Updated: Apr 4
Paying attention to these telltale signs can help you avoid being the next victim of one of these relationships.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be emotionally and spiritually draining. The effects often lead their partners or spouses to seek counseling as a way of helping them heal from the trauma once the relationship ends. My experience counseling people suffering the effects of their relationship with a narcissist compelled me to write this post. If you are dating or thinking about entering the dating scene, it is extremely important that you know what to look for in order to not stumble into the pitfalls of being the next unsuspecting victim of a narcissist. If you think that you are already in one of these relationships, my hope is that this blog post will give you some clarity about what you’re dealing with so that you can make wise decisions about the relationship and about the person that you are in a relationship with. Also, if you are feeling the pain of having been stung by one of these relationships, my hope is that you will not only gain important insight from the information provided but that you will also benefit from the included message of hope, because with God there is always hope and an opportunity for healing. If you are experiencing difficulty coping emotionally or spiritually as a result of having been in a relationship with a narcissist, my sincere hope is that you will be encouraged, informed and possibly even inspired to begin the journey to your healing after reading this.
I'd like to start out by saying it is my belief that most people we encounter on our journey in life are good, decent people who are doing the best they can and just trying to live a good life. However, narcissists unfortunately thrive on controlling others and use all sorts of tactics to get what they want from other people, particularly once they’ve managed to latch onto a love interest. For them, being in a relationship with someone isn't about giving their heart to the other person. They are emotionally stunted people who have really never developed the capacity to truly love another person. They tend to be very untrusting and often view members of the other sex as cunning and treacherous, which is actually the narcissist projecting his or her own negative attributes onto others. When it comes to relationships, the narcissist rarely gives anything more than the absolute bare minimum that's needed to keep the other person "on the hook” so to speak. And with the narcissist, there's usually another fish on the hook. It's a very common occurrence that while the partner of a narcissist thinks they are in a committed relationship, the narcissist is oftentimes looking for their next catch because sooner or later the partner will either tire of the stress and drama of the relationship, or the narcissist will find another unsuspecting soul that they can take advantage of and who will satisfy their insatiable need for admiration and attention. For this reason, they usually have really bad track records with respect to longevity in their relationships.
In the course of my pastoral counseling/life coaching ministry this issue has crossed my path a number of times. The word of God admonishes us to be discerning in our lives and to use wisdom in our decision making. However, that can be particularly challenging when it comes to matters of the heart. Someone once said, “Discernment is the ability to see things for what they really are and not for what you want them to be.” But in the haze of love and romance, it's easy to lose sight of how things really are because you are so desperately holding onto the ideal of what you want the relationship to be.
The Emotional/Spiritual Toll
Narcissists tend to be very intelligent people. And they often work in highly respected professions. One of the more troubling aspects of this is that you will even find them working in leadership positions within the church and other religious organizations. I have personally witnessed the emotional devastation and spiritual crisis that this kind of breach of trust can cause. Victims often have to do a lot of work rebuilding their self-esteem following months or even years of having been exposed to an onslaught of covert negativity that's designed to break down there self-confidence and their independence. It can also lead to a crisis of faith in God as they struggle for answers as to why God allow this to happen to them, or they will sometimes come to the conclusion that maybe this was punishment for a wrong that they committed in their past. Being exposed to the abuse of a narcissist can be quite crippling, emotionally and spiritually, for the victim. And it is also damaging to the credibility of ministry in general. When the narcissist happens to be masquerading as a holy person doing God’s work, the victim of the narcissist may be left battling trust issues. It is common to come away from this type of relationship feeling that if they couldn't trust this person—this man or woman of God—then who in this world can they trust?
Finagling their way into a relationship and then immediately going to work on their partner to make them feel unworthy of being loved and respected, and making them feel as though their value is totally dependent upon them, are the classic trademarks of a narcissist. In any relationship it is critical to always remember that your value is intrinsic. It comes from God not from from any man or woman.
As I mentioned, narcissist are generally very charming people who rely heavily on their charm to get what they want. And for them, image is everything. However, the image that you see is usually just a façade to hide their true personality. Even though they may be really good at hiding behind the façade, there are always telltale signs that you can recognize. You just need to know what to look for.
The first thing that you need to look for is isolation tactics. Narcissist will always try to get you isolated so that your whole world revolves around them. They will oftentimes work to pull you away from your family and they will strive to limit your friendships, or separate you from your friends altogether. Over time, they will demand more and more of your time because in the mind of the narcissist you belong to them and they don't want to share you with anybody. They are extremely possessive. They also tend to be very insecure, which is often masked by arrogance. Their inflated sense of self-importance and belief that they are superior to others in conjunction with their insecurity commonly leads them to be very judgmental and belittling of others. They also tend to be quite jealous of other people giving you attention.
