When we meet a narcissist, they seem kind, gregarious, empathetic, intuitive, often well-groomed, and just all-around pleasant. They make an incredible first impression. But it doesn’t take long for an emotionally mature person to pick up on the red flags of narcissism. And if you are the unknowing victim of a narcissist, it doesn’t take long for you to be confused about the way he treats you compared to how things started out. But what exactly does the narcissist do that makes them narcissistic?
Based on research and experience with both a narcissistic mother husband, I have created this list of 41 examples of narcissistic behavior that, if recognized, can help anyone know what is going on and how to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with a narcissist. All of these examples are based on real-life experiences. Many are mine, some are from people I have worked with over the years. Let’s take a look!
Table of Contents
1. Narcissists Will Say or do Anything to Make a Good First Impression
The only way a narcissist can get people to gaslight, blame, lie to, and otherwise attack is to suck them in. This is done by making a good impression, and then by love bombing once they have attained a new source of narcissistic supply. If they were obvious about their narcissistic treatment of others, nobody would ever put themselves in a position to be used by the narcissist.
It is amazing how much they can show sacrifice, empathy, concern, and anything else to show people what a great person they are. But they can’t show any of that when they no longer see that person in a positive light. When my marriage was ending, my ex couldn’t even begin to say or do anything kind to me. Unless he was trying to show others that he did love me and it was my fault that our relationship was crumbling. If he has something to gain from someone seeing something he does, he would be able to do just about anything.
Unfortunately, I would pay for it once we were behind closed doors. That would be normal for any victim of narcissism. I was not a special case.
2. Narcissists are Consumed by how People Perceive Them
You can almost see it on their faces. Their faces look like they are concentrating intensely, figuring out the best next move to get them where they think they need to be. Almost like someone playing an avid game of chess. Narcissists have to be seen in a positive light. They worry about every little thing they say and do and how it affects they way people perceive them. They have to make sure they don’t slip up. And if they do, they will work overtime to change the negative perception back to positive.
The truth is that most narcissists, especially covert narcissists, absolutely need to have the unilateral approval of everyone around them. One example would be when my ex husband spoke up in Sunday School one day about the fact that he needs people to approve of everything he does because otherwise he would feel like a failure. Nobody responded. And honestly, I was stunned that he would say that publicly.
Narcissists cannot face their shame. This is believed to originate from an early childhood where parents or other authorities shamed and belittled them mercilessly for whatever little or big thing they may have done. As a result, they have to bury that shame, even in adulthood. But every single time someone doesn’t wholeheartedly approve of what they do or say, they will instantly feel that shame of failure once again. It is unbearable.
3. Narcissists Treat People Amazingly Well When Others are Looking
Because narcissists can only get their supply from people that approve of them, they have to be seen as the best, nicest, most gracious, kindest, any of the bests of everything. So, that means they have to treat everyone this way when others are looking–even their arch enemies!
An example of narcissistic behavior related to this point is when our counselors and church leaders were watching his abuse toward me in front of their eyes, but yet, when he was at church or talking to people about things that happened publicly, he would always insist he loved me and his children dearly and he didn’t understand why he had been removed from our home by the counselors/church leaders involved or why we would not let him back in.
In reality, the people who were helping us would have been devastated if I had let him back into our home because he hadn’t shown any remorse or desire to change the abusive behavior up to that point. He ended up moving on to a new church and life that they thought he was a great Christian who was slighted by a really bad church and family. Of course, everyone in his new life thinks he’s amazing because they haven’t really seen the real him come out from behind the mask of the genuinely caring person they think he is.
4. Narcissists Cannot Ever Be Seen as Wrong
Narcissists know that they make mistakes and sometimes do bad things. But they will never admit that to you. Because that would be such an unbearably embarrassing thing for them to have to air.
Not only do they deny that they did anything wrong, they will then go out of their way to “prove” to you that they are not wrong. Their evidence will be lame at best, dishonest and fabricated at worst. But in the case of proof in the form of lies, they will convince themselves that the proof is real so that they can have peace about the fact that they were never wrong in the first place.
In my case, this was the beginning of the end of our narcissistic relationship. He had dragged me to counseling to force me to be a more obedient wife. Yep, it was that bad. But the counselors saw exactly what was going on. And they immediately started working on my healing from the effects of a lifetime of narcissistic abuse. It didn’t take long before I started thinking more clearly. As the fog lifted, I started being able to see the lies and craziness that was going on every time I tried to resolve issues that stemmed from his narcissistic behavior.
Once he realized we were on to him, he ended up spiraling out of control. And with that, we began the process of divorce. I was not able to live in a household where I had to take the blame for all of my own wrong as well as all of his.
5. Narcissists Walk Into a Room Expecting to be Noticed
Most of us already realize that narcissists walk into a room expecting to be noticed. But the surprising thing for me was that even covert narcissists want to be noticed no matter where they go.
The reason for this is because narcissists need people to see them looking good, doing good things, and being the admirable person that everyone looks up to. In order to do that, they have to put themselves out there. Hence, the exaggerated entrances that overt narcissists make, but also the humble, servant-type, I-love-all-of-you-and-I’m-so-happy-to-be-arriving-here-in-your-presence entrance. It really has nothing to do with how much he really loves everyone in the room he is entering. It has to do with how he is being seen as he walks into the room. It has to be a grand entrance. And now, the party can begin!
The swagger, the body language, the expectation…you will notice it more and more every time you go out with your narcissist. What you will also want to pay attention to is the self motivating talk that is going through their head leading up to the entrance. They will either be talking to you about how much they are looking forward to this event, or they will be silently but very obviously by their body language, getting into the role they are about to play. The narcissist is the consummate actor, at least in his own mind.
6. Narcissists Dominate Conversations
Once the narcissist has made his grand entrance, he now expects that everyone wants to talk to him. Who wouldn’t want to? He knows more than everyone and is better at doing everything than everyone else. Everybody should be dying to talk to somebody as accomplished as he is.
Even the most demure narcissist can perform for a crowd, at least for a little bit. He can be witty, dynamic, and think on his feet better than I ever could.
I remember one night we had a dinner date with another couple. It was a superior at his workplace (he was a nuclear technician supervisor in the Navy, his supervisor was the head of the nuclear department of the ship). His wife was also a top ranking Navy sailor. My ex talked for a week about how excited he was for me to meet and hang out with them at this dinner.
The night finally arrived. I dressed my best and was looking forward to dinner with this other couple. I had met them briefly a couple of times. And they were very nice. But that night, I didn’t exist. They all had the best time hanging out, making inside jokes, and listening to my ex guide the conversation. Finally, the man turned to me and asked me a question about my piano playing (as a hobby, I’ve never really been that good). I answered the question and instantly, he looked at my husband and said he was the most loving husband ever for the piano related gift he had given me while he had been out to sea during our anniversary several months before this night out.
Honestly, the kids and I found the anniversary gift kind of odd at the time. They knew about it because a stranger came to the door to present it. It had been a topic of conversation in counseling because it seemed like an odd reach for attention on his part. And now they were telling me about this competition that my ex and his friend had been in to see who could come up with the best gifts because that would make the winner the best husband. What a weird night.
I would have liked to crawl in a hole somewhere. I would have loved to be anywhere but where I was.
7. Narcissists Have Very Few Long-term Friendships
I have had a few life-long friends over the course of my life–a few friends I have kept in touch with from high school, a couple of close friends from college, and the a few dear friends I have met along the way in my adult life. And with nearly all of them, by then husband used to complain all the time that he didn’t have any long term friends.
I would suggest people I thought he was close to over the years, but he would always have say they really weren’t friends anymore. Or when I would say someone’s name and he would somewhat agree, I would suggest he get back in touch with them. But he never would. I thought it was really odd, until I realized that is the pattern of narcissists.
They may not have ended the friendships with any kind of bad exchange. But for whatever reason, they think they cannot contact people from their past that they got close to on any level. I don’t know for sure what the reason is. But one of the thoughts I came up with after watching this pattern for years is that he doesn’t think they perceive him the way he wants them to anymore. Or maybe he said or did something embarrassing that prevents them from continuing the relationship, even though that thing could have been extremely insignificant.
