10 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist-How to Get Out-All Questions Answered!
This post gives you deeper and more meaningful insights into how narcissistic people behave, where they come from, and how to spot and deal with them. But this is not it. We have all your questions about narcissistic people answered with the help of relatable real-life examples. Read on!
When I hear the word narcissist, two things come to my mind: self-centeredness and self-obsession. Narcissism is a form of personality disorder where a person may think of themselves as superior and unique to others to such an extent that the person becomes deaf to the needs, wishes, and happiness of others. But this is not it. There are other definite signs you’re dating a narcissist or in a relationship with a narcissist that you must be aware of.
This post is just not about signs you’re dating a narcissist. There is much more! In this post, you will get answers to the following questions:
- What defines a narcissist, and what behaviours are typical of a narcissist?
- How many of those characteristics does someone have to have in order to be defined as a narcissist?
- What is “gaslighting”? And how do narcissists use gaslighting to claim superiority?
- What are signs you’re dating a narcissist?
- What does it look like when two narcissists date each other?
- Are narcissists self-aware?
- Can you teach empathy to a narcissist?
- Nature vs. nurture: Is someone born a narcissist, or do they become a narcissist?
- What role does parenting play in creating a narcissist?
- How can parents prevent narcissism?
- How is the trait of narcissism different from a narcissistic personality disorder?
- Can a narcissistic person ever be truly “cured”?
- What should someone expect if they want to break up with a narcissist?
- How should someone manage their expectations if they continue dating a narcissist?
- Last but not least, my message of encouragement to those stuck in a narcissistic relationship?
So, what is a narcissist, and do you know any of them?
My friend recently started dating a man who is super-hot and intelligent. Initially, I met him and was pretty much okay with him not asking me questions about myself or taking any interest in my life at all. In fact, I loved listening to his sagas and learning everything about him and his life. But then I realized that the only topic he was most interested in was talking about himself.
One day, I asked my friend if he didn’t care about me or if he was the same with her and everyone else. What did she say?
“Because he is so self-absorbed, I find him really irritating. He doesn’t care how I feel and never pays attention to what I have to say. He makes me feel unwanted and insufficient. He even challenges my sanity. Whenever I confront him, he often denies having made the statements in question.”
That is pretty typical of narcissistic personalities!
So, who is a narcissistic person? Let’s understand them a little more before we talk about signs you’re dating a narcissist!
What is a narcissist?
Narcissus was a child in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection. Famous psychologist Sigmund Freud used this story to define a narcissist as someone who is self-absorbed and only concerned with their own needs and wants.
So, what exactly is a narcissist, and what narcissistic personality traits define them?
A narcissist is someone who lacks empathy and thinks of themselves as entitled. It means they expect special treatment to be given to them but not to anyone else around them. They are very grandiose and harbour huge fantasies. They only want to associate with people they think are as cool, happening, and interesting as they are.
Narcissistic people are very superficial. They are very much concerned about their appearance and the appearance of others around them.
I always consider narcissistic people as a beautiful facade but not a lot behind them. They don’t regulate their emotions very well. They are prone to throwing tantrums and getting angry very quickly, especially when they do not get their way. And they can be hyper-sensitive to criticism. They are willing to dole it out but absolutely can’t take it all to themselves.
So, these are some key traits of a narcissistic person. But this is not it. Narcissistic people also show other signs, like being very jealous and not being very loyal. They can sometimes get pleasure out of other people’s misery as well.
Narcissists often engage in gaslighting. It means they just completely deny your reality. For example, you might say, “I am very sad you said that to me.” And they respond by saying something like, “You have no right to say that. You have no right to feel that way.”
Another example that comes to my mind is when you argue with them, and they say something terrible to you. So, you immediately revert back, saying something like, “that’s very rude of you to say that to me.” They may say, “I never said that.” So, when they make such a statement, they literally deny your reality. It is because when somebody backtracks and says they never said that, most normal people tend to question themselves.
One of the ringers, when you are dating a narcissist who is gaslighting you, is the need to record your voice conversations with them so that you can play it back to them when the time comes.
And when you reach the point in a relationship where you need to have voice memos, it’s time to get out.
I have been in a relationship like that!
I felt gaslighted as my partner flat-out refused to trust what had been said, to the point that I considered secretly recording our phone calls.
But gaslighting alone doesn’t necessarily mean the other person is a narcissist. It is one of the key indicators of a narcissistic behavioural trait.
