You've probably heard the term “narcissist” used about friends, family members, or partners. To some, it simply means a person who thinks highly of himself or herself or who is particularly self-centered. But to mental health professionals, the term suggests narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and has diagnostic criteria.
“Narcissistic personality consists of the following core traits: lack of empathy, selfishness, deception, manipulation, exploitation, entitlement, and a grandiose sense of self-importance,” explains Laura Bonk. Additionally, narcissism exists on a spectrum, meaning that a person can be very narcissistic without being diagnosed with NPD.
1 – They seem too good to be true at first.
One of the main signs that your partner or future partner might be a narcissist is if they are overly charming and charismatic at the beginning of your relationship. “The person seems too good to be true, you find yourself drawn to them, and they seem to be “perfect” in many ways,” says Lindsey Ferris. “This is not to say that this sometimes happens with people who are not narcissists, but be aware, as you get to know this person, that narcissists draw you into their web by mirroring your needs and desires.”
Narcissists do this because they need to mask their true personality to win you over. This leads you to trust them before they begin to engage in the clearer signs of narcissism. “You'll have a harder time seeing them once they've won you over,” adds Lindsey Ferris.
2 – They believe they are superior to others.
Some of the biggest signs that your partner is a narcissist have to do with how they relate to others. For example, “[les narcissiques] often think they are superior to others because of their accomplishments, wealth, status or appearance,” says Colleen Wenner. “They believe that everyone is envious of them and jealous of their success.”
This belief leads them to behave like they are privileged and think they deserve special treatment. Their air of grandiosity is frustrating to those around them and it is difficult for the narcissist to accept criticism.
3 – They never accept blame or apologies.
Along the same lines, a narcissist will rarely apologize. “Blaming others and not taking responsibility are characteristics of narcissism that create a vicious cycle that thwarts healthy emotional growth and learning,” explains Nikki Eisenhauer. “Narcissism creates a loop of complacency. Basically, if I'm always right and I'm always the person in the room with the best ideas, why would I ever be forced to humble myself, look in the mirror, swallow my pride, offer forgiveness to myself or others, learn something new?”
This way of thinking means that the narcissist never learns and never seeks to improve. “The narcissist's righteousness runs in circles, disinterested in evolving emotionally as people with healthier empathy do,” adds Nikki Eisenhauer.
4 – They seek compliments.
We all like to receive positive feedback from time to time, but narcissists absolutely need it. “Narcissistic people will often go out of their way to elicit a compliment, sometimes even asking for one directly,” says Adam Holman. “At their core, narcissistic people need to feel better than others in order to feel useful. Receiving praise helps feed the idea that the person is superior to others.”
If your partner is constantly angling for compliments about their appearance before a big night out or their professional success in general conversation, there may be a bigger problem to discuss.
5 – They are exploiting you.
Because narcissists can't feel empathy, they subject those around them to an emotional ordeal. One way this can manifest itself is through gaslighting, or telling you that your feelings or experiences are wrong. “Questioning someone's experience creates doubt – self-doubt about yourself,” says Sarah O'Brien. “This leaves room for the narcissist to take control. Control over people and circumstances is the goal of the narcissist.”
If you feel this is the dynamic at play between you and your partner, you will want to connect with a professional.
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