Ceri Wheeldon of Fab after Fifty talks to therapist Wendy Gregory about how to recognise a narcissist.
A topic which has proven to be of enormous interest when we have discussed dating over 50 on the Fab after Fifty website. This is the first of a series of 3 interviews on recognising and dealing with narcissists.
In this episode Wendy will share:
How to recognise the signs of narcissistic behaviour.
The three phases of a relationship with a narcissist – love bombing, devalue, discard.
What is involved in each stage
What is gaslighting ?
Wendy’s contact details: theWendyHouse57@gmail.com or TheWendyHouse facebook page
The patterns of narcissistic behaviour
Full episode transcript of podcast with Wendy Gregory talking about how to recognise a narcissist
[00:00:06] I’m Ceri Wheeldon. Welcome to the Fab after Fifty podcast. Leading the pro age conversation, talking about all things life after 50.
[00:00:19] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Fab after Fifty podcast. I’m very pleased to have with me today Wendy Gregory. Now Wendy is a counsellor, psychologist and writer. Hello and welcome to Fab after 50.
[00:00:32] Hi, Ceri.
[00:00:34] What are we going to be talking about today?
[00:00:37] Today we’re talking about narcissistic personality disorder and initially on how, you know, if you’re actually involved or in a relationship with a narcissist.
[00:00:49] There is an awful lot of media coverage about narcissism today is that because there are more of them out there with it, because we’re just more aware of what a narcissistic personality is.
[00:00:59] Yeah, that’s a difficult one really to pinpoint. And I personally think that there probably are more narcissistic people simply because parenting styles have changed over the years and become much more child centered as a lot more children are growing up believing that they’re special. And this that doesn’t help. But we don’t actually have any numbers. I mean, the thing with narcissistic personality disorder is that very few narcissists will ever present for therapy. So they’re largely undiagnosed.
[00:01:33] Right. And what exactly is a narcissistic personality disorder?
[00:01:38] Okay. Narcissistic personality disorder is a developmental disorder. There’s often confusion. People think it’s a mental illness and it isn’t. If it were a mental illness, we could treat it with drugs or whatever and cure it. And it isn’t actually the case. So it’s about ways of behaving that are not what we’d call normal. I hate to use the word normal really as a psychologist, but. But they’re not normal. They affect their relationships and more importantly they affect everyone that they’re involved with. So there is narcissism is on a continuum. So this very low level, what we call a covert narcissists, there’s that really quite hard to spot and generally they go through life without being spotted and then going upwards to the extreme and the overt, malignant, sadistic narcissist type, much more obvious. And it’s really a collection of behaviours. So I’ll just give you a few examples and a grandiose sense of self-importance. They’re always very grandiose. So they pick themselves up. They’re boasting, they claim to have done things well, make up qualifications and clams that just don’t exist. And they believe that they are special and unique and they have an absolute need for excessive admiration. So that ties in with boasting a lot and a lack of empathy. So they really, really don’t empathize with other people. And and that makes them obviously very difficult to have any sort of satisfactory relationship with them, very manipulative.
[00:03:15] So their whole aim really in life is to get what they want and at the expense of everybody else. All right. I mean, I know recently there’ve been a few examples in terms of films, one I watched on, I think on either Netflix or Prime was Dirty John, which is a true life story which gets quite horrific in fact in terms of how this poor woman was abused without giving away the ending but Dirty John well, I can be quite open here. I mean, I haven’t been in a similar relationship myself with a very different ending. But you almost see the patterns, you recognized it as it was happening. And then you think, why didn’t I recognise it when it was happening to me?
[00:03:57] Did you see, Dirty John? And yes, it was an absolute classic pattern of narcissistic behaviour. And as you said, we won’t give any spoilers, but he was at the extreme end of narcissistic personality disorder.
[00:04:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So for those that haven’t seen it. If you think you’re involved in a strange relationship, look it up because if a friend who you think is in a controlling relationship. Also, if they watch it, they might help you understand why she puts up with it in quotes behaviour that perhaps you wouldn’t. Maybe understand where she’s coming from. How to say to people, how do you know if you’re involved with somebody who is a narcissist? What should would we be looking out for?
[00:04:43] All right. Well, the symptoms that I’ve just mentioned, obviously, and that there’s a pattern to the relationship and narcissistic relationships are done in three phases. And so the first stage is we call it love bombing. The second is devaluing and the third is discarding. Initially, narcissists love bomb you, so that’s something to watch out for, it’s too much, too soon. They shower you with attention. They may even shower you with gifts and expensive presents, but not always. But they shower you with attention. They want commitment very, very early on because of course, they cant manipulate you if you’re not committed to them. So they start talking about a seriously long term relationship, might even ask you to marry them on your first date, tell you that you’re soul mates and but things tend to watch out for really are that it is too much too soon. But also that if they seem to have interests that are exactly the same as yours now that’s obvious. It might just be coincidence that they do that to get you to feel that you are soul mates. You know, you’re meant to be together and so on. So some of the examples I can give and because I see a lot of clients now who’ve been in narcissistic relationships and one of the examples which have been given permission behind by the client to share was the man who had been involved in a relationship with an extreme narcissistic woman.
