7 Signs You Might Be In a Relationship With a Narcissist
Welcome, friend! Today’s post is a little longer than normal, but that is because it is such an important subject. I have received more questions about narcissism than any other topic! I wanted to make sure I did my best to deal with this subject adequately. Please be prayerful for those in toxic relationships today. Pray that God would use this information to bring knowledge, understanding, healing, and freedom!
Savannah and Jack had a whirlwind courtship. He was everything she had ever hoped for, the man of her dreams —until he wasn’t.
The day they got home from their ‘honeymoon in paradise,’ paradise was lost. His temper began to rage. It seemed she couldn’t do anything right. All she wanted to was to make him happy and build their future together.
Savannah found herself at the brutal end of Jack’s criticisms. No matter what the argument, she somehow was to blame for their problems. She was constantly accused of being too emotional, too hormonal, too needy, too everything. If she didn’t agree with his perspective, Jack would either attack or shut down completely, refusing to speak to her for days.
She began to wonder if Jack was right? Questioning herself often, she shared in session that she no longer feels confident in herself or trusts her perspective on things.
Maybe our issues really are my fault? Maybe I am being selfish?, she pondered.
When they shared in session about their marital problems, Jack immediately began to speak. And speak. And speak. It seemed he had a lot to say. Attempting to control the conversation with a mixture of charm and concern, he expressed his interest in getting help for his wife. From his perspective, he was fine. He just wanted her to return to the kind, caring wife he had married.
If she can’t, he declared, I won’t have a choice but to leave.
If you’ve ever been in relationship with a narcissist, the interactions described may feel familiar. The patterns can be destructive, but the decision to stay or leave is an individual one.
Psychology Today describes the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. Individuals with NPD are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding, convinced they are deserving of special treatment.
According to psychologist Joseph Burgo, Narcissism exists in many shades and degrees of severity along a continuum.
While most of us are guilty of selfish behaviors at one time or another, a true narcissist tends to dwell habitually in several of the following personas, while remaining largely unaware of (and unconcerned with) how his or her actions affect others.
Here are 7 signs that you might be in a relationship with a narcissist.
1. Narcissists hoard conversations.
Not only does a narcissist love to talk about themselves, they rarely give you a chance to share your perspective on anything. Your perspective is irrelevant to their personal experience, therefore it is unnecessary and unworthy of their time or attention. When you find your spouse always correcting, interrupting, belittling, or shaming your thoughts and feelings, there is a good chance you are in a narcissistic relationship.
Your voice should be heard. Needs to be heard. Your perspective matters as long as it is shared respectfully and kindly. Never allow someone to silence your voice. Shut you down. Intimidate you. CLICK TO TWEET Healthy relationships involve two people who share mutually, who not only listen, but respect, consider, and value the perspective of their partner. Two are better than one.
Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (NIV) shares, Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
2. Narcissists are charmers.
There is a reason people fall in love with narcissists. They sweep you off your feet. They profess their undying love. They make you feel like you are the center of their universe. Until you’re not.
When they’re interested in you, they make you feel very special and wanted. However, once they lose interest in you, or have gotten what they want from you, they may drop you without a second thought. Engaging and sociable, they will give you their undivided attention as long as you’re fulfilling what they desire.
When they say that they love you, what they mean is I love how you love me. When you love them well, then you are wonderful, the best thing that ever happened to them. When you fail to love them well (as you always will), then you have a price to pay. A person with NPD finds it impossible to put themselves in someone else’s shoes (empathy) and has little compassion for anyone other than themselves. A narcissist gets into a relationship to be adored, admired & loved. Not to love or sacrifice for someone else. _Leslie Vernick CLICK TO TWEET
3. Narcissists have grandiose personalities.
Thinking of themselves as a hero or heroine, a prince or princess, or a ‘one of a kind’ special person, many narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, believing that others cannot live or survive without his or her magnificent contributions. They need their accomplishments to define them.
Driven by a need to impress, they focus on attributes or achievements that will make themselves look good externally. Oftentimes the narcissist will use people, objects, status, and/or accomplishments to present a false self, because the real self is judged to be inferior and weak. Exaggerating, inflating, even inventing their accomplishments allows them to believe they are more special, more intelligent, better than anyone else. Therefore, their accomplishments are everything.
Healthy individuals have a mixture of wins and losses, successes and defeats. Their identity is not defined by what they have done, it is defined by who they are at the core —their beliefs and values, their character, their faith. They do not perceive themselves as superior to others, rather they understand their inherent brokenness, their humanity.
4. Narcissists are entitled.
They are special. Period. Rules that apply to everyone else simply don’t apply to narcissists, or so they believe. Often expecting preferential treatment from others, they come to believe the world really revolves around them. They expect others to cater to their needs, without acknowledging anyone else’s needs in return.
