“And pity – people who inspire it in you are actually very powerful people. To get someone else to take care of you, to feel sorry for you – that takes a lot of strength, smarts, manipulation. Very powerful people.” ― Deb Caletti

I stared at the face on my computer screen for a long time. I recognized the eyes and the mouth, but not much else. A longtime friend had come across a recent picture of my first love and thought I would be amused by how awful he looked now.  I don’t like to look back, it doesn’t serve much purpose unless you’re trying to heal a past hurt and besides, as Wayne Dyer always says, “You’re not going that way.”

But there he was staring back at me. I was 14 when I met him. He was 18. I’m nostalgic by nature and I couldn’t help but think that this man, right here, was the very start of it all. Had he been kind, respectful and loving to me, would my adult relationships have turned out differently, despite my childhood? By the time I had turned 18, this man would sleep with my best friend, my distant cousin, and a slew of other women I didn’t know, while professing to love me. He left and came back 100 times, left me in a whole world of hurt, he embarrassed and humiliated me and grinded what little self-esteem I had into dust.

Fast forward to 2015 and I’m sitting with some friends in a movie theater watching Fifty Shades of Grey. I had meant to read the books, but for some reason I couldn’t garner enough interest and I don’t know what happens next in the trilogy. Usually when Hollywood tries to illustrate someone with a psychological disorder it can be cringe worthy, but they got a few things right about Mr. Grey and I pulled out the little notepad I carry around with me and took some notes, much to my companions chagrin.

On my way home I got nostalgic again and I could see a pattern in my adult relationships that was congruent with the notes I had just taken about the movie.

Rewind to the first month of meeting my long-term Narcissist and everything fit. We’re parked in his car in my mom’s driveway and he’s sobbing, really big tears, telling me how abusive his father was and how much pain he was in. I flashed back to my first love and was dumbfounded – I’d had this conversation before. It was all the same – they were the same – I was the same.

“If you are an approval addict, your behaviour is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.” ― Harriet B. Braiker

When I got home I opened my computer and started thinking and typing. I paced and brought myself back to the beginning of all of my most painful relationships. This was the pattern:

They Appear Larger than Life – There is something special and unique about them, something that stands out. Even if they don’t have much going for them, you’re convinced it’s only temporary. They dazzle you so much that you’re left thinking, why would a guy or girl like this want me? (They all seem to have at least one special feature that they display prominently) “the bait,” if it’s intelligence, they astound you with their superior intellect. If it’s beauty you’re overwhelmed that they’d pick lil’ ole you when they can have anyone they want. What you don’t realize is you’re being fed a script and they’ve had this conversation before – just not with you. But you’re damned impressed and can’t believe that someone like them would want someone like you.

They Seem Laser Focused on you – You don’t have to guess what they’re doing or thinking – if you’re a potential supply supplier they are calling you, texting you and making plans to see you constantly at the beginning. It seems as though they cannot get enough of you. They want to know everything about you. Even though you may have some self-esteem issues, you really like the you that they see. They like you so much they’ve convinced you to start liking you and it all feels like a dream. You’ve got butterflies, you’re fantasizing about your future together and you keep thinking about how lucky you are. You’re saying to yourself, ‘finally…finally after so many frogs….I’ve finally found the one. ‘

They Love Bomb You – “I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I’ve never felt this connection to anyone before. I can’t believe what you’re doing to me, what you make me feel. I only want you. You’re the one.” I’ve heard every one of these phrases from Narcissists. This is what I call deepening the connection.  The thing a Narcissist fears most is abandonment, their fragile egos can’t handle the thought of it, so this pretense is necessary to hook you and cement the relationship. They will say whatever is necessary to have you thoroughly convinced that you will never meet anyone as wonderful as they are and that no one could ever make you feel this way.

