It’s Narcissist Friday!
(This blog continually attracts new readers. With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material. The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for. Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website. So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years. Please feel free to comment.)
I had wanted to write something to provide to parents, particularly parents of daughters, to help them discern if the person their child is dating could be a narcissist. Obviously, that’s a tall order – since not all narcissists are the same. Then I found this and I doubt that I could have written it better. Take your daughter (or son) through this and see how the questions are answered. Or just give it to her/him and see what happens. The webpage, on which you will find more, is at the end:
Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with?
Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield
you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?
Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be
abuser. Here’s how:
Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal
responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep
blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune
for his predicament?
Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured,
and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children
impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions
towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does
he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is
his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?
Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you
only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he
immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for
exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as
much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get
hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal
Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for
instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as
consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object
or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or
calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings
while waiting for you to get ready?
Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in
his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your
bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go
to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen
anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks?
Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?
Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you
often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he
exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly
unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding
relationship, and from life in general?
Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be
impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you
make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.
Thanks and acknowledgements to Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-Love“. The webpage where the above is found is:
16 responses to “Dating a Narcissist?”
I don’t this is a very good list or a very accurate predictor for a narcissistic relationship. The majority of these behaviors are not going to come out until you are already deep into the relationship…and really almost too late.
Sue, thanks for the good comment. I think you are right, for the most part. Although there are dumb narcissists, who show their problems almost immediately, most are very smart and know how to manipulate people. Revealing the truth about themselves probably won’t happen this early – and that’s why so many people have married narcissists.
On the other hand, most narcissists don’t see their self-focus as a negative. I think that what Vaknin has written gives people permission to look at a person and begin to categorize certain behaviors that are strange or uncomfortable. That can, and probably should, start very early in the relationship. However, as you point out, I doubt that any real conclusions can be drawn until some more time has passed. And then it is sometimes much more difficult to end the relationship. Perhaps one test, in fact, would be to try to end the relationship early to see what kind of response is received.
It is interesting to me that when I have shared this with classes I teach, I have received only aha’s and groans. No one suggested that these things could not be seen this early. That may simply be because of the context of the class. In any case, I agree that you have a valid point.
I agree that chances are very slim to none that you will ever see any of these behaviors within the first two dates, but after a few months, it’s spot on for the most part; and I’m guessing it’s fair to say that not all narcissists are necessarily going to exhibit ALL of the characteristics indicated in this list? I think I read either here or elsewhere that the magic number is 5, as in, if the person meets 5 or more of the narc characteristics, then they are probably a narcissist?
I shouldn’t have written “for the most part.” I was thinking of my own experience, where I didn’t see all of those characteristics exhibited in my ex-boyfriend, but obviously, that doesn’t mean they aren’t spot on for other narcissistic people. I apologize.
The narcissist who is no longer in my life asked me to move in with him BEFORE our first date. After our first date, he asked me if I wanted to look at engagement rings “just for fun.” He always swept me into bed and made me feel like a princess and idolized me and made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. But, at the same time, he had zero respect for my privacy. He snooped at my phone messages and emails. He questioned if I changed my password. He would feel slighted if my password didn’t include some reference to him. He wanted to know my every move and who I spoke with throughout the day. I became a prisoner, in a sense. I was romanced and made to feel like I had found my prince charming. Yet, he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why do they seem so eager to marry? Is it their archaic idea that to marry a woman means to have absolute control and power over her like a possession?
Narcissists are able to sweep people off their feet with praise and focus, partly because they are such effective manipulators and partly because their own need for attention is so great. There are women narcissists, of course, but this is such a common story among women victims. The trap is set so well that when the negative side of the focus comes, the victim either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t see a way out.
I don’ t think this is a chauvinist thing, although the male dominance culture certainly makes things easier for the narcissist. The same thing happens with employees, church leaders, political aides, etc. You have one purpose in the life of the narcissist – to make him feel good about himself. If you look like you will do that for him, he will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Once you stop, you are just in the way.
