Being Drawn to the Narcissist’s Mysteriousness and Unpredictability

One of the many things I’ve learned about narcissists is that nothing about them is consistent, predictable, save and ordinary. Their manners, the stories they tell, their behavior towards us are always characterized by mysteriousness and unpredictability – and it is exactly this shadowy aura that often attracts us to them. Being with them is never boring, as they are always capable of suprising and exciting us – and of involving us in an emotional rollercoaster ride. The excitement makes it very hard for us to let go and to acknowledge just how harmful their inconsistency is for our well-being. We are extremely drawn to their eccentricities and their anomalous behavior because it provides a welcome diversion. Consequently, after the end of our relationship to the narcissist we often feel empty and desolate – and we come to regret the fact that we have to return to our seemingly eventless, monotonous and lonely existence.

What adds greatly to the mysterious aura surrounding the narcissists is that there is no way of knowing what exactly is going on in their minds, They are absolutely inconsistent in their words and actions. On some days they shower us with affection, are extremely loving and passionate and make us feel elated. Then again they ignore us for days, serve us with lies and excuses and expose us to pain, drama, insecurity and triangulation. There is no way to figure out the rationale behind their fickleness and their changing attitude and conduct towards us. However, we often find ourselves drawn to the excitement that is an effect of their impenetrability – at least this was the case for me. On the one hand, I suffered greatly from the state of not knowing. On the other hand, I got hooked on the excitement that came from being with him. Nothing about him was predictable, save and easy – and paradoxically I learned to live with it, even treasure it.

Another aspect that contributes to their special aura is that they always have uncommon and exciting stories to tell. Most of them are probably greatly exaggerated or even entirely fabricated – but we are not aware of it while we are caught in our blind pursuit of them. We love listening to them talking about their dramatic earlier relationships, their messed-up childhoods, their strained relationships to their parents and siblings, the “exciting adventures” they have made in the course of their lives. My narcissist had a seemingly endless supply of dramatic and exciting stories to tell – and I was naive enough to appreciate his tales and to think of him as mysterious and special because of them. His stories led me to be all the more attracted to him and – cheesy as it may sound – I threw caution to the wind and ignored all the red flags that were staring me straight in the face. There was also a hint of mysteriousness in the messages he sent me. Sometimes he wrote long sermons – often written in a very elaborate register. Then again, he would sent me messages consisting of only a few ambiguous words. I would then rack my brain trying to figure out the intent of his message – and while doing so I often found myself in a strange state of agony and excitement. Nothing about him was unambiguous and unobscured. And while his shadiness was causing me pain, it also excited me at the same time.

One thing is very true for most narcissists: They are definitely not like your average guy. Almost everything they say or do is unusual, dramatic and inconsistent. The narcissist I dated presented me with an abundance of eccentricities. Some of them were endearing, others were causing me heartbreak and pain. He often started singing out of nowhere – which I loved. Once, after his exgirlfriend had again harassed him (and me), he told me to punch him in the stomach so he would get distraction from the emotional pain (Of course I didn’t comply). He often dragged me into deserted street corners to passionately kiss me. At times he showered me with beautiful and unusual compliments. He loved to make very philosophical comments. He wrote the most exciting, ambiguous and beautiful messages and had me reflect on them for hours. I could talk to him about my favorite books and movies, about my passions. We sometimes had long and animated conversations during which it seemed as if our minds and hearts were perfectly in tune. I couldn’t help but fall in love with every single one of these aspects – and now I curse myself for having been so dewy-eyed as to allow his eccentricities to make me turn a blind eye to all the red flags, broken promises and the exposure to unnecessary drama and pain.

To make a long story short, I was fascinated by him and found his unpredicability and mysteriousness alluring. Being with him was never boring, and I could always expect another grand story, another dramatic revelation, another unusual gesture. He had an aura of distinctiveness around him and I was extremely drawn to it. Unfortunately, this attraction and my longing for excitement made me deactivate my rationality and accept a lot of shady behavior. As I was so drawn to his mysteriousness and his unusual conduct, I repeatedly let him hurt me, break his promises and treat me with disrespect and neglect. I endured his long stretches of silence and detachment by looking forward to receiving new samples of his eccentricity. I was often close to leaving him because I could no longer endure the pain. However, something always kept me going. I couldn’t bear letting go of all the excitement that he somehow added to my life. Holding on to the excitement, however, meant having to go on enduring a lot of pain and disappointment. They were the consistent byproduct of the excitement that came with being with him. And I was willing to take up with all of it for far too long.

I’m really not proud of myself for falling for the narcissist’s special aura and the excitement he provided. I’ve come to interpret my penchant for his ambiguity and drama as a sign of weakness. However, there is no use in denying the fact that I was extremely attracted to him and that this attraction made it very hard to let go. Everything about him was dramatic, unusual and exciting, every aspect of his life and behavior was laden with mysteriousness and ambiguity. And I made it my task to figure him out. I was intrigued by it and lost my ability to think rationally in the process. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I also know that there are many others out there (especially love addicts and codependents) who made similar experiences. The narcissist’s tendency to act in a mysterious and inscrutable way has the power to get us hooked – at least it had that power in my case. Ever since I’ve cursed myself for having been so naive and weak to let his shadiness cloud my rationality.

Now that everything went down the drain – and my well-being with it – I am forced to reassess my penchant for ambiguity, mysteriousness and eccentricity. All those traits usually go hand in hand with shady and disrespectful behavior. I came to regret the fact that I was drawn to his shadiness and the excitement and drama provided by him. It is a pattern that I can also discern in my previous relationships. Right from my first boyfriend to the narcissist – with only one exception – the men I’ve been with all showed signs of eccentricity, shadiness and haughtiness. Being with the narcissist has finally opened my eyes to the fact that what I apparently crave is excitement and unpredictability – and that normalcy, stability and security do not have the same appeal to me. It is painful to admit it and it makes me doubt myself – but at least, I’ve finally been able to realize this flaw in me and I can now start to work on it. My heart has been severely broken due to my tendency to fall for toxic people and the excitement they provide. It has made me reassess my attitudes towards relationships and the faulty expectations I bring into them. I’ve finally been forced to admit to these flaws. Having experienced the pain and despair that can stem from them was an eye-opening experience. I no longer value shadiness and ambiguity, I no longer want to be blinded by excitement, I no longer want to put up with neglect and distance.

The narcissists may be able to sweep us off our feet with their passionate, unusual manners. However, what usually follows in the wake is pain and heartbreak. Often, when they reveal their true colors, it is already too late, as we are in too deep and unable to let go. I think I’ve learned my lesson: I never again want to be so starved for excitement that I’m willing to accept neglect and detachment in my pursuit of it.

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Dealing with the Disillusionment Caused by the Narcissist

One of the many reasons why narcissists can do so much damage to our well-being and sense of self worth is that their behavior is violating almost every maxim of decent human conduct. Prior to meeting a narcissist we often still hold on to the belief that humans are innately good and always try to avoid causing others pain and agony. After all that is one of the rules we try to stick to as good as we can. We tend to measure the narcissists by our own standards of good conduct and therefore – especially at the beginning – we give them the benefit of the doubt. It takes us far too long to realize that narcissists don’t abide by the rules of decent human conduct. They can overstep our boundaries hundreds of times, they can break promises, manipulate us, expose us to drama and break our hearts, and we still try to find the rationale behind their behavior. We never really lose faith in their innate goodness. We rack our brains trying to find an explanation for their disrespect and inconsideration – thinking that they have probably just temporarily gone astray and will soon treat us with the affection, commitment and stability we are looking for.

We refuse to let go of our belief in the innate goodness of humankind. We don’t want to stop measuring them by the standards of what we think constitutes decent behavior. Our refusal to let go and accept their cold indifference for what it is can become very harmful over time. In the end, we are only drawing out the inevitable through our willingness to rationalize their deceit and impudence. When the relationship is finally over we have to deal with the disillusionment that comes with having to say farewell to our belief that people try to avoid causing each other pain and stress. We are finally forced to realize that not all people are interested in being considerate of the feelings of others. I was greatly disillusioned after the end of my relationship with the narcissist. All the time I had been measuring him by the standards of good behavior I had set for myself. I somehow didn’t really believe that he didn’t act according to the same maxims. It took me a long time to realize that I was not capable of making sense of his behavior, because he was not sharing the same values and outlooks.

