Q & A: How Long Does a Narcissist take to Reveal her True Self and Can They Change?

Q: Hello Alex, I am Jonathan, and I wanted to 1) Share my story 2) Ask you a couple of questions. The story goes first… First off, I would like to thank you a million times for your blog. Thanks to you, I was able to put a name on what I lived for over a year and a half: A narcissistic relationship. As soon as I found out about what it really was (beyond the “popular” term everyone tosses around), I was able to start the healing process, and ultimately I felt compelled to share my story with you, as I believe putting words in what I feel will ultimately help me feel better.

Things aren’t always easy right now; I will have to admit it. Because I realized that all I lived was a mere intoxicating story I wasn’t married to that person. I don’t have kids with her. None of that. I am actually lucky compared to a lot of people I am sure you have met, who were physically abused by their partners. I had none of that. All I have left are memories of amazing moments, combined with those where I felt someone was sucking the life out of me. A lot of people tell me “Jon… you dodged a massive bullet”, the day I left her. So why do I feel compelled to share my story? Well because every, and I mean, every sign of narcissism was right there before my eyes, and I simply didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t piece things together, because I was in love and extremely confused. This was until I found your blog. The interesting part, I think, of this story, is that you get to see the gradual unveiling of the narcissist, and how it went from “Perfection” to “Hell”. From little lies, to big lies. Some of them extremely ridiculous. So here we go:

I am a 29-year-old guy, living in NYC, and from Portuguese background. I am doing pretty well in my career; I have what some people say an interesting life. I live between NY and LA, get to meet very interesting people for work. I can’t say my life is boring and I have had my fair share of women, and thought I had “met every possible kind”… Well, that was until I met my very first narcissist, during a holiday in Lisbon back in August of 2012. I saw her, and instantly connected with her. She was gorgeous. Thin, long hair, green eyes, a killing smile, she had also undergone plastic surgery a couple of months before I met her. Well, long story short, she was perfect… I have met gorgeous women, but there was something about her, something hypnotizing. I immediately fell in love for her within a matter of days. The connection was immediate; the level to which we established immediate “intimacy” was beyond surreal, and so was the sexual chemistry. We could spend hours and hours in each other’s company, talk. She would make me laugh like no one, she was feminine, had an amazing sense of style, everything was there to be perfect. She told me, of all the men she had been with, I was by far the one, she truly felt a genuine connection with. Being with her was the best possible feeling ever. So we decided to try long distance, given that we would see each other every month for about a week. We thought, “let’s start from here then we will see how it goes”.

I was working remotely from Lisbon for 2 months so we ended up spending a lot of time together at the beginning and thought the long distance was worth the shot. But then some things started to throw me off, that where the “fun” part starts. First, she would never never pay for anything; she wouldn’t even pay for a cup of coffee! Literally nothing. Whenever I wouldn’t pay for her, she would get immediately passive aggressive. During New Year’s Eve, we were having dinner with friends, and I paid for her dinner. She didn’t say word. And that’s when I voiced it: ”you could at least say thank you for dinner”. She went on a massive rage. For the first time in my life, I saw real animosity in someone’s eyes. And believe me, I am in no case an “innocent guy”, or the all around “nice Jo”. I have values, and character, but that threw me off.

That was a first red flag. During dinner, she wasn’t paying a lot of attention to me and was obsessing over taking pictures (a lot of pictures…) with her other girlfriends. As we leave dinner, we are waiting on a cab to come pick us up and I ask her “do you have money to pay the ride” and she tells me “yes I do”. I tell her, “make sure you have since there is an ATM right behind you… She didn’t check her wallet. We take the cab, go to the party and as he drops us off I look at her… expecting her to AT LEAST pay a cab ride. She tells me “no I don’t have money and I was not gonna walk on the pavement with high heels, that’s why I didn’t go to the ATM”. The next day, we go visit an old castle outside Lisbon. As we reach the entrance, I tell her “you are paying for this one”. She didn’t say word, but again, I could feel something mean in her eyes. She wasn’t talking to me. Anything I would say would be shut down immediately.

One time she was visiting me here in NY. Again, not one single dinner was paid. When I was not next to her she would go mad. I had to work and couldn’t take days off to be with her (before she came, I told her it would be difficult for me to take days off). When I wasn’t with her, she would hate text me for not being with her (again…I was working). I always remember this time when I ordered some food (it gets funny…), a Chinese chicken with vegetable. She grabbed the food, while I was still in the kitchen prepping some stuff, and she ends up eating all the chicken, and left me with only the vegetable (… yes… so that happen). One day, she raged, because I didn’t want to take a cab home, and decided to hop on a subway instead. She was also constantly asking me to take pictures of her, everywhere, at any time. She would “pose’, pretend she was looking at the sky, display a “fake smile” to look good. We would go out for dinner, and instead of having a conversation, she would be on her phone, checking all the pictures I had taken of her during that day, try all different sorts of Instagram filters to see which one would maker her look best. That’s when I realized this was not going to last. But I still loved her, and right before she left NY, she took me to Central Park and told me “I would like to tell you something I never told anyone before. I love you. From all my heart, I love you”.

