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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  • 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

  • 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

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