20 Warning Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist

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What are the signs you're dating a narcissist? I’m happy you asked because I have a lot to tell. Boy! I wished someone had warned me what to look for. I would have saved myself the trouble.

Instead, I paid the price by marrying (and divorcing) a narcissist! Don’t get me wrong. All narcissists aren’t malignant or ‘evil’ as they say.

However, if you fell for a narcissist who plans to exploit you, and then treat you to a narcissist discard, then I want to save you from that awful fate. Relationships with a narcissistic person are plagued with problems… whether they’re a plutonic friend, family member, boss, or workplace colleague.

That said, is the person you’re all googly-eyed for a narcissist? I will share 20 major red flags the answer is “yes.” I will explain by drawing on research and my own experience dating and living with a narcissist.

What is a narcissist anyway? And why are they so difficult to deal with? I’m about to tell you why. You’ll also discover the downsides of being in a relationship with a narcissist, and what to do.

What Is a Narcissist?

Psychology experts describe a ‘narcissist’ as someone with a self–centered personality type. The person is persistently preoccupied with receiving admiration and satisfying their own needs.

They often take advantage of others or manipulate situations to achieve this. The extreme forms of these and other unhealthy traits are often seen in those diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

There’s a story behind the term ‘narcissist’. It comes from the word narcissism which means “excessive self-love or egocentrism.” The name ‘narcissist’ comes from the word Narcissus.

According to Greek mythology and a poet named, Ovid, Narcissus was a handsome “man in love with his own reflection.”

Of course, nothing is wrong with loving ourselves and wanting our needs met in relationships. Those things are a part of self-love and self-respect. It’s taking it to an extreme level that can turn someone into a destructive narcissist.

Primary Narcissist Personality Traits

The primary or common narcissism traits are formally outlined by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists the following NINE narcissist characteristics and traits:

  1. They promote themselves as important (grandiosity and self-importance).
  2. They think they know everything (arrogance).
  3. They believe they are entitled to whatever it is they want (self-entitlement).
  4. They lack the ability to connect with others on an emotional level (lack of empathy).
  5. They have a strong desire for admiration.
  6. They tend to exploit people close to them.
  7. They believe they are special and should only be around powerful or influential people.
  8. They daydream about endless success, power, and beauty.
  9. They envy others and think others are envious of them.

What Causes Someone to Develop Narcissistic Traits?

Narcissists behave how they do because of their personality style. Their core characteristics or behavior traits are persistent and lifelong. Researchers found several reasons why they develop a variety of unhealthy traits.

However, childhood environment and experience with caregivers are mainly responsible for shaping their narcissistic profile. For example:

  • Growing up with narcissistic parents, caregivers, or family members
  • Receiving excessive praise as a child
  • Being told they are special, extraordinary, or the best
  • Receiving special treatment when it was not appropriate in the circumstances
  • Being led to believe empathy and compassion are signs of weakness

Healthy vs Destructive Narcissism

Psychologists agree that almost everyone can display one or more narcissistic tendencies.

In fact, possessing narcissistic traits does not mean the person is ‘bad’ or evil. Everything comes down to how they use their attributes. Are they impacting others in a positive or negative way?

Narcissistic behavior traits occur on a scale between two extreme points. They can be low (mild) or high (severe).

Not only that, mild narcissism is considered healthy. For example, when a narcissist uses their traits in positive ways to help others. A communal narcissist falls into this category.

Those who land on the other extreme end of the scale show a persistent pattern of negative traits. Psychologists determine that these individuals have pathological or destructive narcissism. Usually, their behavior aligns with an NPD diagnosis.

Things take an extreme turn with destructive or dysfunctional narcissists. They are prone to using emotional manipulation to get their way. Emotional manipulation is a form of abuse and has a lasting impact on the narcissist’s victims.

Common Problems Dating a Narcissist

Those with deeply embedded narcissistic traits cannot easily change their ways. They also take them everywhere and into their relationships.

However, their inability to create happy, healthy relationships links back to their toxic characteristics. Here are a few issues you may face if you stick around a narcissist past the love-bombing phase:

  • One-sided relationship: They are focused on getting their needs met, e.g., attention, validation, and affection, at the expense of yours. You’re left feeling dissatisfied, belittled, and hurt.
  • Isolation: The narc may say ill things about those close to you to make you cut ties with them. The fewer people you have in your support system, the more you’ll find yourself relying on the narcissist. Codependence can develop far more easily as a result. Codependence also leads to a loss of your self-identity.
  • Emotional abuse: This can take the form of needing to control you to calling you unkind names, such as “crazy”. However, gaslighting and manipulating you can be equally damaging to your emotional well-being.
  • Self-loathing: You may experience a deep sense of guilt for not keeping firm boundaries. You may feel ashamed for putting their needs ahead of yours. Self-loathing may also stem from a sense of self-betrayal for not protecting yourself against the narcissist.
  • Mental health problems: Dealing with their toxic and abusive behaviors can damage your mental health. Some victims feel angry, frustrated, insecure, unlovable, guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed. Others experience a sense of betrayal, loss of trust, lowered self-esteem, and difficulty setting healthy boundaries.

