If you have a partner who has had a pattern of some sort of outrageous, puzzling or abusive behavior, and they don’t seem to change, you may be wondering what is wrong with them. Maybe you even began googling some of their behavior and that’s when you came across this blog.
It takes most people years, if not decades to realize that their partner’s behavior isn’t within the normal realm of bad behavior. This is not your fault–personality disorders aren’t mainstream knowledge, although it’d be great if they were taught in high school–doing so would save a lot of people a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache.
So how can you tell if your partner is a Narcissist before it’s too late? Here are twelve tell-tell signs that I’ve seen both personally and professionally that seem to come up over and over again. There are a lot more than just twelve red flags of Narcissistic behavior, but these twelve are some good ones to watch out for. Keep in mind that some of these signs may not be deal breakers in and of themselves, but if you are going down the list checking off every single one, then there is a problem. Regardless of whether or not your significant other is truly a Narcissist, enough of any of these behaviors constitute a problem, and an unhealthy, or abusive relationship. (Also keep in mind that abuse is more than physical, it’s also verbal, emotional, psychological, and financial.)
The 12 Signs of Narcissism to Look Out For:
1. Must get their way. Because Narcissists have a staggering sense of entitlement, they always feel they should get their way. A lot of people might chalk this up to them being an only child, or their parents spoiling them, or them somehow living a charmed life–but really it’s because they have an insatiable ego that tells them that they deserve whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship when only one person gets their way, and the other person does all the compromising.
2. Friends and/or family think they are an egomaniac/arrogant. Odds are, if you are in a relationship with an “overt” Narcissist, their behavior makes your friends and family roll their eyes. They might even call your partner a Narcissist. Hell, the Narcissist might even call themselves a Narcissist. Normal people don’t have a hyper-inflated ego like this. I can guarantee you that if you have a spouse whose Narcissism is so bold that they can’t even try to hide their over-inflated ego, you have a big problem on your hands. People that hold themselves in such high regard do not and will not hold you at the same level--they will always think of (and put) themselves first. This may sound terrible to say, but odds are they are involved in some form of cheating, lying, or stealing (secret bank accounts/credit cards, etc.) and you just don’t know about it yet.
3. Charming or magnetic personality. A “covert” Narcissist’s charm is unlike any other. Many covert Narcissists have found a good balance between boasting and bashful, and watching that in action is really something to see–women love him, and men want to be like him. Odds are if you have a Narcissist like this in your life, your family and friends really like him. At first you may feel like he is the better half, and wonder how you got so lucky to snag such an amazing partner–especially when so many other women seem to want him. What’s even stranger, and more flattering, is that he seems to only have eyes for you–and he fell head over heels for you within the first two weeks of knowing you. Everything about this relationship has been like a whirlwind, and he says and does everything right. He seems almost too good to be true. (This charm is one of the many masks of a covert Narcissist, and the mask will eventually slip, leaving the Narcissist to be exposed as the selfish, cold and calloused person he really is. Generally only those closest to the Narcissist, like spouses and children, see the mask slip.)
4. Bouts of rage or other inappropriate emotions. In addition to lacking empathy and remorse, Narcissists’ also lack the full range of emotions that normal people do. Because they do not experience life events or emotions in the same way as normal people, they have to take emotional cues from others. For a Narcissist, emotions are just a tool in which to manipulate others, and while this works well for them most of the time (especially if they get caught doing something wrong). However, they have a really hard time showing appropriate emotions in more extreme, or less common situations. You may notice that during especially sad times that they seem to have emotions that don’t match with the situation. For example, a Narcissist might sob uncontrollably at the death of an acquaintance they hardly knew, or didn’t even like. Or perhaps they don’t cry when someone really close to them dies. If they are showing excessive amounts of emotion, it is because the situation is an easy way for them to feed their ego from the pity or attention of others.
Bouts of sudden, and seemingly inappropriate rage are very common with Narcissists, and are referred to as “Narcissistic Rage.” This rage often comes on after a “Narcissistic injury” which is an either real or perceived slight to their ego. Narcissists always believe they are right, and do not take criticism well.
