The house is quiet. You open the window for some contact with the outside world, but the air is still and there’s not a car in sight. Sigh. You can hear the birds singing and it’s lovely, but you crave human connection. Life in the time of coronavirus seems to have come to a standstill. You wonder when things will ever get back to normal, but mostly you wonder if you’ll ever get to see your friends again.
You search through Netflix for something that resembles your social life before the pandemic when your phone vibrates. Startled, your heart races as you scan the name. You’d hoped it was one of your friends, but it’s the narcissist. Should you answer?
At first glance you feel like talking to the narcissist might be better than talking to no one. You’re lonely, bored, and feel like you might be going insane without anyone to talk to, but do you really want to talk to the narc?
Your thoughts are racing. What if the narcissist is calling you to say sorry for all they’ve put you through? What if they say, “Baby, I think this virus thing has made me woke and I now realize you’re the best thing that ever happened to me! I need you! Can we get together?”
Should you believe them?
Perhaps the narcissist is a parent or a grandparent. You feel fear — what if they get the virus and die without the conflict between you ever being resolved? What if you never get to tell them the good things you wanted to say? Or even worse — what if you never get to hear about the bad stuff you’ve been waiting for them to explain and apologize forever since you were twelve? Maybe this is it. Should you answer?
In most cases, the answer is no. While a pandemic tends to bring out the best in compassionate people, it can also bring out the worst in selfish people. Narcissistic people might adapt to new situations, but their characters rarely change. In other words, the narcissist is still a backbiting, gaslighting, liar. Once a narc, always a narc with very few exceptions.
Of course, life doesn’t come with one size fits all solutions. Fear can inspire temporary fixes, but people rarely change for the long run due to a momentary crisis. If they truly care, they would most likely have apologized or reached out long before this. Does it really take a pandemic to make people be kind to others? No.
Of course, what happens in one relationship doesn’t guarantee what will happen in another. That’s why narcissistic abuse is so insidious and hard to overcome — people often hope against hope for their family members or ex-lovers to change, but they rarely do.
I recently read a post on social media where a woman wrote about her partner going off his meds. She thought he had become a narcissist again. She actually believed narcissism could be cured by taking a pill. The reality is that she was probably dealing with someone who had a different diagnosis.
Other behaviors can look like narcissism, but the motivations are different. Most people — even with a mental disorder, have the capacity to love others and when they are stabilized, but a narcissist lacks empathy for others even while they are faking it.
Try to remember that narcissism is not the same as other mental health issues. If there really was a pill for narcissism the world would be a much safer place.
Your phone continues to vibrate and you contemplate answering it, but if you wouldn’t answer that phone before the pandemic, then you probably don’t want to answer it now.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, the chances of this being a friendly call to spread the virus are much higher than the potential of spreading the love. A narcissist will pretend to be sorry — but only to get something from you. Chances are their other sources for getting narcissistic feed have all run dry. Perhaps they’ve run out of TP or need to steal your hand sanitizer
If they tell you they’re sorry, that’s a bonus point for them, but is it sincere? Will this new apology make things right? Or was it just a coverup to get back in the door?
Beware of narcs bearing gifts because desperate people will do desperate things to get what they want. The narcissist might be bringing compliments and flowers, but these things are probably just props to win your attention.
It is possible the narcissist is calling you for the same reason you’re tempted to answer? Many people are feeling lonely, needy and scared right now, but don’t be tempted to give in. Remember why you left them or went no contact in the first place. Remember how they screamed at you the last time you saw them. Has anything changed?
You might be living in pandemic land, but this person is not the only other human being in your post-apocalyptic online neighborhood.
This call could also be about sex (beware there is more than one way to get the coronavirus) or it could be about not being alone with themself (narcs are notorious for avoiding the introspection that serious times bring to our lives.
There’s a saying that learning to appreciate time alone with yourself, helps you realize you are good company. If you can be at peace on your own, why invite the narcissist back into your life to wreak havoc?
Some Things Will Never Change.
If the narcissist stole money from you before, he’ll be doing it again. In this world where jobs are dropping like flies and money is scarce, beware of freeloaders.
If the narcissist used you before for cooking and sex, he’ll be using you again as long you can meet his needs, but what about yours?
If the narcissist tried to gaslight you during normal life, how much worse it will be when he tries it when you have no one else to talk to until he drives you insane.
If you’re lonely, there must be someone else you can call who respects you, cares about you and has no intention of harming you. Ignore the narcissist and call that person.
PS If you are in an abusive situation, please call someone and if you don’t have someone to call, you can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1–800–799–7233 or 1–800–787–3224 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
Cherilyn Christen Clough has been preparing for a pandemic her entire life. She knows what it is like to live in isolation. She spent most of her teen years living in the Montana wilderness washing hands with her germaphobe mom, hiding from society with her survivalist father, while baking bread from scratch and canning huckleberries over a campfire. You can read more about her strange childhood in her Memoir Chasing Eden. If you want to know her secrets for surviving narcissistic abuse you can sign up for Little Red’s Survivor Tips.