Tag Archives: Sam Vaknin

Dating a Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

(This blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


I had wanted to write something to provide to parents, particularly parents of daughters, to help them discern if the person their child is dating could be a narcissist.  Obviously, that’s a tall order – since not all narcissists are the same.  Then I found this and I doubt that I could have written it better.  Take your daughter (or son) through this and see how the questions are answered.  Or just give it to her/him and see what happens.  The webpage, on which you will find more, is at the end:

Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with?
Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield
you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be
abuser. Here’s how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal
responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep
blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune
for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured,
and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children
impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions
towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does
he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is
his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you
only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he
immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for
exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as
much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get
hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for
instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as
consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object
or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or
calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings
while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in
his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your
bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go
to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen
anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks?
Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you
often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he
exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly
unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding
relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be
impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you
make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.

Thanks and acknowledgements to Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-Love“.  The webpage where the above is found is:



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Kinds of People

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Someone reposted this on Facebook a while back:

“When I was using, there were 2 kinds of people…People who were in the way of my using, and people who helped me use. Now, there are still 2 kinds of people… People who are in the way of my recovery, and people who help me in my recovery.” 



I have no idea who made the statement, or why, or even what that person meant by it. Yet, I am sure they meant for it to be a positive statement about addiction. I can imagine that the person who reposted it thought it was a great statement of conviction and moving ahead. But it doesn’t seem to indicate that there has been much of a change in perspective.

In fact, I read this as a statement a narcissist might make about his or her attempt to change. It suggests that people are there to be used. During the addiction, people were either tools or obstacles. During the recovery, people are still either tools or obstacles. Either useful or not—that’s how people are categorized.

Addicts use people. We understand that. They push and pull their loved ones and friends and acquaintances as far as the relationship will stretch and sometimes just beyond that. But the addiction drives them. They see no one and nothing other than their need. Fortunes, marriages, health, family—all have been sacrificed to satisfy the addictions. Too many know this too well.

What isn’t widely understood is that narcissism is an addiction as well. The image is just as much a focus for the narcissist as cocaine is for the “snowbird.” To get the next word of praise or submission or service, to avoid the next criticism or expectation, the narcissist will spend money and sacrifice relationships.

Some of you will remember the name of Sam Vaknin, who wrote “Malignant Self-love.” As a self-proclaimed narcissist, he has some interesting perspectives on the problem. I wrote about him in a post entitled: The Open Narcissist. Here’s what he went through before he began to understand his problem:

“‘Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited’ was written under extreme conditions of duress. It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me. My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a shocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed. Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me.”

The struggles of the narcissist are very similar to those of the drug addict, perhaps with a couple of notable differences. First, the struggle of the narcissist likely began at a very young age, unlike the addict, and by the time an adult relationship is established, the narcissist is quite hardened. Also, the narcissist does not have a physical addiction and can learn to make changes in how he/she relates with others. This may seem to minimize the problem, but narcissists seem to be more culpable, more responsible for their decisions concerning others.

So both the addict and the narcissist see people in the light of their addictions. Others are to be used. There can be no other purpose for a relationship. No other focus within the relationship. No other focus in life.

But what happens when a narcissist sees that he has problems and wants to change? Now, instead of using others to make himself feel good about himself, he wants to be a “better person.” And those around him are supposed to help. They are supposed to be patient and gracious and forgiving. If they are not, if they place more expectations on him than he desires or if they exhibit anger, then they are in the way of his “recovery.”

So those in relationships with narcissists will hear things like: “I am doing my best. Why aren’t you helping?” Or “I know I have a problem. I need your support, not your criticism.” Or even, “I am doing my part, how about you doing yours?” The other person was supposed to help worship the image before, now they are supposed to help the narcissist get “better.” Anyone who does not help becomes responsible for the problem. In other words, now it’s your fault he is a narcissist.

You see, there are more than two kinds of people in the world. There are people who have no desire to enter into the drama of the narcissist. There are people who simply don’t care about the narcissist’s needs or desires. They didn’t create the problem and they aren’t interested in helping solve it. There are others who have been so beat up that they have nothing more to give. They don’t want to hurt, but they can’t help. Some have been so compromised, so marginalized, in their relationship with the narcissist/addict that they are no longer in a position to help. Still others have become angry and will refuse to help. There are many different kinds of people in the world.

