It may seem monotonous, even overkill, to keep writing about red flags, but I’m feeling the need to do it anyway. Maybe it’s part of my healing process, the stage where you need to reflect, which might appear to some to be code for analyzing, ruminating, justifying…but to me feels more like reminding oneself of why you absolutely cannot and should not return to the narcissist’s familiar arms.
Although these days those arms are much less familiar. Given who I’m married to (Mr. Neglectful Narcissist, who is just that–neglectful), the concept of other peoples’ arms around me becomes less and less familiar with the passage of time.
I have to tell myself that that’s okay, that I would rather be without touch than used for a jackhole’s proverbial punching bag. I would rather sit alone and watch TV or read than get ensnared and entangled in a popcorn-thunderstorm go-nowhere argument that leaves me confused, disheartened, destabilized, and exhausted.
So anyway, more red flags–because there are just that many, and if I put them all in one post, it would likely be so long it might not load onto the screen. (Lol)
This post focuses on things you might find yourself doing (I sure as hell did) during your relationship with a narcissist, which should serve as major alarm bells. These are just examples of mine; the details of yours may take on a different shape or flavor.
One big red flag is that I found myself journaling a little more about growing and deepening concerns I had about my ex over time. If you keep an honest and objective journal, this may begin surprisingly early on in the relationship. Examples may include lying, substance abuse, an explosive temper in response to minor upsets, odd or irrational behaviors, odd or irrational thoughts or beliefs–that kind of thing.
It’s in moments like these that your intuition has moved beyond nudging and nagging; it is now screaming in your ear while waving its arms. It’s trying to tell you that this is not correct, that Something Is Very Weird Here. It’s begging for your attention, demanding it. The best course of action is to listen. Ignoring those concerns and proceeding anyway is asking for trouble, denying your protective inner voice, the voice of standards and boundaries.
Another red flag is that you find yourself tiptoeing around subjects that, while seemingly innocent (or perhaps challenging, but topics that normal people would be able to handle like a boss nonetheless), you’ve typically found out the hard way were “triggering” to them. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, trying to avoid setting them off, trying to avoid another discussion, and so on. You have to choose your words too carefully. Or you may decide to swallow them and not take the risk of bringing up the subject at all. Even if it’s something that desperately needs attention.
You may also find yourself suppressing certain healthy behaviors, or quirks that are unique to you. Other people may have appreciated them, but they may be too cerebral or “weird” for the narcissist. For me, these healthy behaviors included creativity, wit, a nerdy/brainy sense of humor…things that made me me. His response would be to ignore them completely and steamroll right over them with his half of the conversation. My quirks went completely unacknowledged, unappreciated, and were never engaged with reciprocally or mutually. They didn’t even register on his radar.
Another warning sign is if you find yourself keeping on trying to figure out novel activities to engage in or fresh, new places to go. Your instincts tell you it’s to relieve their boredom, prevent things from going stale, or simply because engaging in something new temporarily brings back the one you fell in love with, who is otherwise missing these days…
…And has been replaced with another red flag, the fact that you’re also finding yourself attempting to calm them down, explaining the big picture, repeating yourself because they “don’t seem to get it”, trying to get them to snap out of it or refocus or whatever.
And you may even find yourself engaging in maladaptive behaviors, or encouraging them to do so. You may find yourself drinking (out-of-character for you), maybe a little too much, maybe to relieve the stress of dealing with them or to numb you to the pain or stress or demands they’re causing/placing on you.
Alternatively, you may find that you encourage them to drink more, because when they do, they get jollier and more jovial, maybe they lighten up, maybe they let go of something they were ruminating on, who knows? All you know is that you like them better after they’ve loosened up with a couple glasses of wine.
But not too much – because past a certain point, one or both of you might end up spiraling downward, especially as the relationship progresses and the confusion and unresolved pain continue to mount and accumulate. Inhibitions fade away and the two of you might begin to tell each other how you really feel.
Drinking too much, especially in their presence, is a bad idea because it does remove their inhibitions, which makes them more likely to hurt you, which they are now even more numb to, and it also increases the chances that you’ll get caught up in their manipulative tactics, such as gaslighting (denying your reality – “I never said that”), distraction/deflection (when they change the subject), projection (when they accuse you of doing the very thing or acting the very way that they did), and so on. And, alcohol makes Swiss cheese out of your memory, so you might even begin to gaslight yourself, too.
You may find that, after a while, certain people or activities pop into your head, and you realize you haven’t even touched base or engaged with them in months, or maybe a year or more. The narcissistic relationship is highly addictive, perhaps for differing reasons over time, and it’s like any other addiction. People seeking their next high tend to forget the rest of the world. It’s not the world’s fault, or their friends’ fault, or even really their fault; they got hooked without even knowing it, without informedly consenting.
Staying in touch with people and your former activities gets harder and harder over time, because in the beginning (the love-bombing/idealization phase), you’re so drunk/high on the pure euphoria that floods you and distracts you. You may come up for air after a few weeks or months to tell people about the perfect soulmate you met and the utopic relationship that has formed between you.
Not too long after, however, intertwinement becomes enmeshment becomes ensnarement becomes entanglement. The narcissist is vampirically attached, literally sucking all of your time and energy, and your world has insidiously become Only Them and nothing else.
One last red flag (so far, until I find even more lol) is that you may start feeling a sense of dread whenever they text/tell you that they ran into any kind of stress, frustration, or disappointment over the course of the day. This is because you know that their mood is going to be sour for quite some time. And you’ve learned that you’re going to be the target that takes the brunt.
And you find yourself having to soothe them, calm them, remind them of all the good things or things that didn’t go wrong that day, whenever they focus on a single hiccup in an otherwise decent (or even awesome) day.
You also find yourself having to convince them–of everything. This is particularly true for the covert narcissist, who constantly seeks their validation not so much by being charismatic and outgoing and charming, but by more of an introverted, underhanded solicitation of compliments. My ex was extremely self-conscious about his voice, yet he’d performed regularly at one time, only for that hobby to dip back below the horizon later, especially after I expressed support.
He simply fixated on the insecurity and would not accept positive feedback, nor even listen to reason. He would not take a compliment, let alone a joke (so I never bothered with the latter). He would not believe me. He would not take me seriously. In his quest for validation, he de-validated me.
I’ve learned the hard way that it’s no use, gorgeous ones. Whatever your narcissist has stuck in their heads or has their heads stuck on, is what is going to stay. Please, don’t beat your own against a wall in trying to change their mind.
In fact, don’t try to change any of the above. It will never, ever change.