It’s Narcissist Friday!
Those who read this blog regularly understand what I mean when I refer to the narcissist’s “super-power.” It is their amazing ability to manipulate what others think of them. While family members and co-workers see their duplicity and mean spirits, others see nothing but positive.
However, like many things in life, this is easier to initiate than to maintain. Taking on a pet, for example, is an initial expense and effort that might be easy to manage. The real cost of a pet, however, is spread over years of feeding and care. The same is true for a vintage car, a house, or anything else that requires regular maintenance. I used to have a sign in my office that said, “Almost everything in life is easier to get into than to get out of.”
So the narcissist often has many acquaintances and few friends. First impressions are easy for the narcissist. They read people quickly. They understand just what to say and how to act. Contrary to what those who enter long-term relationships might think, narcissists actually value acquaintances. Who knows whether one might come in handy some day. So the extra effort, the extra kindness, might pay off later. It is worth the initial investment to the narcissist.
But the long relationship is much harder. What seemed like patience and kindness in the beginning cannot be found later. Rather than being complimentary and helpful, the narcissist becomes critical and needy. The person in the relationship is expected to service the narcissist. Any failure is met with harsh words or cruel actions.
Narcissists are great at making new friends and impressing the people they meet, but they are almost always ill-equipped to maintain long relationships. They love the mystery and challenge of dating, but marriage quickly becomes a chore. They like new customers at work, but hate the regulars. They enjoy the new baby (and the attention it brings), but find children to be a drag. Some narcissists seem to jump from marriage to marriage (or have multiple intimate relationships), just because they get bored or burdened. It’s the adventure they seek, not the responsibility. The chase proves to be more fun than reaching the goal.
Never forget that narcissists judge people by their usefulness. An acquaintance is something held in potential. Someone who might become useful. The person in the relationship has already proven to the narcissist that her/his usefulness comes with a price. Most narcissists are quickly unwilling to pay that price. Words of encouragement and gratitude, quickly given to the acquaintance, are rarely heard by the person in relationship.
Many people speak of the 80/20 rule. The narcissist sees 80% of the people as requiring 20% of his effort. The 20% require 80% of the work. So why spend time on the 20%? And why would he seek to bring anyone from the 80% into the 20%? Instead, people are kept at arm’s length. The fewer close relationships the narcissist has, the better.
Well, you say, those acquaintances are not paying the bills, washing the clothes, or doing the work of the relationship. The narcissist knows this and doesn’t like it. If the narcissist could find a way for acquaintances, people with whom he/she barely has to relate, to send money and do work—it would be a perfect world. Instead, he/she is stuck with people who expect time and connection in order to happily serve. That’s not a good thing in the mind of the narcissist. You and I should serve joyfully and adequately without any reciprocation. Just because the narcissist is so worthy.
It might seem like the narcissist loves mankind, but hates people. In truth, the narcissist uses anyone and everyone to the point where they become more effort than they are worth. Because the narcissist is not omniscient, he/she sometimes gets into relationships expecting more fun or more service and finds boredom and responsibility. The person in that long relationship often finds the narcissist to be angry, distant, and wandering.
Always chasing the elusive prize of satisfaction and fulfillment, the narcissist is disappointed again and again that no person can meet the longing of his/her heart.