Narcissists Manage Down Our Relationship Expectations

narcissist-expectationsThe narcissist will, over time, manage down our expectations of the relationship so that we expect less and less and he gets away with more and more. This is one of the most powerful weapons in the narcissistic arsenal and it provides the narcissist (male or female) the most rewards. In fact, the narcissist personality really shines when implementing this particular strategy because it shows just how much patience he really has when it comes to controlling you. The managing down of a partner’s expectations allows the narcissist to stick close to the relationship agenda that guides him and it allows him the freedom to roam about on this planet fairly unfettered while we sit on the sidelines scratching our heads and grinding our teeth.

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Managing down our expectations is a method where a narcissist shows he has all the patience in the world. The process begins with the very first fight or the very first silent treatment (whichever comes first) and lasts until the final devalue & discard. The entire process can take many weeks, months, or even years and you won’t even know it’s happening. It’s the narcissist’s way of teaching you how to behave and how to react to any given behavior that he bestows upon you.

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The N manipulates your expectations by “training” you to react a certain way to certain situations. For example, the disappearing act. If your N is anything like my ex-N, he’ll just disappears for days/weeks at a time, not answering his phone (or changing his number), refusing to answer the door (or not being home for days), and basically acting as if you don’t exist. It causes horrible anguish and suffering – so much so, in fact, that you will do anything to make it end including forgiving his disappearance instantly upon his return. You will be so relieved to have the separation anxiety disappear that you may not even ask about or demand a single explanation. In other words, he gets away with it which is a narcissist’s goal in just about anything that he (or she) does. Now, to manage down your expectations a bit further, the next time he disappears, he will stay away just slightly longer than the time before, thus extending the time he gets to cheat on you (because that is what he’s doing, by the way) with each silent treatment. Ultimately, he will have managed down your expectations of the relationship to the point that he can stay away for months on end, returning with little or no fanfare.

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The narcissist uses this narcissistic ploy to his benefit for many situations including having to take you on dates (he basically never takes you anywhere because you don’t expect him to) or being with you on the holidays (you just expect that he won’t) or paying his own way. Our expectations of what is “normal” in a relationship get completely messed up and we begin to allow everything and anything to take place right under our noses. It becomes easier to look the other way…to “forgive” the indiscretions and mind-boggling behavior…rather than to call a narc out on his behaviors and risk another departure. In other words, we give everything and expect nothing in return and nothing is exactly what we get!

Everything the narcissist does or says during the course of your relationship is a means to an end and don’t you ever forget that. Nothing is ever random. A narcissist is out to get whatever he wants whenever he wants with whomever he wants at anyone’s expense and the easiest way to do it is to manage down your expectations of the relationship so that you’re willing to accept mere crumbs of attention. In doing this, he can disappear and reappear on the fly without much fear of consequence. He will count of your suffering to keep you in his queue and your acceptance of crumbs to keep him from putting to much thought into any given lie.

Think about this when you beat yourself up over why you put up with any of this shit. Your concept of a normal relationship became or has become twisted and now, whether or in the relationship or finally out of it, you have to re-train your brain back to normal. What we allow will continue and only we can make the changes that will ultimately lead to our recovery from this type of relationship manipulation.

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This is an updated post


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  • Rs

    August 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm Reply

    Wow.. Having found your site and read all the articles, I really could put a name to what I’ve been going through for the past 20 years of relationship with my husband. Gosh.. He took me for a ride. I’ve been through it all.. The affair, the disappearance..
    But I am still in this marriage.. Not having the guts to break it as mr Narc said all his doings were due to me my fault. I dont know how to handle that actually and at the same time I’m hurt beyond imagination.
    What or how should I behave to stay married with N due to kids involved.

    • Zari Ballard

      August 23, 2017 at 11:35 pm Reply

      Hi Rs,

      No one should stay in an abusive relationship/marriage with a narcissistic cheater for the children. YOU are not the problem and he should be kicked to the curb. You have to be confident in the truth that you know because he will NEVER tell you the truth and he will always blame you. Please read my book When Love Is a Lie because it will show you how I came to terms with what was going on and how I got it right in my head. I stayed for 13-years and wasted a whole lot of time. A narcissist has no problem at all wasting your life away while he goes about his narcissistic business. Time to make a move, my sister. The kids will be just fine….

