If you’ve fallen foul of a narcissist, don’t blame yourself.
The truth is that they are clever and manipulative.
They have a big bag of tricks at their disposal, all of which are designed to fool you.
These master manipulators love mind games.
Recognizing those games is the first important step to releasing their grip over you.
1) They’re suspiciously charming
If narcissists showed their true colors from the beginning, they’d never ensnare anyone.
That’s why they always start out with flattery and compliments.
The intention is to make you feel special. Then, once you’re hooked, they start to play uglier mind games.
Their charm differs though from healthy attention as it’s way over the top.
Love bombing often involves declarations of affection that feel way too soon for how long you have known each other.
2) They subtly find ways to point out your flaws
They have a clever way of picking on you that often manages to fly under the radar.
Often it is packaged as:
- Just a joke
- Constructive feedback
- Genuine concern
But it’s none of these things.
They are simply trying to strip away at your self-esteem and try to make you feel bad about yourself.
The idea is simple and effective:
The less you feel good about yourself, the more you will rely on them.
3) You catch them lying but they still deny it
This sign falls under a particularly nasty narcissistic habit of gaslighting.
This psychological tactic involves trying to make you question your own sanity.
Even though you know something is true, they deny the facts and purposely twist events.
They can be so effective in their lies that you do start to wonder if it’s all in your head.
4) They question your loyalty or devotion
Think of this as a little fishing expedition.
They get to take the upper hand and play the victim (two favorite things for a narcissist).
They say things like:
“I don’t think you ever loved me”
“If you loved me you would…”
They usually pull this trick out of the bag when they want to try to manipulate you into doing or not doing something.
5) They’re talking you into things you don’t want to do
Boundaries are vital in any relationship.
They help to protect us.
That’s why narcissists hate boundaries.
You feel increasingly uncomfortable with certain elements of your relationship. You are doing things that you really would rather not do.
But you’re made to feel selfish or guilty for saying no, so you end up going along with them.
Guilt trips and emotional blackmail are some of the preferred ways a narcissist tries to keep people in line.
6) They’re ignoring you
Whenever there is a problem, they seem incapable of discussing it in a healthy way.
Rather than be open and honest with each other, they withdraw — both their affection and attention.
They may try to pass it off as wanting some space to “think” but in reality, it is sulking.
It’s a form of punishment for not keeping them happy.
They may temporarily block you. They might unfollow you on social media. They could simply stop replying to your messages and ghost you.
You probably find that it happens without explanation, and you don’t have a clue what you’ve even done wrong.
This is exactly what the narcissist wants.
7) They run hot and cold
One day they’re chasing you, the next they’re not.
It’s like a weird game of cat and mouse, and they alternate between the two.
Narcissists tend to operate in cycles.
It is this push-and-pull effect that means you never know whether you are coming or going.
It’s intentionally disorientating.
One moment they are their charming self, the next they switch.
For example, they send you a flurry of messages, and then they take ages to reply.
Having a narcissist in your life can feel like hanging out with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
In those times when they are nowhere to be seen, you have to double your efforts, as we’ll see next.
8) Lately, you’re the one who makes all the effort
It didn’t start out this way.
If anything, they were the one in the beginning who put in the most effort.
But as time has passed, you have to pick up all the slack.
You find yourself messaging and calling the most, trying to arrange meet-ups, and making all the concessions in your relationship.
It feels as if the tables have turned and you are chasing them.
9) They won’t commit but they still keep you hanging on
There’s a term for this, and it’s called breadcrumbing.
They give you just enough attention and hope so that you stick around. But never enough to know where you stand.
It leads to plenty of insecurity on your side, and that is exactly what the narcissist wants.
Keeping you guessing puts you in a vulnerable place and them in a position of power.
10) They say and do things to try to provoke a reaction from you
Sometimes it feels as though they as spoiling for a fight.
They know how to push your buttons and they enjoy doing it.
Whilst they bait you by using your insecurities against you they get power over you.
Whilst you may lose your cool, they keep theirs. So they get to make you the bad guy.
And if there’s one thing that a narcissist loves, it’s to shift blame.
11) They always make themselves out to be the victim
No matter what happens it’s always somehow your fault. They refuse to take responsibility for anything.
They may pull out lines such as:
“If you didn’t treat me this way then I wouldn’t have to act like that” or “I only did it because you X, Y, Z”.
You may notice that you have to apologize all the time, just to keep the peace, even though you’ve done nothing wrong.
They paint a picture of you as the villain and them as the hard done by victim.
12) They threaten to break up with you
If we are to be happy in a relationship we have to feel safe.
That security is impossible when you constantly live under the threat of a break-up.
Narcissists like to remind you that they can pull the rug out from under you at any point.
It’s ‘my way or the highway’ and if you don’t play by their rules they will make threats like:
“If that’s how you feel, then maybe we shouldn’t be together” or “I can’t be with someone who thinks that about me”.
It’s often just a way to try to get you to toe the line and go along with their wishes.
13) They try to make you feel stupid
It boosts their ego to think they are smarter than everyone else.
So you may notice that they purposely bring up things that you know little about in order to flex their intellectual muscles in front of you.
It’s like a form of bragging, but one that is specifically at your expense.
The less knowledgeable they can try to make you look, the wiser they think they will appear.
14) They’re trying to make you jealous
Maybe they’re openly flirting with someone right in front of you.
Perhaps they tell you about how wonderful or good-looking someone else is, looking for a reaction.
Sadly, they are trying to make you feel bad.
It gives them a power rush to see the little green-eyed monster appear in you.
They feel good knowing that they can pull your strings.
15) They’re isolating you
The more influences you have in your life (especially positive ones) the less control a narcissist has over you.
So over time, they seek to remove people and things from your life, so that they take center stage.
That way, they get to be the sole focus.
They may try to encourage you to:
- Drop friends who they claim are a bad influence
- Stop spending time with family members
- Give up activities or interests that take you away from them
Don’t play their games
I know it’s not easy breaking free from a narcissist’s trap.
Now you know what to watch out for, it’s so important to remember:
They can’t play games if you refuse to get drawn in.
To make sure that doesn’t happen:
- Set strong boundaries for yourself and know your own limits and where to draw the line
- Be assertive and clear in your communication
- Don’t get sucked into pointless debates and arguments, instead remove yourself from the situation
- Practice plenty of self-love and self-care to build your self-esteem
- Seek support from people you can trust
The bottom line is that you deserve far more than a narcissist will ever give to you.