The Narcissist’s First Impressions & Typical Grandiosity

The narcissist knows how to make a great first impression. That is how they begin their grand deception. They will put on the charm, ooze intelligence and seem so considerate that you just can’t help but feel like the luckiest girl in the world. You ask yourself how you could have landed the “last good man” to have walked this earth. However, if he seems to good to be true, then he most likely is.

I remember this such feeling. I was so excited and proud to have my narcissist over at my parents for the first time. It happened to be Christmas Eve, and he showed up at the door bearing personalized gifts for each of my parents, my grandmother, my brother and his girlfriend. At the time, I thought that it was so considerate and showed amazing generosity. I believed that he really must have liked me to want to win over my family with these thoughtful gifts. Waterford crystal wine goblets for my parents, and a leather men’s grooming dap kit for my brother and honey scented organic lotion gift basket for my grandmother. However, looking back, it was overkill. It was suspicious.

Before the night of the dinner, he told me he was going shopping to buy my family presents and I had told him that it was not necessary, especially since he had not even met any of them yet! But he insisted, he said that he did not want to appear at a Christmas party empty handed. I feel that the need to bring presents for people he had never even met was more about how he felt he appeared, rather than him wanting to be thoughtful and kind. Narcissists are very concerned with appearances and how they are perceived. This is a good example of that. This is also an example of “love bombing.” He was going above and beyond to shower me with oodles of attention with the intention of lulling me into a state of ease so that I would blindly trust him. All this effort was to make it easy for him to manipulate and control me.

I met my narcissist on a popular online dating site, first mistake. We agreed to meet at a Japanese steak house for dinner for our first date. I remember not knowing what to wear on a cold November evening.  I did not want to be overdressed, as I had done once before on a different date in the past and was a bit embarrassed, so I thought I better go more casual. I wore a beautiful knit designer sweater and a pair of great fitting jeans and high heeled leather boots, topping the look off with a fabulous, embroidered swing coat.  The narcissist was wearing a collared shirt and khaki’s (his strict wardrobe). The date went well and I felt safe dressing up a bit more for our second date, showing up wearing a more fancy little black dress and knee high boots, which he loved. He made a point of telling me at that time how he was not so sure of me the first date because of my choice to wear jeans. He laughed out loud and said that he was thrilled that I dressed the part on our second date. I found it odd that he could be so judgmental over something so inconsequential. But I just brushed it off. Next mistake.

Later in our relationship, I discovered that one of his many hatreds was of people who wore jeans. (Which for me was very difficult, because I love mine!) Well, I looked great on our first date despite the jeans, but on that second date he made sure to set the standard for me. After that moment, I knew better than to ever wear jeans when I was out with him on a date in the future. Whenever anyone asked about how we met, my narcissist always made a point to tell them that I was lucky to have gotten a second date with him on the account of me having the audacity to wear jeans on our first date. He was a snob, despite the fact that I come from a much better family background than he. But I strongly believe no one should act as if they are better than anyone. I have friends from all walks of life and am legitimately happy for others when something good goes their way. On the other hand, he does not and is not. It goes to prove another facet of narcissism, being “grandiose.” I always felt belittled for my choices, I simply could not be me. He chipped away pieces of me slowly and steadily for the next 7 years.

He always took longer getting ready to go out than I ever did, but then he acted like I took longer. I would even time myself, to prove it to myself that I was believing correctly. He would fuss over what clothes to wear and I would just throw something on. However, he had no problem letting me know what clothing I should or should not wear. I was not even “aloud” to wear my super comfortable Juicy Couture jogging pants outside the house. And if we had plumbers or other construction workers over for any reason, I was certainly not permitted to wear my juicy’s around them because he felt that those pants were “too revealing.” I thought that this was ludicrous because my regular pants were tighter fitting than those baggy sweat pants. I once tried to argue with him on that and he said that if I wanted to wear those pants (around my own house) when workers were present, it must be because I am wanting to be flirtatious with them. His reasoning was insane!

But then again, he is a narcissist, there is no sense to what they think. All they care about is their image and how their extensions of self (you and any children) help perpetuate that image. They are controlling, manipulative and do not care about your feelings because they have no empathy and are not capable of remorse. The narcissist is a shell of a human being, hollow, void of feeling, an empty vessel.  They truly believe that they are God’s greatest gift to us, but it is simply a belief of a dreadfully deluded mind.

