Nowadays it is all too easy to label someone a “narcissist” if they show even the slightest hint of ego or self-righteousness.
You may even have a partner who makes you wonder if he/she is a narcissist. Perhaps they are too preoccupied with themselves or constantly seek admiration.
But let’s be honest: everyone has moments when they’re a little more focused on themselves. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a full-blown narcissist.
Did you actually just know that? 0.5-1% of the population have a narcissistic personality disorder?
That’s why it’s crucial to separate the myths from the facts, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today.
In this article I share 9 clear, fact-based signs that your partner is a narcissist. Hopefully it will help inform and guide you so you can better understand what narcissism really looks like in a relationship.
Let’s dive in!
1) They feel (or at least act) superior to others
Does your partner behave like they are better than you and other people? Like whatever they say, it comes from a Bible – unassailably, undeniably right.
Well, it comes from a Bible – Theirs Bible.
It is a self-created writing in which they are always the protagonist, the source of wisdom, the undisputed hero. They know everything, and no matter what you say, it doesn’t matter because “you’re wrong!”
I bet it’s hard to solve problems, right? How can you make yourself heard when they reject your opinion or react strongly to criticism?
You may find yourself constantly trying to knock them down just to feel like you’re on a level playing field.
Or worse, you might start to believe that they are truly superior, which can affect your self-esteem.
A healthy relationship is about lifting each other up. There is no hierarchy of who is better than who. With a narcissist you probably won’t get that kind of support.
2) They think you can’t understand them because only ‘special’ people can
Strangely enough, no matter how supportive your partner is, a narcissistic partner won’t see it that way.
Why? Because in their eyes you are an ordinary person. They are not. How can the ordinary understand the exceptional?
No, only the special can understand the special.
Therefore, according to HelpGuide.org“they only want to associate with people, places and things of high status.”
This brings me to my next point…
3) They are preoccupied with fantasies of grandeur
Instead of support, you will likely become preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, fairytale romance, or beauty.
Basically anything great.
In fact, according to psychologists, this is one way they get your attention and lure you into their web. It’s a tactic called “future faking.”
It’s hard to resist someone with big dreams, who knows how to create fantastic pictures of the future you share. Who showers you with so much love and affection that you can no longer see clearly.
If you’re the optimistic type, you’ll see this in a positive light, only to find out too late that it was all hot air.
But that’s what narcissists usually do: they run on hope.
4) They should always be the center of attention
Another narcissistic trait is the need to be in the spotlight.
In Psychology today Dr. Kristy Lee Parkin talks about this obsession with attention:
“Relationships often aim to increase the status of the narcissist. For example, they may not necessarily want to become parents, but may change their minds if they realize that with it comes a rise in status and recognition – and the new title of ‘mother’ or ‘father’.”
It’s a bit of a warped way of thinking, to be honest, but that’s the reality – in a narcissist’s life the main role is… you guessed it, themselves.
Everyone around them is there just to amplify their presence. Supporting roles, in other words.
5) They have very low empathy
Ironically, they cannot give you the same level of support that you give them. Because here’s the strange thing about people with NPD: according to research:
“People affected by NPD show specific difficulties in the area of empathy, but these difficulties are limited to the affective part of it. In fact, the cognitive part appears to be conserved and essential for manipulative skills and exploitation of others.”
That means they know intellectually how to use empathy to gain an advantage over you. But they struggle with using empathy to provide real, honest support.
6) They tend to exploit you and others
If this sounds like your partner, then you’ve probably felt manipulated in some way.
You see, narcissists often take advantage of people a variety of manipulative tactics to keep you under control, such as:
- Blame and shame
- Gas lighting
- love bombing
- Emotional blackmail
- Ignore your boundaries
It’s quite a longer list than this, but the point is that narcissists exploit others simply because they are always looking for the next “narcissistic fix” and don’t really think about the impact of their actions on others.