You can face these setbacks with narcissists who are family members, co-workers, or friends. In a romantic setting, getting out the moment you notice the signs you're dating a narcissist can prevent a crisis.

Therapy is also a consideration for those needing help to overcome the negative effects of narcissistic abuse

Note These 20 Signs You're Dating a Narcissist

Below are some common behavior patterns noticed across the board when in a relationship with a narcissist. The type of narcissist you’re dealing with may determine why you spot some signs and not others.

The intensity of their traits may also vary. Ultimately, the differences may not matter if you’re having an overall negative experience dating the individual.

#1. They love bomb you

Are you feeling overly special and lucky to meet this person? That’s exactly a part of the plan. They’ll love-bomb the hell out of you to quickly win you over.

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You will feel unworthy after giving and giving to this parasite who does not satisfy your needs or provide emotional support.

Bouquets of flowers, Hallmark love cards, money, gifts, and expensive trips are all part of their strategy. However, falling for them makes you vulnerable, and easier for them to take advantage of you.

#2. They crave attention and admiration

Narcissists live to be in the spotlight. They’ll talk about themselves and their successes, strengths, and possessions all the bleeping time.

You can’t even get a word in. If you share a story from your past, they’ll exclaim, “Wow! I experienced the same thing!” just to shift the spotlight back to themselves. They want to appear relatable and are seeking compliments and admiration.

#3. They exaggerate stories about themselves

They either save someone from a great tragedy (grandiosity) or achieve the best grades at school or something else along those lines. Anything you did, they’ll tell you they did it better.

Things turn into a competition of who-done-it-better. Later on, you may discover their grandiose stories don’t check out. Making themselves seem far more important than they are is also a form of deception by a narcissist.

#4. They future-fake you

Masking their inner selves and faking their way is how narcissists win you over. Faking includes false promises of a fantastic life together. Misrepresenting or exaggerating their social and financial status is all part of the plan.

In the end, there’s little to no follow-through. Instead, they give you just enough to string you along while they exploit you.

#5. They look down on people

Grandiose narcissists, in particular, inflate their importance and put themselves on a pedestal. If they’re up there, then you’re down there. They make just about anyone they perceive as lesser than themselves a target for their putdowns.

I’ve experienced them being nasty and mean to service workers, such as waiters, and people of different ethnicities.

#6. They say you’re their ‘soulmate

Nothing grasps a hopeless romantic’s interest more than when they’re told “You are my soulmate.” If it has only been weeks since you’ve met the individual, run for your life! That is a classic narcissist lie to trap you.

They don’t mean it and only say it to make you continue dating them. The longer you believe this, the more time they have to exploit you.

#7. They deflect a lot

Deflection is an art of evasiveness and a narcissist does not hesitate to use it to their advantage. Practically every single time you bring their bad habits to their attention, they’ll switch it back to you.

Their fragile ego can’t take being called out. In response, they will say, “Don’t you do the same thing?” Most times, it has nothing to do with you. The goal is to avoid responsibility by shifting the blame to you.

You end up feeling bad about yourself, and sorry for even saying anything.

#8. They lie for mundane things

Narcissists, especially sociopathic narcissists, lie and deceive all the time. Many times, it’s about simple everyday things. They are famous for deceiving you about relationship status, past relationships, and their whereabouts.

Feeding you false information from the start lets them shape the relationship to suit them. They also rarely feel remorseful about lying and cheating due to a strong lack of empathy.

#9. They don’t apologize

In healthy relationships, the couple willingly own up to their wrongdoings and apologize. Not with a narcissist. Saying “sorry” goes against the grain of their traits. To them apologizing is equal to giving up their power.

They’d rather die than apologize to you or anyone. If they do, it’s self-serving, half-hearted, and insincere. They may say they did nothing wrong and only apologized to please you. How insulting!

#10. They get defensive easily

The neurotic nature of narcissists helps make them highly defensive. Things get worse when you disagree, confront, or challenge them. They find this highly offensive. These are know-it-alls who are never wrong.

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A common aftereffect of dating a narcissist is reduced self-esteem.

They want to win every argument even if it means invalidating you with negative criticisms. Getting defensive frustrates your effort to reason with them, get them to take accountability, and solve problems.

#11. They devalue you

Once you’re committed to the relationship, the narcissist slips into their actual personality. In addition to deflection and defensiveness, they’ll devalue you. You’ll spot this by the classic statements narcissists make

The most common ones are, “You’re crazy,” “You’re too sensitive,” and “Something’s wrong with you.” Other times, it’s “You should see a therapist,” “No wonder no one likes you,” and “You’re the worst person I ever dated.” 

While anyone can say these mean things, with a narcissist, the devaluation keeps coming.