While I was still in a relationship with him I always gave him the benefit of the doubt and refused to see his distance, inconsistency, unavailability and deceit for what it was. After all, he occasionally showed me clear signs of affection, interest, care and dedication and I was convinced that he wouldn’t bother to do so if he wasn’t genuinely interested. I didn’t get my head around the idea that he wasn’t sticking to the rules of decent human conduct and that his signs of affection might just be part of his mind games and manipulation. Because of my naive belief in the genuiness of his conduct, I allowed the emotional abuse to go on for far too long. I always had nagging feelings of doubt and insecurity, I consistently feared that he might just abandon me. However, I always dispelled my doubts, telling myself that he wouldn’t have bothered doing this or saying that if he just planned on abandoning me. That prospect always seemed too cruel to me to even be a possibility. In the end, when the full scope of his shameful conduct had finally revealed itself to me, I had to pay dearly for my naivety. As my beliefs have been completely shattered, I was deeply disillusioned and had to adjust my views accordingly.

The narcissist I dated gave me reasons to hold on and to feel that there was indeed hope for a future. He spent an entire weekend with me and my family, he had inspiring conversations with my parents and my brother. He told my mother that he wanted her to teach him how to cook and how to knit (no kidding!). He leafed through old photo albums with me and my mother. After the end of the weekend, he hugged my mother goodbye and told her what a sweet lady she was. He not only met my parents but also my friends. He held my hand and kissed me in their presence. He behaved like a proud boyfriend who couldn’t keep his hands off me – a fact that let my best friend to remark that he was clearly “marking his territory”. He told me on several occasions that he cared about my feelings and respected me immensely and therefore wanted to make sure to treat me with the respect and consideration I deserved. He also assured me that he always wanted me to feel protected and to not have to worry about anything at all. He even urged me to stop my anxiety and worries, because he wouldn’t just leave or disregard me like the guy I dated before him did. Through some of his actions he signalled genuine interest and so I thought that I had every reason to hold on, in spite of my many doubts and the fact that I often felt disrespected, pushed aside and neglected. Judging from some of his actions I was convinced that after all he cared about my feelings, and that his signs of affections weren’t just fake. After he had met my family and friends and spent several days at my place, I never would have though that he could just leave without saying another word…

I don’t know if I could ever convey the depth of the disillusionment I felt after he had flown back to the U.S. without contacting me again, without saying another word (not even goodbye) and without giving an explanation for his sudden decision to leave Germany. The pain I felt was so intense that I had trouble breathing and thought that someone had stabbed a giant sword into my heart. I guess, in some sense, one could say that he really made me lose faith in humanity and completely destroyed my innocent belief system. Through his conduct he introduced me to the corruption, deceit and malignity of narcissism. He drew me into his world of lies, cold indifference and manipulation – a world in which you could just leave without saying goodbye, where you could obviously trample all over the people who had shown you nothing but care and affection.

After all, he didn’t just disrespect and damage me, but he also hurt my mother’s feelings. My mother was unbelievably hospitable towards him, did everything in her power to make him feel comfortable and at home, and she really grew to genuinely like him. Through his sudden and wordless departure and his disrespectful conduct he broke her heart as well. Just as it was the case for me, she also had a hard time accepting the fact that nothing about his conduct was genuine and that his signs of interest and affection were not heartfelt. We both had made the mistake of measuring his conduct against the standard of decent human behavior. I spent weeks trying to find an explanation for everything he had done – for all the drama, ambiguity and disappointments, for the triangulation and manipulation. In the end I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t figure him out because we were not playing by the same rules. Disrespect and cold indifference were not part of my innocent world view and consequently I found it hard to evaluate his behavior.

By now I have finally learned that there is no use in trying to find an explanation for the narcissist’s behavior. If we desperately cling to them, hoping that they will eventually follow the rules of decent behavior, we are only drawing out the inevitable. The only thing we as victims of narcissistic abuse can do is learn to deal with the disillusionment and try to get past it. We will never find satisfying answers, and investing our energy and time to figure them out will get us nowhere. There is nothing wrong with us; it is not because we are full of flaws and not worthy of love that they can just abandon us without showing consideration for our feelings. Some people just can’t behave in a decent way and they have no use for our love and consideration. They don’t know or care about what they are doing to the feelings of others. We have to accept it and no longer try to measure them by our standards or apply our rules of decent behavior to them. Instead we should try to come to terms with the lesson they taught us: Not every person is considerate and honest. There are people who show no respect and can’t value or handle genuine affection and care. It is not our fault that they can’t. Instead of trying to find the rationale behind their behavior, we should feel sorry for them. At least we have the chance to eventually work past the disillusionment they left us with. The narcissists will, however, always have a hard time reciprocating love and settling down in a healthy, committed relationship.

Getting Hooked on the Drama Created by The Narcissist

As I have already pointed out numerous times in my earlier posts, when you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are not quite yourself anymore. You are engulfed by their drama and mind games to such an extent, that you lose touch with yourself and end up turning the narcissist into the center of your world. Your complete fixation on the narcissist often has the effect that you lose your capacity to think rationally, to question your behavior, to protect your boundaries from being overstepped and from saving your emotional well-being from completely going down the drain. The drama that is so readily provided by the narcissist is swallowing us and demanding all of our energy – with the result that we have difficulties functioning in all other areas of our daily lives. We neglect our tasks and find it hard to focus on our work or studies, because we are completely absorbed by their drama.

This constant exposure to drama, ambiguity and deceit can have two very contradictory effects on us. On the one hand, we are slowly but surely growing tired and exhausted of it. We desperately want things to finally be easy, relaxed, less straining and depressing. We would give so much for the narcissist to end his constant unavailability, distance, inconsistency and triangulation. We belief that if they could let go of all of these troublesome modes of behavior, things could finally be the way we want them to be. However – shocking and irrational as it may sound – we also somehow learn to get used to the drama. Our willingness to endure the drama provided by the narcissist can even lead us to get hooked on it. We actually learn to love the drama and accept it as a fixed component of our relationship with the narcissist. We sometimes even reach the point where we can no longer imagine being with him without having to deal with constant drama and heartbreak.

This contradictory frame of mind can be very confusing and damaging. On the one hand, we are sick and tired of their manipulation and ambiguity. On the other hand, we are hooked on the excitement and emotional rollercoaster that accompanies their inconsistency. Our willingness to endure and absorb the drama provided by the narcissist, leads us to question our own sanity. We can’t find the rationale behind our repeated decision to hold on to them in spite of the fact that everything they ever do is causing us nagging feelings of insecurity, agony and disappointment. We can’t really admit to us that we have likely become addicted to their drama and the accompanying excitement, because it completely contradicts human rationality. The bitter truth, however, is that we have been so consistently fed with deceit, ambiguity and drama that he have grown to live with it – even to appreciate it. I still don’t know why we are doing this to us: Is it a survival strategy? Is it a welcome opportunity to punish ourselves for our supposed inadequacy? Is it because our daily lives provide so little excitement that we readily leap at their drama and allow it to become part of our being?

The only thing I know is that I could have surrendered and saved myself on countless different opportunities, but every single time I decided to hold on and submissively endure more of the blows he dealt to my self-esteem on an almost daily basis. I could have told him that I’d finally had enough and that I couldn’t take any more of his drama and deceit. However, I never followed through with it and instead increasingly lost touch with myself and sacrificed my emotional balance. I was on the brink of letting go several times; I tried to break contact with him on several occasions. After a few days, I always quit the endeavor, because on some level I missed the excitement that came from being with him. I was convinced that it was better to endure his drama with patience and endurance than to be on my own again, with no one but myself to deal with. I’ve always had a hard time being lonely, and therefore couldn’t find the strength and resolution to let go and save what was left of my emotional well-being and strength.

I didn’t only accept the drama passively and stoically, but sometimes I even helped to create it and to keep it going – or at least I didn’t try to end it when I could have well done so. When his exgirlfriend harrassed me with her countless attempts to call me and tons of text messages, I could have just blocked her number and saved myself a lot of unnecessary torment and pain. However, on some level, I was too curious, to unwilling to just put an end to the drama. It almost seemed as if I was hooked on the agony and hurt that I derived from reading her messages. The first time she tried to call me I even answered the phone (because I didn’t know her number back then), and instead of just hanging up, I listened to what she had to say for more than an hour. After that phone conversation, I felt so confused, hurt and shocked that it was almost impossible to bear. I learned, during that conversation, that I had become the target of so many lies. Besides, I have been confronted with the sick accusations that the narcissist and his exgirlfriend were throwing their ways on a daily basis. It was heart-wrenching and disgusting. However, instead of hanging up the phone so that I wouldn’t have had to listen to all that bullshit, I talked to her and let the pain paralyze me.

