Are you worried that the person you’re dating might be a narcissist? And, if they are, why is it so toxic and dangerous?
What is a narcissist?
The term narcissist is used to characterize a person who is overly self-involved or excessively in love with themselves. But Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is much more than an over-inflated ego. To quickly summarize, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a collection of maladaptive behavioural patterns (symptoms) that are very different than what is accepted socially.
These chronic symptoms cause significant personal, social, and occupational problems for themselves and for anyone in a relationship with them. Narcissists can be dangerously manipulative, exploitative, and abusive. And a pathological narcissist engages in extreme forms of most of these behaviours while remaining unaware and unconcerned with the effect of their actions on others.
So what are the problems associated with being in a relationship with a narcissist?
1. Narcissists will exploit you
Narcissists will do whatever it takes to feel special at the cost to those around them. They are capable of doing anything necessary to get ahead or stand out, including hurting other people. Extreme narcissists may suffer incredible withdrawal—periods of anger, sadness, fear, and shame—until they can sneak, demand, borrow or steal their next dose of attention.
If they want to take credit for someone else’s work, so be it. If they have to criticize others mercilessly to feel superior, even if it means throwing their partner’s self-esteem under the bus, they will.
In essence, this means that self-esteem enhancement is ultimately more important to them than you can ever be. When their self-esteem dips, they become grandiose and insist that they are special, perfect, and omnipotent—while devaluing other people as inferior to them.
So, As the closest person to them, they are likely to devalue you in order to feel more important again.
2. They feel extremely entitled
Narcissists act as if the world owes them and should bend to their will. The narcissist feels completely entitled to disrupt and in some cases destroy the lives of others so that his needs and desires are met.
Along with the extreme self-entitlement is an unrelenting ruthlessness. If you are between a narcissist and his goal, even if you are his spouse or child—be prepared for this person to overrun you to get to where he deserves to be.
3. Lack of emotional empathy
A lack of emotional empathy means that narcissists do not feel bad when they hurt you. They may not even notice your reaction. If they do, they are highly unlikely to care. If you complain, they will deny responsibility “You are too sensitive.” Or they will blame you “If you weren’t so stupid, I wouldn’t have to correct you so often.”
Besides a complete lack of empathy narcissist rarely apologize because they find it too humiliating to accept blame, even when they clearly know that they were wrong.
So now that you know why narcissistic relationships are so bad many of you are probably think that it won’t Happen to them. You’d never allow anyone to control you or engage in abusive behaviour.
Of course, No one would knowingly dive into an abusive relationship with a narcissist. The problem is that they don’t start out as abusive.
In the beginning, narcissists are charismatic, attentive, committed, they are real-life Prince Charmings. These relationships often begin as incredibly intense and passionate love affairs. An abuser will work to make you feel so appreciated and loved, you won’t even notice he is controlling you as you relinquish your life an inch at a time while becoming more and more entrenched in the relationship.
In other words, they hold themselves back until they gain their partner’s trust and love. And it works. Yes, the intense and passionate start of a narcissistic relationship makes symptoms difficult to recognize. But there are early warning signs and red flags that can protect you before you’re too emotionally involved.
Here are six of the earliest signs.
1. Unrealistic levels
Narcissists often elevate their new partners to unrealistic levels and ‘place them on a pedestal’. This allows the narcissist to feel special by association. Their belief is ‘I must be pretty amazing if she is with me.’ This idealization or ‘love-bombing’ is one of the more difficult warning signs to accept.
She wants to see him every night. He wants to move in after a month. The narcissist may claim you’re perfect for each other, that it was love at first sight, that you’re soul mates and other romantic-sounding things.
Unfortunately, the desirability of this behaviour gives controlling narcissist the best opportunity to gain total control over the other partner’s schedule and life.
2. Smear campaigns against prior lovers
In an abusive relationship, the “honeymoon period” is the illusory calm before the storm. The narcissist holds themselves back until they gain their partner’s trust and love. They are on their best behaviour which makes seeing their true colours much more difficult.
Still, they are often more than willing to discuss their past relationships which can give you valuable insight and possible warning signs. When talking about their history, narcissists often describe past lovers as “unstable”, “crazy” and or “abusive”.
In addition, narcissists may even explain the “smear campaign” they waged against their former lover at the end of the relationships. Pay attention and listen for examples of triangulation or validations from the narcissist’s support network.
