You may not spot this trait until you get to know a narcissist better, but if you start to feel used, it may be because you’re being exploited. An example is someone taking credit for your work. A woman (or man) may feel used for sex, or for as arm candy if a narcissist shows no interest in her as a person. A man (or woman) may feel used if he gives money to a narcissist or provides her services. Manipulation is a form of covert aggression to influence you to do their bidding. Narcissists are masters of it. To many, dating is an art of game-playing. Whether or not it’s an “intimate relationship,” narcissists usually aren’t concerned about the other person, their feelings, wants, or needs. (Read “How to Tell if a Narcissist Loves You.” When relationships feel one-sided, givers feels exploited. They are because they allow it, and don’t set boundaries.
More serious exploitation involves lying, gas-lighting, cheating, and fraud involving financial and business dealing. These may include legal violations. You might not see this coming, but a narcissist might brag how he put one over on someone he took advantage of. Someone who had an affair may not be a narcissist, but a pattern of lying might be a symptom of several narcissistic traits. Other more obvious signs will show up.
Narcissists want to be the first and best, and don’t like their competitors. They want what they have. Instead of being happy for others’ successes, they feel envy. They may tear down the person they envy and say how the person doesn’t deserve what they have. Narcissistic parents do this with their own children and partners! They project and believe other people are envious of them. When someone has good reason to criticize or not like them, narcissists will dismiss their complaints as envy, because they are so great – and they can’t tolerate criticism.
Narcissists act superior, because deep down they feel inferior. They may put down other people, classes, ethnic groups, or races. Notice how they treat people who serve them, such as waiters and doormen, while sucking up to people of influence. Their critical comments are usually tinged with disdain and are often rude, attacking the individual and not just complaining about the service. It may come out in abrupt anger or covert hostility. This gives you a glimpse of how they will treat you when they know you better.
They typically believe they’re infallible and always right in any conversation. You might feel interrogated or steamrolled in a debate or that your words are twisted. Narcissists never take responsibility (unless it’s for a success), rarely apologize, and frequently blame others for misunderstandings or when things go wrong. Their hostility can take various forms of narcissistic abuse. Listen to how they talk about their past relationships. Do they act like the victim and still seethe with resentment?
Beware of Falling for a Narcissist
Relationships with narcissists are usually painful and can be emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. If you’re the son or daughter of a narcissistic parent, you’re more susceptible to falling for one, because they feel familiar – like family. Once attached and in love, it’s not easy to leave. Divorcing a narcissist can be costly not only financially, but emotionally frightening and exhausting. On the other hand, you may feel devastated if you’re rejected and/or replaced. (See “Recovering from Rejection and Breakups”) If you’re already involved with a narcissist, read Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People. Email me to join my mailing list for a more extensive “Checklist of Narcissistic Behaviors.”
© Darlene Lancer 2018