It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Is there any way to discover a narcissist before you get into a relationship with one? Are there clues we should be seeing?

Yes, with one caveat. We probably won’t know that a person is actually a narcissist until we dig deeply into that person’s life. Instead, we can identify a “toxic person.” It doesn’t really matter whether the person is a narcissist, you want to know if this person could hurt you. There are signs that many people overlook when they meet another person.

Let’s break these clues into two groups: What you see in the person and what you feel in yourself.


So, first, what do you see?



The narcissist criticizes without regard to propriety. You and I feel like we have to earn the right to share a criticism. The narcissist doesn’t feel that way. He/she will criticize your clothes, your car, your work, anything. You will probably hear him/her criticize others, especially behind their backs. The girl who goes out with a new boy and hears criticism of what she wears or anything else in her life should become very alert. It begins early.

Insincere praise:

It may be surprising to realize that narcissists are quick and generous with their praises. The truth is that this is a manipulative tool narcissists learn early. They use praise to get people to like them and to disarm any hesitation. It often works. (Remember Eddie Haskell?) If you meet someone who is overly generous with praise of you or others, be careful!

Discovering secrets:

Contrary to what some might think, narcissists are good listeners, at least early in the relationship. They gather personal information to use later. It is always best to be careful about sharing personal things, but if you notice someone asking inappropriate questions about sensitive things, that person might be toxic. If he/she returns to a sensitive area after you stopped talking about it, be alert.


In a recent post I shared about how narcissists cheat. Not only will the toxic person break some rule in your presence, he will probably make you aware of it. You are supposed to understand that he is superior. Letting you see him break a rule will impress you with his boldness and deceive you into thinking you share a secret. Many people like the “bad boy” as long as he isn’t hurting them. But the bad boy might become toxic in a relationship.

Fantasy future:

Narcissists can be big talkers with big dreams. Sharing dreams isn’t bad, even early in a relationship, but the dreams of the narcissist will revolve around others admiring or submitting to him. He will be a rock star in some area of life so that others will notice and look up to him. But, as you get to know him, you will see that he doesn’t have the courage or determination to make those dreams come true.


The reason the dreams don’t come true will be because others hold him back or fail him in some way. Narcissists have complaints. They are under-appreciated at church, used at home, passed over at work. The reason he was fired at his last job was because the boss wanted his relative to have the position. People just don’t understand her. Life is always unfair to the narcissist.


The failures of the narcissist’s life are someone else’s fault. He will admit to a weakness if it gives him an excuse for failure. He was late because he never really learned to tell time. (Of course, you better not be late.) He forgot the commitment he made to you or to someone else. It wasn’t his fault. The boss had him working late. His mom took the car. His roommate was loud all night. On and on and on.

Selective memory:

When the narcissist tells the story, it probably isn’t the way you remember it. He will be made to look smarter or stronger. The others will be made to look more foolish. The excuse won’t be quite true. After the argument, your version is different from hers. You were mean, and she was the victim. But that’s not the way it was. Narcissists see truth as something that can be molded to fit their needs.


And how does that person make you feel?



You walk away from the conversation feeling like you said too much, maybe even exposed things you shouldn’t have. Why did you do that?


You are painted into a corner. You have to answer the way the person wants or you will feel like you are doing something wrong. You have to do what the person wants, or agree with what she says, even if you don’t want to.


You feel like a partner in a crime you didn’t commit. The narcissist lies, and you are put in a situation where you have to cover or agree. You bring the narcissist to an event, and he breaks the rules. Now you feel guilty.


Even at the beginning of a relationship, narcissists can be draining. You are the one who talked the whole time. Or maybe you listened so intently to his talking that you feel exhausted. You worked so hard to present your best that you are wiped out now. Ask yourself why that person drained you.


You come away from a time with this person and you realize that you have said so many mean things about others that you are ashamed. Does that person draw out those comments from you, those feelings?


