The idealization phase (which often happens most strongly during the early stages of a relationship) consists of putting you on a pedestal, making you the center of his world, being in contact with you frequently, and showering you with flattery and praise. You are convinced that the narcissist can’t live without you and that you’ve met your soulmate. Be wary of: constant texting, shallow flattery and wanting to be around you at all times. This is a technique known as “love-bombing” and it is how most victims get sucked in: they are flattered by the attention they get from the narcissist. You may be fooled into thinking that this means a narcissist is truly interested in you, when in fact, he is interested in making you dependent on his constant praise and attention.
Love can make you do crazy things; love can also make you turn bat-shit crazy.
One hot, sweltering, Saturday night in August, 2013, while chatting on the classy gay site, adam4adam.com, it happened: this handsome young man sent me a message online. His email was original and cute; it actually make me laugh out loud:
My friends wants to know if you think I’m cute.
It was cute and I laughed, then I replied and the rest is history, unfortunately. To say we hit it off well would be an understatement, we hit it out of the ballpark. After a good 30 minutes of non-stop chat, it dawned on me that I’d never connected with someone like this before, neither online nor in person.
This was amazing! Our chat session moved nearly as fast as the relationship did. Surprisingly, he had more in common with me than anyone I’d ever met.
He was so inquisitive about every aspect of my life, and I was blown away by the fact that he wanted to get to know me so well. He wanted to figure out what made me tick and make the effort to meet the real me, not just the superficial me in my profile picture. I won’t deny it: I was loving the attention because, well, I was finally getting attention from someone! What ensued was a 2 hour chat session free of awkward, type-free moments, leaving me with this sense that I’d known him for years. Next we spent 2 hours talking by phone: our likes and opinions were so similar it seemed like fate brought us together. From music to films, from art to food, he was a fan of everything that I was. And my tastes are rather unique, slightly odd, and don’t reflect popular culture by a long shot. I was shocked by our strange commonalities, wondering to myself:
How could this possibly be true?
I quickly stopped questioning and just accepted what was happening as it was so surreal. We continued talking by phone while he spent the evening at his brother’s house in the suburbs having dinner. Then he called me again as he left for home, continuing to call whenever the metro was above ground, then while on the bus, then on another metro, and all the while leaving me with goosebumps as we spoke like we’d known each other our entire lives. He was about to arrive home when he twisted his ankle, letting out a massive scream. He begged for me to come over and help him out as he was now in agonizing pain.
He’d already asked me over 4 times and I’d declined; it was so late and I wanted to make the best first impression possible, so I’d insisted we meet the next day. But after injuring himself, he asked for help of a nurse and I agreed to come over and assess the problem. When he opened his door, an electric current ran throughout my body, I became frozen in one giant stare: he was exquisite to look at, this couldn’t be real, it had to be a dream only… I wasn’t dreaming, this was for real.
And he seemed equally as impressed with me, at least based on his smile. I watched it grow wider and wider by the second, causing mine to do the same; this seemed magical.His eyes were hypnotizing. My eyes couldn’t help it, I didn’t take them off him for practically a year. Yes, he was easy on the eyes, he was sexy, and he greeted me wearing nothing but tattered jeans shorts. I could barely speak as I was practically frozen.
We stared into each others eyes for what seemed like an eternity, then he ushered me into the living room to sit down and talk. I was already enthralled; I was so glad I left my comfort zone and met him that night because I never did anything like this ever. After what seemed like an eternity of mutual gawking, he began asking me a series of questions. He said he always did this when meeting someone new, only little did I know his list of questions was never-ending and had an ulterior motive outside of just getting to know me.
Not once did he interrupt me as I answered each question, instead listening carefully, intrigued to learn about all my inner-workings. He was different than guys I’d encountered before: he didn’t seem pretentious, he didn’t seem conceited, and he was all about learning who I was, which was such a welcomed change from those I’d met before. He seemed genuine and real, to describe him as charming would be an understatement. He continued asking question after question, and I just sat there, answering each one in great detail, unable to stop staring at his face. After answering more questions about my family, my future, my past, and my career in HIV than I’d ever answered before, he boldly stated something akin to the following
I really like you, I can tell already. But I’ll be honest: I’ve had a lot of boyfriends, I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I prefer to cut to the chase and avoid wasting your time or mine.
