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15 Signs You Are In a Relationship With a Narcissist (And What to Do)

15 Signs You Are In a Relationship With a Narcissist (And What to Do)

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is not a pleasant experience. The negative impact ripples out to all areas of your life – from your ability to focus at work all the way through to affecting your emotional and physical health.

The difficult part is knowing whether your partner really is a narcissist (or are they just overly confident); and the even trickier part – if you know they are a narcissist, what can you do about it?

In this article, we go through the signs (also known as red flags) to indicate you are more than likely in a relationship with a narcissist, and what you can do if you are in this situation.

Signs of a Narcissistic Partner

If your partner exhibits 5 or more of these signs, there is a very high chance you are in a relationship with a narcissist (otherwise known as someone with a narcissistic personality type); or in extreme cases where you are experiencing a relationship with someone that shows all of these signs, they will likely have what’s called Narcissistic Personality Disorder or “NPD”.

1. Everything Is about Them

Ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is “all about me“? Someone who only listens to him or herself? One thing that will be noticeable is that every conversation will be hijacked and redirected back to them.

Narcissists have a constant need for attention, and if this need is not met, you can expect irritation and resentment. Being in a relationship with a narcissist means that not only every conversation is about them, but every decision, opinion, thought, goal, choice (e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.) is about them.

Part of this all-about-me-syndrome is a sense of entitlement. In relationships, this can come across as “my way or the highway” where your thoughts, feelings and opinions really aren’t valid. The narcissist with NPD truly believes the world revolves around them and that they are entitled to have constant, excessive attention and admiration; and to have everything the way they want it.

2. They Are so Charming… At First

Early in the relationship, you will experience the highest highs you have ever experienced when dating someone. You will be spoilt, pampered, showered with affection and flattery. You will feel like the most special person on the planet, and think to yourself “how did I get so lucky?” and “is this person real?”. Narcissists are highly skilled at turning on the charm to get what they want.

Research by Michael Dufner and others found that narcissists are considered to be appealing short-term romantic or sexual partners. They found that the mate appeal of narcissists stems from their physical attractiveness and their social boldness – displays of characteristics such as confidence, charm and charisma.[1]

However, with anyone putting on a show, there is only so long you can sustain this act before your true colours start to shine through. And the narcissist’s act is no exception.

3. Split Personalities

The charm and appeal experienced at the start of a relationship with a narcissist doesn’t last forever. It may take days, weeks, months or in some cases up to a year. The switch from the charming person you fell so hard for, to someone you feel like you barely know can feel like the wind has been knocked out of your sails.

One minute you feel like you are gliding along the water with the sun beaming on your face, the next you feel like you are in the middle of a ferocious, scary storm.

If you have experienced the Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde switch, where one minute you feel as though you’ve found ‘the one’; and then the next minute wonder who this nasty person is in front of you – you are experiencing the “splitting” personality of the narcissist.

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Andrea Schneider, Narcissism Topic Expert explains that the cracks will usually start to show slowly:[2]

“The person with narcissism often may begin—subtly, insidiously, and covertly—to devalue his or her significant other. This may happen via putdowns, gaslighting, intermittently lacking emotional or physical intimacy, withdrawing affection, seductive withholding, inexplicably disappearing from contact, or blaming the target for the narcissistic person’s issues (projection).”

Some narcissists will continue to ‘reward’ their partner with affection (on their terms) or gifts while at the same time devaluing them. This can be a very confusing time for the person on the receiving end.

4. Lack of Boundaries

People with narcissistic tendencies show deliberate disregard for other people’s boundaries. They regularly overstep the mark and use others without a second thought for the affect they may have on them.

The narcissist shows disregard for other people’s boundaries in many different ways including regularly breaking promises or obligations, borrowing items or money without returning them (and with no intent to ever return or repay), and showing little remorse and blaming the other person when they have overstepped the mark.

5. You Are Isolated

Isolation is one of the more common ways a narcissist can gain control in a relationship. This control feeds their need to have everything their way, and to have their partner become fully dependent on them.

Some of the ways a narcissist can isolate you are: cutting you off from friends and family; controlling use of and monitoring social media and phone calls; controlling the use of vehicles; pulling you away from hobbies; and even in some cases, disengaging you from the workforce, therefore having full financial control.