At the end of the day, once a narcissist realizes they are no longer on the pedestal they want to be in the eyes of their friends, they are willing to walk away from the relationship to avoid the misplaced shame they feel.
8. Narcissists Study People so They can Befriend/Control Them
This example of narcissistic behavior should be one of the first red flags people see when they meet a narcissist. Unfortunately, I was too young and had no idea what narcissism was. There was no way for me to recognize this behavior.
I actually thought it was good that he was so eager to get to know me and ask so many questions to continue to get to know me. And I was so amazed that all of his answers agreed with mine! I thought we were a match made in Heaven. While many of my friends were nervous about their upcoming marriages, hoping and praying they had met the right man, I was convinced that God had sent the perfect man to me.
While other couples were hot and heavy physically, I loved that my man would just sit and talk with me for hours, day after day. I thought it was because he valued me as a person, which I had never experienced before. I just didn’t realize that that wasn’t it either.
I now know that he was just studying me so he could draw me into his web of narcissism. And I now know that this is common behavior among narcissists. It is part of hoovering their victims in. Hoovering as in the vacuum cleaner brand, Hoover. Because he is literally using my own words against me suck me in. And then once I am well into the relationship, the narcissistic abuse would begin in earnest.
9. Narcissists Don’t Realize You Exist Unless They Need Something From You
I already alluded to this a bit in point number 6 above. My then husband was having such a good time with his friends while his trophy wife was sitting politely by his side. But that was the extent of my value that night.
This example of narcissistic behavior was so confusing to me. One minute he was telling me I was the most amazing person he ever met. But on the other hand, he would almost rather be somewhere else than with me. His actions did not line up with his words.
Over the course of many years, I learned exactly when I was of value to him. When he wanted sex, good food, someone to look good with in public, or to prove that he had married well, then I was his wonderful wife. But on a day-to-day basis, I was just the person that kept his world going. Little more than a servant.
Unfortunately, every time I would try to talk to him about the way I felt, he would get angry, tell me that he was fine and I had no right to criticize him but that I should focus on his good aspects, and instantly shut me down. Over time, I kept up the hope that eventually he would see my love for him and return it. But the more I did that, the more license he thought he had to continue treating me the way he did. I was rewarding his bad behavior and he was capitalizing on it.
One of the best books I ever read about this was The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. She explains the difference between a difficult marriage and a destructive one, then shows you how you can take action steps to get yourself to healthier relationships and a good life. The best part is, the action steps are based on what you know about your relationship. She isn’t telling you what to do. She is giving you the wisdom and ability to make your own good decisions. Check it out here:
A close second place book is Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. This book lets you know what is going on in the mind of the narcissist in your life that makes him treat you the way he does. What better way to figure out how to deal with these issues than to know exactly why he is behaving the way he is!
If you read both of these books, you are already well on your way to an emotionally healthy life! And it will improve all of your relationships, not just marriage!
10. Narcissists Feel Like They Can Only be With the Prettiest, Most Affluent People
One of the nine criteria of narcissists according to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, is that narcissists feel like they can only associate with the greatest, most powerful, and most beautiful people in the world. Anything else is just not good enough for them.
The reason for this actually goes back to point number two above. They know that if they are only with the upper crust of society, they will be perceived in the same way. This actually takes an enormous amount of work on their part. They must put in the effort of looking the best they can. They need to make enough money for the clothes, the cars, the houses, the toys. And then, they must have the most beautiful family. And as long as they are being rewarded, they believe it is 100% worth it.
In my case, there was a bit of a different spin on this concept. My example of narcissistic behavior here is going in the religious narcissism direction. We were a good looking family with all of the typical upper middle class American trappings. But we were a religious family. And we were one of the more prominent families in our church. My ex was an elder for nearly 20 years before our marriage crumbled. And he had been directly responsible for helping other families and couples who were struggling in life. All the time he was telling them how they could be doing better in their lives, his own life was ruled by his abuse and control of his family. It did not end well for him.
11. Narcissists Will Love Bomb Victims to Retain Them
There are a couple of times a narcissist will employ love bombing. The first is when the relationship is new. Regardless of the relationship, a narcissist will employ this tactic. I have seen my ex do it with fellow church members, neighbors, extended family, and co-workers, as well as me and the kids.
The second time love bombing is employed is when the narcissist feels like they are losing control. They cannot lose their source of supply, especially as they are getting older. (Click here for more on the aging female narcissist, and here for more on the aging male narcissist. Oh, and one more: Defending Yourself Against the Aging Narcissist.)
For this example of narcissistic behavior, I will share a couple of my own experiences. In the beginning, my ex would go so incredibly far out of his way to protect me and take good care of me, even though we were high school kids. If one of our fellow students would tease me or do something he didn’t like, he would reprimand them very quickly. He would let them know that nobody was going to treat his girl that way. And it totally worked. I thought he loved me so much that he would only want the best for me. It sucked me in. I married him!
Later on, the love bombing would be when I would become so frustrated that I felt I could not go on. Every time I said I was done with all the craziness, he would first ask me to pretend. Then, he would just try to get me back into his good graces. Because we were married, I wanted things to be healed. So I gladly went along with the love bombing, thinking that he would be turning a corner and we were finally going to have the marriage I had been working on all those years.
Eventually I realized it wasn’t about healing. It was about him doing whatever he could to keep things going and get what he wanted out of the relationship.
12. Narcissists Always Have to Run the Show
The one thing that ALL narcissists have in common (actually they have several things in common, but this is a big one) is that they have to be in control. If they are not in control, they feel like their whole life is unraveling. The really weird thing is that when they are losing control, their life does actually unravel. Their behavior begins spiraling out of control in a self-fulfilled prophecy sort of way.
I learned this first hand at the very end of our marriage. Until then, I had let my husband have all the control because we were a devout Christian family and one tenet is that as long as my husband is not asking me to directly sin against the Word of God, I had to give him the final word. I had no idea how much he had used that against me to control me over the years.
Anyway, when I finally began to come out of the fog I was in and realized what I was up against, I wasn’t just submitting to whatever he told me. Then, in counseling, we both had psychological testing done. They told him we were both getting it done so that neither of us would feel picked on and it would help both of us to find our faults. His counselor believed that he was willing to do the test because he thought he could pass it and because he thought he could discover my “faults.” Neither happened. My test turned up no significant issues. The one thing it did pick up was that I could be very reactive when I felt oppressed. Hmmm. Wonder where that came from.
He was diagnosed on the scale of narcissism, which the director of the counseling agency we were at later said he believed my ex was a full blown narcissist based on how badly he spiraled out of control once he learned about the diagnosis and they tried to work with him toward healing.
If he had never lost that control, he would still be living high up in the home, our church, his job, everywhere. He has since gotten a new life: a new wife that he married six days after we received our divorce papers, a new church that believes husbands have all control over their wives and children, a new city, a new job (actually a couple of jobs already), and a new home. And everybody thinks he is an amazing godly man. I wonder if they wonder what in his past caused him to have to start over.
13. Narcissists Gaslight Everybody
One of the biggest problems with gaslighting is that it is so secretive and underhanded that most victims have no idea they are being abused for a long time. They may feel like something isn’t right, but it is so hard to put your finger on. This is especially true when the gaslighter plays the innocent card so well.
Gaslighting is designed to make you question almost everything about yourself: your dreams, knowledge, feelings, and confidence, memories. Over time, you will lose most if not all of your self-confidence. And you will begin to feel mentally and emotionally unstable. Yet, you still won’t be able to figure out what is wrong because you internalize the damage. You feel like “something is really wrong with you.” My ex-husband actually used those words on me daily until I finally told him to stop.
This example of narcissistic behavior is universal to all narcissists, no matter how high or low they rank of the narcissism scale. In spite of how universal it is, you would think it would look very different throughout the world and throughout history. And yet, it is nearly the same among all narcissists in the way it manifests.
Narcissists use the same bag of tricks to gaslight people, no matter where they come from. And they even use the same words, no matter what the language is.