      Zari xo

  • Robert

    February 25, 2017 at 6:50 pm Reply

    Zari it has been nearly a year now,my birthday next week,the day my n discarded me. You assured me things would get better,and after several hoovering attempts and a few mean things from the shadows,i am standing strong on the no contact,I have experienced by proxy attempts from the n,and during those attempts a bit blindsided,set back ,hiding like a frightened rabbit,then back to the daylight.the thing that has helped me the most was your understanding and advise through your publications.
    All reminding me of the fact that once the mask is off ,believe what you have seen.i have found that no contact, even by proxy,is the absolute most valuble tool for me,the setbacks are short lived,yet a crippling struggle none the less.if I had not stumbled upon your websight ,and had you not responded to my plight
    I could very well be the wreck i was a year ago.
    I could share the events of the past year , but what window has the room enough to fit it all in.THE NARC
    WILL NEVER CHANGE,but I have. ZARI ,you are a remedy where none exists,thank you a million times over. Bob

    • Zari Ballard

      February 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm Reply

      Robert wrote…You assured me things would get better,and after several hoovering attempts and a few mean things from the shadows,i am standing strong on the no contact… Yay!!!!!

      Hi Robert!!

      No, thank YOU a million times over for such an awesome post…to read it made me very emotional:) That’s all I need to know, my brother, and if you were here, I’d give you a big hug!! I love it when I get updates and, wow, I can’t believe an entire year has gone by. OMG. Yes, no more hiding!! You are awesome and all you’ve got to do is BELIEVE that and trust your instinct. If you ever feel up to really filling me in on the entire year-long shebang, you can always shoot me an email. I’d love to catch up:)

      Thank you again so much for stopping by and GOOD FOR YOU FOR MAKING IT THROUGH. YOUR POST IS PROOF AGAIN THAT IT IS POSSIBLE. Write me anytime, here or via my email. As always, I’m here to support you….

      Zari xoxo

  • Nina

    February 23, 2017 at 2:58 pm Reply

    I have been in a relationship with a narcissist for almost 4 years. Last week was great as he made a beautiful gesture on Valentine’s Day and on my birthday, but of course the great feelings and pleasure didn’t last…as usual. A day later he left for a trip to Ecuador with his best friend. One of his constant abusive moves is that he tells me we will keep in touch while he’s gone, not to worry, he loves me, etc. and then he always disappears and keeps in touch if he feels like it. Every trip he takes this happens. I get lectured if I bring it up. When I question him as to why he says he’ll do things and doesn’t, I’m insecure, needy, should have my own life, etc. First day he kept in touch. Second day it started to wane. Did his usual “I’ll text you around 8:30”, etc. then never did. (He’s very unreliable about keeping his word unless he’s going to be getting sex.) Made all kinds of excuses why he couldn’t. He and I have had many arguments, confrontations, break ups, reconciliations…I am exhausted at this point. If I told you how much he’s put me through over the last 4 years, it would take up 3 pages. Tells me he’s been looking for me his whole life, never had a sexual partner like me, yet still way too attached to one of his ex wives…he has 2 kids with her. Over the summer, he took her and his kids on vacations to the Bahamas and a family wedding and never told me she was going. I found out because of photos I saw on FB. When I cornered him about it, he got upset and got tearful, saying he was wrong and very sorry. But it’s rare that he apologizes and when he does, it’s only to appease me or it’s done very mechanically. I have reached the end of my rope with his behavior of blowing me off, like last night when he said he would contact me. I really thought I loved this guy, but I’m getting to a point where I’m starting to hate his guts for constantly tormenting me and mistreating me. Am I being overly sensitive or is this guy really a jerk? I haven’t even mentioned the times he’s told me to leave his place when I asked him about something or suspected him or got upset. Nor have I mentioned the fact that there are strict rules all over the relationship….I’ve never been allowed to meet his children because of my supposed bad behavior. I’ve never constantly investigated or mistrusted someone this much….I was married twice before this relationship. He makes my ex #2 look good and he was a sociopath. What do I do? Get out? I thought we could have a relationship, but a future with this person looks very grim.