Not just manipulated, but pushed into things. You didn’t really want to go to that movie. You didn’t want to talk about that person. You didn’t want to wear those clothes. Yet, you feel like that person pushed you somehow. It isn’t easy to explain why you didn’t stand up for yourself, but you just didn’t.


This might surprise you. Narcissists know which buttons to push to make someone feel really special and valued. They know just what to say and how to say it. Sadly, this is just another form of manipulation. If you come away from an early contact feeling like this new relationship is too good to be true, it might just be.


The whole idea of a clue is that it is not proof. None of these, standing alone, proves that a person is toxic, let alone a narcissist. But when you see several of these, in that person or yourself, then you have some red flags.

So what other clues have you realized? Hindsight does help! It may at least help others.


Filed under Narcissism

21 responses to “Clues

  1. Yes I was Miss Wonderful while we were engaged, but one we were married it morphed into the all about Him Show and he called our Toddler son and me “millstones around his neck,” meaning he felt some uncomfortable responsibility when his flying career took him away for months at a time. How dare we! Boy was I dense, and I didn’t learn about NPD and RAD till 43 years into the relationship, four years after he divorced me because I ” just wasn’t doing it ” for him anymore. I can’t hate him because I am Christian; rather I feel perhaps inappropriate compassion for him in the dysfunctional family he grew up in and how Satan manipulated and warped them all. Of the 8 grandchildren of the family, my two sons are the only Christians with compassion for others and honor for God. As I raised them, they still show respect to their father as their father even though they told him he was wrong to take the road he took. God have mercy on him! And yes, for me, too, to get over him.

  2. This is so good. I needed to read this 47 years ago!

    My heart was broken twice yesterday. I won’t get into the details here, I just wrote about it on my blog in a post called “Answer the door”. But I have been asking myself, did narcissism have anything to do with what happened yesterday? Narcissism in the other two people, or even in me?

    I don’t know, right now I just feel spent and empty. It’s 9:30 in the morning here, but I want to go back to bed.

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

    • Anne

      Linda Lee, I just read your blog and I get it. I would not want to risk taking out a mortgage on a paid house, even for a child. If you don’t have your retirement finances in order now, when you’re close to retirement, it’s too late. I wish you the best in dealing with your husband.

      • Thank you, Anne. People must have been praying for us. My husband suddenly did a complete 180 degree turn about an hour before we were going to meet with the lender. He called off the appointment, and he wasn’t mad, sad, or upset in any way. He actually seemed happy. The complete opposite of how he was last night. Yay!

        The thing is, we are already retired, in a sense. My husband is a 100% disabled Vietnam combat veteran, and I am also on a very small disability for severe, chronic PTSD. So our income is limited, compared to a lot of people our age.

        Since the federal court judge granted our appeal in 2011, after years of fighting for my husband’s VA claim, we no longer have to sell our blood plasma in order to buy groceries. We have what we need, for which we are super grateful. But we don’t have much extra. Certainly not enough to warrant getting a mortgage on our little fixer upper, paid for house!

  3. Cecilia K

    This is probably something that you couldn’t really know before you got more involved with a narcissist, but I think a lack of friends can also be a clue. Neither of the last two men I dated seemed to have many friends, at least not locally. They both talked about a few out-of-state friends, and I did get to meet some of them, or heard the guys talking to them on the phone; but they didn’t really have any friends nearby with whom they spent much time with, which is probably why they were so demanding of *My* time, expecting me to spend just about every day with them (one more so than the other).

    I’m not saying a lack of friends is a definite sign of narcissism, and I am realizing as a single woman, the older I get, the more difficult it is to spend time with friends, because most of them are married, with children, but even so, I don’t think I would expect my bf, if I had one, to spend all of his spare time with me. He has a life of his own, his own responsibilities to take care of, outside of me. Besides, I don’t think I would want that; I enjoy and need my alone time very much (but realize that I would get a lot less, if I were married, but I think with the right man, I would be okay with that).

