You meet someone new and exciting, someone charming and charismatic. At first, it seems like a perfect match. But slowly, things start to change. Their behavior becomes increasingly self-centered and manipulative. Compliments soon turn to criticism.
Lies and broken promises mount. What seemed like the ideal relationship quickly became an endless cycle of push-pull, idealization, and devaluation. You begin to suspect you’re dating a narcissist.
Narcissists are adept manipulators with a false sense of superiority and entitlement. They lack empathy and exploit others without remorse. Spotting a narcissist early on can help prevent the psychological trauma of a relationship with one.
Watch for these 17 signs you’re dating a narcissist and get out before they destroy your confidence and self-worth. The healthiest choice is to end the relationship as safely as possible and go no contact. Your happiness and mental well-being depend on it.
1. Constant Need For Admiration
Constant admiration and praise are essential to the narcissist. They expect you to lavish them with compliments and attention, and anything less makes them feel insecure and threatened.
To satisfy their constant need for admiration, narcissists will often fish for compliments or make exaggerated claims about themselves to evoke praise. They may also expect grandiose displays of affection and for you to express how fortunate you feel to be with them. Failure to provide adequate admiration can lead to anger, withdrawal, or passive-aggressive behavior.
- Compliments and affection must be effusive and frequent. Simple appreciation will not suffice.
- Their achievements and accomplishments, no matter how small, must be lavishly praised.
- Expressions of your good fortune to be with such an amazing person are expected.
- Any perceived slight or lack of attention can lead to narcissistic injury and rage.
While it’s normal to appreciate compliments and affection from your partner, narcissists have an insatiable appetite for admiration that often comes at the expense of your needs and feelings.
Their fragile self-esteem requires constant validation, and you may find yourself exhausted from efforts to please someone who can never be satisfied.
2. Lack Of Empathy Towards Others
One of the most telling signs of a narcissist is their lack of empathy towards others. They simply don’t seem able to understand or share the feelings of their partners and loved ones.
Narcissists rarely apologize for their actions or feel bad about hurting someone else’s feelings. They don’t take responsibility for their behavior and lack remorse for the pain they cause.
Conversations with narcissists frequently revolve around them — their wants, needs, plans, problems, opinions, achievements, and accomplishments. They show little interest in learning about their partners or engaging in reciprocal conversations.
Don’t expect a narcissist to be there for you during difficult times or provide emotional support. They lack compassion and the ability to comfort and console their partners. Your pain or misfortune simply doesn’t register with them.
Narcissists are quick to blame external factors for their own shortcomings and mistakes. They also frequently criticize and pass judgment on others to make themselves feel superior. Their harsh comments are often cloaked in concern for your well-being but are really meant to undermine and control you.
The lack of empathy at the core of narcissism makes for a tumultuous relationship where your needs and feelings will rarely be a priority. Recognizing these signs can help you decide whether the relationship is worth salvaging or if it’s better for your well-being to move on.
3. Grandiose Sense Of Self-importance
Those with narcissistic personality disorder have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They believe they are special or unique and can only be understood by, or should only associate with other special or high-status people or institutions.
Narcissists think very highly of themselves and expect others to admire them. They believe they deserve special treatment, admiration, and favors from others. At the same time, they lack empathy for others and have a hard time understanding other people’s perspectives or feelings.
Their sense of superiority and entitlement can manifest in different ways. For example, they may constantly talk about their own achievements or talents, expect constant praise and admiration, believe they can only be understood by other special people, or think the normal rules of social etiquette don’t apply to them. They demand that their own needs be met and lack concern for the needs of others.
In relationships, narcissists always put their own needs first. They expect their partners to cater to their needs and provide them with constant praise and admiration.
When narcissists don’t get the special treatment they believe they deserve, they can become angry or dismissive. Healthy relationships require mutual caring, empathy, and compromise, all of which narcissists struggle with.
4. Manipulative Behavior
A narcissist will employ manipulative tactics to get what they want. Watch out for these signs of manipulative behavior:
Narcissists will lie and exaggerate the truth to make themselves seem more important or talented. They may claim to have prestigious degrees, high-paying jobs, or impressive social connections that are untrue.
