Are you dating a narcissist or wondering if your partner is a narcissist? Normally when people begin to ask this question, there are already in too deep. 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 tend to 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 in before you can give it any further thought.
A narcissist dating relationship (especially the ones where the narcissist knows that they’re a narcissist) can be highly manipulative. 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?
A narcissistic personality is often described as being too self-centered or too vain but those can just as easily be character traits and not a disorder. A person with narcissistic personality disorder, on the other hand, has something far more serious ongoing. Medically, narcissistic personality disorder arises from weak self-esteem that can get wounded by even the slightest criticism. Therefore, someone suffering from this personality disorder masks their extreme vulnerability by having an extremely bloated sense of self, a lack of empathy toward others, and a desperate need for attention and approval from others.
Some common traits seen in those with this condition are:
- An expectation to be recognized as the superior person in any room
- Having an exaggerated sense of importance for themselves
- Tendency to take advantage of others for their own means
- Being envious of others who might be deemed better by others
- Trying to monopolize interactions with others
This is why it is best that the word ‘narcissist’ or the thought that you’re possibly dating a narcissist should not be thrown around lightly. A narcissistic personality disorder is more commonly found in men. Triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental causes, this disorder is more common than you think. This also means the odds of a woman ending up with a narcissistic husband or partner are significant.
A person with a narcissistic personality disorder has a ridiculously inflated sense of self, little regard for other people and their needs, and a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy that makes them put their own needs at the forefront of everything else. Does that sound like your partner? Let’s not throw around any labels too quickly. You’ll get a much clearer idea of if it’s a narcissist dating you by the end of this article, so we urge you to read carefully.
What Is A Narcissist?
While it’s always convenient to declare anyone who’s more than a little enthusiastic to talk about themselves or their careers as a narcissist, the reality is a little more complex than that. Narcissism as a behavioral trait includes a desire to be admired and approved by everyone, to want to be the center of attention and a sense of self-importance that makes them want to be treated specially and preferentially by others.
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Naturally, they have a hard time in any type of relationship. A narcissist often has a lack of empathy for others and faces difficulty with getting intimate. and being dependent on others. They also have an exaggerated sense of self that results in them making decisions that always center themselves. They always have the desire to feel dominant and superior to others. This leads to their partner getting left out in the process and not being an equal companion in their relationship.
A narcissist wants you to chase them instead of them putting effort into the relationship instead of putting in the effort by themselves. This leads to a relationship whose scales are always unbalanced, leading to tensions and conflicts within it.
What Is It Like Dating A Narcissist?
The effects of dating a narcissist are invariably harsh on you, either emotionally or physically, or in some cases, both. For a narcissist, their needs come over everything else. And so most of your time and energy is spent catering to their demands and requirements. This can leave you drained and lacking affection for others in your life and, most of all, yourself. Everything is about them, which leads to you feeling underappreciated and invisible in the relationship.
There are good chances that you might feel drained and neglected after conversing with them. It’s because they often like maintaining a sense of superiority in any relationship they have. Everything’s about them, all the stories revolve around them, and it’s them that you should always feel awed by. This invariably leads to your relationship turning into a toxic one if it already wasn’t in the first place.
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Most of your conversations with them are about their life, their experiences, and their opinions. This can make you feel left out and suffocated in the relationship. Those in a relationship often feel the need to blame and punish themselves because their narcissistic partner makes them feel that it was their fault all along as they’re perfect. A narcissist wants you to chase them and if you don’t do so, they can make you feel like you’re not being a good partner in the first place.
It’s hard not to feel stuck in a cycle with no end in sight, the same issues resurfacing with every day. Emotional manipulation and gaslighting are common tactics used by narcissists in their relationships. You might find yourself having difficulty in trusting others from thereon because you trusted someone and they turned out like this, so how can you repeat that mistake? You might have trust issues in your personal and professional relationships and it’s hard to be able to start trusting other people again.
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. Here are the top 6 signs of dating a narcissist.
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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 that 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.
