The Unintended Compliment

It’s Narcissist Friday!  


A backhanded (or left-handed) compliment is one that comes with its own slap. “That dress is amazing; it makes you look slim!”

A backwards compliment is much the same without the intent. “Your hair makes you look different, really cute!”

An unintended compliment is one that wasn’t meant to be a compliment at all. It may not have been meant as an insult either. It was probably just a statement or an action.

Narcissists do so much to pull people down. They criticize and insult and ignore and use. They say such cruel things and treat others like dirt. It doesn’t take long for some people to begin to believe the narcissist and think of themselves as inferior and unworthy.

But it might surprise you to realize that the narcissist gives you an unintended compliment every day. Whether he/she will admit it or not, you are important to the narcissist. You offer something the narcissist does not have. Now, stop and think about that for a moment.

When the narcissist saw you, he knew you were better than he was in some way. You could handle money. You could make good decisions. You had a good reputation. You had quality friendships. You had something he needed.

With you at his side, the narcissist looked presentable, successful, smart, worthy, or desirable. You were the trophy wife (or husband), the hard worker, the clear thinker, the kind friend. You helped the narcissist present his superior image to the world. Others thought more highly of him because of you.

Some of you know this. Some used to know this. Some don’t believe it could be true. If he thinks so highly of me, you say, why does he put me down all the time? Why does the narcissist seem so dedicated to discouraging and depersonalizing someone he/she admires?

Listen: they put others down because they admire them. The fact that the narcissist admires someone means that person is somehow better in the narcissist’s mind and people the narcissist sees as better are targets to be brought down. The superior person threatens the narcissist. The narcissist wants to be the superior one.

The narcissist needs quality people in order to look good. Yet, he cannot allow those quality people to show or believe their quality. He tries to steal their abilities and contributions to make them his own, so that he gets credit. Then he tries to control them by putting them down and discouraging them so they stay with him and look up to him. If the superior person can be made to look up to the narcissist, the narcissist is lifted even higher. All part of the plan.

This is true in all narcissistic relationships. It seems obvious that a narcissistic boss would try to attract quality employees and use their strengths, but then spend his time demeaning them and trivializing their contributions so they don’t look too good. The narcissistic parent will choose the most gifted child to abuse. Lifting that child up to serve the image, then slamming that child down to keep control.

And narcissists choose friends carefully. In fact, most narcissists don’t really have friends the way we think of friendship. They surround themselves with useful people. They don’t waste time with people who have nothing to offer.

So whatever narcissistic relationship you have endured, consider it an unintended compliment. In fact, take it further. Believe that you have value, serious value. You had something the narcissist didn’t have. Out of all the people the narcissist encountered, you were the best.

Now, I know that you think you must have been weak or broken, and the predator smelled opportunity. There was probably something that opened your heart to the manipulations and grooming of the narcissist. But that wasn’t why the narcissist found you. Narcissists do not choose people who are weak and broken. They have neither the interest nor the time. They have one mission—to present a superior image—and you offered something that furthered that mission. It had to be quality or the narcissist would have passed you by.

Of course you are discouraged in the narcissistic relationship. That’s the way it works. You are supposed to lose any self-esteem, any value of your abilities, any trust in your own decisions and actions. That’s so that you will stay under control. We all understand and we have all felt the same.

But the unintended compliment is still there. Grab onto it and embrace it. Tell yourself that you are still that person. You do have something to offer; not just to the narcissist, but to the world. You still are what the narcissist is not.

Be encouraged and affirmed!


Filed under Narcissism

57 responses to “The Unintended Compliment

  1. K

    Thank you so much for this post. You made my day. I have been feeling like I have been at fault in some way. I do doubt my abilities and it brings me down. Starting today I am affirmed. 😊 I am going to remember it was my strength, my knowledge, my loving heart that is worthy (although the narcissistic friend tried to prove otherwise) and start protecting it by following my dreams. I no longer discuss what I am doing in my professional/ academic life with this friend so I don’t have to worry about the back handed compliments or trying to make me doubt my abilities to make my dreams a reality. I have been a good friend to her but it’s never enough and I don’t feel she is capable of being there for me or being happy for me. I recently had a death in the family and she didn’t ask ANYTHING about it. She only spoke about how someone else she knew had recently lost someone close to them and she was a shoulder to cry on. I realize this was probably a lie and just said to make me feel bad. I could go on but I feel tired and sad just thinking about her. This was WONDERFUL! God bless you all.

