Heartbreak

11 Valuable Lessons I Learned About How Dating A Narcissist Changes You

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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 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.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Identify A Covert Narcissist (It's Easier Than You Think)

11 Ways Dating a Narcissist Changes You

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. My narcissist asked me, "Why are you so excited you sold a book? You'll never write anything of real importance."

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.

RELATED: 20 Extremely Brutal Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist

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 certainly seductive in today's meet-and-discard dating game, but it's all part of the dangerous game narcissists employ as part of the game they run on you.

Narcissists know how enticing this can be 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 trash, 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 and hold onto the fact that you gave them no reason whatsoever to behave this way toward someone they supposedly "love."

7. Great chemistry doesn't make a great partnership.

Narcissists are confident, sexy and work to maintain complete 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 all along.

Sadly, this often happens long after any reasonable point of return — often 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 they want 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 of appropriate decorum in a relationship, when 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 narcissist.

Considering narcissists abhor emotional connections, they see love and affection as smothering obligations, and those who want these things are "clingy" and "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).

11. You may come out a stronger, more complete individual than before.

While narcissists chip away at your sense of self-esteem, self-worth, identity, and even your sense of reality, you can allow yourself the opportunity to rebuild from the experience with a firm foundation that not only makes you whole again, but even more capable and able to love than before.

Many victims of narcissists need professional therapy to help them work through all of the pain and destruction their relationship has caused them.

Nonetheless, you may find yourself better at being able to spot bad apples before getting too involved with them, once you begin dating again. You may become a more compassionate and empathetic person, who's capable of knowing their limits by virtue of a newfound ability to draw boundaries, because of your experiences.

You may learn to respect yourself and build more self-esteem and self-worth than you ever had previously, because you see the events of your relationship for what they really were, and understand that they had nothing to do with any weaknesses of yours — but, in fact, the narcissist who hurt you so carelessly.

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 as I continue striding forward.

RELATED: How To Deal With A Narcissist — 8 Smart & Simple Steps

Brenda Della Casa is a writer, speaker, and author of 'Cinderella Was a Liar,' and the founder of LoolaBee. Her work has appeared in publications like PopSugar, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men's Health, and others.

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