The difficulty in identifying a narcissist lies in differentiating between self-confidence and self-infatuation. This might seem blatantly obvious, but in the throes of a new relationship what is actually dominating and conceited may at first come across as strong and self-assured, characteristics that attracted you to them in an instant. As time progresses, however, this becomes overbearing, their snide comments slowly chip away at your soul and you come to a fork in the road. Realizing the crucial signs that you are dating a covert narcissist will help you make a swift exit before you’re in over your head.
Narcissists don’t just enjoy talking about themselves, they revel in it. At every opportunity, they divulge their experiences and life achievements, leaving you with little chance to get a word in edgeways. When eventually they do come up for air and let you intercept, they either tune out and become disinterested in what you are saying or wait for the cue to relate the conversation back to them. This self-absorbed behavior is not only frustrating but leaves you feeling somewhat like a brick wall, bored out of your skull and fearful of saying something that will only encourage their monologue.
2. Passive aggression
A classic sign of narcissism embodies aggression; be it passive or full-on, narcissists have a tendency to put everyone down just to feel good about themselves. This may not solely be directed towards you, but also family, friends, or work colleagues of your respective partner. It is often the case that judgment is made about dealing with situations and the narcissist, unsurprisingly, believing that they would have handled it better.
Downplaying a partner’s accomplishments is another common feature of an egoist’s demeanor. For example, you have received a promotion at work – a cause for celebration that any partner would usually welcome with open arms. However, your partner subtly questions the terms on which you agreed on the promotion; Did you push for a pay rise? Negotiate holiday allowance? This sly interrogation makes you feel inferior, as though you have achieved nothing at all.
3. One of a kind
As well as believing they can do anything, narcissists simply feel they are entitled to it too – why not, right? They enjoy risk-taking and see boundaries as an exciting challenge of which to pursue. They strongly believe common rules like ‘no parking’ or ‘members only’ do not apply to them. Talking their way into an exclusive lounge only serves as a motive to add yet another feat to their long list of accomplishments and prove that they truly are, one of a kind.
Beware that this form of testing can also coincide with your own boundaries. Frequently mistaking ‘no’ for ‘maybe’, pushing you until you tire of their voice and eventually wave that white-flagged ‘yes’ just shows your partner doesn’t respect you and always puts their own preferences before yours.
Not doting on their appearance or achievements 24 hours a day, including at social gatherings, will instantly put you in your other half’s bad books. Lashing out is a narcissistic tendency that occurs when, on a rare occasion, a narcissist shows generosity or compassion, the feeling isn’t reciprocated. Introverted narcissists take any hint of criticism, even if it’s just a difference of opinion, extremely personal, and will quickly become defensive. The fact that they feel a constant need to be praised and loved points the finger towards their underlying insecurity, for which their narcissism is actually a grand facade.
5. Chronic manipulation
Evidenced by ‘downplaying your achievements’ previously mentioned, intrinsic manipulative tactics are what set narcissists apart from quite pleasant human beings. This is most commonly displayed in the form of ‘gaslighting’; a psychological phenomenon whereby a narcissist will lead their victim to doubt their own memories or judgments and lose their sense of perception. An incessant stream of lies from the gaslighter and constant comments like ‘are you sure?’, ’that’s not what happened’ and ‘you’re so jealous!’ both undermine the gaslighter’s feelings, thoughts, and factual accuracy. If you are constantly second-guessing yourself or apologizing to your partner, you may have fallen victim to this covert narcissistic habit.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a recognised mental health condition, however this doesn’t warrant a free pass to commit emotional abuse. The origins of NPD are still not and probably never will be clear. Some argue this outward display of arrogance conceals deep-seated insecurity and low self-esteem, others link narcissists’ behaviour to being over-praised as a child, enabling them to create an unhealthy sense of ranking and superiority in their minds.
Explaining how much their behaviour is hurting you may shock them into immediate change, yet it is likely they will take this as another criticism against their perfect self and a tenacious stream of denial will follow. Regardless of how much you may love your narcissistic partner, it’s almost, sadly, a guarantee that you will never love them as much as they love themselves. My advice: respect yourself enough to find someone who truly deserves your undivided attention.