On the first few dates when all is rosy in your relationship, he holds your waist endearingly and takes your breath away with his phenomenal kissing skills – at that point you really have no idea that you’re dating a narcissist or what is about to ensue. So if you have finally arrived at this conclusion after about four months of dating, don’t blame yourself for falling into a narcissist’s snare. You could not have seen it coming.
The thing with narcissistic behavior is that it is largely dynamic. The red flags in your partner’s behavior may all be there but narcissists have mastered the art of confuddling. So even if you have a hunch that something in your partner’s behavior is off, they might just bedazzle you in a different way and rope you right back before you can give it any further thought.
Narcissists (especially the ones who know it) can be highly manipulative. If you think that you might perhaps be in a narcissistic relationship, we have Kavita Panyam with us to confirm our suspicions and understand the situation better.
With counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades, let’s dig deeper into what it could be like to date a narcissist.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Someone who is a narcissist has their own problems of being too self-centered or too vain but that may just be a character trait and not a disorder. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder on the other hand, is dealing with something far more serious.
Yes, they could actually be dealing with a full-fledged mental condition. Which is why it is best that the word ‘narcissist’ or the mere mention of the thought that you’re possibly dating a narcissist, should not be thrown around lightly. Narcissistic personality disorder is more commonly found in men. With a combination of genetic and environmental causes, this disorder is more common than you think and many women often do have a narcissistic husband.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder will have a ridiculously inflated sense of self, little regard for other people and their needs, and a sense of entitlement that makes them put their own needs at the forefront of everything else. But does your partner really have it? Let’s not throw around any labels too quickly.
6 Signs You Are Dating A Narcissist
Moving on, let’s find a way to assuage the confusion that has made you land up here in the first place. Are you dating a narcissist or not? Just because they stare at themselves in the mirror for a minute longer than average, does not mean that you have entered a bad relationship.
Wondering, ‘Am I dating a narcissist?’ every time you look at your girlfriend? Let’s clear all doubts then and understand what narcissistic behavior really is.
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1. They pursue you desperately
Kavita tells us, “They will want to give you the moon and the stars, they might even promise you a perfect future. This way, you might not see anything amiss in your relationship as they are working extremely hard to paint you a picture that is inside their own head.”
Since this extreme love-bombing overwhelms you so much, you might not be able to actually focus on their shortcomings. When you are dating a narcissist, they will give you a sea of love which might turn you a little blind too. So if you have noticed that your partner unscrupulously idealizes your relationship or goes out of their way to make you happy, note that it may not be love and it might be an obsession or just an infatuation. That itself is one of the tell-tale signs of narcissistic behavior.
2. When you start dating a narcissist, they will sometimes pull back
Once this initial stage of extreme displays of affection has passed, a narcissist will now pull back and start making you do all the work. You might even feel like you have to put in all the work or that you are in some kind of a push-pull relationship which might start to get baffling for you.
Kavita says, “Once you agree to their advances and tell them that you love them too, narcissists feel like their task is almost done and they tend to move a few steps back. They could possibly vanish for some time, ghost you over text, leaving you feeling lost and distressed.”
3. Demeaning you often is common narcissistic behavior
Don’t be so enraptured in love and call it ‘constructive criticism’ when they blatantly make fun of you for wearing a dress that according to them, doesn’t hug you in the right places. Narcissists have a tendency to put the other person down and walk all over them. This may pinch you in little ways at first, but it can completely destroy your self-esteem over time.
A narcissist always wants to put you down because to them it feels like it is a step up for themselves. This way, they feel like they are towering over you and want you to think that you are lucky to have found someone like them.
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4. They can be cold-hearted
Giving you a long hug after you opened up about a childhood trauma to them or giving you a long kiss when you suddenly had a bad dream in the middle of the night are gestures that narcissists will never make. In a narcissistic relationship, your partner will never emote in any sort of conventional manner once their love-bombing phase has passed.
Neither can they comfort you, nor will they be vulnerable about themselves with you. Talking to a narcissist might sometimes feel like talking to a wall because they just won’t give you the answers that you want from them. Also, they don’t react as easily and just tend to become aloof at times.
