As an eighteen year old, I dodged a bullet.  I realised that my first real boyfriend – a charming, charismatic individual – had a dark side.  He also had two angry parents. I sensed that the chances of enjoying long-term quality of life with Mr Charming were not good. So, I walked away before the relationship became too serious.  

Unfortunately, I assumed that having dodged that bullet meant that I was savvy enough to keep myself safe in future relationships. That belief did not serve me well.

A few years later, when my professional life was starting to take off, I met a charming, different man.He quickly declared his passionate love for me, and I stepped blithely into the fairy tale.

I married a Narcissist.  In haste.   The mask of charm soon disappeared, and my life became increasingly unhappy. But I had no idea what was going on, so I blamed myself and stuck it out. For  a number of years.

How does that happen?

And especially how does it happen to bright, educated women – and men -who appear to have a handle on their lives? In reality, there are 5 reasons why being bright will not protect you from a Narcissist.

1) You overestimate how smart your brain is.  Your brain is great at problem-solving – provided you feed it the right kind of problems.  However, it is no match for your emotions.  Smart people get involved in wrong relationships – and stay in wrong relationships – because Narcissists target the heart.   They know how easy it is to get your heart to override your brain.  That leads, in short order, to the disastrous belief that you can still find your way to the Happily Ever After together. Despite the ever increasing evidence to the contrary.

2) You overlook your intuition.  People say that you can’t see a Narcissist coming. I disagree. Over the years, the many hundreds of clients that  I have coached on overcoming Narcissistic abuse, all had that initial, intuitive moment of recoil. I did, too.  There was just something  about the person that did not sit well with them.  But since they could not identify that something, they disregarded it.  Plus, their conscious mind  kicked in to tell them how many boxes the person ticked.  You overlook your intuition at your peril. When you do, you eventually arrive by the slow, hard route at the conclusion your intuition had reached in a split second. 

3) You are not as secure in yourself as you could be.  Confidence, or more correctly, a lack of confidence is endemic in our society.  Deep down most of us have a shaky sense of self-worth, at best.  When someone comes along who seems deliciously confident and smitten with us, that feels a kind of rescue.  Instead of having to wade through our anxiety and self-doubt, we can just bask in seeing ourselves through that other person’s  eyes.  When that person start s to pull the emotional rug from under our feet, we feel even less confident than we did before.  So, increasingly, we feel dependent on the person (Narcissist) who makes us feel bad to make us feel good.

4) You are better at denial and making excuses for bad behaviour than you are at making yourself your own priority.  Why would you be in a relationship where you are not getting your needs met?  Because you, a) cling to the fantasy of the Happily Ever After and b) have been conditioned to believe that treating yourself like you matter is selfish.  Clearly, your good brain should clarify the situation. Unfortunately, however efficiently your brain may continue to work in less emotionally charged areas of your life, it is totally out of its depth when it comes to your loving relationships. Besides,

5) You didn’t know what to look for.  Narcissism has recently become “a thing”.  Not before time, it if finding its way into the public eye.  More information about Narcissism is now available than ever before – for those that actively look for it.  At present, however, individuals only avail themselves of that information once they have been preyed on by a Narcissist. It is down to the individual to work out for themselves if they have grown up with Narcissistic parents, or committed to a Narcissistic partner.  Or, not uncommonly, both.  

Narcissism, like domestic violence,  needs to be recognised as society’s problem rather than the problem of the unsuspecting individual. Until that happens, protecting yourself from the wiles of Narcissists is down to the individual.  Your brain may be ill-suited for the job but your intuition is not. That is what it is designed for.  Trust it and you will spare yourself a lot of heartbreak.