    • Jamie

      This was so amazing thank you so very much. I just needed some more reaffirmation this very moment and that was all it took for something I knew at least I thought I knew her for about five years maybe four is coming to the end and I tried to go no contact a few days ago but I spoke with him today and everybody’s right…you can’t do it. It’s just so crazy how everyone of these articles it’s like Word for Word what you’re living every single day over and over and over for years seeing how you could be so stupid feeling like you’re never going to recover and then realizing that you were or something good and you’re not garbage and you’re not gonna let her tell you that anymore but you feel like garbage!! Are used to be such a strong pretty energetic outgoing fun young woman right now I’m 30 years old at a 3:45 in the morning and I haven’t showered in five days. And I haven’t slept in like a month because I knew this was coming I was exposing work himself and putting up with less and he didn’t like it so then he would become even more mean it doesn’t hurt any less. I became so delirious and sleep deprived and I just was on a quest for all truth and I already had in the past all the way from day one scene red flags and less you’re coming and coming and then the promises kept coming and coming and they both seem so genuine so often than you think it’s bipolar disorder or this or that or the other thing and you make excuses for them because you love them and you believe in him and you think they love you and because they make you feel that when they are The nice guy… That was the hardest thing for me.. I didn’t want to have to get rid of the nice guy in order to get rid of the monster and I’ve been saying for years are you choosing your hitman which is what they call them in and correct my classes that he went to five years ago and never applied one tool after pretty much I would say are you going to really choose your hitman over me and he would even tell me yes and lack of self in the bathroom like a child and that abuse right there is tough over and over Seem abuse same excuses and behaviors him reaction awful I can’t fathom how cool it is. Mine became abusive because I think he was an Aries as well and they’re definitely just temperamental people. Do you honest with you I’d rather have the physical and the mental emotional and psychological any day. Now sides are stronger than my insides. I know I still have a good heart. All the name calling and the evil cocky laughs and smiles and slamming doors in like you don’t even matter so often. I don’t know how many in this past year I have literally cried belting out I matter I matter!! Or I’m a human being Joe!! Or please God have some human decency… Anyways, it’s even worse when they fool your friends and some family members especially of their own they think that you’re the crazy one and have even made me to be out as a victim and I don’t want to see for venge but I feel after so many people need to do something to make it right or set things straight. For every single time he would badmouth me behind my back to work are supposed to be a lifelong family friends that we keep making I’m left in the dark first of all and then they don’t use anything specific in detail about what they do you at all. It’s usually just I know I’m not perfect but which is just their way of trying to be perfect I meeting Nat and you know sometimes it can be an ass. But that’s pretty much it and less they really get some Pedio for somebody in breakdown because I want to show their human. Right before Christmas I saw a message come up from his best friends wife.. Actually there’s two best friends and two wives are also very good friends and the first couple times when we all went and it was all three and three it was great and fun… That was a long time ago and it didn’t take long before the vicious toxic cycle happen after they make sure that you are good and hooked… It is only then if you make them feel inferior in any sort of way that they will get their supply off of others attention of others leaving you without a care doesn’t matter what shape urine not to my dad’s heart attack not thrown my friends death or even my daughter God I can’t even say… Oh boy well that was in 2013 and we begin counseling after that helping him to realize that relationshipa built on trust and that you have to live as one, not to confuse this with the same… But one bringing two different worlds together, where you Live true and pure and with integrity. Common rule not to treat others as you want to be treated nor wouldn’t day or anything that you wouldn’t if they were right next to you. But what the rest of them don’t understand is that that’s challenging for narcissist to do on a minute to minute basis. So friends please know some people won’t believe you and that’s OK you know your truth you know what you’ve been through you know you didn’t deserve it you know you tried to help the more you give the more they take less they give you less you become less they love you less you feel about yourself and just got to stand up and breathe right now.. Or just talk to your phone at four in the morning so you don’t feel like you’re going crazy instead of writing every single thing down. And you’re right down so much so you don’t go crazy and you just want to be heard and you know they never listened or value your opinion in the first place. So when they screw you over behind your back leaving you with absolutely nothing as you’re wallowing in the biggest deep yucky whole of your whole life they’re out with friends or at a sporting event or dinner party or whatever maybe laughing and caring and I read something somewhere that said it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 months 10 years or 10 days to them it will feel like 10 minutes and you just can’t fathom someone being so heartless and so cool that you have truly left with all your heart so unconditionally for so long because he began to feel like you would not leave your child if they had a disease you to do all you can do to help them right that’s how it became. So after him reaching out every year for 10 years here in there for others attention in 10 years this is me finally and truly reaching out and it feels good.. Oh! And in case you need to move ice don’t let them fool you into thinking that they made things right between us friends and family members when they haven’t. You’re in the dark again you look like a and your head and yet times you have after their hundred times jumping you jump back you have gotten crazy over 10 years a couple times here and there I’m not Jesus people i’m human. But I eventually realized that when I changed my tactics to his nastiness of a response after many years, they backed down a little bit more but they do want you to provoke them and they will provoke you. I was literally screamed at and put down a lot one time last month for not remembering it was his turn to park in the garage!! .. Telling me I don’t think. I literally replied so nice and so calm and loving sing that’s actually something I want to be for sure better about it so if you notice I make a mistake just let me know and I’ll fix it. He didn’t fix his and you’re thinking to yourself how in the world in this person say I’m dumb or I don’t know how to think for myself when I make a normal human mistake that actually wanted to fix, even though he didn’t really deserve it at all but narcissist usually aren’t very gentlemanly cordial. And when you ever bring that up with him well that’s another night story and another night lost. That was one time I raise my voice pretty loud after he said.. No screamed, I shouldn’t need to remind you like a child to park in the garage. I stood up I didn’t scream it but I know that I should not have to remind you to “stay in a relationship” from day today especially with someone who’s been nothing but loving and caring and supportive and encouraging and trying to build him up as they’re breaking you down. They literally treat you like worthless disposable garbage over and over until you are actually slightly resembling worthless disposable garbage and you definitely feel that way so yeah when people don’t like you as much with us because somebody just murdered your soul and all that was good and yet never an apology or appreciation. They will put out the words here and there because they know if they don’t then your supplies cut off but yeah there’s 1 million more things I could keep running on about maybe I should just write a book.. his reasons for when he hadn’t even been my partner for the or abandoning changed all the time. All the time and you could compromise of things even picking yourself up trying to heal on your own after the last one and they will let you know if it’s not good enough for what they don’t see in you is good anymore and that is what is so heartbreaking like they really don’t understand the magnitude of the damage that is done, so obviously you’re hurt trying to heal and at first I asked him if he would consider trying very hard with conscious effort to not turn and not let is in your get out of control for 40 days and we could start a new cast a new history. Well then I made that 30 days with and they read it two weeks then I made it one week. And then when we were in Tahoe couple months ago I said OK if this guys days because he was amazing at night then I’ll stay I said I won’t and how can someone realize he went from physical abuse but then it turn tomorrow mental abuse where you would just ignore me in our bed wouldn’t flinch would leave for work without a care didn’t care about my day but he made sure that I respected his workday. When they say they’ve made things right here and there with their now new best friends/softball buddies.. Well now unfortunately,he’s in all three of their wives friends and work friends and you’re going to continue to gonna make details they just say how awful it was and how unhappy he’s been and so they cut you out and I really won’t listen to you and because you are very big hearted and empathetic and loyal out of loyalty to your partner you only say enough to throw it out there as opposed to really let it out there because you’re not that selfish and you don’t want them to look bad and you actually want to help them and you know if you unleashed all that wrath, they would leave you for damaging their ego a reputation or credibility when that’s what they’ve been doing the whole time. Actually I am home alone tonight because just like many nights my friends have something going on and he’s heading over there and doesn’t know if the girls are going to come but then I never find out till later or the girls don’t come till later they isolate you on purpose so they can plant their seats because they need you as the support because they realize what it was partner or friend they’re backing away which I was because I kept digging for truth I needed truth and he hated that when you know what I hated being snoopy so stop being a dog oh my gosh that was the first 🙂 think I smiled all week I made a funny I’m still alive I will heal I have to tell myself is 1 million times a day right now please forgive all of my typos that I know are there as I am voice texting right now and i’m too tired to go back and proofread and I just need to sleep.. if I’m allowed to go back and edit it tomorrow I will, I hope this helps somebody because a lot of this is help me thank you. I put this up for reason it was one letter I found today and I hadn’t read read that yet it was when I wrote him I didn’t remember when until I started reading it and I literally lost my breath with every sentence because I realize this was exactly 5 years ago and I could’ve written that letter is it or still literally tonight. 10 years 10 years another 10 years lost

