When the narcissist speaks of their former partners, you’ll hear a lot of words like “unstable”, “crazy”, “evil”, “bipolar”, etc. They will regale you with tales of all they endured in the past, ever the hero or victim, and never at fault for the unpredictable, cruel, irrational behaviors of the ghost of relationships past.
Blasting their exes to you serves several purposes. First off, it is meant as a low and cheap way to build you up. They are essentially telling you that you are better, and is meant to make you feel secure that of course they would want someone like you after all they have endured.
It also creates pity for the narcissist for what they went through, which deters from the reality of the situation, which is that most of what they disclose may be outright untrue, as well as the fact that while they may be telling you about how the exes behaved, they often completely leave out the context of the situation, which is them driving anyone who is in a relationship with them to the edge of insanity. When exposed to enough of it, the constant manipulation and distorted reality created by the narcissist can drive almost anyone, even the soundest of minds, to respond strongly, perhaps in ways that are even totally out of character for them. In fact, this is what the narcissist BANKS on happening.
Finally, talking about things their exes did in a negative way can be how they give backhanded warnings that you better not do the same, lest you join the list of undesirables. The flip side of this is that they also often have exes who are still in their lives as “friends”, that you may end up beginning to have suspicions about — and rightfully so. The narcissist hates to give up a good source of admiration, sex, money, attention, etc. So they continue to manipulate and string along those who have been able to break free in the past. If you two fight, part ways, go on a break, etc… don’t be surprised to find out they slipped one of these “backups” in your place without blinking. That’s why they are there.
4. Double Standards
The narcissist is constantly seeking to meet their own needs, and they have zero interest in yours. The only time they may appear to be doing something for you, or in your interests, it is because it somehow serves them. This means when they say “jump” you’re supposed to say “how high?” Meanwhile your requests or desires often go completely unnoticed, sometimes even ridiculed.
They will find ways to take something you wanted to do and make it less appealing than what they wanted, or guilt you into agreeing by making you out to be selfish and uncaring of their needs. They tend to project their own sneaky, self-serving behaviors onto others at times to get what they want. This can go with the love bombing/withholding affection dynamic. When they want to shower you with love, or have sex, or forge intimate connections, they are all in. But the second they are bored, or feel you are not cooperating with them in some way — or maybe that they need to remind you who is in control — they will slam shut like a book, turn cold, sneer at you for wanting to be physical, and possibly even flat out ignore you.
They will flirt with others, chat with exes, and constantly maintain some sort of “fan club”, while you may be lectured for so much as mentioning a former romance. They will do what they want, disappear without explanation, not return calls or texts, and then pop back up like nothing happened. On the other hand, if you aren’t there to meet their every whim, you will be punished one way or another, usually by guilt trips and silent treatment. Bottom line: their needs are important, and yours are not.
5. Something just feels “off”, whether you can put your finger on it or not.
Narcissists thrive by skewing your sense of reality. They need your self-esteem low and your self-doubt high. They rely heavily on “gaslighting”, which essentially is a tactic that erodes the target’s sense of reality. This can be done by lies and exaggerations that are consistently repeated until they seem to be real simply by their constant presence. It can be done by giving false hope and instead delivering up rejection and disappointment. It can be done by escalating into distancing, verbal abuse, taunting, or rage when questioned. This leaves the target fearful to do so again, as well as being guilted or scared into believing they were mistaken.
The narcissist will also encourage you to feel anxious and insecure, which fosters a totally toxic and codependent dynamic that leaves them in control. This can be spotted early on by them being flirty with others in front of you or where they know you will see it, such as on their social media or around sources they know will report back to you. Then will flat out deny it so resolutely that you’ll be left reeling. “Did I REALLY see that? Maybe I DID imagine it.” No. You didn’t.
It can also be spotted early on in noticing that they tend to make little digs at you, or playfully insult you in a way that isn’t quite funny. They make jokes at your expense in front of groups of people, and then hide under the guise of “just playing around.” If you react at all, they may start throwing around those nasty words they used to slander their exes, which of course you don’t want for yourself. So you keep quiet, allow the remarks to continue, and allow your self-esteem to be chinked away at further. The lower it is, the easier you are to control, the more anxious you are, and the more likely you are to become codependent on them.
So if you start feeling your instinct screaming at you that something seems wrong here, LISTEN TO IT. If there’s a red flag, pay attention. Don’t try to convince yourself that the flag is orange, or magenta, or fuchsia.
What to do…
If you find that the more time you spend around this person, the more you feel unsure, confused, replaying scenarios, obsessing, or just “crazy”, GET OUT. The longer you spend in a relationship with someone with NPD, the worse it gets. It’s harder to break free the more they learn about you, your weaknesses, and how to best manipulate you.
Don’t try to win, to outsmart them, to get back at them, to reason with them, to try to make them see these bad behaviors and how they affect you. Pleading your case means nothing. Asking them to change will be met with either fury, or perhaps agreement… but it will only be to appease the situation and give you a false sense of hope, or balance in the relationship.
The scars that they leave run deep if they are given the chance to stay and continue to exert their will. Your ability to trust yourself, believe in others, make decisions, feel confident, and trust, will be left in tatters, if not totally destroyed.
While they are very sneaky and good at what they do, there ARE signs, and they will show up fairly quickly. So if you see these things early on, don’t wait to find out. The only option to get away for good is to go complete NO contact. They will tell you they will change, they will tell you that you can be “just friends”, they will tell you they see the light… And you may believe them. Do not give them the opportunity to get back into your life. Block, block, block. The sooner you realize you have a parasite, the less damage it is able to do.