Narcissists will use manipulative comments like “Why do you bother spending your time and effort on her when you don’t even like her?”; or “I paid for this car, so of course I get to say when you can use it”; or “I thought you loved me? Why are you spending so many hours at work?”.

Over time hearing continual put-downs, doubts, and jealous comments leads to giving up all of the things that give you your own identity. You become a diminished version of yourself that you don’t even recognize anymore. Someone the narcissist has moulded to suit their own lifestyle and needs.

6. Disregard for Your Feelings

An important part of any relationship is the need to be understood, and to be able to freely express your feelings, desires, aspirations and needs with your partner.

Because of the narcissist’s need to be wanted, they may come across as caring and that they truly want what’s best for you; but the harsh reality is that beneath it all, they are actually more concerned about “what’s in it for me”.

The narcissist will make decisions based on what will benefit them, not what will benefit (or affect) their relationship. They simply don’t have the capacity to take on board your feelings, because they are too concerned about their own.

7. Delusions of Grandeur

People with NPD believe they are superior to everyone and anyone else, and this delusion of grandeur is the primary reason they are unable to experience love. They do not view others to be in any way equal to them, and they genuinely believe that they are superior in virtually all respects.

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8. They Are Short-fused

As I already mentioned, the narcissist believes everything is about them, and that their way is the only way. When things don’t go their way or when they aren’t getting all the attention, or when someone disagrees with them, this can be like entering a lion’s den. They have trouble regulating emotions and behaviour, handling criticism and can feel hurt very easily.

Narcissists can also become impatient or angry when they don’t receive the “VIP treatment” they believe they rightfully deserve.

9. Inability to Let You In

Underneath the wall that the narcissist has built to keep themselves above others, there is an underlying current of insecurity, fear, anxiety and shame. Because of their need to feel superior, they will not let this wall down.

To let others in and to be truly vulnerable would be too risky, so they portray a very high level of self-esteem and false bravado and keep people at arm’s length. In intimate relationships, this can be a detrimental game of cat and mouse, with the narcissist continuously baiting for attention, then pushing away when you get too close.

10. They Avoid Total Responsibility

In a relationship with a narcissist, you will notice they are very quick to take responsibility – when something has gone right. The credit, praise, positive and good feeds the narcissist’s ego.

One thing you will never see or hear is a narcissist taking responsibility when something has gone wrong. In these circumstances, they will blame, deflect, avoid and deny, truly believing it had nothing to do with them, and act hurt that someone could imply it was their fault to begin with.

11. The Green Eyed Monster

People with narcissistic personalities typically obsess over power, status, beauty, success, class and status. They exhibit jealousy towards people who have what they want. On the flip side, narcissists may also accuse others of being envious of them, including their own partner.

The critical point in this, is that how the narcissist presents on the surface is entirely different from how the narcissist feels deep down inside. There are two selves at work with the narcissist: their authentic self (the one experiencing jealousy), and the fraudulent, fantasy self they try to sell to the public (the egotistical self accusing others of being jealous of them).

12. They Are Manipulation Experts

Although I have already covered some of the ways a narcissistic partner can manipulate you, it is worth delving into their manipulation techniques a little deeper.

Most people can identify when someone is trying to manipulate them, and avoid them completely; but the narcissist has a very stealth, underhanded way of manipulating those around them, especially their partner.

Here are two common narcissistic manipulation tactics:

  • Belittling – Whether in the comfort of your own home or out in public, the narcissist won’t have any issues with putting you down. They will cover up their put-downs with phrases like “can’t you take a joke?” or “come on, we were all thinking it”
  • Playing the victim – Think of this scenario, you are trying to explain how much you hate it when they argue with you, and the narcissist turns around and says “See? You’re always trying to start an argument with me”. Which leaves you baffled, because that’s the exact topic you are trying to raise with them. The narcissist will always turn things around to make themselves out to be the victim.

13. Crazy-making

Also known as “gaslighting”, is a slow, calculated process to have you believing that you are crazy, and that you can’t trust your own judgement. It is the height of deception and a means of control.

Gaslighting starts with the narcissist planting seeds of doubt. You may notice something your partner is doing or saying that doesn’t seem to add up, but when you mention it, you are made to feel like it’s the most absurd thing you have ever said. You start to doubt yourself.