  2. Carol

    Somehow, this article is written in such a way that it feels like a backhanded compliment.

      • Carol

        The definition of the word ” admire” is ‘regard with respect’. It is difficult for me to accept the idea of a narcissist admiring my fine qualities as an opportunity to see myself from a different perspective. While I have never read anything about the trait of admiration in a narcissist, I am very familiar with the reality that an abuser does not hold a victim in a place of respect. Am I naive to put narcissists in the abuser category? This is why it feels like a backhanded compliment.

        I do appreciated the intention of this article to help those who have suffered greatly from a relationship with narcissist. We do lose perspective and even lose respect for ourselves. We are extremely remarkable people, we who have given and given to a N who has taken and taken. Thank you for reminding us.

      • Carol, thanks for bringing this up. I guess I use the word admire more in the sense of wonder or desire, like someone might admire a certain ring or article of clothing. When the N admires a person, in my perspective, he/she sees something in that person to desire. Admiration, for the N, is always mixed with jealousy and, as Seeing points out, covetousness.

        In fact, I would have to stretch to add the idea of respect to admire, but I can see where you are coming from. Certainly you are right in reminding us that the N does not respect other people. That’s almost part of the definition of narcissism.

        I hope this doesn’t lessen my point in your mind or in anyone else’s. You were remarkable at the beginning of the relationship!