[00:06:15] And looking back on the first date, he was an amateur wrestler in his spare time and on their first date, she claimed to be an amateur wrestler as well. Unusual. That is a really unusual thing. But he said, you know, now that I can laugh because how did that fit to the very petite frame and just think, how did I believe? But at the time, I thought, oh, great. Amazing. I found someone who’s got the same interests as me. Things like, if you like Kate Bush, they will have all her albums . And then they will say that they’ve been to see her live. They might even say they know her well. They’ve got a personal connection with Kate, but you can do a little bit of digging around that. You know, you can actually catch them out, ask them what from some of the tracks are and help them or where they were last on live. Something like that. You can catch them out and also they tend to be in multiple relationships. So it’s very likely that when you first date a narcissist, they will still be involved with someone else. Obviously, they try to cover their tracks quite well. But just doing a little bit of digging and if they’re vague about where they live or who they live with or when they broke up with their previous partner. That is a red flag really for you need to push for more detail. But how can you, you say push for more detail in what way, because if its new, you wouldn’t expect to know their wearabouts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, because you’ve your life hopefully that you will be living as well.
[00:07:50] Absolutely. Absolutely. But as we said with the love bombing stage, they will be contacting you constantly. So and on the first date, I mean, I because I have been involved in two narcissistic relationships, but the most recent one and he asked me before the date ended it, when can I see you again. On my way home on the train. I was getting texts from him. I can’t believe I’ve met such a such a lovely woman. The next morning in a more texts, more texts, more texts, phoning every day. So the attention is constant. So back to back to the red flag. That’s a warning sign because people that are mentally healthy people don’t do instant relationships. They take time to get to know you. They don’t do all this love bombing and too much too soon. But as for asking them where they live. I mean, you don’t want to make it an interrogation on a first date, but you don’t have an interview. Yeah. But can’t ask to prove who you are, do you have a recent bank statement and you cant ask that, but just be aware and if it is vague. I mean, one of the really common ones is, oh, I’m staying with friends at the moment while I’m looking for a place of my own. And then that gets them out of ever having to invite you there to their place. Oh, no, you can’t come here.
[00:09:11] Now we have mobile phones haven’t we we but when we were a lot younger. Obviously, when you reach your 50s , our first experience of dating was when we were in our teens and early 20s, and we had fixed landlines then. But people called you at home. So you had to be in a physical place, didn’t you, to take those calls?
[00:09:29] Yes, you did. I mean, we didn’t even have voicemail.
[00:09:34] Whereas now ,with mobile phones, you could be anywhere. Absolutely. You could be anywhere. And have more than one mobile.
[00:09:43] They do. That’s very common that they have, you know, mine had four in the end, four different mobiles. Yeah. Yeah. So, yes, that’s another sign up. Another warning sign. If if whenever you ring it goes up, it goes to voicemail and it’s a little bit suspicious. They usually will call you back. Know they’ll find a different place to be, although not for a walk if they’re living with someone and they’ll call you back. Or they’ll pick up the phone and say, I’m in a meeting I’ll call you back. If that’s a little bit of a warning sign, if it keeps happening, obviously sometimes people are unavailable and you’d expect that. But if if it keeps happening, that they very rarely actually pick up the phone when you ring. Why? No one is that busy. Yeah.
[00:10:30] That’s look at the early stages. Yeah. But what if you miss all the signs and you find yourself in stage 2 . Stage 2.
[00:10:40] That’s called the devaluing stage and the narcissist will have put you on a pedestal during the first phase and then they start knocking you off the pedestal. So basically, they start devaluing you. They start criticising you. They start blaming you for everything. They’ll turn everything around and make it your fault. And this is called gaslighting. And you start (after the film) The old black and white film where the husband was plotting to have the wife murdered and he made her think that she was going insane. And that’s where the term comes from. And it’s very common touch. You feel as if you are going insane because that’s what a narcissist will do. They also can pick you up and put you down. So one minute they’re telling you how much they love you, what a wonderful person you are, blah, blah, blah. And the next day, not contactable or they’re criticising you constantly. They very often start to disappear. I think the term is ghosting now. They’ll just disappear. You can’t get hold of them. You don’t know where they are for sometimes two or three days at times and sometimes a week. And you become very, very anxious in the relationship. You feel very confused. You don’t understand what’s happening. And then all of a sudden they’re back. No. Reassure you. Oh, no, no, no. It’s you. You’ve got trust issues. You’ve got jealousy problems. You need to get that sorted to help. And you do start to feel as if you’re going crazy. You really do. So, yeah, that’s that’s that’s the second phase. So if you start to well it’s abusive basically. And that is quite subtle often and you don’t realise it’s happening for some time. But once you do, you need to try and get out of it, try and pull away from it.
[00:12:29] And also we hear that abuse can be financial cant it. Yes, it can. If you like, very controlling in all aspects of your life. Certainly.
