Narcissists, Money, & The 5-Star Deception

carrieandbigI’ve never really given much credence to clinical narcissist types – classic, somatic, cerebral etc. – because, to me, when we’re talking about the narcissistic mentality, it’s all the same albeit slight variations depending upon the circumstance. Now, having said that, I do absolutely believe that there exists two very specific non-clinical types – that being the Low-Level Narcissist and the High-Level Narcissist – and the major difference between the two is MONEY. I discovered this distinction ages ago in a book about narcissism entitled Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life and I’ve seen it play out exactly as the author described over and over.

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Having corresponded with countless victims of narcissist abuse, it is clear to me that whether or not the narcissistic partner has money becomes a definitive relationship game-changer. Not only is a wad of cash and a lavish lifestyle key to how the high-level narcissist behaves and how the abuse plays out over time, it is also key to how the victim reacts to certain behaviors and how long she’ll stay in the relationship. A narcissist with money, like Mr. Big in Sex in the City, is capable of spinning the normal narcissistic tactics to a different level simply because he has a bigger and more expensive bag of tricks. Indeed, the high-level narcissist, like the irresistible but nefarious Mr. Big, is a 5-Star Deception.

My ex, of course, was a low level N and money was a constant source of contention. For 13-years, I always felt the pinch of shouldering the finances in the relationship. It’s not that my ex never had money because, for the most part, he always had a job. However, a low-level narcissist parades through life with a much different mindset of, say, a Mr. Big. A low-level, even with a pocketful of cash and steady blue-collar paychecks, will always appear to have no money at all when it comes to pulling his weight in the relationship. I attribute this to one very important characteristic of low-levels: they do not like to share. My ex was actually very open about this – even during the Idolize Phase. On one of our very first “dates”, I remember voluntarily paying for drinks all night long simply because I was love-bombed and had money. Hours later, as we stumbled into the parking lot, he was quick to remark on my amazing generosity…“Wow. You’re so cool. I hate it when girls expect the guy to pay for every little thing. It’s so annoying.” Just as telling as his statement was my reaction to it: I believe I was flattered. In retrospect, this night set the stage for the rest of the relationship. Low-level red flags don’t get much bigger than that… but when there’s money involved, the red flags aren’t so obvious.

zari-ballard-consultThe high-level narcissist, like a Mr. Big, provides a target with a much different Idolize Phase simply because he can. A high-level N has money and the means to make a whole lot more of it and, thus, the first few dates set a far more lavish stage on which the relationship will play itself out. The target, as the narcissist intends, automatically begins to associate the “fun” of money, gifts, and vacations with love and affection. Love-bombing is ramped up, future-faking begins, and a target begins to live out the fairytale. Even though her gut instinct screams too much too soon and WAY too good to be true, the high-level N will reassure over and over that love is a part of the whole deal. Come on, you worry too much…let’s go away for the weekend. Anywhere you want to go…What girl in her right mind wouldn’t want to believe it?

Now, while a high-level certainly appears to be willing to share, I guarantee it isn’t because he’s particularly crazy about the target he’s sharing with. High-level narcissists like to have fun – lots of fun – and having a date for all the fun is very convenient and beneficial. At opportune times, he will hold all of this fun over the target’s head like a carrot, threatening to withhold it much like a low-level withholds tid-bits of affection and/or sex. Each type of narcissist manages down the expectations of the target accordingly so that the end always justifies the means. I will also add that, because she’s dealing with a Mr. Big, the victim partner of a high-level suffers a bigger let down than the victim of a low level simply because the HIGHS are so HIGH. Instead of someone (like me) who, in response to a Discard, might be thinking Oh My God, how could he leave me like that? We had such a nice weekend hanging out together!, the victim of a high-level might feel Oh My God, how could he just up and leave me?? The cruise ship has barely left the dock!