      • Carol, I wanted to comment on what you said. First, I want to say that I get what Pastor Dave is talking about and found today’s post to be quite excellent. It really resonated with me and my experience. That said, I understand what you are trying to say regarding “admire” and respect. When I read you comment, certain images came to my mind. It is hard to find the right word for it since I agree that they don’t really admire these qualities with respect. I think it is that they covet them. It’s a relentless desire to possess them, like an insatiable greed or lust. They will lie, manipulate, deceive, commit relationship fraud, and abuse to get them from you, to suck them from you like a vampire. They would steal your very character from you if they could. I see it as something very dark and diabolical. I actually don’t desire the compliment of a narcissist – back-handed or otherwise. I do not desire his good opinion of me, his favorable evaluation of me, or his “admiration.” Just get him away from me.

  3. This is why I never understand why those with whom I set boundaries were so upset! I wanted to say, “Why are you upset that I am leaving you? You HATED me and made that clear in a 1000 ways!” Why would I want to be with a husband or people who put me down all the time? When I set the boundaries, they were “crushed” and made a big deal about it. I wondered if they were just embarrassed because, somehow, my setting up the boundaries made them look bad?

    GREAT article. Thank you!

  4. Cecilia K

    This is an encouragement and such a welcome change of perspective, I think, for anyone involved with a narcissist. I think oftentimes, especially when we’ve been in deep for a good length of time, we forget that there might be another way to look at it. The narcissist is so convincing in their shaming and condemnation, that you start to think their declarations must be truth. I remember that although mine’s harsh words hurt tremendously, I didn’t want to discount them because I was afraid that might just be my pride not wanting to receive constructive reproof (even if it was delivered with brutality). I trusted his opinion over anyone else’s, because he spent the most time with me.

    Thank You for the post!

  5. jodi

    So needed to hear this. Thank you. I don’t trust my judgment anymore. I feel defeated with zero self esteem. My friend is out with all her new friends having a great time. Posts about how great her life is 10 times a day, while I sit in a state of depression. She is also trying to steal one of the only friends I have. Its amazing how they do it….

  6. Once again, thank you! I, too, needed to hear this.

  7. Lisa

    Wow. That was an interesting feeling while reading the part:

    “Then he tries to control them by putting them down and
    discouraging them so they stay with him and look up to him.
    If the superior person can be made to look up to the narcissist,
    the narcissist is lifted even higher. All part of the plan.”

    This has been a repetitive occurrence for me…..letting go and giving authority to someone else to have over me. Thanks for enlightening me in the dynamic of this transference, or rather, “switcherooo” ! No More!

  8. Reblogged this on Blog Of A Mad Black Woman and commented:
    “With you at his side, the narcissist looked presentable, successful, smart, worthy, or desirable. You were the trophy wife (or husband), the hard worker, the clear thinker, the kind friend. You helped the narcissist present his superior image to the world. Others thought more highly of him because of you.” ~ Grace For My Heart

  9. Reblogged this on Empathgirl-SOCIOPATH and commented:

  10. Kitkat

    Wow, this explains so much in my relationship with the N in my life. I was on a very high profile project when we became friends. I was on our local news promoting the project many times. We took public tours on the site and I helped promote and facilitate them. She and her husband came to the site a couple of times. As time went on she started to tell people that we share a brain whenever we were introduced. I didn’t think much of it until reading this post. It makes sense now when my sister(counselor), told me she wanted to be me. I have been in leadership roles, rather reluctantly, for many years. Leadership is very hard, and I could never understand why so many people covet it. But I guess for the N all they see is the public face of it. Thankfully, I am no longer working in that capacity anymore, but this certainly helps me to understand the dynamics of this whole sad relationship. Thank you so much for this post, you have made my day!

  11. Savedbygrace

    this explains so much! thanks Dave for this perspective.. my h in the first year of our marriage lamented that he married me because he thought because I was a leader I’d be a ‘certain type’ of person- he made it clear he’d been ‘ripped off’ somehow as he came to know me…. obviously I didn’t fit with the image he wanted to project..he’s spent many years alternatively ‘building me up’ – to be the person he can be proud of and ‘show off’ and tearing me down… any wonder we go crazy living with someone like is v confusing.. this posts helps me find the trail of breadcrumbs back to who I was …thanks Dave:)

  12. Lisa

    My life with n-husband.

  13. Nail on the head, Pastor Dave.

    I know of an organization filled with bright, accomplished Ivy Leaguers who are treated very poorly on a regular basis. I could never understand why anyone would hire obviously capable people and them effectively block them from doing their jobs while taking every possible step to destroy their sense of self, too boot. Now I do. Very sad. It also goes to show (again) how selfish narcs are. Instead of running an organization responsibly, they’ll squander others’ time, talent, and money for their own insane agendas.

