Beware the new friend

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

There’s an old saying that has been popular among preachers for generations:

“Beware of those who meet you at the train!”

So many pastors have been given a warm welcome by church members eager to please. They come with food and flowers and offers of help. They are ready to show the pastor and his family the new town and introduce them to the important people. But, after a while, these people become much less friendly. They may even become hostile, criticizing and challenging the pastor.

I have found this to be true in my own life. Those who meet you so graciously at the beginning often have something in mind. They expect that their warm welcome will somehow bond you to them. If, however, you don’t come through, their hearts seem to change easily. Or maybe the novelty wears off. In time they find you to be just another problem.

Narcissists can be very friendly people. They are able to say and do the right things at the right times. They present themselves as generous and thoughtful. They make good first impressions. But they are terrible at real relationships. Not all of those who “meet us at the train” are narcissists, of course. Some just like to be connected to the new thing. Some are genuinely kind people. But narcissists are notorious for manipulating new relationships.

And, of course, this problem doesn’t exist only in churches and for pastors. The overly helpful co-worker at your new job. The generous new friend. The amazing new boyfriend. The magnanimous mother-in-law. These people all may have agendas. They will use you for their purposes, then discard you. If they learn you cannot be used, they may become your enemies.

So how do you tell the difference between the narcissist and the genuinely kind person? How can you protect yourself from being caught up in the manipulations of the narcissist trying to make a good impression? Here are some ideas:

1. Be suspicious. There is nothing wrong with being a little suspicious. The simple fact that there are people out there who want to use you should make you a little more cautious around everyone. You can still be kind and appreciative. You may have been taught to trust people until they hurt you. You should know better by now.

2. Listen carefully. Narcissists will give themselves away by the things they say about others. I learned that those who were critical of the previous pastor would probably be critical of me. Because the narcissist sees people as tools, toys, or obstacles, he will usually categorize others in this way. When he speaks negatively about other girls, or she says harsh things about others in the organization, you should realize that you will one day be in one of those categories. The friendly co-worker at the new job who tells you all the dirt on the other employees will almost certainly be telling someone what he learns about you.

3. Beware the superlative. If you are tempted to describe your new acquaintance with an adjective, particularly a strong positive adjective, you might have a narcissist on your hands. The generous new friend, the amazing new boyfriend, the awesome co-worker: beware. If you are tempted to add the word “very” to any of these adjectives, you should be extra careful. Narcissists often overdo their kindness. They are too generous, too friendly, too available. They think they have to outperform others to have you in their corner. Most people will be kind, perhaps even generous, but the narcissist has to do more.

4. Watch out for ownership. If you begin to see that others can only reach you through your new friend or lover, or you feel that others are standing off and you can’t get to know them, it may be that the narcissist has marked you as his or her own. Narcissists want exclusive relationships. They will introduce you to others, but not let you have your own relationship with others.

5. Value your freedom. If you find yourself feeling smothered, you may be dealing with a narcissist. If you get a phone call every day, or several times a day, from your new friend, you may be her latest victim. When you realize that you can’t go to the grocery store without feeling like you are supposed to call your friend first, maybe you should back away. Narcissism is about control, and narcissists know that control takes time. The more freedom you have to think or to establish a life apart from the narcissist, the more risk that the narcissist cannot control you.

6. Listen to your feelings. If you feel it is too much, it probably is. Allow yourself to be suspicious. Allow yourself to question even the most gracious new friend. When you feel indebted to this person, and that debt allows him/her to ask uncomfortable things of you, you should probably get out of the relationship. Anytime you are pushed beyond your comfort level, realize that the new friend does not have your interest in mind. Narcissists want their victims to be uncomfortable, confused, and weakened.

7. Understand the anger. Narcissistic anger can be sudden and intense. You will be made to feel like a traitor, just for thinking your own thoughts. You may find that your secrets are out there for everyone to hear, because your “confidential” friend is angry. You may see others turning away from you because of what the narcissist is saying behind your back. Understand this. Because you could not be controlled, you have become the enemy. Or, because you let yourself be used, you no longer have value. Yes, a narcissistic relationship is just that shallow—and just that painful.

Listen: because there are people out there who want to control you and use you, be careful. Build relationships with many people, not just those who seem so giving and welcoming. We should all have many friends because we are friendly people. Get to know as many of your co-workers as you can. Spread your kindness and helpfulness around at church or in the organization. Spend time with people other than the ones who met you first. You don’t have to neglect those who were kind in the beginning, but you don’t have to limit yourself to them either.

And tell your teenagers the dangers of exclusive relationships too early in their lives. The ones who pull them away from their friends, of either gender, may be the ones who will use them and hurt them.

Not everyone who meets you at the train is a narcissist, but the narcissist may well be there to help you. Be aware!


Filed under Narcissism

20 responses to “Beware the new friend

  1. Reblogged this on Tamar weeps–how will the church respond? and commented:
    Excellent reminder.

  2. Selma

    As always, Pastor Dave speaks right to me — but even more so today.

