When you suspect a man is using DARVO tactics, look closely to determine if these are crocodile tears being shed by a man with narcissistic traits.
Here are 5 ways to spot a narcissist who uses a DARVO defense to turn himself into the victim.
1. He lies
Maybe you haven’t seen the “big” lie, but perhaps there have been small ones. You find yourself explaining to friends, perplexed, “He lies when there’s no reason to lie.” You may have seen him lie to others or exaggerate the truth to make himself look better.
He might even lie to make you, or his children, look better. That’s because you are a reflection on him and the better you look, the better he looks. Does grandiosity ring a bell?
2. He’s vain
How he looks, both literally and figuratively, can be a big deal to a man with a heavy dose of narcissism. With an annoying sense of entitlement, he may spend more money on his hair and clothing than you do. And he’ll come up with a seemingly logical reason for why that’s the case.
His children are also reflections on him, so he may be super concerned about how well they do on any and every metric that can be used to compare them with others. He may pretend with friends and co-workers that you two are really in an equal partnership, or even that you’re the one wearing the pants in the family. But it doesn’t feel that way to you.
Don’t be fooled — it’s just vanity in disguise. He wants the relationship to look good to others.
3. He demands you do things his way
Although he asks your opinion, it seems like he must have things his way. From the kids’ bedtime to where you go out for dinner, he can become angry when you express what you want. You end up backing off, telling yourself it’s not that important.
You are astounded at the ease with which he gets people to do things for him. He always gets the upgrade when he flies, the loaner when the car is being serviced, and the lowest possible price in a negotiation. This is because people can sense that it’s more trouble to fight him than to give in. Just like you do.
4. He manipulates your feelings
Although you enjoy it when he buys you gifts, it seems like you can never be grateful enough or offer enough praise to satisfy him. You start to feel like an ingrate. See the reversal there?
You begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Are you not adoring enough? He has always pegged you as the special woman, perfect for him (because he’s so special). Maybe you’re not so special?
Instead of feeling bad about yourself, perhaps you can see his arrogance and complete lack of empathy for your feelings.
5. He turns things around on you
Does he turn things around on you? The DARVO defense is rife with “what about-isms.”
There was the guy who, caught cheating on his wife, asked her, “What about you sneaking cigarettes after you told me you quit? What about your dishonesty?”
While this is a false equivalence, it can be difficult to argue the point with someone who is always right. If you present any hint of negative feedback — “I thought you were going to take out the trash” — no matter how small, the DARVO cycle begins.
“Why is the trash so important?” he responds. You have made a big deal out of nothing. You are obviously not adoring enough. You are clearly the offender here.
If these things are starting to sound familiar, you’re probably with a narcissist who will DARVO you to death if you allow it.
Narcissism occurs on a continuum.
There are slightly narcissistic people. These are people who think they might be the smartest person in the room. They can be annoying, but also fairly harmless. You can make a case to a person like this that a 7:00 bedtime for a 10-year-old really doesn’t make sense and lay out the points so he might eventually agree.