If you’ve been in a relationship with someone you suspect is a narcissist, there has likely come a time when you developed a burning desire to know the things narcissists do when they’re by themselves.
If we’re to be sophisticated about it, we must consider that like other citizens of society, they engage in activities that are conducive to maintaining a certain level of livelihood. Things like going to work, having their cars serviced, and going to doctor’s appointments.
But apart from those harmless undertakings, things turn rather bleak.
Narcissists rarely ever admit to it, but all your worst fears regarding your relationship are playing out just underneath the radar of your awareness.
You know that ever-present, vague sense of dread you have in the pit of your stomach, wondering if they’re lying or telling the truth? That’s your intuition, which can cause physical sensations in the body.
Our “gut feelings” are called that for a reason — research suggests that emotion and intuition are very much rooted in the “second brain” in the gut. In fact, Michael Gershon, professor and chair of pathology and cell biology at Columbia, says, “The gut can work independently of any control by the brain in your head—it’s functioning as a second brain. It’s another independent center of integrative neural activity”.
But don’t take my word for it. You can read all about it on Psychology Today in an article titled, Your Backup Brain.
My job here is to give you a breakdown of what the narcissist in your life – employing very specific techniques of psychological depravity – does when they think no one is looking. Hidden secrets that would literally bring you to your knees…
Here, I map out thirteen of the most common things narcissists do when they think no one is looking. The possibilities on this topic are endless, but the following is a sampling of the ones I’m most familiar with, some of which I personally experienced.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Things Narcissists Do When They Think No One Is Looking
1 – Go through your personal things
Narcissists are constantly doing things that they will eventually be confronted with. Therefore, they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to dig up the most minuscule piece of incriminating evidence against you so that they will have ammunition when they are finally caught.
Many times, what they find “incriminating” is just a figment of their imagination or something entirely fabricated. For example, I used to work in the banking industry for years before I left to become a teacher and, later, to create this space for narcissistic abuse recovery.
As a bank employee, I wore suits which required me to wear pantyhose. One day, I accidentally tore a hole in a pair of them and discarded them in the trash. My ex, during his regular “dirt diving” practice, found them and confronted me with them, accusing me of having been unfaithful.
Of course, he was entirely wrong, but you can probably imagine how it turned out.
Long story short, narcissists engage in sneaky, underhanded behaviors every day. In many cases, they think other people are like them, but just better at hiding it. In others, they simply want to have something to throw in your face when you discover they’re still doing ‘that thing’ they promised you they would stop doing.
A general exception to this shady practice is the cerebral narcissist, who uses their intelligence to lord over others. They think most people are simpletons who don’t have anything interesting going on in their lives, except, of course, other academics and scholars whom the cerebral narcissist is insanely jealous of.
2 – Create numerous dating profiles
Not all narcissists cheat, but most of them do. The ones who don’t tend to be of the “cerebral” ilk and simply do not enjoy having intimate relations with other people.
But if the narcissist you know is attractive, extroverted, and likes being the center of attention, it is very likely they are doing things you would be horrified to learn about.
To the narcissist, seducing people is another tool for manipulation, control, exploitation, and destroying the self-esteem of their partner(s). In most cases, there’s serial cheating, withholding affection, degrading requests, verbal assaults, and addiction to off-color websites.
Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they’re so skilled in the bedroom that their partners often stay in the abusive relationship because they’ve never had it so good, which creates a twisted dynamic leading to self-loathing, guilt, and shame.
At any rate, narcissists have a track record of being serial cheaters. This explains why they generally have their cell phones on lockdown, leave the room when certain calls come in, and are oddly obsessed with a text exchange as you’re sitting down to dinner during your anniversary.
If you’ve caught them doing this, don’t be fooled by their seeming attempt to earn back your trust. It doesn’t matter if they let you go through their phone if they’ve secured a secret line behind your back.
If it feels weird, you’re probably onto something. Don’t ignore your gut on this one.