Gaslighting is a tactic where the narcissist makes you doubt your own perceptions and sanity. They may deny that events happened when they did, blame you for things they did themselves, or claim you said or did things that never actually occurred. This causes you to question your memory and perception of reality.
The narcissist is adept at making you feel guilty or ashamed for not giving them what they want. They may say things like “If you really loved me, you would do this for me” or threaten to withhold affection if you don’t comply. This coercion is a way to get you to prioritize their needs over your own.
When confronted about their manipulative behavior, a narcissist will often play the victim. They claim you are the one harming them, not the other way around. This diversion tactic shifts the blame and attention away from their actions and makes you feel bad for trying to hold them accountable.
Staying aware of these manipulative tactics can help you identify potentially narcissistic partners and avoid their attempts to control you. The healthiest choice is usually to end these toxic relationships.
5. They Have Frequent Mood Swings
Narcissists are prone to intense and rapidly changing emotions. Their mood can switch on a dime for seemingly no reason.
Narcissists have a low tolerance for frustration and criticism. They are quick to anger if they feel slighted or attacked, even if the perceived offense was unintentional. Their anger is usually disproportionate to the situation and they have trouble calming down.
After an angry outburst, they may act as if nothing happened and expect you to do the same. Do not engage or try to reason with an angry narcissist. Remain calm and detached until they relax. Address the issue once emotions have cooled if needed.
Their frequent mood swings and anger are a way to gain control over you and the relationship. Do not make excuses for their behavior or let their emotions dictate your own. Maintain healthy boundaries to avoid getting drawn into their drama.
The emotional ups and downs that come with dating a narcissist can feel like a rollercoaster ride that you desperately want to escape. Their unpredictable moods and anger are major red flags in a relationship. You deserve a healthy partnership with someone who can regulate their own emotions and treat you with respect.
6. Preoccupation With Fantasies Of Unlimited Success
A narcissist lives in a fantasy world of unrealistic success and power. They are preoccupied with unattainable achievements and dreams of success, often exaggerating their accomplishments and talents.
Narcissists believe they are uniquely special and destined for greatness. They frequently fantasize about achieving power, attractiveness, intelligence, or success that is unrealistic and unattainable. They may dwell on visions of achieving fame, fortune, or status that far exceeds their actual abilities or accomplishments.
The narcissist holds an inflated sense of self-importance and believes that they are superior to others. They expect constant praise and admiration from those around them. If you don’t applaud their every accomplishment or achievement, no matter how insignificant, they are likely to become angry or dismissive towards you.
With their excessive sense of entitlement, narcissists believe that they deserve special treatment, admiration, and favors from others. They expect people to do things for them and believe that the rules do not apply to them. Their own needs and desires are the priority, often at the expense of others.
In summary, the narcissist’s fantasies of power, success, and status are deeply ingrained in their sense of self. Their grandiose thinking, exaggerated self-importance, and entitlement prevent them from developing realistic expectations about themselves and their relationships. Recognizing these unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors can help in spotting a narcissist.
7. Belief In Being Unique And Special
Narcissists believe they are special or unique. They frequently exaggerate their achievements and talents, expect constant praise and admiration, and are annoyed or dismissive if you do not readily agree with them.
They insist on having the best of everything and see themselves as superior to others. Their sense of entitlement knows no bounds. Everything they have achieved is, in their minds, the result of their own unaided brilliance or talent. They take advantage of others to achieve their own ends, without guilt or regret.
You may notice they frequently talk about how special or unique they are, or their plans for success and achievement. Yet they show little interest in your own life or accomplishments. Conversations usually revolve around them. They expect you to admire them but rarely reciprocate or pay compliments to you.
Their belief in their own superiority often means a lack of empathy for others. They do not value other people’s feelings or experiences. Narcissists seek constant compliments and admiration from those around them to reinforce their unrealistic views about themselves. If you do not provide this admiration and praise, a narcissist may become angry or dismissive.