5. Nonchalance. A Narcissist’s lack of indifference to major things is absolutely crazy making–although this tends to be more of a “covert” Narcissist trait. “Overt” Narcissists seem to go the opposite way and rage at every little thing. For the covert Narcissists, at first, they may seem like the most zen person you’ve ever met–they never seem to get ruffled. The house is on fire, and to them it’s about as major as getting a flat tire. However, their nonchalance quickly turns into rage if they perceive that they were crossed or questioned in any way.
6. Lying. The number one sign of a Narcissist is that they are compulsive liars. If you’ve been around them for any length of time, then you know what I mean. They’ll lie about their age. They’ll lie about what they had for lunch. They’ll lie about why they came home two hours late. They’ll say something to your face, and then they’ll deny that they ever said it. They’ll lie about things that normal people would never even think to lie about, and they’ll lie about everything–even if the truth would work better.
This is because they lie, not only to get out of trouble, or to make themselves appear better to others (which are the main reasons that drive normal people to lie), they mainly lie for entertainment. This is why their lies don’t make sense to normal people. You see, every time a Narcissist is able to lie to you about the smallest thing, in their mind that’s a small win for them. It’s a little way for them to feed their ego and for them to feel smug and superior that they were able to trick you. Of course, where there are small lies, there are also much bigger ones that you just haven’t seen yet.
You will never get the whole truth from a Narcissist. You will only get variations of the truth, and they will only ever admit to the bare minimum they need to. If you don’t accept one version of the truth, they’ll tell you another, then another, then another, until you either accept one of the versions, or get so worn down with it all, that you just give up.
How this looks in action: A Narcissist gets caught texting some woman on his phone. He admits to having contact with the woman, but denies it’s anything more than just texts. Then you find out they’ve been swapping nude pictures. Once confronted, he might admit to texts and nude pictures, but it was just that one time. Then you find out that he met her at a motel. Once confronted, he admits to meeting her at a motel, but nothing happened–he felt guilty and just couldn’t bring himself to do anything. Then you find out she’s pregnant. Once confronted, he admits to having sex with her, but just one time, and she threw herself at him, he was drunk, and besides, you never had time for him. Then you find out that he’s taken her on trips around the world, and racked up over $15,000 in credit card debt. Once confronted, he admits that he’s been seeing her for a bit, but she was just a friend back then…and why are you doing all this digging? Obviously you have trust issues…and besides, he started using drugs again, so his behavior isn’t his fault–it’s the drugs. He needs to get into rehab so this never happens again…and on and on it goes.
7. Hyper-sexuality/cheating. Outside of lying, the other main trait that Narcissists are known for is either amazing sex, kinky sex, lots of sex–or lots of amazing, kinky, sex, depending on how you roll. Compulsive cheating, porn addiction, sex addiction, strip clubs, call girls, BDSM, threesomes, you name it, and most Narcissists are all for it. Sex is one of their biggest hooks for victims, as the sex tends to be amazing, and nonstop (at least at first). Narcissists do not have sex for the same reasons that normal people have sex. They do not bond with their partner, and sex for them is all about power and control (like everything else they do). They can (and often do) turn their sex drive on and off as punishment to their victims. If and when they do turn off their sex drive, or stop talking to you all together (especially if they are hyper-sexual), then odds are they are lining up their next source of supply.
It’s not unusual for Narcissists to have several lovers on the side, and if they are caught, it’s also not unusual for them to blame the other woman, you, or some addiction or mental illness they are all of a sudden having problems with. I can, however, tell you that all his lying and/or cheating isn’t your fault, or the fault of the other woman. If you are still under this belief that if you just did things differently, or if these other women would just stop throwing themselves at him, then your marriage would be fine, you my friend are in denial–big time.
