Confident, charismatic, and overwhelmingly charming, there are few who can compete with a narcissist when it comes to making a fantastic first impression. There are those who can see through the mask and those who can’t. The latter will learn the hard way.
Even though the word narcissist has been around since the behavior disorder was found by British essayist and physician Havelock Ellis in 1898, many people still have difficulty spotting one.
Narcissism is an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), according to Mayo Clinic, is a “disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance and is found more commonly in men.”
What are the red flags of a narcissist?
More than simply someone who likes to look in the mirror and talk about themselves, narcissists are master manipulators with a strong objective to objectify and an inability to empathize.
The top warning signs of narcissistic behavior are a person who is entitled, exploitative, arrogant, aggressive, cold, competitive, selfish, obnoxious, cruel, and vindictive.
Physiologists say those with NPD are actually very fragile people: “They suffer from profound alienation, emptiness, powerlessness, and lack of meaning. Due to their extreme vulnerability, they crave power and vigilantly must control their environment, people around them, and their feelings. Displays of vulnerable feelings, such as fear, shame, or sadness, are intolerable signs of weakness both in themselves and others.”
How does a narcissist act in a relationship?
Narcissists will do every possible thing they can to suck every last ounce of dignity and security out of their partners. They act like this because their brains are wired differently, either due to nurture or nature.
A narcissistic romantic partner can be controlling, emotionally cold, always blaming their spouse or partner, projecting their insecurities onto others, and gaslighting them.
Relationships with narcissistic people can be more than painful — it can be downright dangerous.
How do you know you’re dating a narcissist? Most of the time, if you’re paying attention to their actions, you can pick up on little things that will point you in the direction of red flags. For instance, if they make you feel inferior or make you feel dumb, you could be in love with a narcissist.
Here are 20 signs you’re dating a narcissist (only a clinical psychologist can say for sure), and the many ways they’ll ruin your life.
1. They’re often super-attractive.
Even if they aren’t Johnny Depp “gorgeous,” their confidence, charm, and ability to “own a room” is an initial turn-on.
Until, of course, you’re in your 30th conversation where you’re being dominated, condescended, and shocked by their arrogant peacocking.
2. They mistake kindness for weakness.
Anyone who has ever found themselves pleading with a narcissist knows that the kinder you are, the meaner they become. These folks feel entitled to be cruel and will even go so far as to congratulate and brag about their ability to “cut people out,” be “harsh,” and humiliate others.
You may hear these kinds of statements slowly in the beginning, but because they’re so “wonderful” in other areas at the time, you may write them off as situation-specific, or think you’re misunderstanding them. You’ll only really understand how serious of an issue this is during the discard phase when their lack of empathy comes out in its most concentrated form.
Victims will be treated in such a dismissive manner, and with such brutality that many will be left feeling they had to have caused it as no normal human being would ever respond that way over something so small or “nothing”.
That’s the point you need to hold onto. No “normal” human being would.
3. They say you’re perfect… until you’re not.
Narcissists are masters of love bombing, which is “an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection.”
At the beginning of your relationship when you first started dating, they will text you constantly, want to see you as much as possible, and tell you all the things you want to hear: you’re perfect, you’re an “angel from heaven,” you’re extremely smart, and so on.
They do this to make you dependent on them, while also testing your boundaries. Are you going to back away or go with it? Will you reciprocate and follow suit? This shows them how much self-confidence you have and how strong you draw a line in the sand.
Once they discover that you’re human, holy devaluation, Batman! You’ll not only be told the opposite but you’ll be punished for your “imperfections,” which are often exaggerated and sometimes nonexistent projections.
Punishment often includes terrible statements meant to degrade, demean, humiliate or stonewall you (not allowing you to express yourself). They withhold affection, and of course, give you the infamous narcissistic misericord, aka the “silent treatment.”
They may even spread nasty rumors about you behind your back.
4. They’re incredibly jealous of others.
Successful and happy? Good looking and confident? Have a lot of friends or are a great cook? You’re screwed.
Remember the business card scene in “American Psycho”? The narcissist I was with told me he related to that scene as though it was perfectly normal.
Narcissists also tend to be very jealous partners but only because, in their mind, you’re a mere extension and a source of narcissistic supply, which they need to keep close and under their control.
They will often be very threatened by any success or attention you receive for fear they will lose access to said supply and either react with anger or faux caring.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s you they want; it isn’t. It’s your attention, good or bad. That’s it.
5. They’re prone to cheating.
Will they forgo narcissistic supply in order to protect your feelings, which they don’t understand, relate to, or care about? Guess how that one goes.
Hell, a narcissistic partner may even do it just to hurt you.
6. They use sex as a weapon.
They may watch porn, cheat, and think they’re God’s gift to the world, but because of their disdain for intimate connections, many narcissists prefer masturbation to sex with another person. They’re known to make their partners go without sex as a way to frustrate, punish, and even humiliate them (out and out choosing porn over sex with them — and letting them know).
According to Dr. Sam Vaknin, a self-confessed narcissist and author of “Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited,” all narcissists abhor intimacy and use sex as a weapon. Somatic narcissists “masturbate with partners” whereas cerebral narcissists, males, in particular, despise women and view sex with them as a “chore.”
Cerebral only have it on occasion to keep their source of supply (their partner) from leaving them.
7. They’re big on threesomes.
No, not that kind. Narcissists love to set up “triangles” where their partners feel “at odds” with someone else, and jealousy and fighting for love and attention can ensue (ah, the supply!).