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High-level narcissists are also more capable of pulling off long-distance manipulation and deception. For instance, going No Contact when the narcissist lives 500 miles away can suddenly become as difficult as if he lived across town. One woman I spoke to during a consultation complained that every time she tried to end it, her high-level simply hopped on a plane and showed up on her doorstep. Cheating, as well, gets ramped up a notch or two. Another woman described to me how her high-level not only had multiple affairs, he also apparently arranged extravagant vacations with each so that they ran back to back. She discovered that her N was putting on his best face for for all trips – so much so that each woman thought for sure that a marriage proposal was imminent. Certainly, low-levels string more than one target along all the time but they have to work a whole lot harder with far less resources! Having money makes the process of compartmentalizing  that much easier.

While it may appear to be a concrete method of “figuring them out”, slipping narcissists into files marked cerebral, somatic, and classic just doesn’t work for me. My thinking is that if these categories were pertinent, there would be a long list of behaviors exclusive for each and there just isn’t.  I correspond with literally hundreds upon hundreds of target partners and, for the most part, we’ve all be hanging around with the same guy. Sure, one narcissist may be a tad smarter than the next or more educated or better in bed or funnier or better with lies on the fly or whatever but these variances, in the long run, are nothing compared to the narcissistic behaviors that we all experience…the silent treatment, the soul-mate effect, disappearances/reappearances, the Cell Phone Game, the word garbage and pathological lying. So, all things in narcissist land being equal, the only thing that I see that makes any significant difference at all is MONEY.

A narcissist with money creates the 5-Star Deception! And the 5-Star Deception means hell for anyone caught up in the narcissist’s fairy tale. You must be willing to let the 5-Star lifestyle go in order to recover. You must be willing to realize it’s a deception and that you are worth far more than the most expensive vacation he can take you on. What good is an extravagant vacation or a beautiful gift if it has the potential to be a very bad memory? Always remember that even with all his money, he will still use you more than you can ever even begin to use him.

The only way to win is to go No Contact and stay no contact. Whether the narcissist has money or not, his “bad” is still as good as he’s ever going to get.

Stay Strong!

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  • thed1va

    June 9, 2016 at 1:57 am Reply

    My narc ex husband pulled off the 5-Star deception. He wooed the woman he cheated with and now his GF with lavish trips, often skipping out on trips with me and our children to jet off with her. It was and is one of the deepest cuts in all of this. Especially since he took her to so many places that were specia to us. At least I thought so. He has now moved her to our country, and they go on great trips, sometimes with our children now. Even though I know what he is, and have even seen how he deceived her, and know of at least 2 others he’s definitely emotionally cheating with, if not ask physically, it still aches that she gets the 5-star perks.

    • Bb

      September 14, 2017 at 7:48 am Reply

      I have the similar scenario and hell yes it makes use aches and fed up thinking of the perks they receive after we left.. it’s as though we gave it to them with our hand. Like I could have stay on and refuse to break up with my ex as with have a kid but I deciding to cut him away and after knowing that i wont go back to him anymore he just totally go to the new girl and spree all the 5 star perks onto her.

  • Maryanne Vella

    May 22, 2016 at 12:15 pm Reply

    Hello Zari, hope you are fine. I read your book “When Love is a Lie” and while reading it I could’nt stop saying “Oh my God” ! The thing is I passed from some of the things you wrote in your book. I left my partner after almost seven years, I Loved him with all my heart but all I got in return were: lies, hiding the truth from me, looks at other women, not telling that I was his patner and alot of emotional pain.

    • Zari Ballard

      May 23, 2016 at 4:19 am Reply

      Hi Maryanne,

      Thank you for reading the book and I’d love it if you’d leave a review on Amazon:) Good for you for getting out when you did. Seven years is long enough to put up with all the lies and deception. You deserve to be happy!

      Zari xo

  • TD

    May 1, 2016 at 10:15 pm Reply

    My last ex N had money…..he took me out to dinner/movie 5 nights a week. I was love bomed and idolized big time!