3 – Try to get in touch with their exes on social media
Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting at your work desk and decide to call your partner (whom you suspect is a narcissist) to check in and get a feel for how things are going. They seem fairly friendly and the two of you make plans for dinner and a movie that night. You hang up feeling relieved and begin to think your recent arguments were probably just normal relationship issues. You feel slightly elated thinking about how the evening will unfold.
The narcissist, however, hangs up and goes back to liking their ex’s Facebook and Instagram photos. The two of you have been arguing a lot lately (due to their relationship crimes), so they have to line up another source or two of narcissistic supply to have as a backup for when you finally come to your senses and give them the much-needed boot.
Moral of the story? Never trust that the narcissist will be a decent person. Ever.
4 – Visit websites of very dubious merit
Since the media powers-that-be are now filtering and blocking certain terms and phrases, I am unable to express the exact terminology I’d like to use here, but, suffice it to say that many narcissists, when alone, spend hours on various websites of very dubious merit.
Sites that would break your heart and devastate you for weeks on end if you’re in a romantic relationship with them.
If you have discovered your narcissistic partner has been visiting such sites, you can bet with 99% certainty that he or she also has online dating profiles and is probably hooking up with other people behind your back. At the very least, they are likely engaging in things via the internet with people they’ve met online that would make you feel unwell.
5 – Try to turn your family and friends against you
Contrary to popular belief, the narcissist’s smear campaign doesn’t begin just after your breakup. In many cases, it’s been alive and well for some time. You just weren’t aware of it.
The reason everyone now runs in the opposite direction from you or, at the very least, looks at you with a raised eyebrow, is that the narcissist has been smearing your reputation since before the relationship even ended. The two main reasons for this are:
- All relationships are doomed in the narcissist’s mind and they want to get a running start on assassinating your character.
- They assume you will vent to people in your shared social circle and want to ensure they cut you off at the pass so you will look unstable when you muster the courage to start talking about your experiences.
These actions are to preserve the false image they’ve portrayed all along. Unfortunately, they’re often very successful at doing this. If your friends or family have suddenly started pulling back or questioning your judgement, the narcissist has likely planted the seeds of doubt in their minds. If they openly side with the narcissist when you begin sharing your relationship struggles, it’s time to start whittling down your inner circle.
6 – Plant spyware on your devices or install hidden cameras in your shared residence
This can happen a few different ways.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, don’t assume they aren’t smart enough to track you using your devices. I’ve seen this assumption come crashing down around people’s ankles more times than I’d like to admit.
One common method that abusers use to legally track you is by using the geolocation services built into all smartphones; if you know, or can guess, the password to someone’s cloud account, you can follow their movements via the software designed to find lost or stolen phones that comes installed on many devices. Many times, the abuser sets up a cloud account for the person they want to track, giving them full access to their target’s location at any moment.
If you suspect you’re dealing with a narcissist, don’t accept a phone from them that they’ve set up for you using their cellular account. If you do, you can assume they’ve set it up to track you.
Another way abusers can keep tabs on you is by installing spyware on your electronic devices. Some of these spyware can be installed remotely. It’s somewhat more difficult to install spyware this way than it used to be, but it still happens.
Most spyware is designed to track not only your location but also monitor your calls, voicemails, texts, and emails – and even watch you using the camera on your device.
7 – Sabotage your finances
I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve worked with in my coaching practice who’ve been financially devastated because they gave in to the narcissist’s seemingly genuine requests to give them a loan, start a business together, open joint accounts, or buy a house or vacation home together.
They may have loaned you money or paid for a big-ticket item at some point to make you believe they are generous, but it was only to instill in you a sense of obligation in preparation for the debilitating shaft you’d get from them later.
