Saying that I ignored the signs is actually not quite fair. Ignoring the signs implies that you have previous knowledge of them and the consequences you’ll face and risks you’ll take by not abiding by them. For example, running through a red light at an intersection. You could get caught by a traffic camera, if any, pulled over by a police officer, get in a car accident, or in the worst case even die. But if you come from another country where there are no traffic lights at all, you may not understand what they are or their puspose.
The same happens with narcissism. The signs that you’re dealing with a narcissist might be there from the beginning. However, if you do not know about them or what to look for, you may not even notice them. And that’s what happened to me.
- Intensity. From the beginning, he would look at me with such intensity. Oh, I could get lost in those blue eyes. I was so happy to have found someone who knew how to listen! What I didn’t know: He was studying me, my talents, my weaknesses, my insecurities, my past, my present, everything so he could use it to mirror me in the initial phase (idealization) and then against me (devaluation.) Don’t fool yourself: Your strengths and qualities are the things the narcissist will try to destroy in an effort to control you.
- Too much attention. I took his constant text messaging and daily evening phone calls as the good signs of someone genuinely interested in me. The fact that he would spend more time talking about himself didn’t bother me as much. I was genuinely interested in him. What I didn’t know: He was love-bombing me, providing undevoted attention to me so I would open up to him and become vulnerable so he could learn my deepest secrets and turn those against me later on during devaluation.
- Moving too fast. Our relationship was in the fast lane. We met on a weekend, he contacted me midweek, we went out the following Sunday, by the following Tuesday we were having a slightly intimate dinner. After that, communication on a daily basis, e-mail and text messages at all times, and we were seeing each other every weekend and sometimes for lunch on weekdays. What I didn’t know: Narcissists move fast in the initial phase and they love-bomb you so you lower your defenses and trust them.
- Not spending time with other people. As our relationship progressed, we started to spend more time as a couple and less and less time with other people. While it is normal and expected to spend time as a couple with no other parties involved so you can share special times together and getting to know each other, what is not normal is to completely stop spending time with other people, as well. I had a large group of friends with whom I would do a lot of outdoor activities. I stopped spending time with them. I would only spend time with them when my husband (then boyfriend) would be busy with other activities that didn’t include me. And I stopped spending time with them without even realizing I was gradually doing so. What I didn’t know: Narcissists will gradually isolate you. You will stop seeing your friends, your family, coworkers, church people, whoever you may spend your free and quality time with. They will try to convince you to do things without including those people and you’re so in love that you end up complying and giving in because you want to spend time with him or her. In my case, he would always have a commitment or some other idea that would overlap my previous plans. Looking back, he never went to any party, gathering, or event my friends would invite me or us to. At first, he went to a few of those. But then he would start making excuses: His job; his side job; his mother had worked so hard preparing dinner for us; he really, really, really wanted me to go to the trade show for his job with him, which was out of town; he wanted to see this or that other film; he was tired from working sooooo hard during the week and wanted to stay home and why wouldn’t I stop by and rest with him; and the list goes on. This is also done in an effort to isolate you with the ultimate goal of controlling you. Without other people around to witness how he or she will really start to treat you once the mask slips, you have no way of backing up your reality and he or she will be able to manipulate it and you as he or she pleases.
- He liked exactly the same things I liked and had the same or similar goals I had. There’s nothing bad with liking the same things and having similar goals. In fact, you need common grounds, most especially in important and decisive areas, if you want to succeed as a couple. However, everybody has goals and likes independently from those of their partner’s. My husband seemed to always agree with me. What I didn’t know: It was just an act to get me hooked and think that we were on the same page as part of the idealization phase. You can never completely agree with everything. We never fought. That should have been a sign, I guess. Concerning common and agreed upon goals, he then denied those once we were already married. Even said that I had either misunderstood him, or made them up. In other words, he deceived me and lied, as well as kept changing goals and contradicting himself.
- He praised me a lot. I’m not sure this is a narcissist trait. But somehow, he found out what to praise me about, which were yhe very thibgs that previous boyfriends found as deal-breakers. And I didn’t mind the praise, which was a nit too much sometimes, because I had finally found someone who seemed to appreciate me for who and what I was. Or so I thought at the time. Guys would get easily scared with me being as independent, self-sufficient, assertive, and adventurous as I was. Not him. He would point out that he didn’t mind those things about me. In fact, he kept on praising me on those. He even said that he loked that I was smarter than him. What I didn’t know: He used every single one of those qualities of mine to turn them around into insecurities later on. Or at least he would point out my supposed insecurities based on those. He turned them inti the exact opposite. I wasn’t smart. I was insecure. I couldn’t make a decision without him guiding me. I needed to be more self-sufficient. The funny thing was that, as soon as I would show I could (amd was) smart, independent, self-sufficient, etc., he would start a fight with me saying that I was trying to control him, thought less of him as he was a fool, and he would gaslight me, moving things around, even making them disappear so as to make me feel crazy.
- His friends were unavailable. They were conveniently living in other states or, the handful he had in town, had other commitments every time that there was supposed to be an opportunity to meet them or when he would supposedly invite them over for dinner. I didn’t even meet them on our wedding day. Apart from his family, there weren’t a lot of friends from his side at our wedding. Me, on the other hand, had a lot of people attending. Since my family is abroad and only a few of them were able to afford the costly tickets, I invited a lot of friends. They all came. What I didn’t know: Narcissists do not have friends. They have flying monkeys. And even those can be very limited. Not having friends is a sign that something is not right with that individual.
Those are the major signs I can now recognize. But back them, I don’t think I would have recognized them even if they had been plastered on gigantic billboards.