After that trip, I decided that we were through. And that’s where I made a huge mistake. I still kept in touch with her… But I let her know that I wasn’t feeling comfortable pursuing this relationship. I was making a career change and was too focused on that. But I continued to text her. When I told her we were done, she said I had abandoned her, that she was willing to go till the end of the world for me. That she would live in a slum if need be. All she wanted was to be with me, take care of me, be with me. A month goes by. I had a trip planned to Miami for a week with two friends. Turns out she was also on holiday during that week, but I didn’t invite her to come. In my mind, again, I knew it was over, and I needed to move on, despite all the love I had for her. She continued to tell me that she loved me, she missed me. But two weeks before the trip she texts me “Hey, I thought I would let you know that I am getting married”. And that’s when my world collapsed. I was still feeling so much for her, she was telling me two weeks before that she loved me and now she is getting married?? I asked her why she would tell me she loved me if she had someone else. Her answer was “you didn’t want me. I was willing to go anywhere for you, I was ready to move to NY, but you didn’t want me”. So then I thought “Jon, you are making a huge mistake by not giving this a chance. This woman is ready to build something with you, and you are being focused on your career, and probably missing on something”. What an idiot I was to think that… So I text her back “Come join me in Miami, and we will see if this is worth trying”. She tells me that she will break the engagement because I am THE only man she loves and will always love. I go online, get her ticket (what a moron…), and we all meet in Miami the following week… And that’s when Sh** hit the fan again.

The second night, I had a chat with her and said “so if you say that you are willing to move to NYC, I am willing to give this a chance and build something solid with you”. I told her if she was to come, she would need to find a job, and that I wouldn’t live with her right away. Rome wasn’t build in day.. and things take time. She said she agreed and that she would move, because that is what she wanted: to be with me forever. Well… words, words, words… She was COMPLETELY obsessed with herself during that holiday, constantly taking pictures of herself (over 700 pictures of her ONLY in about a week, she would never ask to take a picture with both of us…). When I would not pay attention to her, she would go bezerk again… and at the same time she said she would be willing to follow me till the end of the world… I remember that night, we came back from a club, she put on a swimsuit at 2.30AM, and asked me to go take pictures of her in the pool… yes… that happened as well. We barely had sex during that trip, she was always finding an excuse. Or she was too drunk, or she was not feeling well, or what have you. She told me “I was engaged with someone up until a week ago, I can’t just switch like that, you need to give me time…”. Turns out that engagement was all lies. One night she forgot to close her email, and while she was under the shower, I went in her mailbox. And there was absolutely nothing related to a wedding or engagement. No email at all about it, and she keeps all her emails. Her fiancee’s name supposedly was Filip, and there was not one single email from a Filip… She was a disaster. I would take her out for dinner, not one single thank you. One night, one of my friends treated us to dinner. When I asked her if she thanked my friend, she raged like never before, saying I had received a poor education and that I was an idiot for lecturing her on how to behave.

Anyways, after that trip in Miami, I told her, “we are done for good now, this is pointless, we have different values”. She kept telling me I was the man of her life bla bla bla. This goes on for about two weeks after that trip. I remember her texting me on a Friday “I am sorry it didn’t work out in Miami, but it is because we were with your friends, we had no intimcacy, I love you”. This was all lies, we spent enough time her and I, but everytime, she was more interested in taking pictures of her, or checking her Facebook, than to speak with me. So this was on a Friday. Then, two days after, on Sunday, she texts me to say “hey I just thought I would let you know I have committed to a new relationship 🙂 I still love you very much”. I just answered bye. And that was it. I no longer had her on my Facebook, but I was to tempted to see, and I realized that she had changed her Facebook profile picture to be with this new guy, with a big heart as a caption. I only had her on my whatsapp and “by some miracle” she also changed her whatsapp picture to be with this dude, she just met, as if she wanted to rub it on my face… I blocked her from Facebook, and I noticed she removed that picture. When I unblocked her, she put it back. I had to test. One night, I was drunk, and went to check her Instagram (Rookie mistake) and saw she was still posting pictures of her in New York and Miami, during OUR holidays, and she has a new boyfriend. She posts pictures of things her and I used to do, but now she is doing them with him. She is obviously trying to get my attention. She would never post anything before, and suddenly she wants to come across as the happiest girlfriend in the world. She still tries to get my attention here and there, but commenting on posts on Facebook with the only friend we have in common, and I wonder why since she has a new narcissistic supply source.

She is manipulative, but I won’t write back or even react. Anyways, despite all the love I had for her, I left her after that Miami trip, and was hurt by how “fast” she had moved on, when two days before she was convincing me that I was the man of her life, her dreams. And yes I miss the good times, but I have to accept the fact that this was all a “mirage”. My reason has moved on, but my heart is still missing all those good times we had… at the beginning. Live and learn. And I learned reading your blog. And I feel empower to dodge the next bullet, should a narcissist try to shoot me down 🙂

Now the questions:

1) How long does a narcissist take to reveal his / her own true self when in a relationship?

2) Can a narcissist ultimately change? Meaning, can he / she display all signs of narcissism in a relationship and then be the perfect partner in the next relationship? Thanks you, Jon

A: Jon, Thank you for sharing your story. It does show the unveiling of a classic narcissist. I think you handled the situation very well considering you didn’t know about NPD when you first started the relationship with her. Congratulations on being able to free yourself; I know it can be quite difficult when you miss a narcissistic ex because they know how to make good times Very good (but also bad times very bad).

To answer your questions:

1) the AVERAGE time is about 4 months when you first begin noticing red flags, although some narcissists are obvious from the very beginning and others can cover it up for a couple of years.

2) Depending on who you read, narcissists can or cannot change. Some say with a lot of therapy and a lot of time, you can make inroads. I believe it is a personality disorder where you can, sometimes, modify their behavior but not their basic personality. But even those few whose behavior is modified, still do not “get” empathy. They cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes nor put another person’s needs ahead of their own. Can a narcissist “be a narcissist” in one relationship and a perfect partner in a different relationship. Not likely. Unless the other relationship consists of the narcissist and what she/he would consider a perfect partner–a person who is happy being dependent, subservient, and willing to give narcissistic supply at all times. That person’s self esteem would have to be mighty low in order to tolerate the abuse.

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