On some level, the pain and drama seemed to make me feel alive and provided my life with excitement – something that had admittedly been partly missing from it before I met the narcissist. I was in a deeply confused state while being in that relationship. On the one hand I was despaired and on the brink of a mental breakdown, because nothing was ever easy or going according to plan. Everything was somehow disappointing and dramatic – and it was slowly sucking the life out of me. However, after I had finally realized that all I would ever get from him was drama, pain, and inconsistency, I learned to accept and live with it. The realization that things would likely never be easy, that he would probably break my heart in the end, didn’t keep me from still chasing after him. I was convinced that getting drama was better than getting nothing at all and than returning to the eventless and monotonous life I lead prior to meeting the narcissist. In the end, I had not only gotten used to the drama, but I had also grown to appreciate it and the excitement that was stemming from it.

So I guess one conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that I was certainly complicit in my own emotional abuse. I could have walked away a thousand times and told him I had enough of his shady ways. However, out of a deep fear of being alone, and because I had grown used to drama and pain, I allowed him to trample all over me again and again. Looking at my behavior in retrospect, I can – as usual – only shake my head in disbelief. I’m shocked that my desire for excitement and diversion let me to accept to be disrespected and taken for granted. But, I’m not really willing to accept all the blame for what had happened to me. Sure, my codependency was an important factor, as it made me the perfect target for submitting to his drama. However, narcissists are particularly talented at emotionally manipulating us in such a way that we keep going in spite of having lost almost all of our hopes that things might get better.

As usual, there is a positive lesson that I have learned from what had happened to me. I now know that there are both positive and negative kinds of excitement – and that the excitement we receive from being with a narcissist almost exclusively belongs into the negative category. The excitement derived from being in an inconsistent and unhealthy relationship will never add any value to our lives. We might think we can’t live without it, and that our lives are monotonous without the drama provided by the narcissist. However, in our misguided endeavor to submissively endure whatever they are throwing our ways, we often don’t realize that we are doing enormous damage to our emotional well-being and that we are losing touch with ourselves. I’m glad that I’ve finally learned that I alone am responsible for providing my life with excitement and purpose. I never again want to feel so deprived of diversion and excitement that I so willingly allow someone else to hurt me and fill my life with misery and pain.

How to Get Closure After Having Been in a Codependent Relationship with a Narcissist

Getting closure after having been in a codependent relationship with a narcissist is really hard to achieve for several different reasons. First of all, because his behavior has been so ambiguous, damaging and inconsistent, we are unable to make sense of it. However, we feel that in order to be able to get closure, we need to figure out why he treated us the way he did. Only if we find the rationale behind his conduct, will we finally find the capacity to let him go and move on – at least that is what we assume. As we are unable to find the answers to the questions that are still holding us back, and that still keep our minds focused on the narcissist, we cannot move on. Throughout the relationship the narcissist has been unable to provide us with satisfying explanations for his damaging way of treating us. Consequently, we still try to find the answers we are looking for ourselves – a very futile endeavor! Long after the relationship has ended we still rack our brains with agonizing thoughts and blame our own inadequacy for its failure. Even when our most trusted friends or our family members tell us that we are not to blame, but have simply been involved with an unavailable exploiter of our affection, we refuse to fully believe them and are still convinced that we are undeserving of love and affection.

Another reason why getting closure after narcissistic abuse is so difficult is that they often left us completely confused, shattered and on the brink of a nervous and emotional breakdown. Because they have been manipulating us for a long time, have treated us with disregard, neglect and distance, and nearly drove us insane with their mind games, ambiguity and inconsistency, we feel completely drained of energy after the end of the relationship. In our fragile state we are unable to assess what has happened to us with a clear and calm mind. Instead, in our confusion and exhaustion, we tend to downplay the damage they have done to us, idealize the “wonderful time” that we had with them, and nearly lose our minds longing for them. It takes a very long time to gain the ease of mind to finally be able to rationally assess the role that both we and the narcissists played in the relationship.

A third reason why getting closure is enormously hard to achieve is that they often abandon us very suddenly without offering a satisfying explanation for their conduct. After we have been struggling for months to keep the relationship alive, sacrificing everthing we had – including our own emotional well-being – we are shocked and paralysed when they just leave  without even having a comforting word to offer to us. Their sudden withdrawal and abandonment of us is the final proof of their cold indifference, and we are utterly devastated – feeling discarded, disrespected and lonely. The damage done to us by their sudden disappearance and apparent carelessness will keep our minds busy for weeks – and even months – to come, as we try to find the answer to the question of why we deserved to be treated so disrespectfully. After all, haven’t we endured their unavailability, ambiguity and deceit for months? And this is how they repay us and how they reward our patience and endurance? We just can’t deal with the pain coming from the realization that while we were prepared to give and love to the point of self-sacrifice, they don’t have a problem with abandoning us. We often don’t even get a proper goodbye or an apology (or explanation) for their unavailability and the endless pain they inflicted on us.

This is exactly what happened to me, and even though I have already come a long way on my journey to recovery, I still find myself struggling because of the careless way in which he abandoned me. It came so suddenly that it brought me to the brink of a complete breakdown. He had made plans to spend two days at my place with me and my family. However, just a few hours before he was supposed to arrive, he told me he couldn’t leave because his exgirlfriend was hysteric and freaking out due to the fact that he intended to spend time with me. He apologized and told me he would visit me the following weekend to make up for it, and that he would tell his exgirlfriend that he would be visiting his sister in Berlin (in order to avoid further confrontations). However, when the weekend finally arrived, he decided to actually go and visit his sister and cancelled his plans to come to my place again. He assured me he would really make up for it and visit me once he got back from Berlin. He promised that he finally wanted things between us to be relaxed, fun and easy-going, and that he valued and respected me, and genuinely cared about me and my feelings. However, once he got back from Berlin, he told me – without offering an explanation for it! – that he had decided to leave Germany for good and fly back to the U.S.

I can’t find the words to describe the pain I felt at that moment. I allowed him to cancel on me three times in a row. However, I still clung to the hope that he would finally follow through with his promise to come back for a visit to me and my family. Being so suddenly confronted with the fact that he intended to leave was completely paralysing and sucking the life out of me. He told me he wanted to keep an open mind about the future and that he would maybe be able to offer me a place to stay in the U.S. I communicated the wish to see him before he left in order to say goodbye. However, I would never hear from him or see him again. He just ignored my last message and left three weeks later without uttering one word of goodbye – without offering an apology for all the pain, disappointment and heartbreak he caused me.

His cold indifference and disgraceful abandonment of me completely ripped my heart apart. I spent weeks racking my brain, trying to find an answer or explanation for his wordless, sudden departure. Because of his disrespect and inconsideration, I was completely convinced that I was undeserving of affection. After a few weeks I was so hurt by his silence that I wrote him one final email, pointing out to him how disappointing, cowardly and disrespectful it had been of him to just leave without saying goodbye. I am not proud of writing that email, but considering how hurt, angry and despaired I was, it doesn’t come as a surprise that I couldn’t resist the urge to tell him. Of course it was a futile endeavor, because a narcissist will never give you the answers that you are looking for. He replied that it was wrong of me to accuse him, that I had hurt his feelings with my email, and that I was disgraceful for having forwarded his emails to others – something I had never done, and had never even considered for a moment. So as I could have expected beforehand: He didn’t provide me with explanations, he didn’t offer an apology – but instead, he accused me of things I hadn’t even done.

I had the final proof that a narcissist will never help you to finally get closure and move on. They cannot provide us with answers and explanations. All they ever do is deny their own responsibility, shifting blame to others, and feed us with lies and excuses. I held on for too long to the idea that I would get an explanation – maybe even an apology – from the narcissist I dated. However, even my final act of trying to get these things from him didn’t yield any satisfactory results – in fact I had to deal with the additional pain of being called disgraceful for something I hadn’t even done in the first place.

Consequently, you have to be the one providing closure and peace of mind to yourself. The narcissist will never help you get closure, as he is unwilling and unable to offer explanations for his behavior, or to provide you with an apology for turning you into an emotional wreck. It took me a long time to realize that it was the wrong strategy to hope to get closure by turning to the narcissist for an explanation or an apology. After receiving that final email I was completely assured that only I had the power to make me regain my strength and emotional well-being. As I was so completely shaken and despaired because of his cold indifference and my complicity in my own emotinal abuse, I decided to read a lot on the topics of codependency and narcissism. Finally being able to put a label on what had happened to me was the most important step on my way to recovery. While I was still in a relationship with him, the thought that he might be a narcissist never occurred to me. However, I was immediately willing to attach the label “codependent” to me after the breakup. Reading a lot on codependency, I learned that we often attract narcissistic men who regard us as perfect target group for their manipulations and ambiguity. Because I could finally assess the nature of my relationship rationally, I had completed an important step to getting closure.

