How do you know that you are in a relationship with a narcissist. A new study shows that all you have to do is ask. Researchers say the quickest way to tell if someone is a narcissist; simply ask them. People who have an inflated sense of self will readily admit they are narcissists if they are asked just one straightforward question, as new study suggests. Often we wonder, is a narcissist capable of love? In actual fact, the truth is that a narcissist can cut off from painful feelings and self soothe to protect themselves from the hurt, pushing away feelings of love that they may feel for someone.
In relationships, narcissists aren’t usually motivated by passion. This is especially in the early stages of the relationship. Relationships offer a narcissist positive attention and sexual satisfaction to support their ego and self-esteem. They may seek someone of exceptional beauty, talent, or influence who admires them.
Signs that you are Dating a Narcissist
1. Lack of Empathy
A lack of empathy may be the key defining characteristic of a narcissistic person. “It is the inability to identify with or recognise the experiences and feelings of other people. Everything is about them and belongs to them,” Vicelich says. “They smoothly overstep the personal boundaries of others, mistreating, devaluing, and humiliating to bend others to their desires.”
From a basic perspective, a narcissist does not care or understand how other people feel and rarely considers other people’s feelings in their actions or words. This can manifest itself in physical or verbal ways. For example, a narcissist will often say cruel things in an offhanded manner, remaining oblivious to the pain they cause with their words. “It is not unusual for them to launch into a one-way discussion about what they are doing, without any regard or even inquiring about how the other person feels,” Vicelich explains. “They become highly impatient or even annoyed when other people share their problems.”
Another weapon in the arsenal, manipulation is a major sign that you could be dating a narcissist. The ability to twist the situation to better suit their narrative is a poignant personality trait that all egotistical people possess. It can be exhausting for those in the relationship. “When a person is so skilfully manipulative, you may find yourself falling into their trap and remaining relatively unaware it is happening,” Vicelich explains. “Years later you will connect the dots, the manipulation is clear as day, but we often miss it. Narcissists are masters at getting what they want, and because they have no empathy, they may not care what it costs to someone else. They deviously use manipulation as a tool to get their most essential needs met, which are typically attention, validation, and status.”
A clear cut sign you are dating a narcissist is the psychological trick known as projection. A narcissist will accuse someone else of doing what they are doing or will call out their flaws and fears in someone else; more often than not, the person who is cheating accuses his partner of cheating. “Projection is a defence or an unconscious pattern that occurs when the person feels psychologically threatened. The narcissistic ego is always monitoring the world for threats and often finds them. Then they quickly blame other people for their deficits,” Vicelich says.
“Projecting is frustrating because your partner is actually accusing you of doing things you aren’t actually doing. These projections are not just about cheating and betrayal, they can be about the narcissists own vulnerabilities and weaknesses. They are likely to be accusing you of what they are doing or feeling.”
4. Emotionally Cold
It’s not a huge surprise, but narcissists are continually shallow with their emotions, meaning they don’t do well with emotions. “To be with an emotionally cold partner often means not being comforted, sometimes during the most difficult days in our lives,” the relationships expert explains. “The emotionally cold or distant trait rears its head during arguments when one person is experiencing and expressing significant emotion and the narcissistic person just checks out and does not respond – or does in a cold manner. The emotional coldness can be confusing for you and may result in attempts to jump through hoops to generate warmth and connection with your partner.”
This is a term that has been gathering pace over the past few years, and people are suddenly realising the link to narcissism. From a historical perspective, the term arose from the 1930’s play Gas Light, where a husband, in an attempt to drive his wife crazy, keeps turning down the gas-powered lights in the house. When the wife asks why he is dimming the lights, he denies it and says they are no dimmer. Over time, she finds herself going mad.
“Gaslighting qualifies as a form of emotional abuse that involves denying a person’s experience and making statements, such as ‘that never happened’ or ‘you are too sensitive’,” Vicelich says. “The gaslighter uses techniques such as withholding or stonewalling, contradicting, or diversion, when you bring up something that concerns you and your partner turns it into something you said years before or deflects it and describes it as a conspiracy. They also minimise your feelings and denies events that definitely occurred. The damage of gaslighting is that it is confusing, isolating, and often results in you questioning your own reality. You may find yourself constantly apologising and no longer as relaxed and joyful as you once were.”
