I have had a particular search term show up a lot lately: narcissists whochase women (or words to the same effect). Narcissists do chase women, but those who chase women aren’t really chasing women. Sound confusing? Read on.
First of all, my apologies to those who have suffered through a female narcissist. However, the fact is that most narcissists are male, hence the search for information on narcissists who chase women. I admit to having something of a bias in this area because I had a relationship with a male narcissist and I often write about my experiences with him and about what I learned. However, I was raised by a narcissist – my mother. It’s taken me a long time to see that and to even admit it or say it out loud or write it here. (It took a lot of reading and thinking and chatting with my blog friend Ursula at https://www.anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com. Thank you, Ursula.) So, to those who have experienced female narcissists and who may also feel a bit like they’re stepping on female territory, or who feel left out, don’t. A narcissist is a narcissist and that’s that. They may take different approaches, but the damage they cause is profound, no matter what sex you or they are.
Narcissists do chase, mostly because you have something they want or they think you have something they want.
They like to hang on to people whom they have for the most part discarded when they’re in the process of collecting someone else, just in case the new subject gets away.
They like to return to someone they have discarded when they are in between “relationships.”
The point is that they are never without someone. (Please see the piece I published about that particular situation.)
The first example – that narcissists chase when you have something they want or think you have something they want – is probably the trap that catches the most targets. Narcissists are usually determined, highly motivated and extremely single-minded when they have zeroed in on a target that they see as very suitable – in other words, when they have zeroed in on someone who fits a set of characteristics that they believe can be easily exploited.
There are degrees to which they will pursue, however. The less important you are to their wellbeing or sense of self and/or success, the less seriously they will invest energy in you.
The more desirable you are to whatever it is they need, the more ardent they will be.
So, if they really want something, and they believe that you have whatever it is they want and you possess the right characteristics, they will chase you. They will study you to find out the information they need in order to get you to trust them, and then they will put a lot of energy into proving that your trust is warranted. During this phase, you will feel like you have landed in the nirvana of relationships. It will feel absolutely wonderful.
What comes next, though, is devastating, because once they have secured you, once you are no longer a challenge, once they have achieved what they wanted from you, you will become, at best, unimportant. At worst, well, that could be anything that another human can do to you to hurt you.
Do narcissists chase? Yes. They do. It is what they do. It is their defining characteristic. It is how they survive, emotionally and financially. They chase women, men, colleagues, neighbours and children. They will chase anyone who fits the “profile” and from whom they can get whatever it is that they determine they need.
The important thing to remember though is that they aren’t really chasing people. They’re really chasing stuff.
When I take a look though my search terms, I am sometimes surprised at what I find there. “Narcissist piano” showed up there, three times. I did a post about it. Another time, I did a post on a very serious search term: how to get a narcissist to love you. You can read that post here.
Now I’ve found this lovely search term: what to say to a narcissist to get him back. I suppose that on the surface, it’s not so different from “trying to get a narcissist to love you,” but maybe the searcher is thinking of other things, like trying to get the narcissist back to force him into his share of the child-raising, or something else like that. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.
Maybe the searcher wants the narcissist back so that she can treat him as badly as he treated her: revenge! Hummm. That is a possibility. We human beings can get pretty angry at the injustices done us and sometimes it helps to fantasise about getting our own back. So yes, I can envision someone typing this into her google search, visions of vengeful scenarios dancing in her head.
But given the whole narcissist trainwreck that gets dumped all over the victim’s lawn, there’s probably always some fantasising about revenge, but on balance anyone who has escaped a narcissist probably doesn’t want him back. I mean, there might be those who fantasise that the narcissist has been cured, has mended his ways, has learned his lesson, yadayadayada. But no one dreams about getting the actual narcissist back, with his narcissy ways intact.
This person is in denial.
She’s heard others say that he’s a narcissist. She’s looked it up and seen some descriptors of narcissistic behaviour that apply greatly to this person. Maybe he’s told her that he’s a narcissist.
So, the word “narcissist” is out there, but she’s not taking it as seriously as she should. She’s dissociating from it?
Denial is an amazing thing.