And some of them have gotten smarter. They care, but they see the truth. This “recovery” is just another pretense, just another way for the narcissist to look good. The effort is sacrificial, the change is supposed to be celebrated, and the new person is just the old person with different words and methods.

Fairly often now I receive emails from people who identify themselves as narcissists. They ask for help in changing. They are losing their marriages or others have confronted them with their offenses. They are under pressure and want out. Every time I get one of these emails, I struggle. Usually I doubt that I can do anything to help. Sometimes I don’t think the person is really a narcissist, just another victim who identifies the worst in himself. When I do answer someone who I think might actually be a narcissist, I get no further response. I suppose that my suggestion that they let themselves hit the bottom is not welcome. They don’t really want to suffer the brokenness and humbling they will need to go through. They just want me to tell them how to get through their problem.

And what is the problem? Other people. So what has changed?


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The Open Narcissist


It’s Narcissist Friday!

“‘Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited’ was written under extreme conditions of duress.  It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me.  My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a chocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed.  Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me.”


Sam Vaknin is a narcissist. 

When I found myself engaged in a psychological battle with a narcissist in a counseling relationship, I happened on Vaknin’s book at Barnes & Noble.  I opened the book and found a precise description of the strange feelings I saw in the wife of the narcissist I was working with.  From that point on, I was hooked.  I bought a large cup of coffee and read nearly all of the 400-page book right there.  What he said was amazing!  It explained so much and opened my eyes to a world of pain and struggle that I had never seen before.  At least, I had never understood what it was before. 

Lest you think I cheated the author and the bookstore out of a book by reading it there, the contrary is true.  In fact, I bought three copies of the paperback book at $45 each.  One for me, one for the narcissist, and one for his wife.  You can probably guess what happened to them.  I still have mine and use it.  His went into the trash.  Hers became trashed by innumerable comments, highlights, paperclips, and other markings. 

Vaknin’s writings have been very popular on the web, partly because he offers them freely and gives people a place to communicate with each other.  He is probably not, as I read from someone, the “world’s foremost authority on narcissism.”  He is simply a narcissist who is able to communicate well about how he and other narcissists relate to the people around them.  His writing is blunt and surprisingly helpful for those who want to understand why their narcissist acts the way he or she does.  He has produced many YouTube videos as another method of getting his message out.

But Vaknin is not a professional psychologist.  As I understand it, his degree is in Philosophy, which may establish him as a reader and thinker, but not a mental health professional.  And he is up front with this.  Nor does he write from a Christian perspective.  I know nothing of his personal faith, but he writes from his own reasoning tempered by what he has learned through study.

All of this is fine, of course, and I have no desire to disrespect Sam Vaknin or his work.  Not only is he very popular, but he helped me at an important time.  I only have one question:

Can I trust a narcissist?

If a narcissist confesses his narcissism and tries to teach me about his problems, can I trust him?  Those who have been in close relationship with narcissists will almost universally agree that when the narcissist seems to be sharing from his heart, he is simply using another method of deception and manipulation.  The narcissistic need for hiding and self-preservation is so fundamental to the disorder that any sharing from the heart, honest and intimate communication, would be the ultimate risk.  So experience would suggest that when a narcissist says, “Hey, I am a narcissist and here’s how I operate,” we should be on the alert.

It may be enough, of course, that Vaknin has achieved through his disorder far more than he had previously achieved in business.  He has an opportunity to touch the lives of thousands of people with his own perspective.  He is well-respected as a writer and teacher.  And, even though he has not designed his website for significant revenue, he appears to sell both his books and his presence as a speaker. 

Sometimes a narcissist will surprise you with what seems to be honest personal exposure.  He may tell you something of the pain of his childhood.  He may reveal how he thinks about people.  She might show you what makes her afraid.  You may be encouraged by this and open yourself in the same way.  You may think that you are sharing something intimate.  But beware.  The narcissist will only be vulnerable to the point where he begins to feel vulnerable.  In other words, if it serves his purpose and he can control the effect, he will share beyond your expectations.  But he will not really open his heart to you and you may be suddenly betrayed and used.

Now, I will make a bold statement.  I do not consider myself to be an expert on narcissism, nor do I think of myself as a mental health professional.  But it seems to me that:

When a narcissist can truly open his heart to reveal his fear and pain, and be honest about how he hurts others in protecting himself, and can feel remorse for what he has done and empathy toward those he has hurt—he has ceased to be a narcissist. 


Your thoughts?

(Sam Vaknin’s website is here.)


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