Wow, I hope that guy had at least KNOWN you for a little while before asking you to move in, although even so, that is definitely jumping the gun to ask before your first date! I don’t remember how long into the relationship my ex and I were when he seemed to be asking me to move in, but I’d say fairly early, because I don’t think I’d seen many, if any, red flags at that point. And I say “seemed to be asking” because although I don’t remember his exact words, I remember the gist seemed to be that he was asking me to move in with him (which took me by surprise, because I didn’t think he would be okay with that either). When I said I couldn’t do that, he said that wasn’t what he meant. When I asked what he WAS saying, he sheepishly said he didn’t know. I now think that was a lie…he was probably afraid he had just made a bad impression on me (it wasn’t a deal breaker just for asking, but it did give me a little concern).
The marriage talk also began fairly early. Don’t remember how it first came up, but he told me on several occasions that he knew I was “the one” from the moment he first SAW me — not met me, but saw me. I was flattered and got swept away by it all at first and was going along with all the marriage talk, but time wore on, and there was no proposal (which I am now thankful for). We had started having problems, and they were, of course, my fault, so he felt less sure…until we reconciled four months later and suddenly, he was pushing me to get out of my verbal commitment to my roommate early so we could get married in less than a year.
I have a theory about the rush to get married…not scientifically supported, but I have to wonder if they are so scared of you seeing who they really are after too much time passes, and leaving…if you marry them right away when they still seem like Prince Charming, then you are more trapped, and it’s harder to get away when you realize the truth.
He had just met me at work. He knew me for 2 hours. I like your theory.
OK, I say again, Wow! Two hours? I’m speechless. That’s just unbelievable. And thank you. : )
Here is a Relationship Checklist of warning signs, adapted from High Risk: Children without a Conscience> by Ken Magid.
Wow! First time I read this post. It is so very ‘spot on’ to many of the behaviors of my N ex boyfriend. I’d had little dating experience which I am sure made me doubly attractive. His favorite ploy was to ask me to make a decision(where to eat,what to do)then tell me he didn’t like the restaurant or activity so we’d do what he wanted . When I finally gave up(why bother?!?) and let him make all the decisions he told me I “frustrated” him and became very intimidating, loud and angry. I COULD NOT’ WIN’ NO MATTER WHAT I DID. I wish I’d known about narcissists then-it would have saved me a lot of pain and$$$.So glad I know now and I have this site to refresh my memory and quit blaming myself for his actions!
I’m glad for you, too, HDG. And I am also familiar with the “can’t win” situation. Talk about frustrating!
I don’t know about dating Ns personally, but have watched my parents’ relationship. As a small child I was puzzled by my mom’s lack of logic, ( my dad had some)….but could also see that he wasn’t really giving her a choice.( Restaurant comes to mind immediately!) Later I could see how that was pressurizing her and making her Look and Feel even more indecisive and silly.
You are both totally right HDG and Cecilia K ! It has always been a “no win” situation. I do think some Ns keep up relationships, but it’s not because of Their efforts.
It might be more comfortable if the Ns are smart enough to figure out how healthy people expect them to act. How can they actually have a truly healthy relationship, only a copy or set of rules? Or, maybe it’s just a super shallow version. Anyway, it’s never appealing to be part of a one sided intimidation or take over.
My parents seem quite happy , but I can see where this has stunted both of them in Personal growth and in understanding real love towards others. Caring, respect, thoughtfulness is where I see Love starting. Ns look as if they have to base a long term relationship on something else, like a Cause or Criticism.
Your theories look spot on about why Ns get pushy! It may be different for different personalities, or how they plan to go about a discard later, but the idea is to corner or trap. That way if it doesn’t work out, they can blame you as the one who “didn’t Try”. They “just” put in 100%! 🙂
Ugh, yes. I know I mentioned this in a previous comment elsewhere in the blog, but on at least 2 or 3 occasions, my ex made the comment, “I can’t do this on my own, [Cecilia],” as in, “I can’t make this relationship work by myself.” As you said, they think that the relationship has lasted as long as it has because of all THEIR efforts and “giving” nature. It always infuriated me when he would say that, and I don’t remember how I responded, but I think I stood up for myself at least once.
On the flipside of your Narc experience, UnForsaken, I don’t know what it’s like to be raised by narcissist parents, but it is obviously not fun, based on the testimonies of the children of narcissists who contribute here. While I read that one of the characteristics of narcs can be being cruel to children, my ex never had anything but praise for his daughter. In his eyes, she could do no wrong, which actually concerned me a little…not that I would have wanted him to beat her down with criticism or harshness, but on the other extreme, I think it’s also potentially dangerous for a parent to see their child as perfect. Aren’t those the parents who attack the school teachers for expressing concern about a child’s behavior, saying their little Johnny “would never do that”?
