They have their manipulative ways to make you feel like you are crazy when they're the ones being irrational and unreasonable.
The one thing you realize when you end a relationship with a narcissist is that you never fully get over the trauma you faced. You never forget the sleepless nights you spent, wondering who your partner is turning into and you never forget the times they belittled you into feeling like you don't deserve anything better. The more time you've spent with them, the more damage your self-worth has endured. It takes you so long to heal from the relationship, but at the back of your mind, the memories still remain, never fully fading away. It's because your partner made you doubt yourself so much that it shattered your confidence in these ways.
All that your narcissistic partner wanted was to feel like they were in power and control. And to make themselves feel big, they would make you feel small, criticizing you every chance you get. If you were someone who had a great life, they would intentionally break you down. If you were "someone who had really good self-care and took care of themselves, and was really calm, not anxious, and not depressed, and watching them fall apart," said Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, according to Insider. "That journey is what makes it diabolical — and it's why they enjoy it."
"A sophisticated narcissist doesn’t explicitly forbid you to spend time with the people who are important to you," wrote clinical psychologist, Perpetua Neo, for MindBodyGreen. But she pointed out that there are other ways for them to isolate you from your friends and family. They might say things like, "You just visited your friends last week. Why do you want to see her again?" or like Perpetua Neo, they might say, "She's really shallow—I'm not sure she's good for you."
The entire reason why they got into a relationship with you is so that their interests could be met, while they create an illusion where you think it's to benefit both of you. It's always about their needs and their desires, but when you voice your own, they somehow manage to make it about themselves again. It makes you feel unseen, unheard, and unloved. You're meant to follow all the rules of the relationship while they get away with breaking them over and over again.
"Crazy", "delusional", "paranoid", "over-sensitive", and "jealous" are common ways that your partner described you. Even when you were right, they would gaslight you into believing that you weren't thinking right. "Gaslighting is when someone screws with your reality and then says you’re crazy. This is a common way narcissists justify abuse: Instead of telling you that you need help, they break you," wrote Perpetua Neo. As time goes by, you stop trusting your own instincts and give in to everything they say.
They may have called you possessive but ended being the one to take your phone away. They may have even cheated on you but said that it was because you didn't pay enough attention to them. When you catch them red-handed, they will talk their way out of everything and convince you that there won't be a 'next time'. Stephanie Sarkis, author and certified counselor wrote for Psychology Today, saying, "Keep in mind that when you reconcile with the narcissist, the next blowup (and it's coming) will be bigger than the last."
Your emotional triggers become ammunition for them. They exaggerate your flaws to weaken you, slowly chipping away from your self-esteem. That's when you start doubting everything you do in the relationship because they convince you that nothing you do is worth it. While once you may have been someone confident and resilient, you will later become someone who's always second-guessing yourself after a relationship with a narcissist.
Sometimes, narcissists work in cycles. They compliment you and show you that they are the right partner for you. And right after that, they torment you and manipulate you into doing things for them. Then, just when you're about to walk out of the relationship, they go back to being the complimenting, romantic partner who tells you that they have changed. With time, you find yourself going in circles again. But when you find yourself in another toxic cycle, don't stop yourself from walking out the next time.