  14. Shoshanna

    God Bless u Pastor Dave for your insight & truth. It has been so very hard for me to remember the accomplished confident woman I was once before life with my (now known sex addict Narc) ex…
    16 years later I’m “stepping into the light”. Blinded for sure initially, but my eyes r re-focusing, getting used to brilliance & begin to see a beautiful world around me once more & hey, I’m quite beautiful too…why do I know I’m beautiful after such betrayal? Because Jesus tells me so, affirming through His people such as Pastor Dave at such a time as this. Praise God.

  15. SweetJane72

    Wow. Yet another clarifying and incredibly insightful post. Throughout my relationship with the ExN, I struggled with this exact dichotomy; he simultaneously treated me and the children terribly, through alternating cycles of abuse and neglect, yet spoke of me with the highest regard to friends, family, coworkers, etc. When I finally decided to end the marriage I was truly baffled by his insane reaction, and his firmly held belief that he was the ‘victim’. I couldn’t understand why he was so upset and angry when for nearly a decade he treated me worse than any human being ever had, like he hated me. My personal conclusion was that the words of praise and admiration were a preemptive strike to make me look like the crazy one when I finally had enough and the relationship ended. I still believe that is partially true; but this post added another layer of understanding to a facet of that relationship that is nearly impossible to comprehend if you are a mentally healthy person ensnared by a narcissistic predator. Thank you.

  16. Lee

    Wow, every time there is another thing I didn’t recognize for what it was. It has been almost 5 years since my husband told me I didn’t make him happy anymore and left. X husband I should say. It still hurts, but I feel a little better every day.

  17. Jersey Girl

    Wow, this really resonated with me. It describes my xNarc to a Tee. I was his trophy wife, I made him look good, I was smart, attractive, successful, had a great career, owned my own house- I MADE HIM LOOK GOOD. Well, no more. And I understand that is was and is a backhanded compliment. If I had no worth, he would not have wanted me. And my worth has always been who I am in Christ. Thank the Lord he never once took that away from me. And when I came out of the fog, I have had NO TROUBLE realizing that he is the disordered one, he is the one who is not right, and I was fine all along. Praise God for more affirmation. I love the X-Narc blogosphere!

  18. Reblogged this on Ladywithatruck's Blog and commented:
    So very true!!! I know that I gave my ex respectability and credibility something he had lost with his family and I restored that for him. For 10 years I was his “smoke screen”, people didn’t think someone who was as honest and respectable as I am would be with a lying thief. I didn’t think I would be with a lying thief!
    But after a while I had to face the truth. Like I said to James, a person can only be falsely accused so many times and then there is some truth to it.
    He has to have the best, he doesn’t want a woman any man can get; he has to have the woman all the men want and why he gets so paranoid about losing you. After all he knows he treats you like crap and all the men want you; so he must control you and must always have another woman or two in the wings in case you do find another man.

  19. JPK100

    Pastor Dave, with almost all of your posts, I think you write profoundly on the topic of narcissism. This post is the exception to the rule.

    When my girlfriends and I were single and dated someone who didn’t call again, didn’t follow through, or stood us up, we’d tell each other (and ourselves), “He’s just intimidated by your success,” or “He got scared because his feelings for you were so strong.” All self-placating lies. The guy didn’t call because he wasn’t interested, period. (See the movie, “He’s Just Not that Into You.”)

    In your post, you seem to engage in similar self-placating lies about the narcissists in our lives. Narcissists don’t choose people they admire; they choose people they can manipulate. That’s their game.

    Case in point: My father, a skilled and bullying narcissist, used my sister’s inherent big-sister jealousy of me (unfounded jealousy, I might add; there’s nothing special about me) to build an alliance against me. Together they toed the party line that I was responsible for my parents’ marital problems, despite my father’s nightly drunkenness and verbal and physical abuse of my mother. (I was a child, by the way, who hid out in my bedroom with her nose in a book as much as I could.)

    I suspect that my father did not groom me for his “team” because he knew I was on to him from the beginning. My sister, on the other hand, was available, because she hung out with my parents and tried to “mediate” their fights; he knew she would fight for him. (And now, a decade after the narcissist’s death, she still tells my siblings–who no longer believe her–that I was the reason Mom and Dad almost split up several times.)

    Narcissism is evil, and the narcissist’s victims are true victims. But let’s not kid ourselves: Narcissists steer clear of strong, capable people and sidle up to those he finds gullible and forgiving. That’s their game. As for my narcissist, I am happy to say, “He just wasn’t that into me.”

    • I am sure that there is a sense in which you are right about some narcissistic relationships. Some Ns are simply abusers who want to use anyone they can. However, I think we would disagree on the wider application. To suggest that those who are used by Ns are all and only weak and broken people who are “nothing special,” is more than acknowledging the existence of self-deprecating lies. It is to ignore the primary goal of narcissism – to serve the image. If you read the comments on this post, you will see that some were truly chosen for what they offered the N. In fact, I still think that is the primary motivation behind narcissistic choice and grooming.

