Interview by Ceri Wheeldon with Wendy Gregory
There is so much talk about narcissism in the press and media today, and it would appear that in most instances it is women being targeted by men. For those women over 50 returning to dating, it creates an extra are of concern – especially if dating online.
I asked psychologist Wendy Gregory, who has supported many women who have found themselves in relationships with narcissists, for her tips to identify a narcissist, and to avoid getting drawn in as narcissistic ‘supply’.
How do we avoid getting drawn into a narcissist’s circle?
First of all , when it comes to relationships, for a narcissist the relationship is all about them. What they can gain and how it makes them look. Online sites are an ideal place for narcissists to start to ‘groom’ individuals. When you connect with a narcissist online they know all the right questions to ask to determine whether you are a potential candidate for them – and know exactly what to say to connect with you. They may even have a fake profile. Keep online communication and phone calls to a minimum. The more you correspond with them the more information they glean, and the more emotionally invested you become before you actually meet. My advice would be to meet face to face as soon as possible. But remember that you are meeting a stranger. You know nobody in common and have no way of knowing if what this person is telling you is true.
How can we recognise if someone is a narcissist?
A narcissist will typically want to move things on very quickly. They don’t waste time and want to reel you in as soon as possible. They are likely to ‘love bomb’ you in the early stages. They will spoil you. They will make you feel as though you have met your soulmate. They are going to push for commitment and exclusivity. It will be a case of too much too soon. They will seem too good to be true.
Ask why their previous relationships have failed. Ask about their friends and family – they will probably come up with excuses as to why you can’t meet them.
They like to control people and situations and have no empathy.
If you ask them about their childhood it will typically be one of extremes – either awful to gain your sympathy, or idyllic – it won’t just be normal.
A good question to ask a narcissist
A good question to ask somebody is “What would you change about yourself if you could? “ Narcisissts wont think they need to improve anything about themselves!
Once a narcissist believes they have established a relationship with you, they are likely to start making false promises. They will make plans with you and cancel at short notice – too late for you arrange to do anything else, but will keep you waiting and they will know exactly where you are -so they are free to do whatever it is they are doing without bumping into you. They will keep you ‘on hold’.
The words and actions of a narcissist wont match.
Try to visit where they live sooner rather than later. Make an excuse to meet them at their home at short notice. Make sure they have nothing to hide. A narcissist nearly always starts a new relationship before ending an existing one.
Once a narcissist believes that you have committed to them, they will start to be less generous. You may well find that they frequently leave their credit card behind by accident , or will have a plausible excuse as to why they cannot pay for something (such as a holiday) but they will promise to reimburse you later. They rarely do. Narcissists have a strong sense of entitlement – remember your role is to serve their needs. They have little respect or empathy for you.
Don’t be afraid to ‘check them out’ . You don’t have to stalk. For instance, if someone says they have their own company, or have had their own company in the past, check with companies house and see what listings they have for them. You might find that what they say is absolutely true, or you may discover a string of failed ventures behind them. I have put together a video on my own youtube channel which gives tips on how to check out somebody you start to date.
Don’t be intimate too soon. Intimacy releases hormones that make you feel a sense of commitment. If the person you meet is genuine they won’t mind waiting.
They will say things to belittle you. If you ask for a reasonable explanation for a missed date, or something you are suspicious about they will not provide an answer, but instead will go on the attack- making accusations against you to undermine you and deflect from any wrongdoing they may have done.
If you do get involved with somebody who turns out to be narcissist, walk away! Go ‘No contact’.
There is no shame in having been taken in by a narcissist. They target bright, caring people to fill a void which they have within themselves. You just need the tools to recognise them.
Wendy Gregory is a Counselling Psychologist, writer and training consultant with a thriving private practice in Berkshire. She is a regular guest psychologist on BBC Talk Radio and has a youtube channel, “The Wendy House”.
Wendy is the resident psychologist and advocate for CAAGe the Campaign Against Adult Grooming (https://CAAGE.org) – a campaign dedicated to preventing adult grooming – of which dating is only one aspect.