    • Zari Ballard

      February 24, 2017 at 4:38 pm Reply

      Hi Nina,

      Girl, you need to read my book When Love Is a Lie because I address every issue you described in your post. The great sex (and how it changes nothing…here’s an article about that) It still amazes me how ridiculously identical they all are in their behaviors. Trust me when I tell you that they will never ever change…never! He will do this until the end of time if you allow it. It’s all about what they can get away with. If he can get away with vacationing without you and not staying in contact while he does it, he’ll do it. If he can get away with taking his ex and the kids to tropical islands and family weddings and not telling you he’s doing it, he’ll do it. As long as you let him get away with all this, he will never stop. Even if you called him out until you were blue in the face, it will never stop. The only way it will stop for YOU is for you to end it and not go back ever.

      Read my book…I went through the same thing and I explain how I changed my mindset and got out of it. Be sure to read all the articles on this site because I discuss all this here as well and try to cover ever topic possible. Stay strong, sister!

      Zari xo

    • Sick of BS

      February 24, 2017 at 9:51 pm Reply

      Is this guy a jerk?
      Come on love, take the emotion & attachment OUT & LOOK at the cold hard FACTS…is this guy behaving in a way that tells U he’s really into U? Or, offers U ANY respect?
      Sure, he may need to see his kids…but why should that be any secret from U? Don’t let him turn U into some “needy” story…just calmly reply: “Of course, u’r right – I don’t have to know.”…then turn & walk completely OUT of these selfish bastards lives….NO 2nd thoughts, NO benefits of the doubt…just as he’s done to U.
      After all, U teach ppl how to treat U. If U LIKE being treated as a doormat…keep playing their stupid game. If he gives the indication, he doesn’t really need U in MOST aspects his life…then fine, if that don’t suit U in developing TRUST…then LEAVE!
      I’m NOT saying that will be easy…but realise, there really are MENTAL cases out there…that deceive & feel NOTHING & have hidden that from U – it IS an ACT…& a pretty good one too, in alot of cases. BUT realise…WORDS are SO much easier than ACTION. And if U find, U may be a bit too much words too, than ACTION (even tho true & not lies)…time U prove it.
      The saddest & hurtful part is…U may walk away & find they DIDN’T care…but, it has to be better than wasting MORE wks, mths or yrs of UR life & preventing U running into someone decent….who is NO fraud & has the delusion – he truly believes he’s some God’s gift to women…coz, at a sociopath’s CORE (there is NO heart), he believes ALL women are stupid….only gd for f**k! That’s actually a MISOGYNIST…& women despisers…love f**king women to have themselves feel superior – it’s ALL about THEIR ego. SO ESCAPE while U can…STOP any ‘benefit of the doubt’! STOP living CRAP!
      Don’t want to believe me?…go check out psychogendered’s blog…a transgendered sociopath trying to practise restraint, coz sociopaths don’t like being lonely & really can’t help being impulsive…she’ll REALLY tell U how they THINK! Fun & playful? More like damn NASTY & hateful, at the core! Their self-serving narcissism…is something…they CAN’T change. But don’t feel compassion…they DON’T want it to change either.

