Narcissism

5 Signs You're With a Narcissist

Here are narcissistic tendencies that may hint of an abusive relationship.

Posted May 28, 2019

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The word narcissist gets thrown around a lot these days, partly due to our selfie driven world. Social media has given everyone a pass to say "look at me" and our swipe culture has turned people into salad dressing: You can pick a different flavor at any time. Love is now delivered, like everything else today. We are impatient and disconnected. Technology has given us a throne and a magic mirror that are rechargeable.

But first, let me point out that there is a difference between narcissistic tendencies and straight up Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One is diagnosed by a therapist. In the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), [1] NPD is defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood to present.

They say early adulthood because pretty much every teenager is a narcissist. Joking but not really. So this is an adult personality disorder and one must possess five of these nine traits.

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

And it can't be over a weekend when your overworked, underpaid, self-loathing best friend finally decides to make it about her because it's her birthday. These are consistent traits that are threaded into one's personality. It's in the fiber of who they are and how the act. It's how they show up in the world and in their relationships.

Okay, let's take it out of the therapy room and bring it down to street level now.

Why we are even attracted to narcissists in the first place? Well, because they can be charismatic. Since they have to be the center of attention, they have been tap dancing for a very long time. They have crafted their charisma, which you thought was confidence. And getting attention from the guy on "stage" who's getting all the attention makes you feel better about yourself and what's lacking inside. You don't know this. It's all happening underneath. Until you realize it's not confidence but actually insecurity. He performs to prove his worth. Not because he's actually witty and charming. But because he is terrified of being ordinary. But by then you're already living with him, with cuts on your feet from all the eggshells.

"When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose." —Brené Brown 

Your partner doesn't have to be clinically diagnosed with NPD for the relationship to become abusive. Being in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies can also become abusive. This is what most of us experience. Yes, there is a spectrum. From your Cartwheel Cousin to early 90's Axle Rose. But enough "I" statements, character assassination, and not taking any ownership for anything can make you feel less than and defective.

Here are five narcissistic tendencies to look for that may hint of an abusive relationship. Again, they have to be consistent with these tendencies. Not just once in a while or when they're frustrated or not being aware of self, because we can all be a narcissist once in a while.

1.  They don't hear you

Yes, they may appear like they're listening. But all they hear is themselves quickly rehearsing their comeback. They don't hear what you're saying because they don't have the ability to be empathetic. Without empathy, no one will feel heard. Or understood. Their mental dial is locked on trying to be understood instead of trying to understand. Talking to a narcissist is like driving down a one-way street without knowing it and wondering why there is no one else coming.

2. They can't take criticism

Remember, they are perfect. Or at least that's how they want to world to see them. And criticism means they are not perfect. This is not something they are willing to let go of. It doesn't matter how much they say they love you. They love themselves more. If they let go and let criticism in, their whole house of cards (identity) comes crashing down.

3. Rules don't apply to them

They believe they are special. Smarter, sexier, funnier, all the things. Rules are for normies. If they follow them, they will also be a normie. So they are above rules. Well, the thing is, all healthy relationships have rules. That's what makes the relationship safe. And safe is what builds trust. If someone doesn't believe rules apply to them, the relationship is ultimately unsafe.

4. They are never wrong

If they are wrong, that means they are equal or less than you. And that means they are no longer special. They can't be wrong. And since they are never wrong, it's always going to be your fault. Enter blame. Lots of it. And co-starring self-blame. Lots of it. The more they are not wrong, the more you believe you are. Not because of what you did. But because of who you are.

5. They don't take ownership

If they are never wrong, there is nothing to own. Ownership comes when we believe we did or said something wrong. So we take responsibility for it. But if we believe we are never wrong, there's nothing to take responsibility for. But the danger of not taking ownership isn't about right or wrong. When someone doesn't take ownership, they have stunted their growth. They have created their own ceiling. And when you have one person in a relationship that stops growing, you will have conflict.

If you've been in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, the first step is to stop blaming yourself. It's easy to believe you did something wrong. Or that you should have known better when choosing a partner. You were not the problem.

And it didn't happen overnight. There was a whole process involved, like courting and moments that felt honest. The gaslighting and manipulation didn't come until later, until you started questioning your own worth. And that's the part you need to remind yourself of. No matter how long it took or how faint it was, that questioning led you to leave, or maybe you're questioning now. Either way, that questioning proves that you believe you do have worth. You do matter. You do deserve better. Trust that. And keep feeding it. It will lead you to a new path of acceptance, forgiveness, and trusting yourself again.

"When a narcissist discards you, it means they couldn't break you. No matter how much abuse they put you through -—you still had standards, self-confidence, and self- worth. You were a mirror to their dysfunction. Take their leaving as a compliment." —Tess Brewer

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