#12. You feel manipulated

You’ll feel this because you are in fact getting manipulated by the person. Intuitively, you sense something’s ‘off’. Gaslighting you is a common manipulation strategy.

They use it to make you feel emotionally unstable or crazy. The person will sow doubt and confusion in your mind by questioning your memory.

Here are examples of common gaslighting statements narcissists use to manipulate; “You’re imagining things,” “That’s not what happened, “You’re really forgetful, aren’t you?,” and ‘You’re blowing things out of proportion.”

#13. Everything has to be their way

In addition to being controlling, they feel entitled to get whatever they seek. You’ll notice they expect you to cater to their needs while ignoring yours.

If you refuse, they will get upset or withdraw from you. Saying “no” or refusing to act on their command is a blow to their fragile ego. Blocking their needs also causes them to feel a loss of control and superiority.

#14. They keep you away from loved ones

Isolating you from the people in your support circle makes you an easier target to control, manipulate, and abuse.

The person will seek to drive a wedge between you and friends or relatives you rely on. They’ll tell you those people don’t care about you.

To get you to rely only on them, they’ll brainwash you into believing they are the only ones who care for you.

Complete reliance on them for all your needs creates an unhealthy dynamic called codependency.

#15. They triangulate you

Vindictive narcissists are prone to bringing a third person into your relationship by way of reference. One triangulation tactic is comparing you to their exes and boasting about how good they are. You may feel you can’t measure up to their ex-partners.

Another tactic is telling you others speak ill of you. Meanwhile, you’ll have no way of verifying this information. The narcissist ensures there’s no contact between you and the third parties.

#16. They make you feel unworthy

Always remember you exist to a narcissist only as narcissistic supply. Since they view you only as a means to an end, their actions will align with their motives.

You will feel unworthy after giving and giving to this parasite who does not satisfy your needs or provide emotional support.

Treating you in a belittling way will leave you questioning your self-worth. “Why doesn’t he love me back?” and “What’s wrong with me?” are common questions victims of narcissistic abuse ask themselves.

#17. Your self-esteem has taken a deep dive

Narcissistic behavior in relationships is consistent with emotional abuse. That is why dating a narcissist changes you.

A common aftereffect is reduced self-esteem. You’re left feeling insecure about your self-worth and ability to be independent. You may think you’re not worthy of love or defective after dealing with constant character criticisms by the narcissist.

#18. They hate boundaries

In comes the boundary crasher! At first, they’ll force themselves to toe the line, just to be in your good graces.

They’ll start openly disregarding your boundaries once you’re emotionally invested in the relationship. In other words, they let their ‘narcissist mask’ slip.

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The narcissist will deal the final blow to your self-esteem with an ultimate or final discard.

Breaking your rules and crossing personal boundaries happens early in the dating phase. It’s just that love hormones blind us from seeing the early red-flag signs you’re dating a narcissist.

#19. They discard you

The narcissist will deal the final blow to your self-esteem with an ultimate or final discard.

This tends to occur when they’ve found someone else to use. However, mini-discards will occur during the relationship.

Stonewalling and giving you the silent treatment are two temporary discard tactics.

Usually, narcissist discards follow a conflict or when they don’t get their way. Needless to say, getting tossed aside for good, in the end, will leave anyone feeling used and worthless.

#20. They don’t feel sorry for others

Are you puzzled as to how this person can lie, cheat, deceive, and discard you without thinking about your feelings? Narcissists don’t feel sorry for other people’s plight. They lack the type of emotions needed to do so.

They lack empathy, or the ability to understand and relate to your feelings and distress. Having empathy would make them feel bad for exploiting you.

Suppressing that aspect of themselves allows them to control, dominate, and exploit without considering your feelings.

How to Deal with Signs You're Dating a Narcissist

When it comes to dating a narcissist, you definitely ain’t getting what you signed up for. Narcissists wear a ‘mask’ to hide their true shallow selves. To know for sure, you are ensnared by a narcissistic person, try putting their behavior in context. 

Note how many of those signs and DSM narcissist traits apply to your partner. The more you check off, the more they begin to fit the profile of a narcissist.

The next thing is to determine how to deal with the situation. Will you speak to your partner and allow them to work on their unhealthy behaviors, or free yourself from the relationship?

Keep in mind that being a narcissist doesn’t mean the person is bad. Sometimes these individuals lack the self-awareness to recognize their behavior is destructive. For all you know, no one was ever bold enough to point out their toxic traits.

Final Thoughts on Signs You're Dating a Narcissist

The final decision to continue dating the person, or not, is still yours to make after considering all the factors. Things can only work if they’re willing to do what’s necessary to improve.

Putting healthy boundaries in place also helps protect your well-being. If you think you suffered emotional abuse, you can consider talking to a therapist to help you heal. 

Lastly, I hope this article was helpful and that you will put your needs and mental health first. Don’t miss the opportunity to read 13 Ways Dating a Narcissist Changes You.

And if you're looking for articles about narcissists and narcissism, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

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