  • Laura

    December 26, 2016 at 2:33 am Reply

    Can someone please tell me if they think my ex is a covert narccist, I met him on a dating website just over a year ago, didn’t ‘lovebomb’ me at all ..In fact was very emotionally distant ..He never had any friends and was estranged from his family, he was 9 years older than me (which I later found out he lied to me about his age)
    My gut instinct told me that something was ‘off’ with this man..He always blamed his previous break ups on his ex’s and never took any responsibility in the breakdown of ii …He was very witty and charming but bigger himself up in a professional capacity, But he made me start to feel insecure about myself ..Never directly but would say things maybe about someone or something and I had this feeling he was directing them at me but when I challenged him about it he would say I was being ‘sensitve’
    Anyway the first outburst to shock me was at my house ..On only the second time of meeting my kids one of their partners used some foul language and he immediately pulled them up about it quite sharply and everyone just went quiet night must say he caught me off guard and needless to say that within half an hour of that the place vacated …I now instinctively feel he didn’t want them there ! By the way he’s also estranged from his own grown up kids made excuses that his son ripped him off financially and his step daughter is unstable because their Mother made her that way
    Anyway over just a year we split up a couple of times then he’d get back in touch after a couple of weeks but I never trusted him he was very cold emotionally and even during sex I felt he wasn’t there he never even kissed me ..
    Well one day his phone rang and another woman was calling him I asked who it was and why he didn’t pick up .. Said it was an old friend and he wouldn’t pick up while I was with him as it would be rude too …
    Anyway I started to feel a shift a couple of weeks after we can back off holiday which was a disaster as he had the complete problem with drinking alcohol said his ex wife had a drink problem and the ex partner was an alcoholic also said his brother was killed by a drunk driver … It’s actually insane now I’m writing this down that I believed him !! …He said I didn’t spend enough time with him and always put my girlfriend’s and family first .Then said he didn’t like certain clothes I wore that they didn’t suit me ..He used to pick me up a correct things I’d say he was very puritanical had been a verger in the local church said he hated foul language but never had a problem if he used it at me in an argument ! Very hypocritical !
    Anyway he said he had to and help his brother fix something with his house (the only family member he kept in touch with) but I never met him so not sure if I believe him
    To cut a long story short he disappeared I got area messages saying he was busy I think at this stage he was certainly messaging someone else so I told him I’m not doing this anymore and haven’t heard from him for 2 months then 4 days before Christmas I received a card saying he hoped I was ok ???
    I took it he’s probably just trying to reel me back in again …I was vulnerable in the first month but now I’ve been educating myself and sourcing and scouring the internet I feel he could be a covert narccist tho I hate labeling people..I think he’s definitely got issues .
    Thanks grateful for replies please

    • Zari Ballard

      December 26, 2016 at 7:50 pm Reply

      Hi Laura,

      To me, a narcissist is a narcissist is a narcissist. What difference does it make whether he is covert, overt, classic, histronic, blah blah, know what I mean? This guy is a jerk through and through and you can label him all you want – he deserves it!!! All those little cards and texts (“are you okay”…”worried…”) are simply hoovering mechanisms to pull you back into the game. Do not fall for it, sister, as his intentions will always be bad. These people can and do not want to ever change. They like themselves just the way that they are and the game for them just never gets old.

      Life is too short for this foolishness its slipping away. Make a plan for the new year that never includes him ever again.

      Stay strong,

      Zari xo

    • Sick of BS

      February 24, 2017 at 10:51 pm Reply

      COVERT? I have to laugh…he’s simply an online deceiver that doesn’t get OUT into life…a sgl CRAZY person…wanting to play CRAP online & U WANTED to believe it. Yeah, I’m sure it had U feel small, after U found out…but, come on…let’s PLAY them at the SAME game…maybe, it’s TIME U got away from the computer…& started LIVING ur life WITHOUT need of someone else.
      DO U really think U are NO-ONE without a partner? Funny, we never thought that…before puberty & social expectations.
      Well, one thing I’ve learnt from running into sociopaths…is F**K what ppl THINK…at the core of my SOUL, I DO CARE…but, I don’t have to care for ppl who show NO care to ME…even Oprah said…STOP the PEOPLE PLEASING…CHOOSE those…who are WORTH it!

