Life is demanding for partners of narcissists. They’ll often end up torn between staying in the relationship and leaving it – it’s challenging to do either.
The most significant negative of dating a narcissist is that you might end up feeling uncared about, ignored, and not relevant. Your partner may not show consideration for your feelings and needs in a relationship.
However, if you’re suspecting your partner is suffering from this personality disorder, or you’re considering entering a relationship with one, you’ll be relieved to hear it’s possible to make it work. Let’s get to the bottom of dating narcissists to help you decide for yourself.
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Things to Know When Dating a Narcissist
Narcissism is challenging to identify in the early stages of the relationship. Many telltale signs could also imply other, less severe, personality conditions.
For example, your partner might be self-centered, seeking affirmation and validation, or they can be reactive to criticism. They may also fail to admit they’re wrong, which doesn’t necessarily imply a condition – it could be obstinacy.
When it comes to narcissistic personality disorder, estimates show that about 1% of the population suffers from it. However, these numbers might not be accurate. Many with the condition don’t seek treatment and never receive a diagnosis.
What is Narcissism?
Most people have some traits of self-centered, narcissistic individuals. A significant portion of them doesn’t meet the criteria for getting a personality disorder diagnosis. If a person does, though, they will often refuse to admit so – in fact, they might express a volatile reaction.
So, a narcissistic partner isn’t likely to admit their disorder to you. If you have any doubts, you’ll need to fine-tune your senses and keep your eyes open. Let’s take a look at some common narcissistic traits:
- Lack of empathy
- A feeling of superiority and entitlement
- Frequent controlling and manipulative behavior
- Strong need and seeking of admiration
- Focus on one’s own needs
- Ignoring other people’s needs
- Rare but high aggression levels
- Touchiness in the face of negative feedback
Of course, the level to which these traits show up will depend on the individual and your interactions.
Roots of Narcissism
Most people suffering from NPD have first faced the issue during their early childhoods. They often have narcissistic parents, who used to demand excellence and practice neglect.
As a consequence, narcissists come with an inflated sense of self-confidence, but also with a highly critical inner voice. So, their personalities tend to be quite fragile, self-demeaning, and even hating.
They thus won’t take criticism well but instead use snarky, condescending remarks to make themselves feel superior — that way, they feed their feelings of being above everyone else.
Types of Narcissism
All narcissists tend to show certain behaviors, but not all are the same. Psychology professionals identified two different types of the disorder, which stem from different experiences in early childhood and cause different behaviors in relationships.
People with the grandiose variety of the disorder display a lot of aggression and entitlement in relationships. They are confident and not particularly sensitive.
In their childhoods, their parents might have told them how they were superior. They thus move through life, expecting the same treatment.
In romantic relationships, these people tend to cheat and leave their partners with ease if they don’t feel like they’re getting the special treatment.
As the name suggests, vulnerable narcissists are emotionally sensitive, using their confidence as a facade to hide feelings of incompetence and utter inadequacy. They are always swinging between inferiority and superiority.
This type of NPD also develops in childhood, but as a response to abuse or neglect. People use it as a coping mechanism.
Later, in relationships, they become aggressive and paranoid, often accusing their partners of cheating. They are incredibly controlling.
While this personality disorder is deep-rooted, it’s possible to get to the bottom of it and fix the broken patterns through psychotherapy.
Common goals of talk therapy with NPD individuals include challenging and overcoming the inner voices and attitudes they internalized early in their lives.
Furthermore, they learn to differentiate between their personalities and the traits of their parents. Finally, they should give up their coping mechanisms and patterns.
As you can see, this is a big challenge that requires questioning the entire personality. As a partner, what you can do is be supportive and try to foster an environment of self-compassion.
Encourage generosity and giving in your partner and help them build real self-esteem.
Dating Narcissists: Blind Spots and Red Flags
In the early stages, it’s so easy to fall in love with a narcissist that we tend to overlook even the more apparent signs of their disorder. By becoming aware of your blind spots, however, you can avoid them and save yourself a lot of trouble.
Here are the main reasons for our failure to recognize that we’re dealing with narcissists.
- Sexual attraction and seductions. Narcissists are skilled in manipulation, seducing you both sexually and otherwise. They will allure you, making it easier to avoid red flags.
- Idealization. People with NPD tend to be quite accomplished, with business success, great looks, talents, and power. So, it’s not challenging to start idealizing them, especially if you have confidence issues by yourself. When you idealize someone, you ignore information claiming otherwise.
- Codependency. People with low self-esteem are prone to falling into another common trap of narcissists – codependent relationships. If you tend towards such contacts, you may not be in tune with your feelings, seeking to please the other.
Neither of these reasons is easy to fight, and too much doubt might make you seem paranoid. However, being informed is half the battle won.
If your potential or current partner is exhibiting traits we’ll discuss below, the chances of them having NPD are even more significant.
Of course, not everyone with the characteristics has a disorder, but still, they aren’t conducive to a fulfilling relationship. Be especially careful if you notice more at once.
- Self-centeredness. Narcissists see themselves as the center of the universe and other people as two-dimensional, which prevents them from empathizing. They will more often see you as an extension of themselves than as a human being of your own.
- Arrogance. Another telltale trait of narcissists is that they feel superior to other people. This feeling can lead to rudeness bordering with abuse if they don’t get what they want. Be aware of how they talk about others, especially exes, and how they communicate with service staff on dates.
- Entitlement. With arrogance comes another narcissistic give-away. Especially the grandiose type will believe that rules for ordinary people don’t apply to them. They will seek the same from a relationship.
- Bragging and seeking admiration. As we explained above, below confidence stands a lot of insecurity. So, they will seek validation and recognition, bragging about themselves to the level of lying.