Narcissists have an empathy deficit disorder —they are not capable of empathy as we know it, psychiatrist and author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide,” Dr. Judith Orloff describes. Full-blown narcissists don’t care about other people’s feelings. They seem to be wired differently.
Healthy relationships are places where two people share their perspectives. They know where they end and the other begins. Respecting each other’s boundaries, they never coerce or demand anything from each other. Love is given both respectfully and freely.
Even if your partner doesn’t see you or consider you, God sees you. He hears you. He knows your deepest needs. Look to Him to find your healing, your hope. Never allow yourself to be disrespected or abused. Never.
5. Narcissists are boundary-violaters.
Because they feel entitled, your personal boundaries become obstacles to whatever they want or need. They have no ability to live with another person’s ‘no,’ therefore they simply disregard other people’s thoughts, feelings, possessions, and/or physical space. They use others without consideration or sensitivity, borrowing items or money without returning or paying back, breaking promises repeatedly without remorse.
More times than not, a narcissist will actually turn the tables and blame you for their poor choices. In their crazy-making cycle, they keep you perpetually off-balance by violating your boundaries of respect or responsibility, then gas-lighting you to make you out to be the crazy one.
Healthy relationships allow two individuals to speak and hold their respective boundaries. Their yes’ and no’s are honored, and each knows clearly where they end and the other begins. Instead of demanding the relationship meet all of their emotional or physical needs, both look to God and themselves to meet most of their primary needs.
The relationship is then safe. Safe to laugh, to live, to dream together. To love. The relationship is also a place of mutual respect.
Matthew 5:37 (NIV) teaches us, All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
6. Narcissists have anger issues.
Anger tends to be a primary defense mechanism for people with NPD. Any boundary, any ‘no’ will be received with hostility or potential rage as they perceive any obstacle to their agenda. Many narcissists even enjoy sparking negative emotions to gain attention, to feel powerful, as well as to keep you insecure and off-balance. They are easily upset at any real or perceived slights or lack of attention.
Throwing a tantrum if you disagree with their views or fail to meet their expectations, they are at the same time extremely sensitive to criticism. They will typically respond to correction or criticism with a defensive response, leading to either a heated argument (fight) or cold detachment (flight). At the same time narcissists are quick to judge, criticize, ridicule, and blame others, some even becoming emotionally and verbally abusive. By making you feel inferior, they boost their fragile ego, and feel better about themselves.
Healthy relationships are safe for two people to live, love, and journey together. Just because someone blames you for their problems doesn’t make you responsible for their problems. Just because someone calls you crazy doesn’t mean you are crazy. Don’t forget this. There is no excuse for anger, defensiveness, rage, blame, name-calling, or crazy-making. If you are unsafe physically or emotionally, get out. Now. CLICK TO TWEET
James 1:19-20(NIV) adds, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
7. Narcissists are manipulators.
It is part of their DNA. Because anyone else’s ‘no’ is unacceptable to them, they will use manipulation to get their own needs met. They will use you, make decisions for you, they will guilt you, hijacking your emotions in order to get what they want.
Narcissists are masters of control and/or manipulation. In an instant, they can have you feeling upside down, disoriented, confused, and to blame for everything that is happening (or not happening) in their life. Often playing the victim or the martyr, they will put you in the position of perpetrator or bad guy in order to get their needs met.
Healthy adults come to accept that many of their needs will never be met. They accept other people’s boundaries, they respect others boundaries. Instead of using manipulation to get around an obstacle, they look elsewhere to get their need met legitimately, or they learn to live respectfully in the presence of an unmet desire.
1 Thessalonians 4:6 (NIV) adds, No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.
Are You In a Relationship With a Narcissist?
If more than a few of the above symptoms is active in your relationship, it is quite possible you are in a relationship with a narcissist. Narcissism can be improved through long-term therapy, if someone steps out of denial and is truly willing to change, to heal, to grow on their individual healing journey.
Transformation is a long, slow process because the nature of narcissism itself prevents honest self-reflection, sincere ownership of responsibility, and healing from past trauma. It is also difficult because their defense mechanisms prove so reliable to navigate their lives and relationships, they can resist developing other coping strategies to effectively move through life.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, please reach out for help. You need the support from therapy and programs like Celebrate Recovery, CODA, etc., in order to recognize how you were drawn into this type of relationship in the first place as well as learn how to strengthen your sense of self, to communicate more effectively, and to draw consistent, firm boundaries.
At the same time, support groups and therapy provide a safe place to regain your sanity, to learn how to step outside the crazy-making cycle, and remain grounded in the midst of the storm. Most importantly, you need to understand when your loved one’s behavior crosses the line in any way, and what you need to do to protect yourself from harm verbally, emotionally, or physically. No abuse is ever acceptable. Not even a little.
Please know God’s presence is with you right now. He has never left. He wants to bring you safety, healing, and hope. Reach towards Him right now. Reach out for help. Take the next step.
Your healing is now!
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
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