We’ve all heard horror stories about narcissists but what are the signs you’re in a relationship with a narcissist? Counsellor April Kirkwood explains
Getting involved with a narcissist is like dancing with the devil in the pale moon light. You don’t see the horns, you don’t realize he is red, and you think that pitchfork is some kind of swanky, oversized utensil. By the light of day, though, the picture starts to come into focus.
It’s difficult to identify a true narcissist. For me, I caught on almost too late to spare myself from this person who suffered from a pathological life-long personality disorder. It took years for me to understand that the rules of love didn’t apply, and that this relationship was a disaster to my mind, body, and soul.
Here are the twelve signs you’re dating a narcissist. In the story below we have used ‘he’ to describe the narcissist, but the characteristics can also apply to women in same sex relationships.
Sign #1 They seem (at first) absolutely wonderful
Your narcissist struts into your life, flashing that winning smile. He is often glib. He is good at flattery. He is charming. It intoxicates you to walk on his arm, to listen to his grandiose plans, and the attention you get from him and his sycophants is hypnotic.
You want more of him. What you don’t know, not yet, is that your narcissist uses his social talents exclusively to his own benefit. This part is your narcissist winning you over so that he can use you later.
Sign #2 He is overly sensitive
As the relationship with your narcissist deepens, notice how often misunderstandings occur. Notice the drama over seemingly small issues. Notice how often you find yourself saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ In part because the narcissist genuinely believes he is perfect, any remark or suggestion might be interpreted as criticism.
Your narcissist feeds off approval and blind devotion; anything short of that strikes him as betrayal. And, of course, he knows that you’re always wrong and he’s always right.
Sign #3 He has an awful temper
Hell hath no fury like a pissed off narcissist. Self-adulation and glory-seeking consume all your narcissist’s waking hours. The world, however, does not work like that. Inevitably, your narcissist will encounter people contrary to the idea of his all-out splendor. This angers your narcissist. But be careful: he is good at managing his anger so that it’s out of the public eye.
He’ll rage at you behind closed doors. He’ll wait patiently for a form of creative revenge. Your narcissist might not remember your birthday, but he will remember every perceived slight.
Sign #4 He never apologizes
To say you’re sorry is to admit a mistake, and your narcissist knows that he never makes those. He is sure of himself at all times regarding all matters to all people. Any close relationship necessitates time, and the more time two people spend together the greater the likelihood of errors—in judgement, behavior, words, and so forth. It’s only natural.
Apologies help heal the wounds and enable everybody to move past the moment. Your narcissist, however, insists he did nothing wrong and you’ll find yourself apologizing even when he is at fault—you see, your instinct to heal will kick in, even if he does not have one.
The only exception to this rule is when an apology helps your narcissist get something he needs, in which case he might cough up a seemingly heartfelt but ultimately insincere, ‘I’m sorry’ but more often than not, he won’t even be able to get that out and will half-heartedly say ‘I am sorry you feel that way,’ which isn’t really an apology at all.
Sign #5 He isolates you from friends and family
Your narcissist needs you to be tame and obedient and loyal, like a dog. Over time, as his unpleasant behavior spreads to your circle of acquaintances, it is important he maintain his innocence. Thus, your narcissist needs a scapegoat, and guess who that is? Hint: “The dog ate my homework!!!” Yes, it’s you.
Your narcissist will discredit you privately, first to him, then to her, then to the other. Soon, unbeknownst to you, your friends and family’s good opinion has been tainted. Friends drop off. Family members become circumspect.
Your whole circle of intimates has this fictional backstory that characterizes you as worthless, irresponsible, uncaring, and so forth. Since your narcissist does this all behind your back with promises of confidentiality, it might take years for you to understand what has changed.
Sign #6 He cheats on you
For sure. Your narcissist often publicly flirts, he hardly conceals his infidelities, and expresses no remorse. Being with beautiful women only reinforces your narcissist’s high opinion of himself. His ego is always so hungry, that you alone will never be able to feed it.
He actually enjoys when you get jealous because, hey, it is his fabulousness causing all this anguish. He needs confirmation in the form of many, many women. He still wants you for your security, your friendship, maybe even your love, but it will never be enough for him.
Sign #7 He’s paranoid about his health
What could be worse, in your narcissist’s mind, than if something were to happen TO HIM? Your narcissist truly feels like he makes the world around him go. Take him out of it, even for a day, and nothing remains. Therefore, your narcissist is highly sensitive to germs and paranoid about anything resembling symptoms.
If your mum sneezes, he’ll make you both leave the house. If you get a stuffy nose, he’ll move to the guest room. Even rumor of a flu going around will make him cancel an outing.
Sign #8 His work ethic is uninspired
Your narcissist spends much time attending to his personal image. He will patiently recount his glorious achievements. He will go on and on about his lofty aspirations. But try getting him to put up the holiday trimmings, and it will be a sprint to toss the angel on top of the tree. The lawn is filled with tall patches your narcissist missed with the mower. The bedsheets hang unevenly. Bills get paid late.
The problem is that your narcissist thrives on the thought that his world is already perfect, that he is already perfect, and in that mind frame the work is already done.
Sign #9 He plays by his own code of ethics
When you first meet your narcissist, you feel like you share common values and behavioral expectations. Surely, you think, we abide by the same moral codes. It happens slowly, but your narcissist will upend all that. First, he’ll want something depraved in the bedroom. Then he’ll blow your money on something insane. He’ll naturally want to skip important events in your life, or curse at a homeless man.
Your narcissist is so slick and convincing that you don’t realize it all at once, but eventually find your relationship being governed by rules that no reasonable woman would accept.
Sign #10 He makes a lousy lover
This is a quick entry—literally. Your narcissist wants all the pleasure, but cares nothing about yours.
Sign #11 He battles self-loathing and depression
Will the ‘real’ narcissist please stand up? Beneath the self-adoration is an incredible amount of doubt – which is why there can often be a Jekkyll and Hyde quality to the narcissist.
It eventually becomes apparent that your narcissist has some major secrets. He easily feels ashamed. He gets unduly sad and despondent. This powerful swing from bragging to self-loathing will wear you out.
Sign #12 He holds you back
Your gain is your narcissist’s loss. Your narcissist needs you to support him, to do for him, to counsel him, to take responsibility for his failures.
Your own triumphs only throw shade on his, and remove you from your full-time position of making him look good. Your narcissist might marry you, have children with you, and buy you a big showy house. But whatever he does, it is to service his own needs, not yours.
April Kirkwood has committed herself as a certified Licensed Professional Counselor working with those who have experienced emotional abuse, divorce, molestation, and addiction.
April holds masters degrees in both school and community mental health counseling. After twenty-five years working as an educator, she is now a certified Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in addiction and duel diagnosis.
April’s professional focus is on the transformation from #MeToo into #NowME, a process which helps patients heal and rebuild their lives. Telling her story is another way for April to help others with their own stories and challenges.