There was a time a little bit ago where I was dating a guy that… wasn’t so great. I’m not going to share names or get into details, but it wasn’t a great relationship, and it has obviously ended. When I was dating him, and after we broke up, I had a lot of friends explain to me that he wasn’t a great guy and that he was toxic. A few of my friends started sending me screenshots explaining narcissism, and those screenshots were a big eye-opener for me. Honestly, I’d never even heard of the word “narcissist” before. After reading more about it and talking to my girlfriends, I started to realize just how accurate the definition was when explaining my ex. But not only that, how accurate it was in explaining a lot of my toxic relationships with men, family, and even friends. 

This blog post will include the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of two of my close friends: Rikki and Mandy. It’s something me and my girlfriends talk about a lot, so I wanted to open up this topic to include all of us! If you have toxic relationships in your life, it might help you like it helped me. We will talk about what narcissism means, what to do if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, and how to heal from it. 

Where We Learned About Narcissism 

Natalie: How did you girls first get introduced to the term “narcissist”?

Mandy: I will always remember when I first heard the term, it was from my coach Debbie. I was telling her about this guy who I was living with and what I was going through with him. I thought I was just so sensitive. Like something was really wrong with me. I would tell her scenarios of what happened and how he would react followed by how certain he was that I was overly sensitive. I was actually wanting to get coaching from her on how not to be so sensitive. She told me something that made me feel so much better. And that was that if 99% of women went through what I was going through with this guy, that they would cry too. She told me I wasn’t too sensitive, and that I was dating a narcissist. 

She might as well have said I was dating a unicorn. I did not know what that meant. She recommended a book Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. 

Natalie: She recommended it to me and I listened to it on audible and I would 100% agree with that. 

Mandy: The author talks about the different types of narcissists, which is important. Debbie told me that we all have narcissistic tendencies, but a toxic narcissist is someone who lacks empathy. The way she explained it was that a narcissist will burn down your house to warm up their hands. No wonder I was in pain all the time. That’s why I think it’s an important topic, because we are all going to have to interact with narcissists whether we realize what they are or not. If you’re on planet earth and you get out of the house, you’re going to interact with narcissists. They’re everywhere and you sometimes can’t spot them at first. It’s taken years for me to recognize the signs. I think our culture kind of praises and worships narcissism because we acknowledge fame and fortune and people getting that special attention. It’s like we reward narcissism in our culture. So it gets confusing. And that’s why I think it’s really important to understand that this is a very real personality disorder and to become aware of it. 

Natalie: Now we hear that term all the time, but years ago I’d never heard of it. The actual definition of  narcissism is: personality qualities, thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others. I think the “lacking empathy for others” part is one of the big ones that I’ve seen you guys talk about so much over and over.

Rikki: We see people talk about girls on social media. A girl thinks she looks pretty one day and she posts a selfie and people are like, “Oh, she’s so narcissistic.” She posts all these selfies, but that is not narcissism. That’s just a girl wanting some positive attention. She just wants to put pretty pictures out there. There are worse things in the world than a girl who thinks she looks pretty and posts a selfie. That’s not narcissism. It’s the complete lack of empathy that really defines narcissism. And that’s how Mandy described it to me. 

One day I was driving down the road and I was telling her a story, which I don’t remember now, but she said, “That sounds like a narcissist.” She’d started describing it and I said, “Well I kinda sound like a narcissist!” She told me I wasn’t, but said everybody thinks they’re a little bit of a narcissist when they hear the definition. Then she told me the quote about a narcissist burning down your house to warm up their hands, and how they’d have no remorse for ruining your life just because their hands were cold because they are just that destructive. 

Mandy: The thing that really help me grasp the concept was from Debbie. She told me that they don’t have the same internal world that we have, and they usually have a really hard childhood. There was usually something that happened in their childhood where they don’t have an internal world. It’s like if I said something right now that hurt your feelings, I’d feel it. I’d feel bad. They don’t have that same reaction. It’s like the people who have that disease where they don’t feel physical pain. They could put their hand on a stove and it wouldn’t hurt. Narcissists are like that with the emotional pain of others. That’s why they can be the way they are. That’s why it’s so confusing, because we don’t understand that lack of empathy. It makes us question ourselves. 

Natalie: I remember having the same reaction. I was like, am I a narcissist? I like attention sometimes, and (as a protection mechanism), I can cut people off without a problem. I have a hard time sometimes making close relationships. But you guys helped me see that we all have narcissistic tendencies. Just because we all have those tendencies doesn’t mean you’re an actual narcissist. Also, I should say, none of us are licensed psychologists. So if you think you’re dealing with a real narcissist, you might want to seek out a therapist, which is something all three of us do! 

