Keeping people ‘in the dark’ (withholding information deliberately) is one of the narcissist’s favourite tactics, because when others are second-guessing themselves or their reality, they become easier to control and manipulate. Confusion and doubt distract the chosen target and limit their chance of ever finding out who they’re dealing with and what’s really going on. This unsuspecting person is usually the last to know (or believe) they’re being set up by someone who uses others to get what they want.
New Relationships – How Narcissists Attempt to Keep their New Girlfriend or Boyfriend in the Dark
Narcissists simply won’t answer some questions put to them in the ‘getting to know each other’ stage of a new relationship. They will deliberately ignore or evade questions or comments, railroad the conversation to a totally different topic or even become passive-aggressive and ‘joke’ that the enquirer is being nosey. The narcissist may casually mention how they once had to dump a ‘stalkerish’ ex, and although this may sound like innocent story-sharing, it’s done in an attempt to a) make the enquirer back off from asking questions, b) feel bad for somehow invading the narcissist’s privacy and c) give a warning that this will also happen to them if they continue to ask questions. The other reason they deflect is that they might be married or already in a committed relationship…
An open, respectful two-way conversation is not something that needs to be earned or given after a set amount of time has passed, so if this is not happening in the early stages of a relationship, take it as an enormous red flag. Underneath the flattery and the impressive stories is a person who is being secretive and dishonest, and this behaviour WILL continue and likely get worse. It’s also a cause for serious concern if you find you’re blaming yourself for these communication blocks or feeling confused because all of a sudden, the usual way of getting to know someone else via the asking of questions is no longer working or even OK.
Those who comply and go along with this regime of secrecy, even begrudgingly, send a clear signal to the narcissist that they are an ideal mate and are guaranteed to be a good source of narcissistic supply. In short, they are likely to be ‘kept on’ by the narcissist (for the present time at least). We don’t have to be experts in Narcissistic Personality Disorder to know when something or someone is ‘just off’, we have our intuition and gut feelings to guide us, all we need to do is listen and never dismiss.
Co-parenting – How to Shed Light onto Yourself when the Narcissist is Keeping You in the Dark
The early co-parenting stage (otherwise known as Fresh Hell) offers bountiful information withholding opportunities for the narcissist. The co-parenting playing field is riddled with mantraps and will be covered in more detail in future posts, but here is just one example: Not giving the other parent an actual time or even a generous timeframe with regard to their dropping off or picking up the children. When the narcissist gets pushed to give an actual time, they’ll use the phrase ‘lunchtime’ or ‘breakfast time’ instead of the clock time.
The following is ‘Sophie’s’ story:
“In the early days, I’d give my children’s father the benefit of the doubt and make excuses for his antics – maybe he just doesn’t yet know what time he’ll be arriving, maybe his family has always used these terms and it’s just his norm. But then he’d prove me wrong by continuing to do it after I made it clear it was confusing for everyone and generally unhelpful. Keeping me in the dark awarded him the ‘right’ to turn up unannounced and create even more chaos, nothing new there, but the usual narcantics (narcissist’s trouble-making antics) had now taken on an insidious tone because the children were being roped into the mess.
It took many years to realise that I’d been playing into it each and every time. The fact that the children were involved in the mayhem only made him do it all the more, and not less as one might imagine. He could see how involving them created even more emotional chaos and he was able to get good narcissistic supply from my reaction (seeing me in the emotional gutter).
Adopting a ‘Grey Rock’ approach wasn’t too successful at first, as my Ego would protest loudly and become overly emotional, “You can’t let him get away with this crap! You have to install boundaries and there have to be consequences for his actions!”
I came to find out that the grey rock technique only works if emotions are left out of it because a narcissist’s ultimate reward comes from seeing another person lose their shit.
I came to realise that boundaries can’t fix every interaction with a narcissist, but found that boundaries working alongside ‘detachment’ lead to a greater success rate of keeping sane around the narcissist than boundary-setting alone. By detachment, I mean setting an intention to DETACH – completely, from the outcome. The concept that ‘energy flows were attention goes’, seemed to apply to this situation because after emotionally detaching from the outcome, I began to feel less exhausted, despite his best gaslighting efforts.
One evening, as I paced around, racking my brains trying to figure out what time I should have the children ready for his arrival to prevent all hell being let loose, I decided to emotionally detach and ‘let go’ of my attachment to the outcome. I detached from thinking about his next likely move, detached from the worry of how it will affect the children, detached from focussing on how he will react if the children were not ready, or how many times he will blast his car horn outside our home. This mammoth-sounding task took seconds, not years, and it felt like a 60-kilo bag of spikey rocks had been lifted off my back. Once this heaviness had been lifted, a time popped into my head with which I was able to work with and plan around. It was a time of my own making and a reasonable one that worked well for me and the children.
Setting the intention to detach and adjusting my internal language proved to be key in managing this particular situation and then future ones. I named the various arrangements (the comings and goings), ‘details’, and assured myself that details are things that we can all learn to manage in a practical way because that’s all they are – details.
A surprising thing happened that morning, he sent a text message giving an actual time of expected arrival. It was a rare event, which may have been a ‘hoovering’ tactic to bring me back in – brought about by his fear of being ignored, but maybe it was due to my detaching. Something definitely shifted in me that day because I didn’t feel the usual relief that came whenever he chose to be reasonable – I no longer seemed to need his assurances, it was a massive step in the right direction”.
In the next blog post, I will ‘out’ the narcissist at work and reveal how they keep others in the dark.
If this post resonates with you or someone you know, please comment and share! My goal is to connect with others to bring awareness and choice to those affected by childhood emotional neglect and narcissistic abuse.
Zoe is a Registered Nurse, Kinesiologist and Holistic Health and Wellbeing Practitioner.
Find Zoe at www.innerhealthandhealing.net and head to the BLOG – “Emotional Neglect and Narcissistic Abuse – A Recovery of Self” for more upcoming posts on childhood emotional neglect, codependency and narcissistic abuse.