as soon as he had managed to “conquer” me I was no longer interesting for him.
I was devastated, because I had seriously begun to fall for him and I had been convinced that he had been genuinely interested in me. His pursuit of me was so persistent that it seemed perfectly clear he had more than just a passing interest in me. It had never occured to me that he just wanted to make a conquest to get a boost for his ego. I was too naive and convinced in the innate goodness of others to realize that I was being used only to be discarded and that I had just made my first experience with a full-blown narcissist. I immediately blamed myself for what happened – thinking that there must have been something wrong with me, that I was just not attractive enough, that something about me has turned him off and that he therefore decided to end things between us. I started to lose a great deal of weight to feel better about myself and turned into a very skinny creature in the process. It never crossed my mind that he was a narcissist and that his pursuit of me was only meant to satisfy his own short-term needs. I tried to move on as fast as possible and never really throroughly processed what had happened to me. For me it was a one-time mistake and I was convinced that something like that would never happen to me again.
My failure to really process what had happened caused me to make the same mistake again. When I met the last guy I dated I ignored all the red flags. In contrast to the guy before him he wasn’t an overt narcissist but a covert one – a fact that made it all the more difficult for me to spot the warning signals. He acted like a genuinely nice guy – and even complained that his tendency to worry too much about other people’s feelings made his life difficult. I believed in his claims that he was a sensitive guy who cared very much about others and never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I still had trust issues because of what had happened earlier and he blamed me for them – telling me that it was not fair of me to let our relationship be affected by my previous experience. He urged me to let go of any past hurt and to finally realize that he was not at all like him and that he never intended to break my heart and use me the way he had done. I again felt elated…I felt like I had just won the lottery and let my guard down (Oh how I wish I hadn’t). I was convinced that I was getting involved with a genuinely nice guy who deeply cared about my feelings and who could never hurt me. I was gravely mistaken…He would eventually turn out the be the guy who nearly drove me insane with his ambiguity, unavailability and covert narcissism.
I somehow managed to walk straight from one narcissist to the next – from an overt narcissist to a covert narcissist. This last relationship left me so shattered and broken that I couldn’t just go on like I did before. Having had too humiliating and heartbreaking experiences in a row, I felt so down and low that I had to take action and reflect on what had happened to me. I started reading books and articles on love addiction and codependency, as I tried to figure out why all that drama was repeatedly happening to me – and finally came to realize that the guys I had been dating were most likely textbook narcissists. Because I was able to put a label on what had happened, I could start processing the painful experiences and move on. I began to question my attitudes towards relationships and realized that I first needed to take care of myself before I could ever enter into another relationship again. It took two heartbreaking and frustrating experiences for me to see that I should be the one giving affection and affirmation to myself and that I shouldn’t seek to get validation from outside sources only. Besides, I was made aware of the fact that I needed to set up boundaries and look for red flags right from the beginning. My desire to be loved and appreciated led to me ignore all of the red flags that were staring me right in the face. I was warned against getting involved with those men…I even thought of the first narcissist as an arrogant ass. And still I was too flattered by their attention and their apparent interest in me to save myself by keeping my distance to them.
A lack of awareness of narcissism and codependency often leads us to jump from one unhealthy relationship to the other. We never really process what happened and just try to move on as fast as possible. It often takes one really eye-opening, shattering experience to finally question our behavior. We need to be thrown into a seemingly bottomless pit to finally become aware of the fact that we need to change. Because I failed to properly work through my first experience with a narcissist, I was very vulnerable to falling for the same tricks again. In my case it was all the more impossible to see the red flags in my second encounter with a narcissist, because he was very covert with his narcissistic tendencies and pretended to be a genuinely nice and caring person. After I had nearly fallen apart, I’ve finally learned my lesson: I don’t deserve to be disrespected and neglected. I don’t deserve to be exposed to manipulation and triangulation. I think I’ve managed to overcome my addiction to love: I no longer need the approval of men to feel good about myself. I choose to believe that the eye-opening experiences I made with two narcissists will shield me against falling for the same tricks again in the future. I was forced by despair and frustration to thoroughly work through what happened to me…I’ve learned so much while doing so that I think I am finally able to spot the red flags and to save myself from further harm.
In order not to get stuck in a loop made up of unhealthy relationships we need to take the time to heal, reassess our attitudes and learn to realize that we don’t deserve to be used, manipulated and disrespected. We should not let go of our kind and loving hearts and turn into bitter and defensive beings, because we’ve been hurt too many times. I know that our willigness to be kind, to do good and to sacrifice for others makes us especially vulnerable to being used and manipulated. We should still be proud of our ability to love with all our hearts and to feel so genuinely and deeply for others. It is a precious gift. However, at the same time we have to learn to shield ourselves better and to extent kindness only to those who can appreciate and value us the way we deserve. Loving people with all our hearts who never intend to return our feelings will in the end only leave us damaged and questioning our own worth. We should save our love and willingness to give for those who deserve it.