Sometimes, denial can be a good thing. It can help us to make the adjustment after a traumatic or distressing event; it can give us time to take in what has happened. In the short term, it can protect us.
The problems start when the denial goes on for too long, especially in the face of mounting opposite evidence.
We can get that way about our relationships, and can find ourselves hanging on by the threadiest of marginal hopes that what we are seeing isn’t what we are seeing.
Or choosing to not see at all …
… and even inventing another “reality.”
What to say to a narcissist to get him back? How to get a narcissist to love you? How to get a narcissist to chase me? I wonder about the people who type in these questions. Sometimes, I worry about them a bit too.
Do they just not know what a narcissist is? A real, live, NPD narcissist?
Have they convinced themselves that they can “cure” the narcissist with their love? That all the narcissist needs is a chance to see that trust is possible? That love is possible?
Is the narcissist simply a challenge? (And if so, this brings with it a whole other dynamic – is the person who’s trying to win the narcissist back also a narcissist?)
Or, is this simply human nature? A very human need to show that problems, no matter what they are, can be solved? That there really is love in a world that so often demonstrates the opposite? That there are second chances and that they do work?
In other words, that there’s hope. And perhaps, that’s the most human of human characteristics. And also perhaps, it’s incredibly misplaced sometimes.
What do you think? Is hope sometimes misplaced? How do we know when to have hope and when to not have hope? Is denial hope or hope denial?
NPD narcissists consume a huge amount of emotional labour. And before you know it, you can be down on your knees, completely exhausted, while the narcissist continues to, at the very least, be extremely dissatisfied.
There is no filling them up. They are never full. They are never sated. They are never content.
They simply have periods of digestion. Slowing down, savouring, enjoying … that’s not something with which they’re comfortable.
And yet, they desire the relief that slowing down and savouring can bring. They want it desperately and will chase it far and wide, but don’t know when they have it and are even scared of attaining it.
If they slow down … they might have to really consider themselves. And why bother with doing that? Because there you are, ready and willing to help them avoid their inadequacies and polish their fantasies.
Your love, your work, your labour will save them. At least for now. Until you do something human that screws up their picture of you and they start convincing you that there’s serious stuff wrong with you.
Up until that point, you’ve been pouring your emotional energy into them to shore them up, to give them a sense of self-confidence, to make them happy, to take away their pain, to provide them with everything they think they have been missing. And you’re beginning to feel depleted and exhausted.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because when you start to think that they’re right, that there’s stuff wrong with you and that that’s why they’re detaching, you will bear down even more.
You will expend labour on improving yourself, fixing yourself, correcting yourself. You will forget about your efforts to help them. There’s a terrifying, growing list of stuff you have to attend to, right now, before they walk out the door forever and it will be all your fault. Your emotions are twangling like a poorly strung violin.
All that work. All that labour. And this is what you get?
How did this happen?
Well, it happened because that’s how a true NPD narcissist is. The second they acquire whatever they have been chasing, they lose interest. And make no mistake, you are a “whatever.” After the chase has been won, you simply become a source of supply. Supplying what? A supply of whatever the narcissist saw as being desirable to take from you.
It could be money. Or status. Or connections. Or a place to live. Or warm fuzzies. Maybe it was all of those. It could be that you provided yourself as a person to control. Or as a person to feel superior to. Or maybe you’re a challenge to be dismantled, in which case you supply him with proof that no one is better than he is. Whatever the combination of holes you were filling for the narcissist … that’s what you were doing. Filling holes.
And filling holes is time consuming, hard labour with little reward; few of us will want to shout, oh, look what I did! A hole to be proud of!
So. The seasonal narcissist. A narcissist behaves according to three operational seasons: idealising, devaluing and discarding.
Oh yes. Narcissists can take apart a seasonal holiday, too. I’ve written about that before, and you can read my scribblings here and here. But to the narcissist, you are also seasonal, and you have a beginning, middle and end.
Is there anything seasonal about the narcissist from a conventional point of view? Yes, there is.
Think Hallowe’en. Think hobgoblin.
