You’re out on a dinner date, and s/he says with a magnetic smile, “Some people say I’m the jealous type, but I’m just really passionate when someone is as attractive as you are” and you smile back, thinking Oh, wow, they think I’m attractive. But really you should be having a hard time finishing your dinner because of the HUGE RED FLAG FREEBIE that Jerkface has just draped across the table.
When someone tells you they’re jealous, or weird about money, or crazily specific about how their partner should wear their hair, what is the appropriate response?
a) Think to yourself: Oh how sweet! They’re so honest and self-aware.
b) Start problem-solving because you are the one person who can fix this about them!
c) Get back on Tinder right after you cut this date short.
The only appropriate answer is “c.” For those of us who were groomed to answer “a” or “b” whether through family, or church, or even just society it can be hard to understand that a relationship does not equal a project. A relationship is not about “making it work,” or deciding you can deal with something. The right way to be in a relationship is to like and respect the life you have made for yourself and then select someone who will work just as fiercely as you have to protect that life.
A healthy relationship is about choosing a worthy, whole person who enhances what you already have and who you already are.
My Jerkface was certainly not going to do that for me. In fact, it seemed his goal in life was to systematically destroy everything I created for myself, including my personality. And he pretty much warned me that he was going to do this but I didn’t believe it. He gave me a frightening preview but instead of picking option C above, I picked B. Instead of thinking, This guy just told me that he will control who I see and what I wear, I thought, This guy’s last girlfriend did this to him, and I’m going to fix him with my unconditional love.
That didn’t happen. What did happen was something you probably experienced yourself or are still experiencing now, if you’re here on this site. What happened is that I lost my friends, my career, and myself.
So how do you recognize when a jerk is telling you upfront that they’re a jerk? Listen for phrases like these:
My ex just didn’t understand me. But I can tell you’re different.
Some people think I’m an angry person, but really I just care so much.
I think that when two people really love each other, they don’t need anyone else.
I can already tell – the way we feel about each other is really special.
I‘ve always been really particular about how my dates look (or what they wear, or how they talk) – and I think you’re perfect.
This isn’t sharing. This is testing. This is how Jerkface determines if you’ll be a willing victim.
Summary: Jerkfaces let you in on their dirty little secrets at first. Believe them when they tell you they’re going to be trouble. A normal date will consist of talking about favorite vacations, hobbies, pets, or life goals. Really. It won’t be Jerkface briefly taking down the narcissist’s mask, testing you, seeing if you’re going to be a good victim. Decide in advance that you won’t be.
Recommended reading: spotting a narcissist on the first date.
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