Real-Life Examples of Narcissism 

Natalie: Let’s tell some stories where people can relate to dealing with narcissism. For me, for example, my mom would be an example of dealing with a narcissistic family member. I’ve shared the story of my mom before (If you don’t know it, you can read about it here), so I’m not going to go into a ton of details. But I do think being able to hurt somebody, and if you have no regard for how your decisions affect your children, you may be narcissistic. My mom is out of the picture, but for someone who has a narcissistic mother, that can be really damaging because it’s all about them all the time. It makes it really hard for you to shine when everything’s about them and they don’t have any empathy for how you feel. It’s all about how it makes them look.

Rikki: I think the common denominator with all the narcissists I know, whether that be bosses, friends, lovers, etc., is they leave a trail of bloody bodies behind them. You will be contacted by people eventually who have been hurt by this narcissist. Or you at least hear stories about it from their friends. Narcissists have a cycle of overvalue, devalue, and then discard. Sometimes it’s written as love bombing and then devalue and then discard. It’s all saying the same thing, which is the cycle of a narcissist. When you meet a narcissist, they do this love bombing thing and it literally feels like you’re on drugs. It’s like this cocktail of emotions where they smother you with love, attention, affection, adoration, they put you on this pedestal. It’s not like the normal infatuation you experience with a new boyfriend, friend, or new job. It’s over the top. 

You’ll say, “I’ve never felt like this before!” “He says I’m the most amazing woman in the world!” “They’re the best friend I’ve ever had!” It’s just very short and sudden. You just met this person and you’re on this instant pedestal and there’s all this love bombing the entire time. 

Natalie: When they are talking about marrying you right off the bat, saying you’re the best friend they’ve ever had. They want to be with you forever. It’s all really extreme right away. It’s at 100 right from the get-go. 

Rikki: They’ll say, “I just don’t connect with other people.” Or I dated one guy who said, “I just get so sick of women. I think women are so stupid. I think women don’t have a good sense of humor. You’re so funny. You’re so smart. No other woman is like that.” They tell you these things that make you feel so special. You’re so full of all of this love, and then they start to devalue you. It’ll start subtly. It’ll start with just little criticisms. I remember I was in college, I was 20-years-old.  I’m five foot four and I was probably 105 pounds and a size zero. I remembered when my boyfriend squeezed my thigh on a boat and was showing that I had cellulite.

We were only dating for three months, and up until this point I was the perfect woman. That was the first little glimpse I had into the devalue stage. And then, discard. They leave your life just instantly. These days we would call it ghosting. They just completely disappear. They eventually come back because they need that food again. They need to feed that narcissistic hunger, so they go back to love bombing. They can’t believe they’d do this, and they love making up, and that’s the cycle. 

Natalie: It’s so addicting. It feels so good. Sometimes they can be very emotional and they cry and it all feels very sincere. My friends can always see through it, but it’s so hard when you’re in it. 

Rikki: Getting somebody away from a narcissist is like getting a drug addict away from heroin. Because it feels so good.

Mandy: It’s worse than heroin I think! Because it’s a human being. You have emotions, and you think that the people who don’t understand are just being cold. Or that the person just had such a bad childhood and other people don’t understand. Many times they are very intelligent, and they know just how to hook you. I love that you talk about the love bomb because I think that’s so important. If narcissists were easy to spot or we could easily point them out, then we wouldn’t have such an issue with it. They are so charming and intoxicating and the beginning is really like a fairytale. 

I love romantic comedies, but I watch them now in a completely different light. For example, 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler? He’s a total narcissist! All of these men in RomComs are filled with narcissistic men. They are charming and amazing, they say the main character is so special and different and they can rescue her! I think that’s something that I had to learn in therapy. I was always so attracted to these narcissists. Because guess what, normal men are not the same way in the beginning. It’s not as intense. They aren’t as smooth. I think that that’s something to become aware of is how wonderfully charming narcissists are. 

I think what Rikki said is important. They make you feel so so special. When I was dating my ex, I remember he played sports and I remember all his friends feeding me the same thing. Not only was he giving me the love bomb, all of his friends said, “Oh, Mandy, he is changing.” What is more intoxicating for us? Not only does he love me, but I’m changing this man! I’m saving him! And it’s not true. 

Rikki: The man I dated after my divorce was a total narcissist. I loved all of his friends. They told me I was the love of his life. That he talks about me like he’s been searching for me forever. That he’s never talked about a woman like he talks about me. It was intoxicating. It made me feel like I was a narcissist. But, of course, it was him that was the narcissist and it ended badly. 

Getting Out of Narcissistic Relationships 

Natalie: Mandy, do you want to tell some of your relationship stories? We don’t have to share names, but maybe how you eventually realized you were dating a narcissist and then how you got out of it? Maybe even some of the things we don’t like to talk about, if you don’t mind sharing. Like, the traumatic stuff. The abusive stuff. I’ve talked to so many women who may downplay it or say it wasn’t really that bad. But maybe if someone is reading this and realizing they can relate, some of your stories can be helpful. 