Getting over a codependent relationship with a narcissist can be extremely difficult. As a result of all the ambiguity, disappointments, deceit, and manipulation, we are often completely confused and paralysed at the end of the relationship. We are desperately looking for answers, and in our despair, we think that the only one who can provide us with them is the narcissist. However, just as was the case during the relationship, the narcissist is unable and unwilling to provide us with a satisfying explanation for his shameful conduct and his sudden departure. We can therefore only get closure, if we finally realize that we are the ones responsible for our own well-being and emotional advancement. We have to let go of the misguided belief that only the narcissist can provide us with solutions. We also have to see that we will likely never get the answer for why we were treated with neglect and disrespect – more often than not, the narcissist doesn’t know the answer himself. We can only gain peace of mind if we manage to let go and focus all our energy on ourself. We have to try to find the rationale behind our own behavior and understand why we allowed others to abuse us so shamelessly without showing much resistance. The only persons we have the power to change is ourselves. Realizing that only we can provide ourselves with closure is pramount to our ability to heal.

Another important lesson we have to learn in order to be able to get closure is that there is nothing unlovable about us, and that we were not abandoned because we are essentially bad people who do not deserve to be cared for and respected. The only mistake we ever made was loving someone with all our hearts, who didn’t know how to reciprocate those feelings. The fact that we were abandoned in such an inconsiderate way does not reflect badly on us, but on the narcissist who was unable and unwilling to value the genuineness and purity of the love we had to give. Realizing this has, for me, been one of the most important steps to getting better.

The Codependent’s Constant Urge to Apologize

While I was in a relationship with the narcissist, my ability to assess my behavior rationally was greatly impaired. Looking in retrospect at some of the things I did while being with him, I can often only shake my head in complete disbelief and horror. However, while I was still being with him, I didn’t waste many thoughts on my complete defenselessness and blind deference. I did whatever it seemed to take to keep the relationship going, and it never really occurred to me that I was completely debasing myself and allowing him to overstep almost every boundary of decent behavior. It was like being on a drug. I was addicted to him, to getting his attention and his little breadcrumps of affection. Nothing else seemed to matter to me anymore. My entire being revolved around him, almost every single one of my thoughts was dedicated to him, and whenever I sensed his distance and detachment I felt as if I was dying inside. This addiction, of course, impaired my ability to think rationally and to question my behavior. I was so fixated on him and his inconsistent and ambigous way of treating me that there was no more energy and brain capacity left to question my motives, my desires and my deep unhappiness.

One of the consequences of my love addiction and my desire to keep things going was a highly developed tendency to apologize for almost everything I did. Even when there was no reason at all for me to actually be sorry, I apologized over and over again. It seemed to be the most natural thing for me to do when things didn’t go well and a conflict was on its way of developing. As a result, I went through my days, constantly feeling sorry and submissively accepting the blame for everything. I basically apologized for wanting the most basic and common things – such as for example being treated with the bare minimum of respect and consideration. I felt like I was asking for too much, when in fact I often only asked for what should have been an essential part of every human interaction. Of course this had a very negative effect on my self-esteem. If you are constantly feeling sorry, and are convinced of your own guilt, even though you didn’t really do anything wrong, it can make you slowly lose your mind. You have subconsciously accepted the fact that the relationship can only keep going if you take responsibility for everything that is going wrong; because sure as hell the narcissist won’t accept any blame or feel sorry for the ambiguous and inconsiderate way in which he is treating you.

I could list numerous instances in my relationship with the narcissist when I was feeling sorry and accepted the blame, even though I was the one being mistreated and neglected. He often promised he would call me later and then didn’t follow through with it. He once promised me – while he was gone for the weekend to visit his sister – that we would Skype the following day. Of course I didn’t hear from him all day and he didn’t even apologize for not keeping his promise. As it was not the first time he didn’t match his words with actions, I sent him an email in which I (calmly!) complained about feeling pushed aside. I told him he could at least have informed me about not being able to talk to me on Skype. I got a very defensive email in which I was accused of overreacting and of causing him stress. And what did I do? I completely accepted the blame and apologized, even though my accusations were completely valid. Of course he would go on not following through with his promises until the end of the relationship. I allowed him to push me aside and keep his distance, and he learned that he could treat me with inconsideration and get away with it.

He kept our relationship a secret from his exgirlfriend for a very long time to keep her from freaking out (as he told me). Of course, I was not satisfied with being kept a secret and I told him it would be the better solution for everyone if he would just be honest. When he finally told her, she apparently completely lost her mind and threatened to throw him out of her apartment. I felt extremely sorry for what happened and apologized to him. There was no reason at all for me to feel sorry, as the conflict was completely theirs to solve and I didn’t have to carry any blame for what was going on between them. Still I accepted the blame for the trouble he was in and felt very bad about myself for seemingly bringing him into that situation.

I once dared to send him an email in which I gave voice to my deep dissatisfaction. I told him I could no longer bear to be treated with ambiguity and that I had the nagging feeling he was not being honest with me. I got an angry and defensive reply in which he told me that my email had not been appreciated and that it was unfair and evil of me to accuse him of dishonesty. He also told me I should leave his exgirlfriend alone and not try to cause her stress by contacting her. I never once tried to contact her. I wanted to completely avoid her, while she was the one harrassing me with calls and text messages (which I mostly ignored). I felt completely helpless, angry, misunderstood, hurt and confused, but I somehow managed to swallow all of those feelings. Instead of telling him to go to hell (what I should have done!), I apologized submissively and nearly begged for his forgiveness. I assured him I was ashamed of my behavior and that he was right. As had been the case before, all of my accusations were valid. After the ambiguous and inconsistent treatment I had received from him on a daily basis, it was only natural for me to give voice to my frustration and sadness. He was, however, unwilling to accept any blame and in my desire to keep things going I apologized and accepted the blame for everything. I was completely losing touch with myself, debasing myself, and stoically accepting his neglect and disrespect, because it was the only way to not lose him. I soon began to realize that he would likely never take responsibility for his faults and that I just had to forget about them, if I wanted the relationship to continue.

I found myself constantly apologizing and feeling sorry for things I shouldn’t have felt sorry for. Sometimes I felt genuinely sorry, at other times being sorry was just a way for me to avoid conflict and to keep him from getting angry. On some level, I sensed that I submissively felt apologetic for just giving voice to completely valid feelings and desires. Whenever I had mustered enough strength to finally stand up for myself, I immediately felt sorry afterwards. Being faced with an angry and defensive reaction, i caved in and turned back to being silent and submissive. A huge heap of dissatisfaction and frustration was building up inside me, because I sensed that I was not the one to blame and that I was debasing myself by being sorry for things I shouldn’t be sorry for,

My codependency and love addiction, as well as his unjustified anger and unwillingness to accept blame, always made me feel apologetic. Being sorry was my way to solve conflicts as fast as possible, because I knew he would be unwilling to solve them. I learned to accept that he would never be prepared to change his behavior due to my frustration and anger. His only answer to every single one of my complaints was getting defensive and providing me with lame excuses. He would often respond by saying things like “What do you want from me?” or “What am I supposed to do about it?”. He was always the blameless victim and I went along with it, thinking that it was wrong of me to bother him with my anxtities and needs. I basically learned to accept that I was not allowed to have any hopes or expectations. Whenever I allowed myself to give voice to them he got distant and defensive and I apologized for daring to stand up for myself.

Being in a codependent relationship with a narcissist can therefore be enormously damaging to your emotional well-being. In order to keep the relationship going and avoid conflict, we often too readily apologize and accept blame for asserting our most basic needs. After having been with the narcissist for a certain amount of time we learn to live with the fact that he will never take responsibility for his shady behavior and ambiguous way of treating us, and that he will never be the one to solve a problem by accepting the blame and changing his ways. The only solution left to us is keeping quiet, swallowing our anger and frustration and accepting the blame for what is going wrong ourselves. In the end, our sense of self worth is completely shattered, because we are constantly being submissive and feeling sorry, even though we did nothing wrong.

Narcissists are extremely talented when it comes to shifting blame to others. After a certain amount of time we are deeply conflicted and confused. We sense that we are not treated rightly and that there is really no reason to constantly be sorry, but still we readily accept blame to hold on to an unhealthy relationship. Our submissiveness is not only damaging our sense of self worth but also allows the narcissist to go on treating us with neglect – because he knows he can get away with it and even get us to apologize for everything that is going wrong. Being with a narcissist is therefore emotionally crippling. They are not empowering us, but they are keeping us down and allow us to debase ourselves for them.

