Meeting people online is tough. You don't really know the person you're talking to but it can feel like you do--and that's misleading. Those who claim to be "open books" can hide important details about their lives--like abusive relationships. You may spend a number of weeks talking to someone through social media or other online forums without even realizing the inherent danger.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is part of the Dark Triad in Psychology. An over-developed sense of revenge related to extreme entitlement is part of that pathology. Narcissists "mirror" people--if you are calm and rational, that's what a narcissist will reflect. Until they're triggered. And when that "calm" mask falls away, you will not even recognise the person you once thought you could see yourself going on a date with in the future. It feels jarring and surreal at first--you may even forgive such a moment as part of a "bad day." But you should never feel fear from any potential partner. The moment you do, you need to carefully consider what the root of such behaviours may be.
Narcissists will use things like name-calling to bait you or draw you into an argument or discussion. This is to distract you, throw you off course. Getting you upset is the goal. If you lose your temper, your narcissist has won. That's part of why you cannot have a real conversation with a narcissist. When you try, they get defensive, calling you "negative" or implying you're a "problem." But having an equitable conversation should never illicit that kind of response. When someone gets defensive for no apparent reason, insecurity is behind it. You will have to play submissive or the narcissist will threaten your peace of mind in some way. The narcissist thrives by playing the victim--so even if a past relationship has been over for five or more years, the narcissist will still use it as an excuse to project negatives onto the next person they ensnare in an effort to obtain "supply."
Narcissists are similar to addicts, always looking for more supply at any cost. Like energy vampires, a narcissist feeds off of a person's slow destruction, offering "helping" relationships that inevitably create a codependency. Vertical partnerships are the hallmark of any involvement with a narcissist. Educated, employed, confident, attractive people end up unemployed, unhealthy, insecure, and without resources--except for the narcissist. When you first meet a narcissist, they typically want to speed things up in the relationship. While this feels really good at first, people who are serious about you will not rush you into anything. Even if you have to back off to consider the situation, a person who really wants a relationship with you will give you time. You can't decide on a lifetime in a few days or weeks. No one should put you in a position where you have to make that choice.
One of the biggest red flags to help you identify a narcissist is how they describe other partners. Narcissists will never take responsibility for their part in a failed relationship. Where two people are involved, dual accountability is unavoidable. These unbalanced views often include spreading rumors about their former partners(s), which also means name-calling. If you're a woman in a heterosexual relationship, any man who calls former partners "whore," "slut," "gold-digger," or any number of derogatory phrases, will certainly call you those same things (or worse) if things don't work out. Because, of course, a narcissist will never hold himself accountable. It's always someone else's fault.
Abusive behaviour isn't really abusive to a narcissist--it's "justice" for some imagined wrong-doing.
A narcissist may do things to appear fair, even-minded or magnanimous--but it's always a trap. If you're smart enough to avoid that trap, the narcissist will find a way to issue an indirect threat. Passive-aggressive behaviour is part of a manipulative ploy; if you don't respond, a narcissist may amp up the message through more overt aggression. This may include the silent treatment, where you are held emotional hostage until you begin to orbit the attention-seeking narcissist. It can also include "accidental" harm to you or something you care about--like a favorite article of clothing, family heirlooms and photos, or even a beloved pet. Narcissists also attempt to isolate you from friends and family by eating away at your reputation, making you seem "crazy" or "unstable," often outright lying about you in order to destroy your relationships with others.
You can't reason with narcissists. One minute, they'll beg you to stay--the next, they'll threaten to end things. The push-pull is meant to weaken your resolve. Psychologically, your self-esteem and confidence begins to suffer. You can tell a narcissist that you've had unspeakable trauma and they'll manage to turn it into a pity party for themselves. Or, you can share good news with them about your life and they'll either brush it off or ignore it completely. Those types of mind games eat away at your identity. After only a few weeks, you'll start to feel the emotional toxicity. If you attempt to talk about how you feel, the narcissist, like every abuser, will call you "overly-sensitive" in an attempt to shame you into compliance. Even if you try to get away, their abuse is so insidious that you may actually end up going back. And then, there's the fact that we're in a pandemic. Vulnerable, lonely people are vulnerable and lonely. Even a person who was psychologically abusive might start to look better than no one at all. But that's never the case. It's far better to be alone than to sabotage your entire being for a social destroyer.
Relationships with narcissists are no-win situations. The best thing you can do is go no-contact.
If you're in a marriage or live-in relationship with a narcissist, talk to family and friends and create an exit strategy that keeps you safe. Living with friends and family is a temporary fix for adults over 30. Before leaving, try to secure funds to live on and obtain stable employment. Your narcissist will drag out any financial settlement that may be due for years at a time, perhaps even prohibiting you from taking personal items and beloved pets. You have to be prepared to walk away with just your life. If you wait for change, it will never come and you will slowly erode over time, becoming less and less able and/or willing to function on your own.
Don't put yourself in a position where you have to survive both a narcissist and a pandemic. Real love with a decent human being is both possible and probable. You just have to have the confidence and patience to wait for it.
And, in case you need a reminder, you are worth the wait....