Many people believe that narcissists are demon possessed because of how similarly they all act, regardless of culture or time period that they lived in. I am not 100% certain, but I can see why people believe that way. I wrote an article about it because I found it such a fascinating subject. Click on the red letters above to access that article.
How do narcissists gaslight? Here are some of the most notable ways:
- Denying something that you watched them do, then behaving as if you are crazy for thinking you saw what you did.
- Denying something they told you, then ridiculing you for thinking that.
- Blaming you while apologizing. This looks like, “I’m sorry if you feel that way, but…”
- Minimizing your feelings after saying or doing something that they knew would greatly upset you. Then they tell you that you are being to sensitive or overreacting.
- They live in an alternate reality. I used to use those exact words to joke about it with my ex. I had no idea that he actually did have an alternate reality of a world that he was in total control of. They will change all the facts to fit the narrative of that alternate reality. The further it goes, the creepier it gets, leaving you scratching your head in confusion.
- Publicly destroying you in public or with your friends, but only with the kindest of words. I know this sounds confusing. This is what it looks like: “I am really concerned about ______. I am praying for her and trying not to worry. But things are really bad. Would you pray with me for her?” Over time, they add isolation to the equation and everyone thinks you are really not well. They have no idea what is going on because they can’t get to you to find out. And you have no idea what they are thinking because you have no idea that he made up random things “that were wrong with you” that he showed “such great concern” for.
There are so many more. I will need to write an article about it for you! I will link it here as soon as I hit publish.
Also, if you want to see a ton of examples of gaslighting in real time, check out the movie, Gaslight, directed by George Cukor and starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen–a masterpiece well before it’s time. And it is the acting debut of Angela Lansbury! Click the Amazon link below for more information (I may make a small commission at no cost to you if you click):
As an added bonus, this movie is currently free for Prime Members at the time I published this article!
14. Narcissists are so Easily Offended
If you offend a narcissist, you will know it right away. It may happen so fast that you won’t know what hit you!
A narcissist will act in all sorts of crazy ways when you have offended them. And often it will be such a small thing you said or did that you will be confused about how he could be so offended by it.
Here is an example from my past. We were in the car driving somewhere and discussing what he would do for work after he got out of the military. And in his defense, he had always wanted to start his own car repair business. The problem is, he is okay at car repair but not as expert as he would need to be. That wouldn’t be a problem if he was willing to learn. But he always said he was good enough. Add to that his lack of business and money sense (see point number 41 below for more on that), and that new career would have destroyed us.
I politely said maybe we could think about something more practical, at least until he could be more prepared for that career. He was so mad. He started yelling at me that the only appropriate answer is that I think it is a great idea. At that moment in time, I was literally not allowed to say anything but you can do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. It didn’t matter that it would be detrimental to our whole future. And he wasn’t open to discussion about why I felt that way or how we could work through it to get him there. Discussion was not allowed. It would have indicated that he was less than perfect. And that was intolerable for him.
15. Narcissists Constantly Need to be Admired
This example of narcissistic behavior comes right on the heels of the last point. Not only are narcissists extremely easily offended, on the flip side, they must constantly be admired for just about everything they do. You have to notice, which usually includes some form of mind-reading.
I mentioned above my ex’s need to be admired so much that he announced in a Sunday School class one day at our church that he needed to be admired for everything he did, not only at church, but at home, at work, virtually everywhere.
There is actually a good reason for this (but not a justified reason!). The narcissist feels such constant shame that he needs to have constant praise brought to him to keep the shame at bay. The minute he feels that shame rearing its ugly head again, he will start fishing for compliments and admiration any way he can. But if he can’t get enough of the admiration that he needs or get it quickly enough, he will be offended and start acting out on it. And then we are back to the last point again. It is all a never-ending cycle.
16. Narcissists Cannot Apologize
In order for a narcissist to apologize, a couple of things would have to happen. First, they would have to admit that they had done something wrong. Then they would have to acknowledge that they can change their ways and improve.
Throughout our marriage, whenever an apology would be appropriate, his response was usually, “Nobody is going to tell me what or how to…” or “I am fine, I am not the problem.” So basically an expected apology would just turn into a blame shifting fest. It didn’t take long before the kids and I just didn’t bring things up and decided it was easier to live with the issues than get trampled by confrontation, no matter how gentle.
There are two times that a narcissist will apologize. The first is when he knows it will get him something that he wants. Just like the fact that he will say or do anything to make a good first impression, he will also apologize if it gets him the narcissistic supply he needs.
My ex, upon the church having him removed from our home, announced publicly why they were doing it because my ex was starting to lie to members of the church about what was going on in our home and how the church elders were handling it. They wanted to make sure people knew what was going on from an administrative standpoint rather than all of the rumors flying.
The following week, my ex wrote a length email to every family in the church that was full of lies about what was going on. The vast majority of the church recognized it for what it was. And with that, he left the church and sought membership at another church that was not as proactive about spousal and family abuse and prioritized the leadership of the father over it. They accepted his membership upon the condition that he apologize to the church and each member he had written the crazy-making letter to.
He wrote a bullshit apology and sent it through the original church’s website rather than to each member. But he ticked off the box and attained his new membership at the church he began his new life at. He almost immediately started dating, even though he was married, which they didn’t seem to have an issue with because my church and I refused to unilaterally let him move back into our home with no evidence of healing. That pastor later told me he regretted saying yes to his membership request there. But he never did anything to correct the fact that my ex was cheating on me and they were supportive of him divorcing me because I wouldn’t let him continue to abuse our family.
The second reason a narcissist will apologize is when he knows people are watching. It makes him look caring and concerned for others just when he needs to show that. And it also gets him the narcissistic supply he needs.
As I write all of these examples of narcissistic behavior that I see the narcissist does indeed know exactly what he is doing. A narcissist supposedly cannot show empathy. But yet, he does when he needs to impress someone, either in a first impression, or love-bombing to get a new supply or hold on to an existing supply that is starting to see what is going on. The fact that they know and can adjust their behavior accordingly makes it all just that much more evil.
Don’t ever let a narcissist try to convince you that they don’t know any better!
17. Narcissists Feel They Must Discredit Others in Order to Elevate Themselves
Narcissists need to be the smartest person in the room. After they make that grand entrance into the room, of course! (See point number 5 above.)
Narcissists often discredit their victims with a smear campaign. This is designed to shake their victim’s confidence, show everyone else what a failure the victim is, and show everyone how incredibly talented and amazing the narcissist is.
Let me give you yet another example of this narcissistic behavior. I have been in children’s ministry for 30+ years. At the time of this incident, I was running a kids’ club that focused on literature related to Christianity. We were working through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. For those not familiar with the book, there is a wardrobe that the Pevensie children walk through that leads to another whole world called Narnia.
I wanted to make a wardrobe door for the kids to enter into the classroom just like entering into Narnia. I told my then husband about it. And he offered to help. I was grateful for the help. But then it became his project. I wasn’t allowed to have any input as to what it looked like. And I wanted it to correlate to the book! He made a random wooden door, which actually did look good. But it didn’t look authentic. I gratefully said yes and we went along.
Later, when we were in counseling and trying to work through so many things, he brought up what a good job he had done of the wardrobe door. I acknowledged that he did do a good job, but that it was originally my project and he hijacked it. He denied that it was even my project! That was the point where my pastor was realizing how deep the narcissism went. Not only did he take over the project, he took all the credit for how good he was at the class he never taught or had anything to do with.
18. Narcissists Think They are Right and Everyone Else is Wrong
I have kind of been alluding to this example of narcissistic behavior for the past few points. Every argument eventually leads to the fact that the narcissist is right and you are wrong. I don’t know why I tried to argue my own side for so many years.
I do remember the day I realized he wasn’t fighting for our marriage but for himself and what he wanted. I stopped in the middle of a shouting match (can’t believe that with my quiet personality, in the end of our marriage I caved in to his shouting match challenges because it was the only way I thought I might be heard. I wasn’t.). I don’t even remember what we were arguing about. But the instant I realized he wasn’t fighting for us, I gasped and stopped. And then I told him that.
