Margalis Fjelstad Ph.D., LMFT

Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist

Red Flags for Emotional Caretakers--Part One

Do you know the red flags for manipulative relationships?

Posted Nov 07, 2014

You might be in a relationship with an emotional manipulator if……

Clients often ask me, “How can I tell if I’m in a relationship with a narcissist?” and “How can I keep from getting into a new relationship with an emotional manipulator?”

 Here are what I call the RED FLAGS of emotional manipulators.

1. High need for attention.

Shows off a lot (even dangerous, sneaky or illegal behaviors).

Talks constantly—especially stories about their own adventures or achievements.

Name drops, lists own accomplishments.

Brings focus of conversations back to him/herself.

Expects you always be available to her/him.


2. Grandiose behavior.

Always has a better story, a better accomplishment, or a worse experience to share.

Looks down on other people. Frequently acts superior.

Knows it all. Has the latest gossip, information, or inside story.

Contradicts others and/or puts them down.

Expects preferential treatment.

Expects to do everything their way.

3. Greater than normal emotional reactions.

Takes offence easily.

Demands apologies. (Though he/she rarely or never apologizes.)

Happier, angrier, sadder, more excited than the norm.

Emotions very intense, but often short lived.

Over-reacts to the unexpected.

4. Lack of empathy or understanding of others’ feelings.

Shows little interest in what others think, feel or do.

Doesn’t understand your feelings or minimizes them.

Can’t seem to see things from your point of view.

5. Need for control. Pressures you to get what s/he wants.

Pressure for sex, for immediate commitment, for couple identity.

Constantly asking for what s/he wants, and withdrawal, hurt or anger if you don’t give in.

Hints or demands that you see or do things their way or they will leave the relationship.

6. Discounts or minimizes your needs.

May directly tell you that you don’t REALLY need or want what you just asked for.

Discounts your needs and wants as inferior, stupid, un-sophisticated, or irrelevant.

Sees requests from you as being NEEDY or SELFISH.

“Forgets” what you ask them to do.

Controls the money. May spend lavishly on self, but angry when you spend money.

7. Won’t accept responsibility for their own actions.

Blames you or others for their mistakes or failures.

Won’t live up to what they say they will do.

Makes excuses and gives long explanations why s/he couldn’t follow through.

Stubbornly sticks to the belief that they are right and others are wrong.

8. Not transparent or entirely truthful.

You catch them hiding information, doing things behind your back, taking liberties with the facts.

They lie to keep from “getting into trouble.”

Don’t live up to their stated values when no one is watching.

You feel uneasy or feel they aren’t telling you the whole truth.

You don’t feel you can really trust them.

If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know these behaviors very well. When was the first time you saw these behaviors in the other person? Too often you are likely to discount these behaviors as a “one time thing” or “when s/he is under pressure”.

When you first get into a relationship with a narcissist, these behaviors may not be directed at you, but you will see them directed at others—a parent, an ex-spouse, their children, a boss, and the generalized “others” the narcissist comes into contact with. They often have stories about their past that include being misunderstood, treated unfairly, taken advantage of, being “ripped off”, and generally angry at not being in control of what happened.

The red flags are there--even in the narcissist’s first interactions with you. Don’t discount them. Don’t ignore them. Narcissists have extremely ingrained behavior patterns that are highly likely to get more and more negative the closer you become emotionally to them. What they once directed onto others, they will eventually direct at you when the time comes that you don’t give them exactly what they want.

Check out my blog next time on RED FLAGS—PART TWO: You might be falling into caretaking behaviors if YOU…….