How to Spot a Narcissist
This morning I read about FKA Twigs and her abusive relationship with Shia LaBeouf. I don’t know how to write this so I’ll just do my best.
End of May, I got myself entangled in an unhealthy relationship with an angry, emotional narcissist.
Many of you were here for the ride. I was so excited about it that I posted tidbits on social media. The make out sessions in the field. The lavish four days of birthday gifts. The teen movie lines he'd say like "My lips were made for you."
"That sounds like love bombing" one of you wrote in the comments. Annoyed, I wrote back, “Thanks for the concern. That's not what's happening here.” (You were right and I'm so very sorry.)
You all were cheering for me. It’s been a long road, this looking for love thing, and many of you have been with me on the journey from before my first book.
When you’re a single woman in your 30’s actively dating, when something doesn’t work, you feel like you've been caught with egg on your face. I worry that it seems like my whole life revolves around dating, as if I have a revolving door of men. I’m worried you’ll think it’s me. That somehow I didn’t do enough therapy…or inner child work… or whatever. Like most people, I’d like partnership. It’s not an obsession. Dating usually plays a very small role in my life unless I meet someone who excites me and then I allow myself to be excited.
When it didn’t work out with my spring romance, I felt like I was letting you down. Especially because I wrote two books about sex and love, shouldn’t I be an expert or something by now. Anyway, that’s the long way of saying I was too embarrassed to write this for the last 8 months but reading FKA Twig’s story inspired me.
How do people get in relationships with toxic narcissists?
It’s easier than you think. Shitty people aren’t always shitty. They plan elaborate picnics and tell you’re the most beautiful person in Akron, Ohio. They kiss you and mean it. They buy you thoughtful gifts and open the car door for you. They win over your friends. They offer to build stairs for your dad.
Then they drop the first bomb.
The first time we had sex was at a hotel (lt was sold to me as a romantic weekend, but I’d later find out it was because his actual house was a disaster). When I asked him to get a condom, he hadn’t brought one. To a hotel. With a woman he’d met 3 weeks before. Even now when I think about it I get mad, the entitlement he felt to my body. I told him we couldn’t have sex without a condom and he agreed to get some but not before complaining that he hadn’t used a condom since he was 15. (Ladies, don’t EVER let anyone make you feel guilty. No one is entitled to your body).
This wasn’t the last time condoms were a problem. He made snarky comments to make me feel like it was me and my sexually-inexperienced-New York-self, demanding unnecessary protection (apparently everyone else is the Midwest is raw dogging people they just met?). The day before we broke up, he screamed at me how much he hated condoms, while we were IN THE MIDDLE of having sex.
There were other warning signs, of course. He didn’t really have any friends. He spoke poorly about his ex-wife, he diminished other women (ironically he was a “feminist” going to all the marches and making big clit energy pins. Ugh, fake feminists are the worst), he had problems at work but always portrayed himself as the hero.
He’d been arrested… okay, there were a lot of signs. But my god you should hear a Narcissist spin it.
When I finally went over to his house, it was dirty and unkempt. His mattress was on the floor in the middle of the dining room. When I saw it, I started to tear up. I’d been with men before who didn’t care about their own well-being. It was a tumultuous weekend that ended with him screaming at me that he’d put in all this work to make his house presentable (Oh my god, what did it look like before?!?!) and "even though I knew he was insecure about his house, I made him feel bad about it." Like wasn’t I such a judgmental POS.
He broke up with me the next day and I was grateful.Relationships shouldn’t be like this. If he hadn't broken up with me then, if I'm being honest, I might not have left yet.
But when he texted me two weeks later, I still answered. He’d been listening to a bunch of podcasts and “realized how much he’d been asking of me.” He’d been introspective and promised he’d never, EVER talk to me like that again. He professed deep shame and swore on his mother that the screaming of that day had been an anomaly.
I let him slowly trickle back in my life. Was I skeptical as hell? Of course. Was I cautious? 100%. But did I still let him trickle? I did.
Because he made me feel beautiful. Because he complimented me and nailed my birthday. He sent me flowers. He talked about all the inner work he was doing. He presented information with seemingly profound self-awareness. The thing about abusive relationships is they make you off kilter. They make you question your judgment because narcissists are really good at deceit.
When my mom found out we were texting again she begged me to stop, told me there was “something weird and off about that guy” but I told her I was a grown-ass adult, she couldn’t tell me who to talk to.
Then one day he’d said I made our relationship “stale and weird.” Now, I have a some character flaws, but I have never, in my entire life, made anything stale and weird. It was such a low and inaccurate blow that I decided to cut it off for real. He berated me for “not knowing what I wanted.”
He wrote me an email the next week listing every wrongdoing I had perpetrated in our relationship (at this point it we had known each other two months). I got nervous. We came up with a plan what we were gonna do if he showed up at the house. I locked my windows and stopped riding my bike at night. He was explosive and I was genuinely afraid it might become dangerous.
I responded to his email, nicer than necessary, (partly out of concern for my own safety), basically telling him I was sad how it all went down, but firmly asking him to leave me alone.
He responded by saying “I wish I was dead. Maybe I won't wake up tomorrow." I knew it was bait and I refused to take it. At this point I was done, 100%. The shame of telling both my friends and my mom that I was still associating with him was too much. Thank God, I still had some pride.
The next morning I woke up to a five-page text. “You’re a fucking loser who failed at New York,” he wrote, the first in a long list of insults. I was “ugly and selfish and incapable of loving.” Every vulnerability I had ever told him, he threw in my face. It was the first time a partner had tried to actively hurt me like that. I blocked him immediately, sending screenshots to my friends in case it did get violent. Not only had he stolen two months of my dignity, he had also taken my sense of safety.
He texted a month later (I didn’t realize you had to turn off notifications for blocked numbers). When I told him to seriously fuck off, he said “God Olive, petty much, I can’t believe you’re not over that.” He emailed me a month after that (I’ve since blocked his email), contacted me through my website, signed up for my newsletter, etc.
He texted me in the beginning of February (found it sitting in my blocked folder) saying he’d never not regret how our relationship ended (cry me a river) and congratulating me for my 3rd book coming out. All I could think was how did he know I had a 3rd book? I’d blocked him on every single channel I could think of. But abusive narcissists find a way to worm into your life.
So I guess the point in sharing this is to share that it isn’t some sort of character flaw to get in this type of relationship. These people are masters at manipulation. And secondly, if you're reading this and maybe realizing your partner is emotionally or physically abusive. Tell your friends. Tell your family. The instinct is to protect them (because we're ashamed). Don't prioritize your shame over your mental and physical safety.
Reach out to someone you trust and start making a plan.