How does the narcissist fool people who’ve known them for years?


My ex narcopath has a terrible reputation…but he also has quite a few people who have known him for years and think he’s great–people who swear up and down that I must be lying about the abuse. This boggles my mind! The guy gets in trouble all the time for raging, bullying, violence, and more. He’s been arrested multiple times, a few women have had restraining orders, he gets sued from time to time, he’s got a long history of reckless driving, and he gets fired from jobs repeatedly due to his bullying. He’s know to be a huge jerk. His pattern is a match for anti-social personality disorder. It’s loud and clear. Our marriage therapist saw it right away, as have many others. So how in the world are people NOT seeing it?!?!

First of all, some of them probably do see it and know exactly what it means, but choose not to care. Maybe they are as bad as he is? Or maybe they are so selfish that they don’t care if someone is an abuser unless/until it hurts them? Some people probably see the pattern and have no clue what it means. Others see it, but don’t realize the extent of how bad it is, so they think he’s normal. Others have blinders on and don’t see it.

But the key to all of this is: the narcissist builds very shallow relationships, but makes people feel like they are closer than they truly are. The narcissist can spend superficial time with someone without ever revealing a bit about themselves. If the time is short and spaced out, the narc can behave pretty well. It’s only when you start seeing them regularly that the truth is obvious. The narcopath I deal with has people who have known him thirty years and think he’s great…but they only see him for a few hours or a couple days a few times a year. So, they think about how they’ve known him for thirty years–which is a really long time to know someone–and they believe they truly do KNOW him. It’s easy to be fooled. I’ll bet if they were asked to answer simple questions about him, they’d realize they don’t know much of anything about him. Some people have no clue what he does for a living, where his family is, where he works…or anything that you would know if you truly did know someone.

When the narcopath was grooming me, he spent over two years getting in and out of contact with me. He’d chat from time to time and “check in,” so I felt like I knew him. When we started dating and he wanted to move really fast–getting married in six weeks–I justified it by saying I’d known him over two years.

I didn’t know him at all.

My dad was sharper than I was. The first time he met the narcopath, he took me aside and warned me to stay away. I was confused! The narc seemed great to me! They had so much in common that I thought my dad would be proud of the guy I’d brought to meet him. But my dad pointed out that, when he tried to ask the narc deeper or more personal questions, the narc’s face turned hard and he avoided the questions. My dad noted that, by the end of their meeting, he still knew nothing about the narc. Most people would never notice this.

Narcissists are often extremely outgoing, friendly and jovial, so when a person knows the narc casually, they have good, warm feelings of fun conversations. They don’t tend to think critically and ask themselves what they really know about the narc. Even when someone does warn them about the narc, they remember the witty guy from the party and dismiss the idea that he could be anything other than what they saw.

The narcissist predator draws people in, charms them, says all the right things, and finds ways to connect. Narcs get people off their guard and they can be very charismatic. The narc can draw people into a conversation that seems very involved and very friendly, but the targets never realize that they are exposing all their secrets while the narc isn’t saying anything personal. Because they have shared an intimate conversation, the targets feel closer to the narc. People like telling their stories and talking about themselves. It makes them feel good and it makes them feel heard. Do they realize that they are doing all the talking while the narc does all the listening?

In extreme cases, when the narcopath ends up committing a violent crime and getting caught, these people are the very people who will say “I’ve known him thirty years and he’d never do anything like that.”

Did they know the narcissist? Were they paying attention? Or did they fall for a false intimacy based on knowing someone for a long time instead of knowing them well?

Since dealing with a sociopath, I have learned that you can never know a thing about a person unless you have lived with them or worked closely with them on a regular basis. Sometimes I wonder if someone I think I know is really a violent abuser at home. I’ve definitely learned to be on guard! And more importantly, I’ve learned to think carefully about my friendships so I can tell the difference between knowing a real friend and thinking I know a false friend.

16 thoughts on “How does the narcissist fool people who’ve known them for years?

  1. One of the best posts on narcissism that I think I have ever read. I have noted your observations as being quite similar to my own. Shallow as sidewalks, and twice as boring. LOL. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. The narc is only fooling themselves with an im ok mentality knowing they r not ok. The associations are getting an education in narcissism. No fools no folly just pure learning. Lifes good when u check mate. Narcs are some of the best teachers one will ever have in the university of life.