Narcissists Have Unrealistic Expectations and Do Not Believe in Change

One of the biggest indicators of narcissism is a preoccupation with things staying the same. They operate the same in every relationship they enter and narcissists do not believe in change as an individual. The reason for this is because they feel that they are perfect and have no reason to change. One time, I made a comment of how “relationships change and people grow as they go through life” and he could not comprehend what I was saying.  Instead, he got irate and said “I like what we have, our relationship should always be in the honeymoon phase!” I responded with a gentle laugh and said that he cannot be serious, but sadly he was.  It is nature’s truth that nothing stays the same, even a child can figure that out by witnessing the leaves changing from green to brown, and falling down.  I went on to say that it is not natural to never alter your views on life as you grow older. The people you meet, the places you visit, the successes as well as the failures all teach us about who we are and how to better ourselves. Personal growth leads to a more fulfilling life.  But in that moment, he looked at me like I had spiders crawling out of my ears.  I knew right then, that it was going to be a bumpy ride!

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A typical trait of narcissism involves the “preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love” according to Sam Vaknin, self proclaimed and clinically diagnosed narcissist. This preoccupation manifests itself throughout everything narcissists do. Their view on life is considered by them to be the “correct” view, no matter how distorted their opinion of the world actually is. Thus, we the victims, must go along with the narcissist’s beliefs or else face punishment which may consist of silent treatments, rages, attacks, put-downs, pouting, guilt trips, etc.

Whatever your situation, the narcissist is obsessed with his or her idea of success. Whether the success be financial, supreme intelligence, gorgeous looks, or even relationship status, the ultimate control is key. In my situation, my narcissist was certainly obsessed with his retirement portfolio. He researched stocks and bonds every day. He spoke about retirement a few times a week despite the fact that he was 43. He defined success as retiring at 50. He was in a big hurry to go nowhere.  I always supported his goals, however, my family does not believe in retirement and feel that when you retire, your mind shuts down and you die sooner. Anyways, the thought of him not going to a place of work during the day and being around me even more, I admit sent shock waves throughout my system. I would push that thought as far away from my mind as possible. I desperately clung to the hope that he would change his mind as he was so prone to do.

We must learn to recognize that narcissists have a preoccupation with things staying the same. They are stagnant, repetitive creatures. Have you ever noticed that your narcissist constantly repeats him or herself? Mine was so predictable, I knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth.  And if you choose to stay with yours, it is a certainty that you will never be able to change your situation or to grow as a human being. I needed to break free from the chains my narcissist clamped around me, so that I could be unrestricted to grow and thrive as an individual has a right to.

 

The Narcissist has no empathy, however, you seem to have an endless supply, even for him…

It is a big sign that your partner is a narcissist when they appear to have no real empathy for you, or others. They appear indifferent and cold as ice. If the situation or topic is about something that they do not value, they shrug it off as inconsequential. Of course, narcissists sometimes simulate empathy, by using stale words with no real emotion behind them because they have learned the socially acceptable vocabulary for particular situations, however the real substance of emotion is missing. Actions speak louder than words here.

In my case, I told my narcissist husband about my dear friend’s mother dying when my friend was just a little girl. I told him that her mother had a long battle with a debilitating illness and a kidney transplant, but then passed away. I was overwhelmed with sadness for my friend and was telling my husband how I was in awe of her amazing life story and how she kept a positive outlook on life, despite her horrible loss at such a young age. His response was a bland “Oh that is too bad,” then he changed the subject. He had no expression on his face, in fact he started eating. I again asked him what he thought about my friend’s story and he had no other response or insight. I was appalled by his emptiness.

The real truth is that you and I are people with an overabundance of empathy. This type of person is called an “empath.” Narcissists choose highly compassionate, considerate and understanding individuals as their victims. They know that they have a much easier time manipulating a person who always looks for the good in others. You are a beautiful person with a beautiful soul, that is the upside. However, you have to look at the whole picture when looking at a person and not just the good pieces. All the pieces, good and bad, fit together to make up the puzzle of the person they are.

You know deep down that you overlooked the red flags that have been there since the beginning of your relationship. You either saw them and disregarded them because you felt that he had too many other good qualities to balance out the odd behaviors. Or you saw them and was afraid that acknowledging the problematic behavior meant that you had to confront him and you did not want to hurt his feelings, or risk losing him. As a result, you find yourself making excuses for his bad behavior by thinking that everybody handles emotions differently. You look for the good to balance out the bad, thus you are fooling yourself on a daily basis.

I will never forget the huge altercation my narcissist had with my parents Easter weekend, which happened to be my birthday this year. My parents were visiting for the weekend and after I spent all afternoon cooking a homemade dinner, my parents offered to get ice cream at the local store and my Dad wanted to take me along, for a one on one for a few minutes. However, my narcissist was offended that my dad wanted time with just me. So, he picked a huge fight with my wonderful, loving parents, he belittled them, and he put me down in front of them. He couldn’t be reasoned with and they had no choice but to leave early and drive three hours back to their house, and missing out on the holiday and my birthday, because he was so horrid to them and they did not want the children to witness anymore of their father’s antics. Basically, he cut my parents out of our lives that day, then he expected me to act like it did not matter to me.