Narcissism is not an absolute trait and typically manifests itself on a spectrum. We all have a certain amount of narcissism in us, which is what drives us to get up on time, look presentable, and do everything we can to present the best version of ourselves to the world. The issue is that when someone is so high on the narcissism scale, it starts breaking the people who are close to them, particularly those who are dating them or are in a relationship with them.
We use the term “narcissist” very liberally. We do throw that term around all the time.
You get mad at somebody and say, “Wow, you are a narcissist.” Or, “They want to have dinner at eight; they are a bunch of narcissistic people.” But there are a few signs that classify a person as a narcissist, and these are:
- They believe they are superior to others and have a grandiose sense of self-importance.
- They think of themselves as entitled to special privileges and expect to be given superior treatment but not anyone else around them.
- They live in their own fantasy and are preoccupied with beauty, success, money, idealistic love, and affluence.
- They only want to associate with people they think are as cool, high-status, and exciting as they are.
- They have an excessive need for admiration and are very superficial.
- They can be very arrogant.
- They may be insensitive to the needs, desires, and feelings of others and, therefore, may lack empathy.
- They are envious of others’ success and believe that others are jealous of them too.
- They can gaslight you and deny you of your reality.
- They are sometimes not very loyal.
- They sometimes get pleasure out of the misery of other people.
Clinically speaking, the person you’re dating would need to have at least six of these traits to qualify as a narcissist.
Now let’s look at major signs you’re dating a narcissist.
10 Signs you’re dating a narcissist?
Narcissists have a few surprising but clear personality traits that make them hard to date, unpleasant, and sometimes even dangerous. Here are the top ten red flags and signs to look out for when dating a narcissist:
1. They are self-absorbed and superficial
We all love to share our stories and listen to those of others around us. But narcissistic people love to talk about themselves only. A narcissist once said, “Enough of me; now let’s talk about my work.” When you date a narcissist, they will tell you endless stories about themselves on the first date and may not even ask about you or your life. You may not notice it, but all they are interested in is how you look and how you enhance their persona.
Narcissistic people are very superficial. They make friends based on how they look, how rich they are, and so on. Their criteria for making friends or dating a person is choosing someone who makes them look better.
This is the most obvious sign that you’re dating a narcissist!
2. They think of themselves as grandiose and entitled
Narcissists often have inflated egos, speak highly of themselves, and love to brag. They think of themselves as magnificent and entitled. Consequently, they expect special treatment to be given to them but not to anyone else around them. For example, they think they are not worthy of standing in a queue.
3. They are charming personalities
Apparently, the only positive trait about narcissists is that they are incredibly charming. But as they say, looks are always deceptive. They are good at fascinating people till the time they conquer them, and then they lose interest. It can get really annoying when they start to ignore you and your feelings and charm others instead.
4. They just love themselves
We all love ourselves, and we should! But the way narcissists love themselves is not usual. It’s called an obsession! It is one of the most striking signs that you’re dating a narcissist.
Once, a teacher said to me, “If you want to spot a narcissist, go to their home, and you will find tons of their photographs.”
Another thing to note here is that narcissists love social media and can’t live without it.
But where does this extreme desire to love themselves come from? The answer is their deep-rooted insecurities. They are so insecure that they constantly seek external validation. Consequently, they post on social media and hang pictures of themselves all over their homes to feel good about themselves.
Their obsession with themselves is not a problem per se. The problem is that they are so much in love with themselves, their needs, and their desires that they often ignore the other person. They can get so insensitive to the needs of others that they make the other person feel insignificant, undesired, and non-existent.
5. They are always the hero or victim in their life story
When narcissists narrate their life stories, they are either the heroes or the victims. So, when you listen to the stories about their jobs, failed relationships, or friendships that ended, you should pay close attention to the character they assume. And in all probability, it would be either a hero or a victim.
6. They lack empathy
Narcissists have little or almost no ability to feel empathy for others. They are terrible at comprehending the pain of other people. These people are not very good with their words and the sensitivities of situations around them. As a result, their actions often impact people around them. The problem is that they are so self-absorbed and self-centred that they just can see past themselves and have an understanding of what others are feeling.
7. They have poor relationships
Narcissists have a great ability to cut off ties with people. These people are unable to forge long-lasting emotional attachments. This is because they get into a conflict when things do not go as they want or you start questioning them. They can dump you anytime when they feel you are conflicting with them and the way they are. Therefore, they do not have a lot of long-term friends.