- Controlling, manipulative behavior. A narcissistic partner will put their needs first and use manipulation to satisfy them. Notice, for example, whether they’re ready to accommodate your needs when it comes to planning dates. It may not seem like much, but refusing to compromise can be a warning sign.
There are positive sides to dating narcissists – after all, that’s the reason so many end up in such relationships. Let’s first take a look at what you’ll gain from such a partnership.
Your partner will be utterly romantic, to the limit of tearing up from being so overwhelmed by their feelings for you. They’re good lovers, fulfilling all your romantic fantasies.
In the field of romance, narcissists are also observant. They will learn the ins and outs of your personality and shower you with attention.
You’ll notice that they know all your favorite things, dates, and food. Doing so creates the feeling of them knowing you to the very core of your personality.
They’re Eager to Please
To get confirmation they crave, narcissists will seek to bring you happiness in relationships. Everything from breakfast to sex can be 100% selfless and focused only on your pleasure.
Narcissists are quite charming, spontaneous, and entertaining. When it comes to your relationship, it tends to turn into an endless list of adventures, resembling a movie romance.
They aren’t shy, but extroverted and funny, meaning your friends will love them too. Plus, the conversations will likely be stimulating and far from mindless.
Having listed the positives, it’s crucial that we also mention the disadvantages of this kind of partnership. Without being aware of the negative sides, it’s easy to hang on to a far-from-ideal relationship.
Those with narcissistic personality disorder suffer from common mood swings, which may leave you walking on eggshells. Even if you perform a genuine act of kindness, they might understand it the wrong way, and that comes with a mental punishment.
Narcissists, when they’re in a wrong place mentally, are prone to abusing their partners. Now, if you develop healthy coping mechanisms, you might avoid it, but they will still try to control you.
They might use mental and emotional abuse to go to great lengths to be the dominant partner.
Isolation and Self-Doubt
Again, this might happen as a consequence of bad cases of NPD, but partners of people suffering from the disorder might feel isolated, doubt themselves, or even feel as if they lost themselves.
Your partner might be insecure and project those insecurities to your behavior, accusing you of cheating and similar deeds.
So, in time, you become isolated and stop seeing people. Even if you do, you tell them nothing about your situation. Through the course of the relationship, you start questioning your behavior, wondering whether you’re the one to blame for the drama.
Finally, let’s answer some common questions about dating narcissists. After all, being informed about the disorder is the best way to overcome it, even if you’re not the one suffering from it.
How Do You Know Whether You’re Dating a Narcissist?
It’s not always easy to diagnose NPD. However, some telltale signs of the disorder do exist. So, if you notice the following in your partner, you might have them see a professional.
They pose as super exciting. Meeting a narcissist is a rollercoaster. Initially, they will intrigue you with their confidence, audacity, talents, and gifts. They’re so fun and magnetic that it’s easy to fall head over heels for them.
Later, though, you might find that this personality is a facade, a ploy they use to feed their need for praise. Often, their confidence will be fragile if not 100% artificial.
They talk down to you. Everything in the life of a narcissist aims to hide their weakness and give them a sense of power. So, you might notice subtle insults in the way they communicate with you, which ultimately leads to you questioning your worth.
They will highlight your flaws and diminish yourself – that way, they will stay in a favorable light.
They play the victim. Narcissists are incredibly self-centered, finding anything outside their own beliefs wrong. Thus, if you end up in an argument, count on the blame directed towards you.
Your relationship feels shallow. Although at first, the partnership feels exciting and intimate; later on, narcissism prevents deeper emotions. So, your partner might spend time with you when it suits them, ignoring your romantic needs.
If these points describe your relationship, it may be time to see a professional. When it comes to yourself, there are many coping mechanisms you can adopt if you want to make things work.
Bolster your self-esteem and develop conflict-resolution skills. Knowledge is power, so by becoming aware of the signs of NPD, you can make better decisions and protect yourself.
Can a Narcissist Fall in Love?
In the early stages of dating, narcissists will show passion. However, most people with NPD see relationships as transactional. That is, their goal is to ‘win,’ and to get pleasure and attention without giving anything in return.
They may develop positive feelings towards their partner, but they lack empathy, which prevents them from recognizing the emotions and needs of another person.
In conclusion, a narcissist can fall in love, but it takes a lot of work on their disorder to make it happen.
What is a Narcissistic Relationship?
Narcissistic relationships exist between people when one or both partners struggle with a narcissistic personality disorder. Professionals define NPD as a mental disorder that causes people to have an inflated sense of importance and a need for admiration.
People suffering from the condition will often believe they’re superior to others, having little regard for their feelings. Below, however, lies a fragile self-esteem.
In essence, narcissists are not the right relationship partners. They’re more likely to engage in manipulation than commitment.
How Do You Handle a Narcissist Successfully?
First and foremost, you’ll need to develop coping mechanisms and work on your self-confidence. In the beginning stages, though, some steps help.
- Don’t let them boss you. If you give your NPD partner power over you, fighting will boost their manipulative capabilities even further.
- Know what you want. If you do end up in an argument, don’t assume the other side will play a fair game. Stick to your decisions.
- Use their disorder to stop them from manipulating you. Remember, narcissists always want to look good. If controlling you will make them seem wrong, they’ll behave.
These tips may seem harsh, but when a narcissist gets hit by their mood swings, they’re necessary.
It’s easy to get drawn to a narcissist. They’re charismatic, charming – the perfect partners, or so it seems. You’ll have the time of your life, at least at first. However, if you don’t overlook the signs, you may get treatment together, or you exit the relationship before it’s too late. You’ve already made the first step. You’ve started getting informed. Continue down the path of proactivity, and your relationship, as well as your mental health, will stand a chance.