- A narcissist can sometimes be difficult to identify, especially if you’re romantically involved with one.
- Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) may be selfish, put you down often, and fail to express empathy.
- If you’re unsure whether or not you’re dating a narcissist, there are specific signs you can look out for, according to experts.
- Here, Dr. Candace V. Love, a clinical psychologist who authored a book about how to stop getting into relationships with narcissists, reveals the key signs you may be dating a narcissist.
It can be easy miss the signs that you’re dating a narcissist.
Like in many relationships, when you first start dating a narcissist, you may be lured in by their charm, confidence, and other attractive traits.
However, as you get to know your partner, you may pick up on red flags that were not so easily identifiable at first, like “nice” comments that have not-so-nice undertones, or a lack of empathy after you share something deeply personal.
You may justify a narcissist’s behavior by telling yourself that they just had a bad day, and that tomorrow they’ll be better. However, the behavior doesn’t get better, and you may start to feel worse about yourself in the relationship.
“The main point to keep in mind is that you can’t always tell you’re dating a narcissist — because they’re experts at concealing their true colors until they have you,” clinical psychologist Candace V. Love told Business Insider. “However, all the clients I have worked with have been able to look back and see all the red flags they missed — they are always there.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, belittle those around them, take advantage of others to get what they want, have difficulty regulating emotions and mood, and become irrationally angry when they don’t receive special treatment.
Of course, it’s not possible to determine for sure whether someone has NPD without an evaluation by a qualified expert, but here are some often subtle signs that you may be dating a narcissist, according to a clinical psychologist.
1. They’re charming … for a while, anyway
No one falls for a narcissist because of the negative qualities that make them a narcissist.
“Many narcissists are charmers in the beginning, and it’s too easy to succumb to their charms,” Love said.
“In time, the narcissist will show their true colors, but by then, you are usually already in love and will tend to overlook, make excuses, or minimize their bad behaviors,” she said.
2. They’re quick to anger
Although narcissists or people with NPD can woo you and be charming, they can also turn on a dime, Love said.
“Pay attention to if the person is quick to anger if something doesn’t go their way, such as traffic, parking, or reservations,” she said. “Plus, look at how they treat others, too. How do they act toward service people — waitstaff, parking attendants, etc.?”
3. They make talk more about themselves than you
Being a good listener is important in relationships. If your partner makes everything about them, be cautious.
“Does the person seem genuinely interested in you when you talk about your life — or are they quick to tell you about theirs?” Love said.
“See if they ask you follow-up questions or monopolize the conversation,” she said.
4. They’re selfish
While everyone may act selfish from time to time, it is a recurrent trait among those who are narcissistic, according to Love.
“They feel entitled to do and say whatever they please — after all, they are the center of the universe,” Love said.
“They will spend time and money on what they like, not what you like — but they will make you think they are doing it for you or that they thought you liked it, too — and they will act hurt and disappointed when you protest,” she said.
5. They’re rigid or stubborn about their views
Although it’s healthy for you and your partner to have varying opinions on things, if your date can’t — and won’t — see your point of view, it could be a red flag.
“Determine if they’re rigid when it comes to their views on things,” Love said. “Also, determine if they’re unable to accommodate another point of view.”
6. They need admiration
Some people need admiration more than others, and narcissists fall into the category of needing a lot of it.
“They need to be the center of attention at all times, so they may dominate the conversation with you or with a group,” Love said. “Their need for attention and admiration is never-ending.”
7. They come on strong
Although it may seem romantic when a new person you meet is extremely into you, it may also mean they’re a narcissist.
“If you think someone you just met is your soulmate, definitely hit the brakes,” Love said. “Too often, clients tell me, ‘We talked for hours,’ ‘No one has ever understood me like this person,’ etc.”
Instead, Love recommends taking it slow when you’re dating. That way, you can figure out if someone is truly your soulmate — or a narcissist — or not.
8. They’re overly critical and put you down
If you’re feeling bad about yourself more than good about yourself, and it’s due to what your partner is saying to you or how they’re acting towards you, they could be a narcissist.
For instance, your partner may insult you non-verbally by rolling their eyes at something you say, but they’ll likely insult you verbally, too. If you question their behavior to them, they may say, “You’re too sensitive,” or, “You’re too emotional.”
“Oftentimes, the put-down will take the form of teasing, but it is really veiled hostility,” Love said. “For example, at a party or dinner with friends, they tell an embarrassing story about you — something you said or did — and everyone laughs, but you feel like crawling under the table.”
She said that when you protest, a narcissistic partner could say they’re “just teasing,” “Why are you getting so upset?” or, “You’re too sensitive.”
9. They’re controlling
Narcissists also love being in control. If you’re dating one, he or she may want to know your every move or demand a say in what you wear.
“You may think they are being oh-so-in-love with you that they cannot stand to be away from you, but really this is control,” Love said.
10. They lack empathy
If you feel your partner is not empathetic, even when you tell them an emotional, heartbreaking story about something personal that has happened to you, this is another sign they may be a narcissist.
“If your partner lacks empathy or an empathic response to something you told them or something you both witnessed, or they’re quick to judge, you may have a narcissist on your hands,” Love said.