6. Never Takes Responsibility
Being in a relationship is a partnership, there should be give and take in every aspect. Part of this means accepting when you are wrong and taking things as they come, two things narcissists generally struggle with. “They are master deflectors and try to avoid the blame with lying, cheating, and everything in-between. They will make up complex excuses and rationalize anything,” Vicelich says.
“When someone never takes responsibility for anything, words, actions, feelings – it is challenging if not an impossible way to maintain a relationship. Even pre-school aged children are asked to take responsibility for a broken crayon or toys left out. It is not too much to ask a person to take ownership. Since they are unable to distinguish the boundary between responsibility and blame, narcissists attempt to avoid both. Genuine acceptance of responsibility is very unlikely to be issued by a narcissist and you can wear yourself out by waiting for it.”
The term ‘control freak’ gets thrown around a lot, but it’s a key narcissistic trait. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that often the narcissist is controlling you while remaining completely disinterested in the other aspects of your life. Like many other traits, the other person in a relationship can mistake control for affection. It’s natural to want to be involved in your partner’s life, but it’s not healthy to dictate it.
“Control is often a part of abuse dynamics in relationships, the control culminates to the point where a person feels like they cannot move without asking for permission, and the narcissist uses control to isolate the person,” Vicelich says. “The most common manifestations of this relationship control are a partner monitoring your whereabouts at all times, checking your emails and text messages, criticising your appearance, and making nearly all important decisions, with little regard for your opinion.”
“Grandiosity is a pattern in which a person tends to exaggerate accomplishments, talents, connections, and experiences. They do not have to be real experiences, grandiose people tend to maintain over-the-top fantasy worlds,” Vicelich says. “Grandiosity can also be manifested by a sense of self-importance – a belief that their existence is bigger and more important than anyone else’s and certainly more important than yours. ”
In the case of famous narcissists like Stalin and Hitler, the purveyor may already be in a position of power. They may hold a leadership role, be famous, or have accumulated wealth. “The grandiosity is a permanent fixture and they will repeatedly boast about their accomplishments, their possessions, and their experiences,” the author says. “Grandiosity is seductive and can turn your partner into something ‘larger than life,’ so that when things are going well, it can feel perfect.”
Sadly, the culmination of the previous eight signs will inevitably lead to a final, or habitual act of betrayal; they will cheat. “Their need for admiration and novelty is so vast that they are wired to be unfaithful – affairs are typically characterized by excitement, flattery, and superficial grandiosity,” Vicelich says. “They may keep a steady relationship with you, and cultivate other needs outside the relationship”.
How to Break Up with a Narcissist
If this list has hit a little too close to home and you’re starting to realise your relationship might not be a perfect as you once thought, it’s time to have a discussion, with your partner and with yourself. A big reason why you are dating a narcissist is your own self-worth. Narcissists will find people who struggle with confidence, manipulating the situation to make you feel helpless and worthless without them. The first step in overcoming the issue is reminding yourself that you deserve better.
Just as narcissists move in familiar patterns, so too do victims. It pays to strengthen your relationships with empathetic friends, building a solid support network with your close relationships. Talk it out with your partner and consider therapy. Most of all, you shouldn’t be wary of love.
“After an experience with a narcissist, you may learn to look at the less charismatic, but far kinder people who may be less obvious,” Vicelich says. “Be aware of your vulnerabilities and start looking for the qualities that make for a better long term partner – compassion, kindness, respect, and empathy – rather than the qualities of charisma and charm”.
Things you need to know (breaking up with a narcissist)
1) It will feel sudden and brutal
If they’re breaking up with you, it will feel like a car crash you didn’t see coming. They won’t hesitate to rip the band-aid off without considering your feelings.
You’ll be left wondering what went wrong. Don’t. Their reasons will be entirely about them – and nothing to do with you.
The real reason they’re breaking up with you is that they’re done using you. Narcissists get involved in relationships to “get” something out of the relationship.
According to Mayo Clinic, narcissists are skilled at “taking advantage of others to get what they want” and “have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.”
The most likely scenario is that they won’t show any remorse or apologize for breaking up with you.
It’s brutal for you, but you need to realize who they are – they’re all about themselves and you’re better off without them. They’ll leave and only come back if they can get something out of you.
2) They’ll beg, plead or even attempt a negotiation
Now if you’re the one who has chosen to leave, prepare for negotiation attempts and pleading.