For me, the tendency to accept blame was particularly developed, because I have always been a so-called people pleaser. I can’t bear it when people are being angry with me. I can’t stand my ground in a conflict and I often end up apologizing to appease others. This character trait obviously makes me the perfect bait for narcissists: They can disrespect me all they want and for as long as they like. I will probably not find the strength and courage to stand up for myself. Additionally, my self-esteem has always been rather low, and therefore I am more likely to believe and accept that I am actually the one who is wrong, and that the narcissist is right in shifting all the blame to me. Being with the narcissist was an eye-opening experience for me. I have finally managed to discern those behavioral patterns in me and can begin to work on them. I no longer want to submissively accept blame for asserting my basic needs just to keep a shitty relationship going. It’s one of the most emotionally crippling experiences ever to be treated with disrespect and still be convinced that you are the one to blame. I don’t want to feel that way ever again.

Being Drawn Into the Narcissist’s Crazy World

After having dedicated fourteen posts to the common modes of narcissistic behavior – with an emphasis on those I had to face in my last relationship – I will now put more focus on the victim’s perspective again. I feel more capable of talking about my own feelings and experiences in my interactions with the narcissist than of trying to make sense of his behavior. My motives and emotions are the only things I can work with, evaluate and try to understand. The narcissist’s thoughts and feelings will forever remain a mystery to me. The only thing I ever could was scratch the surface and try to point out in what ways the guy I dated fit the mold of narcissistic behavior. I finally accepted that there is no use in trying to make sense of why he acted the way he did, and why he broke my heart in thousand different ways. Instead of wasting time and energy on a vain attempt of looking for answers and meaning in the wrong places, I have to focus on myself. I have already spent too much energy and sacrificed too much of my own well-being trying to make sense of the narcissist’s behavior. If there is one thing I’ve learned by now, it is that racking my brain was never worth the effort and only prolonged the inevitable.

One thing that is very hard to deal with – from a victim’s perspective – is being drawn into the narcissist’s crazy world of dishonesty, manipulation and triangulation. As they gradually reveil their true colors to us, we feel as if we are slowly losing touch with ourselves to the point where we can no longer function in our daily lives. I was so absorbed in dealing with all the craziness surrounding me that I at times almost lost control over my emotions and had a hard time completing the most basic tasks. As the narcissist worked as a free lance teacher at the same place I have a side job, I found it really hard to focus on my work and function the way I should have. Besides, whenever I tried to get ahead with my Master’s Thesis, I found that I couldn’t keep my focus. I tried to read through scientific papers, but it was often fruitless and useless, as my mind was always occupied with making sense of his craziness and unavailability. I racked my brain for days about why he didn’t call, why he still prioritized his exgirlfriend, why he blew me off once more etc. I desperately wanted to find answers to why things just didn’t work the way I wanted them to. There was no more brain capacity left to focus on anything else.

Being with a narcissist can at some point have you seriously doubt your own sanity. You are constantly surrounded by ambiguity, drama and disappointment. Showing codependent patterns of behavior, you often don’t manage to disentagle yourself from all the craziness, but instead hold on to the narcissist in a desperate attempt so make things work. However, in order to find the strength to hold on, we somehow have to make sense of their behavior. We want to justify our endurance and willingness to stay with them and therefore need to find the rationale behind their behavior. As we cannot manage to figure them out, we have to make do with every single excuse we can come up with. We accept each and every one of their lies and breadcrumps of affection to justify the fact that we are still holding on to them. Our desire to stay with them draws us deeper and deeper into their world of craziness and deceit – and we still try to make sense of all the disappointments and setbacks that keep coming our way.

Looking at the role I played in my relationship to the narcissist in retrospect, I am amazed and shocked at how much I was willing to take before finally having had enough. I allowed him to disrespect me, blow me off, lie to me and draw me into his crazy relation to his exgirlfriend, and still didn’t find the strength and self-respect to opt out. I spent thousands of agonizing thoughts on why he was being so unavailable, inconsistent and dishonest. More often than not, I blamed myself – thinking that I was too clingy, asking for too much, getting too attached too fast. On some level, I had long understood that he was not as emotionally involved as I was and that he had no stability, commitment and emotional support to offer to me. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind where they would be a constant and hidden source of unhappiness and agony.

Being with a narcissist, you often have an unusual amount of craziness to deal with. I was after some time completely overwhelmed by it. Never before did I have to deal with such a high level of dishonesty and ambiguity. Up until meeting him, most people I ever had to deal with were reliable, honest and considerate. Consequently, I was not in the least prepared for what the narcissist drew me into and couldn’t find a healthy way to deal with it. In the course of being part of an annoying triangle with him and his hysteric, hateful exgirlfriend, I had to deal with so much bullshit and mindfuckery that I felt as if I was losing my mind. She accused him of having sex with his sister, he accused her of being mentally imbalanced. She lied to him and told him I was forwarding his emails to her (which I of course never did). He believed her and got angry at me. I was suddenly part of a crazy world, where people were accusing each other of nasty shit and feeding each other lies, only to consider themselves as best friends again only a short time later. In my complete fixation on the narcissist, I tried to endure all of it. I listened to their bullshit and deceit and tried to make sense of it – a pointless and exhausting endeavor!

I kept wondering: Why is it that they yell at each other and throw lies and accusations at each other, but he still doesn’t move out of her apartment? Why does he constantly complain about her irrationality and then goes on city trips, to concerts and even to the dentist with her? I was slowly disintegrating into a human wreck trying to find justifications for his behavior. People kept telling me to finally let go. I didn’t want to hear any of it at the time. I tried to deal with both of them, I tried to make sense of what was going on, I endured their dishonesty and mindfuckery – and in doing so, I completely lost touch with myself. I must have been completely out of my mind to allow the craziness to engulf me to such an extent.

Coming to terms with the realization of how little self-respect and strength I had shown in my relationship with the narcissist was – and continues to be – painful. I basically allowed him to trample all over me and draw me into his crazy world without much resistance. I’m relieved that I have finally come to the point where I no longer feel the need to find the non-existent rationale behind his behavior. It took me a very long time to get there. Even after he had already flown back to the U.S. I still racked my brain trying to figure out his craziness. I wasted many agonizing toughts on the question of why he had left without even uttering one word of goodbye. Now, I can finally accept it as being the final act of his indifference and emotional abuse that I allowed to go on for far too long.

It takes a very long time to disentangle yourself from all the craziness that has been surrounding you for months – and to let go of the desire to find an explanation for what he has done to you. Only if you accept that there is no real rationale behind what happened to you, can you finally find closure. I’m still not at the end of my journey towards full recovery. I still catch myself trying to make sense of his complete unavailability, I’m still often sad because of what happened, and sometimes I still miss him very much and think in a very idealized way about the good times that we shared (despite of all the craziness). But, by now, I have also learned to see that being with him would never have made me happy. While I was still in a relationship with him, I always thought that if he could just let go of the craziness, drama and ambiguity, being with him would be the greatest thing ever. Now I know that the craziness, drama and ambiguity were a fixed part of him, and that he would likely not manage to let go of these traits any time soon. Being with him surely was an eye-opening experience that made me question my approach to relationships and my willingness to endure and hold on to the point of self-sacrifice. I never want to allow others to turn me into a victim ever again. And I never again want to nearly lose my mind being engulfed in craziness and deceit!

Narcissistic Behavior 14: Detachment

One of the characteristics of narcissistic behavior that can be emotionally damaging to an enormous extent for those involved with them is their detachment. Narcissists don’t seem to be able to feel with the same depth and purity than we do. Being with them, there is always the nagging feeling that we seem to be far more dedicated to the relationship and emotionally attached to the narcissists than they are to us. We are racking our brains about why it is that they can be so distanced and show so little involvement, while we are giving them all we have to give and often love them with all our hearts. It is pure agony to have to realize that the person you so ardently love and for whom you would do almost everything, is not nearly as emotionally involved and likely doesn’t share your feelings – at least not nearly to the same extent. To shield us from the pain that comes with this realization we often push it aside, cling to the little breadcrumps of affection they are throwing us and completely deny their lack of involvement. Our denial, however, does not solve the problem. Because we are unwilling to accept that they are not nearly as attached as we are, we are disappointed over and over again – whenever their lack of attachment becomes evident once more.