      There is obviously a reason the victims are susceptible to the N’s manipulations. That’s why I included the line in my post: “There was probably something that opened your heart to the manipulations and grooming of the narcissist.” I would never disagree that the N seeks someone with some openness. They are too discerning to spend much time with people who understand them, and there are so many broken and weakened people out there. But I would not say that is the primary reason for the choice. In other words, I don’t think Ns choose people only because they are weak. I think they choose people who will serve the image and who have been weakened by something.

      I also agree that it is more difficult to see this in family relationships. But I have seen and worked with so many families where the mother chooses one daughter above the rest or the father chooses one son (or vice versa) primarily because that one will best promote the image. The others are often ignored. Now, that’s not to say that the one is superior to the others. It is simply a suggestion that the one will serve the image better.

      You are also right to point out that narcissists will not choose those who see them for what they are, who are strong enough to challenge or confront them. If the N is stuck in a relationship with such a person, he/she may constantly attack or disparage that person; but there would be no reason to seek a relationship there.

      The purpose of the post is obvious: I believe that the N chooses people for what they offer. There is an unintended compliment in that, rather than a self-placating lie. Victims of Ns need to find the strength to resist and/or separate and the confidence to rebuild their lives.

      • JPK100

        I respect your feedback, Pastor Dave, and I never meant to imply that people that narcissists adhere to are weak or broken or “nothing special.” (In fact, I said that my sister’s jealousy was unfounded because I, someone who did NOT align with the narcissist, am “nothing special.”)

        But I thought about your post all weekend–which should tell you something about how powerful your writing is, that it stays with people–and I wanted to add the perspective that narcissists tend to choose people for their weaknesses, not their strengths.

        The difference might be one of semantics, though: When you wrote, “Narcissists don’t choose people because they’re weak or broken,” I read that as, “Narcissists don’t enter into serious relationships with people because they’re weak or broken.” If you simply meant that narcissists aren’t initially attracted to people who are weak or broken, I can agree with that.

        The fact remains, thought, that once a narcissist sees someone as beautiful and talented and intelligent, the narcissist will then explore whether the person is suggestible to his manipulations. They tend not to adhere to–meaning, to form a serious relationship with–people who are outstanding unless the person is also vulnerable in that way, at least at that point in their lives. (I speak from experience. My first boyfriend was a narcissist. I was drawn to the dirt bag because the my N father had taught me that that’s how men treat women. It took me years to see men differently.)

        In posting this alternate view, I hope to help other victims of narcissism like me to avoid accidentally prolonging an unhealthy relationship by framing the narcissist’s behavior as a compliment.

        Thank you for reading and replying to my comment, Pastor Dave. I maintain, despite our differences here, that you have a gift for ministering to victims of narcissists, and it shows in your writing on this blog.

      • Our differences are small, just a matter of seeing different angles. I apologize for misreading your statement. I see that you did not suggest that those who are chosen are “nothing special.”

        You said, “The fact remains, though, that once a narcissist sees someone as beautiful and talented and intelligent, the narcissist will then explore whether the person is suggestible to his manipulations. ” Bingo! I wanted to emphasize the first half of that statement. You are reminding us of the second half.

        Among the first people to read my narcissism posts was Paula Carrasquillo, from Paula’s Pontifications. Talk about a quality lady! Since that time I have met so many articulate and strong people who were victimized by narcissists. That’s what I wanted to use to encourage readers.

        And if my words in any way encourage someone to drink the narcissist’s koolaid of praise and flattery, so that they stay in the relationship longer, I repent!

      • JPK100

        Pastor Dave, I appreciate your openness to alternative views, your sense of humor, and I especially appreciate the time and effort you put into this blog to help, guide, and encourage those of us who’ve known our share of Ns! God bless.

  20. Kitkat

    Jpk 100, I believe, as with many things, that when dealing with Narcissists there is a huge spectrum that is as variable as each individual. Some N’s are more extreme in some areas and less so in others. For instance, some may be more verbally abusive than others, while some may sugar coat and over embellish in order to groom their victims. Some are overt and some are covert, each one behaves due to the extremes and excesses of their formative years. So, I think that both you and Pastor Dave are correct. With N’s there are no absolutes for every one of them, because there are too many variables. I think they do whatever works for them. Like throwing the spaghetti on the proverbial wall to see what sticks. They also have different ways to get their attention. My ex-N friend, was constantly trying to get people to feel sorry for her. She would manipulate people, who genuinely wanted to help her, to get whatever it was she wanted. She also thought she should be in charge, even though, she showed no ability. I also believe that N’s see empathetic people as weak. Because of that empathy, they use it against those who are empathetic. Does that make empathetic people weak? Of course not, but that is the perception of the N in their twisted view of the world. Your strength was the ability to see the N’s for who they were, therefore you became a target because you had the ability to expose them. You also have a tender and empathetic heart, that is why they tried to blame you for their marital woes, because they knew you would feel it deeply. Both your discernment and empathy are your strengths, that is why they tried to crush those beautiful qualities in you. I am so glad that you are continuing to build on those strengths. You are certainly are not weak, you were just abused at a very young and impressionable age. God Bless You, you are stronger than you know.