    Another characteristic I found common to both of them, was they didn’t seem to feel the need to ask my feelings about some decisions that affected me. One man invited himself on a trip I was taking; I reluctantly agreed, after trying to hint to him that I was not comfortable with him coming along, but he did not take the hint. Yes, I should have been directly, completely honest with him, but I had already discerned that this man did not take rejection well, so I “convinced” myself that maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I was expecting, in order to avoid hurting his feelings and making him more insecure, but it was a big mistake.

    I know on at least one occasion, he invited himself to dinner with his landlords, who had invited another couple over for dinner. And another incident was, he bought me a gym membership that I didn’t ask for and didn’t want.

    The next guy I dated talked assumptively about us getting a membership with a special interest organization, but I had never expressed any interest in that kind of thing, and he did not ask if I would like to join. I told him I would do that if it was important to him, but he needed to know, that was His thing, not mine, trying to convey that he needed to ask me first before he signed me up for anything. In hindsight, I probably should have just said that directly, but I guess I was also trying to convey that I am a unique individual from him, and don’t share all of his likes/dislikes (i. e., I was not an extention of him).

  4. Leslee

    Just a note for Problem-Fixers. You especially are vulnerable to a narcissist because as things go downhill, you will do everything you can to make it right – even if you know you aren’t at fault. Not talking about being an enabler; you don’t make excuses for the bad behavior and don’t bail the person out, but you will find a way to make things work for you/your family around the narcissist. It can be okay for a long, long time – until it’s not.

  5. SavedbyGrace

    I agree Leslee, but I think of all things, when it comes to marriage (or a significant close/family relationship) we are highly motivated to fix it and ‘make it work’- we love this other person deeply; we are committed to this other person; we have children to consider; and for Christians there is a strong imperative to ‘stay together’.

    This last point I think has taken on a life of it’s own making an idol out of marriage and creating great stigma for anyone who dares to divorce- even for victims of abuse. The ‘church’ sends the message that the institution of marriage is more precious then the safety and well being of the individual trapped in a toxic/abusive relationship.

    So for me I felt well and truly trapped and my only alternative was to try and ‘make a life’ around my Ns attitudes/behaviours, all the while hoping that he may change…
    …I love that last phrase of yours which sums up my (over 3 decades) experience to a T!
    It can be OK for a long, long time- until it’s not
    I have now stepped outside the crazy making of living with my N and started to heal and re orientate my life towards ‘healthy’. It’s not easy but it is freeing.

  6. SavedbyGrace

    Love this post Dave- really helpful!
    Another clue: things move at a fast pace- you are in a committed relationship eg marriage very quickly. It can be all dressed up as a ‘whirlwind romance’ and the experience is ‘amazing’, but if the person is an N it will not be long before their true colours are revealed. So some of the clues listed will be hidden during the courtship.
    Other possible clues: obsessions/addictions eg with sex or other things
    -this might just be coincidental,or are Ns prone to these things? what do others think?

    • Cecilia K

      Savedbg, My ex seemed to have a fairly insatiable appetite for sex. I wouldn’t “go all the way” with him, but I’m sad to say I was still more intimate with him than I knew was right in the eyes of God. I had naively shared with him in the beginning of our relationship that that is an area where I am weak, hoping that, as my brother in Christ, if he knew that, he would help me be strong, and not lead me into temptation. I know now that was a foolish thing to do. To be fair, it wasn’t Always him who initiated our intimacy, but no matter how many times I expressed regret over going too far, it didn’t seem to make a dent in him making an effort to not engage with me in physical intimacy. But again, to be fair, if I, a female, have a problem resisting sexual temptation, how much more must he, a male, have that problem?

      Anyway, as more evidence of him having a probably slightly stronger bent toward sex, maybe than even some other Christian men (and of course, I’m not certain he truly Is a Christian, what with all the narcissistic behavior), he at least once, expressed a desire to put a mirror over the bed after we got married (the marriage never happened—nor the mirror, at least not during My relationship with him).

