Are You Sure You Know the Red Flags of a Narcissist?
I know I thought I did. But as it turns out, I didn’t.
In a span of five years, I had two serious relationships with two covert Narcissists. They were both seemingly wonderful men: they were kind, funny, friendly, and incredibly good to me. Total Prince Charmings…until they weren’t.
They weren’t jealous, controlling, or possessive, however, both relationships went from “fairy tale” to “Lifetime TV Movie” at lightning-fast speed. And the kicker is that I could have said with absolute certainty that these men didn’t have any of the red flags of a dangerous or destructive person, because at that time I was actually teaching classes on red flags of abusive men at a domestic violence shelter! So how could I have missed the red flags?
After all, I knew the red flags…or did I?
After the hurt and heartache faded from Covert Narcissist #1 (Jack), I was left wanting to know the red flags that I missed. I needed to make sense of what had happened, as all I knew at that time was what I had experienced was way outside the realm of normal behavior, or a “bad breakup.”
I turned to google for answers. It was there that I stumbled across words like “Narcissist” and “Sociopath.” After learning more about those terms, I was confused (and kinda obsessed) with trying to figure out if Jack was a Narcissist or a Sociopath–because if I couldn’t put a name to what he was, then I could I accurately describe what I experienced with him to myself or to others? Over time, I came to realize that there was a lot of confusion around Narcissism and Sociopathy–not just from victims but from professionals as well. I ended up making peace with the fact that Jack was some sort of hybrid between the two.
Even though I learned a lot about both personality disorders, I was approaching my research more from a place of trying to make sense of what happened, and not from a place of memorizing what I was reading, as I didn’t think I’d ever get tangled up with anyone like Jack again. I thought my relationship was a fluke, and that the odds of that happening to me again were up there with the odds of me getting struck by lightning.
I was wrong.
I dated Covert Narcissist #2 (Steve) about two years later. Again, he came across like Prince Charming. Everyone loved him, and thought he was this amazing catch–however, all the night terrors and panic attacks I had after my relationship with Jack ended started up again. I couldn’t get over how similar they both were–but in a seemingly good way. I figured that I was being triggered because I was scared of being hurt again. And given my past with Jack, I had a ton of anxiety about trusting my judgment, and turned to others to validate my decision to date Steve (another mistake that won’t ever happen again).
Steve really seemed like the world’s great guy. Everyone loved him But it wasn’t until his mask slipped and revealed (enough of) his lies, his lack of remorse, blinding degree of selfishness, and jaw-dropping lack of empathy that I realized I was tangled up with yet another Narcissist!
I became serious about really trying to figure out what red flags I wasn’t seeing. I read a ton of books on Narcissism, became a psychiatric nurse, and began talking to as many other victims (and therapists) as I could hoping to get the clarity that I so desperately needed.
From all my reading and time with therapists, I knew the clinical definition of a Narcissist, but I wanted to get a fuller and more accurate picture of Narcissistic behavior in motion. I joined a bunch of support groups, and began talking to hundreds of others in an attempt to find the commonalities in our experiences–and let me tell you there were a ton! It was really eerie actually, as the more people I talked to, the more I realized that we were all just telling different versions of the same story.
Those notes on the commonalities have become this list of red flags.
This list of red flags is ever-growing and changing, and my goal is to help educate and validate all those out there who haven’t yet discovered the terms Narcissism or Socio/Psychopathy. So please contact me and let me know if you think I should add or change things.
One last thing…
Keep in mind that not all Narcissists will have every red flag, nor will they have every red flag to a severe degree, but that does not necessarily mean that they aren’t a Narcissist or that they are any less dangerous or destructive. If anything, the “mild” Narcissists are perhaps the most dangerous and destructive because they’ve learned to hide their behavior so well.
(Here is a link to all of the “Red Flags of a Narcissist” series articles and videos in a list. I will be putting this link at the bottom of all the articles and videos so you can refer back to them in an easier-to-find way.)