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17 Red Flags To Spot a Narcissist Before It’s Too Late

The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing Narcissistic Behavior in Relationships

Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Are you in a romantic relationship or thinking about starting one? While the early phases of love can be exhilarating and exciting, it’s critical to keep an eye out for any red signs that could suggest you’re dating a narcissist. 

“Half of the people lie with their lips; the other half with their tears”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Individuals with a narcissistic personality have an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, a continual desire for adulation, and a lack of empathy for others. Being in a relationship with a narcissist may be emotionally taxing and harmful to your well-being.

In this article, we’ll look at the primary red flags that might mean you’re dating a narcissist. By being acquainted with these red flags, you can get the information and awareness required to protect yourself from potentially harmful situations. 

It’s critical to remember that narcissism is a spectrum disorder and that not all narcissists display the same behaviors. Recognizing these warning signals early on, on the other hand, can spare you from unneeded pain and possibly long-term mental harm.

“Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared. It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.”
― Sam Vaknin

We’ll look at many facets of narcissistic behavior, such as their constant need for affirmation, their proclivity to manipulate and exploit people for personal benefit, and their lack of empathy for your feelings and needs. Understanding these characteristics can help you spot narcissistic traits in your mate.

We’ll also look at how dating a narcissist affects your mental and emotional health. Gaslighting, demeaning, and dominating behavior is common among narcissists, and it may lead to feelings of self-doubt, poor self-esteem, and even melancholy. 

You can prioritize your own self-care and make educated decisions about your relationship if you are knowledgeable about the potential implications of being engaged with a narcissist.

Finally, we’ll offer practical advice and tactics for navigating the dating scene while avoiding narcissistic people. These skills will enable you to make decisions that are in line with your own well-being, from creating healthy boundaries to increasing your self-esteem.

Keep in mind that information is power. You may protect yourself and build better, more meaningful relationships by recognizing the red signs associated with narcissistic behavior. So, let’s take a look at the indicators that you’re dating a narcissist and arm yourself with the knowledge to develop happier and better love relationships.

“Narcissists are consumed with maintaining a shallow false self to others. They’re emotionally crippled souls that are addicted to attention. Because of this they use a multitude of games, in order to receive adoration. Sadly, they are the most ungodly of God’s creations because they don’t show remorse for their actions, take steps to make amends or have empathy for others. They are morally bankrupt.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Key Takeaways

  • Narcissism is a mental disease marked by an excessive sense of dignity, a lack of empathy, and a desire for adulation. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) refers to extreme forms of narcissism.
  • Red flags of dating a narcissist include lack of empathy, the constant need for attention, grandiose self-image, manipulative and controlling behavior, blame-shifting and gaslighting, and inability to take accountability or respect boundaries.
  • To protect oneself from emotional abuse in relationships with potential narcissistic partners, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care and set firm boundaries early on. Seeking therapy or counseling can also help heal from the emotional trauma inflicted by a narcissistic partner.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder And Narcissism

Narcissism is a term that refers to excessive self-focus, adoration for one’s own qualities or accomplishments, lack of sensitivity, and an inflated sense of self-worth. It is named after the Greek legendary figure Narcissus, who fell in fascination with the way he appeared in the body of water.

“Narcissists will never tell you the truth. They live with the fear of abandonment and can’t deal with facing their own shame. Therefore, they will twist the truth, downplay their behavior, blame others and say what ever it takes to remain the victim. They are master manipulators and conartists that don’t believe you are smart enough to figure out the depth of their disloyalty. Their needs will always be more important than telling you any truth that isn’t in their favor..”
― Shannon L. Alder

Although some degree of narcissism can be healthy and promote self-confidence, extreme forms may result in what’s known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Some common traits associated with narcissism include arrogance, entitlement, superficial charm, manipulative behavior, and attention-seeking tendencies. 

For instance, a person with strong narcissistic tendencies may present themselves as highly successful or important at social events while subtly putting down others around them.

They might also manipulate situations to have their needs met without considering the feelings or perspectives of others involved. In relationships specifically — this could involve belittling their partner’s accomplishments while elevating their own status or attempting to maintain control over every aspect of the relationship.

