Applied Psychology

Could you be dating a narcissist? These are the signs

Sep 10, 2018

Dating a narcissist can have serious implications on your self-worth. Here are five ways to determine if your partner is a little too caught up in themselves.

Key takeaways:

  • Dating a narcissist can negatively impact your self-esteem and your self-worth.
  • The term narcissist comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus.
  • Roughly 6% of the population suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • There are ways to determine whether or not your partner is a narcissist.

Dating and relationships, in general, are hard. Navigating your way through your different wants, needs and expectations in order to find some mutual common ground can be tricky and takes work. The rewards are worth it though, unless you are dating a narcissist. If this is the case, the rewards are few and far between and the damage to your self-esteem and self-worth are hard to justify.

The term narcissist originates from the myth of Narcissus, son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. There are a few versions of the story, but the premise remains the same. One day Narcissus was walking by the lake and decided to drink some water. Upon doing so he caught sight of his reflection and was blown away by his beauty. He became utterly entranced and, as a result, he couldn’t walk away. Narcissus remained by the lake, staring at his reflection, until he withered away and all that was left was a narcissus flower.

While, few of us are stuck at a lake admiring our reflection, we all have some narcissistic traits, many of which we are not proud of. When these traits turn to the extreme however one may be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The Mayo Clinic research group defines NPD as, “A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.” According to research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychology, roughly 6% of the population has NPD and it is more common in men than women. Narcissists believe they are superior to others, yet behind this false bravado lies a very fragile sense of self. How do you know you’re dating a narcissist? Here are five signs you should look out for.

1. Gaslighting

The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 film Gaslight. The plot of the film revolves around a husband who goes out of his way to convince his wife that she is insane. Gaslighting is a common behaviour among narcissists. It’s often quite subtle and, at times, can be hard to put your finger on, but it’s a constant chipping away at your self-worth. It’s incredibly manipulative and often based on deliberate lies. If, in your relationship, you find yourself feeling anxious and frequently questioning yourself and what you stand for, if you feel like you are losing grip on who you are and persistently doubting your behaviour and decisions, you may be a victim of gaslighting and hence the partner of a narcissist.

2. Love talking about themselves

One of the simplest ways of identifying whether your partner is a narcissist is to simply listen to what they say. Narcissists have a favourite topic of conversation, themselves. They often dominate conversations with grandiose tales of their accomplishments and success or, the other extreme, they drone on about what victims they are and how terrible their lot in life is. Their conversations frequently put others down including their partners. They are excessively focused on materialism and a display of their superiority.

3. Charming and romantic…with a catch

Partners of narcissists are often swept up in romance and charm at the start of their relationships. The narcissist seems to adore their new partner, showering them in gifts, praise and compliments. Things almost seem too good to be true – side note: if you feel like something is too good to be true it’s because it often is. The start of the relationship is incredibly intense and moves very quickly. If you find this happening, stop and focus! While romance and butterflies are amazing, in the extreme however they can be signs of an unhealthy start. The sad truth is that your narcissist is not interested in you, but rather in what they can extract from you. They have a need to fulfil an inner emptiness, caused in part by their inability to form true and lasting attachments.

4. Unreliable and lacking follow-through

A good way to spot if your partner is a narcissist is to measure their words against their actions. Narcissists often make grand promises and speak of commitment, but when it comes down to it they are unreliable and seldom deliver. This lack of dependability applies to emotional commitments and behaviour too. They go from hot to cold, there for you one minute and absent the next. If you find there is frequent inconsistency between what your partner says versus what they do, this could be a sign that you’re dating a narcissist.

5. Lack of empathy

Although they often believe they are highly empathic, narcissists generally lack empathy. They aren’t able to focus on others and identify with situations that don’t directly involve them. Clinical psychologist, Edward Talley explains this when saying, “When the world is all about you, there is little room left to have genuine and sustained empathy towards others…It seldom translates into action where they act in a way that requires sacrifice and humility.”

Keep in mind that an official diagnosis of NPD can only be made by a doctor. If, however your partner displays consistent narcissistic tendencies, it may be time to start planning your exit strategy. Always remember that their behaviour has nothing to do with you or who you are, it is purely a reflection of them and their chronic emptiness and inability to form true connections. When working out what to do don’t forget that no relationship is worth more than your mental health or your self-worth.

Interested in learning more about human psychology? You could study at SACAP, and use the courses on offer as a springboard for pursuing a career in psychology, or to develop useful skills that can be applied in other areas. Part-time and distance learning options are also available. For more information, enquire now.

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