Beware: they are chameleons.
People toss the word "narcissist" around without giving much thought to the actual personality disorder, which includes things like a inability to empathize, cognitive dissonance, and rage-filled reactions so intense that they leave those around them utterly gutted, if not completely terrified.
Of course, if they showed these sides of themselves initially, no one would ever find themselves in love with one. Unfortunately, in addition to being shallow and cold, they're also skillfully manipulative people with a chameleon-like qualities, which allows them to mimic some of the most charming, disarming and loving behavior ever put forth in a courtship.
While no one would ever choose to be with someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, there are some valuable (and helpful!) lessons to extract.
1. If you don't have boundaries, you're going to be demolished.
Many people will push you to do what they want you to do and test your limits, but narcissists actually get a thrill when you tell them what you won't stand for. They will tell you they respect your values initially, but in reality they're taking notes.
Down the line, you can be sure they will do exactly what you're telling them you won't tolerate. When they beg forgiveness and you give them another chance, they get their fix. They're so fantastic and superior that you'll betray yourself for them.
2. If you care about something, it matters.
It's a known fact that narcissists are experts in devaluing the feelings of others. So good, in fact, that many partners start to believe they're "making a bigger deal" of something than is necessary. This could be their lying and flirting with the waitress, or being excited about a promotion or book deal.
3. There's absolutely zero point in arguing facts.
Anyone who has ever been in a fight with a narcissist knows how utterly frustrating it is to go in circles around a topic that has a clear truth. In the eyes of a narcissist, being wrong confirms every fear they have about themselves, and they will respond with a war waged to annihilate you for having your facts straight.
4. No one has the right to tell you who you are, what you need, or what is "wrong" with you.
You must hold onto what you know to be true about who you are, or you will absolutely not survive this relationship. Narcissists are master manipulators and they will use every possible conversation you have to dominate and control you.
At first, they will build you up with flattery (which feels amazing), but what they giveth, they taketh away (and then some). When they tell you you're "crazy," "unlovable," "needy," "need therapy," or the dozens of other horrible things they will say, you must remember that it's about them and not you.
5. It takes time to love or even "get" someone.
Who doesn't want to believe in the idea of love at first sight? The notion that someone finally sees you for who you are and just "gets you" within a couple of weeks of meeting you, is seductive in today's meet-and-discard dating game. Narcissists know this and will play on every fantasy and ideal you have in order to get you hooked.
Get out there and date, have fun, and enjoy getting to know people. But if someone starts saying things that feel amazing but are too good to be true, take off those rose-colored glasses and run.
6. Rejection isn't always about you.
It's sometimes a way to control you. One of the worst feelings in the world is chasing someone who treats you like sh*t, but anyone who has ever been in the horribly abusive relationship cycle with a narcissist knows exactly what I'm talking about.
They start picking on you, crossing your boundaries, and hurt you. You feel confused and angry, and react. They blow up harder, and before you know it they're giving you the silent treatment, and you're begging them to forgive you. When someone "rejects" and treats you poorly for no reason, it's important to remember that you gave them no reason.
7. Great chemistry doesn't make a great partnership.
Narcissists are confident, sexy and completely in control of the situations they are in. When they set their sights on you, they quickly assess what turns you on and off, and morph into that person. That spine-lit-on-fire chemistry and "connection" is actually a manipulation, which the narcissist actually looks down on you for falling for.
As the relationship progresses, they grow tired of the facade and start to show their teeth. You're left wondering why they have changed when, in reality, they were just deceiving you. Sadly, this often happens after you've married them.
8. Chaos isn't "passionate love."
It's toxic, often abusive, and the complete opposite of what love is. Someone who loves you cares about your peace of mind, your feelings, needs, and wants what's best for you.
As the cycle runs its course on repeat, the lows become so intolerable that a good day feels "amazing," because you're just so incredibly thrilled not to be devalued, rejected or put down. In reality, you're glorifying the bare minimum which is so very sad, because you deserve so much more — from them and yourself.
9. Showing love isn't needy.
Most narcissists attach themselves to very loving, kind and vulnerable people. Most of these people will be seen as "kind hearted" to the people in their lives, but are seen as weak in the eyes of the narcissists.
As narcissists abhor emotional connections, they see love and affection as smothering obligations, and those who want these things as "needy." Over time, partners start to question their natural and healthy need to express and receive love, which can be deeply confusing.
10. Forgiving yourself is an essential part of living a healthy life.
When I look back and read my diary entries from my time with my narcissist, I feel a number of emotions: sadness, confusion, shock, and even shame. The truth is, I cannot believe I was in such a painful and toxic relationship. More confusing is why I still care about the person. How did I not love myself enough to walk away? How did I not protect myself from that?
Once they finally leave, partners of narcissists often ask themselves the same questions as their friends and loved ones (many times with the same shock and confusion). I've learned that, while it's great to extract lessons and work on the areas of myself that allow me to go down that path are essential, focusing on my power to walk away and move on is the most productive way to glance back while striding forward.
Brenda Della Casa is the author of Cinderella Was a Liar, the Editor-in-chief and Digital Content Strategist at Preston Bailey Designs, and a Huffington Post Blogger. She regularly speaks on the topic of Digital Content, Social Media and Digital Strategy. Facebook: BrendaDellaCasa, Twitter: @BrendaDellaCasa, Instagram: @BrendaDellaCasa.