It is very difficult to acknowledge that the one you love is a narcissistic monster. It is even more difficult to acknowledge that you need to do something about it.
Since the introduction of narcissism into psychoanalytic theory by Freud in the early 20th century there’s been a slew of research and varying theories on the subject. Though not an expert, I unfortunately have had quite a bit of personal experience with narcissists, loving them and trying to figure out how to love myself in their wake.
Here I’ll share my own experiences — and if they in any way mirror your own and make you feel in someway less alone, then it’s worth writing for TheFeminismProject.com. And, if my anecdotes turn your narcissist-induced frown temporarily upside-down — well, then it’s definitely worth it.
Is all narcissism bad? No, obviously not. We need some of the characteristics that define narcissism to function in this world. For instance, I wouldn’t be able to get to the end of this article, sentence even, if I didn’t have a little ‘magical thinking’. But, when you can see nearly all of the following traits in one person then chances are, you’re dealing with the bad kind of narcissism – the kind that spreads through you like a disease and slowly, painfully, breaks you down.
In 2002, clinical social worker and psychotherapist, Sandy Hotchkiss, published a guidebook on the subject Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. Hotchkiss’ seven characteristics of the narcissistic personality provides a handy outline for identifying these people — who are everywhere, by the way and basically unavoidable – showing up at your workplace, in your friend groups, your partners (worst) and your parents (double worst and unavoidable).
So let us review these deadly sins in hopes that they may serve as warning signs.
- Shamelessness – “Everything I do is wonderful and you’re lucky that I’m here.”
Shame, or the inability to acknowledge and cope with shame, is at the centre of narcissist’s evil strength. It is the kryptonite from which all narcissists are born and it is also their greatest weakness. Without the acknowledgement of shame one can quickly become unbearable. It’s the thing that floats away when you indulge in certain party drugs — but that for most, comes barreling back the next morning, causing the average person to cringe at the previous night’s Charlie Sheenesque version of themselves.
For the narcissist this shameless feeling is ever-present. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stood by my then boyfriend, while the eyes of the person being talked at steadily glazed over in boredom and feigned interest because they were too polite to say what they (and I) should have, that is, “please stop talking forever”.
- Magical Thinking – “I’m a unicorn! I’m Jesus! “I’m a Jesuscorn!”
This is one trait I would say is very necessary (in small doses) for an artistic person to create something and present it to the world with any confidence. In a narcissist it takes “I believe in myself ” to “I’m the best and most incredible person at this that ever lived and ever will live from now until the end of time, amen”.
This trait creates such a deluded sense of reality about oneself that a desire can go from an idea in their head to a fully formed and believed “reality” in no time. One of my narcissist exes would tell people that he was, “splitting his time between New York, Toronto and Montreal”. That summer we went from Toronto (where we both lived) to Montreal once — for about a week and that was only due to my desire and financial support. New York was a place that existed in the world, sure, but that he had actually never been to in his life. When confronted with these facts it didn’t seem to faze him, or even occur to him that he was telling a lie, because to him it wasn’t a lie — it was a thing he thought of and would therefore one day be reality and thus, was not a lie!
- Arrogance – “Get out of my way even when you’re not in it.”
In the presence of a narcissist, arrogance can and will rear its ugly head at the drop of a hat, due to the narcissist’s fragile and simultaneously bloated ego. While out one night to see a show with an ex, a member of the performing band spoke to me. That’s right, he spoke to me — I know, insane. Instead of staring back mutely, waiting for my boyfriend to speak for me, I responded with some of my own speaking. The whole crazy conversational event lasted maybe ten minutes…but the barrage of insults and humiliation I endured during the fight after lasted hours.
- Envy – “Everyone except me is stupid and useless.”
We all experience envy, it’s a natural and – if kept in check – healthy part of being human. For instance, I’m constantly envious of my cat, who, instead of going to work every weekday, has a five or six hour nap and then eats something before settling in for another well-deserved nap. But, not being a narcissist, I can admit my envy instead of becoming angry and telling the cat that he’s not even that good at napping and he’s doing it wrong anyways. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s honestly not far off from some of the things I’ve heard former partners say.