      To my knowledge, he was not into pornography. If he was/is, I never caught him looking at it, but of course, I wasn’t with him 24/7. With such a strong appetite, it probably wouldn’t shock me too much to find out he does/did view it.

      He told me was never taught, growing up, that sex outside of marriage is wrong, which I find hard to believe, seeing as how he was raised by Christian parents (at least, as far as I know, they are, and I believe at least one of his brothers is), and they had their kids in church.

      • Georgette

        Cecilia, I was more intimate with the N but never went all the way. When I was weak he would remind me that we needed to wait till marriage. When the N was weak I would ask about getting married and he would say let’s get on the plane right now and go to LasVegas, Nevada and get married. I told him no let’s go through premarital counseling first. That shut him up. I would bet that your ex-N was doing porn and if you had married him he would have used you as an object of his sexual fantasizes from his porn. My ex-N would talk to me about what he wanted to do with me and wished that I would have put out for him like I did with the second guy I dated. To be honest N are not capable of love. My ex-N married the first wife because she thought she was pregnant and he wanted to do the right thing. He said the honeymoon was a disaster but would not elaborate what happened. I’m guessing she would not have sex with him (he was an alcoholic then). 1st wife asked for a divorce after six months of marriage, he was in the military. I give him the fact that they were young and she was a daddy’s girl. 2nd wife he married before the ink was dry on the divorce papers because he was mad at his first wife for divorcing him; he was going to show her he could get any woman he wanted. The 2nd wife and him were drunk when they got married by the justice of the peace. He said he knew it wasn’t going to work and he didn’t care because he was mad! This marriage lasted three years and he incurred debt from this marriage. Wife #2 had to get counseling before he would file for divorce. 3rd wife he said she pulled down her pants and they were living together and why by the cow if you can get the milk free was exactly what he said. He then said they had been living together for a while so he thought it was time to marry her. She had to buy the rings because he didn’t have the money. This marriage lasted close to ten years. Wife #3 had to get counseling before he would file for divorce. He was an alcoholic during the beginning of this marriage and then became a ‘Christian’ and was a leader of a bible study. He was asked to leave the church because he would not do what he needed to save the marriage and I believe the pastor realized he wasn’t who he claimed to be. He didn’t have God in his heart but had God in his brain. He can quote scripture on a dime and new how to manipulate scripture for his agenda. He incurred debt from the third marriage also. Wife #4 married her for the following reasons: 1. She pulled down her pants and they were living together. He got busted by the church police once and didn’t want to get caught again since they were both leaders of a recovery ministry, so he best marry her. 2. Been married three times best take what he could, since I told his sister I was not about to take him back. 3. He stated to me he would not have to work as hard to provide for her. She married him for a better life and with that comes a cost!

        They marry for control and control only. When the woman wants to break from that control then she is crazy. He stated that the last two women he married were crazy and could not be trusted. I talked to the third wife and she was not crazy, just co-dependent. He said that because he didn’t want me to talk to her, funny thing is that he talked to her every time we broke up, weird since she is crazy and can’t be trusted. He said that about his sister: you can be friends with her but be careful because she isn’t right. Well I talked to her as well and she is a lot healthier than he is. He just didn’t want those two exposing him for who he really is.

      • Georgette

        One more thing Ceciia, My ex N has been doing porn since he was six years old never stopped. He stopped drinking but never gave up the porn. I strongly believe he still is doing porn because he never has received no counseling as to why he was an alcoholic and porn addict. He gave up the alcohol but not about to give up porn. Whenever I kissed him I didn’t feel fire or passion in his kisses but he could feel the fire and passion from my kisses. When we made out he was going through the motions but there was no desire or fire like two people being in love. He always called it sex never love making. I asked one day if he was still doing porn and he didn’t say no, he just looked at me with deer in headlights and all I could say is: My God you are a leader in a recovery ministry and doing porn (and I walked away repulsed!). Not to mention I caught him late at night a couple times quickly changing the screen on his computer. He has covenant eyes on his computer but it doesn’t cover everything like youtube, twitter and some other sites.