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Then the next time, you actually DO catch them out with a lie. Again, you are confronted in such a way that they have you convinced you somehow got it wrong. They will deny things they have said. They will change the story to confuse you. They will project their behaviour on to you. And they may even form alliances to reinforce ‘just how crazy you are’.

14. No Grey Area

The narcissist sees the world in black and white. There is no grey area. This is part of their personality splitting mentioned previously, and includes two very strict categories – winners or losers.

According to Seth Meyers Psy.D.:[3]

“There is no possible outcome they can conceive of in which everyone gets their needs met. There isn’t enough attention and praise for everyone to go around, so according to narcissistic logic, only a few lucky ones will be selected.”

He goes on to explain that if the narcissist sees any threat to their ego, they will get in first to seek and destroy, and ultimately win. They will do whatever it takes to ensure they don’t feel weak, unnoticed, defective or defeated. Even if it means verbally or emotionally destroying their ‘opponent’ (yes, this includes their partner).

15. Pull And Push

The narcissistic partner will pull you into their world. They will take all of your love, money and respect, drawing you into their world like a tornado. But just as easily, they will spit you out. Once you are of no use to a narcissist, they will discard you like you never existed; as long as it is on their terms.

If you try to end the relationship before they have finished with you, the force of the tornado pulling you back in will be the strongest it has ever been, as the narcissist pulls out every trick in the book to get you back.

What Should You Do If Your Partner Is a Narcissist?

I’m not going to sugar-coat things here, speaking from personal experience leaving a narcissistic relationship is no easy feat. But for me, the reward on the other side was worth the initial discomfort.

According to Psychology Today author Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., one of the main reasons it’s so hard to leave a relationship with a narcissist is because “you have become ‘Trauma Bonded’ to this person”.[4] Because of the initial showering of love, and feeling like all of your dreams have come true then the slow process of isolation, manipulation, crazy-making, control, loss of self, and confusion sprinkled with reward and a dash of intimacy; you are now addicted and bonded emotionally, physically and more importantly mentally to your narcissistic partner.

So what on earth can you do when you are Trauma Bonded to another person?

1. Educate Yourself

The first step is to educate yourself on what narcissism is, and how it works. The more you understand your partner’s condition, the more you will understand their behaviour.

This isn’t to say you can excuse or dismiss the behavior, but that you can get a greater insight into why they do what they do, and say what they say.

Researching online is a great place to start.

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2. Make a Choice

Once you know everything there is to know about narcissism, you have a choice — either stay and put up with the behaviour, and / or try to convince your partner to seek help; or leave.

And if you choose to stay, you now know exactly what to expect from your partner, and what they aren’t able to give you if they don’t seek help.

And if you leave, you will need to ensure you are prepared for what comes next.

3. Be Prepared

Whichever way you decide, you will need to be prepared. Educating yourself is not enough to keep you safe if you decide to stay in a relationship with a true narcissist. You will need to go above and beyond to ensure you are protecting yourself emotionally, physically, financially and mentally.

And if you decide to leave, you will need to be prepared for the tornado force that is the narcissist trying to pull you back in. One of the best ways to do this is to leave quickly and cut all contact. This may be easier said than done if you have children or assets with the narcissist, however there are qualified professionals that can get involved in these circumstances.

Another way to prepare yourself is to make a list of all the reasons you want to leave — this will be an important reminder when the tornado is in full force. Also, because of the trauma bonding, there will be a grief process to go through. Ensuring you have plenty of support throughout this process is integral.

You can learn more about how to deal with a narcissist in this guide:

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Final Thoughts

Healthy, fulfilling relationships are formed when both partners can feel safe to express who they really are, and be all of themselves without judgement or criticism.

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is the opposite of this experience, and unless your partner is open to the idea and has the financial means to seek professional help, the reality is they probably won’t change.

You do have a choice though. And whichever way you choose, take care of yourself first.

More Resources about Relationships

Featured photo credit: Parker Whitson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Amy Milnes

A relationship coach empowering people to create and maintain loving and lasting relationships.

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner 7 Secrets of a Happy Marriage Revealed by a Relationship Expert When to Talk About Marriage If You Want to Take it to the Next Level 15 Signs You Are In a Relationship With a Narcissist (And What to Do)

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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