Most people experience at least one unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship in their lives, but dating a narcissist is another level of pain and anguish. Narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental health condition that can put intense strain on interpersonal relationships. If you’re involved with a narcissist, you might feel like you’re the one who’s going crazy.
Recognizing the signs of narcissism when you’re dating someone can be difficult. A narcissist is skilled at pulling people in and charming them while hiding their true self. Often times, people don’t realize that they’ve dated a narcissist until months or years after the relationship ends.
Understanding what narcissism is and what it looks like can help you identify harmful patterns in your own romantic relationship. This experience can leave lasting emotional scars, so it’s important to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
What Is a Narcissist?
Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition that causes an inflated sense of self-importance, an obsession with success and power, and a constant need for admiration. The typical narcissist is interested only in their own wants and needs, and they have no issue exploiting others for their own benefit.
Narcissism usually develops out of deep-rooted feelings of shame and inadequacy. From an early age, a narcissist has learned how to mask their insecurities through false confidence. Personality disorders are lifelong conditions, and it’s especially unlikely for a narcissist to change their ways.
It’s also important to note the difference between someone having narcissistic traits and having narcissistic personality disorder. The term “narcissist” has become a buzzword in popular culture, and it’s not uncommon to hear people refer to their exes as narcissists when recounting everything that was wrong with the relationship. There are certainly plenty of people who display narcissistic behaviors that create an immensely unhealthy relationship dynamic. Narcissistic personality disorder, however, is a much rarer and more severe condition that can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional.
7 Signs That You Are Dating a Narcissist
A relationship with a narcissist can mess with your mind and make you question your reality. You might have a hard time recognizing the problems in the relationship because the narcissist has such a hold over you. Here are some of the most notable signs that you are dating a narcissist:
1. You both fell in love right away.
Dating a narcissist means going through all the emotional extremes. While the later stages of the relationship may bring intense anger or hopelessness, the beginning is usually exciting. A narcissist can appear magnetic and charming at first, so you may feel immediately drawn to your partner. They will likely return the feeling, too. Your narcissist partner might tell you they love you very early on in the relationship, or they may talk about how you’re the smartest or most incredible person they’ve ever met.
Sometimes, two people do connect strongly right away and go on to have a happy, healthy relationship, so this experience on its own isn’t necessarily cause for concern. However, if you find yourself thinking back to the beginning of your relationship and wondering what went wrong, you might be involved with a narcissist.
2. They fish for praise.
Narcissists need constant praise and admiration to fuel their ego and crush their self-doubt. You partner might frequently turn the conversation to themselves so that they can talk about their accomplishments and receive compliments. If they think you haven’t offered them enough praise, they may make you feel guilty.
3. They belittle you.
Occasional playful teasing can have a role in a healthy relationship, but one partner constantly belittling the other is simply toxic. Your narcissist partner may put you down so that they feel better about themselves and so that you feel like no one else will love you. If you’re tired of the relentless insults, complaints, or mean-spirited teasing, you might be dating a narcissist.
4. They can’t empathize with you.
Lack of empathy is a hallmark of narcissism. You may feel like your partner lacks compassion or doesn’t connect with you when you’re expressing your emotions. Everyone deserves to feel heard and understood, but a narcissist partner cannot empathize with you.
5. You don’t feel like yourself anymore.
Narcissists try to manipulate their partners so that their partners feel lost or hopeless without them. After many months or years of dating a narcissist, you may feel as if your sense of self has completely vanished. You don’t know who you are anymore, and you’re no longer sure what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable in a relationship.
6. You’re blamed for everything.
Inability to accept blame is one of the most noticeable signs of a narcissist. No matter how small and inconsequential a mistake is, your partner may try to shift the blame onto you. They cannot apologize, and they cannot admit to doing anything wrong. Instead, you feel like you have to accept responsibility for every mistake to keep the peace.
7. You can’t seem to break up with them.
It’s very common for a narcissist to have off-and-on relationships. You may finally decide that it’s time to move on, but your narcissist ex knows exactly what to say to reel you back in. They can’t let go of you, and you feel so mentally exhausted that you can’t resist.