My concern for his daughter is, though sweet she may be right now, will she grow up thinking that she is the center of the universe and should always get her way, because her father never disciplines her for anything? And if she thinks she is the center of the universe, will she, too, become a narcissist later on?
The one time he told me that his daughter ever disobeyed him (she is 7 years old, I think), he took responsibility for it and said it was his fault. It was a very rare occasion when he would do that for me, and I became more and more concerned that if we were to get married, he would always put his daughter before me, that he would have more respect for her than he would for me. Not that I would want him to have more respect for me than for her, but I would like us to be equally respected. And I felt pretty sure that if I were to ever feel the need to discipline her or tell her that something she did was wrong, that I would most assuredly incur his wrath.
Cecilia K., Very perceptive!
As a “child” of a N, I have almost never experienced either the active cruelty or the spoiling. However, I’ve been surrounded by what I now believe are Ns for all of my life. At one time it seemed to me as if I must be the crazy one.
But there was one wonderful person who somehow always seemed healthy to me, and with her around I became convinced the majority I knew had to be “off” somewhere. And I learned to make “friends” in books, with ideas and the caring I saw in them.So, I observed most of the N behaviors before I came here and had some confidence in my mind about what healthy is…..but the variations still surprise me.
My N is the spoiled kind – very much a result of the daughter’s treatment you describe above. (It might have been a kind of extention of himself, not an acknowledgement of her personal rights? I see some mixed up people identify so strongly with their child, a leader/politician/pastor in their life, or even an imaginary person, they take any criticism of those individuals personally!) Totally agree that she is headed for likely Narcissism.
But there is hope. “Likely” is not absolute…..Thank God! I see times in my life where I started to react the way psychologists expect, and quite beyond my understanding, God saved me from going down that road. Also, Ns seem to be a generational thing in my family, but I have been convinced that we all have a choice. It is Not inherited because we can’t inherit Thinking, only copy it.
Your concerns about your marriage prospects were right on. I’m So glad you got out!!!!! Keep up standing up for yourself . It helps keep your integrity/individuality intact!
Hello, we are humans with the hope that in general people are good, we are empathetic and trained to give second chances!
I am sure some of the signs might be there but if they would show all of the signs early they would never get a chance for any relationship, not every narcissist is obvious, and we always try to see the good more then the bad, when the bad comes out, they know how to reel you back in with promises, gifts and explanations!
My advice and it comes from experience, about finding out if you are truly dating a narcissist ( narcissists can not change or almost never change!) and not just a selfish person or maybe someone without a clue on how to be in a healthy relationship is this!
Stick to your boundaries and do things or try to do things without him! He will not let you!
I just broke up with a very smart and very charming narcissist or at least that what everybody thinks he was, he goes to church, he is a boy scout leader he has a successful carrier and he went to 7 different marriage counselors to save his marriage of 22 years!
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it!
Warning sign Nr 1 if it is to good to be true it usually is!
The warning signs where there, he told me he loved me at our second date!
Warning Nr 2 was nonstop texting! Beware it is not attention it is control!
Then the big warnings, yelling at service personal and being downright rude!
He never apologized insisted they where stupid and they needed to hear it!
Catching him flat out lying!
Dismissing my opinions and actions as stupid or useless!
Telling me I should not make anymore new friends since I am with him now!!!!!!
I broke up with him!
Again big mistake, you can not break up with a Narcissist, they want allow it!
A true narcissist can not be out of control and he hates to be ignored, so this is the test, be nice but do your own thing make plans for yourself and see if he is supportive, if he is a narcissist he want be, he will do anything to prevent you from making your own decisions!
He told me he needed a break this relationship was not moving towards marriage and he just cant see us getting anywhere! He also said I had low self esteem, was insecure( which is called projecting) and I argued to much, I told you he was smart and he got this almost right, he could finally see I was not going to be controlled! I When he said I argued to much he meant I would not agree with his commands!
Make them break up with you!
If you refuse to do as they say, they will get frustrated and leave!
Most of all be nice to yourself, learn to say no!
Good Luck to everybody!