    Once I was in love…..things changed. This was my 3rd N. Truth be told…perhaps my 5th. However, the first few were low level types….and personally cheap guys are a turn off to me….so the relationships never really got off the ground…

    However, the 3 that did win my heart broke completely….

    I love your books, Zari! I’m working on the courage to write my own!

    • Zari Ballard

      May 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm Reply

      Hi TD,

      It doesn’t take courage…just pick up the pen and write, girl! You gotta start somewhere and the more people bringing awareness about the epidemic, the better. I know it hurts but if you get it on paper, it’s very cathartic. You’ll heal faster than you ever thought possible if you just get started. I’m here to support you….

      Zari xo

      • T

        May 24, 2016 at 11:39 am Reply


        It’s so comforting to be validated! I do want to write a book, but my family feels like I am giving him too much energy, and I should just move on! They have never knowingly dealt with an N (we have an N in the family-they just thinks she’s mean). They just don’t understand why I was nearly destroyed in my last relationship… was perfect for months and then it wasn’t….I still don’t know why he disappeared in the end without a word. We had come to a civil relationship in the end….I had two deaths in my family, and he vanished without a word at the worst time in my life?!
        I get that some folks don’t do “being there” well….but he just ignored me and disappeared. I emailed him and told him he went too far….he was too cruel…and I could never be with a man like him. That was on Jan. 6th…..and besides a few hang up calls from blocked numbers….I haven’t heard from him…..
        I’m glad it’s over, but how can I trust again? I think trusted him with everything….he was my soul mate and we were in love…until he flipped out over nothing….I became the devil in his eyes….and I’m not even sure why?

        We were perfect for each other-never one argument! Not to brag…but I am a great catch for any man….and he just threw me away?
        I’ll never understand that…..

  • Pearl

    November 20, 2015 at 2:55 pm Reply

    I love love!!!!!! your book When Love is a Lie. I am still struggling with my N. I stayed away from him for 2 years but within the last 2 months he has sucked me back in with kind words and promises. I caved and had sex with him last week (which was awesome) and now he is giving me the silent treatment uggghhhh!!!!! ouch this hurts and doesn’t make any sense.

    • Zari Ballard

      November 21, 2015 at 10:20 pm Reply

      Pearl wrote… I stayed away from him for 2 years but within the last 2 months he has sucked me back in…I caved and had sex with him last week (which was awesome) and now he is giving me the silent treatment uggghhhh!!!!! Let this be a lesson to all of us!

      Hi Pearl,

      It actually makes perfect sense because all the narcissist wants – even after two years – is to see if he still has what it takes to lure you back down the rabbit hole. It’s SO evil but it is what it is. I’m sure he figured 2 years was about right for the full memory of his shenanigans while you were together to have faded just enough. I know you’ve read my book…well, guess what? Guess whose been hoovering? The N from my books. Quiet little familiar knocks at the door three separate times (which I didn’t answer), a FB friend request (which I deleted), the plants from my plant stand on my apt stoop dumped upside down on my welcome mat (so I just picked up the mat, walked inside, & put them back together – no muss, no fuss!), strange calls to my son’s phone which is the only phone with a number still good from our time together. And it’s been three years!

      So, stay strong, girl! Don’t let him know it hurts. Act as if you got laid and you’re happy with that and block his number. Although it feels major, consider it a minor setback. Tell him to fuck off…to crawl back under the rock he came out of. – Come up from the rabbit hole – you deserve to be happy!

      Zari xo

      • Pearl

        November 24, 2015 at 5:01 pm Reply

        Hi Zari, I do deserve to be happy and finally I found your book “When Love is a Lie” and I am not crazy. I am not crazy. Thank you so very very much…I was in a weak moment my cat of 20 years was dying he acted like he really cared….but he didn’t even ask what his name was…… Is it normal to want to take his business cards (he gave me a bunch ) and write words like Liar, Cheater, Ass clown Jerk face, etc. on them and throw’em all over town. I want him to hurt!! I want him to leave town. He’s got a new secretary this is why I’m getting the cold shoulder, I think… God I feel bad for her…. he is tough to work for.