Also, one thing to remember here is that they can end a relationship with you whenever they want. But vice versa can really upset them and turn things ugly as they don’t like to be walked upon.
8. They have a desperate need for validation
These people are bottomless vases when it comes to seeking attention and validation. They constantly look for approval from others and thrive on praise. The breeding ground for this narcissistic behaviour is their insecurities. Narcissists are so insecure that they have a desperate need for external validation and reinforcement. These insecurities can stem from some emotional void from their childhood that was never fulfilled.
9. They are overly concerned about their reputation
Narcissists care more about what people think of them rather than how their partner, friends, or loved ones feel because of their behaviour. For example, suppose you have a situation where you fight in public. In that case, they will care more about their reputation than resolving the conflict and ensuring you are okay. If you decide to break up and move on, for example, they will care more about their reputation than about the breakup itself. It is also one of the key signs that you’re dating a narcissist.
10. They often engage in gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse where the other person denies your reality. Gaslighting is the kingpin of narcissism.
Narcissistic people may spin the truth, blatantly lie in your face, falsely accuse others, and distort your reality. For example, you may say, “it was really mean of you to say that, and it hurt you.” And they may bluntly deny having said something like that. Such a question can alter your reality and make you question your sanity. It is dangerous!
So why do they do it? They make you doubt yourself so that it gives them an edge over you, making them feel superior and better about themselves. Narcissists often like to be worshipped, so they use manipulation tactics to get you to just do that.
These are the top 10 signs you’re dating a narcissist!
What happens when two narcissists date each other?
Okay, what happens when two narcissistic people start dating each other? What does that relationship look like?
I would say it’s more like a psychological cage fight. And it is because, in such a relationship, no one is listening, and no one is empathetic. It is equivalent to watching two kids playing against each other at a table, and they are kind of playing by themselves.
In such a relationship where both the partners are narcissists, everything actually goes quite well for a while as they only care about how good the other partner looks because it makes them look good. This situation is like a guy saying, “I need a hot girlfriend,” and it is like, “I need to look good, and my partner makes me look good.”
And now, you may ask, “Don’t we all want a partner who makes us look good?” The reality is we don’t. We want a partner who makes us feel good. There is a big difference between the two.
When one of the narcissistic partners starts to frustrate the other, all hell breaks loose. It is when real problems start to seep in. And the relationship turns ugly and eventually falls apart.
There may be a situation when both narcissistic partners admit they are narcissists. They acknowledge that it is affecting their relationships, the kids, and even their intimate relationships. But the problem is that they may want to do the work but are not ready to change, compromise, or sacrifice.
Trust me, most narcissistic couples do not make it too far. And the only piece of advice I would like to give such a couple is to not reproduce!
Narcissistic people may feel very empty inside, and that emptiness is a very difficult thing to fill. Even if they meet someone who is not a narcissist and fall in love with that person, the poor person will often feel unheard in the relationship and be hurt daily.
What causes narcissism?
You may ask what makes a person a narcissist. Or what causes narcissism in males and females? Or why would somebody be a narcissist?
So let’s talk about why someone would be a narcissist or what makes them a narcissist. It is a kind of nature versus nurture debate. As per psychologists, narcissists are made, not born. It means narcissism is nurtured and not innate.
So how is narcissism nurtured?
Narcissism is, in most cases, a by-product of parenting. There are many well-intended good parents, but they are born with narcissistic kids.
So how come their kids become narcissistic? Narcissism is a by-product of the simultaneous overindulgence and underindulgence by parents when it comes to their children. Most parents try to give their children the best possible lives they can by focusing on their appearance and achievements, giving them the best vacations, and so on. It is a kind of overindulgence, and it is not a problem. All parents do that!
The problem arises when the parents begin to under indulge in their children simultaneously for other things. For example, they are not emotionally available to their children, don’t listen to their feelings, and aren’t present with them. It’s almost like when kids feel like their parents don’t care about them. Your son may say, “Hey, mom, let’s play a board game,” and you might say no or not be around. On the contrary, you are out there cheering for your child on the soccer field, supporting them, and capturing every moment on Instagram.
It’s a dichotomy that most parents practice.