Alice was head over heels for this guy and thought she’d found her true love. But there were signs from the very beginning that made her feel uncomfortable but she chose to ignore them initially. But they kept on repeating. He used to call his past wife and partners the worst names and tell her how they were the absolute worst. On top of it, when Alice asked for a deeper commitment a few months into their relationship, he started acting weirdly.
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He wouldn’t talk for days and started acting formally around her. When she faced him, she blamed her for being cruel and unnecessarily creating tensions with him. After a painful process of arranging her priorities, Alice decided to leave him for good, but the scars of that relationship still scare her in her romantic life.
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. They’re often emotionally abusive
The abuse in narcissistic relationships is usually so subtle that it often doesn’t even strike as abuse to the victim. Sometimes they gaslight you for something you were complaining about, showing how they weren’t at fault in the first place and how you were overreacting. Sometimes they put you down in front of friends and family or make jokes at your expense. As you get used to it, hoping they won’t get worse than that, their abuse only keeps growing.
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4. They can be cold-hearted
Giving you a long hug after you opened up about 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 won’t give you the answers that you want from them. Also, they don’t react as easily and tend to become aloof at times.
Ronnie recalls how she was shocked to know how unkind her husband could be outside of himself when there was an old man who had called with his bags on the pavement and he didn’t stop even after she asked him to. The other time, there was an injured kitten lying on the road and he just swerved the car to pass it by. There were several other instances where he wouldn’t care about someone at all because they weren’t ”his damn responsibility”.
When it continued happening, Ronnie took the hard pill to separate. Because he wouldn’t change no matter what she tried, and she didn’t want to be the kitten on the road one day.
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, and leaving after a big argument – are all second nature to a narcissist. When done occasionally, the silent treatment can be a good way for both partners to have some space for themselves. But doing it all time puts thick walls between the two that are difficult to remove.
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 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 isolate you from other aspects of your life
Do you see yourself getting cut off and isolated from other aspects of your life as your relationship proceeds? It’s a major sign that you’re dating a narcissist. A narcissist isolates you from your friends and other acquaintances so as to have complete control over you. They try to convince you to spend as much time with them as possible and prioritize them the most in your life. They might even make you feel guilty if you aren’t able to do so. This leads to rising feelings of guilt when you’re not spending your time with them or prioritizing them over yourself.
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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.”
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Suzanne was a happy-go-lucky girl who happened to fall madly in love with a narcissist. Within a few months of her relationship, her friends recall seeing her in a confused, disoriented state where she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. It was all because of her partner who would make her feel as if everything wrong in their relationship was their fault. Even though she tried to do everything she could, the relationship kept getting worse and worse until her friends interfered and took her out of that mess.
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 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 to be taken so lightly. This is one of the common signs you dated a narcissist at some point or are dating one.
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.”
When To Leave A Relationship With A Narcissist?
If you can see all the signs of dating a narcissist in your relationship and that is affecting your physical and/or mental health, it’s better to have a talk with them first. Try explaining all that is troubling you, and if the relationship means something to them as well, they’ll try and make amends. But if they’re so self-centered as to not see any of their faults and try to shift the blame back on you, it’s time to say goodbye to them.
If you see the following signs in your relationship, you should leave it immediately:
- Your partner is very jealous
- You find yourself cut out from other parts of your life
- You feel humiliated and belittled constantly in your relationship
- You’re being abused emotionally or physically or sexually or all
- Your partner constantly gaslights you
- Your partner demands to control all aspects of your life
You should also consider getting professional support and help from your friends and family in order to leave the relationship. Make sure to keep away from any reminders of your partner and try to get over the entire harrowing experience.
There are various signs you dated a narcissist at some point. The more recent the relationship was, the more the signs are visible. These can range from emotional neediness, self-doubt, blaming yourself for everything, cutting yourself from everyone, and many others. The best way to ensure you don’t fall into this is by facing it headfirst as soon as you can. Try to make them realize their mistakes and work on themselves. And if they blame you in turn, it’s better to say your goodbyes than continue to suffer.
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. This is why they easily walk into relationships by giving their partner the world and making them completely dependent on them.