        • Zari Ballard

          November 26, 2015 at 9:20 pm Reply

          Pearl wrote…Is it normal to want to take his business cards (he gave me a bunch ) and write words like Liar, Cheater, Ass clown Jerk face, etc. on them and throw’em all over town. I want him to hurt!! Fuck yeah it’s normal! LOL If I can write a book about mine, what harm can a few business cards do??? ha-ha! If you think it’ll make you feel better, toss ’em to the wind!

          Zari xo

          • Pearl

            November 28, 2015 at 7:56 am

            Hi Zari, ……I had not talked or heard from him since the 14th of Nov. but I did get a text on Thanksgiving just saying, ” Happy thanksgiving to you”, at 9am. Good grief!! What the hell?? I was played as a wham bam thank you ma’am……..uuuuggggghhhhhh… I will get a new number after the holidays…….
            Thank you so so much Zari!!!!…this feels wonderful to be able to share all this with you and others and to get great advice that really works and also I believe this will help me guide me into a better relationship with someone new……I will definitly send a couple of my girlfriends to your site…

          • Zari Ballard

            December 1, 2015 at 1:38 pm

            Hi Pearl,

            You’re on the right path, girl! Just stay the course and you’ll be just fine. I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to experience this to “get” it and, for this reason, we’ve got to stick together. Recovery is a team effort!

            Zari xo

        • Tia

          November 27, 2015 at 11:18 am Reply

          Yes, I too think it’s normal to want these bastards to hurt but just make sure it’s not too far out of YOUR character…Every action has a reaction, make sure it doesn’t come back on you. Also, getting back at him still gives him power over you. BUT, it is a process. Getting over someone is tough. I did a few “get backs” before I got to a place of just letting go of him all together. I still have internal urges to get back at him when he emails me through different emails because I’ve blocked him. Or when he drives up alongside me as I’m getting out of my car and mentions things I’ve posted on FB when I’ve blocked him there too. Sometimes I do still want to fuck with his head by showing up at our old apartment that he still lives in and won’t take my name off of, fuck him and then leave without saying a word….I get how you feel, trust me…but he’s a sociopath/narcissist…he really doesn’t give a shit about what I do to get back at him because he likes the game. I would just be hurting myself so I just don’t respond to NOTHING! I’m on the other side of that struggle so nothing he says or does can bring me back into his web….I pray the same for you!

    • Tia

      November 22, 2015 at 10:32 pm Reply


      Zari is right! It’s about control. Narcissists just want to see if they can get you back. It’s always a game. It’s been 8 months since my breakup with my N, 4 months since I cut him completely off and instituted the NO CONTACT rule. During this time, he hoovers for about 3-4 weeks before he shows up somewhere. He’s blocked on FB but somehow he’s able to see my page. Last month I posted that I took Zumba trying to boost members for the teacher, he shows up after a class as I’m walking to my car. I hadn’t seen him in weeks since he was waiting for me to come home one night and drove along side me wanting to talk. I spent a lot of time unraveling the emotional chaos he caused and became enlightened about a lot of stuff. Once you become enlightened, you can’t undo that. It released the bondage he had over me and gave me a path to trusting myself more than anything or anyone. That gave me a tremendous amount of power, not ego power but internal power. Once I got that, he could no longer control me, not even a little bit. So when he pulled up along side me, I was strong enough to deal with him without getting sucked back in. But I would NEVER go to his home, allow him inside mine, allow him to touch me nor would I ever reach out to him for any reason whatsoever. I am totally fine if I never see him again in life. I don’t wish him harm but I don’t wish him well either. I hope this helps…