Signs And Symptoms Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an illness of the mind that is challenging to differentiate from typical narcissism. However, the following signs and symptoms are common among individuals with the disorder:

  • An exaggerated sense of self—importance and abilities
  • Preoccupation with power, success, and attractiveness fantasies.
  • Belief in their inherent superiority over others
  • Expectations of constant admiration and special treatment
  • Exploitative behavior toward others in pursuit of personal gain
  • Lack of empathy for other’s feelings and needs
  • Envy or belief that others envy them
  • Arrogant or haughty attitude toward others
  • Possibility of manipulating and using people for personal advantage
  • Difficulty accepting criticism or negative feedback
  • Reacting with anger or aggression when challenged or confronted

However, it is essential to remember that not all individuals with NPD exhibit all these behaviors. Additionally, other mental health conditions may also cause similar symptoms, making it vital to consult a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

1. Lack Of Empathy

One of the most prominent red flags of dating narcissists is their lack of empathy. Narcissists often seem unable or unwilling to understand and empathize with the feelings of others, including their partners.

“Often the narcissist believes that other people are “faking it”, leveraging emotional displays to achieve a goal. He is convinced that their ostensible “feelings” are grounded in ulterior, non-emotional motives. Faced with other people’s genuine emotions, the narcissist becomes suspicious and embarrassed. He feels compelled to avoid emotion-tinged situations, or worse, experiences surges of almost uncontrollable aggression in the presence of expressed sentiments. They remind him how imperfect he is and how poorly equipped.”
― Sam Vaknin

They may dismiss or invalidate your emotions, minimize your experiences, or ignore your needs altogether. For example, if you’re upset about something that happened at work, a narcissistic partner might roll their eyes or say something like “Well, at least you still have a job,” without offering any genuine comfort or support.

This lack of empathy can be incredibly damaging to relationships as it chips away at trust and emotional intimacy.

2. Constant Need For Attention

One of the most telling symptoms that you’re dating a narcissist is their incessant craving for attention. Narcissists desire praise and consideration from others and will go to any length to obtain it.

“You will never get the truth out of a Narcissist. The closest you will ever come is a story that either makes them the victim or the hero, but never the villain.”
― shannon l. alder

They may constantly talk about themselves, exaggerate their accomplishments, or seek out praise and compliments. For example, if you’re on a date with a narcissist, they may dominate the conversation and steer it back towards themselves whenever you try to speak.

This constant need for attention can be exhausting for partners of narcissists because it often means that their own needs are ignored or dismissed in favor of the narcissist’s desires.

3. Grandiose Self-Image

Another red flag of dating a narcissist is their grandiose self-image. They may brag about their accomplishments, intelligence, or social status to impress and manipulate others.

“pathological narcissists can lose touch with reality in subtle ways that become extremely dangerous over time. When they can’t let go of their need to be admired or recognized, they have to bend or invent a reality in which they remain special despite all messages to the contrary.”
― Bandy X Lee

For example, a narcissistic partner might insist on always being the center of attention in social situations and get upset if someone else takes the spotlight. They might also belittle their partner’s achievements while making themselves out to be more successful or accomplished than they are.

4. Manipulative And Controlling Behavior

Narcissists often use manipulative and controlling behavior to get what they want in a relationship. They may disguise their actions as “looking out for your best interest,” but in reality, they are trying to control you and the situation.

“No other being is lesser human than the one who thinks of others as such.”
― Abhijit Naskar

For example, a narcissistic partner might try to isolate you from friends and family members by making negative comments about them or discouraging you from spending time with them.

They may also try to make all decisions in the relationship, leaving no room for compromise or discussion.

5. Blame-Shifting And Gaslighting

Blame-shifting and gaslighting are two manipulative tactics commonly used by narcissists. Blame-shifting involves deflecting responsibility for their actions onto others, making them the scapegoat instead of owning up to their mistakes.

“Being a control freak is a weakness, not a strength. If you can’t allow others to shine, you’re exhibiting signs of narcissism and showing a lack of self-confidence. It is isolation through ego.”
― Stewart Stafford

Gaslighting, on the other hand, involves distorting or denying reality to make the victim doubt their own perceptions and sanity.

These behaviors can be very damaging as they undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and cause confusion, self-doubt, and distrust in themselves. 

6. Lack Of Accountability

A lack of accountability is a common red flag in narcissistic relationships. Narcissistic individuals are notorious for avoiding responsibility and blaming others for their mistakes or shortcomings.