Another telltale sign that you are in a relationship with a narcissist is that they never truly apologize for anything. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist listen very closely when you get from them what sounds like an apology. It may start out sounding like an apology but it will very likely be insincere and the tables will almost certainly be turned in such a way that you end up feeling as though whatever happened, no matter how egregious on their part, is your fault not theirs. In the mind of the narcissist they are always right. And they are always the victim. This is a tactic narcissists commonly use to make you question your motives and even your sanity. It's called gaslighting, and they do it very, very, well.
These relationships are often fraught with problems, which sometimes leads the partner of the narcissist to suggest going to counseling to save the troubled relationship. In these cases the narcissistic partner will do everything possible to not have that happen because it's a huge threat to their power in the relationship. Their ability to maintain control depends very heavily on secrets and deception. And they are quite aware that a savvy therapist who is not under their “love spell” will see right through their tactics of manipulation and deceit.
Warnings from Friends and Family
Next is a very important sign that all too often goes ignored or is outright resisted because you so desperately want the relationship to work out, and because to some degree you are blinded by your love for the narcissist. If you have family and friends in your life who truly love you and care about your well-being, it is not uncommon for some of these people to speak up about serious character flaws that they see in your narcissistic partner. If these are people that you have always been able to trust and whose opinions you've always valued, by all means take them seriously, because they have probably thought about this long and hard just to be able to build up the courage to say something to you about your partner. Taking the step to warn you of possible problems they can see is not an easy thing to do and is even a risky venture because the last thing they’d likely want to do is damage their relationship with you. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of love to speak up. This is a pattern that I've seen with partners of narcissists. It happens all the time. Heed the warnings, especially when those warnings are coming not from just one person, but from multiple family members and friends.
Lastly, if you suspect that you are in one of these relationships, I strongly recommend that you take time to do some serious reflection about what you've been experiencing in your relationship. And, looking back on the situation, if what you see in addition to the telltale signs that I've already mentioned is that you are caught up in a pattern of always giving and trying to satisfy your partner but that you typically receive very little from them in return, you are almost assuredly in a relationship with a narcissist.
These are just a few important examples of what to look for if you suspect that you might be in a relationship with a narcissist. If you are in one of these relationships and make the choice to get out, or, if you were in one and have recently gotten out, it will be very hard coming to terms with the fact that you gave your heart to someone who never truly loved you. This is made all too evident by what is often the final insult, which is that the narcissist usually moves on to a new love interest with lightning speed after your relationship with them comes to an end. It’s a very bitter pill to swallow.
A common reaction of people who have been through one of these relationships is to feel stupid or ashamed for having fallen in love with the narcissist. You are not alone. Many people have gone through the same experience. As you effort to heal from this situation, be kind to yourself. This didn't happen to you because you are stupid. It happened because you are likely a kind-hearted person who got taken advantage of, and because you were no match for someone whose entire existence is made up of scheming and plotting ways to deceive and manipulate others for their own benefit. Whatever you do, do not allow that person to destroy your faith in God. And don't let them destroy your belief in the good that exists humanity.
Healing the Hurt
God is faithful. The Bible says that “He binds up their wounds and heals the broken hearted.” Trust me and my friend, God will bind up your wounds. He will heal your broken heart. You can and will heal and come back from this. I also want you to know that in spite of what you went through with this one individual, there are good people in this world who are honest and looking for someone to truly love with all their heart. You just may be the one that God has for him or her. So don't close your heart to other possibilities. There's a saying “When you know better you do better.” Now that you've been through this you know better. You know what to look for. Just give yourself some much-needed time to heal. You're going to be OK. Most importantly, going forward you are going to be much, much wiser for having gone through this.
While you are in the healing process, this is a good time to work on yourself and on becoming solidly rooted in your identity and self-worth. When you are rooted in your identity, as a child of the Creator of this great universe, no one in this world will ever be able to make you feel unworthy of love and respect, or as though your value is somehow dependent upon them, on what they think of you, or upon the attention that they give to you. Your value is intrinsic. It comes from God, not from any man or woman. Remember this important truth and you will remain safely out of the grip of a narcissist. Moreover, you will be given all the wisdom that you need in making the right decision when it comes to entering into your next serious relationship.🕊💕
Rev. René François is an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, Christian life coach and founder of Loving Life ministries, which is dedicated to being an encouraging and healing presence to people worldwide.
Tap the link to listen to the podcast episode, "Are You Dating a Narcissist?"
Tap the link to watch Pastor Rene's video "Toxic Relationships May Be Hazardous to Your Health."