  • Ln

    October 25, 2015 at 9:09 am Reply

    Hi zari! Just had to join in on the fun. My narcopath has us living in squalor so he can carry wads of hundreds around to impress his whores with. Whether its prostitutes or gay butt sex, either way. He’s a dirty birdie. Yes the woman beating closet fag. Pulled into his freakshow of an existence. He took me off the bank account (always in negative anyway) made sure my vehicle wasn’t working. I wore same tennis shoes till you could see my toes. When I asked to get a new pair? He says well I need new shoes too. On my birthday he went out and bought himself all kinds of clothes. I know this is done with the intent to drive it home that YOU MEAN SHIT AND I’m GOING TO SHOW YOU every chance I can. I have a chunk of money coming from an inheritance. Boy is he fit to be tied. He knows he can’t get his paws on it. There is a real danger in dealing with one like him. I don’t put anything past him but I have to push through his hellish torment to regain my life. He (they) thinks he’s entitled to destroy a life he did not create. When this cash hits my hands… later on Mr Rourke! I know the nightmare is far from over but I am ready for battle with the truth and proof. He knows I’m not afraid of him. Annoyed and digusted? Yep. A funny thing happens when you bottom out with fear. You accept death. In this case its the death of this relationship. I look forward to a future with my kids. With family and friends. Happenings and holidays. I know you understand this. Freedom from the torment of my captor so I can and will dream again. Xoxo

    • Zari Ballard

      October 28, 2015 at 9:53 pm Reply

      Hi Ln,

      Thank you for joining in the fun! LOL Listen, this inheritance coming in…you do realize that you will probably NEVER get another opportunity to fix EVERYTHING for yourself again, right? (And yes, money can fix almost anything). Good, I thought you did! When you’re money comes, take it and run, girl. Never look back! Put shoes on your feet and a roof over your head and forget you ever met the motherfucking fool. No contact is the ONLY way!

      Stay strong & I wish you nothing but the best!

      Zari xo

  • Emma

    September 5, 2015 at 10:18 am Reply

    So this post is spot on! I married a high dollar making N who gave me everything from the get go! I thought I was the most especial / important women in his life. Until….. Then I realized that the gifts, trips, over the top everything was a way to make me stay! I remember one occasion of us having a fight – he knew I was onto him. Next thing I know he shows up with a very expensive bag and a weekend get a way. I felt so bad for fighting – omg how dare I think to fight with such a nice loving husband that gives me everything!

    Well I was number 1 and he treated me like number 1 but he also had a list of girlfriends all over the country that he also bought gifts and spent weekend get a ways! I have now filled for divorce and it has been the divorce from HEll!

    He took away my fairytale life as he calls it, in addition has made sure that I know of all the trips his new source is getting exposed to. Ivam not sad about the trips but more about his lack of remorse for our children. He wants split custody but doesn’t spend time with them and definitely claims that he is the best fit father and I am a crazy bitch trying to use the children as bait!
    I don’t know anyone who has gone through the this but this shit is beyond crazy! Staying married was easier than getting a divorce for sure!

    • thed1va

      June 9, 2016 at 2:04 am Reply

      My ex also said to me at one point after I discovered the affair that led to our divorce, “anyone would love to have your life”. He also makes sure I know about their trips.

  • Alice

    August 1, 2015 at 12:01 am Reply

    Hi there:-)

    First of all, many thanks to Zari for creating this excellent website – I find so much insight and wisdom here, and it helps me to stay no contact in my week moments!

    As to the Narcs in TV shows: since I was involved with “my” narc and have started to educate myself about narc traits and behaviours, I realized that the majority of Main characters on the popular TV shows were in fact narcissistic or a psychopath (often couple with a co-dependent counterpart and several flying monkeys). Some examples:

    – Kevin Spacey’s character in ‘House of Cards’, and his wife Claire (two Narcs!)

    – Tom Kane and his wife in ‘The Boss’ (with Kitty O’Neil as the co-dependent)

    – Danny (Ben Mendelssohn) in ‘Bloodline’ and his co-dependent mum and brother

    – Norma Bates in ‘Bates Motel’ and her pityfully co-dependent son Norman Bates!!! OMG – she is sooo convincing as a narc that it I believe someone in the writers’ room must have had a first-hand narc abuse experience!!!

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