He just looked straight ahead. No argument now. He didn’t even care that I wanted him to fight for us. He wanted to fight for him. He always did, and he still does to this day. Just not with me anymore.
He thought he was right to fight for himself and what he wanted. Which would be fine if we weren’t talking about our relationship and the marriage. There was no partnership. It was just him getting his needs met. It was the first time I realized that I didn’t really exist as his significant other. I was just a means to an end for him.
Did he love me? No, he didn’t love ME, he loved what I did for him, he loved parading me around as his wife. He didn’t love me as a person or a companion. That one hurt more than just about everything else.
One more even striking example is when our church had my ex removed from our home. He told the church that our counselors were “unbiblical,” causing the church leadership to grill the counselors for three hours to show that they were right in their recommendations.
My ex’s next step was to press charges against our local church at the regional level. Our denomination has a church government that equates to American Civil government: local, state, and federal. The church government is local church, regional church, national church.
Anyway, back to the topic. The end result of the charges my ex brought against our church leadership for removing him from the home were dropped because the regional church leadership said our church did nothing wrong under the circumstances. And it was a unanimous vote. The men actually stayed for over an hour after the hearing and vote to try to talk to him and help him. He only got increasingly angrier and refused to work with them.
His next step was to leave the church, saying the whole denomination was unbiblical. And he moved on to his new male chauvinist church.
The point here is that anyone that dared cross him was deemed “unbiblical,” since his narcissistic mask involves being the most holy Christian. It is the equivalent to everyone else being wrong, except bringing God into it, because who can argue against God?
When he was at home and not trying to impress the church, he would just as often tell us we were wrong as he would that we were unbiblical.
19. Narcissists Lie Constantly
There is a joke going around that says, “How can you tell a narcissist is lying? When he opens his mouth.” I know, it’s not creative since that line is used on lawyers and others all the time. But it makes an excellent point.
The truth is (no pun intended) that narcissists lie constantly about everything. It doesn’t make sense because they even lie about things that they don’t have any reason to. They just do. And there are many reasons for that. Let’s take a look at a handful.
- Narcissists lie to control you. They know that if you know the truth, you would not feel unsure of yourself and you wouldn’t be nearly as dependent on them. But if they are in a constant state of “saving you” they will be able to control you. You think they are taking care of you. They are merely controlling you.
- Narcissists want people to see them as bigger and better than they are. So they fudge on personal facts.
- Narcissists lie to trick people into being in relationship with them. I know my ex did this with his current wife as well as his current church. He told them all that he loves his family dearly and he truly doesn’t understand why we all randomly kicked him out and made him leave us after he was married to me for almost 30 years at the time. Unfortunately, someday they will all learn the truth.
- Narcissists lie as a part of gaslighting to make their victims feel unsure of themselves and unable to do things on their own. Back to the control mentioned above.
- Narcissists lie to present themselves as the victim. And believe it or not, it is actually a role they play well. Many people actually do believe they are the victim because they don’t see the other side of the story.
- Narcissists lie because they are telling you the story they want you to believe. This actually came straight from my ex husband! One day I caught him in a lie. Not uncommon. What was uncommon was that he actually admitted he had not told the truth because I had proof in a text he sent me previously. When I asked him why he lied, he said it was because that was what he wanted the situation to be and he thought by calling it that he could just pretend that was the case. I was speechless, but also enlightened. It made a lot of sense based on remembering the circumstances around previous lies.
20. Narcissists Convince Themselves They are not Lying
This example of narcissistic behavior is an extension of the last point. Narcissists convince themselves that the lie they are telling is the best thing to do because if they can just believe it is the truth hard enough, it can be as good as the truth.
If a narcissist is in his 40’s in age like mine was, I can pretty much guarantee that he knows what the truth is before he chooses to fool his own mind. And I can also guarantee that he knows that the thing he is trying to trick himself into believing will never be the truth. But as long as he can play along with everyone like it is, he doesn’t have to face the fact that he is being called out specifically for his lying. He knows it shuts everyone down around him because they are incredulous that he would even lie about such things.
And as long as they can hold out that they are not lying, he thinks they also have to believe the same. Even when they tell him there is no way.
21. Narcissists Brag Constantly
Before I say anything about bragging in this example of narcissistic abuse, I would like to specify what constitutes bragging. The definition I am going to use here is personal credit when not in contest of the conversation.
That sounds kind of confusing, but I have a perfect example. My ex would invite people to our house on a pretty regular basis. I also liked to entertain, but some of those times could be really awkward. This was especially when he invited coworkers over that our family had never met. Plus when he did that, he usually didn’t invite them back.
On this one day, my ex invited a couple over. They were not Christians, which is fine. But the problem was my ex talked constantly about our life at church and about all of the ministries he was doing and about how he would go find homeless people to feed. It was all fine that he did those things, but it was so out of context to make that the topic of conversation with people that had no exposure to that life and didn’t understand the culture of it. And it was clear by their expressions and lack of joining in the conversation that they were not into what was going on at this dinner at all. I was just too embarrassed and stayed silent, which my ex preferred anyway.
Fortunately, there were some times that things went much better. My ex invited a young man over for Christmas. He was only 20 years old and his wife had left him while he was out to sea a few months before. He came to us pretty devastated. We welcomed him into our home and celebrated with him as though he was an old friend. He stayed pretty late and played video games with our kids, ate tons of food, and enjoyed hanging out.
As a result, he started going to church with us, became a member of our church, and met his current wife. He then finished his time in the Navy and went to school to become a pastor. Along the way, he wrote us a beautiful letter talking about what a wonderful gift from God we were in a difficult time. It warmed my heart. And as he went on to become a pastor, he asked me to pray for him and review his sermons as he perfected them. I was grateful that God sent him to us when He did. In that case, the context worked, but he also spent a significant amount of time with our whole family, not just my ex. And I think it made all the difference.
22. Narcissists Isolate Those They Abuse
This is a pretty insidious tactic of narcissists that many of us don’t even realize is happening. In fact, when I first read about it, I didn’t believe I was isolated. Until I was getting a divorced and friends, family and others everywhere started telling me what he did to them behind closed doors.
Let me share an example of this narcissistic behavior with you because on the surface it seems confusing. I didn’t feel like I was being isolated. My ex never really told me I couldn’t go hang out with my friends. In fact, sometimes he would encourage me to hang out with friends. Usually he would do that when he wanted to do something. It was usually to play basketball or something like that. He never had guy friends that he hung out with.
Anyway, upon our separation, I started hearing stories from almost everyone I knew about how at some point he had isolated them and told them not to come around in various ways. All of their stories were nearly the same and many of them didn’t know each other, so there was no way they could fabricate these stories. Here are a couple of them:
- My younger sister said when she and my mother came to the house for our first baby’s birth, when I went to take a nap, he had immediately walked over to my mom, who stands 5 feet, 1 inch tall, with his 6 foot, 1 inch frame, got down into her face, and told her, “don’t ever treat my wife the way you did just now.” Except at that moment, she hadn’t said or done a thing. My mother and sister left suddenly the next morning, telling me they needed to get home. It was over 30 years before I heard that this had happened.
- My best friend from years back told me about the time she came to the house and my ex was working on his car in the driveway. She cracked a silly joke at him. But he didn’t think it was funny. Instead, he stared her down with the look of death until she just went to the porch and knocked on the door. She made a point of staying away whenever he was around after that.
You see the pattern here. He never isolated me in a way that made me feel like he was isolating me. It was always in a back-handed, back-door manner that I wouldn’t see that it was him pulling all the strings. That’s how he (and most narcissists) get away with their tactics for years. They are so good at hiding their activities and motives.
23. Narcissists Will not Allow Others to Have Boundaries
I would think that this particular example of narcissistic behavior is going to affect married couple more than anyone else. The reason for this is that married couples have less autonomy than any other relationship. They are considered “one flesh.” And because of that, many couples have a hard time maintaining their own identity in the relationship. Narcissists know this and will take full advantage.
The life example I have for you is not so much what my ex did as what he said constantly that wore me down. And honestly, this makes sense. He wasn’t physically controlling me. He was more mentally controlling me. So, he would constantly tell me that I needed to do everything he wanted because I belonged to him.
