After someone has come out of a relationship or even just a friendship with a narcissist, they often question how they got sucked in at the start. What signs did they miss? Are there clues which you can look for in order to avoid people and how far do you have to become involved before you know?
Well, I have compiled a list of red flags for you to use as litmus test whenever you meet someone who either wants to date you or become your friend:
- Rushing Intimacy
- Handing out compliments like candy
- Monopolising your time and attention
- Guilt tripping
- Running hot and cold
Let’s examine these…
This could be an obvious thing like trying to get physical before you comfortable, but it can be other things like oversharing their personal details. Often they will do this in a very transactional way so that you feel obliged to reciprocate.
Physical intimacy can be put on hold in a nice way by simply saying that you don’t move that quickly. In cases of personal stories, you can easily express moderate sympathy without becoming personally involved or sharing any details about yourself. They’re not entitled to anything more than this unless you deem them trustworthy.
Another ploy is to draw you into “taking sides” with them over another person who is their “enemy” for whatever reason. This may be an ex-partner, or another friend, or a work colleague. This traps you into being complicit with them in bullying another person who may not even be aware that any such struggle is taking place.
A really good example of this is in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when Wickham tells Elizabeth the story of his “betrayal” at the hands of Darcy within hours of meeting her. Others actually warn Elizabeth against taking him at his word so quickly, but she doesn’t listen to their advice, partly because she fancies Wickham and partly because Darcy has already rubbed her up the wrong way. Wickham tested her out before he told his story by checking if she liked Darcy.
All of this is very typical of how a narcissist operates. If you ever want to research human foibles, read the collected works of Jane Austen.
The end game of doing this is to simultaneously forge a bond between you and also for them to find out what your boundaries are and if they can be compromised. If you’re malleable enough, they can potentially push you into accepting other boundary breaches as the relationship progresses.
When they start encroaching on your boundaries like this, you must remain neutral and almost passive but immovable like a rock. Simply say; “Maybe you should talk to them about it, they seem like a reasonable person.”
There’s a big difference between someone who naturally thinks your shoes are cool and someone who is stroking your ego like a predator salivating over prey.
Of course, some narcissists are better at this technique than others so it may not come across as fake, but if a compliment makes you cringe like nails scraping down a chalkboard, listen to that instinct.
Again, this is a transaction for the narcissist. They want the compliment repaid in full and if they don’t get it, there tends to be an uncomfortable pause in the air designed to activate your guilt.
Don’t engage with this. Simply smile, thank them for the compliment and accept it as something which you’re entitled to have.
The aim of the compliment is to find out whether you will be uncomfortable about it. Discomfort tells the narcissist that you’re insecure in that area.
At a later date they will flip this around and use it to insult you or undermine your confidence. If this happens, do not react to it. Their attempt to make something personal is usually a last-ditch effort at bluster and not worth your time or energy.
Monopolising Your Time and Attention
Also known as Love-Bombing, this can apply to friendship or a date.
They will make sure that they occupy as much of your mental space as possible. The aim is to turn you into a dopamine junkie who is reliant on them alone for the supply. With this technique they will usually employ the compliments as well. The two go hand-in-hand.
The best way to tell if they’re doing this is to make yourself unavailable for at least every second date or hang-out they’re requesting. Limit their access to you and see how they respond to it.
A mentally healthy person will understand that you have a life outside of them and leave the invitation open for another time. They won’t invade your privacy or start stalking.
It’s also important for you to make sure that you maintain other relationships away from this person. You need balance in life and should never make one other person your entire world.
A narcissist will be offended that you aren’t allowing them access whenever they want it. They may start sulking, threatening, being passive-aggressive or simply crossing whatever boundary you set.
The aim of monopolising your time is to make you dependent on them and to cut you off from support networks so that when they start the abuse you’re in an isolated condition.
This is a great one, because we do it to ourselves and this means the narcissist can use plausible deniability. They didn’t make you spend time with them, you chose to do it all on your own (because they activated your sense of guilt).
This might look like playing the victim, a favourite strategy for covert narcissists. They may tell you how depressed and lonely they are, or how much they miss you, or start paying you a lot of compliments.
They will often say negative things about themselves which are to trigger your empathy and evoke compliments to “boost” their self-esteem. They don’t actually need this, they just want you to feel protective of them. Don’t engage with this.
They’re not a helpless puppy, they’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Be an immovable rock, regardless of how your guilt may be triggered. They can’t know if it’s working or not if you aren’t responding.
Running Hot and Cold
This trick is designed to make you freak out over the possibility of losing them.
Often this will be used after they have done the previous techniques, but sometimes they start with this.
For example, someone might ask you out and then stand you up or turn up an hour late just to see if you’re prepared to accept that kind of disrespect. They might ghost you for two weeks and then just suddenly pop up like nothing happened.
If you question any of this behaviour, you’ll get no remorse from them. Often it will be flipped around so that you become the chump who was waiting for them.
You can choose to question them and make note of the response, or you can ensure you aren’t the first to make contact. If they try and hit you up again, just brush it off and say that you’re sorry about the confusion but you haven’t had time to reach out lately.
DO NOT accept another invitation from this person. They aren’t worthy of your precious time.
Your time is valuable; you can’t get it back.
Your energy is valuable; you could be spending it on things which you enjoy instead of getting stressed out over some loser (male or female).
The relationship ISN’T REAL. They are incapable of genuine feelings for anyone except themselves and they view everyone (including you) as an enemy to be crushed.
You deserve better; like, seriously, you deserve better.