  3. These people have two faces, One for you and under your roof and one for everyone else. I was with my husband for 30 years. Married for 25. After being married for 10 years things started changing. Very,very slowly. I didn’t realize it at first, until I started looking back. It started with alittle yelling and screaming. A little controlling behavior. Add in emotional abuse, mental abuse
    Name calling, and isolating. As I said very slowly alittle at a time.then all of a sudden I’m saying what the hell happened? Well the last 5 years I left him twice. The second time I decided to give it one more time. We had been separated for over a year. I told him when I left him I was afraid of him he had started getting aggressive. I was very cautious but we got a house in Nov 2014. By Jan of 2015 big mistake. I was stuck. I used all my money to set up a house
    In March in wanted me to leave. I told him no my name was on the lease agreement to. He told me he would make it so hard on me I’d pack and leave. I was living in hell. I cleaned he house every 3 days. I did everything I could do to make him happy. Nothing I did please d him.he was controlling, naming calling, degradind comments. Shoving and pushing. I just couldn’t believe this is happening to me. I left all right in a ambulance. On the way out he said ” don’t come back you wouldn’t be safe.” So I went to hospital for a few days. Then to a domestic violence shelter for 8 days to recuperate. I filed a restraining order he was order to leave the house and to stay away from for 12 months. He order to pay alimony. And charge with assult and battery 18 months probation anger management, Domestic Violence classes etc. But I’m still afraid, I still have night mstes, my daughter as some me up at night screaming. Sometimes I’m afraid to go to sleep. I cry alot, I’m depressed alot. Sometimes I don’t know why. I’m such a mess sometimes I can’t handle my self. I want to go somewhere in a middle of a field and scream until I can’t scream no more. Even though I followed the law and pre say won. What did I win.yes he’s out he still rides by he still haunts my dreams, and I my be facing back surgery from the last
    Beating. Who really won. I tell my story when ever I can. It’s alittle different each time depending on my mood what I remember from one time to the next
    But one thing I like to at the end is this: My SISTERS OUT THERE. Put back some money pack a back pack with a couple changes of clothes in it. Put important in there. Please write down important phone numbers. (I did not have my phone with me and I could only remember one phone number it was my on brother, he would not help me ii fact he hung up on me and someone I thought wasa friend blocked the number from the shelter I was calling form) so you don’t no who can trust or who will be willing to help. This is so important. This way if you have a list of people someone on your list will help you. Don’t think you know so and so will help you. You might be surprised. Ok your BACK pack save money if its just alittle at a time all I got out with was a night gown , underwear, pocketbook. I had no other clothes for 4 days. I had no money,MEDS, phone, shoes I had nothing.After The 7th day I was well enough to have to have a police officer escort to my my home to.get my personal belongings
    I ask for my phone and he said he hadn’t seen it. So please plan ahead if you see yourself going down this road. Take care and be safe

  4. Narcissists are often extremely outgoing, friendly and jovial, so when a person knows the narc casually, they have good, warm feelings of fun conversations.>>>

    Great post.
    As I write this I am blue because I can not attend a fabulous event that my now exbf’s sociopathic/narc brother is attending right now.
    A retrospective and party for the great photographer Irving Penn.
    It’s being held at the Smithsonian in D.C.
    The narc is wildly popular and has over 400 friends on his FB page.
    His former work colleagues and the US Military know there is something wrong with him.
    (I know from the exBF that he left on bad terms with his branch of the Military (although official records show otherwise and he’s now gone into business for himself because all the high profile companies he has worked for have ended up with co workers dreading him)
    But he has a wide range of longtime friends.
    A lot of them are women.
    One he is friends with solely because of her money and high powered connections.
    Backstory is that when I starting dating my now exBF, his brother was secretly badmouthing me behind my back.
    Telling my bf I was too fat, the fattest girl my bf ever dated (at a normal size 6)
    Then turning around and telling me that he was my friend and that my bf was holding a candle for another girl. That his own brother was a turd.
    He also tagged along on many of our first dates.
    My bf excused it that his little brother was lonely and since he just got out of the navy that he had missed him.
    So even though it struck me as odd, I was a good sport.
    The first heads up to what a creep his brother is is when the bf invited him to come along to NYE party at a club with us.
    His brother got drunk and was gossiping about me and then suddenly launched at me and grabbed at my breast.
    In front of my bf.
    Who merely excused the bad behavior as being “drunken sadness”

    From then on over the years I pointed out the weird, selfish behavior of my bf’s brother, but he always excused it.
    Even claimed it was because his brother probably liked liked me.