“Some people, in an attempt to mask their shortcomings dig lies so deep, they end up drowning in a sea of their own delusions!”
― Carlos Wallace

They may have difficulty admitting when they’re wrong or acknowledging the impact of their actions on others. This can be particularly damaging in a relationship, as it can lead to the other partner constantly feeling unheard and unimportant.

For example, if a narcissistic partner forgets an important event or breaks a promise, they may make excuses instead of apologizing and taking ownership of their mistake.

“So many abusers survivors feel they were loved so little, as if the abuser was the most important person to receive love from. They forget that God loves them deeply and that is the only person’s love they need to validate their worth.”
― Shannon L. Alder

It’s essential to recognize this lack of accountability early on in a relationship with someone who displays narcissistic traits. While everyone makes mistakes from time to time, consistently shirking responsibility is not healthy behavior.

When someone refuses to take ownership of their actions, it often indicates that they do not value your feelings or respect your boundaries.

7. Boundary Issues In Relationships

Boundaries are an essential part of any healthy relationship, but they can be particularly challenging when dealing with a narcissist. Narcissists have a need for control and may push boundaries to get what they want.

“Someone asked me, “Who hurt you so badly?” I replied, “my own expectations.”
― Shannon L. Alder

They may try to isolate you from loved ones or demand that you prioritize their needs above your own.

To protect yourself, it’s important to set clear boundaries early on in the relationship and stand firm in enforcing them. This may involve saying no to requests that feel uncomfortable or setting limits around communication or physical proximity.

“so often victims end up unnecessarily prolonging their abuse because they buy into the notion that their abuser must be coming from a wounded place and that only patient love and tolerance (and lots of misguided therapy) will help them heal.”
― George K. Simon

8. Invalidating Your Feelings

Narcissists often invalidate the feelings of their partners, making them feel that their emotions are not real or significant. They may say things like “you’re overreacting” or “that’s ridiculous,” and minimize their partner’s experiences.

“When we meet and fall into the gravitational pull of a narcissist, we are entering a significant life lesson that involves learning how to create boundaries, self-respect, and resilience. Through trial and error (and a lot of pain), our connection with narcissists teaches us the necessary lessons we need to become mature empaths.”
― Mateo Sol

This can be extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem and mental health, as it invalidates one’s own sense of reality.

It is important for individuals in relationships with narcissists to recognize this behavior as a red flag and set boundaries accordingly. One technique to combat invalidation is to use “I statement,” expressing how you feel without blaming the other person.

9. Criticizing And Belittling You

Another red flag of dating a narcissist is when they constantly criticize and belittle you. Narcissists often have an inflated sense of self-worth and may try to bring others down to make themselves feel better.

“Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.”
― George K. Simon

10. Risky Behavior And Impulsive Nature

Another red flag of dating a narcissist is their tendency toward risky behavior and impulsive actions. This can manifest in various ways, such as reckless spending, substance abuse, or reckless driving.

“A narcissist, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of an empath. Emotionally, narcissists are like brick walls who see and hear others but fail to understand or relate to them. As a result of their emotional shallowness, narcissists are essentially devoid of all empathy or compassion for other people. Lacking empathy, a narcissist is a very destructive and dangerous person to be around.”
― Mateo Sol

Their impulsivity can also lead them to make hasty decisions that may harm themselves or others. For instance, they may suddenly quit a stable job or end a long-term relationship without considering the impact on their life or those around them.

11. Extreme Mood Swings

Extreme mood swings are another red flag that you may be dating a narcissist. Narcissists often have an unpredictable and explosive temperament, which can make it difficult to communicate and reason with them.

“The deal with dating conceited men like him was that she’d hoped some of his excess self-esteem would rub off. Women always secretly hoped this: that dating a narcissist would give them confidence by osmosis. It never worked.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

They may experience sudden shifts in their emotions, going from being charming and funny one moment to angry and hostile the next.

These mood swings can leave their partner feeling confused, hurt, and anxious, as they never know what behavior to expect from the narcissist. In some cases, the narcissist may even blame their partner for triggering their outbursts or accuse them of being too sensitive.

12. Inflated Sense Of Self-Worth

Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-worth and believe that they are better than everyone else. They often exaggerate their accomplishments, talents, and abilities to make themselves appear superior.