8. Critical and/or judgmental of you or others. Do you ever have conversations with your partner and find yourself shocked at how much trash they talk about their supposed friends? Is everyone they work with a bunch of idiots and without them the place would come crashing down? Or perhaps they are bitter and scathing when it comes to you. Narcissists are especially hurtful during the “devalue” stage of the relationship, and oftentimes like to take really low blows at their victims, hitting them in all their vulnerable areas such as general self-esteem, appearance, and/or self-worth. The Narcissist may also try and triangulate their current victim against someone else by comparing the victim to how great this other person is in the same areas that, according to the Narcissist, is greatly lacking.
9. They are either the hero or the victim. All Narcissists are selfish–even those who come across as humble are, in fact, selfish at the core. If you listen closely, they are either the hero or the victim in their stories. They are never accountable for their behavior, and if they are, they are just pretending to be humble and modest to seem like they aren’t. (Odds are you will sense that their humility isn’t sincere.)
Narcissists are victims for the same reasons they are the hero–everything good either happened because of them, or everything bad happened because of someone else. Pay attention to how they describe their past relationships. If the vast majority of people in their life (especially their ex’s) are some sort of bipolar/crazy/addict/alcoholic/bad parent/abusive, then it’s time to do some more digging. The odds are that they are the one who has really had all the bad behavior that they are accusing their ex’s of.
10. They are the ultimate hypocrite. Narcissists believe that they should have whatever they want, whenever they want with whomever they want–but that only holds true for them. Narcissists often demand complete loyalty, honesty and trust from their partner, but never give it in return. You will find that a Narcissist will expect you to get over their bad behavior quickly, but if you were to do the same thing to them, you’ll never hear the end of it. They will be outraged that you would break their trust, and be disloyal. They do not see any similarities between the situations, and they still won’t acknowledge how understandably outraged you were when they did the same thing to you.
11. They rarely, if ever, say they are sorry. Getting a Narcissist to say they are sorry is next to impossible. Things are never, ever their fault. It’s your fault, the kids’ fault, alcohol’s fault, the fault of too much stress, childhood trauma, or the other woman’s fault. Everyone else is to blame, but them. They will often dance around giving an apology by saying things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’ll take accountability for my part in it” or more likely, just use straight up deflection techniques: “Yes, I cheated, but you showed up two hours late yesterday, so I can’t really trust you either. We both have things to work on.” …It’s crazy making. They are rarely accountable for their behavior, and if you do manage to squeeze and apology from them, odds are it doesn’t feel sincere (because it isn’t).
12. You tend to questions yourself. Narcissists have a great way of turning everything around to where their bad behavior is either not their fault, or you are the one with the problem, or at times, that their bad behavior never even happened at all! You find yourself rehashing the situation in your head, and then with your friends and coworkers. Were you being critical? Paranoid? Jealous? Overreacting? Maybe you are the one who needs the therapist? Do you have trust issues? Issues with men? Issues with your hearing? Maybe you need to see a doctor–after all you would swear he said one thing, when he swears he said something else. You find yourself questioning a lot of what is going on. Normal, truthful, non-manipulative people don’t have this effect on other people. You don’t question your behavior or your thought process, or your hearing when you are with other people. The common denominator here isn’t you–it’s him, and it’s a big problem. If things are adding up, it’s because the truth was left out of the equation.
If you are seeing, even one of these twelve signs, you really need to slow things down and proceed with caution. There are many more signs that Narcissists tend to have, so you may want to keep reading. It’s a lot easier to get a Narcissist out of your life earlier rather than later. Normal people don’t have these signs (except maybe the high sex drive one–which can be fun within reason). If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, I highly recommend you find a therapist who is familiar with Narcissism. You may also want to join some support groups. There are quite a few out there, and I recommend you join more than one (especially the online ones, as they all kinda have their own vibe). And just know that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy–although a Narcissist can really make you feel that way. Hang in there, and get the support you need. (((Hugs))) to you.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 55: How Do I Stop My Addiction to the Narcissist? - August 23, 2017
- Episode 53: Strategies to Help Prevent Your Child from Being Manipulated by a Narcissistic Parent - August 21, 2017
- Episode 54: How can we handle victim blaming and revictimization? - August 18, 2017