    I made it clear one day that I saw through the mask and that’s when his brother turned on me.
    Called me a C word, W word, B word.
    Again my bf excused it.

    Since then the brother would badmouth me and ignore me at all family functions.
    Even when I attended the funeral for their dead Grandmother.

    Finally I did learn more from my BF about his brother’s behavior growing up and it shows that Narcs/Socios start young. His brother would fly into such rages over the slightest problem that their parents sent him to a shrink.
    Apparently he would toss himself around the house screaming bloody murder if he didn’t get his way.
    Man, would I love to see those reports.

    But that was the last straw.

    Fast forward and his brother has managed to land a decade younger sweet and pretty girlfriend.
    They have managed to stay together for over a year and I shake my head for what this girl is in for someday.

    And perhaps creepiest of all the gf is a good little Catholic. And devout Atheist brother has pretended to be a good Catholic in front of her.
    Very sickening.

    And yes, the narc is a HUGE reason we broke up.

  5. A lot of people are easy to charm and fool. Strangers loved my ex and he had a million acquaintances but very few close friends. He had no empathy, compassion, depth…. I could never get any real support from him. He wasn’t ever interested in anything I had to say. But he was very social and liked meeting people at first, then friends noticed how he didn’t have any substance and that he only charmed people for approval and attention and when he couldn’t get much out of them, he moved on to someone else. I’m glad I realized what he was and don’t want to encounter a narcissist again.

  6. Fantastic, Sterling Effort. My personal experience rings true with all that you written. I would like to insert *COWARD*, Selfish Self – Centered Coward. Keep up your terrific work☺♥☺

  7. I’ve dealt with a narcissistic boss and you described her perfectly! I am just like you – determined to expose the inexcusable behavior of narcissists and other abusers!! I’ve actually written two books detailing the destruction they did to my self-esteem. The first is how I survived my abusive ex-boyfriend (Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman) and the second is about the hell my former boss put me through, Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worst Employee. I would love to hear what you think of my stories.

  8. Wow… walk a mile in my shoes. This is my father, brothers, ex-husband and a man I dated for five years. It ended when he assaulted me for the last time. I called 911 for help and got an officer no better than he was. She didn’t get a statement from me, she didn’t check me for injuries, she wouldn’t listen to my kids telling them he had done it before….. The officer arrested me in front of my kids and then left them home by themselves not knowing when I would be returning. Te man who assaulted me stalked us right out of our home and still no help from RCMP. I have lived in fear for over five years! These people can be VERY DANGEROUS. One of my cats was killed, a screw in my tire, followed, watched, he ran me off the road twice .. the second time with an off duty police officer behind me who did end up telling RCMP he had witnessed it… but still no help. I’m not very good a recognizing these people. I was raised by one. If you see the signs get out. If you see someone around who doesn’t recognize it HELP THEM GET OUT. Leaving these people is not easy and it can be very dangerous. Thank you so much for posting your story. The violence needs to stop and police need to ensure victims are not revictimized.

    • I hope things are better for you now. I was a victim of both an abusive relationship and an abusive boss. I’ve shared my stories with the world in the hope it will create positive change. The violence needs to stop!! Please visit and see if my stories will help you heal.

  9. So recognizable… my ex hb, so charming knows to say all the right things, at work they all love him. He would do all the talking in case I might spell all the scecrets he had. Because no one was to find out his duis, battery assault (yes on me). I feel so stupid I wasted my energy and resources in him. I felt sorry for him as he had a bad childhood and yes all the crazy exes. I have done the craziest things .. visited him jail every single time..and when I out and back home he suddenly would whisper you cunt… after paying all his lawyers fees. No still didn’t leave him, I must have heard if wrong? Did he really say that? He loved to do that esp. out with other people. Or the 3000¥ bike I had to buy for him, if not I didn’t love him. Then paying his doctors boards etc then rehab which I refused as it was the third time, he was so mad at me, how dare I, as I became more and more reluctant, he was already fishing for new behind my back, I noticed changes ..was he seeing someone, on no how dare I say that, I was an idiot, crazy, borderline psychopath. I hired a PI and sure I was right … picture proof. I then said look I’m asking you one question…and you better tell me the ofcourse. I showed him the pictures, got mad again, how dare I hire a PI, you start to doubt your insanity. In the mean time he convinced everyone I was crazy, and he was so alone and miserable, he had to cheat. Well…now that I was found crazy anyways, I better behave crazy haha …I glued his door lock close… and broke his (or mine?) bike. I had fun watching him,trying to get out of the house en then wanting to bike to get to work…which he couldn’t. Haha, now je has another sob crazy ex story to tell. Wow why are these things happening to him,