“Kindness from a narcissist is called an illusion.”
Alice Little”
― Alice Little

For example, a narcissistic partner may constantly talk about how successful they are at work while ignoring their partner’s achievements. They may also disregard their partner’s interests or opinions if they do not align with their own beliefs.

13. Lack Of Sincerity And Authenticity

Narcissists often lack sincerity and authenticity in their relationships. They may pretend to be someone they’re not or put on a false persona to make themselves appear better than they really are.

“Speaking to narcissists and imagining having a normal human interaction is called delusion.”
Alice Little

This can make it difficult for their partners to trust them and feel secure in the relationship. A narcissist’s lack of sincerity can also extend to their apologies, which may seem insincere or half-hearted.

For instance, a partner might express hurt over something the narcissist said or did, only for the narcissist to dismiss their concerns as unimportant or irrational. Narcissistic behavior like this can leave one feeling invalidated and disrespected within the relationship.

14. Projection Of Flaws Onto You

Another red flag of dating a narcissist is their tendency to project their flaws onto you. They might accuse you of being selfish or inconsiderate when it’s really them who are exhibiting those behaviors.

“Concerning the narcissist- after having been so seemingly incredibly loving and gentle, compassionate and caring- it would be like a light switch had suddenly been turned off and “all of a sudden” they simply did not care. They turned into a cold person, someone without love, compassion, empathy or regard for the subject’s feelings what so ever. It’s like they suddenly and literally stopped being human.”
― Jacqueline Servantess

This projection is often a defense mechanism that allows narcissists to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and feelings.

For example, if the narcissistic partner engages in infidelity, they may accuse the victim of cheating instead. Or if they struggle with addiction, they may blame and criticize their partner for drinking too much or using drugs excessively.

15. Obsession With Appearance And Status

Another red flag of dating a narcissist is their obsession with appearance and status. Narcissists are often fixated on projecting a perfect image of themselves to the world, using their looks and social standing to do so.

“Maybe, the lesson we can all learn from the inner sadness of a Narcissist is to see through our own fabrications, our own illusions so that we can be set free to be real once more.”
― Shannon L. Alder

This preoccupation with looks and status can be detrimental to relationships, as it means that the narcissist values external appearances over emotional connections. Additionally, they may use their partner’s appearance or status as a way of boosting their own ego by being seen with someone who meets their standards.

16. Need For Power And Control

Another red flag that might indicate you’re dating a narcissist is their constant need for power and control. Narcissists often have an intense desire to be in charge and call the shots, whether it’s in their personal or professional life.

“Narcissists often feign oppression because narcissists always feel entitled.”
― Criss Jami

For example, a narcissistic partner may demand that you stay at home while they go out with friends or insist on making all the decisions about where to eat and what activities to do together.

17. Emotional Unavailability

Emotional unavailability is a common trait among narcissists and can cause a breakdown in psychological attachment in partnerships. A narcissist may appear charming and engaging at first but is often emotionally detached when it comes to the needs and feelings of their partner.

“Most of the narcissists are geniuses and masters of Psychology. But they are using their knowledge to eradicate, rather than to help humanity.”
― Mwanandeke Kindembo

For example, a person dating a narcissist may find themselves constantly invalidated or dismissed when expressing their emotions. The narcissist may even turn the conversation back on themselves in an attempt to redirect attention away from their partner’s concerns.

“It is no accident that narcissists and altruists often have a magnetic attraction to one another. Can you see how perfect the fit is? The altruistic feels the need to selflessly serve others and this is just what the narcissist wants. Narcissists want to be worshipped and gratified in every way possible, and this is just what altruists offer, thinking it demonstrates their moral virtue.”
― Ellen Kenner

How to Stay Safe in Narcissistic Associations?

Protect yourself from narcissistic relationships by trusting your intuition, setting firm boundaries, seeking support from loved ones, prioritizing self-care and self-love, considering therapy or counseling, and being aware of the signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse.

“The refraining of freedom of speech from the governmental system can cause its citizens to turn into narcissists in their free time.”
― Mwanandeke Kindembo

1. Trust Your Intuition And Set Firm Boundaries

One of the most important things to do when dealing with a narcissist is to trust your intuition and set firm boundaries. Therefore it’s crucial that you understand that your instincts are valuable tools in identifying red flags in relationships.