He would use 1 Corinthians 7:4, which says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” The ironic thing about him using that verse all the time was that he never reciprocated on the last part of the verse. It was always that I was accountable to him.
24. Narcissists Lash Out Unpredictably
My narcissist’s unpredictability (more like inconsistency–over time his behavior was actually very predictable) was key to keeping our whole family walking on eggshells. And when we were walking on eggshells, he was controlling us because we were literally unable to function around him without fear of random repercussions.
Over time it changed the way we lived in our own home. While the home is supposed to be a refuge from the world, my kids and I had done the reverse. We made places outside of our home our refuge from our home life.
This is what our lives normally looked like for the last few years of the marriage. When my ex was deployed or working, life went on as normal. We were pretty chill. But when he got home, we would all either scatter to our rooms or everyone would hang out up in my room. It drove him crazy because he hated the kids in our room. But we knew if we were all together and not in the same place as him, we would be generally safe from whatever craziness he had for that day.
Once he went to bed, we would switch to the living area and hang out. For the times that we knew he was angry and for the last couple of years during an in-house separation, we would avoid being in the house at all while he was home. We would hang out at our church and practice our musical instruments, play video games, nerf wars, or other games. One of the kids’ favorites was Ghosts in the Graveyard after dark and with all the church lights off.
The best part of that time is the memories we have of the fun times. We made it work for us in a good way. And fortunately, our church was supportive of our whole family throughout the time we were going through all of this.
And it allowed us to escape the unpredictable lashing out (also known as narcissistic rage) for a really long time once we figured it out.
25. Narcissists Cannot be Empathetic
Every time I hear this about narcissists, I have to say I always chuckle just a little bit. I guess that’s better than crying, though, right?! There’s a good reason for it. And because it’s my example of narcissistic behavior here, I am hoping it helps you to chuckle too and get to a place of not being so overcome by your narcissist’s bahavior toward you.
My story starts well into the counseling process. When my ex dragged me into counseling to make me a “more obedient wife,” we had just one counselor, a woman who I will call L. After about 6 months, she knew she wasn’t going to get through to my then husband. He had the need to control the room so much (see point 6 above) that she couldn’t do anything with him. And she was starting to realize if I spoke up in the session, I would pay for it later.
Her solution was to choose a counselor for my ex that he could possibly bond with based on similar background. So my ex’s new counselor was a pastor who had been in the Navy. It was as close to perfect as a counselor for a narcissist could be.
Unfortunately, the new counselor, who I will call J, didn’t get any further. And when my own counselor went on sabbatical one summer, he was my fill-in counselor since he already knew what was going on and could slip right into the sessions.
He would see me every other week. And generally, we would talk about how I was healing from narcissistic abuse and how to handle what was going on since my ex and I were not yet separated.
One day, as I entered, he told me he had an interesting story for me–one that left him scratching his head. He said that he had been working on empathy with my ex. I knew that because me ex would come home complaining that that was all they ever worked on (to which my reply was that maybe they hadn’t moved on because he hadn’t learned it yet. I know, that was not the best thing to say!).
So, the previous week, J. gave him a scenario. He said what if my ex and I came into counseling with him one day and J. had crutches from a leg injury. As the session was beginning, J. walked over to the door to shut it, but on the way over ground one of his crutches in to my foot, of which I was only wearing a flip flop because this hypothetical event happened in the summertime.
He asked how my ex would feel if J. did that to me, even though it wasn’t on purpose. My ex’s answer: she shouldn’t have had her foot there in the first place. J. said he was floored by that answer. And at that point, he said there was probably nothing we could do for our relationship because he couldn’t even get my ex to pretend to be empathetic.
It was at this point that I realized I was going to end up divorced.
26. Narcissists are Cruel
According to Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of cruel is extremely unkind and unpleasant and causing pain to people or animals intentionally. This is such a perfect definition of how a narcissist treats both people and animals. From the word extremely to the words causing pain intentionally, that is exactly the modus operandi of the narcissist. If you mess with them, they will destroy you. That is one of the reasons divorcing a narcissist is such an ordeal. (For more on divorcing a narcissist, click here.)
Because narcissists behave in this way, when I got divorced, I almost didn’t have to worry about anything he accused me of, especially in court. They had already seen it all in other narcissists. And his false accusations were so overt that they were preposterous. None of his accusations matched real life experience. Plus the fact that counselors, lawyers, church leaders, and the court system all had the evidence I provided, my own kids’ testimonies, and their own experiences and conversations with him that backed up my side of things and condemned his own side. Narcissists don’t operate in quite the bubble they think they are in.
Here are some other examples of narcissistic behavior that show how cruel they can be:
- My ex would pretend to love our two cats (sometimes), but as soon as I would leave the room, he would kick or otherwise abuse them. He probably knew the kids would tell me. But how awful that the kids would have to watch him do that stuff in front of them!
- My ex would cut my shrubs and bushes down when doing the landscaping. Then he would laugh and tell the kids, “don’t tell Mom!” while he laughed. He would also run his truck through my gardens, saying he had no choice. When I finally told him he had a ten foot path and there was no reason why he had to, he suddenly stopped.
- He would throw away all of our things. I lost most of my childhood keepsakes because he would randomly make things disappear. Then he would claim he would have nothing to do with it. But he would also do a significant amount of this with kids present. And, of course, he would say don’t tell Mom. He did the same with many of the kids’ toys and keepsakes.
27. Narcissists Steal Things
This example of narcissistic behavior goes hand-in-hand with the previous point about cruelty and destroying other people’s property. Narcissists will steal anything they want if they think it will benefit them. And they will think they are justified because they simply want it.
Stealing money was a huge issue in our home throughout the whole marriage. I was so puzzled by it because he barely even tried to hide it. From day one or our marriage, he would chastise me for leaving money laying around. On kitchen counters, on my dresser, or other prominent places. I couldn’t understand why he kept saying my money is going to get stolen if I don’t keep it hidden. I was like, “It’s just the two of us here. Who’s going to steal it?” For whatever reason, I just never realized he was talking about himself!
The first time I distinctly remember that he stole my money was when we had two kids. They were 18 months and 3 months old. There was no way my 18-month-old was able to see up on top of my dresser, let alone grab what was up there. And even if she could, what use would she have for money? I bought everything and she would have no idea at that time how to even use it.
But yet, when I noticed the money missing, he said it wasn’t him that took it. I didn’t even confront him about it at the time because I was so confused. We didn’t have any company that would have been in our room. No service people. Nothing. And the kids couldn’t have done it. And I knew that I left it there and exactly how much it was. There was no other conclusion to make except that it was him, but he was denying it and making me sound like it was ludicrous that I would think he would steal my money. Honestly, it was ludicrous. But it was even more ludicrous that he would steal it.
That pattern continued for the whole time we were married. He would do the same with the kids. And they would talk about it every time he did it. The only difference was, about twenty years into our marriage he would just outright take the money and say that anyone who left money out deserved to lose it.
Just to clarify, it wasn’t necessarily money left on tables and strange places. It would be places like our 6-year old one time left it on the piano because he could reach it. And often kids would put things on the back mantle corner. Could we have done better? Sure. But that didn’t constitute stealing the money every single time.
28. Narcissists Project All Their Narcissistic Behavior on Others
One of the most confusing things about dealing with narcissists is their accusations that come out of left field. They accuse you of doing, saying, or even thinking of things that couldn’t be further from your mind or experience. It took me a while to realize that they are just projecting what is in their minds onto you.
One notable example of this kind of narcissistic behavior was that my ex would tell me not to let my sons’ teenage friends come over to the house or to talk to them because they only wanted to sleep with me. He would get so visibly angry every time I even talked to them in public. I finally realized that was how he felt about adult women when he was a teen. He automatically thought everyone else thought the way he did.
29. Narcissists Assign Motive to Everyone Else
When you get into an argument with a narcissist, you will suddenly find yourself scratching your head, trying to figure out how he suddenly came up with the reason for you saying or doing something. It will likely stop you dead in your tracks. And that is why narcissists do it. When they assign strange or weird motives to you, it is usually because of one of two things. Either they are trying to throw you so far off the track that they win the argument. Or because it’s what they think and they think everyone has to think like them. Wow, that was a lot of “think’s” in one sentence! Hopefully, you get my point!