    A malignant N in our church has made my husband (the head pastor) the focus of her attentions — and he totally fell under her spell. After our arrival at the church, she rapidly became his “best friend” and over the course of 18 months, they spent over 125 hours on the phone. She has wormed her way into just about every ministry in our church. Although the relationship never turned sexual, it has very nearly destroyed our marriage. After discovering the phone records & giving him an ultimatum in January, he has finally severed the relationship but, as she is still a very involved church member, the struggle continues and going total NC is not an option (unless she leaves the church, which is a long shot).

    This evening will be yet another challenge as we are attending a party in honor of a dear friend where one of the hostesses is — you guessed it — our malignant N.

    • Oh Selma, I am so sorry to hear this is happening to your family(& church family) We had a member very like that in our church also. When I had to come into contact with her at church functions, I prayed very specifically against the Jezebel spirit. Not that this is what your facing, but I must say that this helped to change the atmosphere of the events. Eventually she became “unable” to attend for what ever reason( I firmly believe that it was because people stopped “doing her will”) Prayer works for sure. This person eventually left the church for less knowing pastures.
      May you go about your day Blessed and covered by The Blood my Sister. Ill be praying for you and your husband.

      • Selma

        Thank you so much, angelsforhorses. I greatly need (and appreciate) your prayers.

        Needless to say, I am very nervous about tonight & will be sticking to my husband like glue so that she will not have an opportunity to get him alone. She, of course, sees me as the enemy because I destroyed their “friendship.” This will be the first time that we have been in a social situation with her since I gained the upper hand & I am concerned that she will say or do something tonight that is meant to deliberately hurt me & also have the unfortunate side effect of embarrassing my husband & drawing the attention to her instead of the party’s guest of honor.

        Luckily, I already have a session scheduled with my therapist tomorrow.

      • Don’t forget Selma that God is in control. And really its not about an upper hand. That is playing into her hands. With narcs its a game of one upmanship. Just don’t play. If she tries to get your husband alone use the wife card…”this is my husband and it is not scriptural for you to be alone with him. You may speak to us both together. As is seamly.”

    • Selma, I read your comment about finding your husband’s phone bills and seeing that he had spent over 125 hours in 18 months talking on the phone with another woman. I checked the math on my calculator… that’s an average of more than 41 minutes per day on the phone with her! And that doesn’t even include things like texting, email, social media messaging, or talking in person, if they also did any of that.

      Whew… that’s some “friendship”. I don’t spend anywhere close to that amount of time, on a regular basis, talking to my chattiest female friends. Not even way back in the 1960s when I was a gabby, gossipy teenager.

      And YOU are the “bad guy” in this woman’s eyes for stopping her highly inappropriate relationship with YOUR husband? Oh, but of course you are. In the narcissist’s world, it’s all about her/him/them.

      Coincidentally, yesterday I was looking online for something totally unrelated to this, when I came across a PsychCentral article about the warning signs and dangers of close opposite sex friendship between people who are married to someone else. I thought the article was so right on that I shared it with my chaplain husband, who also liked it.

      The title of the post is “12 Warning Signs That It’s Emotional Infidelity – And Not ‘Just Friendship’”. Here is the link:

      I hope the social event went well last night. I hope no one gave in to the very understandable carnal urge to spill very hot coffee down the front of a flaming narcissist’s dress. 🙂

      I am praying for you and your marriage. This type of thing can HURT so bad. I know, because I have been in your shoes, more than once. Which is why I am also praying for the healing of your wounded heart. ((HUG))

      • Selma

        My dear Lady Quixote/Linda Lee,

        I cannot tell you how much your kind words have meant to me & how much I appreciate your prayers. Friday night did not go well. I did fine when she insisted on hugging me upon our arrival & found it comical when she moved all of the presents across the room so that the guest of honor could open them — all of the presents except ours, that is. But it all fell apart when, as we were leaving, my husband crossed the room to hug her (& a couple of the other hostesses) good-bye. He later explained that he felt like he had to hug her because he thought he needed to treat the hostesses equally. I told him that he was under no obligation to hug anybody & that if leaving her out was “unequal,” then he shouldn’t have hugged anyone. Things went from bad to worse the following night at another church function when she accosted me (alone) in the hallway, asking me (again) if she could have a hug. This time, when I refused, she walked off & called back over her shoulder, “Oh, & I hear I’m not allowed to hug (insert my husband’s name) anymore either.”

        My husband claims that he did not speak with her about the incident from the night before, but I am having trouble believing him.

        Your observation about if they were spending that much time on the phone, what must their texting, iMessage, email, & social media contact be like, has been something that has plagued my thoughts as well. So, on Sunday, I asked (not demanded) him to block her from his phone and social media. Surprisingly, he agreed almost immediately — but then didn’t do it. When I mentioned it on Monday evening, he walked away & hasn’t spoken to me since (although he did, finally, block her).

        I have no idea where this is headed, but I’m no longer optimistic about the outcome.

      • Oh, Selma. I am so sorry and so saddened. But I am not surprised, unfortunately. Barring a Damascus Road miracle, people who live for Self Only never change. Not for long, and not for real. That has been my experience.

        I am continuing to pray. I wish I could give you a hug and treat you to dinner. But you probably don’t live anywhere near New Mexico, do you?

