OPINION: I have had so many women ask me to write about the allure narcissists, and the fascinating and disturbing pattern amongst high achieving women falling into these toxic relationships.
These are women who have been drawn to, and often struggled to break away from, narcissistic men.
The common thread: all of these women are smart, well-educated and independent, and none of them can understand how on earth they could have been sucked in so easily.
But smart, self-assured women, with the usual underlying insecurities we all have, are the ideal target for a narcissist.
Why do they prey on smart, successful high achievers? The better their catch, the bigger the ego boost. Simple.
For the record, a lot of people today, especially with the selfie phenomenon and the rise of social media, display narcissistic traits. We are all a little on the spectrum.
We may recognise unhealthy narcissistic traits in our partners, or even ourselves, which may lead to some healthy awareness and change.
What I am referring to in this article though is a bit more extreme than that: when narcissism becomes a diagnosable condition, known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. True narcissists are, of course, not limited to just men. Women can be narcissists too. It’s not a gender specific disorder, however it is more common in men.
The term narcissist came from the Greek mythology, where the impossibly handsome Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Thus, a narcissist, by definition, has an inflated sense of their own importance.
On the flip side, they also have the seemingly conflicting trait of a very low self-esteem. Its those two qualities that make them so very dangerous in relationships. They have a seemingly insatiable need for validation, which leads then them to become experts in subtle but effective art of manipulation.
Narcissists tend to be charming and self-assured, and with an intensity that makes them both enticing and exciting. In order to feed their seemingly bottomless need for validation, narcissists will become manipulative, using a barrage of techniques that lure and trap their victims.
Here’s is what to look for:
– Love Bombing: Lavishing attention and affection early on that sweeps their victims off their feet, making them feel loved and adored.
– Mirroring: Reflecting the victim self back at themselves, giving the feeling that this person really ‘gets’ them.
– Gas lighting: Making a person question their own beliefs and thoughts.
– Self-absorption: the narcissist will have little interest in the victims life, will ask few questions and turn conversation onto themselves whenever possible. The self-absorption is such that they are unable to empathise with others.
– Blame Shifting: The narcissist will not take reasonability for behaving badly and shift the blame, so the victim ends up feeling at fault, or is accused of overreacting to the narcissists actions, somehow end up apologising even when the narcissists actions are at fault. Narcissists will almost never apologise, or indeed see themselves at fault.
– Intermittent reinforcement: When the narcissist creates a fear of ‘losing’ the relationship in their victim, by counteracting intense periods of attention with emotional distance. This is called a ‘manipulative shift’ and gives power to the narcissist. This attention releases dopamine in the brain of the victim, much like a drug. Many victims will describe being ‘addicted’ to the narcissist : and thats because, quite literally, they are. It creates a ‘trauma bond’, provoking emotional meltdowns in otherwise stable people.
– Relationship Sabotage: Destroying the victims support network by damaging their relationships with friends and family.
So how to end a relationship with a narcissist? Make sure you have a good support network around you. Those people that were pushed away, will probably rally around you if they know you are intending on leaving the narcissist.
If you have a gang of girlfriends, now is the time to enlist them. Most women have dealt with some level of narcissism in a relationship at least once, chances are they will get it. If you don’t have a girl gang, there are Facebook support groups you can join and lean into. The same applies to men too of course.
Experts recommend seeking the advice and support of a counsellor.
It is best to ‘rip off the band aid’ and remove all contact with the narcissist. Block them on all levels from your life, social media and otherwise.
Beware though: the narcissist has one more trick up their sleeve, known as hoovering, where the narcissist will use various manipulative techniques to reconnect.
Claire Inkson is an award-winning New Zealand photographer and blogger, based in North Canterbury.