Even after having been disappointed numerous times, we still hold on to them. It would be unbearable for us to admit the evidence for the fact that they don’t really show any signs of a deep emotional attachment to us. We cling to the memory of those moments in which they showed us little signs of their supposed affection and think that if we only hang on, be patient and enduring, things will get better. We fool ourselves by holding on to the conviction that they might be emotionally attached to the same extent as we are, but they are just unwilling to show it. In our belief that some people are just unable and unwilling to show the real depth of their feelings, we deny all the facts that support their detachment and carelessness. We go on denying until we reach the point where their detachment becomes so obvious that even we can’t manage to turn a blind eye to it. By then we often have already invested so much into the relatioship – so much dedication, heartbreak, patience, understanding and energy – that we can’t stand the thought of just letting go. Consequently, in spite of clear evidence for their emotional detachment and lack of involvement, we still can’t let go of them. We hold on and debase ourselves in a misguided belief that our love for them can do miracles, and that if we just give them enough time, they will gradually learn to be as emotionally involved as we are.

Clinging to someone with all your strength, who doesn’t really have any use for our feelings and doesn’t know in the least how to return them is a crippling and heartbreaking experience. I held on tightly to someone for months, who clearly wasn’t nearly as emotionally attached as I was. For me, he became the center of my existence. He would always be my first thought in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, call him whenever I had a spare minute. In short, I felt for him with all my heart and was dedicated to a point where I was beginning to sacrifice my own well-being. In the beginning, it never even occurred to me that I might be investing much more into the relationship than he was. It never crossed my mind that I might not be his first thought in the morning, that his heart was not really in it, and that while I was giving all I had, he was only prepared to give whatever it took to keep me going.

After a certain amount of time, I began to sense his detachment and I slowly became aware of the fact that while I was prepared to sacrifice almost everything for him, he was always keeping a certain distance. On some level, I knew that I couldn’t be sure that he even had deep feelings for me. However, this realization was so painful that I kept pushing it aside. I tried to ignore all of the signs of his lack of emotional involvement and instead clung to the little breadcrumps of affection I received once in a while. My unwillingness to accept his distance led me to endure a lot of shady and ambiguous behavior patiently and with endurance. I somehow learned to live with the fact that while I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, he seemed to be okay with seeing me about once a week. I also somehow came to terms with not being able to talk with him on the phone as often as I would have liked to. Whenever I received a message or a call from him it was really special for me. I would read his text messages and emails over and over again, because they were often everything I had to keep me going. They kept me in the illusion that on a deeper level he felt just as stongly for me, as I did for him, and that he was just unable to show it.

When I once complained about seeing him so seldomly, he only told me that he would also love to see me more often, but just didn’t have the time. I then told him that I had the nagging feeling that I seemed to care much more about seeing him than he did about seeing me. He denied it and just coldly stated that he had learned to live with shitty situations and therefore wasn’t so affected by not being able to see me that often. I once wrote him an email in which I complained about his lack of dedication. He accused me of being clingy and of overreacting. I accepted his explanations, lies and exuses over and over again. However, during the entire relationship I always sensed his emotional detachment as I got enough evidence for it on a daily basis, and just couldn’t deny all of it without taking a certain amount of damage. As a result, I was never really happy with him. On a deeper level I was aware that I was a 100% dedicated to him and loved him with all my heart, while I didn’t really get much in return. At times I was angry with myself for being so weak and for allowing myself to care so much and to love so ardently, when he apparently didn’t know how to reciprocate those feelings. I sensed that I would eventually get my heart broken, and still didn’t manage to let go and save myself.

My sadness and despair increased gradually, and it took me months to finally reach the point where I could no longer turn a blind eye to what was going on. I had an eye-opening epiphany while I was on a short trip with my best friend to Hamburg. We had a great time together and made so many fun experiences. One evening, when I lay in the hotel bed, I had the deep wish to call him and tell him about everything I had experienced. It would have been the most natural thing to do. It was another proof of the depth and intensity of my feelings for him: He was the one I so desperately wanted to talk to to share my experiences, because he was the one I cared about the most. However, I nearly choked on the realization that I would somehow not dare to call him and that during our relationship I never dared to just call him spontaneously. He had managed to keep his distance so well that I never dared to approach him. He was always the one approaching me and I had just accepted it without even giving it a second thought. On that night in Hamburg, painful realizations were nearly crushing me. It had finally become so very evident to me how distant we had always been to each other and that what we had was not even a real dedicated relationship. All of a sudden, I knew that I could not and would never be able to rely on him for emotional support. I understood that he would never be willing to give me what I needed: dedication, affection, honesty and consideration. The signs had been there right from the beginning and it took me several months to finally realize that he was detached and distanced and unable to appreciate and reciprocate my deep, loving feelings for him. While I had loved him unconditionally and with all my heart, he always managed to keep his distane and deny me the emotional support that I needed.

Being with a narcissist will more often than not leave you feeling empty, lonely, shattered and on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Our relationships with them are almost always one-sided, as they are unable and unwilling to feel with the same depth and dedication as we do. We tend to invest all we have in them and love them to an extent where we sacrifice our own wishes, needs and ambitions. Their detachment often is very evident, but we somehow manage to turn a blind eye to it, in order to shield us from pain. However, on a deeper level we are often very much aware of their lack of commitment, and it keeps us from feeling satisfied and happy. Having to accept their lack of emotional involvement is heart-breaking. How can it be that while we love them so ardently, and bear everything with patience and endurance, they are unwilling to reciprocate those feelings? We rack our brains in order to find an answer. We are convinced that we are the source of the problem, as we are just not deserving of real love and dedication. It would never occur to us that we are in a relationship with a narcissist who doesn’t have any use for our love. In a relationship with a narcissist you will never get what you want. Whenever you get too attached, they somehow manage to keep their distance. They cannot give you the stability, commitment and emotional involvement of a real relationship. We should therefore always try to face the facts – no matter how painful they are – instead of living in denial. We can try as hard as we want to, but we will never be able to turn them into the loving and dedicated partners that we are looking for. Having to beg for love and attention clearly doesn’t do us any good and it is a waste of time and energy. We should never debase ourselves and dwell in agony for a relationship with someone who doesn’t know how to value our feelings and how lucky he is to be the one our affections are directed at.

Narcissistic Behavior 13: Monopolizes Conversations

Narcissists not only tend to make all the decisions in their relationships to others, but they also monopolize every conversation and turn you into a silent listener. They never seem to get tired to talk about their achievements, their problems, their life story, their jobs, and they don’t really seem to be that interested in anything we might have to contribute to the conversation. While we might, at the beginning, still try to participate actively in our conversations with the narcissists, we soon begin to abandon the attempts and accept our roles as silent listeners, nodding along smiling to whatever they have to say. The narcissists’ tendency to be the dominant part in every conversation might seem like a harmless little quirk – especially when compared to such harmful modes of behavior as their deceitfulness, inconsistency, triangulation and manipulation. However, after a certain amount of time, being degraded to silent listener can also take its toll on us. We get used to swallow our own contributions and begin to feel that we have nothing important to say. We might even end up feeling neglected and losing touch with ourselves as a consequence of not being taken seriously.

Some might argue that we are partly to blame if we allow others to be so dominant, because we apparently just don’t try hard enough to bring ourselves into the conversations. This might partly be true for some of us. Especially codependent people and people pleasers accept their role as passive listeners without much resistance. We usually have low self-esteem and as a consequence tend to believe that what we have to say is not as important, interesting or relevant. Furthermore, out of a deep wish of being polite and of pleasing the narcissists, we don’t dare to interrupt their never-ending flow to bring in our own thoughts. We are convinced that whatever they have to say is much more interesting than anything we could contribute to the conversation. We also soon come to the conclusion that it makes the narcissists really happy to talk about themselves and to have found such patient listeners in us. Because we want the narcissists to be satisfied, we stoically accept the role given to us and maybe cling to the faint hope that one day they will run out of topics and then our turn will come. As is the case with so many hopes we nourish with regard to the narcissists, we at one point have to let go of them. I have come to realize that narcissists never run out of topics and never get tired of talking about themselves. Our turn will likely never come.

The narcissist I dated monopolized almost every conversation we ever had (apart maybe from the ones on our first date). It would be unfair to suggest that all he ever talked about was himself, as he could indeed also talk very enthusiastically about a bunch of other topics. However, he clearly enjoyed presenting his life story over and over again. During the few months the two of us dated, I learned a lot about his unhappy childhood, his job, his college years, his existence as a lone wolf, his achievements, his talents, his relations to his exgirlfriend, sister, parents etc.