    • JPK100

      Thank you, KitKat, for your compliment, your wisdom, and your insight–in my case personally and with victims of Ns in general. I think you’ve summed up the discussion nicely: There are no hard-and-fast rules with N; they just do whatever works for them. God Bless you as well!

  21. As I read this, I nod my head and try to hold back the tears. Knowing that I have both lived with and still deal with a N, a dear friend directed me to your blog. As I read each post, it’s as if I’m dealing with grief and appreciation at the same time. I have been the victim of a N for many years, and just reading here helps me to see that I am NOT crazy and that I’m not all those horrible things the N has accused me of. I can cry tears of relief knowing that the issue wasn’t me all those years, and know that the N’s behavior was real and really was oppressive. And just reading this post, about how the N wants to have relationships with people who will make them look good makes so much sense to me. For years now, I’ve watched the N seek out the people they can benefit from, and then just as quickly turn on them the minute they don’t meet the N’s standards or when they somehow offend the N. The N in my life can’t handle the truth, and the minute I try to point out an observation or share a difference of opinion, BAM! The N rips into me and shuts me out. It’s such a vicious cycle, one that tears me down time and time again.
    sorry for the rambling; I’m just so grateful for your writing!

  22. UnForsaken

    Persia, you chose my favorite quote. ❤

    Kitkat and LPK100, I thank you and Dave for such excellent points! I'm the adult "child" of an N, and I particularly found all of the article and conversations unusually like my situation. Every theory seemed to apply.

    As a generality, I see my sister covertly torn down on a regular basis ( as supposedly most useful ) , and he usually ignores me. We are equally attractive and capable, but for some reason he Usually resents her the most, and expects more too. But – Everything is unpredictable about Ns because they do what most serves their immediate, fluctuating purposes. I like to say that their are as many types of Ns as their are personalities…..and even more variations on what each one might choose to do in any given situation. They are by nature both predictable and unpredictable. I fully expect him to change his tactic if it serves his purpose, but for the same goal: his image.

    " The Ns behavior was real and really was oppressive. " So true, Anniekaye! Seeing truth as it really is can be extremely painful, but it builds us up in the end. They are the crazy makers, not us. We are all survivors here!

  23. Great article! Every word rings true and one would think how is it possible for these people to have all the exact traits? The secret lives that nobody but the poor victims know. The N is like one of the characters of The Walk Dead. A zombie that keeps passing you on the road and eats your heart out, takes what you know and claims it as his own. Wants you to look great so he can look good. My ex husband is younger than myself by 6 years and compliment he favored was, “Sweetheart you look great today! As old as you are you still have it and the outfit is perfect, cause you can’t see the wrinkles.” And for the 100th time, I have to ask, why why why the compliment with insult backhand? And here we go, it’s always me seeing the negatives and picking on everything he says.
    Compliments from a N are equally worthless to me as his crap apologies with the but, if or blame attachments. Grrrrrrr

  24. Lene

    Oh my. You just described my ex to a “t.” We didn’t have enough friends (in his opinion) and it was MY fault for being an introvert. Since the divorce, I have found out that my friends are the most true, loyal people on the earth. They are all amazing men and women with enormous capacity for caring and concern. I am humbled by their continued friendship. He, on the other hand, has been shocked and hurt by how few friends have stuck by him through this divorce. Reading this, I have just realized that is because he only surrounds himself with people that are “useful” in some manner. They are not friends; they are tools for him to use at his whim. Sadly, he truly doesn’t understand the difference.

  25. Reblogged this on learning lifes lessons everyday and commented:
    Back handed compliments are something my narcopath is very good at , here is just some that I can think of that he has used ….
    “you have lovely chunky legs “, “you have a well shaped fat arse it sticks out just nice , I could just CLIMB on it ” charming !
    There has been many more but my mind has gone blank right now ..

  26. This post is awesome! To quote my ex, “She is everything your not!”. The first time I heard it, I came back with a pleather of insults. The second time with the 3rd ex wife to be, I just smiled and said, “I know, she will also be everything your not too, just like the last one”. Oh I was insulted, to the tune of 7-9 emails, on how perfect “The One” is. Eh whatever. We only communicate because we have children. Once in a while, it’s nice to jab.


