3 Ways a Narcissist Manipulates a New Partner
Do not mistake control for closeness.
Posted March 21, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- Relationships with narcissistic partners sometimes involve a sudden shift from care and adoration to disinterest.
- Narcissists may manipulate a partner by seeking out information that can be used as leverage, seeming to “rescue” and “save” the partner, and fixating on the person and their daily activities.
- These tactics can lead to greater control in the relationship, as the person comes to depend on the narcissistic partner.
Initially, a new partner may seem interested and jump at the opportunity to help. Yet, as the months pass, he may start acting annoyed and rarely extend a hand. A similar phenomenon is true regarding a willingness to listen. Out of the gate, he or she appeared intent on understanding, yet as of late conveys disinterest and impatience.
At the beginning of a relationship, an individual’s motives may not be pure. A true interest in a person’s past traumas or issues may allow a deeply insecure individual an opportunity to collect personal data.
The possession of “dirt” provides an egocentric individual with a feeling of “control.” If criticized or confronted, he or she can spin the data and utilize it to attack the person, redirecting the blame.
Blindsided at the sudden turn in temperament, a person who thought opening up was safe and sacred may feel demoralized because the one individual he or she trusted turned. Feeling emotionally abandoned, the person may succumb to the idea that it is his or her fault because it is easier to incur blame than realize a partner is narcissistic.
Examples of Narcissistic Manipulation
For example, Lisa opens up to Kate about past troubles with alcohol. Kate listens intently and Lisa feels as though Kate authentically cares. Yet, a few weeks later, during a disagreement, Kate states, “Maybe you should stop going out for drinks with your friends. Do they know you are a drunk?” Lisa is stunned. She ignores the comment, but it stings.
The following month, Lisa is left out of several social events with her friends. She discovers Kate contacted them and relayed that Lisa has issues with alcohol. Kate asked Lisa’s friends to refrain from inviting her to events where alcohol is present.
In this example, Kate exploits Lisa’s private information and uses it to attack Kate during an argument. She also distorts Kate’s story and broadcasts it to other people without Kate’s knowledge.
It’s also important to note, when an individual dives into “help,” he or she gains access to the private details of the situation. This may allow him or her the opportunity to set up a solution that creates dependency.
For example, Anne is struggling with her business. Her social media representative is irresponsible and costs Anne clients. Anne is panicked and while out to dinner with Sam, discloses her distress. Sam listens attentively and says, “Don’t worry Anne, I have a great social media team. Send me your content. I’ll forward it and have them call you tomorrow.” Anne assumes his excitement to help must mean he really cares.
Before Anne realizes, she is committing to a new team, and Sam is orchestrating the interaction. He tells her to relax; that he’s going to take care of everything. Anne trusts him, but two weeks later, checks on her professional sites and realizes none of her original content is posted. The unauthorized “rebranding” distorts her company’s message and portrays a style that is different than what Anne represents. She is shocked and devastated.
Upset, Anne confronts Sam, who is offended and angry. He tells Anne she is unappreciative and high-maintenance. In his mind, he was helping Anne and she should be grateful. His attitude compounds Anne’s injury. She attempts to work with the new team, but they are cold and seem to only take direction from Sam. Anne feels stuck and surrenders to Sam’s setup because she believes it is motivated by caring feelings.
A second example includes Ben. Ben is stranded on the side of the road with car trouble. He calls his new partner, Rick, who races to assist Ben. They arrange a tow truck to pick up Ben’s car and Rick lends Ben a second vehicle. Ben is appreciative and flattered by Rick’s attention.
Two weeks later, Ben is perplexed. Rick routinely seems to know Ben’s whereabouts. However, Ben trusts Rick and chalks it up to good intuition.
At the end of the month, Rick convinces Ben to sell his car and continue utilizing Rick’s truck. Ben agrees with Rick’s perspective that borrowing the truck instead of buying a new vehicle may help Ben progress financially.
Yet, a few days later, Rick questions Ben on the details of his day. Ben is confused and tells Rick he ran errands. Rick is angry and calls Ben a “liar.” He accuses Ben of cheating and sites past situations when Ben was “flirting” with others. Ben is shocked, confused, and ashamed. Although Ben was simply running errands, Rick’s unwavering belief that Ben’s prior actions caused him insecurities, generates guilt in Ben.
Although Rick admits to leaving a tracking device in the truck, Ben feels as if he “owes” Rick for helping him, so he sweeps the offense under the rug. Ben also mistakenly believes Rick loves him because Rick is obsessed with his safety.
3 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships
First, an individual’s need for information. This may be motivated by a desire to gain information that can be used as leverage instead of a true attempt to get to know a person. Although a person’s disclosures may be innocent, an insecure individual may easily distort the details while maintaining an element of the truth, which makes it believable to others. Transforming an innocent interchange into a salacious and degrading incident empowers an emotionally impaired individual and disempowers the person, leaving him or her decimated.
Second, an individual’s tendency to swoop in and save the day may not indicate he or she has a person’s best interest at heart. Although a person may be appreciative of the help, he or she should refrain from automatically assuming the individual is “golden.”
Often, rescuing a person allows the individual to gain access to the person’s private world. This entry may allow the individual a chance to set up a dynamic that creates dependency.
Third, an individual’s razor-sharp focus on a person may not be love. Despite feeling flattered by the attention, a person should proceed with caution. It may speak to an individual’s need for control rather than an attempt to be close.
A narcissist sets up dependency and control in order to dispel unconscious insecurities. Although it seems human, these tendencies may quickly cross the line. Emotional abuse is difficult to detect because the victim is often made to feel as if he or she is the villain. Maintaining an awareness of these dynamics may help a person stay safe while navigating the dating world.