Personally, I tend to think dentist, as in that stuff you find in the spit cup they give you. I certainly don’t think Valentine’s Day. If there’s a season out there for the narcissist to manipulate your emotional labour and “prove” to you that you’re anything but special, it’s Valentine’s. In fact, it’s one of their favourite discard days.
Have you had a seasonal experience with a narcissist?
Today I listened to CBC radio’sTapestry presentation on the subject of emotional labour. It’s an interesting topic and a type of work to which someone has finally given a name. Essentially, emotional labour is anything that people do that requires an emotionally invested outlay of energy. For example, we expend emotional energy keeping track of and making sure that our children go to the dentist, we listen when friends or family members need a shoulder to cry on, or we ensure there’s gas in the car. For the most part, emotional labour refers to the million little maintenance jobs (and sometimes not so little) that need to be taken care of and done on a regular basis, although much of this work can also be unexpected and/or quite time consuming. Statistically, it’s mostly women who complete these tasks, and we apparently spend a lot of time on them.
While listening to this piece, I was reminded of the amount of emotional labour one will expend if involved with a narcissist, and then I was reminded of a post I did about three or four years ago called The Seasonal Narcissist. It’s one of my more popular posts, particularly at this time year, but it only looks at the seasonal narcissist from the perspective of dealing with one on a temporary basis. It doesn’t really look at the long game at all. And it also doesn’t look at the energy that goes into having to be married to or in some sort of live-in relationship with one while Christmas, or any other holiday or special occasion, is in full swing.
Those of you who are familiar with me know that I have first-hand experience with this. Over a 20-month period, I became immersed in all the difficulties one encounters during any type of special occasion if involved with an NPD narcissist.
The emotional energy I expended around these events was enormous.
First of all, “Harry” was incredibly unpredictable in general, but if Christmas was coming up, he was much worse. I have read lots of accounts of people watching their narcissist walk out the door just before Christmas (or other special events), leaving the significant other or spouse in emotional hell and the children devastated, only to return as soon as the holiday or event is over.
This is typical behaviour.
Essentially, they don’t want anyone to enjoy the holiday or event, because they aren’t going to be the centre of attention. And if they aren’t going to be the centre of attention, then what’s the point? It’s just a bunch of work for nothing. Then there’s also the problem that watching others have fun when they’re not is just too much to bear.
So, let’s take everyone down! Let’s make everyone feel like crap! Let’s walk out! Let’s have a horrible argument! Let’s make everyone feel as wretched as possible!
Then everyone’s attention will be back where it should be. That’ll teach them!
I spent two Christmases with Harry. During the first one, we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii and within a couple of days, he became completely morose and withdrawn. I had no idea what was going on and felt confused, scared and concerned. The only time he talked was to forcefully complain about everything from what I was wearing to the food that was available. All he wanted to do was stay in the hotel room and watch tv. Otherwise, he brooded and became uncommunicative. He faked a stomach bug (I know this because he kept eating heavy meals from the room service menu) so that he didn’t have to go out. A couple of times, he claimed boredom. Of course, suggesting that he leave the room would have been met with more complaints.
Describing him as “high maintenance” would have been an understatement.
Unbeknownst to me, though, it was my very first set of indicators that the person I married wasn’t the person I married.
When we got back home, for a short time he became all sweetness and light, and apologised for his behaviour in Hawaii by claiming that he just hadn’t been feeling well. I didn’t know it then, but my expenditure of emotional energy was about to go up in a big way, because during our trip, he had been grooming me to walk on eggshells.
By the time our second (and last) Christmas came around, I was dwelling in a land of contradiction, confusion and confrontation. I had been shouted at and called every kind of name. I had been accused of betrayal, disrespect and dishonesty. I had been accused of contemplating an affair and of spending too much money. I had been accused of eating too much, of making too much noise when eating, of eating the wrong things, and of being an alcoholic. He said I was lazy, poorly educated and stupid. My clothes and hair were wrong. My furniture was wrong. Nothing was right.
And for a while, I swallowed the notion that it was me who was the problem.