Then the day after the confrontation, my narcissist expected me to act as if nothing happened. He wanted an automatic return of the status quo after the confrontation. I was not allowed to have lingering sorrow. He said that he thought we resolved the problem and he did not want to see me sulking. I responded that he could not expect a person, especially a woman, to go about her life as if nothing ever happened. I told him that I am entitled to my feelings of sadness, that I could not simply put a smile on my face and pretend that life was ok. This is an example of no empathy, and being out of touch with others feelings. My parents are the biggest parts of my life, they made me who I am. They supported every decision I ever made and had been nothing but supportive of us, then he treats them like garbage! Well, I made a choice that day, I was going to organize my plan to leave my narcissist husband.

If you have discovered that you are the victim of a narcissist, you must be a fabulous lady, because a narcissist only chooses the best for himself. You are probably asking yourself how you could have gotten into this situation with this hollow person? It is not your fault, so stop beating yourself up over it. You were deceived by a professional liar and manipulator. The valuable lesson is to learn the traits of a narcissist, so that you will never be fooled again.

The Narcissist’s abusive control can cause physical illness in the victim

The Narcissist’s abusive control can cause physical illness in the victim

The control they exert over you is so smothering. To me it felt like he had both hands cupping my heart and would squeeze it when he was asserting his will. I could not catch a deep, fulfilling breath in his presence. I felt like I was drowning on a daily basis.

The constant pressure of perfect performance gets to you after a while. The stress is ever present. I have always prided myself on being a “type A” personality, I get things done. I am a perfectionist, I am a neat freak, I cook and clean and do what is asked of me, and have not had a babysitter in over 3 years! I am a non-practicing attorney because I much prefer to stay at home with my children and watch them grow into amazing individuals. So I have been a full time homeschool mom these past 7 years. That can be a strain at times as any woman knows, but it is worth every minute!

However, if I ever voiced any of my tensions from that day, my narcissist would say “What’s wrong with you Mommy? Can’t you handle the house and the kids, or is that just too much for you?” Then he would go on about how stressful his job was and that my job at home was not stressful and that he would gladly trade his job for staying at home with the kids and putting me to work anytime. He belittled me so often like this that I could never have a qualm or complaint without him accusing me of being “ungrateful” that I got to stay at home.

All I wanted was to vent and to be able to talk to him about how draining it can be when you have a toddler throwing massive tantrums and a 5 year old fighting for attention all day long without even a second for me to decompress. He never wanted to hear about my day, even though he would ask sometimes. His eyes would glaze over and he would not pay attention to one word I said. Then he would ask me questions that I had already answered earlier in the conversation. I became furious with him at the drop of a hat because I was so horribly frustrated at not being heard by him. I felt like I was talking to a hole in the wall. It is a sad truth that narcissists don’t listen or pay attention to anything that is not related to them directly.

Believe me, I know pressure, I know stress! I went to law school and even passed the bar the first time. However, the pressure and stress that the narcissist applies was a dose that I could not withstand any longer.

My health was suffering and I started getting tingles in my legs and arms. I thought I had Multiple Sclerosis. I had five MRI’s that said nothing was wrong, thankfully! The neurologist asked me if I was an “anxious person” because he could only deduce that my body was responding to extreme pressure and stress with physical symptoms. Knowing what I know now, I believe that I had a nervous breakdown from all of the worry and upheaval that we have had the past 7 years of marriage. I noticed that the tingling got worse when my narcissist was around me, especially if he had “an issue he wanted to discuss with me.” That was one of the ways he framed his abusive diatribes.

During those times, I didn’t know what Narcissistic Personality Disorder was, but now I wish I had. It would have saved me so much pain and worry and youth. Time is something that you cannot buy and if you choose to waste it, you can never get it back.

What are the signs of NPD?

There are varying degrees of narcissism. Everyone at one time or another will exhibit narcissistic qualities and behavior. That is to be human. However, the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism is that it is so extreme and all-consuming that it adversely affects the relationships this person has with the outside world, especially those closest to him or her.  I want to shed some light on what helped me to discover my narcissist.  So, what are the signs of NPD?  According to Sam Vaknin, self professed and clinically diagnosed narcissist and psychopath, these are the following traits of people suffering with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Grandiose feelings of being self-important, all knowing. Strong belief that one is truly unique and can only be understood by, should only have dealings with or associate with other special or unique, or important people.