At the beginning I was thrilled by it. I was an ardent listener, convinced that everything he had to say was interesting, important and special. I could listen to him for hours and never get bored. I was used to being the dominant part in my conversations and interactions with others and it somehow felt nice to be the listener for once. Listening to his extraordinary stories, I got the feeling that whatever I would have to contribute to the conversation would seem boring, trivial and uninteresting in comparison. As a result, I often kept my mouth shut and contented myself with being the passive listener. However, after a few months I began feeling frustrated as a result of my conviction that I had nothing interesting to say and that I was passive and boring. I also was frustrated because I sensed that the narcissist was not really interested in anything I had to say, and that I would likely never become an active participant in our conversations. Because I got so used to swallow my own thoughts and views, I began to lose touch with myself. I was so obsessed with keeping the narcissist satisfied that I completely pushed aside my own wishes. At times, I felt as if I had completely lost my voice. Being degraded to the role of passive listener can after some time have you doubt your own value.

There was one instance where I seriously began to doubt my role within my relationship to the narcissists. We met at a café in the afternoon for a few hours and I didn’t get to speak more than a few isolated words during all that time. He talked for hours without pausing for more than a few seconds, and I don’t think he even asked me one single question. It was an eye-opening experience. On earlier occasions I had always accepted my role as passive listener without questioning it or feeling neglected. Now, for the first time, I began to realize that I was allowing him to silence me and that almost all I ever did was nodding along smiling to whatever he had to say. Of course, this realization also made me question the genuineness of his interest and affections for me. It’s not that I never tried to bring myself into the conversation. However, I soon began to be convinced that whatever I had to say was not nearly as interesting as the stories he told me. I therefore lost the courage to open my mouth and began to feel frustrated about being silent and uninteresting. He didn’t really seem to mind.

At times he would encourage me to talk more and assure me that he felt really bad about monopolizing our conversations. He said that I had lots of interesting and intelligent things to say and he would therefore want me to contribute more to our conversations. However, I began to realize that this interest in anything I might have to say was rather short-lived and superficial and that he would take over the dominant part again after only a short time. He was not only dominant when it came to our conversations, but also in every single part of our interaction. When he was at my place, he took my computer to show me youtube videos – often a seemingly endless stream of them. He seldomly asked whether I was even interested in seeing them or whether I had something I would want to show to him. After a certain amount of time, I often got tired of watching those videos. However, out of my desire of keeping him satisfied, I never protested and instead watched whatever he had to show to me.

The same behavioral pattern could also be discerned in our email correspondence. He almost never answered any of the questions I had asked him, but instead rambled on about completely different topics. Whenever I dared to complain about feeling low, he never addressed the issue but instead diverted the topic back to himself, complaining about how low he felt. He then often went on for pages about the reasons for his sadness, and about the many problems and crises he had to deal with at the moment. He would give me detailed written accounts of his daily routines, even telling me the most trivial things – such as for example that he went to the dentist (of course with a detailed description of what the dentist thought about his teeth). Of course he would sometimes ask how I was doing and assure me that he wanted to know what I was up to. However, when I told him he never would show any real interest in it and often even completely ignore it. When I, for example, told him that I had finally found a topic for my Master’s Thesis, it took days for him to even ask me what my topic was. I began to feel really frustrated about his apparent lack of interest in anything I did or had to say.

Whenever he talked about himself, he tended to do so in very favorable terms. He said, for example, that he could sing pretty well, that he knew he was a good teacher, that his students adored him, that certain women had crushes on him, that lots of people depend on him (his sister, his exgirlfriend) and that he was very good at motivating others to make the best out of their lives. In the beginning, I was impressed. However, it didn’t take long for me to become tired and skeptical about this kind of talk. He also seemed to be in constant need of positive affirmation. He wanted me to comment on his clothes or his art. He liked to make collages and would show many of them to me, almost forcing me to comment on them. I loved to look at his art. However, I soon also began to understand that he, first and foremost, showed it to me out of a deep need for positive affirmation – and that was also what he expected to get from me.

I could ramble on for pages, but I think you all got the gist: Being with a narcissist can be a frustrating and self-alienating experience. Everything always seems to be about them: They are the dominant agent in almost every aspect of our relationship with them, making all the decisions, dicating the terms, and monopolizing conversations. We begin to accept our part as silent and passive listeners and in the process we lose touch with ourselves. We want to keep them satisfied and as a result swallow our own thoughts, wishes and needs. We end up feeling frustrated due to our passivity and develop the belief that we simply have nothing interesting and intelligent to say, and that no one is really interested in whatever we would have to contribute. The narcissists might fake interest at times, but we soon begin to realize that it is short-lived and superficial, and that all they are looking for is someone who is willing to listen to whatever they have to say. We smile and nod along for months, and our self-esteem and emotional well-being shrinks. If someone just loves to talk a lot (and especially about himself) we should interpret this behavior as a clear red flag and be very alarmed. Having to fight for attention is not healthy and doesn’t do our self-esteem any good. In a healthy relationship, our partner is genuinely interested in what we might have to say and will offer us enough opportunities to bring ourselves into the conversation. We should never allow someone to silence us. We also have interesting things to say and no one should have the power to make us believe otherwise.

Narcissistic Behavior 12: Dictates the Terms of the Relationship

When you are in a relationship with a narcissist there is always this nagging feeling of complete powerlessness, of losing touch with yourself and of having no say at all in what is going on. The reason for all of these feelings can be found in the fact that the narcissists tend to dictate the terms of the relationship, and you silently agree with those terms – often without even being aware that you are the one being chased around, suppressing your own wishes and desires in the process. After a certain amount of time you start feeling tired and dissatisfied without really knowing the source for those feelings, because you do not allow yourself to reflect too deeply on your relationship to the narcissist. You want things to work out so badly that you content yourself with the little breadcrumps they are throwing you and you follow their terms and conditions obediently. This obedience forces you to suppress your own needs and leads to a feeling of loneliness and helplessness. You think that by following their lead you are keeping them satisfied and that soon things will change for the better, that one day your wishes and desires will also matter. As I have already pointed out countless times, those wishes are often in vain, and the increasing awareness of this fact will only increase your helplessness and despair.

Narcissists are particularly prone to have things their way. They want to be the one in power in their interactions with others. They make the decisions within a relationship and withdraw their attention and affection whenever they feel like it. As soon as they feel that you are getting too close, they manage to create a certain amount of distance to stay in power. You have no say at all, but are ordered around and start feeling completely empty and powerless. However, it often never really occurs to you that you are played like a puppet on the string and that you are following the narcissist’s terms and conditions. With their assuring, affectionate and soothing words, they manage to make you feel as if your feelings, wishes and desires greatly mattered to them. You therefore believe that you have an equal say in the relationship and that your wishes would be taken seriously by the narcissists would you ever dare to give a voice to them. After a certain amount of time you may begin to become fully aware of your powerless situation within the relationship. However, out of a fear of losing him and being on your own again, you often still don’t find the strength and conviction to rebel against it and start voicing your own wishes and desires.

From the beginning until the end of my interactions with the narcissist he dictated the terms and conditions. He dediced when to meet, where to meet and for how long he intended to meet with me. I don’t think I ever once proposed a time and date for a meeting. Everything always went according to his schedule, and I just accepted it silently as if it was a sort of written law that he was the dominant person, making all the decisions. I often didn’t even know when I would see him again. Whenever I dared to ask him, I got an unsatisfying answer from him, as he told me that he didn’t really know when he could make time again due to his busy schedule. Sometimes I had to wait for days for him to propose a new date and time for a meeting. It was absolutely nerve-racking and depressing, and sometimes I had the feeling that I was slowly going insane from his tactics of keeping me waiting in the unknown. I so desperately wanted to be with him again and couldn’t stand the fact that I had to wait for days for him to be available. He not only decided when and where to meet, but also often took the liberty to cancel on me last-minute, or the inform me that he would be late.

He was always in complete power and even determined when we would talk on the phone. I never dared to call him spontaneously or to propose a time for a meeting out of a deep fear of being rejected. He called me whenever he felt like it and often even had the nerve to ask me to call him back, so that the phone bill of the phone plan he shared with his exgirlfriend wouldn’t be too high. I was stupid enough to call him back every single time and stoically accepted the fact that my own phone bill was getting higher and higher. The absolute low point of my interaction with him was reached when he sent me home after sleeping with me in a hotel room out of a fear of upsetting his exgirlfriend if he didn’t return back home to her for the night. Of course I felt humiliated and used. I already dedicated an entire blog post to that incident and don’t intent to point out the details again. I just needed to mention it as a prime example for the fact that I was played like a puppet on a string and that things always went according to his wishes, needs and conditions. My feelings were never really considered and my acquiescence was just taken for granted.