That sounds nefarious, I know, but I don’t mean to paint a bad picture of them. This is just to help you recognize the signs so you can be on the lookout.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to debunk the common myth that “all narcissists are bad.” Dr. Elinor Greenberg of Psychology Today explains this so well:
“Narcissists are neither superheroes nor villains. They are troubled, highly self-centered people with low emotional empathy, a host of other narcissistic problems, and are concerned with shoring up their shaky self-esteem.”
I repeat: narcissists may behave in hurtful ways, but they are not inherently bad. They simply have a distorted view of themselves. Whatever may be the reason…
7) They feel entitled
That distorted image gives narcissists a sense of entitlement. They believe that because they are special, they should get everything they want.
Psychologists say this is a key characteristic of narcissism. It goes beyond the usual entitlement we feel on birthdays and important milestones in our lives.
For narcissists, this sense of entitlement is always present, regardless of whether or not they have done something that deserves special treatment.
When that sense of entitlement is threatened (for example, if they don’t get what they want), they may even be hostile. They may resort to behaviors such as:
- Getting into a dark mood
- Wanting to ‘get back’ what was ‘taken from them’
- Wanting to take revenge on the offender
The bottom line is that it is simply unacceptable (the favorite word of the Karens and Kens of the world) that they are not getting what they are “due.”
8) They must always be validated
The funny thing is, you might think that a narcissist, with his inflated sense of self-worth, doesn’t need validation from others.
But the truth is, they absolutely do!
Research now shows that it is insecurity that drives narcissistic behavior, and not an inflated sense of self.
According to Mary Kowalchyk, the study’s lead author, “More specifically, the results suggest that narcissism is better understood as a compensatory adaptation to overcome and cover up low self-esteem.”
This explains why…
9) They behave arrogantly or haughtily
Now that we know that narcissists are insecure at their core explains why they act like arrogant jerks.
Going back to the research I mentioned above, the research shows that their arrogance is simply a way of dealing with these insecurities.
So they can stoop by showing off or behaving in a conceited manner. Which makes others like them less. Which fuels their insecurity even more. This makes them flex even more.
It’s an endless cycle of arrogant behavior, all because they actually have low self-esteem.
How to protect yourself
Now a word of caution: If your partner exhibits one or two of these behaviors, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a full-blown narcissist.
The truth is that we all have narcissistic traits at times.
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V)at least five of these criteria must be present before someone can receive a definitive diagnosis of NPD.
That said, even a few narcissistic traits can cause a lot of damage to the other partner in the relationship.
So, how do you deal with it? Here are some ways:
- Understand the behavior. Educate yourself about narcissism so you can make sure you don’t internalize their negative behavior as your fault. (It’s absolutely NOT your fault.)
- Set boundaries. Be clear about what you will and will not tolerate. And also be clear about the consequences of crossing it. This is essential to maintain control over your life.
- Keep up with your hobbies, interests and social life. A narcissistic partner might try to isolate you from all of this to maintain control. Don’t lose your self-esteem!
- Seek support from friends, family, or a professional therapist.
- Self-care practice. Dealing with a narcissistic partner can be mentally and emotionally draining.
- Choose your battles. Arguing with a narcissist can cost you a lot of energy, so be picky about what’s worth spending your energy on.
- Focus on reality. Remember that narcissists tend to distort the truth. Trust your judgment and ground yourself in reality.
Sometimes leaving the relationship is the healthiest option. That’s no shame.
Narcissists are people who have their own share of struggles just like us. Behind their challenging behavior and attitudes often lies a complex web of insecurities and self-esteem issues.
However, understanding this doesn’t mean you have to put up with unhealthy behaviors. Compassion is essential, but so is your well-being and happiness.
The key is to find a balance between empathy and self-care.
Above all, I want to remind you that you are not responsible for fixing or changing your partner.
What you are responsible for is you. For setting firm boundaries, getting support, doing whatever helps you take care of yourself.
And if that means walking away, then so be it. Your long-term happiness depends on it.
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