Why are there so many narcissists in the dating world? For those who have been on the dating treadmill for a while, you surely have crossed the path of one of those. Psychological criminals or abusers, their misdeeds are hard to define or categorize. From pathological perverts to spoiled little boys, where is the limit?
There is a sufficient amount of writings online about the harm they cause to their victims. A clear trend though is that most Narcissists are male (as I am talking from experience, I mean Hetero – Cis Males, however, I’d love to hear LGBT+ experiences on this topic). As I am not a psychologist, I will not dissert further on the pathological subjects. However, this gender trend is not innocent.
When the relationship begins, you discover a solar personality, an uplifting, ambitious, empathic and intelligent person. They are not necessarily hot or good looking but they are magnetic and charismatic. They make you laugh, they are supportive and often have a feminist speech. He’s everything you have been looking for. You are finally in a balanced relationship, you are recognized for who you are, your intelligence, your ambition, your talents and your beauty. The wolf is in the sheepfold.
Gradually, the focus shifts. Imperceptibly. The little things they do, they say, the attitude, something seems inconsistent but you cannot put a finger on it. Your gut has detected it but you are still full of hope and you put this intuition on your past bad experiences with men. After all, he is a feminist, there is nothing to worry about. Gradually, his needs take the forefront. He’s not satisfied and it hurts him. You hurt him! You feel bad about it. Have you settled in a dynamic of using him to heal your past wounds? Have your brain been so damaged that you can’t give love the way you use to? The way a normal man would need to receive love? Your focus slowly shifts, you start centering your energy around him. Your thoughts are busy with the relationship, how to make this work? You are in a spiral of self doubt. You feel guilty but on the other hand, something draws you towards protecting your interests: your relationships with your friends, family, your career, your energy: sleep, food, exercise… While he threatens to give up on the relationship because his emotional needs are unmet, you are stuck struggling with your most basic needs. There is a variety of endings to that story. But most of us end up with a big question: “How do I prevent this to happen again?”
Narcissists need to show off. They look for things that will enhance their status for the sake of it. Modern society does not only value ascribed status (typically based on sex, age, race, family relationships, or birth) but increasingly achieved status based on education, occupation, marital status, accomplishments, or other factors. The smart and successful man you connected with a few weeks ago may not have been motivated to become who he is through genuine interests in his work, passions and relationships, but by the social status it would bring to him. In the same way, what drove him towards this relationship with you was the extrinsic motivation of the social status of what a successful partner would bring. He does not connect with you for who you are, but for how you make him feel: successful.
The trophy wife of today’s face and look has changed. And the “submissive beautiful” wife does not feed men’s ego it used to. To be THE “perfect” man, society imposes not only to be in a relationship, but to be in a relationship with someone who is worth the man you are: successful in all areas of her life. This has made the new target of narcissists increasingly smart, self driven and ambitious as a women’s success today is increasingly defined by her achievements outside the domestic environment. More often than not, these archetypes of the socially perceived as successful women happen to have feminist views. The prey has changed, hence the predator modified his behavior. From violent and authoritarian, the narcissist has become emotionally skilled, keeps a book about couples psychology, show a part of their feminity, have seemingly authentic and human traits.
But why is it that you know everything about his achievements while he knows nothing yet about yours after a few months? How come that every time you are in social settings, speaking time is minimum 70% his even now that he knows your friends pretty well? How is this that he started advising in the disciplines he has never really practiced seriously while you have been practicing, training, learning and competing for more than 15 years? Does not it feel strange that you have heard so many times what were his needs and despite him asking, you were never given the chance to express yours? And how to satisfy needs that are expressed in a very vague form such as “No drama” or “Relationships should be easy” ?
Then they act: exclude you to reproach that you did not impose yourself then, do to you things they may judge inacceptable if you were doing them, require from you to solve problems that are mostly theirs, start criticizing your friends, play the victim and criticize your behavior, even the nicest of your intention becomes criminal.
You are not a partner to him but a magnifying mirror, a way to reassure himself of the Man he is. Living for yourself is not an option anymore. You have to be the perfect partner, love what he likes, be around him whenever he wants, doing whatever he wants, and last but not least: never be better than he is, not you nor your friends, especially if they are female.
What will make a woman fall into this trap is this tiny little crack in her self confidence that they will soon transform into a gaping hole. Once this is done, the submission process can start. But as an experienced women and a feminist, you will more often than not resist this and it will make the wheel of guilt turn even faster. Eventually, the relationship will fall apart. Not because you have not managed it properly, but simply because you did not get where you are through compliance and submission. Because it is your right, as a human being, to be who you are, do what you feel like doing and last but foremost, to be your partner’s equal in the relationship.
How many of those have I met in my dating life? I think this concerns the majority of the guys I dated. And for the last 10 years, I have been wondering why I was attracting such men, and why the story always ended pretty much in the same way, whether I tried hard and he broke up or suffered too much and quit. Only recently have I started to observe couples around me and realized that it was not a pattern of partner choices but more a pattern of toxic masculine behaviors. Patterns that have become more and more internalized by men as a way of surviving the social changes without actually changing their own beliefs and behaviors. Narcissism has become the socially acceptable version of the formerly called machismo. No more obvious violence, sexual abuse or domination. The patriarchy cooks and brings you tea for breakfast, uses moisturizers and takes your dog for a wee. But you are still expected to comply. So my answer to “How do I prevent this from happening again?” is you can’t. But you can run away as soon as your guts detect something inconsistent. The limit is your wellbeing and sanity. When someone becomes the center of your thoughts, when your partner becomes your problem to solve, when your best intentions become the very reason he is in pain, when you can’t sleep at night anymore, when the people you love are being criticized, when you feel constantly guilty… Just move on. They will dump you eventually, in the dirtiest ways, damaging your self confidence even further. Meanwhile, they will look for their next prey without even questioning their behaviors.