“I’ve been out of a relationship for 10 years and I’m so much happier now.”
Mary Magnetico, chef at Chestnut Creek Baked Goods in Grahamsville, New York, says she was married to a narcissist. At the start of the relationship, she was an entirely different person.
“You feel special” she said HealthyWay. “It usually happens quite quickly. They proclaim their love for you – and very quickly too.
Gradually, the relationship became serious. It was then that Magnetico began to notice some of the signs.
“[Narcissists] try to isolate yourself from your friends and family, ”she says. “I learned, years later, that my ex would go behind my back and talk to me, while making himself look good. … Then came the insults. They are master manipulators and they have a strong sense of entitlement. The rules don’t apply to them because they are so superior to the rest of us. “
Magnetico has left the relationship, but his story isn’t too unusual. Clinically, narcissism is a rare diagnosis, but it is often considered to be part of a spectrum (some believe it might even be on the autism spectrum).
Obviously, narcissistic tendencies make relationships difficult. While researching this article, we received dozens of responses from people who claimed to have been in a relationship with narcissists. Interestingly, each of these responses came from women. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising; according to a scientific journal, men are more likely be narcissistic than women.
To be clear, only a licensed physician can make an actual diagnosis. However, there are many narcissistic behaviors that can serve as red flags.
1. Narcissists have fragile egos.
“I think a lot of times people take narcissism to include a lot of grandeur and a lack of shame, remorse or empathy, and all of these are some key elements of narcissism,” says Kate Balestrieri, PsyD, registered psychologist. and co-founder of Triune therapy group in Los Angeles. Balestrieri designed a workshop to help people heal from the trauma of being in relationships with narcissists.
“But clinically we look at things like, ‘Does anyone have a very fragile sense of self?'”
In other words, while we might think of narcissists to be egotistical idiots, they operate as a result of deeply ingrained insecurities. These insecurities often appear in the social behaviors of the narcissist.
“They align very quickly with organizations [or] people who would have high status – the best of the best, ”says Balestrieri. “They need admiration. … If my ego is fragile, I need a lot of other opinions to strengthen my sense of myself, so underneath all of this grandiosity lies a pretty low and fractured sense of self-worth. And a lot of shame, generally.
People with narcissistic disorders often compensate for this shame by bragging about how superior they are to others. These beliefs are real, but fragile.
“They could tell how great they are,” Balestrieri says, “or how much this person loves them, or this person loves them, or they’ve been accepted into a certain organization. They really line up with anything that further capitulates their fantasies around fame, importance or superiority, or just being awesome.
These insecurities can certainly affect romantic relationships.
2. Narcissists have an exaggerated opinion of their partners.
“The journey of dating a narcissist has several distinct phases,” says Sal Raichbach, PsyD, of Ambrosia treatment center. “At first, they will make you feel special. Since they feel special, only other special people can understand them. Over time, however, this feeling will take less weight. You’ll start to feel like they don’t even really know you, mainly because you don’t spend a lot of time talking to yourself.
Balestrieri agrees, noting that narcissists often fixate on the best qualities of their partners, but in a superficial or superficial way.
“If you’ve just met someone and they immediately start telling you that they love you and that you are amazing and that you are the most beautiful person in the world, the most amazing partner they have ever met, it’s just a matter of kindness of thought and inflated and fantastic projection – that’s a pretty big red flag, ”she says.
When a narcissist stops receiving the kind of positive feedback they need to satisfy their insecurities, they can change quickly. Suddenly that loving partner might turn into an enemy.
“We often see narcissists doing what I call ‘the rage of shame’,” says Balestrieri. “If they make a mistake, do they put others down to make them feel better? This is a great indication that you are in the presence of a narcissist.
3. Narcissists require a lot of attention.
“Narcissists like to talk about themselves, which is another obvious sign,” says Raichbach. “Instead of sharing and listening to you, they are emotionally evasive and expect you to hold your breath to reinforce their uniqueness.”