  10. Oh and the worse..he had original a felony battery assault and woyjd have been convicted…but,,if he was to have a felony…he could not ever be a doctor..his whole life would be over. The prosecutor was not going to drop charges, and well, there was enough proof, eventually it did became a dismeanor (yes I wantec to save him) however he can never wipe it off his record, it will always show up. And guess what…now he tells everyone the story that I made it all up, I set him up. God I wished I had known cuz I was in really bad shape and I pray it will never happen to another. To make matters worse, for 7 years he was in and off drunk, this that, and now it’s over for a year, he can function for a whole year in a residency and oh they are so happy with him. Yeah even still thinking was it me then… but no he has had this trouble since childhood. 4 duis last 2 in 3 years. Possession of drugs, drunk in public, every so many year, always someone who saves him, he Didn’t start working (residency) until he was 41 years old. Well…maybe he has changed. I hope it for everyone around him. But I’m still affected by it..everyday it’s walking on eggshells. Never feel safe in your own home. What he accused me of, he was himself. I wasted soooo much energy, I coukd have given people who actually needed it. It took so much out of me…I was drained. That’s what they do,.. drain you until you are not useful anymore. Oh and all the people he works with love him, but he would cinstantky badmouth them, hating them, but yet soooo friendly to them, if they knew what he was saying abou5 them. Also to his mother he would punish her not talking or seeing her, if did something he didn’t like, or text her I love you sad then say she is such a Bitch. His new girlfriend, when the cheating cans out he broke up with her (telling her…my wife is crazy so it’s safest) and telling me how awful it was and how he liked her first but then was bored her, even telling secrets she told him. I actually told her that as a warning. I think he was hoping I would still… or at least stay friends with him, and still financially support him (no ! Braking his bike etc was my Answer) she was telling me how dare you hire a PI ? Uh cuz we were married and I had a stinking feeling, and I didn’t belief his lies… I too reliazed I lied all the time. When I saw him lie that time, it was all a lie. He was he lied sometimes he would go all crazy and saw I feel like I’m a fraud.. I get it as he IS a fraud,
    The girl did go back to him btw…even though she actually saw what he wrote about her…. well.. i remember myself in the beginning and probably if..wouldn’t have believed it… it true it’s like living in the twilight’s scary.. sorry so’s still affecting me, and I shouldn’t … cuz he forgot about it 1 minute later, and he is just not worth it. I don’t want to ever be involved in anything like that againu, I’m very cautious and can’t even start to begin abouta new relationship again. Plz to anyone in such a situation please run…so fast… don’t get sucked in. I was such a; independent, strong person and can’t belief that i let this happen to me..but they are good!!! Very convincing !

  11. Excuse for language I’m not native English …sorry for so long… but it just all,comes back to me..and thanks as I’m realizing I need to move forward.

  12. Jeez bad errors
    I too reliazed I lied all the time. When I saw him lie that time, it was all a lie. He was he lied sometimes he would go all crazy and saw I feel like I’m a fraud.. I get it as he IS a fraud,

    This should be I too realized HE lied All the time, straight face, (and inside it would letll me something is wrong but it seemed convincing). It was all a lie, the whole marriage. He would get depressed often and say… I feel I am such a fraud … cuz he IS a fraud. He was ousted out of his residency …he tried to get back in, he had it all set up, planned. You must be sober…well I know he was drinking and using couple months before he entered. Then he stopped shaved offf all his hair, (as then they can’t find the usage) he went in for an evaluation in rehab (who would determine if indeed they feit he was sober otherwise he had to go to rehab which ofcourse he feit I needed to foot the 30000$ fee, which I said no to. So now I had to lie for him. Telling the counselor he was indeed sober, and guess what he convinced the counselor. Well if he can fool thrm(?). Then couple months forward I found pills in his drawer. (How dare I look in his drawer) and I knew enough. And then he decided that I wasn’t useful anymore.. as I wasn’t believing him anymore. It’s true I think in a way it’s also kind of addicting ? Now out of it for a year, it’s just crazy, and just telling couple of these stories people think it’s insane just can’t belief it. Ok and now I stop for real…OMG so much comes up Again that I tried so hard to forget, thanks for this website it’s really helpful and to know I’m not alone and stupid:) everyone out there no man (or woman) should have ever call you names, hit you, belittle you, quilt you… that’s not love at all

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