Narcissists live amongst us. You might be friends with a narcissist, or you might work with one. You might even be dating one! We received a question from a reader who suspects that she might be dating a narcissist. She’s worried about the future of her relationship; and rightfully so! Dating a narcissist can be difficult, confusing, and in the worst cases can turn emotionally manipulative or abusive. While this isn’t the case for all narcissists, it’s good to be aware of potential signs. Are you dating a narcissist? Read about these ten signs to tell if you’re dating a narcissist or not.
1. What is Narcissism?
To start things off, let’s break down this title. Do you know what Narcissistic Personality Disorder really is? It’s more intense than someone who counts their likes on Facebook. The DSM-5 criteria states that to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, someone must be impaired in both self functioning and interpersonal functioning. This means that they gain their self-identity and self-motivation from others, often through traits such as grandiosity, antagonism, and attention-seeking behaviours. Narcissists experience low levels of empathy, and don’t consider the effects their behaviours have on others. Their relationships are shallow, and are a means to an end; that end is satisfaction of self esteem.
Now that you know what a Narcissist is, let’s look at how specific traits manifest. Is your significant other adamant that they’re the best at everything you do? If you have someone who brags a lot, it could be an exhibition of grandiosity. Grandiose ideas manifest most often as thinking one is better than others, and acting condescendingly towards other people. If your date made fun of you for screwing up the easy mini golf hole, it could be a warning sign that you’re dealing with a narcissist.
This one isn’t an exaggeration. Most people who know about Narcissism think that Narcissists are all self-centered jerks. While the jerk part is up for debate, self-centered is right on the money. Another facet of grandiosity, one of the diagnostic criteria for NPD, is seen by the trait of being self-centered. If your date has only talked about themselves all night (and doesn’t remember anything about you), it might be a sign that they’re a narcissist.
Suggested Reading: 10 Things a Narcissist Fears
Not sure what gaslighting is? Check out our video about emotional abuse and how it relates to gaslighting. In a nutshell, gaslighting is making someone distrust their own view of reality through manipulation. Narcissists so easily gaslight people (accidentally, or on purpose) because they need to feel like they’re smarter than you. If you express a memory or an opinion, beware: if you’re dating a Narcissist, they’ll do everything in their power to change your mind so you believe that they’re right.
5. Emotional Detachment
…But not right away. Most narcissists actually seem like the perfect partners when they start out. They’ll flatter you, build you up, and then expect you to build them up. When they’ve finally gotten all the assurance, validation, and ego-boosting they can from you, they’ll start to pull away. If your partner all of a sudden seems distant or annoyed whenever you’re around, know that that could be a sign they and their narcissism are starting to move on.
6. INSTANT Messaging
Many narcissists need instant gratification to be satisfied. Because their sense of self is directly tied to others, if someone takes a while to respond, they’re going to start feeling weak and unstable. If you’re with someone who gets annoyed when you don’t answer your phone right away, that’s a sign of narcissism. It’s also not fair to you, as someone who should be living your own life!
7. Drama Kings and Drama Queens
Not to be confused with the stereotype of a narcissist, having drama doesn’t actually mean you can be diagnosed with NPD. However, narcissists do believe themselves to be starring in their own blockbuster lifetime movie. They need to keep the stakes of their life high in order to access admiration, triumph, and respect. If your date has been talking about their tragic life story a lot, take it with a grain of salt: it could be narcissist fodder, and they might just be trying to get a response out of you.
8. Where’s The Controller?
It’s in the narcissist’s hand. No doubt your narcissist lover will have taken charge of everything from the date night to the Facebook official status to the casual road trip you wanted to plan. Narcissists need to be in control all the time, as it makes them feel like they’re in power. Whether this power is real or perceived doesn’t matter; they’ll stay in control until the bitter end. This includes controlling their reputation as well, which is oftentimes more important to them than their relationships.
9. No means No.
In any situation, if someone says no, it means no. But what does a narcissist hear? Unfortunately for a lot of narcissists, “no” is just another challenge. And they LOVE to take on challenges. Your narcissist considers themselves the exception to any and all rules. It also means they’ll take your preference or difference of opinion on as a challenge. Unsure of what this means? Think of it this way: If you don’t eat meat, your date might try to convince you to try it. That you have to try it, because it’s delicious and one bite won’t hurt. They’ll use any techniques possible to convince you that your opinion is wrong and should change, and your personal boundaries are of no concern. If your partner oversteps your boundaries often, it might be time to let go.
“No means No ” is written on the back of a woman as more than a thousand people march through the city, taking part in the first Slut Walk on August 20, 2011, in Cape Town. The Slut Walk is an idea that started in Canada, as a protest against the further victimisation of sexual abuse victims, by saying the victim deserved abuse because of what they were wearing, or the way they were behaving. Most of the marchers were young women, many of them dressed in skimpy outfits.
Suggested Reading: 10 Things a Narcissist Fears
10. You Feel Used
The long and the short of it is that if you’re dating a narcissist, you’re going to feel a little used sometimes. Ask yourself if you feel satisfied in your interactions with your partner: do they ask about you? Do they care about what you’re going through? If you find yourself tagging along on their adventures and listening to their gossip and big ideas for hours on end (with no reciprocation), it’s a sign that you’ve found yourself dating a narcissist.