7 signs you’re dating a narcissist, and what to do about it

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If you've been glued to your screens watching the latest season of YOU on Netflix, it's possible you've thought to yourself - there is no way I would fall for this!

YOU follows the life of Joe Goldberg, a seemingly caring and respectful young man who actually has a pattern of becoming obsessed with women, stalking them, and eliminating threats to his dominance.

Joe Goldberg on YOU on Netflix
Joe Goldberg embodies some symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder Photo: Netflix

In fact, Joe embodies some symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder - a mental health condition in which people have an inflated opinion of themselves, a need for excessive attention, react negatively to criticism, and a lack of sympathy for others.

Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between self-absorption or narcissism - whether that’s a narcissistic personality disorder or enough self-obsession to destroy a healthy relationship. 

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So how do you know when you’re dating a narcissist? Here, the team of psychiatrists at rehab clinic Delamere share with Yahoo Lifestyle some of the red flags you should look for:

They lack empathy

One common symptom of a narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy, or an inability to understand how another person is feeling. The way someone with a narcissistic personality experiences emotion is different from most individuals. They often don’t understand how their words, deeds and actions can cause pain or hurt to others.

A narcissist is often too self-focused to pick up on and have a deep understanding of other people’s emotions. In a relationship, this would translate to a narcissist saying cruel things in an unconscious manner, but not caring because they don’t feel anyone else’s feelings.

Upset mature couple ignoring each other.
A narcissist is often too self-focused to pick up on and have a deep understanding of other people’s emotions. Photo: Getty

They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that occurs in abusive relationships, where someone leads you to question your sanity and attempt to undermine your perception of reality. It is a form of emotional abuse, and one of the most common traits of a narcissist.

The narcissist will say or do something abusive and then deny that it ever happened. They will often use phrases to minimise and invalidate your feelings. Along with making you doubt your memory, narcissists will deflect responsibility, and blame onto you.

They don’t have any (or many) long-lasting friendships

Most narcissists don’t have many, or any, long-term friendships. They have trouble maintaining relationships and when a friend no longer serves their needs enough, or they threaten their self-image, they will distance themselves or cut them off completely.

As a result of not being able to form long-lasting relationships, they will often lash out at your when you want to hang out with your friends. Someone with a narcissistic personality will often make you feel pressured and guilty to spend less time with your friends because they will claim that you don’t spend enough time with them.

They’re manipulative

Manipulation is a major sign that you could be dating a narcissist. Whether it’s telling you what you’re allowed to wear, or who you’re allowed to spend time with, where you’re allowed to go, if your partner is constantly trying to control you, that’s definitely a red flag.

Narcissists are experts at getting what they want, as they have no empathy for other people, they don’t care what impact their manipulation will have on those surrounding them. They use manipulation as a tool to get what they want, which is more often than not, attention, validation and status.

Couple arguing about debt on their credit card
Manipulation is a major sign that you could be dating a narcissist. Photo: Getty

They put you down

Narcissists hate feeling less than, weak or out of control. For this reason, they will pull you down, call you names, and hit you with hurtful words and jokes. They will often try to sabotage or belittle your job, social life, personality traits or physical appearance.

Their end goal is to try and lower your self-esteem so that they can increase their own because it makes them feel more powerful, and gives them a sense of authority.

They can’t take criticism

Narcissist traits tend to include insecurity, this can manifest in extreme sensitivity to criticism. They will reject or ignore criticism, becoming angry and hostile to others, which makes it difficult for them to work with others and hold a long-lasting relationship. Their need to feel above others makes it difficult for them to take on board suggestions for improvement.

Narcissists simply hate not getting their own way, they feel entitled to have their needs and desires met, and they simply can’t deal with the disappointment or rejection. Because of this, they might act out aggressively both vocally and physically to those around them.

The man and woman quarreling in the cafe
Narcissists hate not getting their own way. Photo: Getty

They never apologise for their behaviour

Someone with a narcissistic personality will act out abruptly, jealous and self-involved, but despite this behaviour being potentially damaging to their partners mental and physical wellbeing, they will never apologise. Instead, they’ll devalue your feelings by telling you that you are being overly sensitive or too emotional.

It’s really difficult to reason with a narcissistic person or make them see your point of view in order to have a healthy discussion, they will instead try educating you on the matter.

What to do if you're dating a narcissist

If you believe you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, here the Delamere team have some tips to help you stay sane and deal with the person.

  • Set boundaries: If you want to stay in a relationship with a narcissistic person, you need to acknowledge your self-worth and be able to set personal boundaries to make sure that they’re not controlling your life and stepping all over you.

  • Talk: Talking is a great way to prevent emotions from building up, make friends with people who will let you discuss your problems or join a support group who can help and support you.

  • Choose your battles: Being in a relationship like this will take a lot of patience, you’ll need to accept that you can’t change them and that sometimes it’s easier to let them get their own way instead of retaliating - this way you’ll experience less friction.

Two characters sitting back to back, disagreement, relationship troubles
There are ways to be with a narcissist. Photo: Getty
  • Protect yourself: The best thing you can do is find ways of dealing with their behaviour, handling their toxic outbreaks, and knowing that you’re not the things you’re accused of. Protect yourself in every way possible and keep your expectations on their behaviour levelled.

  • Step away: Staying with a narcissistic person can be extremely damaging to your self-worth. It’s important to remove yourself from the situation and practise self-care, this is doing things that make you happy, this can anything from going for a run to hanging out with family and friends.

  • It is possible to leave: Leaving a narcissistic relationship will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Narcissists need to abuse and manipulate people to fulfil their needs and to prove they are stronger smarter and better than those surrounding them. You’ll already be exhausted from the constant manipulation, the emotional abuse and the gaslighting, so leaving a toxic relationship with a narcissist is challenging. But it is possible as long as you follow your instinct and have strong boundaries, and constantly remind yourself of why you need to walk away from the situation.

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