They don’t like it when they don’t get what they want. And if they’re still in a relationship with you, it means that there’s still something they want from you.
This is why they won’t let go of you easily.
What’s most common is that they will “promise to change”. They’ll immediately try to do things for you to make you feel awesome.
Once it’s clear that you’re not going to budge, they’ll start threatening you by saying things such as “you’ll be lost without me” or “you’ll never find someone as good”.
Don’t worry, this is normal. Don’t listen and get manipulated into going back to them. It’s not worth it.
But don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to be easy to leave them for good. According to experts, on average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good.
It’s important that you have the courage to stick with the course. You’ll be immensely grateful in the long run.
3) Break the trauma bond
Within any type of narcissistic relationship, there is usually a trauma bond – a connection between the abuser and victim through intense, shared emotional experiences. In order to leave for good, you’ll have to break that bond.
The reason it’s difficult to break this bond is that it has been addictive. You’re abused but then you’re rewarded with love bombs when you do something right for the abuser.
This can really take a toll on your mental health as you can experience frequent bouts of stress and sadness when you’re being abused, but then elevated highs when you’re rewarded with good behavior.
The victim often doesn’t really know what’s going on, because manipulative tactics and intermittent love put the victim in a cycle of self-blame and desperation to win back their partner’s affection.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, then you simply have to learn to stand up for yourself and break this bond, because you do have a choice in the matter.
4) Next, you need to establish no contact.
No contact sounds fairly simple, but it will take strength. You’re going to have to block their number and delete them off social media.
Basically, figure out all the different ways they can contact you and shut them off.
This sounds tough, but it’s essential. Narcissists are master manipulators and they know exactly what to say to get themselves back into your life.
So the best way to avoid manipulation is to cut them off and forgo communication.
Also, keep in mind that’s okay to break up with a narcissist in text – that way they won’t be able to manipulate you.
5) If you can’t avoid them, adopt the “grey rock technique”
In a nutshell, the Gray Rock Method promotes blending in.
If you look around at the ground, you don’t typically see the individual rocks as they are: you see the dirt, rocks, and grass as a collective.
When we are faced with narcissists, they tend to see everything.
The Gray Rock Method gives you the option of blending in so that you no longer serve as a target for that person.
Live Strong says that the Gray Rock Method involves remaining emotionally unresponsive:
“It’s a matter of making yourself as boring, nonreactive and unremarkable as possible — like a gray rock…More importantly, remain as emotionally unresponsive to their pokes and prods as you can possibly allow yourself.”
If you can’t cut them out of your life completely, try separating yourself from them as much as possible.
If you need to be in the same room as them, distract yourself with your phone. Don’t be present for conversations.
Answer short answers and don’t engage in conversation.
At first, they will become frustrated by your inaction, but they’ll eventually see that there is no getting ahead with you and they’ll move onto someone else.
If they aren’t getting what they want: satisfaction from hurting other people or manipulating them, they’ll find another source of that satisfaction.
When the person enters the room, do your best to just leave.
6) Reflect on the relationship so your next one is better
To break up with a narcissist, you need to reflect on the relationship and work out what went wrong.
Even though a narcissists behavior is never your fault, it’s important that you learn your lessons from the relationship so that your next one is much more successful.
And for women, I think the best way to ensure success in the future is to learn about what really drives men in relationships.
Because men see the world differently to you and are motivated by different things when it comes to love.
Men (even narcissists) have a built in desire for something “greater” that goes beyond love or sex. It’s why men who seemingly have the “perfect girlfriend” are still unhappy and find themselves constantly searching for something else — or worst of all, someone else.
Simply put, men have a biological drive to feel needed, to feel important, and to provide for the woman he cares about.
How do you trigger this instinct in him? How do you give him a sense of meaning and purpose?
You don’t need to pretend to be anyone you’re not or play the “damsel in distress”. You don’t have to dilute your strength or independence in any way, shape or form.
In an authentic way, you simply have to show your man what you need and allow him to step up to fulfill it.
7) Remove any connections in your life with the narcissist
Do you have any mutual connections on social media? Remove them. It sounds ruthless, but a narcissist will find any way they can to try and get you back, and they won’t shy away from using your friends to do so.
Worse, if they already know they can’t get you back, they may bad mouth you to your mutual connections.
After all, they don’t care about your feelings. The only thing they understand is that you’ve left them and they haven’t got everything they want from you.