They Seek Sympathy /Show Vulnerability – This is another cementing technique they use and if you’re a fixer, with a huge heart and a lot of empathy to give, then this one’s for you.  They’ve all got a story for why they’re all fifty shades of f’ed up.  “My dad used to tell me how worthless I was. He’d get drunk and he’d beat us senseless. He died of alcohol poisoning when I was 12…..” Sharing something painful and traumatic encourages others to open up and share their stories. This further deepens the connection, it builds trust and it inspires, in the fixer, a need to care for, tend and heal the wounded soul they’ve become enamored with. A fixer takes on the added responsibility of helping to heal this hurt. It is also an excellent kind of future alibi for someone with bad intentions.

They Start to Give You Subtle Warnings – “You’re too good for me.  You can do better than me. I’m not good enough for you. You deserve better.” All of these may sound sweet, even a little humble, but this is as close as a Narcissist will ever get to telling you the truth. You’ll brush it off as a cute little endearment, but the reality is that these statements are warnings. They know who they are and what they’re up to and they know they’re keeping secrets from you. Don’t ignore this.

“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.” ― Criss Jami

They Blame You/Deflect Responsibility – Suddenly you’re catching them in a ton of lies. They’re acting strange and you can’t count on them for anything. They’re making you act nuts with their behavior and then they point back at you and say, “See that’s why I’m doing X,Y, Z, because you’re crazy. If you were different then I wouldn’t be acting this way.”  A sane person would look at what’s going on and say, “Hell no, adios amigo,” but you’re already addicted at this point. You’re a fixer, so you’re used to accepting blame that doesn’t belong to you.  Let the crazy making begin.

They Pull Away – They’ve got you. You’re in love with them, but the big house of lies is about to come crumbling down around them.  It’s been exhausting for them to keep all the smoke and mirrors going. You’re getting too close to the truth and they tell themselves it’s time to emotionally check out, because what they’ve feared all along is bound to happen. You’re going to leave, so they’re going to beat you to the finish line. Some will physically stick around and continue to live in the same house hold and continue the crazy making, some will have other sources of supply lined up and leave without a thought to what they’re putting you through, some will continue to come and go from your life, but the bottom line is, they’ve been discovered and you both know it will never be the same again. Narcissists are addicted to those early feelings of love. That’s the supply that has the most nutrients for them.  After everything they’ve said and done to you, your supply has somehow diminished and it’s not quite so filling anymore.

Almost daily people ask me, “Why do I still want him? Why can’t I stay away?”  This is why. You were manipulated into believing in a fantasy that was never going to come true and you’re confused and still hoping that you’ll get everything that was promised to you. Because you’re kind and caring, the kind of people that are capable of doing this, are not even on your radar, so you continue to hang on and hope that what people are telling you and what you’re reading is untrue. Your gut tells you it’s not and deep down you know you’ve been manipulated, but all you crave are those connections and deep feelings you felt in the beginning. This person has become the sole reason for your happiness, the relationship and fixing their hurts has become your main focus in life. Knowing that all of the emotional investment you’ve made was based on a lie, is not something you’re ready to accept yet.  Nor is taking the focus off of them and putting it on you.  All of this is why you’re still stuck on them.

I don’t know what happens to Anastasia Steele after she leaves Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, but the one thing I do know is she goes back to him – otherwise there wouldn’t be a trilogy. If the author was cool and knew anything about Narcissists she’d know the real game they play. But it’s Hollywood and just like most other lame romance novels, it will probably end with them overcoming all difficulties and living happily ever after.

That’s not the reality of dealing with Narcissists. There is no happily ever after. If I had written this book it would go something like this: Ana meets Christian – he tries to manipulate her – she sees right through him, dumps his ass and gets her degree. She then builds a company, it goes public and she becomes a billionaire. She removes all toxic people from her life, creates new and meaningful relationships, meets a man that’s worthy of her and in passing notices an article in the New York Times that the company of her former boyfriend has gone belly up. She turns the page with a nonchalant shrug and notices an ad for a great pair of shoes on the next page.

That’s a self-love story I could really sink my teeth into. I’d call it ‘Fifty Shades of Savannah Grey.’

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