5. The silent treatment is their favorite weapon
One of the signs you’re dating a narcissist is when your partner heavily uses the silent treatment on you. Taking off, leaving after a big argument – are all second nature to a narcissist.
As Kavita points out, “For narcissists it’s always, ‘My way or the highway.’ If you ever try to put your point across, they will always throw a tantrum and might just start to ignore you and give you the silent treatment. This can go on for a long time in a narcissistic relationship. Even months in the case of married couples.”
6. They are unable to sustain long-lasting attachments
When you are dating a narcissist, you will definitely notice that they have a very small friend circle and an even bigger circle of ex-friends that they have completely sidelined. A narcissist might tell you old stories of a string of friends from their past or about other past romantic relationships, who they cut off for petty reasons.
Narcissists behave quite poorly when it comes to forming attachments in the long-term. They tend to get bored quickly and quite frankly, find no reason to keep their relationships going. When things don’t move in a way that they like, narcissists just walk out without ever looking back.
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How Dating A Narcissist Changes You? 4 Ways
If you’re in a panic because the above checklist matches perfectly to your partner’s characteristics, then you’re going to want to read further. As jarring as it may all seem right now, the sooner you come to a realization that you’re dating a narcissist and understand how dating a narcissist changes you, the quicker you will be able to leave this toxic relationship.
1. You become obsessed with them and chase them even more
Narcissists can make you lose your own sanity in the way that they can change you completely. One of the major signs you’re dating a narcissist and your relationship is being driven to the rocks is when you also become too invested in your partner’s affairs and make them the center of your own life.
“You will desperately think about them all the time and obsess about them constantly. Instead of focusing on your own goals and pursuits, they will be the only thing on your mind as you continue to think about how to deal with a narcissist and make them love you more. You might think about the old, romantic days when they used to shower you with love, and will thus leave no-stone unturned to bring those days back.”, says Kavita.
2. You second guess your own opinions
As we discussed above in the signs you’re dating a narcissist, they know exactly how to push your buttons and might even demean you and shake your self-esteem. Once that happens, you become completely under-confident and perhaps even codependent on your partner.
Kavita sheds light on the same by saying, “You start seeking their validation and even their permission for things all the time. Instead of being as assertive as you used to be, you erode all boundaries and start to feel completely enmeshed with them. Your identity, your freedom and your self-expression go for a complete toss.”
3. You live in a world of fantasy
It’s not that you don’t see the red flags or you don’t notice every time they ill-treat you. It’s just that you conveniently choose to ignore it because you believe in a different version of them. This idealized image of them and your relationship is what can make you hold on for so long even though you have every single reason to let go.
Realizing that this image only lives in your head can be hard and you may not be able to easily convince yourself of the same. Even though you may feel hurt or shot-down, you continuously try to achieve a higher version of this relationship that actually just does not exist.
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4. Developing mental and physical ailments
‘Am I dating a narcissist?’ Well ask yourself, how healthy you have been in the past few months. Yes, a bad relationship can not only ruin you emotionally but also impact you physically. If you feel like you have gotten sicker lately or that the stress of your current relationship is weighing you down, that is not something you should be taking so lightly.
Kavita tells us, “Headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and a state of depression are all consequences of dating a narcissist. Since you have become so engrossed in the relationship, you might feel like you have completely jeopardized your own self – be it your interests, your friends or your job. Your social circle might have shrunk because you have become completely dependent on your partner as you continue to let them destroy you even further.”
Clearly, dating a narcissist is not fun and games, and definitely not something that is easy to break out of. It creeps in slowly but by the time you realize that this relationship is wrong for you, you are already neck-deep into this mess. But don’t worry. With time, patience and the right methods, you can walk out of this excuse of a relationship and get onto the path of recovery.
A narcissistic relationship can last years. A lot of people even end up marrying narcissists and live with them for decades. But the longer it lasts, the worse it will be for you individually as it will continue to erode you.
The answer to this question and the question of ‘How to deal with a narcissist and date them?’ does not exist. Until a narcissist gets the correct help and stops being the way that they are, dating a narcissist will never make either of you happy or make you feel as if you are in any kind of successful or happy relationship.
Ironically, no. Narcissists like feeling validated and constantly need someone who can do that for them. Which is why they easily walk into relationships by giving their partner the world and making them completely dependent on them.