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Am I Dating a Narcissist?

June 2022


By Janelle Campbell, MSW, RSW

Owner and operator of Self Wellness Counselling and Mental Services



Whether you meet your partner online or in-person, dating can be challenging for many people in this day and age. Do they like me? Will I get a second date? Did I say the right thing? Those are just a few questions people ask themselves when it comes to dating. Try not to be anxious or discouraged, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You finally get asked out on a second, third, and fourth date. Woohoo, you’re on a role! The stars have aligned and the late light convos with your friends swearing off dating has been put on hold. Your dream person walks into your life and they are different from the rest. They are charming, sweet, caring, confident, thoughtful, and perfect! All of your friends and family members agree. As the “honey moon” stage starts to wear off, you notice that their behaviour has changed and you’re not sure what to think. The person you adore has become insensitive, arrogant, degrading, and manipulative. It’s normal to feel confused and upset over the situation. You might question if you’ve done something wrong to warrant their abrupt behavioural change. Although their behaviour is erratic, and concerning, it most likely has nothing to do with you.


This post will discuss:

· What is narcissistic personality disorder?

· Clinical symptoms

· 5 signs you’re dating a narcissist

· When to seek help



WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?


Alright, lets get clinical for a second. A narcissistic person is pervasive in grandiosity, has a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy that begins in early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.


Individuals with NPD have an inflated sense of self. What does that mean you ask? They think they are more important than they are. Furthermore, they overestimate their abilities and can come across as pretentious. People with narcissistic personality disorder crave power, success, ideal love, or brilliance. They also have a fragile self-esteem that remains hidden from people they interact with. It can be hard to believe but their sense of self is predicated on how others few them. The narcissist craves external validation and praise. Internally, they are empty inside. They are haunted by criticism and easily humiliated. Their exterior presentation of entitlement, self-importance, and superior demeanor masks the vulnerability and insecurity that lies inside.


CLINICAL SYMPTOMS

In order for a psychiatrist to diagnose an individual with narcissistic personality disorder they have to meet five or more of the following as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5):

1. Grandiose sense of importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, excepts to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. A belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or associate with other special high statues people or institutions.

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. They have a sense of entitlement and unreasonable expectations.

6. Interpersonally exploitive and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.

7. Lacks empathy. They are unwilling to understand or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

8. They are envious of others or they believe that others are envious of them.

9. They are arrogant and pretentious.


5 SIGNS YOU’RE DATING A NARCISSIST


1. THEY DEVALUE OTHER PEOPLE’S CONTRIBUTIONS. A narcissist always has to be the centre of praise and attention. They constantly need someone to highlight their perceived accomplishment in order to feel special. Someone with narcissism will devalue your accomplishments and achievements because they make it about themselves. They believe they are better deserving of the admiration. You will be met with harshness and disdain.


For example, you are super excited because you received a prestigious award at work that will skyrocket your career, and you can’t wait to share the great news with your partner. Once you share the news with them, they tell you that it’s not a big deal. They continue to minimize your accomplishment by stating they won a bigger award last year, and that your award isn’t worth bragging about. Your partner informs you that you are bragging and trying to make them feel inadequate about themselves. You are left feeling confused, sad, and alone.


2. THEY COMPARE THEMSELVES TO FAMOUS PEOPLE. A narcissist will want to be around “privileged people” or people of perceived importance because they themselves believe they belong in that category of excellence. They tell others that it’s their time to shine. A narcissist will want to “keep up with the Jones” by dining at exclusive restaurants, travel with celebrities, and occupy luxury spaces because they feel it’s what they deserve. They believe they are long overdue for status and privilege.


For example, your partner hears that their favourite celebrity will be in town for a film festival. They insist on getting tickets to the event and going to every exclusive restaurant. They believe if the celebrity sees them, they will be instant friends. Your partner begins to purchase luxury items that they cannot afford and they get angry with you for your lack of support. They claim that you’ve always been jealous of their position in societies upper class.


3. YOUR PARTNER GETS ANGRY AT THE SLIGHTEST CRITICISM. A narcissist has a very fragile ego and they don’t take kindly to criticism. They feel humiliated, degraded, and empty. You will be met with rage and retaliation. They will manipulate you into thinking that you are the problem because you aren’t supportive or caring.


For example, you and your partner are going out on a date. You ask your partner to change because the restaurant dress code is “dressy”, and your partner has on jeans and a tee-shirt. Your partner begins to feel instant rage and starts to yell. They insist that you are trying to demean and humiliate them. They inform you they are no longer going out and they stop speaking with you for two days. Furthermore, they insist that you apologize for degrading them and making them feel inadequate.


4. INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND IMPAIRED. You may notice that a narcissist does not have close relationships and struggles with maintaining a healthy romantic relationship. Even though narcissists get married and have relationships, they are troubled and difficult. One reason is they have a complete disregard for the feelings and emotions of other people. They are impatient when other people speak about their problems and worries. A person with narcissism lacks empathy which is crucial for any interpersonal relationship to be healthy.


For example, you notice that your partner is cold and uncaring when you tell them about a loss in the family. Initially, they might try to provide support, but it isn’t long lasting. They insist you “get over it” and they believe you are trying to manipulate them with your emotions. If you were to speak about how you’re feeling, they will probably interrupt you to discuss a time in their life when they had a loss in their family.


5. A NARCISSIST USES PEOPLE FOR THEIR OWN PURPOSE. During the “honeymoon” period, you will be swept off your feet, complimented, and showered with affection and time. All of a sudden everything changes. Your time together is limited and the affection disappears. You can’t seem to do anything right and your partner becomes easily frustrated with you. They want to control you! A narcissist uses people who they believe can advance their purpose and enhance their self-esteem.


For example, you open your front door and there awaits flowers, a teddy bear, chocolates, and your favourite snacks. You read the sweet message that your new partner left for you. They pick you up every morning and drives you to work. However, the pick up becomes few and far between and the gifts stop. You notice your partner becoming irritable and abrupt with you. They call you ungrateful and lazy. They insist you take the bus because they are not going to be your taxi service. You are left confused and question if you’ve done something wrong. You apologize and praise them for everything they’ve do for you.


WHEN TO SEEK HELP

It is important to seek help from a professional therapist if you feel you are in a relationship with a narcissist. Do your own research, and reach out to supportive family and friends. A narcissist is controlling, manipulative, and gaslight the people close to them. Try not to isolate yourself from the people who love and care about you. A narcissist is incapable of having satisfying relationships because they lack empathy and have an impaired sense of self. Often times, people on the receiving end of narcissistic behaviour feel shame, guilt, anxiety, degraded, defeated, sad, and hopeless. Being with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting. Remind yourself that you deserve better treatment. Although you may have love for your partner, it is important to differentiate between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Work with a therapist on rebuilding your self-worth and confidence. Remember, you are not responsible for changing a person’s behaviour. Encourage your partner to seek therapy. If that doesn’t work, seek counselling yourself.


DISCLAIMER

I am a registered social worker that provides psychotherapy. The above information is not for you to diagnose yourself or your partner. It is to provide you with brief psychoeducation on narcissistic personality disorder. Please consult with a psychiatrist for a diagnosis. Consult your therapist for treatment options.


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