As a result, your kid feels valued only for their exterior qualities, and they don’t want to cultivate and work on their inner world. In a way, they don’t have a good mirror. So, your child feels valued only for their external achievements and appearances and doesn’t want to work on their inner world. It could be the real deal and lead to a life full of difficulties.
So you may have a picture-perfect family, but neither of the parents is really on board with doing the heavy emotional lifting with kids. And because of this, children feel left out and confused and keep doing things their parents always reward them for.
Doing this heavy emotional lifting and doing the boring parts of parenting with care can prevent narcissism.
2. Observation and personal constitution
Children also learn narcissism by watching it. When a parent throws a fit at a flight attendant, screams at a teacher, storms into a restaurant saying, “We don’t expect to wait for a table,” or blasts people around them, the child right there is imbibing it all. And when the child sees enough of that entire behaviour, they learn to remodel it.
Kids do what they see!
Do narcissistic children have parents who are also narcissistic?
The parents of narcissistic children are not necessarily narcissists!
Many parents have struggles of their own. For example, some of them are distracted by work and have financial problems. Some never wanted to be parents at all. So these parents are more likely to be depressed or may be impaired due to substance abuse. Consequently, they may not be able to be present with their children in the same way a normal parent would be.
Therefore, it is necessary for parents facing mental health issues to get the help they need. If for no other reason, at least to be able to do justice to their kids, as the kids deserve the consistency of their parent’s presence.
It is not necessary that if parents are working longer hours and are not available to them, it can cause narcissism in kids. But a common pattern in many narcissistic kids is that they all face some sort of superficial early environment.
But then there are a lot of people who come from a superficial early environment who are not narcissistic. So, it all boils down to what is called as “personal constitution.” That means a person’s personal constitution and environment can make them more narcissistic than others. Some kids are more likely to get it than others because they might take these triggers more to heart than others.
Also Read: How To Overcome Depression?
Is narcissism a disorder or a personality trait?
Personally, I believe that narcissism is not a disorder. It is a personality trait, and a dangerous one. Some people classify it as a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). However, I take a different stance on it. Professor Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who wrote the defining clinical characteristics for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), once said
“Narcissistic personality disorders are tough ones because you can’t diagnose someone for being a jerk.”
He had a point!
A disorder can adversely impact a person’s mental health and make him incapacitated or distressed. For example, people suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, and phobias can feel discomfort themselves.
But narcissists are individuals who do not experience any subjective distress themselves. On the contrary, narcissistic people are like human locusts. They make others suffer! They create vast destruction around them but never reflect and say, “I am not happy with what I am doing.”
So, how can narcissism be a disorder?
Some say narcissism is a disorder because they have seen a few narcissists seeking therapy. But these people seek therapy for other reasons. For example, when their marriage is falling apart, the kids are not speaking to them, or there are red flags at work because of their behaviour. So, they seek out therapists to help them correct things going wrong in their lives and not to treat themselves.
Can you change a narcissist?
When you’re dating a narcissist or are in a relationship with one, you may think you can turn around the table. But it is more like a “Beauty and the Beast fantasy.”
Many of you may feel, “so, what if my partner is a grumpy, narcissistic beast? I would wear a nice red dress and win him. He is going to turn into a prince.”
But the whole idea that the narcissist will turn into a prince is just a fantasy.
This can keep you in this game for too long in anticipation of changing the very nature of the narcissist person. You may change your hair colour, try new styles, lose weight, and get a makeover. You may also keep the house clean, watch what they are watching, be nice, and try everything. But you fail to realize that if the other person doesn’t want to change, nobody can change them. And when it comes to narcissistic people, they don’t feel that they even need to change.
So, if you are trying to change a narcissist, it’s a waste of effort! A heartbreak!!
So, can a narcissistic person change? No!
Many psychologists believe that “once a narcissist, always a narcissist.” That means narcissistic people rarely change. It is like being a part of a club.
Trying to change a narcissist can be related to the rubber-band theory. You can stretch them to a point, but they will pop back to their original shape as soon as you release them.
That means you can train a narcissist to be a little more empathetic, not be so jerky and entitled, and listen to other people. But as soon as something stressful happens, like a bad day at work, not getting the pay raise, a friend buying a bigger house, kids not listening to them, getting older, or realizing that life isn’t going as planned, they blow up again.
This is what the rubber-band story is all about!
