“The Narcissist Next Door”
by Jeffrey Kluger

Women Beware. Of the Narcissist. That face that begs for love.* I know. It seems like love. The two of you are amazingly in sync. You’ve found your soul mate. Suddenly, things change. What happened? He’s wonderful, right? There must be something wrong with you. There’s not.

A Narcissist is a master at the beginning of a romance. He just can’t sustain a real relationship. Jeffrey Kluger’s chapter, “The Beast In Your Bed,” describes him well. He’s charming, he’s attentive, he’s romantic. He envelops you in an aura of specialness; you’re everything he’s dreamed of. You’re on his pedestal. But, as high as you are is as low as you fall. How do you account for this?

Kluger describes the experience of falling in love with a narcissist quite well.  He also paints a pretty good picture of the narcissist himself. But, he’s not a psychologist. He can only go so far.  There’s more you need to know.

When things start to change, which they inevitably do for the reasons I’ll describe below, you feel like a disappointment. You believe he doesn’t want you. Yet, don’t be so quick to blame yourself. If you start to feel there’s no room for you, there isn’t.

Let’s look at the signs:

1. There’s only room for one

Yes, that face you love so much is animated and full of life when he’s talking about himself.  He’s fascinating, isn’t he?  Maybe even brilliant.  And, he’s so attractive. You’re hooked. Until, you begin to realize his eyes glaze over when you talk about yourself or have something you want to say. At first, you make excuses: “He’s tired. I must have interrupted him.” Then, you start doubting yourself. Don’t take it personally.

A real woman isn’t what a Narcissist wants. He can’t bear real feelings in himself, let alone you. Realness and intimacy mean emotional need. And need (especially his own) makes any frightened narcissist run for the hills.

2.  It’s never him, it’s always you

Maybe you didn’t notice at first that the man you love is brittle. Can’t listen to your needs or feelings. He’s defensive and quick to react. He makes any difficulties the two of you have your problem. He can’t take any responsibility.

3.  He has to control the show

Does he accuse you of being “controlling” if you want anything reasonable from him (when he’s really the one controlling your time together)? While you might tend to put yourself aside, give everything you can – he takes center stage and gobbles up all the space. Yet, he puts the brakes on before anything goes too deep. He might feel something. He’ll have to need you, and he can’t.

A Narcissist has to believe that his extraverted performance, and the attention it garners, is enough. Sustaining any real closeness that goes both ways can be scary to anyone. It definitely is to him. Even though what you have in the beginning seems (but isn’t) deeper and more intimate than you ever imagined. How can that be?

4.  He wants a mirror & only a mirror

He probably had a very difficult childhood. He’s had his own hurts. The problem is: he wants nothing to do with them. He shuts off his feelings and keeps your attention focused only on him. Do you know the myth of Narcissus? No one can live up to the narcissistic man’s hunger for nothing more than a reflection of his most idealized self (and lover). Or the good mother he didn’t have.

5.  No “drama,” no feelings & no needs

Don’t try to go near a Narcissist’s feelings. They’re too painful. Too pushed aside in various ways. By getting the superficial attention of one woman after another. Or, by convincing himself he’s either quite happy or has no needs at all.

Those disowned feelings are given to you. You feel everything for both of you. His sadness for what he didn’t have. You feel sad for what he can’t give you. He’ll make you feel just as he did as a child – that others are more important or attractive than you. He can’t see that these old feelings are still alive in him.

But, if you try to talk to him about it – he won’t go there. He doesn’t (can’t, really) see that he has any problems. Remember, if you touch on anything real or emotional – all the problems are with you.

6.  Why did you choose a Narcissist?

Why did you get involved with a Narcissist? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s a question that can’t be answered in generalities. The roots are different in each woman who finds herself in love with a narcissist. These relationships hurt. Therapy helps. Especially if you end up believing there’s something wrong with you.

The most important thing to know is this: if he makes you feel like a disappointment and you believe it, there’s a hook in you. Maybe it’s a critical saboteur in your mind who tends to build cases against you. If your self-image takes a beating, it’s important to get help.

Believe it or not, that flamboyant, outgoing charmer is actually more insecure than you. The problem is:  One of the best ways to run from very difficult fears of not being good enough (yes, that’s him) is to find someone else to criticize or bring down. Don’t let that someone else be you. If you haven’t dodged the bullet yet, get out of its range of fire as quickly as you can.

*From Bob Dylan’s Spirit On The Water.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at sandracohenphd@gmail.com to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.