In summary, a narcissist’s view of themselves as uniquely special and superior translates into a self-centeredness and lack of empathy that poisons their relationships. Their need for constant praise and admiration, and belief in their own entitlement, comes at the expense of those around them.
8. Exploitative Tendencies In Relationships
When dating a narcissist, you may notice certain exploitative behaviors that prioritize their needs over your own. Recognizing these tendencies early on can help you make an informed decision about the relationship.
- Lack of empathy. Narcissists struggle to understand other perspectives or show compassion for their feelings. They have difficulty seeing past their own interests and needs.
- The constant need for admiration. Narcissists expect constant praise, admiration, and ego-stroking from you to feel good about themselves. They believe they are special or more important than others.
- Take advantage of your kindness. Narcissists prey on kind, forgiving, and selfless people. They manipulate your empathy and willingness to give them “second chances” to get what they want.
- Blames you for their problems. Narcissists refuse to take responsibility for their actions and instead blame external forces like you, their boss, the weather — anyone but themselves.
- Lies and exaggerates. Narcissists frequently lie to make themselves seem more accomplished or to get what they want. They live in a fantasy world that they try to pull you into.
- Controls and isolates you. Narcissists want all your attention and affection. They may try to cut you off from friends and family to exert more control and feed their ego.
- Withholds affection or intimacy. Narcissists use emotional intimacy and sex as a means to control or manipulate you. They may lavish you with attention one moment and withhold affection the next.
These tendencies, combined with a lack of remorse for hurtful behavior, form the narcissist’s exploitative playbook. Be very wary if you observe these signs early in a relationship. A narcissist’s needs will always come before your own well-being and happiness.
9. Envious Of Others’ Success
Narcissists crave attention and admiration from others, but they resent others’ successes and accomplishments. A narcissist’s sense of self depends on being superior to others, so the achievements of people around them threaten their fragile egos.
When dating a narcissist, you may notice their jealousy and envy of other people’s successes. They have a hard time being genuinely happy for others, even their close ones. Your accomplishments and good fortune may be met with lackluster enthusiasm or even contempt.
Narcissists need to be the star of the show and the center of attention at all times. They expect others to lavish them with praise but fail to reciprocate. If the spotlight shifts away from them to someone else, they may resort to undercutting the other person to restore the balance of power in their favor.
Beware of narcissists who constantly compare themselves to others in a way that makes them feel superior. Their need to one-up their peers and loved ones to mask their insecurity is a sign that a healthy, supportive relationship with this person may be difficult to achieve.
Constant criticism and high expectations are common control tactics used by narcissists to keep their partners small and manageable. Do not let their envious nature diminish your light or hold you back from pursuing your own goals and dreams.
10. Difficulty Handling Criticism
When dating a narcissist, one of the most telling signs is how poorly they handle criticism or perceived slights.
Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement, so any critique, however constructive or minor, is seen as a direct attack. They lash out in anger or try to turn the tables to blame you instead. A narcissist will:
- React angrily or passive-aggressively to even small bits of criticism. They see it as a threat to their ego and fragile self-esteem.
- Blame you for the issue instead of accepting responsibility. For example, if you point out they were late, they accuse you of nagging them.
- Play the victim and make excuses. They claim no one understands them or they had a hard day to gain sympathy and avoid accountability.
- Refuse to listen to any feedback and shut down discussions. They cannot have a mature conversation about relationship issues or ways to improve communication.
Dating someone who cannot take responsibility for their own actions or work to improve the relationship is emotionally draining.
Do not let a narcissist make you feel like the unreasonable one for having normal expectations of a caring partner. If they show no willingness to change, you deserve a healthier relationship where you feel heard and respected.
11. Disregard For Others’ Feelings
A narcissist lacks empathy and concern for others. Their focus is primarily on themselves, their own needs, and their self-esteem. They have little regard for how their behavior impacts those around them.
Narcissists rarely apologize or take responsibility for their hurtful actions. They are unable to see how their behavior affects others or understand why people react negatively to them. Instead, they blame others for their shortcomings and mistakes.
