I met my abuser online. This meant he had a heads up on everything I liked. My dreams, expectations from a partner, likes and dislikes all conveniently mapped out for him. I now know the first job a narcissist does when seeking new feed is to study his potential prey with ferocity, so they can create false a connection. I didn’t know my profile was an instruction book for his love bombing. I enjoyed ice skating (he had been semi-professional as a youth until injury closed this avenue), listening to Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill was his all-time favourite) and ran a small business selling homemade, ethical candles (he just happened to be trained in aromatherapy, who knew) .
The first time we met, he was slightly unkempt, with his shirt buttons being out of line (bringing out the nurturer in me; immediately feeling protective toward him), but clean and handsome without vanity. A hint of emotional vulnerability, mixed with psychical strength and his warm eyes and easy laugh meant I was smitten.
Never had anyone shown so much interest in me. The usual ‘getting to know you’ questions were pulled apart as he searched for the meaning behind my flippant, sometimes defensive responses. I apologized at the end of the date for talking so much and told him I’d love to learn more about him, so he proposed a second date… for the very next day. Eager to see if he was as interesting as his profile painted him to be, I agreed. The second date was intense, he confided that the messy breakdown of his previous relationship had been a cue for him to turn his life around. He left his successful banking career to peruse his dream of becoming a top chef (not to return to college to learn the trade, but to share his 'gift' with the expectation of instantly claiming his Michelin star).
This is why he left the Big Smoke, and how I found him in a small village near Bath, away from the materialistic ‘trappings’, that had so trapped him. Like me (it turned out we had lived in the same London borough before escaping to the countryside), he sought healing from the surrounding lush green countryside and slower pace of life. He planted seeds, so many unspoken sorrows he had endured, he’d taken some knocks and only needed someone to be kind, to understand him, to breathe life and love back into his injured heart. Already, I felt a soul connection as we danced round his living room later that evening (not normally one to go back to a second dates house), warm with red wine and the blues strumming out of his record player (I’d told him before we met how I missed my old vinyl I’d lost in a flood), I wondered if he was too good to be true.
Now I know how a narcissist works, the red flags are clear from the start. If things feel too good, if you find yourself letting your guard down and feeling protective of someone very early on, please become aware this doesn’t always point toward a narcissist or abuser, but look out for further red flags and make sure you spend time doing things you love away from them, no matter how strong the pull to spend every moment with them. They will be intoxicating, and will find ways to spend lots of time with you early on, bumping into you in the supermarket, a sick friend leaving a spare ticket to your favourite band, your exact skillset being exactly what they need to debrief before a meeting. It's vital you give yourself time between dates to breathe, let those feelings settle, gain perspective. When first dating a narcissist, they pursue a tactic called love bombing. They gallop into your lives dressed as everything you could have ever dreamed of. Their belief that the world there for their picking, that they will succeed, may seem like positivity but it could be them displaying the grandiosity of a narcissist (cheffing incidentally is in the top ten chosen professions of psychopaths).
They are experts at finding your vulnerabilities, and will at first build you up, so later, they hold the power to strip you back down. We release all the hormones we do when we fall in love, and become drunk with bliss… blind to the masquerade. I’d never been lied to on this level before, I couldn’t conceive that anyone would lie about their past, passions, about their very essence just to ensnare another. But, if your new date has the same passions, coincidences that make you feel it’s fate, and has been badly treated by all their previous partners… you may be entering a relationship with a narcissist.
Reading Psychopath Free (Jackson MacKenzie) was like reading an exact breakdown of what had happened to me. I finally felt sane, forgave myself for 'being so stupid' as I saw how they strategies used by my ex, were universal, and understood why we can all be fooled by a narcissist.