My head was swimming and I was starting to feel like I might head into a depression, but I kept trying. I invested serious emotional labour into trying to fix the so-called wrongs. The list of things that I needed to be careful about became longer and longer and I tried to adhere strictly to the “rules,” but every time I thought I had them right, he changed them and pretended that they had always been that way.
Just before the holiday, I was subjected to a tongue-bashing that left me reeling, but as I see it now, it was also the beginning of my liberation.
It dawned on me that he was looking for an excuse to leave or to destroy any happiness that I might have during the holiday with family and friends. And once I made that connection, other connections that had been loitering in the background strode into the foreground.
An uneasy Christmas proceeded, but the day before New Year’s Eve, when we were supposed to go to a party together, the other shoe dropped. He announced that he was leaving and would be back later in January to pick up his things. According to him, we were done.
And that’s when I turned the tables on him. I left, and spent the night at a friend’s house.
My friend C invested some serious emotional labour of her own in helping me through that night and encouraging some flames from those awareness embers.
I began to see that I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. I began to see that no matter what I did or didn’t do, it would never be good enough. I began to see that no matter how much emotional labour I invested, it would never be enough.
Trying to maintain him, to run around trying to remove any source of annoyance or anger from his day was impossible, because there was always something else. There was no amount of love, effort, or material items that would satisfy him. He was a bottomless pit, and I was expected to keep trying to fill it until I was exhausted and no longer useful.
The beginning of the end had started. Within the next month, I had started counselling, and seven months after that, I got him out of my house.
What it finally came down to was an unadorned realisation on my part that there was nothing I could do except walk away and work at getting my life back: the seasonal narcissist is always a narcissist. It’s just that they do more manipulation when those special occasions roll around. They know that people want to have fun and want things to go well, and that makes them vulnerable and malleable, especially if children are involved.
Stay tuned for Part II.
Have you experienced a seasonal narcissist? What are your thoughts about emotional labour?
The US election campaign is winding down and there’s not much left to do except the counting. There’s been an absolute, batshit-crazy amount of talk, writing, crying, and gnashing of teeth over it. And with good cause.
For multitudinous reasons, the country that I live next to and admire is poised to possibly elect as its president one of the least qualified people they could possibly find anywhere. An orange-tinted, intellectually challenged, morally bankrupt, emotionally unstable pussy-grabber.
Yes. Pussy-grabber. It’s not my term. I borrowed it off Bill Maher, but it is lovely, isn’t it?
I’m dismayed at the depth and degree of racism, prejudice and outright anger that Trump’s presidential bid has uncovered. Seriously, it makes me cringe. And it seems that the people who follow him can’t be dissuaded by any degree of outrageous behaviour on his part. He tells whopping great lies. His idea of foreign policy is to build a wall. He makes really inappropriate sexual comments about his own daughters. He has demonstrated what borders on hatred, or at the very least, a profound contempt for women, the handicapped, blacks, Hispanics and anyone else who’s not a white male, except for Muslims of course. He has called for Clinton to be “locked up.” Some of his followers are even shouting for her to be “executed.” He has associated with white supremacists. He loves Putin. He steals. He cheats.
More than once, I have found myself speechless at his inane pomposity, sanctimony and juvenile belief in his own superiority.
A number of moons ago, no one believed that Trump would get very far. He was seen as a hard-right, narcissistic fruit loop who couldn’t find his own ass with both hands and a map. He was incapable of leading a trip to the toilet.
How times change.
Now he’s a hard-right, psychopathic fruit loop who still can’t find his own ass with both hands and a map.
He’s amped himself up.
And so have the rest of us. Some people are now starting to refer to him as another Hitler. Is that going too far?
Is he a narcissist? A psychopath? Someone who is just exploiting those characteristics in order to get elected? But then, wouldn’t that make him a narcissist/psychopath anyway?
Should those terms even be bandied about? The terms narcissist, narcissism, narcissist, psychopath and psychopathic have been very popularly, very loosely used over the last few years. Have they started to lose their impact, their importance, through overuse?
Is this one of those times when those words really do apply to someone and people are ignoring them because vocabulary fatigue has set in?