        You were smart not to marry the N!

        People can have head knowledge about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit but if there behavior doesn’t show that they have God in their hearts then they are fools.

      • Cecilia K

        Thank you for your thoughts and your testimony, Georgette. I’m glad you got away from your ex. It’s so sad and terrible that he has hurt so many women.

        You are likely right about my ex, although I hate to think that he does view porn. = ( I do know that he has been dealing with a very unfortunate trial for a very long time, wanting something very badly, and if he were found out to be viewing porn, it would probably severely hurt his chances of getting what he wants, and I know he knows he has to keep his nose clean. That’s one reason I have my doubts that he does; but he Is human / a sinner, and his sexual appetite does kind of imply that it’s a distinct possibility.

        Yes, I am grateful that God opened my eyes and gave me the wisdom to not marry him, although like so many here, I do miss him, and am often very tempted to contact him; but testimonies here, and seeing Dateline shows about controlling men who murder their wives help me resist the temptation (saw one recently where this man met his wives in church, seemed like a great Christian guy at first). The Lord also reminds me of how my ex would sometimes be unsupportive when I wanted to do what I thought was right. Don’t want a “leader” who discourages me from doing what’s right.

  7. Georgette

    SavedbyGrace you are correct and that the N love bombs the hell out of you. It started out he wanted to be friends and never marry b/c he had been married three times and he wanted to be celibate. The first two years he disrespected my boundaries. All he wanted was sex. I stayed with him b/c I was lonely and just wanted a male friend. The third year we went through premarital counseling and the following issues were discovered: communication, conflict issues and money issues….later I found he was still doing porn. N never wanted to work on the relationship. All N wanted was to have sex not make love but sex. I decided to journal the last three years of the four-year relationship and asked God to open my eyes to see the N for who he really is. All I can say when you ask God for something be prepared for a reality check. I was shocked at what I saw in the N. I then asked God to help me get out of the relationship. He did, it wasn’t pretty but the alternative would have been a hellish marriage. His fourth wife he knew her 13 months, whom he paid for her divorce, saved her from a run down trailer, and bought her a newer car all within a year. In her eyes I am guessing he is giving her a better life. In his fourth marriage he is carrying communication, conflict, money and porn addiction (which he has carried in all three marriages) and she is bringing in the marriage risky sexual behavior, money issues and condescending tongue to get her way.

    I just want to say that journaling a relationship and any arguments or conversation is a great ideal. I believe in going back to that journal and asking God to reveal the truth in the relationship. God saved me from a horrendous life with the N. My adopted mom was a psychopathic narcissist who raised me, so I knew in my gut something wasn’t right in this relationship it was too much like my past. I refuse to live my past through anyone! I was lonely and almost was willing to settle for less. I listened to other people’s warning but didn’t act on it due to my loneliness until I journaled and prayed for God to reveal the N to me and to provide an escape.

  8. Tabbie

    I keep reading these posts
    It has been good for me to learn what a narcissist is
    My husband I have wondered so long what is soooooo wrong with our lives Where did We go sooooo off track for things to end up in such a horrible messs?
    We are so stuck it is our adult son who is very handicapped and the GREATEST Narc!!!
    So handicapped he must live with us (he has CRPS) -violent pain all the time)
    Government will not help him financially so he must live at our home
    No one and I mean no one wants to help him or us
    Everyday He screams at us , belittles us, berates us and emotionally badgers us
    Very often reminds us of our sins and cusses at us calling us filthy things
    I am so drained I have horrific anxiety attaches
    If we put him out he will die he is so unable to care for himself
    We go into the other room and close the door turning the volume up on the tv to drown out his yelling
    If we leave the house when we return he goes into a verbal tyrant
    We pray pray and pray
    We have tried so many many things ,nothing works all friend and family are finished with us

    • aboveallguardyourheart

      this is so messed up so sorry hear this, praying for you.