- Entitlement – “You were put on this earth to admire and serve me and you’re not even doing a good job at it.
Entitlement is the bitchy half-brother of envy. Entitlement takes envy to the next level and decides that whatever is desired should be theirs and if it isn’t — it is a true injustice. All of my ex-narcissists, I’m humiliated to say, cheated on me. One even did it openly and convinced me that I had asked for it and that it was owed to both him and me. These men felt entitled to both a girlfriend and the attention and affection of other women. To them it wasn’t “cheating” per say, it was all just a part of them giving the gift of themselves to the world. So generous, hey?
- Exploitation: “Oh thanks for loaning/unknowingly giving me all of your time, energy and money — you’re welcome. Now, if you would kindly hand over your soul.”
Here is where shit gets really dark. There is nothing more debasing than realizing that you’ve been exploited. Another level of being cheated — being exploited is like being forced to watch the cheating all for the enjoyment and benefit of the cheater.
A key skill involved with exploiting someone is the ability to manipulate. Most narcissists are also masters of manipulation; how else can the ruse of their entire, brittle existence endure? Chances are if you’re involved with a narcissist romantically that they’ve been exploiting you in some way, but the manipulation has blinded you. Trust me, I have the tears and credit card debts to prove it.
- Bad boundaries: “Hey stranger, what’s that weird scar on your body, can I take a picture of it?”
To a narcissist the whole world is waiting, open-armed and mouthed, for them to take their cock/vagina out and cum all over it. I brought my ex-narcissist to a small party once (to all my friends, for the thousandth time, I’m sorry), where there was a girl with a skin condition that caused small rashes and bumps to appear on her arms, hands and neck. Not only did he insult her by refusing to shake her hand — as if she were some kind of leper — but, before saying anything else to her (or anyone else at the party) he proceeded to ask her about it while everyone else sat there and listened. To her credit she was cool and confident about it and simply explained what it was. Now, I’m not saying she shouldn’t be able to talk about it — or even that we should be uptight about asking about something like this if we’re curious — but there are boundaries and he crossed them. He didn’t know anything about her — he didn’t think about the fact that it may make her uncomfortable or consider the fact that, as a virtual stranger who had just insulted her by refusing to shake her hand, she might not want to talk about it. These thoughts didn’t enter his mind because…narcissism!
You may be thinking to yourself now, oh man, I’ve acted like that, am I a gaping-asshole of a human? Calm yourself. We all have aspects of these characteristics in us and have probably even hurt another person when one of these traits got away from us — but if they do not define who you are, you’re not a narcissist. You’re may be considering shitty things you’ve done to someone and feeling some kind of remorse about it — but this is a behavior the narcissist will never display. Acknowledging and accepting responsibility for any of the above characteristics would threaten the existence of a true narcissist to their very core.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Am I in a bad situation with a narcissist partner?” Well, like I said, I’m no expert and I’m not going to pretend to know what to tell you what to do with your life. I do know that the only way to even start to make changes is to ask yourself if you’re truly happy — because if you’re involved with a narcissist you’re likely not simply unhappy, you’re probably miserable. So, caveat accepted, here are few things I did to escape the hamster wheel of misery dating I was in.
- Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, not the narcissistic asshat that got you into this situation. Talk to your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your impressively emotionally mature nephew — or if you don’t have any of these, talk to a therapist (this is going to be necessary at some point, by the way).
- Learn about it. Keep reading! You obviously have some free time — you found time to read my thought farts. Go online, go to the library, or, if you’re lucky enough to have time and money, the bookstore. Educating yourself more about something is never a bad idea.
- Cry about it. Let it all out my friend. Exploring my adventures in narcissism and dating has been a minefield of emotional pitfalls. Sometimes I feel sad as a cartoon deer and other times I’m angry like a cat that’s just been woken up by a jealous woman. You have to feel all the feelings. Understanding what led us to a bad situation is the only way to avoid repeating it.