The short answer: you don’t.
Or at least, you shouldn’t. Save yourself the heartache and the constant feeling that you are the crazy one. I know this because I have dated and loved a few myself.
The long answer: here is what I learned about the 10 stages of dating a narcissist.
1. The seduction
He comes on strong. He takes you to the symphony and buys you flowers. He lavishes you with attention and compliments, fast tracking the relationship, planning the future with you included. He talks about “we.” You are swept off your feet. And just like Prince Charming in the movies, there is no development of accountability or trust. You don’t notice, because he is so damn charming.
2. The reverence
He will tell you that you are gorgeous, sexy, smart, and fun. Who doesn’t want to be told that? This is the stage where he tells you he loves you. After only a month or two. But it’s after texting each other all day. Chatting on line at work. He makes you feel so special. Like you are the only woman on earth. And you say you love him back.
When it is all over, months or years from now, you will remember him saying this. And you will be so hard on yourself. You can’t believe you fell for it. But here’s the thing. You fell for it because everything he said about you was the truth. You are gorgeous. And sexy. And smart. And fun. Hell yeah, you are.
3. The first lie
And so it begins. You find the first evidence that all is not as it seems. An email, a text, a new Facebook friend. He starts with the excuses. She is just a friend. I know her through… whatever.
4. The forgiveness/compromise
This is where you first begin to lose yourself. If your girlfriend, sister, or niece was in this situation, you would tell her to dump this asshole immediately. But you don’t heed your own advice. Because he is different. And you are smart and worldly and would never put up with this kind of shit. So this has to be different. It just has to be. And you never even notice that he never apologized.
You agree to things you never thought you would. He can see other women. He doesn't have to tell you where he is. Some women will claim that they don't want to be monogamous. They agree that life is richer with many loves. Except, we all know that isn't true. We say these things to try to hold on to this man. And we could never tell you why.
5. The failure to be there
You will start to notice that he is never there for you. Ever. You have to put your cat down? He’s answering online dating ads. Need support because of some trauma? He will send you a mean, drunk text. Just been told about a life altering diagnosis? Yeah, go ahead and leave that information on his voice mail. He will get back to you later.
6. The apology
After the first time he fails you, you will get an apology.
There are three parts of any sincere apology:
It’s my fault
What do I need to do to fix this?
Except, he will never ask the last question. Because he has no intention of fixing it. Any of it.
Somehow, he subtly elicits an apology from you. And you did nothing wrong except catch him in his lie.
Narcissists get angry because they will never be as powerful, revered, respected, or successful as they think they deserve to be. They are angry because their dreams refuse to come true. Because their prayers go unanswered. But because they think so highly of themselves, they will always blame you for these failures. They will tell you how they plan to change. But if you point out that they are hurting people, they will turn on you in an instant. The whole world is conspiring against them because they can’t get everything they think they deserve.
And dammit, you owe him an apology for that. Just ask him! He'll tell you that you do.
7. The doubt
The first time you have the thought “Should I trust him,” it is too late. You already know that you cannot. But the worst part of this stage is that he makes you not trust yourself.
He puts dark ideas in your head. When you tell him about an incredibly painful event of your past, he tells you “I forgive you.” Like you need to receive his absolution. He will remind you that you are older, that you are overweight, or not quite as smart as he is. He will make you feel like your life is a liability. That no other man would want you. Not with those extra 15 pounds and a kid at home.
He will only refer to you as his friend, and you will never be invited to join him and his family. It’s because they don’t know about you.
8. The lie on top of a lie on top of a lie on top of a lie
He continues to build the house of cards with false promises, vague answers, and cover stories.
Being honest terrifies the narcissist. He equates the truth with being controlled by others. He refuses to do anything that he feels is pinning him down. He will never feel guilt for lying to you. And if you call him out for a lie, he will be angry with you for finding him out.
A narcissist will never trust you. Never. Because he thinks every other person thinks in the broken way he does. He will make sure he gets you before you get him. And he will do everything he can to sabotage your happiness because if he is not happy, you shouldn’t be either.
9. The humiliation
You make excuses. You apologize for him.
You have to explain yourself to your family and friends. You justify your relationship. You defend him. Then you have to defend yourself. And you start losing friends and avoiding family. Which serves to isolate you. That was the whole idea.
10. The surrender
You end up worn out. You held on so long. Too long. That is because he projected his self-hate and feelings of worthlessness onto you. Eventually, you started feeling those things about yourself. Then he would act as the balm for your wounds, somehow forgetting that he was the one who created them.
Until one day, you let go.
Keep in mind, the smartest women fall for these men. It’s not you. It’s nothing you did. Remember that the narcissist is incapable of love. Of you or of himself. He tries to convince you that his love for you depends on the conditions he sets.
This is an actual psychological disorder. You cannot help him or change him. You can only protect yourself. Be strong and rid yourself of what will only cause you pain.
You need to remember that it is not only the lies he told that hurt. It’s that he continues the lie when you already know the truth. You put trust in someone who is treating you like a fool. And that feels like a slap in the face.
It’s not your fault. You aren’t weak. You are kind and loving.
You are easy prey.
Sometimes the most healing thing you can hear is this: me too. You are not alone. You fell for a man with narcissistic personality disorder.