Narcissists are rife in the dating world, and a lot more common than you might think. Ever had an uneasy feeling about someone you're dating? Like they're not being totally genuine, or it's all a bit 'too much too soon'? They could actually be a narcissist. Wendy Gregory, a counselling psychologist and author explains the definition of narcissistic personality disorder and what narcissistic traits you need to look out for.
Life for a narcissist really is all about them. While most of us have some narcissistic traits, we all try to get our own needs met and lots of people are selfish, the true narcissist is so damaged that they can’t see things from anyone else’s perspective but their own.
So, how can you know if the person you're dating is actually a grade A narcissist? These are the signs to look out for.
What is a narcissist?
It's all too much too soon
When you're dating a narcissist, the relationship is likely to be very intense very early on, They may take you to expensive places, shower you with gifts and attention, make extravagant promises about what they can do to help you, and generally make you feel like a queen. But beware: it is not what it seems, and is in fact a carefully staged performance designed to woo you.
Don't be under any illusion that this is about you, and that they're just really into you. The narcissist is fond of making grand gestures because they love the idea of being seen to be generous. A little further down the line they'll remind you saying, "I’ve done so much for you, you’re so ungrateful!"
The chemistry between you is insane
The narcissist is, without fail, extremely charming and charismatic. You will feel irresistibly drawn to them - you might even think you've met your soulmate. They'll shower you with compliments and might say they're in love with you very soon. But it isn’t what it seems.
"They love the power they have to manipulate your feelings"
When they say, ''I love you,'' they mean that they love the way they feel when they see themselves through your admiring eyes. They love the power they have to manipulate your feelings.
You're getting too-good-to-be-true vibes
A narcissist will convince you that they're wealthy and have an amazing job. They'll tell you about their famous, or powerful contacts. Quite often though, these things just don’t add up.
You may find that, in spite of their affluence, they're living in a shabby one bedroomed flat in a run-down area. If you question them about it though, they'll come up with a convincing reason. The narcissist suffers from delusions of grandeur and is usually a pathological liar. Sometimes, they even start to believe their own lies.
They have an extraordinary back story
Despite all outward appearances, it turns out narcissists don’t actually like themselves. When they look in the mirror, or more accurately look inside themselves, they don’t like what they see.
In fact they find it so unacceptable that they invent a different self, a false persona who is the person they wish they were. They reinvent their past and will ply you with stories of tragedy, or tales of a perfect, fairy tale upbringing.
They cannot accept any form of criticism
While the narcissist has no problem dishing out complaints and in fact seems to find fault with most people, they are hypersensitive to criticism themselves. Even the mildest of suggestions that they've made a mistake, or have flaws is likely to result in a range of adverse reactions.
They may explode in fury, or alternatively withdraw and become sulky and silent. Most narcissists are very adept at turning the criticism around and blaming you. This can be so subtle that you don’t realise it's happening, and you may well find yourself apologising. It is only afterwards that you wonder to yourself how that came about.
You get shut down if you disagree with them
The narcissist will take disagreement very personally, and as a form of criticism. They may become angry, or simply refuse to engage in the discussion saying something like, "Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree!'' This leaves you feeling increasingly frustrated as you can never drive a point home, or even get your view heard.
You always end up doing what they want
Beware, for this happens subtly. You probably won’t notice straight away, but after a month or two together you may start to wonder why you always go to their choice of restaurant, never yours. Even on your birthday they’ll take you somewhere that they have always wanted to go to.
You start to feel bad about yourself
Wendy warns that it won’t be long before this person starts to find fault with you. "They'll blame you for everything that goes wrong, big or small. You will find yourself apologising more and more for things that aren’t your fault."
What can you do about it?
This is a tough one, but narcissists rarely change. The only real possibility of this happening is for them to recognise that they have a problem and seek therapy, which is rare.
Most therapists won’t take on a narcissist because they tend to be resistant to change, to look down on the therapist and try to manipulate them.
However, all is not lost: if you believe you are in any type of damaging relationship, seek professional help. An experienced therapist can assist you in identifying unhelpful patterns, and suggest ways of avoiding such unhealthy entanglements in the future.