Interestingly enough, narcissists will also assign motive to others in a more positive light. This is done to prove someone else wrong, or because they still hold that person on a pedestal and want to bolster the image they have of that person. Let me show you an example of each.
My first example is when my ex made someone else’s motives right just for the sake of making me wrong. We were in the car (yep, pretty much all of our discussions happened when we were driving somewhere). I asked if he heard about the terrible news story of a police officer who beat a homeless woman for no reason. He immediately said there had to be a reason.
I said not a single story had mentioned that and universally the news piece brought sympathy to the homeless woman, who was minding her own business at the time and not breaking any laws. He then got angry with me and told me the officer was probably having a bad day and we should cut him a break because it wasn’t his fault. That was the last time I ever told him about any news story.
The second story I would like to share is when my ex would assign motive to those that he liked or were like him that he needed to throw his support into. I actually have tons of this example but this article is already turning into a book! Anyway, there was a woman at church that was known for being unkind to others and doing things to people that were very wrong. She had done some unkind things to me and my family and snubbed us after that. But my ex made her his hero. Every time I told him what she had said or done to us, he would assign motive to her that made her right and us wrong. Just like above. Except that he made this woman his friend in spite of how she treated us and others. While I think he should have still been kind to her, it was way out of line to determine to make her a close friend. Just to spite his family.
30. Narcissists Cannot Lose
Not only can narcissists not stand to be on the losing side of something, they cannot stand to be seen as not winning. This evokes Charlie Sheen “winning” videos to my mind!
Just to be clear, while there is a possibility Charlie Sheen could be a narcissist, I am not claiming he is or that this video shows him to be. I don’t know him personally and I have not seen any psychological diagnosis reports that would indicate that. I can only say he shows signs of narcissistic behavior, which we all do from time to time. And at the time of this, he was going through a whole lot of stuff and trying to survive.
Anyway, let’s get back to the point. Narcissists perceive winning very differently than the rest of us do. Winning to them means, dragging someone down, effectively hurting them, exacting revenge, or otherwise “conquering” them. It would be great for a hunter going after his prey. But it’s not so great when we are talking about relating in healthy ways with others.
Often in this world, it will feel like the narcissist is winning. They are willing to go way further to get to victory than most of us are. Because honestly, just getting away from the narcissist is a bigger victory than winning against him. And being able to protect yourself and your loved ones from the narcissist is better than any of their perceived wins. In short, with the narcissist, losing is winning in the long run.
Here are some examples of narcissistic behavior in which the narcissist needs to win:
- A narcissist will fight for custody in court for kids they never spent time with when they lived in the home.
- Narcissists will embarrass people to the point they would rather walk away with their tail between their legs than to continue to fight.
- Narcissists at your job will steal your work and take credit for it as their own.
- Your narcissist probably sees everything as a competition, whether it is who has the most knowledge in a conversation, who is the most talented at something, who is the strongest, who is the ____est. I’m sure you can fill in the blank with plenty of your own examples if you have been with a narcissist for any length of time.
Eventually, your narcissist will burn all their bridges. It may seem like they are the most popular person in the room for now. But eventually, when everyone realizes what they really are, their life will be miserable. And at that point, rather than angry at them, you will most likely feel sorry that they were never able to fight their demons enough to live a healthy life.
31. Narcissists Punish People Who Stand up to Them or “Win.”
In continuation of the previous point, there are times that the narcissist does not win. And in those times, you need to watch out because a narcissistic rage is imminent. Narcissists do not like to be bested. It brings that shame they avoid at all costs up to the surface.
In order for narcissists to shove the shame back down, they have to bring shame to others who have caused them this pain. And they will make sure that when they “punish” you for what they perceive you have done to them, they will make it painful enough for you that you won’t shame them again.
Here are some examples of narcissistic behavior when narcissists need to punish people for perceived wrongs against them:
- Narcissists will give you the silent treatment. And they will hold out for as long as it takes for you to feel it.
- Narcissists will rage at you. This can be getting into your face and screaming, verbally attacking you in front of your friends, family, or others, or can even get physical when they know nobody is watching. If you are alone with the narcissist, it is almost guaranteed to be worse.
- The look a narcissist can give you can communicate very clearly that you are in serious trouble. And it can strike fear into the bravest of people because you fear that they may have become pathological. For more information on when a narcissist becomes pathological, click here.
32. Narcissists Sabotage Those They do not Like
Narcissists don’t like very many people. They see them as competition, and they fear that they won’t be able to outplay everyone. About the only people they do like are those that give them the narcissistic supply that they need. And those who do their bidding (flying monkeys).
When narcissists do not attach themselves to people, instead they generally try to sabotage them. In their mind, I think they choose to do that because then people won’t attempt to “beat” them. Instead, they will avoid them. And then the narcissist doesn’t have to be bothered. I
This is nearly the same as they playground bully. They make sure everyone knows that crossing them will be extremely painful so they won’t cross them. Because deep down inside, bullies are generally cowards that need to make sure people don’t get close enough to see what they really are.
Here are some other examples of narcissistic behavior that sabotages those they do not like:
- Narcissists will sabotage those they want to control. That will keep them powerless and unsure of themselves.
- Narcissists may sabotage your diet if you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight.
- Narcissists may sabotage your finances. I know in my case, I spent nearly every month trying to undo damage that was done to our budget. And in the end, he would blame me for the financial issues, even though they originated from his inability to understand how money works.
- Narcissists may sabotage your relationship with others. In my case, he constantly reprimanded me for being friends with my children. He didn’t understand that a balance between friendship and parenting is necessary, especially as kids get older.
You need to realize that whenever you tell a narcissist that you are loving some aspect of your life, they will then seek to sabotage that very thing. And they will often do it in ways that you don’t realize what they are doing until much later when a lot of damage has been done.
33. Narcissists Cloak Their Attacks in Kind Words
This may have been the most confusing tactic of my narcissist that I experienced. I couldn’t understand why I was so sensitive to his criticisms and corrections when he used such kind words. But I felt like he was being hurtful. The truth is that he was being hurtful. But as long as I was questioning myself, he was able to successfully attack me without me fully realizing what was going on. My thoughts were right on target. But I would give him the benefit of the doubt every time he said he was hurt that I would think he would ever have ill intent.
I know my narcissist calculated just about everything he said to me so if his words came back to haunt him, he could say he only had my best interests in mind and loved me too much to ever say something hurtful or unkind. And every time he said this, I chose to believe him. I thought that over time things would improve. But the more he did this and got away with it, the worse it got.
Narcissists know their communication is cutting. That is by design to wear you down. And they will say unkind things and use words that are not loving. But then they will deny, backtrack, and do whatever they can to convince you that they never meant it that way. Let’s take a look at each of thee examples. First we’ll start with kind words meant to hurt.
- I’m really concerned for you.
- There’s something really wrong with you. You need help.
- Nobody else will love you like I do.
- You need to be more realistic (when you actually are the realistic one).
- Narcissists could actually say really kind words to you while invalidating you with a disgusted or contemptuous look or body language.
Now let’s take a look at some of the unkind words they say that they then deny we unkind:
- You are being too sensitive.
- “If you knew as much as I know, then you would understand why I feel the way I do.”
- “If you hadn’t ______, then I wouldn’t have ______.”
- “I was just kidding.”
- “You need to lose weight.”
- “I never said that.” And on the flip side of the argument, when the narcissist is proven wrong, “I am sorry, I misremembered.”
34. Narcissists are Possessive and Jealous
I always considered myself fortunate that my husband was not possessive or jealous. I was so wrong. He was both. But, just like the previous point talked about, he knew how to cloak his words in ways that didn’t make things seem the way they were.
My ex knew that I would never cheat on him. But that wasn’t what drove his jealousy. It was more driven by outside sources. Like the example I gave above about the high school student that my ex was convinced was having dreams about sleeping with me. Even though not a single out of line anything ever happened with him or was said.
