You can’t help but notice how charming the guy, 5 cubicles down from you, happens to be. He’s been flirting with you for a while now, brought you the muffin that you liked from the coffee place downstairs. He’s sweet, good looking, and smart, why shouldn’t I go out with him? You ask yourself.
Your mom and your friends keep telling you it’s not a good idea. They use the crude old adage, ‘Don’t s**t where you eat.’ But they don’t know Kevin. You’ve done some research, looked up, ‘dating your co-worker,’ online and think, that won’t happen to us. You look at Bev and Rob in accounting and think, they met at work and look at them. Bev’s about to have her second baby, so the next time Kevin asks you to go for a drink after work, you decide to accept and the romance begins.
Initially things are fantastic. He is literally sweeping you off your feet. He sends you naughty little emails at work and you exchange quick glances at each other over top your cubicles. Things are moving really fast. You’ve never felt so special – cherished even. You think this is what love feels like. Finally it’s my turn.
After a few months of bliss, things suddenly change without warning. His hot pursuit has grown stone cold. He’s not texting you all the time like he used to. Your 5 hour phone conversations are now barely 5 minutes, that’s if he picks up at all and you can feel him pulling away. You are at a loss to figure out what you did to turn him off. You aren’t having lunch together like you used to. He doesn’t even bring you your muffin anymore and you’ve noticed him staring at Angela in marketing. Damn her and her tight skirts. You’ve caught him in a number of lies and his treatment of you has been far below respectful.
Your inner detective is working overtime because you don’t trust what you’re seeing and you need proof. You over hear him on the phone flirting and making plans with someone else. You’re so angry and trying to focus on your job, but your every thought keeps coming back to him. You’re fighting with your emotions and they keep bouncing back from anger to heart break. You watch him walk toward the photo copy room. This is your chance for a little privacy and to have it out with him, so you follow him in.
“What’s going on Kevin?” You ask, your anger is palpable.
“What?” He says, paying strict attention to what he’s doing, being sure not to make eye contact with you.
You can feel your anger bubbling over now and know you can’t control it. “You’re a piece of work. You know that? Don’t call me, don’t text me. Just stay the hell away from me.” You feel pretty good and make your exit. You feel like crying, but manage to keep it together. You get back to your desk and for the first time you can focus on your work.
A couple of weeks or so after the break-up, you manage to ignore and keep your distance from each other, but not too long after, you notice him hanging around your area. You look up and notice he’s starting right at you. The anger you were grasping at had turned back into heartbreak a few days ago and you had begun to miss him. You had replayed every scene the two of you had together, looking for the spot where you made your critical error and you’re still at a loss. Your heart flutters.
Half an hour later your cell phone goes off. It’s him. The text reads, “I miss you,” and you feel relief and respond.
This cycle plays out a few more times and finally you’ve reached your breaking point. In a very heated exchange you make it more than clear that you are done and just like before he leaves you alone… for a while. You are trying very hard to maintain you stance, but just like before he eventually tries to weasel his way back in. At this point he knows you. He knows what you want to hear, what you’re afraid of and he’s not afraid to use it. But something has changed in you, though your resolve isn’t as strong as you’d like it, you are determined that this is the end. The more distant you become the more persistent he becomes.
He walks passed your cubical constantly, trying to unnerve you with his presence. You find your favorite muffin sitting on your desk in the morning. He’s pulling out all the stops, texting you at home and at the office. “Stop being mean Chris. I can’t stop thinking about you.” You want to go no contact, but how can you when you work together?
Just then there’s a staff meeting and he takes the seat next to yours. You’re trying to pay attention, but he keeps whispering, in your ear. You tell him to stop it. Your colleagues have noticed something has been strange between you two and look over hearing your harsh whisper. The meeting is over and he walks with you to the parking garage. “Look Kevin,” you say. “I have asked you to leave me alone. What part of that are you not getting?” “I know you don’t mean it Chris,” he says. “You and I have something special and you know it.”
You get in your car and drive off. You’re trying to be strong, but his constant pursuit is wearing you down. You start to question whether or not you’ve misjudged him. Would he pursue me like that if he didn’t care? All those things that you have been dying to hear are flowing from his lips so easily. Could they be true? Could he mean them? Why is he trying so hard? You get home and pour yourself some wine and realize that you’ve been here before, this is just another attempt to break your resolve, so you hold firm.
At work you tell him if he doesn’t stop harassing you, you are going to complain to management. He seems angry and a little smug. “You can try,” he says and walks off. You know he’s pretty buddy-buddy with the boss and the HR person as well. Crap, they will probably believe him. You know him well enough to know that he will spin some kind of tale to them that paints you in a bad light, that is – if he hasn’t already
You feel trapped. You’re starting to really hate going in to work. The past week you’ve completely ignored him and you’ve noticed his demeanor has changed, now his amorous pursuit has turned nasty. He’s clever enough not to send you anymore emails or texts that you can show to anyone, but he still looks for any reason to get close to you, this time though, it’s to berate you, or insult you. He feigns work reasons to email you and talk to you. You know he’s saying things to other people about you. The men on his side of the office look at you funny now and you wonder what he has told them. This has become a nightmare. You decide that this harassment has got to end and you make a formal complaint to management. You get hauled into the manager’s office. This is really the last thing you wanted. You feel so foolish and so uncomfortable and wonder if you’ve just committed career suicide.
