Narcissistic personality disorder is marked by an individual’s belief they are superior to others, an exaggerated sense of one’s accomplishments and need to be well liked by others. Those traits are usually easy to see. In a relationship however, narcissistic traits can sometimes be hard to identify. Here are a few signs that your partner may be a narcissist:
1. They put you on a pedestal: Don’t flatter yourself…if your partner can’t see your flaws this could be a red flag, especially when the narcissist decides they no longer need you to inflate their ego. When the narcissist is putting you on a pedestal it is really so the narcissist can feel good about themselves…your perfection (which does not exist because it doesn’t exist in anyone) is a mere reflection of their own. Narcissists can be very charming and make others initially feel very good about themselves. However, the narcissist doesn’t actually care about you or your wellbeing. You are merely their to serve their ego, and once they no longer need you for that purpose they will discard you like a piece of trash. This is one reason why narcissists often struggle with committed relationships.
2. They cannot tolerate your flaws: If you are the partner of a narcissist you must remember you are viewed only as a mirror of the narcissist. Once the narcissist begins to see your very normal, human flaws, they cannot tolerate this because they are threatened by what it means about themselves. Some narcissists may focus on physical traits and become threatened if their partner gains weight for instance. For others they are threatened by normal anxieties and insecurities that in any health relationship are revealed as the partnership becomes more close and intimate.
3. They cannot take responsibility for their behavior: In any relationship both partners have a role in the relationship problems. However in a narcissist’s opinion you are the only one responsible for the relationship problems. A common explanation from the narcissist about their behavior is “I only act like that because I’m reacting to my partner’s behavior.” Not only is this not true, but it is the narcissists attempt at absolving him/her of any responsibility for the relationship problems. Look for this in the narcissists other relationships—for instance with their family members, coworkers, neighbors and friends. If you can obviously see them treating others this way, remind yourself you will be no different.
4. You’re always to blame: The narcissist will constantly focus on what their partner is doing wrong and how their partner is hurting them. They are always the victim. They cannot and will not look at their own behavior. Be careful. If you are always to blame and they are the victim, when the relationship ends the narcissist will believe they deserve anything and everything that is at stake (the children, pets, finances, joint assets, etc). Narcissists will often engage in slander and frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to establish themselves as the victim.
5. They never apologize: Or at least you never get a real apology. If you hear apologies like, “I’m sorry…I only act like that because you…” Run! To apologize is to take ownership of one’s behavior, which the narcissist is not capable of—unless they are getting something out of it. Be wary of apologies from a narcissist because there is usually another motive.
6. They need to be the focus of everyone else’s attention: Whether at home, on facebook, out with friends, etc. the narcissist needs to be center of attention and everyone must like the narcissist. They may volunteer or be involved in other activities but it is simply to inflate their sense of self or to “image build.” The narcissist will also seek out relationships with others who he/she perceives to be important. Surrounding themselves with people deemed to be of a certain stature makes them feel they are equally as important.
7. They magnify their accomplishments: The narcissist will exaggerate their accomplishments. For instance, some may call themselves an “author” when they’ve literally never published anything and merely post rants online. While everyone has hobbies and other pursuits, the narcissist perceives theirs as overly important and highly successful (even though they are often not). Even mild success to a narcissist will make them believe they deserve recognition and deserve to be treated special by others.
8. You’re not allowed to have needs: The only needs that matter in the relationship are the narcissist’s. They believe they are entitled to have everyone attend to their needs while doing nothing for others. If the narcissist agrees to meet an expressed need in the relationship (example: I need you to keep our date nights and not cancel) it is only because they are getting something out of it. Be careful if you get the sense you’re only around to serve your partner. In addition, be careful of “gaslighting”—you may be accused about being unreasonable or even abusive for having needs.
9. They lash out when they don’t get what they want: When the narcissist doesn’t get what they want they lash out in extreme and inappropriate ways—this is often referred to as “narcissistic rage.” These actions could appear as child-like temper-tantrums, threats of abuse, or engaging in repeated frivolous lawsuits. Be wary if you feel as though your partner’s reaction to you or others when they don’t get what they want or are criticized is too extreme or does not fit the situation.
If you believe your partner could be a narcissist, seeking counseling could be helpful, especially in finding a way to safely get out of a relationship with a narcissist.