I believe what drove his jealousy was the fear that any outside source could come along and notice that I was there. Which is kind of funny because there were plenty of times he paraded me around. Except those time were because I was his trophy wife and he wanted everyone to know what he had. The difference here was that he didn’t think they were looking at me as his possession, but as my own person, and he didn’t like that I could have any kind of autonomy.
Check out this short video from Sam Vaknin, the most famous narcissist in the world. He explains narcissist’s possessiveness and jealousy from his narcissistic point of view:
35.Narcissists Blame shift
Narcissists blame shift when they feel such unbearable shame on themselves that they have to pass that shame on to you. But that doesn’t excuse their behavior or make it acceptable in any way. This will make more sense to you as you realize that narcissists can’t stand the thought of being wrong because of the shame it brings on them. It is even more unbearable for them to realize that others think they are wrong. Thus, they have to shift that blame on to someone else. Their significant other usually gets the brunt of that.
Here are some examples of narcissistic behavior in which the narcissist blame shifts onto the victim:
- Claiming an “alternate reality.” I used to joke about that all the time. Because I thought over time, he would understand the way things really worked. But that wasn’t the problem. He did understand. He just couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge reality and adjust accordingly.
- Using arbitrary rules to claim that you have broken the rules when he is confronted about totally different things. This usually happens when they don’t have a valid argument. It is a bait-and-switch.
- Making themselves the victim instead of you. This usually happens when you confront them about feeling vulnerable or attacked. They will turn it on you so they can throw off the shame they feel.
- Making bizarre accusations to throw you off when you accuse them of something they have done to you. You will be so confused that you will likely just stop arguing. And with that they have succeeded.
36. Narcissists Cheat
Many narcissists cheat in the adultery sort of way. But there is a whole lot more cheating going on. From cheating on tests, cheating on work tasks, cheating in family games, to whatever in life there is to cheat at, they are doing it. Let’s take a look at how that manifests. While you read through, keep in mind that narcissist cheating patterns look the same whether they are cheating on their spouses or cheating on a big exam. It is all underhanded and calculated.
- They disappear for hours, days, weeks, or months. When they return, they don’t address the absence or what happened. They make it seem like everything is normal and nothing out of the ordinary ever happened. This happened all the time when he and I were together in high school. He would just pretend I didn’t exist while hanging out with anybody or everybody but me. You would have thought I would get the hint back then.
- Narcissists will get overly defensive if you do call them out. And if you push it, they will get angry. As in narcissistic rage angry. They will go over the top in the hopes that you won’t dare cross them again. This happened multiple times later in my marriage. That is because I was too scared earlier. The odd thing is that I can remember the episodes, but I can’t remember the words or arguments we had. I just remember the yelling in my face. And it happened more than once when we were on walks in our neighborhood. I was terrified and embarrassed and just wanted to go hide somewhere.
- Instead of understanding your feelings and validating your concerns, the narcissist will belittle your suspicions and ridicule your thoughts. They will say you are overreacting just to keep you from finding out what is really going on.
- You will be fully accountable for where you are and when you are going, but they will not be. I will say here that my ex had an interesting spin on this. In his free time, he was incredibly good about letting me know where he was and how long he would be there. But during his “work time,” things got really vague and fuzzy. That is because I couldn’t question his work time. And he would be gone at work most of the time. For years on end, he would be gone from 5 a.m. to 6:00-8:00 p.m., and sometimes even later. Many nights, he would call and tell me he wasn’t coming home that night and would be sleeping on the ship because there was too much to do. I didn’t check up on him until things got really bad. And then the couple of times I did, he wasn’t at work. I didn’t even bother checking after those couple of times. Our marriage was pretty much over. And we had bigger issues at hand with the narcissism.
37. Narcissists Treat Loved Ones Like Property
I have mentioned this type of narcissistic behavior already, but now I want to go into some more detail on it.
A narcissist expects you to think like them, like the same activities, foods, and styles as them. They do this for two reasons. First, because it validates how they feel, act, and experience life. And second, because they view you as an extension of them. You are not your own. You are their possession. And if you fall out of line with that, then you are destroying their very being in their eyes. They will need to get you back in line.
Here are some examples of this narcissistic behavior:
- My ex would tell me what he wanted to wear based on where we were going. He had a picture in his mind of how I would look so he could show me off in the right setting. If we were out on the town, it was a tiny dress. If we were going to church, it had to be polos or dresses. It was all about what he wanted me to look like. (It is normal for your partner to want you to look a certain way when you are out with them. But they aren’t telling you exactly what they want you to wear. And it isn’t because you are an extension of them, but their partner.)
- When you are the narcissist’s property, you don’t get to have your own experiences. Everything you do is what they would have you do. If they are at work and you do something with your kids, they will often have you recreate that experience on their time. This makes them a part of that memory going forward. But there is another reason they do this. They think that their life as they have made it is perfect. Why would you not want to live exactly the way they do?
38. Narcissists Use Sex as a Weapon
The way narcissists use sex as a weapon can swing wildly from one extreme to the other. Some will demand constant sex, some will withhold and not allow sex. Psychologists believe that it is based on different types of narcissism: cerebral vs. somatic. A cerebral narcissist depends on their brain and intelligence for their narcissistic supply. And a somatic narcissist depends on their body for their narcissistic supply. So it follows logically that the cerebral narcissist will avoid sex while the somatic narcissist will use sex for additional narcissistic supply.
Let’s look at the way this example of narcissistic behavior can manifest in your relationship.
- Sex will seem amazingly good at first because of the love bombing stage. It feels like it is all about you. And it is in the way that they are planning to reel you in.
- Once they have you, it can go in two directions. The first is constant sex to meet their insatiable desire. The other is no sex at all because they don’t care.
- Some narcissists can be very good in bed because they feel they need to be seen as really good to their partner. So it can be the best sex physically speaking. But there will be little true intimacy there. It will be more how to get your body to react in the best ways to what they are doing with you. While that is certainly satisfying on its surface, over time, the lack of intimacy can be wearing as the process is only bodily functions and not the total experience it was meant to be.
This video explains all of this quite perfectly. You will especially want to catch the time between 2:52 and 5:42, but I put the whole video below in case you want to watch all of it since it is really good.
39. Narcissists Don’t Think Before They Act
Narcissists can be very impulsive. But yet they are also very calculating in the way they plan everything out to work perfectly to their benefit. Honestly, I have to say, although my ex could not keep his stories straight over time, I was often amazed at how well his brain could run circles around mine.
Let’s take a look at how, why, and when narcissists act impulsively and without thinking.
- Narcissists have never grown up emotionally. But, at the same time, they think they have. They think they are the wisest person in the room at any given time. So, as a result, they don’t feel like they need to spend any time thinking before they act. They think the first thought that pops into their mind is the best one and the right one.
- Because narcissists act so impulsively and don’t think about it, they tend to make a lot of poor choices and decisions. I will cover a couple of those specific ones in the next few points.
- When narcissists feel like they are losing control, they will act even more impulsively. They feel so much pressure that they don’t feel they have the time to think things through.
- Narcissists tend to have several addictions. This means that they will often act impulsively in those areas as well: things such as gambling, food, drugs, sex, shopping, or whatever other compulsive behavior makes them tick.
40. Narcissists Have Fantasies of Incredible Success
Because narcissists think they are the smartest person in the room, they also think they are worthy of incredible success. But unfortunately, they don’t believe they need to put in the hard work to achieve it. They believe they are entitled to it.
They will get passed over for promotions and not understand why. They take credit for other people’s work, thinking it will get them ahead. And often it does. But eventually, the narcissist will be found out. Unfortunately, by that time, they are usually in management positions, and the people under them are so beaten down and taken advantage of with unfair expectations, that life in the workplace is miserable. But in spite of this, the narcissist does seem to have some modicum of success. And it spurs them on to keep attaining higher levels based on what they did to get where they did.
If things go south in their current work environment, they will just move on to the next job, expecting to be able to rest on their laurels. That often works out well for them as well. It is easy to hop from job to job and rank higher in each because often the narcissist’s antics at the previous place will go unreported. When giving recommendations for the next job, often management will give them a glowing review if they either didn’t know what was going on behind their back in the office or they are just eager to get rid of the narcissistic behavior and toxicity in the office.