        Oh… what I would like to say to that woman. And your husband, too! The Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our love. What they are doing… that certainly isn’t love.

    • Rachel

      Selma, I am so sorry for your situation, but I think I need to say that what you describe seems to me to illustrate that there may be adultery. I have seen these in hindsight with my NH and the over familiarity of the N with your husband would seen to fall outside of the emotional only relationship.

  3. Angela

    I wish I had known this before, I am presently dealing with someone like this, the difficulty is I genuinely care about this person. How can we help them see…maybe it is only a work God can do?
    On one level, I get it, but on another level I think who is this person that they can behave this way and then not even see it…they are so blind to themselves….it is baffling really.

    It makes me sad when I think of the riches that are in Jesus and they refuse to partake.

    Anyone out there have ideas, I find these people do not do well when we try to show them who they really are…is all we do is pray that there is some supernatural event to change their minds about themselves?

    • Cecilia K

      Angela, this does seem to be the case. It sounds like you have tried confronting your N with his/her behavior, and he/she did not respond well. Same here, and with pretty much everyone who contributes to this site. Of course, it actually takes a work of God in all of our hearts to show us our sinful condition and need for Him, but most of us at least grow up learning how to treat people properly and do so (for the most part – we all have our selfish, inconsiderate moments), so it’s shocking and confusing when you meet someone who abuses people the way N’s do. We know they know how they Should treat us, because they put on the show for the outside world, but when nobody’s looking, you see who they really are.

      As I was thinking about your post, it occurred to me for the first time that perhaps the Lord uses N’s in our lives to remind us how limited we are, and how dependent we are on Him, because this is one situation where we definitely have no control, and we absolutely have to leave the abusers to Him to deal with, and hopefully bring to humble repentance.

      • Angela

        Thanks Cecilia,

        You really raise a good point the Lord does bring people like this into our lives for a reason. I now realize in my case it was to snap me out of the legalistic trap I had fallen into, even though I totally new that I am saved by grace and continually saved by grace I was in the cycle of never feeling like I was measuring up which only caused me to sin more. This man while he spoke about Grace was constantly on me that even if I had a picture hanging up in my house it was idolatry and it should come down so I could truly be born again to him meant forsaking all to be worthy of eternal life.

        He was so kind, pursuing me at first but when I eventually woke up and challenged him because I began to see his legalism beyond what I was foolishly imposing on myself he became very angry towards me, saying I was calling him a false teacher and how dare I as a woman make such an accusation. And now he says he is too busy to even reply to an email. I guess this is why scripture tells us to avoid false teachers, I would bet most are narcissists as well, which is so damaging to the soul. God is healing me daily but while I write this for myself I write more for other woman especially who can more easily persuade especially if they are not in a strong spiritual place to begin with.

        However, I am so glad that the Lord brought me to this blog
        (how gracious God is to provide such a wonderful remedy) that I began to realize who this person truly was. So charming and yet a wolf underneath it all, just like described above. It was through his horrible teaching that I realized the full gospel of grace which I think I just never really grasped before in the way that I understand it now. All of scripture makes sense to me the way it never did, it is a finished completed work, Jesus has done it all and I draw from Him not of my own works to try and please. Jesus is the one that was pleasing and obedient I rest it that now, this false preacher drove me to cling to that which has been so a good thing!

        Thank you again for helping me see this Cecilia!

    • Janet

      I have tried to gently speak so that my N can “SEE”, but there is zero reception. Only the Lord by a miracle can get them to see what they are doing.

  4. Another fine blog article. Thank You !

  5. Janet

    Again, you just described in detail the five year relationship I had with the best friend I THOUGHT I ever had, who turned out to be a text book case N. I was so deceived, so manipulated, betrayed, so used. I finally got enough courage to break off the friendship and I have been gossiped about, snubbed, “punished”. I have never been treated with so much vengeance in my life. And this is a member of the body of Messiah. I still have not fully recovered.

  6. healingInHim

    Thank you for this reminder: “Listen: because there are people out there who want to control you and use you, be careful.”

  7. This describes several people I have known, to a “T”. These people are so confusing! I always wondered what did I do wrong that caused them to change? But usually my only “mistakes” were refusing to be their puppet and not centering my whole life around them.

  8. Annette

    Very good advice. When narcissists are so friendly at the beginning, they are not being sincere but play-acting. It is similar to the cult technique called “love bombing”, which is a concerted action to lure new recruits into a cult. This “love bombing” is meant to lower the target’s resistance to manipulation. It is also used by narcissists to lure prospects into marriage.

    There is another way to detect whether this overly friendly person is a narcissist or not: just try refusing them a request for legitimate reasons. I got this tip from Anna Valerious’ blog, and it works! Since narcissists don’t take no for an answer, they are likely to first try a number of other ways to get you to comply. If you still don’t fall for their manipulation, be prepared for a very nasty reaction. You then know that you are most likely dealing with a narcissist.

  9. contendingearnestly

    Thank you, I feel like I am now able to give myself permission to be suspicious without feeling guilty, because when I am suspicious I feel like I am being unloving and a bad Christian.

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