This could be with an ex, a mother, or a friend, but the point is to make sure they’re at the center of attention and desire. This is known as triangulation and it’s meant to make you feel insecure, undesirable, and keep you anxious and “on your toes.”
8. They’re Einstein and you’re an idiot.
Not really, of course, but narcissists truly believe they’re the only people left on earth who know anything, maintain any culture or sophistication, or are capable of having a rational thought.
Whatever you think, they will challenge and take it five steps further to make sure you’re sufficiently exhausted and give up just to shut them up.
9. They’re all about control.
Because of their need to feel powerful and special, narcissists tend not to engage in situations they cannot control. They’re on a constant quest for narcissistic supply, which means that everyone they come in contact with is seen as an extension of themselves, thus under their control and used as a means to an end.
Narcissists often charm and build up those with big titles and those who showcase low self-esteem (the first offers access to supply, while the second often offers an excess of it). Anyone the narcissist can’t compete with or control is devalued immediately.
Note: All will be devalued eventually.
10. They rage — a lot.
We’re not talking about a little tantrum here and there, but full-blown, burn-the-proverbial-house-down rages that often include seriously hurtful comments meant to demean, degrade and devalue whomever they’ve decided has criticized them.
And make no mistake, everything can be seen as criticism, including being told they’ve hurt you. You think you’re sharing information to build a better relationship, whereas they think you’re deceiving them.
Yes, you read that correctly. When you tell a narcissist that you’re hurt or have any point, really, they won’t concede or agree with you (even if you’re right).
Instead, they’ll assume you’re trying to get one over on them. They are, in fact, perfect and superior, so the very idea that they would do anything wrong, such as “hurt” someone else, is unfathomable to them.
They will also go off the rails if called narcissistic.
11. They lie about everything.
It could be something small about their favorite TV show as a child, or big like promising to be faithful, but narcissists aren’t big on telling the truth, mainly because it’s not that interesting (they’re pretty dull people at the core).
They will pretend to be into everything you’re into, so much that you may find them repeating your words as their own to others.
12. They often have a weird giggle.
It’s something only someone who has engaged a narcissist really understands, but they will almost laugh at themselves in quick, manic, awkward giggles. It usually happens when they’re telling some kind of overblown story and are sharing how they were “above” someone in some way.
The narcissist I knew burst into laughter when friends and I were discussing another friend’s cancer diagnosis. When I stared at him in disbelief, he became full of rage and said, “What? I was thinking about a Balderdash question!”
13. They’re obsessed with their reputation.
A narcissist has plenty of fantasies about love, power, adoration… and paranoia surrounding being “found out.”
This often leads to them threatening partners they’ve betrayed, hurt or harmed, or pretending to be sorry to ensure no one knows their truth.
14. They don’t believe in boundaries.
Boundaries don’t apply to them.
Want to get to know them before committing? Nonsense. They’ll push to be exclusive. Tell them you’re afraid of heights and they will push you to go skydiving. Explain you don’t like smoking and they’ll light up in front of you.
Leave them alone in your apartment and every secret available will be discovered… and ultimately used against you.
15. They have a cognitive inability to empathize.
Think about this for a moment. They cannot relate, they cannot care, they cannot feel anything but a selfish desire for narcissistic supply which can be provided by seeing you in pain.
Example: They cheat on you and when you cry, they accuse you of “desperately looking for attention” and explain that your sensitivity was one of the reasons they stayed because it was so “needy.”
16. They’re innately abusive.
They may or may not be physical (and if they are, leave — a person who hits once will hit you again), but the very way narcissists communicate with and attempt to control others will often fall under the guidelines of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse.
They’ll trivialize, discount, condemn, demean, devalue, withhold, accuse blame, and discard their partners without a moment’s notice, and often.
17. They project.
One of the worst things about being with a narcissist is that they spew so much venom onto you that you begin to think they’re on to something.
How could someone who professed their undying love and respect so profoundly suddenly pull away and attack you? You must have done something, right? Wrong.
Deep down, narcissists are dealing with their own pain and feelings of inadequacy, and when they “lose it” they’re really screaming all their self-hate in your direction.
18. They can be brutally honest.
There are times when a narcissist will say things like, “I will hurt you,” or, “You shouldn’t ever come back to me,” and the partner will often come and smother them with love, forgiveness, and all the delicious supply they crave.
I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that this kind of supply is a super-drug — it reinforces the fact that the narcissist is so special that they can treat their partner as badly as they want to, tell them they know it, and the partner will still come back.
19. They don’t change.
Study after study states that there is no “cure” for narcissism. They may learn how to interact better, but that will take years of therapy and you’ll never really have the connection you think you have, want, or deserve.
No matter what they say, do, promise, or confess, they’ll always be in it for supply. If you’re not hearing from them, they’ve found it elsewhere. If they’re back, someone saw through them and they’re sweet-talking the dealer.
At the end of the day, their point of view is the only one that matters.
20. They re-live your relationship with someone else.
When they move on, nothing is sacred. They’ll literally replace you down to nicknames, wedding venues, and vacation spots. They will do this not only because they have no conscience, but because they want you to feel terrible. They get supply out of you feeling bad about these things.
Don’t buy into the lie. They are the same person they’ve always been with a new victim who, unfortunately, will go through all the things you went through until they realize who they’re really dealing with. The narcissist will then suck someone else into their dreary “Groundhog Day” existence.
You, however, will have moved on to find it’s no coincidence that the farther they are, the happier, stronger, and more successful you become.