  27. I had to return to this post, and I’m hoping it’s not too late for a few to read my comment.

    I recently decided to try therapy again (after discouraging experiences with joint counseling in past years). I mentioned to the therapist that I’ve been writing a blog for about a year. She said that she knew someone that also had done that, then turned it into a book and made a million dollars. My husband knows about my blog (although I’ve never given him the name of it). On the surface, he entirely says he supports it. (On the surface, he’ll admit he’s passive aggressive, unless it’s ever about a specific incident or dynamic when he’s behaving passive aggressively.)

    When I shared what the therapist said about writing a book, and that she’d encouraged me regarding writing, his response was, “That would a great day if you see a return for your writing talent.”

    I said, “Mm… that sounds like a backhanded compliment.”

    Boom… he went off on me, defending, explaining, clarifying, and told me I was behaving typically like a day after a therapy appointment. He said I was like a vulture waiting to pounce on him.

    I said that I knew a place where I might get feedback to see if indeed I was off on hearing that as a backhanded compliment, and that I’d ask for the perception and feedback of other.

    Thanks in advance to those who respond!

    • Carol

      Yes, it sounds like a backhanded comment to me. The clue to me is the word “your” (writing talent). And the affirmation, if in doubt, would be how he turned the tables so that you are the source of the problem, “behaving typically like a day….”. It is his reminder to you that you are the problem, Now, WritesinPJ’s, you are definitely not the problem in this situation! I am just interpreting the hidden conversation that he is carrying on here.

      There is no right or wrong here, trying to hold your own. But you can become quite deflated if you try to convince him of anything with our comments. I choose to comment because I hate the mind game he is playing with you.

      Being in therapy is tough work. We go because we choose to better ourselves. I found the best way to hold my ground or move ahead in therapy was to share none of it with my (then spouse) ex. I was not willing to become vulnerable to his antics after I worked so hard. I did not even tell him that I had been to an apt that day, and never let him into that part of my world, once I realized how he was trying to destroy me as a person. And for me, there was something empowering about keeping that door locked. He could not mess with me in that arena.

      I hope this is encouraging to you. You are courageous to put your situation out on the table for us. I think you are figuring him out. Hooray!

      • Carol, thanks so much for responding! I went about my day, and I’m pretty sure he won’t ask me about this, so I’ll benefit from what you shared, and keep it to myself.
        It’s been a very long time since anyone validated what has felt like mind games, so that was a blessing. The point I’m at right now is second guessing pretty much everything, so it definitely helped to hear your perspective.

    • Lene

      Definitely a back handed compliment. My ex N would always compliment me on “starting” to get back into shape, or “starting” to take time to myself. I never accomplished anything in his eyes. And the remark about “behaving typically” is really telling as well. “You always, you never” are other versions of that.

    • Cecilia K

      WiP, I hate to sound unsupportive and be a dissenting voice, but I confess, in just reading the words, at least, I don’t see the backhanded part about what he said. I think it would help to hear his tone when he said it (which clearly, I can’t). But you know him, and I don’t. It very well could have been backhanded, but it’s just not obvious to me. I’m sorry.

      • Hi Cecilia K, Thanks for responding, and I’m looking for perspective more than support, so I appreciate it.
        I was unsure myself when I told him it sounded like a backhanded comment, and was probably coming more from my gut than anything in that moment. My husband is very passive aggressive, and so I learned the hard way to hear and notice subtleties, because typically resentment is just under a deceivingly calm surface.

      • Cecilia K

        Yes, you are right about that. Thank you for receiving my feedback so graciously. May God bless you with at least a ray of sunshine today–both literally and metaphorically speaking.

    • Based on the limited information, I’d say yes. The implication is he’d be surprised if you made any money from your talent. Of course, he can claim he was acknowledging your gifts, but you know better.

      • After all these years, I’d like to just trust my gut, but there’s been enough gaslighting that I tend to second guess constantly.
        Thanks, Crystal, for sharing your perspective with me.

  28. Carol

    You are definitely in a very difficult situation. Their words get into our heads to the extent that we repeat the junk to ourselves that they have said so often. So they don’t even have to say some things because we say it to ourselves. And the comments are not even true. We get so we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to someone else. It really is crazy. For myself, I called it mind games and crazy making. It really is out right abuse. Stand tall and talk kindly to yourself.

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been so used to thinking of the past me as ‘prey’, ‘weakened’, ‘susceptible’, ‘gullible’ – that this really put a fresh spin on things.

  30. Cindi

    Wow! That was awesome! Thank you!

  31. Batya Ahul

    Wow this makes so much sense😩, from my FOO, to past relationships, past friendships and repeatedly in the work place….. I guess as this was my normal growing up I am so prone to allowing these relationships to reoccur as they feel safe and “normal” even in the madness.
    Lord thank you for Pastor Dave’s wisdom, this loving community that understands like no other and giving us the strength and wisdom to carry on and challenge the “n” (small n like small “s” for satan- not calling anyone satan-I just think using a small letter gives them less power…..) in our lives 😘😘😘

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