you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when the first thing you do at the realisation is cry. when he drives away from your house and your heart aches with this horrible pain that tells you, without question, that this is a bad feeling. when you call your best friend and beg her for a distraction, but nothing quite cuts it. when you know that he’s the only thing you want and, therefore, the only thing that works.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you list the reasons you love him and none of them have to do with how he makes you feel, because you’re not smiling, you’re already heartbroken. you’re already sick with fear, anxious with anticipation, grieving what’s still there.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you get a migraine in his bed. when he’d rather tend to his PlayStation than you while you sob on his couch, cradling your head and quietly praying for relief. when you can’t drive home because your eyes won’t stay open and all he says is that you’ll have to be ready to do so at seven the next morning. when you can’t stop crying at seven fifteen on your way home, or for the next three days. when you can’t even decide why.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you learn new ways to hate yourself. when you enter the endless cycle of making comparisons to the other girls in his phone, the ones he shows you and the ones he doesn’t. when you’re always wondering who you’ll be up against in the imagined competition for his attention, for those fleeting moments of affection, for the number one spot he tells you that you hold when you know full well he’s already occupying it.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when he won’t talk to you at dinner. when he crosses his arms and sits in silence. when “everything’s fine” but you feel guilty, and you don’t know what for. when you’re so upset you can’t sleep next to him, and he hasn’t even noticed you go downstairs in your own house to escape him. when you cry at breakfast the next day and he’s won, because he told you he wanted to make you cry, remember?
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when he doesn’t like your best friend. when he knows that she knows who he is and doesn’t want you to find out too. when he talks about her the way he talks about people you guys don’t like. when he tries to get you off the phone with her by flirting with you. when that doesn’t work, and he tries by slicing his hand open and holding it at you instead.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you can’t tell him that you are. when you fear him finding out because you don’t know which version of him will receive it. when you don’t know which version of him might be unleashed. when he teases you with chance after chance to say it because you both know that love is the only reason you’d stay as his undefined. when he asks you to say whatever it is that you feel, but with a smirk on his face that tells you he already knows, and god, you’re so fucking stupid.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when he insists you walk fifteen minutes alone in the valley on a Friday night to meet him at the cinema. when you arrive and he’s already gone inside with his other friends for a film that — by the way — he’s already seen. when you leave in tears, picked up by your best friend who tells you “this has to be the last straw” knowing full well it won’t be. when he’s only upset that you’re mad at him, because he doesn’t understand what went wrong. when you’re the one who tries to fix his mistake. when he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, so you pretend you don’t need to.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when your notes app is filled with unfinished thoughts like these. when you can’t sum up all the different ways you feel no matter how many times you start and stop and restart saying them. when half of them express infatuation and the other half loathing. when that’s as honest as you can be about him.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you sit down with a psychologist that, if you’re honest, you wouldn’t have needed before him. when she rattles off a list of signs, a list of warnings, a list of red flags you know you’ve been ignoring. when she can tell you exactly who he is without even knowing his name.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when he takes pride in the nastiest parts of who he is. when he loves that people see him as self-obsessed, vain, selfish. when he gets off on people fearing him and his cruelty. when he likes that you can never guess who he’s going to be, what he’s going to give. when you fear him, too.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when it’s too late. when he knows he has the power and can pick and choose who he wants you to be for him. when he gives you just the right amount of affection to keep feeding into your fantasy that “this is just a phase”. when you become just as deluded as him.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when he tells you he loves you. but he can’t say it in as many words, because he doesn’t know how to love anything. so, he tells you, rather, that he wants to kill you and that if someone feels that way about you, you’re lucky. when he tells you that means he must have some pretty strong feelings for you. when he tells you he wishes someone felt that way about him.
you’ll know you’re in love with a narcissist when you can’t take it anymore. when you cut him off but you’re the one mourning your missing piece. when you play it all back in your head every night trying to find a reason why, until you blame yourself, because you shouldn’t have left him like that and you deserve to be sad, you know. when you’re forced to love him from afar, to love him in retrospect, to love what’s not real because you know what is, and you know it can only hurt.
you’ll know you were in love with a narcissist when you fall for someone new. you’ll know you were in love with a narcissist when you let him go.
you’ll know you were in love with a narcissist when he can’t let you.
Author: Zali Meredith is an almost-graduated Creative Writing student at QUT, currently serving as an editor of ScratchThat magazine while also balancing multiple unfinished manuscripts, a sleep schedule that revolves around the Formula 1, and maintaining her impressive Duolingo streak.
Artist: Steph Blinco is a third-year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. As a local Brisbane emerging artist, her practice makes statements about everyday life through collaged imagery. Intertwining psychedelic patterns to create collisions of colour and era, Steph draws influences from autobiographical contexts, ranging from her childhood to her experiences now as a young adult. You can find her on Instagram @stephblincoart.