41. Narcissists are Unable to Make Wise Decisions
This is yet another example of narcissistic behavior that I have already talked about a little bit above. By now, I am sure you realize that narcissists intermingle all of these traits in all of their relationships. And as the relationship progresses, they master the few that work best depending on the situation.
So now, let’s take a closer look at why narcissists make so many poor decisions and some corresponding examples.
The single biggest reason narcissists make poor decisions is because they act so impulsively. They don’t take the time to weigh their options. Honestly, they don’t really care about the options. They more care about what they want in that very minute. Here are some examples of narcissistic poor decisions from my own life:
- My ex would decide he wanted to buy a new car very randomly. And he would usually come home from work to announce we were going to a car dealer. We would have a car by the end of the night, rather than shopping around for the best deal. Fortunately, he started letting me make the deals with the dealers once he realized I could get a better price than he could. He realized that after I told him how much to offer the dealer and he said there was no way. I told him to do it anyway, and they accepted it. After that, I made all the car deals, although all the cars were in his name. That actually was advantageous to me in the divorce!
- The vast majority of my ex’s decisions were based on his work life and none were based on his family life. While it was good for work, it wasn’t so good for his family. But really, it wasn’t like he was spending time with us anyway. But if he claimed he had to be loyal to his work over family, he felt it was a valid excuse to not have to do the family life he didn’t want to.
- For most of the first half of our marriage, my ex loved basketball more than just about anything. He would be gone for a few hours a day several time a week once he was out of work. I had no problem with him playing basketball. The problem was that he did more of that than anything else. And if I ever asked him to do something else, he would get mad at me for being so demanding of my time. Which I wasn’t. When our first child was born, I spent the whole time in the hospital alone while he played basketball all day long on his paternity leave. I looked like a single mom. And when I asked him to be with me, his answer was no because he didn’t like hospitals.
42. Narcissists Tend to Have Financial Difficulties
This was one of the most frustrating things for me. I tried so hard to get us on good financial footing for our future. But every time I made some progress, he would make a financial decision that would set us back significantly. Here are some examples:
- Throughout our marriage, rather than paying down debt, he would roll it in to home equity loans. Also, when budgeting for these loans, he would base his budget on no spending money for anything that came up for the month. He believed once the bills were paid we could go the rest of the month without spending any money. He didn’t understand about expenses coming up, even though they did every month.
- He based affordability of houses, cars, and other monthly bills on not needing any spending money, just like the previous point. He never factored in eating out, clothes for us or the kids, car repair, home repair, holidays, or any other item that is necessary to normal life.
- There was a time when we were first married. Our first child was due soon and we needed a stroller. But we didn’t have a lot of extra money. We went to a thrift store. There were a few strollers there, but he liked one that I thought was really ugly. It was old and worn already. And a dark rusty color. But he wanted it and my opinion didn’t matter. I gave in. And he brought it to the clerk to buy. The price tag said $25. he offered the clerk $30. I was floored. When we got to the car, I explained to him how bargaining works. And he got mad at me for saying anything to him about how to bargain.
43. Narcissists Hold Grudges
I find this example of narcissistic behavior very interesting because my ex always accused me for holding grudges, among other accusations. But this would be a golden example of projecting, a key item in the narcissist’s bag of tricks.
Narcissists hold grudges because doing so allows them to maintain control over others. If they keep on holding you responsible for past mistakes, no matter how you have healed and improved, then it puts you on the defensive in trying to prove that you are okay in whatever capacity they are not giving you credit in.
Even more importantly, it allows them to hold the position as being right and they can hold everyone else at bay.
Let’s look at some examples.
I have one really good example for this. My narcissistic husband would accuse me of things in the counseling office. We would talk through it with our counselors. And often I would have some form of proof that he was wrong about what he was saying in the form of emails, texts, etc.. (By this time I was only communicating in writing, so it was easy to prove inconsistencies and lies in counseling and other exchanges.)
Many of the things he was accusing me of were not what we were currently struggling in. Instead, he would bring up random things from many years ago. It left the counselors as well as me baffled as to why he was bringing up those things that had been settled for years.
44. Narcissists Seek Work in Service Industry Vocations
We have finally made it to the end of the list! Actually, there are even more than this, but this is definitely a big enough chunk of information to give you a pretty good idea of what is going on. And I bet you can tell me even more from your own experience! But, I digress. Back to the topic!
Narcissists need to be seen as the best, most competent, most amazing, heroic person. In their minds, they think in a name-it-and-claim-it way. And then they seek out to behave as though it’s true so everybody they encounter will see them in that way too. What better way to convince everyone of that than to have a vocation in a service industry?
Here are some examples of narcissistic behavior in certain service industries that allow them outlets to exercise their narcissism in.
Narcissists Choose to be in Medical Professions
Narcissists choose to be doctors. Not only can the be perceived as highly intelligent because of his education requirements, he can be perceived as a hero in his field for saving lives. Surgeons are found to be more highly narcissistic than other doctors, likely because it is considered an even higher calling in the medical field.
I found an interesting study that supposedly showed how doctors are less narcissistic than the general public. I found it interesting because, first, it was conducted by medical professionals. It would be impossible to make it a blind study. And doctors know about narcissism and how it manifests, so they could skew the results more effectively than the general public.
I also found it interesting that the study recognized themselves as part of the medical community that was tested when they used the word we in the study report. Here is an excerpt:
“Health care professionals expressed low levels of dark triad personality traits compared with the general population. Our results show that the integrity of the healthcare profession remains steadfast. The low levels of Machiavellianism within this cohort prove that we are able to put our patients’ concerns above our own. We are as faithful to the Hippocratic Oath today as the first time it was taken. Reassuringly, psychopaths have been steered away from the doors of medical and nursing schools into presumably more suitable careers, such as politics. As a group, health care workers are less narcissistic than the general public, with a mean score in the general population cohort similar to those reported by Raskin and Terry.”
To be honest, that paragraph kind of screamed narcissistic to me. Feel free to come to your own conclusion, but also feel free to share it with me in the comments below!
Narcissists Choose to be Politicians
I have seen some really great people run for office. They have run for governor, senator, representative, even President of the United States. But inevitably, the people that would be the most in tune with their constituents’ needs are driven out of the running early on by narcissistic megalomaniacs that are more in tune with power over the people than doing good for society. Of course, narcissists are hungry for power and prestige, so it follows logically that this would be a top career choice for them.
The Movers and the Shakers of The World are Narcissists
If you think about all of the people of the world that did huge things for mankind, it was almost obligatory that they are/were narcissists, and likely ranked high on the narcissism spectrum. Let’s think about a few of them: Rothschild, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and JP Morgan were the infamous magnates of the 19th century. They were not called “robber barons” for no reason (the definition of robber baron being United States financiers who amassed enormous fortunes by questionable means while appearing to e doing great things for American life. In truth, they did do great things for America, but at a great cost to the people and corporations they trampled to get there.
Some modern day equivalents to the railroad magnates of the 19th century would be George Soros, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos.
One of the most striking examples of influential people in society being narcissistic vs. non-narcissistic is Thomas Edison versus Nikola Tesla. Edison is remembered so much more than Tesla. He died a rich and powerful man. Tesla died alone and poor. And yet, he did so much more for mankind than Edison did. Edison like to take credit for everything without having done the gruntwork. Tesla did so much work but didn’t require the accolades that Edison did. And unfortunately, the world rewarded the wrong person.
I know this article turned into a monster sized article. But, I bet those of you who have experienced narcissist relationships have experienced almost all of it. And the more you read, the more you realize how consistent the pattern of narcissistic behavior is. I hope these examples of narcissistic behavior will help you to identify it in your own life, set boundaries to prevent it, and heal from it.
I would love to hear about your journey in all of this. Feel free to comment below, or contact here if you do not want to speak out publicly.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2015, December 8.
Mirror mirror on the ward, who’s the most narcissistic of them all? Pathologic personality traits in health care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4674404/
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