If something feels off or wrong about a person you’re dating, don’t ignore those feelings or dismiss them as paranoia. Narcissists often use manipulative tactics such as gaslighting to make their partners doubt their own perceptions and reality.

“I raised the mystics up to the ladder of knowledge, in order to illustrate that one cannot be a narcissist when you are being praised by others.”
― Mwanandeke Kindembo

For example, if a partner constantly belittles or invalidates your feelings, it’s important to assert yourself and communicate that this behavior is not okay. A narcissist may try to twist the situation around so that they appear like the victim, but staying firm in your boundaries can prevent them from continuing with abusive behavior.

2. Seek Support From Loved Ones

It’s important to seek support from loved ones when dealing with a narcissistic partner. This can be difficult, as narcissists often isolate their partners and make them feel like no one else understands them.

“True and real friends don’t feel the need to be praised and worshipped.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

Talking to someone you trust about your experiences might help you affirm your feelings and reduce your feelings isolated. They may also be able to offer practical advice on how to handle specific situations with your narcissistic partner.

3. Prioritize Self-Care And Self-Love

In order to protect oneself from narcissistic relationships, prioritizing self-care and self-love is of utmost importance. This involves taking care of one’s physical, emotional, and mental health needs without relying on the approval or validation of a partner.

Self-care can take many forms, including practicing mindfulness techniques, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and seeking therapy if necessary.

In addition to taking care of oneself physically and emotionally, practicing self-love entails embracing one’s strengths and weaknesses unapologetically while acknowledging that no one is perfect.

Engaging in positive affirmations about oneself can boost confidence levels and reduce feelings of insecurity in relationships with narcissists who may try to tear down their partners’ sense of self-worth.

4. Consider Therapy Or Counseling

If you suspect that you are dating a narcissist or have recently gotten out of a relationship with one, considering therapy or counseling could be beneficial to your healing process.

A licensed therapist can help you identify any unhealthy patterns or behaviors in your relationships and work towards building healthy ones. They can also provide validation for the pain and trauma that comes with being in a relationship with a narcissistic individual.

Studies show that people who seek counseling after experiencing narcissistic abuse tend to experience better mental health outcomes compared to those who don’t seek professional help.

These individuals report feeling more empowered and confident in themselves, which helps them avoid falling back into an abusive situation.

5. Be Aware Of The Signs And Symptoms Of Narcissistic Abuse

It is critical to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse based on narcissism in order to protect oneself from potentially harmful relationships.

Narcissists are often charming and charismatic, making it difficult to recognize their toxic behavior until it’s too late.

Some red flags include the constant need for attention, manipulative and controlling behavior, blaming others for their mistakes, gaslighting, lack of empathy towards others’ feelings and emotions, projecting their flaws onto others, and invalidating your feelings among many other subtle signs listed in our article with 73 examples.

Why It’s Important To Recognize Narcissistic Behavior

Recognizing narcissistic behavior is crucial for maintaining healthy personal relationships. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often lack empathy and are unable to offer genuine love to their partners.

They may also engage in manipulative tactics such as gaslighting, invalidating feelings, and projecting flaws onto their partners.

Moreover, identifying narcissism in others can help individuals protect themselves from emotional abuse and toxic relationships. 

The Importance Of Self-Preservation And Self-Respect

Protecting oneself from narcissistic relationships requires not only identifying red flags but also prioritizing self-care and self-love. It’s important to recognize that nobody deserves to be mistreated, criticized, or gaslighted in a relationship.

This can include seeking support from loved ones, practicing self-care activities like meditation or exercise, setting firm boundaries with the narcissist in question, and considering therapy or counseling if necessary.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, dating a narcissist may be emotionally taxing and harmful. It’s critical to recognize the warning signals, which include a lack of empathy, an inflated self-image, and deceptive behavior.

Once these red flags are recognized, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care and set firm boundaries in relationships. Seeking therapy or counseling can also help heal from the emotional abuse inflicted by a narcissistic partner.

Remember that it’s not your fault if you have fallen victim to a narcissist’s manipulation tactics.

About the Author :

Som Dutt, Top writer in Philosophy & Psychology on I make people Think, Relate, Feel & Move. Let's Embrace Inner Chaos and Appreciate Deep, Novel & Heavy Thoughts.

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