Do you know that line in the Sixth Sense where Haley Joel Osment says to Bruce Willis “I see dead people”? It’s the same with me and narcissists.

They’re everywhere. From wannabe talentless reality stars to Facebook friends and their endless duck-pout selfies. No, I really don’t care what you had for lunch or where you checked in today. And yes, I can see you’re using a filter because you certainly don’t look like that in real life.

My point is that narcissism is growing and becoming more acceptable. Unfortunately, this means you are more likely to meet one and start a relationship. So, what are the signs you’re dating a narcissist?  

10 signs you’re dating a narcissist  

“Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by having an excessive sense of self-importance, requires excessive admiration, has a very significant sense of entitlement, takes advantage of others to meet their own needs, and lacks empathy.” – Oddesty K Langham, MS, LPC, NCC 

1. They profess undying love early on  

One of the first signs you’re dating a narcissist is their over-the-top behaviour. Narcissists need to trap you before you realise who they are. So, they’ll love-bomb you, telling you they’ve never felt this way before. They’ll suggest marriage and talk about having children. They’ll sweep you off your feet in a whirlwind of romance.

Narcissists have a knack for making you feel special at the start of a relationship, but this will soon change once you’re hooked.   

2. They need to be the centre of attention all the time  

I like to be the centre of attention sometimes, I guess most of us do. But we don’t need to be all the time. Narcissists think they are special, so they’ll demand the spotlight, although not at first. The spotlight will be trained on you at the beginning.

However, they’ll quickly turn once they have wooed and charmed you. If the focus is not on them they can react in several ways; they’ll go into a tantrum or narcissistic rage, or they’ll belittle the person who is getting attention.   

3. They are rude and dismissive of others  

If the focus turns away from a narcissist, they’ll soon become bored and rude. Well-balanced people know to keep emotions such as boredom hidden for fear of upsetting someone. Not the narcissist. They will yawn, roll their eyes, or speak dismissively.

Narcissists will spend hours telling you all about their lives – after all, everyone is an audience to the narcissist. Watch how your date treats the waiting staff or how they speak to service providers. If they are rude and dismissive, this is a good sign you’re dating a narcissist.  

4. They only think about themselves  

Do you have a friend or colleague that is happy to fill you in on their life, but never asks you a single thing about yours? We can all be a little self-centred, especially if something important is happening. However, narcissists only talk about themselves. They are genuinely not interested in anyone else.   

5. They believe they are entitled to special treatment  

I had a friend to stay a few weeks ago and as she doesn’t drive, I picked her up, bought her lunch and then paid for takeout that evening. My friend ordered the most expensive thing on the lunch menu and plus extra drinks and got the biggest pizza for herself that evening. She honestly didn’t think twice about it.

When I dropped her off, there was no offering of petrol money. Narcissists don’t understand the nuances of social etiquette so they don’t get embarrassed by their behaviour; they think they deserve special treatment.   

6. They exaggerate their achievements  

Narcissists live in a fantasy world of their creation; here they are king or queen and they are brilliant, powerful and successful. Truly exceptional people don’t need to brag about their achievements; they speak for themselves.

But one of the clearest signs you’re dating a narcissist will be their obsession with success. As a result, they’ll exaggerate their positive qualities and play down any negative ones. Research describes these traits as idealisation and devaluation.   

7. They are haughty and arrogant  

Have you ever been in a queue for customer services and heard someone loudly exclaim “I need to see the manager!” That’s probably a narcissist. There are multiple vignettes from research articles that document this arrogance.

For example, an older man ‘Marco’ was referred to a mental health facility after an attempted suicide. He was initially assessed by a female higher trainee but demanded to be seen by a more senior clinician. This type of arrogance doesn’t appear at the start of a relationship, it comes later on.   

8. They go into a sulk or give you the silent treatment if their needs are not meet  

Compromise is a term most narcissists don’t want to acknowledge or understand. It certainly doesn’t apply to them. Even though they are happy to take advantage of others to get what they want, ignoring people’s feelings, they don’t expect to get second-rate treatment.

You’ll find it is impossible to live with a narcissist as it is all about them, all the time. If they don’t get the attention they need they’ll either sulk or give you the silent treatment.

9. You cannot relax in their presence  

One of the signs you are dating a narcissist is exhaustion. It is draining living with someone who is demanding, selfish, unrealistic, lies all the time and has no regard for your feelings. One minute they are fine and the next it’s WW3. They go from zero to 1000 in a millisecond.

You sometimes wonder how you got yourself involved with this person, but remember, they would have charmed the socks off you and presented a very different image to their real self.   

10. You cannot trust them  

Narcissists are pathological liars, whether it is about their achievements or their childhood, it doesn’t matter. They give excuses for being late or even blame you forgetting the time wrong. We all tell white lies, but typically we do it to protect someone’s feelings.

One of the main signs you’re dating a narcissist is that you cannot trust a single word they say. Be wary of their gaslighting techniques too. They’ll swear blind they are right and will have you doubting what’s real.   

Why you need to watch out for warning signs of a narcissist 

possessive relationship signs

“Narcissists are like parasitic bugs that leech onto you and essentially suck the life out of you, then when you are no longer useful, they discard you.” – Silvi Saxena, MBA, MSW, LSW, CCTP, OSW-C 

Narcissists only enter into a relationship if they can get something from it. However, they can’t show their true selves because no one would want to date them. Instead, they present an idealised version, a mask if you will, to hook their victim.   

Narcissists use manipulative tactics, such as love-bombing or excessive charm, to trick a potential love interest into a relationship. Because they are being so thoughtful and considerate, you may not have thought this person is a narcissist.   

Narcissism is no longer a dirty word. 

“Narcissism is also on the rise in America. Social media, consumerism, meritocracy, competitive drives, individualism, and identity politics are all examples of how our culture reinforces the self-involvement that drives NPD.” – Hailey Shafir, LCMHCS, LPCS, LCAS, CCS 

Therefore, the chances of you meeting a narcissist are high.   

After a while, narcissists are pretty easy to spot. They have an inflated sense of self-worth, believe they are more important than anyone else, want to be the centre of attention at all times, feel entitled, and lack empathy 

Below is a summary of the main signs you’re dating a narcissist:

  • Watch out if someone declares their love for you too quickly  
  • Be wary if your date wants to talk marriage or children early on  
  • Be mindful of how your date treats service providers, such as waiting staff  
  • Do you feel invisible around this person? 
  • Does your date always talk about themselves?   
  • Are you always on edge with this person?  
  • Do they make you doubt what you know is true?  
  • Does this person overreact if you don’t give them enough praise? 

If you recognise any of the above signs, you could be dating a narcissist. It is not the end of the world, you can heal from narcissistic abuse.

Final thoughts  

There’s only so much you can do to protect yourself from falling into a narcissist’s trap. However, watch out for any signs you’re dating a narcissist and get out before the relationship progresses.   

References:   

  1. journals.sagepub.com
  2. choosingtherapy.com

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