I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe youFriedrich Nietzsche
It makes sense. Your narcissist owes you nothing. Their sense of entitlement invariably results in a “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine” mentality. It also results in a loathing of accountability. They are above that. This is a particularly difficult dynamic in a legally binding relationship where money is a joint responsibility.
I have yet to find a client who has not, to a greater or lesser degree, been financially abused. They are likely to be found attractive by the narcissist because of their financial competence, wealth or capacity to earn. This often explains why narcissists are keen to marry. There are other aspects they will find appealing in a legally binding arrangement – optics, control, ownership, reproductive potential – but a narcissist will enter a legal contract with a fiscally strong partner knowing that they will profit from the union. They will lie about their financial position, hiding debt/savings and avoiding mature conversations about money. They may use vague language in any exchange when a simple “yes” or “no” is enough (Did you pay the bill? If I said I paid, I paid!!). They will play the trust card with impunity. ” I am so hurt that you don’t trust me”. The survivor likely ends up apologising. It’s a classic twist. It’s perverse.
Smoke and Mirrors
Naricissists are addicted to lying. They split. This is a psychological term for keeping parts of their lives compartmentalized. I don’t mean in a work/life balance sort of way, I mean in a wife/husband/partner and children plus mistresses/lovers/addictions/secret accounts/businsesses/debt, kind of way. They can be whomever they like in each life and one does not exist in the other.
Of course we may all indulge in a little exaggeration or under reporting from time to time but “confabulation” by a narcissist is on another level. A different reality. They re-write history. They create themselves. They re-create themselves. How they present to the world, how they engage with the world – it is all a lie. They are not who they pretend to be. That is the fundamental lie, who they are. This deluded state renders facts redundant. If they believe it is true then it is despite evidence to the contrary. Their whole life story will be re-written – they cast themselves as lead – hero/heroine/victim. When their deception is discovered it’s curtains up for another remarkable performance. Their contrition and remorse scenes are exceptional. Even in their psuedo self-flaggelation they will be keen to emphasise how powerless they were over their behaviour (I’m an addict/unhappy/unable to cope/stressed) and how dreadfully unfair their life/parents/partners/colleagues, have been.
What is terrifying about narcissistic abusers is that they are so plausible.
In my work and personal life I have found myself utterly convinced by an individual only to be later provided with forensic evidence to refute what I believed to be true. Even after years of practice I still get chills. Maybe it is because these people have families and colleagues and students and patients and yet they get away with this overwhelming lie – that they are not who they appear to be. The mythology is imposed on all those around the narcissist. We can all be supply. Even therapists. Maybe especially therapists? If they can fool the “experts” then they support the notion that they really are as brilliant as they believe. They are master manipulators.
The narcissistic abuser will go through the motions of attending therapy and use recovery language to impress their partners, family, colleagues and community whilst simultaneously moving monies into separate accounts for their secret life. They do not consider this in any way dysfunctional because they believe they deserve to do whatever they want. It is the ultimate con. To convince themselves it is real – that they are who they have convinced others they are. Until they are exposed. Until the lies are discovered or they trip over their alternative realities.
What is not uncommon at the point of discovery is for the narcissist to indulge in a confessional of epic proportions. They feign remorse with utter conviction and throw in a generous helping of fake shame and self-loathing for good measure. Add a few crocodile tears and a smidgin of head shaking and there you have it – the perfect recipe for salvation. And generally speaking, we love a redemption story. The survivor ends up confused and gives the abuser another chance. Until it happens again. And it will. By that time there is little or nothing in the savings accounts and the survivor has been replaced.
This is because the survivor nearly exposed the narcissist to a wider audience and therefore need to be extinguished or nullified or muted. This may be done by completely ignoring the survivor in the home. He/she will ask a question and they are ignored – nothing – silence – stonewall. They may do this by ensuring the survivor never makes an appearance outside the home – at work or family functions. They may not know where their narcissist is but if they do they will be told they are not invited. They will be told they are not worthy and after months, years or decades of hearing this, the survivor is exhausted, broken and despairing – they are too tired and ill to stand up for themselves. Wherever the abuser is or whomever they are communicating with it is highly likely that she/he will be propogating falsehoods in advance of the final assault.
As part of the preparation for the discarding phase, grooming by the narcissist shifts up a gear of those they still need to impress – the influential in their lives – colleagues, family (yours and theirs), clients, therapists and medical professionals, even the wider public. The parallel process of abuse of their survivor will be in full swing leading up to the discarding phase. The narcissist will dissociate from this part of themselves fully believing they are left with little choice but to be abusive. It is almost an alter ego. Not Dissociative Identity Disorder as such but a fractured part of themselves that operates in the dark. As with a cockroach it disappears when the light is switched on.
How do you know when a narcissist is lying? You can safely assume it is any time their lips are moving.
As life with a narcissist is smoke and mirrors it is often difficult to detect the lie. Untruths will be meticulously crafted. Often beautifully wrapped in the language of care and consideration and tied with a bow of furrowed brow. It might sound something like this:
“Darling, I’ve been wondering how to tell you – or even if I should tell you but I think you need to know. In fact, you deserve to know but…………………..is concerned about you. They are frightened about talking to you about it because you might overreact – you can be over sensitive. They think you are (eating/drinking/not eating/shouting/angry etc) all the time and are, quite frankly, scared of you. They spoke to me in confidence but I thought it was best you know because I care about you.”
This calm demeanour, this mask, belies a terrifying narcissistic rage.
As a result of such exchanges the survivor becomes increasingly confused and will feel unsafe. Much damage will have been done. The chances are that the person or people referred to are closest to the abused so in one fell swoop the survivor feels alienated from those they love and frightened and ashamed that they apparently think that way. It is likely that the abuser instigated the conversation and that the children/parent/colleague/friend – echoed concern. The language of care (care trolling) is stock in trade verbage for the narcissist who gets away with so much for so long with so many.
When a survivor tries to explain the conversation to their parent/doctor/therapist/friend – it might result in gaslighting. “It sounds as if he is worried about you” – so the narcissist’s abuse continues by proxy.
And, of course, narcissists lie about those they abuse. They alienate children from their other parent with impunity. There is no consideration of the damage this will do – no moral compass. It’s about control and children are fair game. Generally speaking they will disgorge misinformation with ease. They will say it were they who were physically, financially, verbally and emotionally abused. That they were cheated on, lied to and stolen from. The behaviours are all based on experience but the victim is switched. This is why forensics are so important (especially if you are pursuing a criminal case or divorce). Family, colleagues, friends and children may not want to know the truth or are unable to face it but if you have kept records, texts, emails, financial statements – then your reality is shored up. This is important as you begin to heal.
You deserve to heal. You are stronger than you think.
And that’s the truth.