Constantly Seeks Attention and Validation
The narcissist craves constant praise, admiration, and validation from those around them. They expect people to cater to their needs and provide them with ego boosts and compliments. If you fail to give them the attention and adulation they feel they deserve, they become angry or dismissive.
A narcissist is unable to relate to the emotions and experiences of others. They lack the ability to share the feelings of people around them or show compassion for their struggles and setbacks. Their sole focus is on themselves, so they cannot perceive how their behavior impacts those close to them.
Narcissists see people as tools to achieve their own ends and advance their interests. They exploit relationships and take advantage of others to get what they want, then discard people when they are no longer useful. They do this without feelings of regret or remorse.
The signs are there if you know what to look for. Pay close attention to how this person treats others, not just you. Their behavior and character will reveal the truth behind the mask.
12. Emotional Detachment From Relationships
A narcissist has difficulty forming meaningful connections with others. They tend to be emotionally detached in relationships, seeing people as objects that serve a purpose.
Narcissists lack empathy and the ability to emotionally bond with partners. They are indifferent to the feelings and needs of others. A narcissist views relationships in a superficial, exploitative manner focused on their needs and desires. They do not genuinely care for their partner’s well-being or happiness.
Signs of emotional detachment in a narcissistic relationship include:
-Little interest in listening to or supporting their partner.
-Not expressing affection, intimacy, or closeness.
-Not sharing details of their life or opening up emotionally.
-Difficulty compromising or meeting their partner’s needs. Their priorities dominate the relationship.
-Easily bored or distracted when the focus is not on them.
-Prone to anger, criticism, or manipulation when not getting their way.
-Fluctuating between lavishing their partner with attention and ignoring them completely.
-Obsessed with themselves and their image over bonding with their partner.
A healthy, loving relationship requires empathy, vulnerability, compromise, and mutual emotional support — all of which the narcissist lacks.
Do not expect a narcissist to change or suddenly become emotionally available. The only way to find meaningful partnerships is to leave them behind in search of someone capable of authentic connection.
13. Overbearing Need For Control
To maintain dominance in the relationship, the narcissist insists on controlling as much as possible. They demand obedience and deference to their opinions and decisions.
The narcissist views your independence and autonomy as threats to their control. They will criticize your choices and insist you do things their way. If you push back against their demands or fail to comply with their wishes, they retaliate with anger, guilt trips, and manipulation.
The narcissist’s desire for control often extends to monitoring your whereabouts, communications, and time. They frequently check up on you and want to know where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. They may demand access to your phone, social media accounts, and email to keep tabs on you.
The narcissist’s controlling behavior stems from their deep insecurities and need to dominate in order to feel superior. Do not expect them to change, as their need for control is too ingrained in their personality.
The only way to establish healthy boundaries is to remove yourself from the narcissist’s influence. Their pathological need to exert control will continue to override your needs for autonomy and independence.
14. Frequent Lies And Deception
Those involved with a narcissist will often experience frequent dishonesty and manipulation. The narcissist will lie to gain control, make themselves look good, or get what they want. They tend to operate under the assumption that everyone else lies and manipulates as much as they do.
Some signs of frequent lies and deception to watch for include:
- Caught lying about small, inconsequential details. The narcissist lies so frequently that they have trouble keeping their stories straight.
- Lies by omission. The narcissist will leave out important details or events to manipulate your perception of the situation.
- Defensive when confronted. When you catch the narcissist in a lie, they tend to get angry and defensive instead of apologetic. They will attack you or try to flip the blame.
- Makes excuses or blames others. The narcissist rarely takes responsibility for their lies and manipulative behavior. There is always an excuse or someone else to blame.
- Twists the truth. The narcissist may take a kernel of truth and twist it to suit their needs. They exaggerate or omit details to make their lies more believable and harder to detect.
To protect yourself, pay close attention to the narcissist’s words and actions. Look for inconsistencies in their stories and behaviors that don’t match their words.
Don’t make excuses for them or justify their lies to yourself. Recognize manipulation and dishonesty when you see it, and disengage from the interaction. The more you see through their deception, the less power they are able to exert over you.