During the entire course of our relationship I agreed to his terms and chased after him like a dog. Whenever he proposed a time and date for a meeting – often after being silent for several days – I would immediately jump at the opportunity to see him again. I would make time for him and if necessary cancel the plans I had already made with others. I was so happy to finally be able to be with him again that it never occurred to me to question my own powerlessness. He threw me his little breadcrumps and I just happily accepted them and completely forgot my own value in the course of doing so. I often spent hours on a train just to see him for a very short amount of time. After a few weeks of chasing after him I started feeling tired, exhausted, frustrated and dissatisfied. I was beginning to question my role within the relationship and to realize my powerlessness within it. When I finally dared to voice my feelings, he promised me that things would get different soon and that due to his very busy schedule he didn’t really have time at the moment to see me more often. I wanted to believe him and therefore it never occurred to me that he dictated the terms of the relationship to keep his distance and stay in power.

As you can probably imagine, things never changed for the better. I was never really asked what I wanted or if I was okay with an arranged time and place for a meeting. He just assumed that I was okay with whatever he proposed and I swallowed my doubts and anger. Right until the end of our relatinship he was always the one in power, deciding on every little aspect of our interaction. I had no say at all and silently agreed to his terms and conditions. As a result of my silent consent, I often felt extremely powerless and dissatisfied. On some level I began to realize that my own wishes and desires never really mattered, that I had no say at all, and that I was following him around like a dog on a leash. It took me a very long time to become aware of my own powerlessness, because by feeding me little breadcrumps of affection and attention he convinced me that my feelings mattered to him. Even after I had finally realized that I was completely passive in our relationship, I did nothing to change anything about it. I thought that if I just went on agreeing to his terms and conditions, I would keep him interested and satisfied. I so desperately wanted to be with him that I swallowed my wishes, accepted my powerlessness and debased myself to keep things going.

The whole extent of my silent consent and powerlessness only revealed itself to me after the end of the relationship. Back then I was so busy considering his wishes and his needs and keeping him satisfied that I completely forgot thinking about my own well-being. On some level I always knew that something just wasn’t right, and that I was not getting what I needed. I just never allowed myself to think to deeply about it. A misguided wish to hold on to him made me accept his disrespectful and uncommitted behavior. Now I know that in a healthy relationship no one should be required to debase himself the way that I did to keep things going. I never again want to suppress all my feelings, wishes and desires just to keep a shitty relationship going. If you are with a narcissist with an urge to always be the one in power, you certainly won’t get what you want, and you will end up feeling frustrated, powerless and exhausted. Do yourself a favor and stop holding on to the illusion that things will get better. We deserve to be taken seriously and to have our wishes and desires met.

Narcissistic Behavior 11: Lack of Integrity/Inconsistency

As you might have already noticed, many of the characteristics of narcissistic behavior are interconnected or even overlapping to some degree. The next narcissistic mode of behavior I will focus on (lack of integrity) is closely connected to their hypocrisy and the fact that they love blowing hot and cold. Narcissists often seem to change their opinions, plans and wishes on a daily basis. Their actions almost never match their words: They say one thing, and then do something that totally contradicts their words. For those involved with them this inconsistency and lack of integrity is frustrating and confusing. It is completely impossible to find the rationale behind their behavior and to figure them out. However, we never stop trying to make sense of them, because we so desperately want things to work out. Since this endeavor is bound to fail, we waste a lot of energy and dedication and in the end have to face the depressing realization that everything was in vain.

The most painful aspect of their inconsistency and lack of integrity is that they often make grand promises and propose possible plans for the future and then don’t stick to them. We tend to believe in their promises (because we so desperately want them to be true) and consequently we are often left completely shattered and despaired once we have to accept that they never intended to act on them. Disappointment is a constant and fixed component of our relationship to the narcissist. After a while our hearts are nearly broken beyond repair from all the setbacks and broken promises we had to endure. We have to come to terms with the painful truth that we just cannot rely on the narcissists. Their behavior is so inconsistent and lacking in integrity that we can never believe in their words and we completely lose trust in them. The heartbreaking truth, however, is that we still do not have the intention to leave them. We often accept their shady behavior, we swallow the pain, we allow them to go on breaking our hearts, because we cannot stand the thought of losing them and being on our own again. In the end we have sacrificed our well-being for nothing, as our endurance and patience will not be rewarded.

The narcissist I dated completely lacked integrity and was absolutely inconsistent and unreliable. He broke thousands of promises, he almost never stuck to his words and he changed his views on a daily basis. Being with him was one of the most frustrating and exhausting experiences I ever made in my entire life. My heart got broken every single time he broke another one of his promises and in the end I was on the brink of a break-down because I just couldn’t handle any more disappointments. I know that I am partly to blame for what happened to me. I should have given him the benefit of the doubt at the beginning, but then I should have opted out after having realized that he would likely never act consistently and give me the commitment, honesty and affection that I was looking for. I allowed him to break my heart over and over again, but after a brief period of intense despair, I would swallow the pain and go on as if nothing had happened. I always clung to the hope that one day he would stick to his promises and things would turn out the way I wanted them to. Even though there was no basis for daring to have hope, I held on to him with patience and endurance, because I couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. The months I spent with him felt like a test of how much I could endure before finally breaking down. It was a time of intense self-sacrifice, pain and heartbreak.

His lack of integrity and his inconsisteny became apparent in every aspect of his behavior. The most painful aspect was – as I have already pointed out – that he just never kept his promises. He told me he would spend another weekend with me and my family and even cook dinner for all of us, he told me he would move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment, he told me he would look for job opportunities in Germany so that he could stay there – and not once did he stick to his words. He said that spending time with me was very important for him and that he would always make every effort to be able to be with me. In reality, I often didn’t get to see him in weeks, because he was either “sick” or “too busy”. At the beginning of our relationship he told me he would always treat me with respect and that he always wanted me to feel save and protected. However, no one ever disrespected me the way he did: He took me for granted, pushed me aside repeatedly and turned me into an emotional wreck.

His actions almost never matched his words: He told me he wanted to spend time with me on the weekend, and then just ignored my messages when the time had come. He insisted that his exgirlfriend was driving him crazy and sucking the life out of him, because she was hysteric and mentally imbalanced. A short time later he would again call her his best friend and go to concerts or on city trips with her. He wasn’t even consistent when it came to the most basic aspects of his lifestyle. He told people that he was a vegan. However, whenever I spent time with him he consistently ate meat (sometimes even large amounts of it). Of course he always had an excuse (“I needed the protein”). On various occasions he complained about our work colleagues, insisting that they were all “stupid motherfuckers” and that he would one day say it to their faces. As you can probably imagine, ne never did. He just went on complaining about them to me and then acted in a very subdued and nice way when he was around them.

So to cut a long story short, he just completely lacked integrity. He probably wasn’t even aware of this flaw in his behavior. From what I could gather from our conversations and interactions, he thought of himself as being very honest, genuine and straight – a model human being. He was surrounded by an aura of integrity and sublimity that his actions just never matched. This was of course very confusing for me. I was so taken in by this aura, that his contrasting actions were like a slap in the face every single time. The narcissist I dated had already occupied such a large spot in my heart that I was repeatedly willing to forgive and forget. I so desperately wanted things to work out between us, that the only thing I ever focused on were his words and grand promises. I so wanted them to be true that I was keen to deny and blend out his inconsistent and disppointing actions. Whenever I was once more disappointed and let down, I tried to focus all my attention on his words and keep my hopes alive. I allowed things to go on for far too long because he was always very good at keeping me going through his sweet-talk and false promises.

The narcissists lack of integrity and inconsistency is harmful for those involved with them on many different leves. We suffer because we cannot make sense of their behavior. We try to find the rationale behind the fact that they almost never stick to their words, and more often than not, we seek the faults in our own behavior and think that there must be something wrong with us. Furthermore, the continuous disappointmens that come our way as a result of their lack of integrity are sucking the life out of us. As we keep believing in their false promises and sweet words, we allow them to disappoint us over and over again. We so desperately want things to work out that we forgive and forget and cling to a naive hope that one day the narcissist’s actions will match his words. This will likely never happen. We go on enduring the disappointments with endurance and patience until we reach the point where we can’t take any more of it and are on the brink of a break-down. Our relationships to them are therefore characterized by extreme self-sacrifice and pain. In the end, we often have to admit defeat and come to terms with the fact that all our efforts have been in vain. As I have mentioned so many times before, it would be better to notice the red flags early and find the strength to opt out. Things will likely not work out no matter how hard we try. We can save ourselves a lot of drama and heartbreak if we just let go. Every healthy and working relationship needs two partners who are willing to treat each other with honesty, integrity and commitment. If one of them is just unwilling to do so, the relationship is doomed.