A narcissist’s first impressions (plural) are simply a mask, an illusion. We all realize it sooner or later, don’t we? But by then, it’s too late; we’ve fallen in love with that illusion. It is that convincing, and it show-and-told us what we wanted to feel, see, and hear.
And so, we fall for it.
That’s not a personality weakness or character flaw on our parts, gorgeous ones. That’s just the nature of the beast. And they truly can be beasts, can’t they?
Nobody has the energy to hold up the mask forever. They might be able to for several weeks, months, maybe even a year or two, if you’re (un)lucky. Narcissists have a special type of antenna that detects the precise moment at which we exhale deeply (maybe even with relief, as we’ve finally found The One, and the relationship–and partner–appear to be stable, unlike the other jerks we’ve left), let down our guard, and actually settle into the relationship.
And it’s at that moment, that the narcissist, too, sighs with relief, lets down their guard (mask), and decides that the “positive supply” of being warm, affectionate, charismatic, and in love, is “too much work” (direct quote) for the payoff, and determines that “negative supply” generated by putdowns, snide remarks, fights, chaos, and drama, is what they need next.
And they get it from you. They see you as the punching bag.
Of course, the mask, even in the early days (known as the “idealization phase”), is not perfect. Narcissists are (perhaps) human, after all, although that statement may be up for debate. Regardless, the mask is simply an illusion, a construct that they have created in order to package themselves into a shiny, gilded, socially acceptable image–a hologram, really–that they can present to the world. They come across as warm and romantic, a lot of fun to be around, joking and laughing easily, and oh, so trustworthy. That’s not even sarcastic; that’s really how they come across.
The mask does have its cracks, however – imperfections, tiny weak points, at which their true personality does slip through. The feeling that something isn’t right, something doesn’t quite add up, may or may not be there at first, but it doesn’t take long to set in, does it?
At the first signs of these mask-cracks, you find yourself writing it off in your head. “Oh, that’s just a guy/girl thing” (that was my mom’s favorite, about both my father and also my husband, to which I wanted to scream “no it’s not!”), “that’s just part of their depression/horrible childhood”, etc. My ex also had Asperger Syndrome, so I wrote a lot off under that label. (Then again, I have Asperger’s, too, and I behave nothing like him!)
Quick background: my ex lived a few hours away, so our friendship–and then deeper relationship–developed mostly over text messaging, with sporadic weekends spent visiting each other, after 2.5 years of platonic friendship.
What I Noticed During the Platonic Friendship…
During the “getting to know you” phase, he didn’t seem to ask much about me as I did about him. We were both fairly forthcoming with information to each other back then; however, I still asked him many more questions, showing much more interest in him than he did me. His body language said that he was absolutely interested, but he didn’t seem to care much about exactly who I was or what I wanted out of life.
Turns out that that was a blessing in disguise – you do not want to reveal your purpose, dreams, goals, sensitive points, and so on, to a narcissist. Although they don’t often listen or take to heart what you say, they will definitely listen and remember your personal revelations and use them as weaponry against you later.
Unfortunately I had ultimately revealed plenty – my occupation, the business I own, and obviously he knew about our cats and such. And later, that almost turned out to be a liability, as he’d confessed that he’d considered smearing our business in every online review site and social media outlet he could think of. Thankfully, he didn’t. At least, not as of now.
One of the earliest red flags I noticed (although I didn’t attribute it to narcissism then) was that he lied. We’d gone up to meet in person about a year before the actual deeper relationship started, meeting him at his parents’ house. He denied living in the house with them, pointing to a shed out back (he called it a “guest house” and telling us he lived there, in his own space, only coming into the “main house” for meals and whatnot.
Well, it took about a year and he’d let something slip about “his room” and I said “wait a minute…there are lots of people and pets in a small space already; how’d you go from living in the guest house to having your own bedroom in the main house?” He finally copped to it, saying that the guest house was a shed, and he’d always had his own room in that crowded space.
Another initial sign was during that same venture up to his parents’ place. We’d adopted two kittens from his household, and then made our way back. After a long, strong hug (I admit, he’s good at those), he turned away, at the precise time we’d agreed to part ways, because a sports event was coming on TV. He didn’t do the Normal People thing, which is to wave goodbye and linger for a moment to see guests off before they drive away. He was back in the house before I even had my vehicle started. Again, all about him.
I also found it a little odd whenever he would tell me he was in “Facebook jail” (his term for being banned from the site for anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days) – “again”. I always wondered what he was doing or saying to get himself banned, and I didn’t always ask, but when I did, he’d say that he’d made a comment that expressed an unconventional view, such as having chosen not to have children or expressing an opinion that was politically independent.
Another glaring warning sign that I simply chocked up to garden-variety depression was that whenever I asked him how his day went, it either went one of two ways: it either sucked/horrible (stressful) or it was boring (it went smoothly). There was no in-between, nor did he ever use a positive descriptor. No matter what, he was always negative. Gorgeous ones, I have suffered severe clinical depression before. I know how it can go. I’ve known many others who’ve suffered the same condition. And no matter what, most of us can find something positive to say about something. But he never could.
I noticed how intense his manner of speaking was, and it often took me aback, as if to say “whoa”. He was a very pessimistic, intense person, using phrases like “everything f**king sucks”, “my life is hopeless”, and so on. Not only could he not find anything good to say, but he was definitely in-your-face about it.
He also disclosed to me that he’d driven very drunk – during our friendship – something I do not condone at all. He’d had the equivalent of 8 standard US drinks in 2 hours, and then driven home. I was horrified and I did scold him when he told me this, and he said he hadn’t realized how drunk he was, thought he could make it home before the full extent of the alcohol had set in, had been scared on the way home, and was not proud of having done that.
Wearing blurry, foggy lenses at the time, I summed him up as male, Asperger’s, young(er than I, by nearly a decade), and horribly depressed. And being someone on the Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum myself, I knew how that could often feel, except that I wasn’t sure what that looked like in guys, as he was the first one I’d gotten to know well. So while these points stood out to me then and I know what they are now, there was no red flag that warned me not to proceed any further.
And that means, gorgeous ones, that there is indeed a Part 2: The Relationship…