Over time, they will demand more attention from their partners. According to Balestrieri, this can manifest itself in insidious ways.
“Someone with [narcissism] could be quite antagonistic, actually, ”she said. “And negative attention is better than no attention. The thing that would reach the core of the narcissist the fastest is not being relevant, and when we don’t give narcissistic attention, they feel irrelevant. Often times they can become provocative and antagonistic to at least ensure that [attention]. “
For a narcissist, the line between “positive” and “negative” attention can be very fine. Narcissists often behave in a less pleasant way than non-narcissists, especially when they have low self-esteem.
“Think of the little boy who goes to the refrigerator and says, ‘Mum, mommy, mommy, mommy – look at me, look at me! »» Said Balestrieri. “She’s on the phone, and he finally turns a box of orange juice over and smiles – because now he’s got mom’s attention, even though he’s doing something mean.”
“A narcissist can also appear like this. They can be a hero or a villain. It doesn’t really matter. As long as they receive this supply. … It’s not just about breaking the rules, it’s about doing everything in their power to stay relevant and at the forefront of people’s concerns.
4. Narcissists are obsessed with envy.
Envy often plays a role in romantic relationships, but people with narcissistic tendencies can become obsessed.
“[Narcissistic people] can certainly be interpersonal exploitation, ”says Balestrieri. “Someone who is narcissistic can become really obsessed with envy, and they often think people are jealous of it.
She says that, once again, the fragile ego of the narcissist is driving behavior.
“They can live in some kind of warm bed of their own desire [towards] other people, because they constantly compare themselves to others to get a sense of themselves, ”she notes. “They can be really haughty, arrogant or dismissive while devaluing others.”
In a romantic relationship, this creates a series of predictable events. Narcissists gradually turn against their partners, eventually becoming negative or even downright hostile towards them.
“There is a cycle that we often see playing with narcissists where they idealize a partner or a friend,” says Balestrieri. “Then the minute there is some kind of sag in the fantasy of who that person is, they devalue them – they almost drop their knees under them – then throw them away.”
For the narcissist, this type of behavior is a defense mechanism.
“It’s a way for narcissists to stay safe,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘You are amazing… but if you stop being amazing for some reason, you’re not someone I want to align my star with anymore. So you are useless to me. ”
5. They push against your personal limits.
According to researchers, narcissists tend to have empathy issues, although they are not necessarily sociopaths (people largely incapable of expressing empathy). In their quest for attention, however, they can push personal boundaries, which can have dramatic effects.
“What narcissists will often do is push your limits and try to make yourself show more to them than you initially want,” Balestrieri says.
For example, a narcissist may coerce their partner into making major sacrifices or commitments early in a relationship. Refuse, and you will likely suffer negative consequences, potentially including verbal and emotional abuse.
If you are involved with a narcissist, seek professional help.
Narcissists often have issues with empathy, but they’re not inherently bad people. With therapy, they can deal with some of the underlying insecurities that cause their manipulative or harmful behaviors.
“… If you are going to have a relationship with a narcissist, you must have strong boundaries.
—Sal Raichback, PsyD
“If you see any signs, know that narcissistic personality disorder is not curable,” says Raichbach. “That said, it can be managed if they’re willing to engage in long-term therapy.”
We would like to reiterate this point: only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and if you are involved with a narcissist – and want to continue the relationship – the best solution is to seek help from a professional. That said, if you’re in a committed relationship with a narcissist, Balestrieri recommends looking at your own limits.
“This is a very important part of considering how you want to proceed with a narcissist,” says Raichbach. “You might decide to stay with this person, [or] you might decide to back down and find other people to interact with, but if you’re going to be in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to have solid boundaries. You must be prepared to apply them, and you must not get carried away by the guilt that can [enforcement]. “
“You have to be prepared not to provide the ‘supply’ that [the narcissist will need] all the time, ”she said,“ or be prepared to get lost. “