Narcissists are able to manipulate others so well because they are continually on the lookout for our vulnerabilities. Once they hone in on what’s important to you, they will use those things against us. Some examples of vulnerabilities might be our children, any self-esteem issues or insecurities we might have (weight, appearance, etc.), or fears – such as being alone or threats of violating court orders and finances in my case. Money was a major issue during our divorce.
The narcissistic psychopath will place a guilt trip on you when they want you to do something for them. They will make note of all the sacrifices they have made for you, the gestures they have made for you, and any minuscule compliment they have paid you. Your actions should be in recognition and repayment of those things. And when you refuse to comply or pay up, they claim it is your fault, with no other choice available but to comply and wield to their wishes.
It’s all your fault. Somehow in someway, his cheating, lying, and other bad behavior is also your fault. Perhaps he’s telling you that you needed to be home more, or to spend more time with him, lose weight, gain weight, dress sexier, dress less sexy–whatever. According to him, his behavior is your fault. (This is the classic, “Look at what you made me do.”)
I can remember one perfect example where my narcissistic partner used guilt as his weapon of choice to get me to wield to his will. We were living in the same house during our divorce. Regardless of our agreement that we would each have our own separate bedrooms; he hated losing that one piece of control over me. He would constantly pick my bedroom lock breaking in, insisting it was HIS house, HIS room, and HE should have access to my bedroom anytime HE wished. So after numerous times of my privacy being invaded, I had hired a locksmith and installed a pick-proof lock.
I had planned to get away for a few days, leaving for the weekend. Prior to my departure, my narcissistic partner insisted that I leave my bedroom door unlocked, providing him full access. Using guilt as an emotional tactic he stated, “If you don’t leave the door open when you leave, I will call a locksmith and personally charge you the $300 that it cost to open it.” He was going to charge me for HIS breaking into my bedroom!
He knew I was concerned about the finances. His spending was out of control. Yet, every minute of every day he was claiming that I was the one violating the court’s status quo order, holding threats of motions over me. Pouncing on my vulnerability and fears, I fell for his guilt trip hook, line and sinker. I welded to his wishes and left my door unlocked. He had guilted me into thinking it was my fault he had to hire a locksmith to break into my personal bedroom!
He also tried many times after that to punish me using guilt where our children were concerned. After various court appearances, regardless of his illegal activities and high priced attorney, it was my fault he was spending so much money on our divorce. Then telling our son he could no longer afford to help with his rent one week before it was due because it was my fault.
The same day we signed our settlement agreement, after much negotiation, he stated “I hope you’re happy, I can’t afford to support our children’s education because of you.” When I wouldn’t agree to his demands, he followed through on his threats telling the children all their college funds were gone because again it was apparently all my fault.
Deep down I knew it wasn’t true, but he had hit below the belt where it hurt most – our kids. And he would continue to do so over the months that followed, trying to guilt me especially where our children were concerned. He stayed true to his threats over the years, that if I ever left he would leave me with nothing, and turn my own children against me. He certainly tried. Alienation and disparagement are also common tactics the narcissist commonly use.
Once you learn these manipulative tactics, they’re easy to spot. However, not always easy to control your way of responding to those actions that have been conditioned over the years. Especially when they prey upon your fears and vulnerabilities. Stay true to what you know – what you feel is your truth. And as I quote Disney’s Elsa “Let it go” as best you can. You’re not crazy or delusional. You have a right to your own opinions, beliefs and integrity. Believe in yourself.