I’m feeling some caution here. I’m not a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist, but I’m convinced that I was married to a narcissist. I started writing publicly about that experience, right here, in this blog. So, from one point of view, the one that says that I am not equipped to do any diagnosing, I really shouldn’t have done that.
I follow others who also write about narcissism and its effects. They are insightful, smart, knowledgable and experienced. And me, I’m writing about it right now. Am I just part of a sort of weird cult that thinks and writes obsessively about narcissism? A cult that will eventually disappear, the idea and popularity of writing about narcissism having burned itself out?
On the other hand, I’m an intelligent, well-read person who can figure things out. And I know that I was married to a narcissist, especially now that I have some distance from that experience. I know that it’s important to write about it, to read about it, to reflect on the importance it has had in my life. I know about narcissism.
Various professional psychiatric organisations in the US have warned their members not to weigh in on Trump by giving some sort of diagnosis. And that’s how it should be, otherwise there could be a great deal of abuse.
But … I know they can’t comment, that to do that would fly in the face of every ethical precept.
But. But, but, but.
This man is dangerous. And a lot of people aren’t getting that.
I believe that at the very least, Trump probably has narcissistic personality disorder. He strongly reminds me of my ex-narcissist. So yes, I’ve just done a pseudo-diagnosis and hung another label on him. Sometimes, you just have to use a label and call him what he is. A pussy-grabber?
But all joking aside, I believe that as a result of his NPD, he’s not fit to be president of a row-boat society, let alone a country that has a huge military and a large nuclear arsenal.
If he wins, he will be so blithely unaware that he will be open to manipulation from other world leaders and from his own government. His judgement – about anything – will be unreliable and suspect. He will be unpredictable. He will be uncaring and exploitative. He will be vindictive and petty. Once there, he won’t really want the actual job. For him, this is only a trophy. And it’s one he will want to keep for life.
Is there a sort of “narcissism fatigue”? Perhaps. Are some of us too preoccupied with this personality issue and therefore stealing some of its thunder, so to speak? Maybe.
Could this be part of the reason why people aren’t taking Trump’s obvious drawbacks as seriously as they should?
Or is it more important to people to do a protest vote than to think about its consequences?
Many people might say that all Trump is doing is saying what he thinks, and that that’s no different from what I’m doing. Hummm.
What I do know is that years of reading, writing and thinking about narcissism tells me that a Trump government will be an absolute mess, and maybe worse.
I hope that I’m worried about nothing. But then, that’s only the beginning, isn’t it? Because really, the reasons for Trump’s popularity need some serious sorting.
A lot has been written about the difficulties involved in leaving a narcissist, especially if there are children involved.
A lot has also been written about going “no contact” or involving a third party to minimise contact if there are children.
What I haven’t seen a lot about is the business of how to move on after after. That is, after you have left the narcissist or the narcissist has left you,
and you finally know that you don’t want him or her back again.
After the assets and possessions have been dealt with or the custody issues resolved (and yes, I realise that if there are children, there are likely always going to be problems with the narcissist, but I’m referring to finding a situation that’s perhaps as good as it’s going to get) and the dust has settled.
You have your life back.
You might feel deflated.
I’m not kidding.
For example, in my case, it only took four months from the time I separated from my ex-narcissist to the time that my divorce became final. I had a good lawyer who fast-tracked my case on the grounds of cruelty. She was concerned (needless to say, as was I) about his unstable behaviour, the death threats he had made and the continued stalking. The police were involved. He had threatened some of my friends and had written a letter to my employer accusing me of unprofessional behaviour. My employer had turned the letter over to me, unopened.
I also made the difficult decision to buy him off. I’m not wealthy, not by any stretch, but I felt that if money could allow me to turn the corner on this, could secure me some measure of security, then it was worth it.
And all this concerted effort and financial incentive worked.
I was granted a very timely and efficient divorce, without opposition.
The ex-narcissist continued to pursue me for some time afterward, but that tapered off and then eventually stopped. I haven’t heard from him for a couple of years now.
I had gone into counselling to deal with my feelings and sense of inadequacy about this situation, but that, too, stopped. One day, my counsellor told me that I didn’t really need him any more.