However, there is some limited hope. For example, you can train a narcissist to be on time because it disrespects people and it can hamper their image. But what you can’t make them do is listen to people once they get there. So, if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you can train them to some extent but can’t change them. They still will lack that empathy. Therefore, it is best to move out of such a relationship as soon as possible.
How to deal with a narcissist?
What are your options when you are dating a narcissist or are in a relationship with a narcissistic person?
Now that you know the signs you’re dating a narcissist, it is time to understand how to deal with such people.
There are two options that you can think of:
1. Move out
The first option is to get out of such a relationship. But it is not going to be pretty. Narcissists do not like to be left alone. They do not mind leaving you or being the first one to walk out, but then if you take the lead and walk out, they can make it turn ugly.
For example, if you are married, your divorce can get messy, sloppy, and expensive. If you have kids, custody can be a nightmare. You can expect a lot of drama, even if it is just a regular breakup. All in all, walking out on a narcissist can turn ugly, so be prepared for that.
2. Manage your expectations
Some people find it difficult to leave a narcissistic relationship for reasons such as their culture, religion, children, financial dependence, or because they still love them. But whatever your reasons are, if you decide to stay, you must manage your expectations.
You should not expect this person to change, listen to you, hear about your feelings, or become the way you want them to be. You should also not be fooled by the fact that becoming a darling and waiting in line at the airport will change them one day.
It’s never going to happen. Narcissists rarely change!
You can only survive a narcissistic relationship if you manage your expectations well and fulfill your deeper emotional needs of empathy, respect, and mutuality by cultivating meaningful friendships and focusing on healthy and constructive connections.
It would be best if you were also prepared to make it through all this alone without expecting anything from your narcissistic partner. And you can only do so by keeping your expectations in check and fulfilling your emotional needs through genuine friendships.
We devote ninety percent of our energy to dysfunctional relationships, leaving only ten percent for the good and loving people in our lives. So, you must flip these dynamics.
So, how should you handle a relationship with a narcissistic partner?
You now know of various signs that you’re dating a narcissist. So, it would be best if you came up with a handful of topics to discuss with your narcissistic partner, so they wouldn’t get any opportunity to insult or put you down. For example, you can talk about the weather, the neighbour’s mailbox, the birds, the rain, etc. It is better to keep your interactions to a bare minimum.
How can a relationship with a narcissistic person harm you?
Apart from the other things we discussed above, what these relationships do to you is that they can make you feel that you are not enough. Because you think if you were enough, your partner would be present; if you were enough, they would love you and respect your needs; if you were enough, your partner wouldn’t cheat on you, and so forth.
But in reality, it has nothing to do with you. It’s the other way around. You should not feel less. It’s that narcissists can’t regulate their self-esteem and are the ones who are insecure. And that’s the bottom line.
Narcissism is a trait that solely relates to insecurities. These people are so insecure that they count on the world to seek validation. They have a desperate need for validation. That’s why they love social media so much. It’s like mainline validation, where you put up a picture, and many people like it.
My message of encouragement
So if you are someone who is aware of all the signs that you’re dating a narcissist but are not able to quit your relationship with a narcissistic partner for any reason, my message of encouragement would be to cultivate those other relationships.
You should focus on fostering positive bonds with your friends who are there and present for you. You should engage in self-care practices. You should also ensure that you have those things in life that would fill you with meaning and purpose, such as work, hobbies, children, family, or volunteering. These things will keep you going and help you derive pleasure that you are probably not getting from your intimate relationship.
Another thing you can do is seek therapy, especially with a therapist who specializes in narcissism. It can help you in ways you can’t think of. It can give you an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, reflect, get through those dark nights, help overcome frustrations, and also help you figure out if there is some broken part in you that is getting validated by being in such a relationship with a narcissist. For example, people who are children of narcissistic parents are more likely to choose a narcissistic partner. The reason is very simple. They spent a lifetime pleasing their mothers and fathers, and now they have chosen a partner with whom they can spend the rest of their lives pleasing them. And a trained therapist who knows narcissism can help you unfold these aspects and do some deconstructing.
And the last piece of overarching encouragement I would extend is to advise you to always manage your expectations; otherwise, your heart is going to break on a daily basis.
If you like this post about “narcissists and signs you’re dating a narcissist,” please share it with someone who may find it meaningful. Do you know of more signs that you’re dating a narcissist? Have you ever dealt with a narcissist? You can share your experiences with us in the comments section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.
As promised, this post was just not about signs you’re dating a narcissist. There is much more!