Breaking Free: Ending the Relationship
The decision to end a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely difficult, but it’s absolutely worth it to protect your own mental health. Removing a toxic relationship from your life can help you feel so much more free, independent, and at peace. Unfortunately, many victims of narcissistic abuse try to leave several times before they fully and successfully break free. Narcissists often isolate their partners from family and friends, leaving them feeling completely dependent on the narcissist. Also, because they’re such skilled manipulators, narcissists can pull their partners back time and time again.
If you’re planning on ending a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important that you know exactly what to expect. Although not all narcissists follow the same playbook, your partner will likely do everything in their power to sabotage your image. Your leaving them is a blow to their ego, so they’ll lash out and try to make you feel small, weak, or unworthy. They may try to turn others against you or spread malicious lies about you.
Your narcissistic partner may also try to lure you back in by love-bombing you, promising to change, or convincing you that you made a mistake. This could happen before or after they explode in anger. As soon as you get back together, though, the cycle of abusive behavior begins again. This is why carefully planning your exit is so critical. By preparing yourself for the breakup, you’ll find it easier to get away and stay away from your ex-partner. Then, as you get more distance from the relationship, you can truly start to thrive.
Strategies for Safely Ending the Relationship
Your mental, emotional, and physical safety is your top priority when ending a relationship with a narcissist. One of the best things you can do for yourself is lean on your support network. If your narcissistic partner has isolated you from your loved ones, try to reignite those connections. Emotional and practical support from family or friends can make a big difference when leaving a narcissist.
Leading up to the breakup, document as much as you can. Write down what your partner does or says, and discreetly take photos or videos as proof of their abusive behavior. You don’t have to show this evidence to anyone else, but if you ever start to doubt yourself in the future, you’ll have indisputable proof of the behavior you witnessed.
Consider the physical safety of yourself, children, pets, or any other living things. Even if your partner has never made you feel physically unsafe, they may escalate during the breakup. If you and your partner live together, leaving the home when your partner is away is typically the safest option. Once you’re certain everyone is safe, your next priority is to gather up important belongings, such as birth certificates, medications, and car titles. You should protect sentimental items, too, as your partner may destroy them in an attempt to hurt you.
Telling your partner that you’re leaving can be an incredibly difficult conversation. With a narcissistic partner, it’s sometimes best to write them a letter or speak with them over the phone instead of talking face-to-face. This is especially true if you have any concerns about your safety. If you do speak face-to-face, don’t try to reason with your partner or get them to see your side. Be as brief and direct as possible, and don’t engage if they start to argue with you.
After you exit the relationship, cut off all contact. Any communication from your ex-partner is an opportunity for them to manipulate you. Block their number, and stay away from social media. Do not let them know where you’re currently staying. A narcissist will try relentlessly to contact you, but you should ignore all communication.
How to Recover After Dating a Narcissist
If you’ve realized that you’re dating a narcissist, you may feel overwhelmed with stress and grief. This can be especially difficult if you’ve been with your partner for a long time and don’t want to give up on them. Coming to terms with the problems in your relationship is a painful process, but having enough self-awareness to recognize that something is wrong is admirable.
While therapy can sometimes help a narcissist learn to manage their emotions and relate more positively to others, most narcissists have no interest in changing or working on themselves. You deserve to be with someone who treats you with respect and compassion, and unfortunately, a narcissist is unlikely to meet those standards. Don’t stay in the relationship in the hopes that you can change your narcissist partner or learn to cope with their behavior. If your relationship is emotionally draining you, it’s time to say goodbye.
You should also understand that leaving a narcissist partner is no easy feat. Your partner will say or do anything to win you back, and they are unlikely to respect your boundaries after you try to part ways. Once they realize that you’re gone for good, they may lash out in anger. However, the emotional relief that comes from moving on from a toxic relationship is always worth the pain of leaving.
Therapy is an excellent option while you process your relationship and heal from the wounds your narcissist partner left. Narcissists are master manipulators, and they can twist any situation to make you feel as if you’re at fault. These mind games can have lasting psychological impacts, but counseling can help you overcome them and rediscover your confidence and sense of self.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling for people overcoming toxic or abusive relationships. If you’re trying to recover from a turbulent relationship with a narcissist, you don’t have to go through it alone. You can reach out to us today to schedule an appointment with a therapist in Los Angeles.