Mandy: Absolutely. It’s really hard. You know, it’s interesting. I dated a narcissist, knew about narcissism, coached people on narcissism, and then I fell in love with another narcissist. So I’m very humble with this topic because I’ve had to do a lot of work on myself. And I know that I still have the potential to become manipulated by another narcissist. I am married now to a great man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fall into narcissistic friendships, etc. One memory that just popped up was when I was on a double date with my ex and his friends. He was in a mood, and he was an alcoholic, (which can be common for narcissists). We were sitting at the table, and he leaned into me and I thought he was going to kiss me, but he headbutted me really really hard. 

It was in such shock. He did it in front of his friends. I almost felt like, did this really happen? I went to the bathroom and I like felt like I wanted to cry, but I didn’t feel safe to cry in front of him and his friends. I was embarrassed. Like I’d done something wrong. The girl we were with came into the bathroom and said, “I want to kick his ass!” I said, “Oh, it’s fine.” Now looking back on it, I was like the battered wife that you see in the movies. I was like, “Oh no, he’s been drinking too much. He is upset from fighting with his dad.” I made excuses for him. I downplayed it. 

I ended up getting a black eye. I told this big lie to my family about how I got it, because I didn’t want them to know. That’s important to realize, if you’re lying for them, you’re probably with a narcissist or at least someone with a personality disorder. Someone who is unhealthy. 

Another story I have is hard to share. It makes me feel really vulnerable. But I think it’s important if it helps someone else. This guy always wanted me to do a three-way. But I’m very traditional. I don’t have any judgment against that, but I’m just very traditional. I’m just not into that. But there was constant pressure. One night we went out drinking, and he had this girl that he worked with with us. She was nice and we got along… but not like that. So we are at the bar with his friends, and I look over, and he’s making out with her right in front of me. I remember just being stunned, and then I asked for a shot. It probably wasn’t the best decision at the time, but I took a shot and then I ran into the kitchen of this place.

And this is the thing, when you’re dating a narcissist, you can’t help but go crazy. I’m embarrassed about some of the things that I did. I went into the kitchen and I started crying to the cook. I just didn’t know what was happening and I did not know how to handle it. Believe it or not, after that, all three of us actually ended up going home together. They ended up trying to have sex, but it didn’t happen. I was crying on the couch the whole time. I was embarrassed. I was so embarrassed. One of the guys that was on his sports team, he was like the biggest jerk guy of them all. He was the gross guy you would never want your sister or best friend to end up with. I remember him looking at me, and he was married, and he goes, “You know, I know I’m pretty crass sometimes, but I would never do what he’s doing to you.” It was such a crazy thing to hear that guy say that.

I wish I could say that was the next day I broke up with him and I left, but I didn’t. That’s the thing that I have a lot of compassion for. Especially for women who get stuck.

Natalie: And I just want to say, the great thing about these two friends of mine is that, no matter what I’m going through, or what guy problem I’m having, they always work to be compassionate. They always say, “We don’t judge, and we’re always here for you.” So if you’re listening to this, just know we’re telling these stories not because we’re judging the situations. We’ve been there. I think the main reason we want to talk about this is just to share our stories and to let you guys know we’ve been through it and it sucks. You can also come out the other end better and stronger. But there are things to look out for.  

Mandy: And if you’re friends with someone, or you have a sister, or an aunt, or a mom, or whoever, where you’re like, “Why is she with him?” Just remember to have compassion. I used to wonder that. I used to wonder how that happened, even with famous people like Mike Tyson and Robin Givens. I didn’t get it. Before I ever got into an abusive relationship, I did not get it. Why would this beautiful, smart, successful woman be with this man? Now that I’ve been in it, I get it. For those of you who may be listening and you’ve never had to experience it, I invite you to have compassion. Because it has nothing to do with intelligence. It also has nothing to do with self-esteem. You can have a good self-esteem and love yourself and still get entangled because you get wrapped up into it. The first few months of my relationship with my ex was like a RomCom. It was heaven. It was so passionate. That memory of the beginning of it is what kept me stuck because I remembered when it was so good. I thought it was worth fighting for. This is passion. And you hear about passion all the time and you want passion, and guess what? Narcissists are really good at that part. 

Rikki: And dammit, they are always really good in bed. 

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Good Guy and a Narcissist? 

Natalie: So Mandy, you’re in a great marriage now, how do you tell the difference between falling in love with someone good and when you’re falling in love with a narcissist?  