So there I was, with my life back. Suddenly.
It was what I had desperately wanted. But it felt strange. Odd.
It felt like something was missing.
And really, something was missing: all that adrenaline, all that worry, all the quick changes to the house with new locks, new doors, a new alarm system. Attempts at measured calls to friends, to the police. But they could tell anyway that I was frantic. Meetings and e-mails. Trips to the bank. Forms and papers. The not sleeping.
And before that, there had been my decision to divorce him. And before that, there had been that terrible life with him. A life of constant stress, of constant hectoring and confusion and volatility. A life in the land of the narcissist. And that is a strange place.
After all that, just being with my real life was no longer familiar. I had to learn it again. And I had to incorporate all the stuff I had learned.
So, I wasn’t really going back to my old life. That was forever gone.
I had a new thing. It was sort of my old life, but also not. I had the same job, the same house, the same friends and the same family. But I was a lot wiser and happier and yes, sadder, especially about how I was also partly responsible for putting myself in this situation. I found myself processing for a long time afterward.
I am still processing, and will likely always be processing.
Because to close the book on an experience like this is to move on before the full set of lessons can become clear.
And that’s dangerous. It might invite false confidence. To think that we know everything we need to know, well, isn’t that kind of narcissistic? There’s always more to learn.
So, once you have finally dumped that narcissist and gotten your life back, allow yourself to explore this new reality.
Take your time, and value the positives that have come from it.
Let yourself be okay with having gotten mixed up with a narcissist.
Incorporate what you have learned into your new/old life.
Realize that you might feel deflated. That’s okay, too.
Remember that a new beginning is a good thing, and don’t forget to be forgiving of yourself.
I’ve noticed from time to time a tendency on some of the narcissism blogs that I read, for people to get a little testy about the things said about narcissism, narcissists and their victims. I have experienced testy commentary a couple of times and in one case, an outright angry response to a comment that I made – an accusation that I didn’t understand narcissism, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I didn’t know what it is like to be a victim.
Initially, I was hurt by the remark. I took it personally.
Reading, writing and thinking about narcissism is an emotional and arduous task. It requires a great deal of work, very difficult work that takes time, effort and sometimes, money.
When I first separated from my ex-narcissist, I went for counselling. I was fortunate on several fronts. First, I had a health care account that allowed me to cover the cost of counselling. Secondly, I had an excellent counsellor. And last, but not least, I had very supportive people in my life.
I moved on. I started a new relationship with a man to whom I am now married. My life is good, better than it has ever been, in fact.
I also started this blog. Initially, it was only about narcissism, but as I recovered and grew, I moved on to other subjects, too.
I still write about narcissism, obviously. I still read about narcissism. I still think about narcissism. A lot.
I have realized, too, that my recovery is not complete, and that it likely never will be. I am still processing many things about narcissism, and have also come to the realization that my mom was probably also a narcissist. That means that I may be an ACON, or an adult child of a narcissist(s).
This has opened an entire other door for me. One that I didn’t consciously know was there. It was a surprise, but also not a surprise.
I knew that something was wrong, but I thought it was always my fault. I spent a great deal of time trying to “fix” myself.
But what I know now is that I’m mostly okay. I have tendencies to behave in certain ways that I learned when I was a child. I am slowly getting that some of these “behaviours” are actually just reactions.
I am taking the time to slowly process a somewhat difficult childhood that lead to some rather shitty decisions on my part. I’m finally starting to really see that I am in charge now, that my decisions are my own and my responsibility.
My pronounced childhood stutter is almost entirely gone.
I don’t take testy commentary personally any more.
Dealing with and processing narcissism is work. And like any other work, it can be frustrating, boring and tiresome. But this work also demands a great deal of intense emotional investment. It’s draining and exhausting.
So, people who are deeply processing can make comments that come out of an emotional hole. They can sound waspish and bitter, or even ridiculous and idiotic. They may be grief-stricken or preachy. And, they may be making the same comment for the 3,405th time because they still can’t believe it and still have to say it. And that’s okay, too.
Repetition can be the mother of recovery.
And recovery is what many of us are here for, right?