Of course, they hide behind a cloak of feigned innocence as they explain their “genuine concern” for the well-being of past lovers. Pay attention to the how they talk about other relationships. You’ll be surprised at what you might learn.
Narcissists have a constant need to remain in control and stay in charge because when they are not, they may have to depend on another person to get what they want. And they can’t stand to be at the mercy of other people’s preferences. It reminds them that they aren’t invulnerable or completely independent.
They might have to ask for what they want and even worse, people may not feel like meeting the request. So, Rather than express needs or preferences themselves, they often arrange events (and manoeuvre people) to orchestrate the outcomes they desire.
But as with most of these red flags, the efforts at control are often far subtler than outright abuse. Instead, the narcissist has a way of making you feel nervous about approaching certain topics or sharing your own preferences. They make choices feel off-limits without expressing any anger at all.
Instead, maybe a disapproving wince or they will give you a last-minute call to preempt your plans or be chronically late whenever you’re in charge of arranging a night together.
4. They take control slowly
They arrange events (behind the scenes) to get what they want. For example, you make plans to go out with your girlfriends on Saturday night, and suddenly the man your dating has front row tickets to see your favourite band on the same night. they are effectively preempting the plans you might have made by planning to do something extravagant and presenting it as a surprise they know you can’t refuse.
And this type of control happens gradually, subtly, slowly without even realizing it. You fall into another person’s plan, preferences or desires.
Another way they can gain control over their partners is by isolating them. Imposed isolation begins with your partner criticizing, questioning, and making unwelcome your closest friends and social network. Abusers will try to make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with friends and family.
For example, a woman might avoid an evening out with her friends because she knows her partner is jealous and is afraid of his reaction afterwards. To mask his jealousy, he’ll flip the conversation towards questioning her motives for wanting a night out.
5. Emotionally Unavailable
As things progress and get more serious, we see new signs developing. One is finding that your partner dodges emotions or is emotionally unavailable. Deep down, narcissists are very insecure and have tremendous difficulty with feelings of vulnerability.
As a result, they dodge and avoid any expressions of insecurity, fear, and hurt. They avoid showing their vulnerability at all costs and often change the subject when feelings come up, especially their own. Narcissist imagines themselves as perfectly self-sufficient and invulnerable to other people’s behaviour and feelings. So they won’t let you know when they feel unsure or hurt by something you’ve done or said.
Instead, they lash out in anger combined with a show of superiority. They become condescending. They might even point out all the ways you’re lacking. Their main goal is to hide that you’ve affected how they feel. Some narcissists won’t even admit to their anger, claiming, “I’m not yelling,” while they’re in the midst of a terrifying tirade. That’s how far they’ll go to avoid acknowledging emotion.
6. Emotional Projection
Because narcissists have difficulty coping with their emotions, they often try to rid themselves of negative emotions by claiming, accusing others of having this experience. Narcissist not only project their negative feelings on their partners, they actively coerce, stir-up, and convince their partners that they are experiencing that feeling.
For example, a narcissist may lash out and range at their partner, accusing them of always being angry. Then, they continue this tirade until their partner is angry. Narcissists also say and do things to make their partners question their attractiveness, intelligence, accomplishments, and competence.
Doing so makes the narcissist feel like they can shine in comparison.
7. Gas Lighting
We all feel self-doubt, sometimes, and that is why this form of emotional abuse is so effective and destructive. Sometimes an emotional abuser will deliberately lie to you to confuse you and make you doubt your perceptions. They will make you doubt your own observations, memory and sanity.
Or, they will argue and wear you down until you don’t trust what you know is true. And Sometimes they will straight out deny what you saw. Emotional abusers will attack your clarity, your ability to tell right from wrong, your intelligence and your good sense.
They will remind you of mistaken perceptions you’ve had in the past or insist on how superior their own intelligence is. But the goal is always the same: to destabilize your sense of sanity, competence and self-worth.
None of these signs, in isolation, proves that you’re with a narcissist. But if you see a lot of them, it’s best to sit up and take notice. They’re all way of dodging vulnerability, and that’s a narcissist’s favourite tactic. Regardless of which signs they display, people who chronically avoid acknowledging feelings are incapable of deeper intimacy and true loving relationships. They’re too internally preoccupied with their own fears or judgments to be able to genuinely share in a relationship.