I was startled and became ready to hear the worst and stopped talking, I prepared myself for yet another disappointment in meeting a guy that was my type and seemed, at least initially, interested in me, only to then get dissed. He continued by asking:
What exactly are you looking for? A friend, a fuck, or an actual boyfriend? Do you even know what you’re looking for?
I nodded my head yes, he continued…
I know exactly what I’m looking for, exactly what I want and need; and I won’t settle for anything but. I’ve settled in the past, and paid for making mistakes in doing so.
I responded by saying I wanted to find a life partner ideally, but I didn’t arrive to his house with the expectation that it was going to be him of course. I explained that I was a bit inexperienced on account of my upbringing in the Church, plus my job in HIV hadn’t helped make me any more comfortable with guys. So I definitely wasn’t looking to hook up off the internet for sure. He continued:
Please be honest with me: have you ever cheated on a guy before? Would you ever consider cheating on one? What do you think about ‘open relationships’? What do you think about monogamy and gay men – do you think its even possible?
I’d never cheated before but I didn’t really have a chance to with my lame ass dating history. Regardless, I thought cheating was immoral, dangerous and wrong. I believed that an open relationship was a broken relationship, and I had no interest in pursuing something like that. I watched as his smile grew even wider.
He informed me that fidelity was the most important part of a relationship. Cheating, dishonesty and being reckless were exactly what he was weary of and trying to avoid at all costs.
He claimed he wasn’t looking for “fun” or a hook-up, he’d experienced plenty in his past, and was over that, claiming he found nothing positive in living life in that manner. However, he failed to tell me just how much experience he had in his past.
He claimed he was looking for a partner that felt as strongly about love and monogamy as he did. This couldn’t have been more perfect for me, the HIV nurse who was scared to take off his clothes around others had found someone that didn’t have a problem with that.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; this was a first. The fact that he was the one initiating this conversation, and right after us meeting, impressed me beyond belief. He went on to explain why fidelity was so important to him, and then it all made sense why he’d addressed this right off the bat. Cheating had nearly destroyed his life. Not his cheating, of course, which I was glad to hear, but rather the cheating of others.
He recanted the sad story of his father, a chronic cheater. At age 12, he watched as doctors removed life support from his his dad, who died from complications of AIDS. His mom was also infected as a result, but she was able to start medications and was still alive and healthy. She re-married a guy, only to be cheated on again; she raised his child and treated her far better than her own son. At age 17 she kicked him out of the house because of his “lifestyle,” which I presumed meant being gay. And he described the terrors he encountered living on the streets, fending for his life among lecherous gay men.
Yet he stood before me so well-composed, I’d never have imagined he’d had such a rough life. He went into great detail about his last 2 relationships, and how horrible his ex-boyfriends treated him, all the while cheating left and right. He felt violated and betrayed, and he couldn’t sleep as he feared his health had been jeopardized. Then I noticed a change in his tone and demeanor that seemed a bit “off”, like he was filled with animosity as he expressed his disdain for other gay men:
I hate gay men; they’re all a bunch of giant whores.
I was taken aback by his words and the change in his tone, it seemed harsh and out of character. But after thinking about his past, it made sense, at least in that context, as cheating seemed to be the common denominator in all his past woes. He told me about ALL of them. One relationship ended in violence, destruction of his belongings, and a false restraining order being sought against him. The one prior ended with him being beaten and left for dead. I knew each one of those monsters by name and practically address and social security number within days of us meeting; I couldn’t fathom how people could behave like such animals. He sure had a lot of boyfriends compared to me, I started losing track of how many as he went from one to the next to the next in reciting his history of terrors. He’d lived with almost all of them, and this was his first time living on his own. I was the complete opposite.
Suddenly he stopped talking and became silent; I noticed a few tears running down his face, and I hugged him tightly. Eventually he stepped back and I saw he was smiling, and then, out of nowhere, he kissed me. It was amazing, I felt myself catching on fire. I was mesmerized by his resilience and optimism on life. He was a true survivor, he was an inspiration, and I felt so grateful to have had this chance meeting that led to such a profound first date. He overcame all these obstacles in his life, and there he stood in front of me with confidence, knowing exactly what he wanted, unwilling to settle for anything less. Plus he’d managed to succeed in his career despite having no family support, with the exception of his brother. He loved his job, too, telling me all about his marketing career with a non-profit. He created his current position with his boss, just for him. His plan, already in the works he said, was to open his own non-profit one day.