Another scheme that falls into this category is the narcissist asking for your support while they are unemployed. These schemes are all designed to “break the seal” in the area of financial matters so they can take shocking liberties later, such as:
- Getting loans in your name
- Taking out a second mortgage on your home without your knowledge
- Not paying IRS taxes, resulting in your possible confinement in jail
- Expecting you to pay for everything while they save their own money for themselves
- Forcing you to get all the utilities and insurances in your name so you’ll have to pay for them all
…and so on and so forth.
If you’ve been having problems in your relationship and believe your partner is a narcissist, it would be in your best interest to avoid mingling your finances in any way. If you already have, start a secret account and begin adding money to it whenever you can. Have your statements delivered to a family member’s address.
Prevent narcissistic financial abuse early by stashing away money when you can and refusing to put your name on any legal documents with them.
8 – Spy on you
We already covered spyware and tracking apps that narcissistic abusers can use to keep tabs on your whereabouts in #6.
However, many narcissists will literally stalk you so they can see what you do when they’re not with you.
While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, a good working definition of stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual toward another person through the carrying out of behaviors intended to frighten, distress the victim, and/or instill a sense of guilt and hopelessness in the victim (which often leads to learned helplessness). Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and usually include following the victim (in person) and monitoring them.
According to Lamber Royakkers, author of The Dutch Approach to Stalking Laws (California Criminal Law Review 3, October 2000):
“Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have a current relationship or a recent one. Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect).”
Disruptions in daily life that are necessary to escape a stalker can include changes in employment, residence, and phone numbers. Many targets of stalking have had to move to another country and basically go into hiding.
Many of my coaching clients have been stalked by their narcissistic partners. Stalking behaviors carried out by narcissists can include:
- Constant texts, emails, and phone calls
- Frequent, unwanted deliveries of gifts, cards, and flowers
- Constantly driving by your home
- Showing up at your place of employment or favorite hangout
- Spreading rumors or publishing personal information about you on social media
- Using social media to follow and friend your social media followers and friends in order to keep an eye on you
- Installing spyware on your computer or cell phone
- Finding out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers
- Using technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go
- Threatening to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
Stalking is often mistaken as hoovering in that once a source of supply expresses a desire to end the relationship, the narcissist refuses to give up their power by forcing themselves into the victim’s world through harassing, following, and monitoring.
Stalking is a common behavior of narcissists when a source of supply tries to initiate No Contact. When stalking begins, the victim typically has a clearer picture of what kind of person the narcissist is…which is why they want to go No Contact in the first place.
If you believe you are being stalked, you should avoid downplaying the issue as it will only get worse over time. You may have to take protective measures to secure your sense of peace, privacy, and security.
9 – Flirt with your best friend (or even your adult children)
When it comes to narcissistic cheaters, no one is off-limits. In fact, narcissists often derive a twisted sense of accomplishment if they can get your loved one interested in them, like your best friend or adult child.
So, imagine you’re at work and it’s the narcissist’s day off. You think everything is relatively calm and feel a spark of emotional safety. Then, you get a call from your best friend and they give you the very unsettling news that the narcissist has made a pass at them.
If you’re best friend is truly loyal, they will tell you about this the moment it happens.
But in some cases, the flirting continues while remaining a secret. Maybe your friend has experienced a string of failed relationships. Or they’ve recently gone through a difficult divorce. Vulnerability makes a person a prime target in the narcissist’s mind and this may well include your best friend.
My best advice? Never trust the narcissist alone with your friends or family members.
10 – Plan secret rendezvous with their side-supply
Speaking in very general terms, when a narcissist has an out-of-town trip planned, whether for work or for their third cousin’s wedding, there is a strong likelihood that they will meet their side supply there or even take him or her with them.
Narcissists are creatures of economy and rarely pass up an opportunity to groom supply. In fact, the narcissist could well be dubbed The Constant Gardner because they are perpetually trolling for and grooming new targets, even though they always have a main source of narcissistic supply. Furthermore, they are continuously ending relationships for various reasons, especially with those who require a lot of “maintenance” (i.e. normal human interactions) or have stopped giving them money or other fringe benefits. Therefore, they must fill in the gaps left by those they’ve discarded by securing new supply sources.
