I’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.
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.
The 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!
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.