Example: My narcissist never wanted to hang out with my friends husbands. He felt that he had “nothing in common” with them. He had not made one friend in the seven years that we were together. I, on the other hand, was always blessed to meet some wonderful mommies to proudly call friends. But by that time I got comfortable in my new city, and started to have consistent play dates for our children, we had to pack up and move yet again. He resented any time that I had with my mommy friends while he was at work. And he forbid me to get together with my friends when he was home, or on the weekends because he said that it was “family time.” He said that he was not a babysitter and that I have responsibilities as a mother and cannot just have a life outside of our marriage. He justified it by saying that he did not have any guy buddies to hang out with, so I should not be hanging out with my girlfriends and neglecting my family duties. As if!

Obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, great power or omnipotence, supreme brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion.

Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious. This attention is the drug they crave and are addicted to known as “narcissistic supply.” If they don’t have it, they will go to any extent to unearth it from those people who surround them.

Example: If I did not dish out the compliments on his appearance or his ideas on a frequent basis, he would get needy and clingy and make me feel like I was ignoring him, which could not be further than the truth. Then he would ask me straight out how he looked or what I thought. After I dispensed with the much needed compliment, he would then go back and forth talking to himself as if I was not there, agreeing. I felt like when he walked into the room, there was someone standing behind him with a cue card calling for “compliment” or “attention.” Suffice it to say, that when he was around, I was exhausted because the real world stopped in his presence and it became all about him and his “happiness.”

Entitlement. Expects unreasonable or favorable preferential treatment.  Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations.

Example: Narcissist will ask for a manager in many instances to handle their problem, instead of just dealing with the subordinate employee/waitress/telemarketer, etc. He believes that no one else is sufficient enough to be of service to him, unless they are the superior in that circumstances.

Manipulative. Uses others to achieve his or her own ends. Will expect others to do work for him, because he believes that it is a privilege that he allows them to do things for him.

Example: After each of our six moves in six years, my parents were the only ones who helped us. My mother would also help clean each house at the move in and out. He was always somewhat nice when my parents were doing his cleaning and cooking, etc. but then he would become nasty and make jibes when he felt they were not being useful enough to him.

Un-emphatic. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others. Incapable of showing realistic sympathy for another’s pain or unfortunate circumstance. Narcissists looks at the homeless with disdain, has hatred of overweight individuals, and sick children. Also, narcissists will go on and on about their smallest of ailments expecting to be babied, but will refuse to acknowledge or minimize any real complaint or illness that you may have.

Example: I will never forget when I had a stomach bug and my narcissist looked at me with annoyance when I was sick throwing up in the bathroom at 3 a.m. It was the first time I was sick during our six year marriage. He was angry with me and said that I needed to be quiet because I was keeping him up, and that he felt I was not being considerate of him because he has an important job and needs sleep!

Envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her. Cannot be happy for other people’s success or happiness.

*Paranoid behavior. Feels that people are out to cause harm, or “out to get him,” or deprive him of happiness, or steal from him, etc. Will read into innocent statements and draw out insults where there are none.

Example: My narcissist always blamed my parents, or his parents, or his ex wife for any problems he had at any one of his jobs. He felt that they were somehow calling his workplace and spreading rumors about him. Insane! And if anyone at his work ever asked him where his wife was from, he would come home and interrogate me asking if his co-workers were trying to insinuate that we should move back to my hometown. He even accused me of putting those ideas into his co-workers heads! This is ludicrous because I had never even met any of those people. I told him that he was reading into people’s innocent questions and that those are common conversation starters when you begin a new job in a new town, which we did many times over six years. Talking him down from his paranoid perceptions of other people’s comments was a common occurrence for me.

Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted. Overly sensitive to any perceived criticism. Quick to order people around.

Example: My narcissist acted shocked and offended when I asked him, very nicely, to please pick up the pillow that he threw on the floor, or place his dirty dish into the dishwasher. He would react indignantly when I asked him to pick up after himself, then he would tell me to do it, because that it was “my job” since I stayed at home. Also, he was never shy about telling me to get this or that for the kids, when he was perfectly capable of doing so himself. Even if I was busy doing laundry, or making dinner, he would call me into the room to order me to fetch something for the children or him. I was expected to cheerfully stop whatever I was doing in order to cater to his every whim. This was “mommy’s job” according to him. Therefore, when he was home, I would become overwhelmed and anxious and felt like I had three kids instead of just the two.

So there you have it, the multitude of alarming traits that narcissists commonly display.   I hope this post helps you to see your narcissist in a brighter light and begin to reveal the deeply deformed emotional, and warped psychological distortions of their condition.

Narcissists use many forms of abuse to control their victims but that is a topic for a later post.

 

 

 

***Much of the above criteria for NPD comes from American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, Text Revision (DSM IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association as well as Sam Vaknin.