15. Lack Of Accountability For Mistakes
A narcissist will never take responsibility for their mistakes or poor behavior. They always have an excuse and will blame external factors to avoid accountability.
Rather than sincerely apologizing for errors or hurtful actions, a narcissist will deflect and blame others. They may claim that you “misunderstood” them or that their behavior was somehow provoked by you. Nothing is ever their fault. They are incapable of recognizing their own flaws and imperfections.
There is always a justification or rationalization for their inappropriate behavior. They fell ill, they were stressed at work, they had a rough childhood, etc. Their excuses are endless. But the outcome is the same — the blame lies with someone or something else. They portray themselves as the victim to elicit sympathy and avoid repercussions.
Because they don’t believe they are at fault for anything, a narcissist feels no remorse for the damage caused. They lack empathy for the pain of others. Apologies are insincere and meant only to placate you until the next offense. They may say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” rather than a genuine “I’m sorry for what I did.”
In the end, if you point out a narcissist’s lies, broken promises, hurtful actions, or manipulation, prepare for a barrage of excuses, blame, and indignation — but never true accountability. Their ego simply won’t allow it. The only way to hold a narcissist responsible for their behavior is to disengage from them entirely.
16. Unwillingness To Compromise
When dating a narcissist, their unwillingness to compromise becomes glaringly apparent. Here are some signs to watch out for:
Narcissists insist on getting their way and doing things according to their schedules and preferences. Your needs, wants, and priorities are inconsequential to them. They refuse to meet you halfway or find a solution that satisfies you both.
Compromise requires empathy, which narcissists lack. They are unwilling to see things from your perspective or prioritize your needs. Do not expect a narcissist to go out of their way for you or make personal sacrifices. They believe their way is the only right way.
Rather than openly refusing to compromise, narcissists may resort to manipulation to get what they want while making you feel like you agreed to it willingly.
They may use emotional blackmail, gaslighting, or play the victim to coerce you into going along with their plans. Do not fall for their tricks and tactics. Stand up for yourself and do not let a narcissist take advantage of you.
Healthy relationships require cooperation, but narcissists always want to be in control and the center of attention. They are not interested in building a partnership or working together as a team.
It is their way or the highway. A narcissist’s unwillingness to share decision-making and find mutually agreeable solutions ultimately makes compromise impossible.
17. Exaggerated Sense Of Achievements
When dating someone with narcissistic tendencies, you may notice an exaggerated sense of achievement and self-importance regarding even minor accomplishments.
The narcissist will constantly talk themselves up and exaggerate their achievements and accomplishments to appear more successful and important than they really are. They obsess over any recognition or praise they receive and feel entitled to constant admiration from those around them.
Any achievement, no matter how small, is blown out of proportion. Receiving an award at work or winning a casual game of tennis becomes a reason to brag endlessly.
Their exaggerated stories of success and prestige are designed to make you see them as superior in an attempt to gain your admiration and praise.
Do not be fooled into thinking they are as accomplished as they claim. The narcissist’s exaggerated sense of achievement is a manipulation tactic used to feed their ego and keep you under their control. Their stories and claims of grandeur say more about their need for validation than reflecting their actual level of success or status.
Watch out for this tendency towards exaggeration and do not feel obligated to constantly praise them or buy into their inflated claims of achievement.
Recognize these stories for what they are — a vain attempt to make themselves appear more important and accomplished in order to gain influence over you. Do not let their excessive pride and self-centeredness distract you from the truth.
While no one is perfect, there are certain behaviors that cross the line. If your partner exhibits many of these signs, especially a lack of empathy, a constant need for admiration, and an inflated sense of self-importance, you may be in a relationship with a narcissist.
The healthiest choice is to establish clear boundaries, call out inappropriate behavior, and potentially end the relationship. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship where you feel heard, respected and cared for. Do not dismiss abusive behavior or make excuses for your partner.
Recognize that you cannot change them, you can only change your own reactions and choices. Choose to surround yourself with people who treat you well and support your happiness. You owe that to yourself.