He was so smart, charming, witty, worldly, charismatic, and also… quite handsome; he seemed to have it all, he appeared to be the real deal, he was the total package. This was the first time I remember feeling comfortable being myself around another guy; in the past I always felt uncomfortable and couldn’t even get out the right words. He seemed to like me just the way I was… finally, someone who “got me.”
Hell, he even complimented a few of my major quirks and insecurities without me even mentioning them — the things that left me feeling unlovable, he somehow noticed them all but really liked them! It was like he could read my mind, only my darkest thoughts he found to be illuminating. It seemed like the stars had aligned that first night we met, I felt vindicated, as if after waiting patiently for eons without finding anything and giving up altogether on the dream of love, finally the heavens were smiling down upon me at last.
He said that being with me was unlike being with anyone he’d ever been with before, that for the first time ever he felt completely safe with someone after being with so many monsters. He even said I might be exactly what he’d been looking for his whole life!!!! I could feel my face turning beet-red as he fed me these beautiful words, and I was certain this was divine intervention, it had to be.
Then he said something bold that left me shocked while getting ready to leave:
I think I met my soul mate tonight…
I think I may be falling in love you already.
I nearly fainted when I heard this. He asked when he could see me again, which turned out to be that evening, and then the next day, and the next, and before I knew it, the two of us were inseparable. Out of nowhere my life pulled a complete 180 on itself. I always doubted love could exist in my life; and when I least expected it, of course, that’s when I met my perfect match.
I went from always being alone to always having a handsome, partner-in-crime at my side. All he wanted was to be with me as often as possible, to follow me everywhere I went. Before I knew it, he was living with me, and things started out like sheer bliss, it was amazing, it seemed like everything I’d ever wanted was in my life, which now felt complete. I wasn’t used to this type of attention, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I was living life for the first time. I had rediscovered hope. And I was starting to fall in love, as well. And while awkward at first, with time I found myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin, which I’d never experienced before.
Once a target has been chosen, it’s almost like the Narcissist gets tunnel vision. They are hyper-vigilant in their pursuit and will project the perfect image that their victim wants them to be. They are excessively caring, loving and attentive at this stage. They shower their targets with attention, compliments and literally sweep them off their feet. They place their target on a pedestal, idolize and worship them. Their target is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here the Narcissist is ecstatic, full of hopes and dreams. They will talk and think about them constantly, they are euphoric. This is as close as a Narcissist will ever get to feeling love. This kind of idolization is what others would call infatuation. The victim is likely so caught up in all the attention and is usually thinking at this point, that they have found their soul-mate. Their pursuer is exactly what they want in a partner (because the Narcissist is mirroring what they have learned appeals to their target) and they can’t believe how lucky they are and that this catch is still single. What they don’t know, or could ever be prepared for, is the nightmare that comes next.
I was living life for the first time ever – as in – really living life, enjoying everything, and seeing a beautiful future ahead of me. I also witnessed the monthly data allowance on my phone plan eat itself up in days due to his bombardment of texts, selfies, and “I love you’s,” but it was worth every single dime. He was quick to say how he wanted to spend his life with me, how he was certain that I was “the one.” And I believed every word he said like magic had entered my life. Finally I’d found my perfect match. Screw the fact that I’d been single 30+ years, it was worth it to finally meet my prince Charming. Only it was all an illusion, Prince Charming was all a facade hiding Prince Satan underneath. Suddenly my days once filled with sunny skies and bright landscapes became dark and vile: baseless accusations, paranoia, mind games, he treated me like he resented me for some reason. I remember once he was yelling at me when a friend approached out of nowhere and magically he became all smiles — leading me to realize he was acting, he could turn on and off this nasty side he had when convenient, and at the drop of a hat. But me, the empath, the nurse, was convinced he was depressed and having issues and kept trying to nurse him back to health.
He kept accusing me of things I’d never done, things I’d never consider doing to the point where it made my head spin. He was so paranoid about everything, always interrogating me over things that weren’t logistically possible. He’d lie, he’d deny things that just happened, always re-writing history and leaving me confused. How could he not see reality? How could he change so drastically? Nothing made sense at all and I was left confused and doubting my own recollections. Ultimately my journey through life had made a sharp turn outside the boundaries of the bell curve, falling downwards towards a world of shame, humiliation and disgrace.
Welcome to my nightmare in the invisible Holocaust known as American Zersetzung.
There’s no bread to help offset the taste while passing through this latrine, making my escape all the more stinky. But I’m certainly gonna keep on trying.