[00:12:38] Very often they do. Yes. And they will also often leave. They tend to groom and groom people. And this is you know, it’s not just men that are narcissists are female narcissists as well. But similarly, there are a lot more of this around. But, yes, they will groom you for it to meet their needs. So sexually. Financial needs are very often borrow money or steal money, actually defraud you and of your money. So, yeah, I mean that’s financial abuse.
[00:13:10] And also my understanding is that from personal experience, they would try to isolate you from those people who are close to you who might become more aware of that behaviour. And I mean, if you look at Dirty John, that was a classic example in that film. It was. It was, yes. But they do try to isolate you from people that are important to you or they feel can influence you.
[00:13:31] Yeah. Yeah. They’ve tried to separate you from your friends and family very often. Yes. So other people because it’s very often your friends or your family that spot that there’s something not right. And they will be telling you, you know, this isn’t right. You need to. You need to end this, you need to get out there. So, of course, they don’t want that because they want to be the person in control. And everything is about control with a narcissist. Everything they do. They have to be in control. They actually just can’t cope with not being in control. So, yes, they will try to isolate you very often from your friends or family . And presumably at that devalue stage is when they can they can actually have total control over you.
[00:14:12] Yes. Yes, they do that. Yes.
[00:14:14] They have total control over your mind or your body or your needs, everything. Yes.
[00:14:22] And then the last stage then is the discard stage isnt it.
[00:14:25] Yes. Yes. And in the discard stage, they will be moving on to what’s referred to as a new source of supply narcissist and will have at least one, usually several sources, its called sources of narcissistic supply.
[00:14:41] So they will be they usually will have started another relationship. They may have been having another relationship all along, but they’ll be on to the next person that they that they start love bombing and the ghosting and the disappearing will become more intense. Oh, I’m going away on business undoing this or they’ll use their health as an excuse. That’s a common one. Got to have an operation. They’ve got to have an MRI scan. Weirdly, at 9 p.m. in the evening or any kind of excuse, they will gradually, gradually withdraw.
[00:15:15] And sometimes it’s the other way round. They will do something so awful that it prompts you to end the relationship. So either way, they they want to cut off from you. But a narcissist even when they end, they will keep coming back because they like to have you available in case their new source of supply falls through. So they tend to keep you dangling on a piece of string called hoovering. And every now and then they keep coming back just to make sure you’re still there. Make sure you’re still available. And that’s really when you stop to think you’re going insane. And it’s not because they care about you. It really is not interested at all. They just want to know that you’re available.
[00:16:00] Yes,soit’s a fairly unsavory character type to get involved with. Really?
[00:16:07] It is. And people will often say, well, how did he get involved with them in the first place? And that’s the other thing about narcissists is they are always, without exception, extremely charming and charismatic. You can think of a few notable and famous people. One of them lives in America. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. I dont want to get sued for libel or anything, but I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. So, yes, they are extremely charming and charismatic, and that’s what draws us to them in the first place. And obviously, we don’t realise at the time that it’s not genuine, but it’s it’s all for show. That isn’t who they are. In fact, they’re actually quite empty. There’s nothing there.
[00:16:48] They don’t really have a personality. So with all of this are there typical timescales, because they talked about the three stages. Is it sort of, I don’t know, maybe there’s not really been any research to quantify. Are there specific timeframes?
[00:17:05] I don’t think so, you’re right Ceri, I don’t think there has been any research into it. I actually think it’s really variable. And with a covert narcissist, I mean, they often are married, sometimes their whole lives, have families and everything. So it’s can be lifelong or with the more extreme type of narcissists, it tends to be much more short lived because their behaviour is so extreme. They can’t really keep a relationship going for very long. And I’m going to say, mine lasted nine months but it may be sort of up to two years. But of course, if you’ve had children with them, then that is a completely different ballgame because you’re never rid of them really. If you’ve got contact with them, then it becomes much, much more difficult and much more complicated.
[00:17:55] I know some of the discussions that come up in the we have a Facebook page where we’ve post articles and I included one from you Wendy about dating narcissism. Yes. But people have commented that they’d come out of long marriages with narcissists that maybe lasted 30 years. Yeah. And when they’ve left they have been devastated and broken at the end of it. So the fact it was so long. Not really understanding what was happening.
[00:18:21] That’s not fair. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:18:25] Thank you so much for this, Wendy. Obviously, we talk about the narcissistic personality disorder today, but we’re going to do a couple more episodes, aren’t we? There’s too much to cover in one, but there are two more episodes at least that were going to be doing. And the next one, I think you’ve got sound is talking about how you recover from having been in a relationship like that. Indeed , yes. So thank you very much for joining us today.
[00:18:47] How could people reach you, Wendy. They can reach me via my Facebook page, which is called the Wendy House or my email, which is theWendyHouse57@gmail.com
[00:19:04] We’ll have details in the in the overview as well. But meantime, people want to be in touch with you that’s how to do it and I look forward to sharing. I guess, episode two in our narcissistic series.
[00:19:19] Yes. You’re welcome, Ceri. Thank you. Bye bye. Bye bye.
[00:19:29] Thank you for joining us today. Please do subscribe and also send the link to friends and be part of the pro age conversation. Life really is meant to be fabulous at every age, but especially after 50.