  • Gail

    December 23, 2016 at 8:30 am Reply

    I have spent 2 1/2 years now trying to move on from a relationship with every type of abuse imaginable that I spent 3 year involved in.
    And to this very day I am as lost as the day I left.
    I have desperately try ed to go back to him. Why I have no idea. I feel I’ve lost my mind
    Still after 2 years of no contact from him he still controls me. I have no concept of emotional attachment, I feel I can belong to no one but him. I wait and wait for him praying he will forgive and come for me.
    I do not understand what is wrong with me,surely you would think after 2 years I could move on even if a little bit.
    But I am stuck in this hell. I have read some things here that make sense to me and extremely relate to me.
    I have read other sites but this one has given me some hope that maybe some how I can find help here.
    I hope so. I’m desperately trying but I don’t know. Please help me learn to live again .
    To find me again.
    So to make my long story short I will say
    Thank you.

    • Zari Ballard

      December 26, 2016 at 7:44 pm Reply

      Hi Gail,

      I am so sorry for your heartache and sorrow. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, I promise you…it’s all about changing your perspective of the relationship and who and what he really is/was. This is YOUR life and you really do have the power to take charge of it. He created the illusion of love and we tend to stick with that as if it was real. And it surely wasn’t. Please consider booking some talk time with me so that we can work out a strategy for your emotional survival. The link is to the discount support page for the end of the year. I can help you but there is no quick answer. When you are still struggling after two years of no contact, we need to speak one-on-one.

      You can learn to live again…there is a new year coming and, mentally, you need to take advantage of this. I’m here to support you…

      Zari xo

  • Dr Blabby

    December 5, 2016 at 7:27 am Reply

    YOU are a genius. I have read VOLUMES on narcissists.. watched dozens of videos…. read message boards.. etc. etc. Although they were very informative — THIS site was genius.
    Never mind the mind games – the bs – the lies – the cheating – blah blah. It is CONTROL and VALIDATION. If you all step back – and remember times when you were abused… didn’t that equate to being controlled? Nobody who loves you hurts you. They enjoy hurting people – because they are dead inside. AND when you start to slip away.. say enough is enough.. they throw you a BONE. A CRUMB to keep you hooked. And WE buy it every single time!!! Because we want to believe!! They are NOT us. They are like predatory rattlesnakes and we are their food. As soon as they get their “food” — i.e. sex, money, attention, food, place to stay, etc. etc. they are GONE — the popular disappearing act.
    THEN they come back like nothing ever happened expecting to pick up and start over where they left off!!! How many times have we experienced this????? And we are SO happy they are back.. we just sweep that experience under the rug.. like they are HOPING you will until the next time when you get it again. These NICE GUYS/GIRLS are NOT real. They are fakes. The jerks behind the mask is who they really are — they will suck the life out of you until
    nothing is left – leave you like a carcass on the side of the road. Well… I’m not laying down to die. TWO can play the control / validate game!!!! ……….. See how HE likes it.. Because I do not care if he leaves. Karma is a bitch and he will learn that I am not one to lay down and die — cry my eyes out – and bemoan ” poor me.. poor me” ……….. All of you?? STAND UP.. DO NOT BE CONTROLLED — TAKE YOUR POWER BACK!! Thanks for this article. It was GREAT.

    • Zari Ballard

      December 6, 2016 at 8:14 pm Reply

      Thanks, Dr. Blabby! You are spot-on!…Zari xo

  • barbara johnson

    November 10, 2016 at 5:26 pm Reply

    my narcissist and I are senior citizens!! Three years into this “friendship”relationship I have finally figured him out. He is indeed a narcissistic sociopath!! Two months age he disappeared and re-appeared today as though nothing has happened. He has drained me of money and my self-esteem. He made promises that fell by the wayside, even though I trusted him. When I asked him for some of my money that is when he disappeared! I am going on with my life! my advice to all those young people who love a narcissist, move on as you deserve better. You are worth it!!!

    • Zari Ballard

      November 12, 2016 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for sharing your story, sister:) Yes, unfortunately, narcissists do not improve with age! In fact, they often become more polished at the con depending upon their particular talents. It’s such a weird dynamic that we just can’t wrap our heads around it and so we stay to see what happens next, hoping that our suspicions are wrong. I’m grateful that you are moving on. There certainly is no time to waste and these creatures will GLADLY waste our life away if we allow it. The game, for a narcissist, just never gets old – even if they do!

      Stay strong and write here anytime. I’m here to support you….

      Zari xo

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