7 tactics narcissists deploy to keep you dependent on them

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Imagine feeling trapped in a relationship, where leaving seems as daunting as staying. This was the reality for a friend of mine, caught in the web of a narcissist’s control. 

Her story, heartbreakingly common, unveils a world where emotional dependence is meticulously crafted by those we trust. 

That’s why in this article, we will delve into these manipulative strategies. By understanding these tactics, you can spot the warning sigs early and shield yourself from the grasp of a narcissist. 

Your emotional freedom and well-being deserve nothing less.

1) Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a sinister tactic that can make you question your reality and sanity. It’s like being lost in a maze of your own thoughts, constantly doubting what you know to be true. 

Narcissists excel at this form of psychological manipulation, subtly twisting facts and denying your experiences. 

Imagine expressing concerns about your partner’s behavior, only to be met with responses like, “You’re overreacting,” or “That never happened.” 

Slowly, these seeds of doubt grow into a huge confusion, leaving you unsure of your own memory and perceptions.

The impact is profound: you start relying heavily on the narcissist’s version of events, weakening your trust in your own judgment. This dependence is exactly what the narcissist aims for. 

They might even shift blame onto you, making you feel responsible for their actions or the problems in the relationship. 

By eroding your confidence and self-belief, gaslighting keeps you tied to the relationship, always seeking validation and clarity from the very person distorting your reality.

2) Isolation

Isolation is another key strategy used by narcissists to enhance your dependence on them. 

It begins subtly, often disguised as concern or love. For instance, your partner might express discomfort about you spending time with friends or family, framing it as “us needing more quality time together.” 

But gradually, this escalates into criticizing or even forbidding contact with your support network, under the pretense that these people “don’t understand you like I do” or “are a bad influence.”

This tactic serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it cuts you off from external perspectives, leaving you solely reliant on the narcissist’s viewpoints and validation. 

Secondly, it weakens your support system, making it harder for you to seek help or a way out of the relationship. 

Without a sounding board for your thoughts and feelings, the isolation can lead to a heightened sense of dependency on the narcissist, both emotionally and socially. 

You may start to believe that you’re alone in your struggles and that the narcissist is your only ally, further entrenching their control over you.

So in any kind of relationship, remember that it’s important to still maintain ties with other friends and family members. 

3) Love bombing

Imagine being showered with affection, gifts, and promises of a future so bright it blinds you to reality. 

This is love bombing, a whirlwind of over-the-top gestures and declarations used by narcissists to sweep you off your feet. 

Initially, it feels like a fairy tale; you’re the center of someone’s world, basking in undivided attention and admiration. But there’s a catch. 

This intense adoration isn’t genuine love; it’s a strategy to create an emotional debt. “Remember how much I’ve done for you?” they might say, using these early acts of ‘love’ as leverage in times of conflict or to demand your compliance. 

The contrast between the initial overwhelming affection and their later cold or demanding behavior can be jarring, leaving you longing for the return of that loving persona.

Love bombing creates an addictive cycle of highs and lows, with the narcissist controlling the switch. You become conditioned to strive for those highs, often at the cost of your own needs and boundaries. 

Recognizing this pattern is key; real love is about consistency and respect, not a rollercoaster of grand gestures used for manipulation.

4) Devaluation

After the dizzying heights of love bombing comes the jarring drop of devaluation. This phase is marked by a stark shift in the narcissist’s behavior — from idolizing you to consistently devaluing your worth. 

Suddenly, the compliments turn into criticisms. The person who once put you on a pedestal now seems to find fault in everything you do. 

Comments like, “You used to be so fun; what happened to you?” or “You’re lucky I put up with your nonsense” become commonplace. This tactic is disorienting and deeply hurtful.

The purpose behind devaluation is to chip away at your self-esteem, making you feel unworthy and grateful for any scraps of affection the narcissist throws your way. 

It’s a deliberate attempt to lower your self-confidence to the point where leaving the relationship seems impossible because you start to believe that you don’t deserve better. 

In this weakened state, you’re more likely to tolerate further mistreatment and less likely to challenge the narcissist or seek outside support. 

But when you break free from this cycle, you recognize that these criticisms are a reflection of the narcissist’s own insecurities, not your worth.

5) Financial control

Financial control is a less obvious but equally powerful tactic used by narcissists to foster dependency. 

It starts with seemingly benign offers to handle your finances or suggestions for better money management. Over time, it evolves into taking complete control over your financial resources. 

You might find yourself needing to ask for money for basic needs or being kept in the dark about financial decisions.

The strategy firstly strips you of financial independence, making it difficult to feel capable of supporting yourself without the narcissist. 

And secondly, it serves as a means to keep you in the relationship, as leaving might mean facing financial uncertainty or hardship. 

This form of control can be particularly insidious because it’s often masked as caring or practicality. “I’m just looking out for our future,” they might say, while simultaneously undermining your ability to make your own financial decisions.

However, don’t let that stop you from reasserting your right to be involved in financial decisions and, where possible, maintaining separate financial resources. 

It’s a crucial step towards reclaiming your independence and ensuring that your financial wellbeing is not used as a tool for manipulation.

6) Playing the victim

Narcissists are particularly adept at turning the tables and playing the victim, a tactic that can leave you feeling confused and guilty. 

When confronted with their behavior, they might deflect blame and portray themselves as the wronged party. Statements like, “You’re always attacking me,” or “I can’t do anything right in your eyes,” are common. 

This tactic shifts the focus from their actions to your supposed faults, making you the ‘aggressor’ in their narrative.

The effectiveness of this strategy lies in its ability to make you second-guess your perceptions and actions. You may find yourself apologizing for things you haven’t done or feeling responsible for their happiness. 

It’s a form of emotional manipulation designed to keep you off-balance and more focused on pacifying them than addressing the real issues in the relationship.

But really, these techniques are a means to avoid accountability. It’s important to stay grounded in your experiences and not get drawn into their distorted version of events. 

7) Shifting the blame

In the narcissist’s world, nothing is ever their fault. And shifting the blame is how they typically escape accountability. 

Whenever a problem arises, whether it’s a minor disagreement or a significant issue, the narcissist will often find a way to pin the blame on you. 

It could be as overt as accusing you of causing the issue or as subtle as suggesting you’re overreacting. “If you hadn’t done X, I wouldn’t have had to do Y,” is a typical line.

This tactic not only absolves them of responsibility but also makes you question your actions and decisions. It’s a psychological game where you’re always the one at fault, leading to a constant state of self-doubt and insecurity. 

The repeated blame-shifting can wear down your confidence and make you more susceptible to their control, as you strive to avoid conflict and keep the peace.

And when they do grant you forgiveness, it becomes like a drug — they bring you back up, but you’ve lost sight of the fact that they brought you down in the first place. 

Recognizing this pattern is crucial. Remember, in a healthy relationship, both parties share responsibility for issues and work together towards resolution. 

Stand firm in your understanding of events and refuse to accept unwarranted blame. Trust your judgment and don’t allow the narcissist to distort your perception of reality.

Breaking free from the narcissist’s web

Recognizing these tactics can be jarring, but it is the first step towards reclaiming your autonomy in the face of narcissistic manipulation. 

It’s a journey of relearning trust in your instincts and understanding that such behaviors are not reflections of your worth, but rather the narcissist’s insecurities and need for control. 

Remember, you have the strength and the right to seek a relationship that respects and uplifts you

Embracing this knowledge empowers you to make choices that align with your well-being and happiness, breaking free from the narcissist’s web and stepping into a healthier, more fulfilling future.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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