After they’re done with you, you see them take Kevin into the office and when he walks out, he is looking daggers at you and you wonder what will come next. When you get home that night you update your resume and start looking for another job.
This story is typical of a lot of people’s experience once they try to end a relationship with their ex-Narcissist co-worker. The best approach to ending the relationship would be to go no contact, but in a work setting it’s just not possible. A Narcissist will go out of his/her way to make sure they get some type of reaction out of you. Their persistence will at times make you question whether or not you’re making the right decision. In every romantic movie the prince always chases the princess, so we’ve been conditioned to think that this is someone’s way of showing us how much they really love us.
In a normal, healthy relationship if you’ve made it clear to someone that you no longer want the relationship, then they will come to terms with your decision and eventually move on. A Narcissist has a great deal of difficulty accepting rejection and relinquishing control.
Make no mistake if you do go relent and give in, the relationship will be exactly as it was before, with just a brief stint of good behavior, to make sure you’re under their spell again. There is no desire to change. Any promise to the contrary is nothing more than manipulation. They will use the Spaghetti technique and throw everything at you to try to get some kind of a hook into you. They will try to appeal to your kind heartedness and say things like, “I need you to help me and show me what I’m supposed to do.” Or, “My mom is sick I really wish you would talk to me I’m so sad.” They will love bomb you, “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. You know we have something special.” You will see some frustration and blame, “I don’t know why you’re being this way. Stop being so mean.” Or, “You’ve got problems. I didn’t do anything to make you hate me so much. Maybe you’re the one who’s got issues.” “You don’t’ know what you’re doing do you? You are so f**cked up. I never should have gone out with you.” They will throw everything at you to get some kind of reaction. If nice doesn’t work and love bombing doesn’t work, they will get nasty. Any reaction, good or bad, lets them know that they can still affect you.
If this was not a work-related relationship you could file a restraining order and have him arrested, but at work it gets very complicated. For one, it paints you in a bad light with management, because you showed poor judgement by getting involved with a colleague in the first place and furthermore, the fact that you can’t control the situation and need management to intervene, does show a lack of maturity and a lack of problem solving skills on your part, to those who don’t understand what dealing with a Narcissist is like. For this reason many men and women have to keep silent and endure the never-ending harassment by their former Narcissist.
Whether or not you do step forward, eventually the amorous pursuit will stop and it will get nasty. If this happens, expect there to be character assassination, slander, name calling and an all-out war. Once a Narcissist knows that they cannot control you and that you are no longer a source of supply and have evidence that they are less than stellar individuals, you have become the enemy and they will do everything within their power to discredit you and make you look like the one with the problem. On top of that, they will do whatever they can to make your life a living nightmare.
Sav’s Suggestions for Dealing with an Ex-Narcissist Co-worker
- Keep it professional. Make sure all necessary contact is about work.
- If they keep lingering at your desk, keep repeating the same phrases. Stop harassing me. I am working. Go back to your desk. Stop harassing me. I am working. Go back to your desk.
- Use the word harass a lot. It’s a company buzz word and all companies have a policy for dealing with harassment in the work place.
- Keep calm. Do not raise your voice and do not let your emotions get out of hand. To do so will show them that they can still affect you. Do not give them the payoff (supply) they are seeking.
- Keep copies of harassing emails or text messages. You may need them to show management.
- Do not waver in your decision to end the relationship, what you teach them by giving in is that your no doesn’t mean no – it means try harder.
- If and when you do decide to seek the aid of management, again, use the word harassment frequently. Indicate the steps that you have taken to try to end this peacefully and without involving them. Explain that you suspect he is a Narcissist and briefly explain what you have discovered and that you cannot stop this without their involvement. Provide them with emails or text messages that prove the harassment. Make sure you understand what the company procedure is. Does he/she first get a verbal warning – then if it persists a written warning – then suspension or dismissal.
- Utilize the power of Indifference as discussed in the blog post of the same name. Allow no person, place or thing to affect your inner peace.
If none of these suggestions help, or gets the Narcissist out of your immediate vicinity, then you may have to start looking for another job. Breaking up with a Narcissist on a personal level is tough enough, but having to deal with them every day at work has the potential to make your life a living nightmare, that you can’t escape. If your every day is filled with torment and negativity, you may want to consider seeking other employment. Yes it would be unfair that you’re the one that has to quit, but when the alternative is to constantly be harassed, insulted, and feel like you are at war, then the choice is an easy one. Leave.
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net