Mandy: Such a good question. Ask yourself, “Do they really know you?” A narcissist is going to project and a narcissist is going to move fast and a narcissist isn’t going to know the real you. For example, I am so klutzy and absent minded. I forget stuff all the time. The narcissist I dated said he loved me in two weeks before he knew me. Before he saw the bad stuff, the dark stuff, the stuff that usually turns other guys off. With my husband, he found it endearing. He wanted to get to know Mandy and he didn’t pretend to know me. He asked questions, he listened, and he paid attention to me. Whereas narcissists usually are so in their own world, they don’t pay attention. If I got a new shirt, my husband always noticed. Sometimes I do this thing with my nose where I kind of sigh when something bothers me when I’m upset, and my husband always notices that. A  narcissist isn’t going to notice those things

Rikki: Totally. 100% agree. Just comparing a healthy relationship, a good guy will allow you to be 100% yourself. They almost love your flaws more than the shiny exterior that you display. The biggest narcissist I ever dated was in college, and he was very extravagant. He was always buying me nice clothes, and I was in college and bought my clothes at Walmart or something. He was always buying me extravagant things, but not because he loved me. It was because he wanted me to have this image. He wanted to take me places and not being embarrassed by me. I’m in a relationship now and he knows how I will react in every single situation. He’ll anticipate it. He knows what’s going to make me mad. He avoids those situations. It’s the kind of situation where he loves me in my pajamas with my topknot in and I actually feel attractive. Those are the good ones. You’d never be in your pajamas with a facemask on with a narcissist because he’d probably call you hideous. 

Friendship Narcissists

Natalie: Let’s talk about the friendship narcissists because we didn’t really dig deep into that story. How did you realize you became friends with the narcissist? 

Rikki: I didn’t realize until she discarded me. It was a devastating loss of friendship. I started a new job and she and I became very close. We were definitely best friends for years. We did everything together. We went on trips together. We Snapchatted all day long. We texted all day long. If we broke up with our boyfriends and needed to call someone at 2:00 AM, we would answer for each other. We partied together, we talked about kids together, we talked about work together. A friend can do the love bombing just like a romantic partner can. She’d say things like, “You’re my best friend. You’re the only person I can tell this stuff to. I feel like you’re the only person who won’t judge me. You’re the only person I can trust.” She’d say stuff like, “Let’s not invite her. Let’s just have it just be the two of us.” It was just this weird thing where she’d get me away from other people, and even criticize the men I was dating. 

I look back now and I see all those things, but I didn’t realize she was a narcissist. I had little inklings because she had failed relationship after failed relationship after failed relationship. She would tell me about all these arguments with these men and I would think, “Wow, that was a really weird thing to get mad at.” She would explain this rage and how she was screaming at her boyfriend. She would show me these text exchanges between her and her boyfriend. I would read them and think, “Wow that went from 0 to 60 really fast.” So I kind of had an inkling but it didn’t hit me that a friend could be a narcissist, but of course they can. I’m so used to hearing about men being narcissists. You don’t hear about it with women as much.

Something happened in our work relationship and she completely cut me out of her life. She blocked me from all social media, which I know sounds silly, but social media is like a love language these days. She blocked me from everything. She blocked me from text, I couldn’t call her. I couldn’t text her. This is what narcissists do, this is the discard phase. They completely exit your life. If you don’t leave them first, they will leave you. Then these other women started reaching out to me. They started reaching out to me actually before she broke up our friendship. This one woman reached out to me on Facebook who I wasn’t friends with and she said, “Hey, this is really weird and random and out of the blue. But I have a question about “Jane”. (That’s what we will call her). “I know you guys are best friends. We were really close. We used to be best friends. We spent every waking moment together and then she just stopped talking to me all of a sudden.” 

It was the oddest message. But I was a good friend, I took a screenshot, I sent it to “Jane.” She told me that the woman was crazy. That she was so obsessed with her. She had this big explanation about how crazy this woman was and so I kind of blew it off. Then I started thinking she had other women in her life that she has discarded. It was devastating. It was like losing a best friend. It was losing a best friend. It was so painful. We did everything together. She was my go-to person in the middle of the night.

So she cut me out of her life and I contacted this woman and we ended up talking and she told me her whole story, which was eerily similar to mine. They did everything together and all of a sudden one day she had no idea why, she completely disappeared from her life. There were three other women that I knew of, so now five women that she completely discarded from her life. It was frightening. That’s when I learned, the only way to get over narcissism is therapy and no contact. You have to go 100% no contact.

Look Out for Part 2

There’s so much to talk about in the world of narcissism that I turned it into two posts. Look out for part 2, where we will talk more about this topic. 

Thank you to my amazing friends Mandy and Rikki for joining me in this discussion! 

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist in any way, let me know what your experience has been. Let’s open up the discussion!

xo Natalie

P.S. I also talk about this topic on my podcast! If you’d rather listen than read, here is Part 1 and Part 2!