Narcissism is insidious. It eats into self-worth, mercilessly thrashes its victims, and extracts everything that is good out of relationships, leaving behind an empty, dry husk. The world is consistently seeking out information on what creates a narcissist, how to spot them, and how to get out of relationships with them. The red alert is flashing in all directions when it comes to narcissism – but do we really understand how insidious and charmingly dangerous these relationships can be?
Narcissists thrive on exhorting others’ vulnerabilities. It is both their “love” language and their victory speech. If you are in any kind of relationship with a narcissist – and although most people think of narcissism as pertaining only to romantic relationships, it spills into every relationship domain and can poison any level of human interaction – brace yourself to fight battles on the milestones of your vulnerabilities.
We know that, on the surface, narcissists view relationships as a means to an end – people are to be used, and meaningful connections with others are fairly non-existent. There are numerous anecdotal, as well as research-based, reports detailing the various signs of when you could be engaging with a narcissist. The problem with all of the data is how very challenging it is to objectively quantify something as subjective as a relational interaction with another human.
It may surprise many people to know that in some studies, narcissists have demonstrated basic insight into how others view them and their own narcissistic traits. They have been able to recognize that as relationships progress, other people often start to increase their negative views of them and do not assess them as positively as they do themselves. Much of the time, however, this insight about their own behaviors and others’ perceptions of those behaviors ends here.
While narcissists are not experts at understanding the true nature of how others view them, they are professionals at scanning, assessing, and categorizing other people into the different ways they can be used. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that in the beginning, everything was different until the stress got to them – narcissists start out relationships gauging what benefit they will get from them. When relationships are deemed as being too costly for the rewards, they typically find ways to end them.
Relationships are a basis of human interaction and necessary in some form for nearly everyone to reach optimum health and well-being. Humans are social creatures; from extroversion to introversion, we all desire some type of connection with others. Although this is a great strength for us in many ways, when it comes to narcissists it can easily transform into a vulnerability. Narcissists quickly sniff out your desire for connection and tend to innately recognize the individuals who will be easier to manipulate and/or use in some way than others.
It is flattering to be the center of a narcissist’s attention in the beginning. Initially, they are attentive, dependable, superficially considerate, and eager to please. Many people find it gratifying to be told they are the only one who understands, they are special and unique from others, they have always deserved better, or they are the answer that someone has been seeking for a long time. These first grooming steps of a narcissist have one common goal in mind: gaining trust to build dependence.