So you think you have found Mr. Perfect? He is charming, handsome, successful and full of compliments toward you. You are mesmerized when he gazes into your eyes…
A relationship with a narcissist begins well. They tend to be attractive, charismatic and appear to be really invested in meeting “the one.” A narcissist will often tell his new partner that he/she is “the man (or woman) of my dreams”, that they were “meant to be,” they are “soul mates” and will make him or her feel very special. They usually want to move fast in the relationship.
This honeymoon phase ends quickly, often within 4 months, as they reveal their true self — and being with a narcissist soon turns from a dream into a nightmare. As one anonymous woman put it in an Amazon book review:
“He went from loving, devoted, and committed to cold, critical, and most heartbreakingly, unfaithful, seemingly overnight. None of it made sense, and it was practically killing me waiting for him to return to the way it was.”
Because the relationship started out so well, and because the ugly behavior seemed to come out of nowhere, even the most well adjusted people can get caught in the narcissist’s web of deceit. Later they may realize they saw plenty of red flags but because the narcissist’s initial illusion was so fantastic, the warning signs were ignored.
It can be hard to recognize a narcissist — they are so charming and convincing! They have spent their whole lives honing their skills. But there are signs you can recognize in your partner that will tell you whether you’re dating someone with a narcissistic personality and heading for a future rife with pain.
Signs You Are Dating a Serious Narcissist
There are various degrees of narcissism ranging from your somewhat overbearing ‘egomaniac’ to the more serious Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is estimated to affect 1 out of 100 people, so it is a fairly common disorder. American Psychological Association lists nine core traits of narcissism, but someone only needs five of these to qualify for NPD:
1) feels grandiose and self-important for reasons not supported by reality. Have you met an unattractive guy with insufficient employment and a horrible personality who thinks he deserves to date supermodels? You may have encountered an NPD.
2) Obsessed with fantasies about unlimited success, fame, power or omnipotence. “After I travel the world and write my book I’ll sell it to Hollywood, Johnny Depp will play me, then I’ll start my business and consult, giving speeches around the world for six figures…” etc.
3) Believes he/she is unique and special and can be understood by -and associate with only- other unique or high-status people. He can be the No-One-Gets-Me-guy. He feels he is so unique and rare that no one can compete with him and you probably can’t even comprehend half of the amazing thoughts he has in his head.
4) Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation. You: “Oh yes, you sounded perfect on the phone with your boss! You flattered him but got in some good points about yourself, I can’t believe how well you handled that.” Repeat 100 times or however long it takes for him to stop fishing for compliments and positive accolades.
5) Feels a sense of entitlement. This extends to everything from your time, your body, to yours and his possessions and special treatment/service. A typical example would be expecting you to have sex when he wants it, even if you’ve had a horrible day and are definitely not in the mood.
6) Exploits others without guilt or remorse. “Of course my sister is going to drop everything and find a babysitter for the kids and rush over here to help me paint my bathroom!”
7) Is devoid of empathy. He can complain and whine for hours about all of his problems, real and imagined, but when you need to talk about your undermining coworker or a sick relative, suddenly he is too busy or maybe just returns a blank stare and a “Oh I’m sure it will be fine.”
8) Tends to be envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her. He may think no one else deserves a high-paying job, flashy material possessions or hot wife and will not hesitate to announce this and compare others unfavorably against himself, as he is clearly the more deserving of these “rewards.”
9) Displays arrogant and haughty behavior. Thinks he’s better than everyone, displays a marked disinterest in anything not directly related to him, including your friends, family, or interests. Struts around like a rooster or peacock, speaks in a loud, broadcasting voice so everyone hears everything he says, obsesses over appearance, etc.
If the person you are dating shows four or five of these signs, think seriously about continuing your relationship with him or her. It’s a bit more complicated in the beginning when it’s not so black and white, when the person you’re dating is cleverly cloaked as Prince Charming. It’s intoxicating to be around him. He’s fun and exciting. It feels like he’s your true soul connection. It’s easy to lose your head and heart once you become emotionally or sexually involved.
What are Some Earlier Signs?
- When you express your needs, he gets defensive. A narcissist puts his own needs first. He doesn’t care about what matters to you, and will defend himself instead of apologizing.
- When the going gets tough, he gets going. A narcissist can’t handle the pressures of your emotional life. As soon as you have any type of personal crisis, he won’t be there to support you.
- When he’s hurt, he doesn’t feel sad. He feels rage. If you express that you’re upset with something he said or did, he will rage at you and deflect responsibility for his actions.
- He runs hot and cold. Narcissists will give you mixed signals. He’ll be really into you, telling you that you’re the most incredible woman he’s ever met, and the next day, he is pulling away, acting aloof. It is crazy making.
- He gets angry when you discuss exclusivity. Narcissists are often enamored with their freedom. If you talk to him about commitment after you’ve been dating for a few months, he will probably feel like a caged bird and blame you for wanting to box him in.
- His actions and words don’t match. Pay attention to what he does more than what he says. Many narcissists are wordsmiths. They lure you in with their charming words, but they don’t follow through.
The professional psychological community is mostly in agreement that a narcissist can’t be changed much, so either you have to endure the toxic relationship or you can leave him or her and reclaim your sanity.