Those work trips the narcissist always goes on? They could very well be genuine, but don’t be surprised when the new supply calls you, asking who you are and what you’re doing calling the narcissist!
11 – Hoover old sources of supply (a.k.a., their exes)
Narcissists typically don’t let go of their exes completely (unless their exes completely let go of them). They’ve been known to contact old flames out of the blue, sometimes as long as ten years post-breakup!
Not all narcissists do this, but most do. When a person has passed the litmus test for being “good supply”, narcissists literally can’t help themselves and will often reach out in an attempt to resurrect old relationships (albeit, one-sided ones).
This explains why you may have noticed how the narcissist in your life likes to remain “friends” with their exes or wants you to be friends after your relationship has ended.
It gives them an ‘in’ if they ever need to cycle back around.
12 – Pave the way for their next relationship
You’ve probably read a hundred times how narcissists leave relationships and then swan dive right into a new one.
Maybe this happened in the aftermath of your own relationship with a narcissist.
The main reason this happens is that narcissists don’t bond with people. Not romantically, not traumatically (at least, not for them), nor matrimonially. We form these bonds with narcissists, but they are not able to form emotional bonds with us due to their true lack of empathy and inability to attach to others.
Another reason narcissists are able to form relationships so quickly is that any many cases, the relationship isn’t so new. If you’ll remember from earlier, narcissists are always combing for fresh sources of narcissistic supply. Because of this, most narcissists are perpetually in various stages of relationship with other people, from the shiny, newbie supply to those who are enduring varying levels of the narcissistic abuse cycle.
Therefore, when they showcase the new supply on their social media accounts, it’s usually not someone they’ve just met, though narcissists are often very skilled in making it appear so.
13 – Emotional abuse of partners and spouses
If you’ve ended a romantic relationship with a narcissist, you probably saw them out and about, loving up on the new partner and seemingly having the best time of their life. You see them flashing an engagement ring on social media and sending out ‘save the date’ notifications, broadcasting how silly in love they are and giggling about how they feel like a couple of teenagers.
Your first reaction might be to (stunningly) wonder what this new person has that you don’t. Just maybe, the narcissist had been right about you all along. Perhaps you really ARE the reason your relationship with them didn’t work out.
Then, you feel completely disabled by the seeming about-face the narcissist has made with the new supply, sending you into a depression so deep you can barely get through the day.
This is just another phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle and applies to you the same as it does to everyone else. The narcissist you know is no different from the others. As personal and unique as it all may feel, it’s just another blueprint of narcissistic manipulation.
When you see this happening, it’s crucial not to take it personally. This is one of the narcissist’s favorite times, when they are love-bombing new supply while simultaneously making you feel like discarded trash. The narcissist can’t help but gloat over how they’re able to make you feel emotionally destroyed, left to pick up the pieces while they’re off living their life as though your history together means nothing.
What you’re not thinking about is how the new supply will be subject to the same emotional abuse that you’ve endured. There are no exceptions to this. Don’t listen to the new trend of so-called professional advice which states that narcissists are only abusive towards YOU because your personality is incompatible with theirs, which is on my list of ‘Stupid Sh*t Therapists Say’.
Narcissists are abusive towards everyone. Regardless of status, ethnicity, intelligence, religious beliefs, or how tiny their waist is. The new supply simply won’t be spared, unfortunately.
Healing From the Trauma of Narcissistic Abuse
It’s absolutely crucial to come to terms with the unsettling things narcissists do when they think no one is looking so you can make educated decisions for your future and your wellbeing.
Don’t let yourself fall into a false sense of security because the narcissist knows what to say to soften your defenses and make you doubt your judgement. Pay attention to patterns because patterns don’t lie.
With the right support, you’ll be shocked at how amazing it feels when you can flourish on the other side of abuse and heal your life in ways you never thought possible.
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