    • Cecilia K

      Tabbie, My heart goes out to you and your husband. I pray God gives you the strength to endure this trial that He has sovereignly ordained for you for this season. Hugs and Blessings!

  9. Looking back over my introduction to a full-blown NPD the first thing he did was share way too much of his personal life. I was a new acquaintance and he was sharing very private details ( much of which I later learned were complete lies) He was in the midst of going through a divorce and found in me a sympathetic ear. I was treated to hours and hours of his tales of woe and of how the ex was breaking laws and getting away with murder. The N was the victim, never at fault for any of it. After awhile the stories began to grow bigger. He was the hero in fantastical stories, each getting more impressive than the last. For example, he said he was in private meetings with the state governor creating new laws to protect men from unethical divorce lawyers. Then He was forcing the school system to disregard the custody agreement because he was just that powerful and intimidating over the wimpy school principal….
    I figured it out before I got sucked in too far thanks to blogs like this one, but he is still out there cornering unsuspecting, compassionate women, spewing out his tales, monopolizing conversations and convincing them they are the only person who really understand him.
    So f I had to suggest any clues to look out for, it’s the person who tells you that you have a supernatural gift of compassion and understanding and then proceeds to take advantage of that gift.

  10. Toby

    I have been reading Fr Richard Rhor’s daily meditations and his series of the Enneagram, earlier this year, has this observation which I think matches NPD types very closely. Christ (our Wonderful Counselor) really is the only hope for those of us with NPD:

  11. UnForsaken

    Eddie Haskell…I’ve used him in my mind as the perfect example of a bad friend!

    Wonderful post on toxicity! Most of these traits can be seen in other people with personality disorders too, so these indicators are quite helpful.

    Would you think about doing a post on how to avoid falling for some of these things, Pastor Dave? This article helps us see how to identify them. I was thinking more along the lines of what to do in our hearts when we see it. It is very hard to Have to play their game for safety’s sake and not compromise or harm ourselves. It is so important to trust that God will show us the way. When in the midst of these feeling it’s very hard to see if we are actually doing right. Narcs do so make us feel guilty… .totally aside from any participating guilt . The confusion puts us out of touch with ourselves and so often makes us feel distanced from our caring Father in heaven as well.

    After spending a holiday celebration with some lovely people in combination with Narcs oddly behaving extremely well, I thought of some other things they do. Here’s the one I could think of right now:

    Changed tactics. Because they are playing a game, they frequently change things up. It’s as if that attitude, event, thing they said, etc. never happened. They have found a new way to cope in their new situation. We feel mistaken, or even as if we have slandered them. We may have cautioned ourselves or others about the need to be aware of something in that person’s behaviors, and Narcs seem to make liars out of us by being angels for the day. We are grateful the day went so well and for a lot of other things, but somehow having them on top the the world is not comforting. It may also make us question ourselves… least until the next time we see them! 😉

    Thank you for this post, Dave. Wishing you and your family a peaceful and Happy Christmas!

  12. Penny


    I would add “confusion”.

    The narc ALWAYS had me confused, second-guessing myself, re-tracing conversations, trying to figure out “what have I done wrong NOW???”
    It was crazy-making.

    In his book, “People of the Lie”, author Scott Peck also made this obversation, and he eventually applied it when he counseled clients.
    It took him years to draw the connection, but he learned that the clients who left him feeling confused were often doing it on purpose, & were most often narcissists. He learned to pay attention to that feeling of confusion, & to respect it as a red flag, warning him about what was to come.
    I have done the same, & it is usually correct.
    And why not?? To create confusion gives the narc that feeling of power & control they crave.
    I have learned that confusion is a smokescreen, a technique, designed to buy them time & throw you off their trail & down the rabbit hole.

    I had to learn to trust my gut & not go there.
    No more rabbit holes or smoke screens….I have learned to excuse myself & get the heck outta there!!!

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