So if you want to move on with your life and start afresh, remove any associations in your life that connect you with the narcissist, unless of course they’re good friends and you can completely trust them.
Remember, the more connections you have with your ex, the more opportunities they’ll have to wriggle their way back into your life.
8) Remember why you broke up with them
Now that you’ve ended the relationship, you may be feeling a bit down. It’s a big change.
But those negative emotions you’re feeling may cause you to question your decision.
You might start thinking about all the great times you had with your narcissistic partner. Feelings will come rushing back and regret bubbles up.
Don’t listen to those feelings. You need to keep in mind that they are unrepresentative of the relationship.
For example, you’re probably remembering all the “compliments” your partner gave you.
Don’t get me wrong, compliments are usually great – but when a narcissist gives them, it’s part of a technique called love bombing.
According to Psychology Today, love bombing is the practice of “overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction…designed to manipulate you into spending more time with the bomber.”
So to get your mind back on an even keel, jot down all the reasons you wanted to split up with your partner in the first place.
Ultimately, it was a decision that you didn’t take lightly. Remember those reasons, because if they’re a self-serving narcissist, you’ve likely made a great decision for your future to get rid of them.
And if the narcissist ended the relationship, jot down all the negative aspects of the relationship. When you look at the relationship from the outside, it’s likely that there was a lot of them.
9) Be prepared that they will move on really quickly
Most narcissists heal quickly from a breakup as their feelings weren’t real in the first place. After all, they weren’t emotionally invested in the relationship and were simply using you to get something they want.
This is one of the reasons you want to get rid of them on social media – it’s not totally out of the ordinary that they will be charming and manipulating someone else in a week or two and posting romantic photos.
If not that, then they’ll probably be posting “selfies” where they look beautiful and happy.
“Their superficial approach to relationships means that it is very easy for them to replace people (including their partners) and find someone new rather quickly.” – Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D.
So if you see them with someone else quickly, keep in mind that they’re probably “love bombing” them in an effort to use them. Be glad it isn’t you anymore.
Furthermore, according to Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, it’s a bad idea to assume that “someone else is going to get the good version of them”.
She says that the “better version” does not really exist. The way that you were treated is exactly the way that their new lover will be treated.
Narcissists tend to be pretty stable in the way they act in relationships.
10) Get angry
Here’s a piece of counter-intuitive advice if you want to break free from a narcissistic person: get angry with them.
I think getting angry can be an excellent catalyst for making real change in your life. Including moving on from toxic relationships.
Before I explain why, I have a question for you:
How do you deal with your anger?
If you’re like most people, then you suppress it. You focus on having good feelings and thinking positive thoughts.
That’s understandable. We’ve been taught our whole lives to look on the bright side. That the key to happiness is simply to hide your anger and visualize a better future.
Even today, positive thinking is what most mainstream personal development “gurus” preach.
But what if I told you that everything you’ve been taught about anger is wrong? That anger — properly harnessed — could be your secret weapon in a productive and meaningful life?
Shaman Rudá Iandê has totally changed how I view my own anger. He taught me a new framework for turning my anger into my greatest personal power.
If you too would like to harness your own natural anger, check out Ruda’s excellent masterclass on turning anger into your ally here.
11) You will grieve
Even though they were a narcissist, you probably had a strong emotional bond to them – even if they didn’t.
Therefore, you are going to feel bad about it, and you’re going to go through a grieving process. The more accept these emotions and process them, the quicker you will get over them.
Narcissists know how to charm people’s socks off – and that’s exactly what’s happened to you for a long period of time. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t feeling somewhat down about letting them go.
Also, keep in mind that a relationship with a narcissist is largely a power struggle – one that you didn’t know you were part of.
Being controlled and emotionally dominated for such a long time can take its toll.
Now that it’s over, you may feel emotionally drained. Again, this is perfectly normal.
But you need to remember that it takes time to recover and you don’t need to back to them in a moment of weakness.
According to research, it usually takes at least 11 weeks to feel better after a relationship has ended – so give yourself time to grieve and get over those emotions.
Millions of people have been through the pain of a break-up before, and they’ve successfully moved on to be a better, stronger human being.
It’s a natural process that most people will go through at least once in their life.
But just like any other wound: Heartbreak heals with time – and you will eventually move on.
Remind yourself of why you ended the relationship and be glad that you’ve found your way out of that toxic environment.
It’s also important to get yourself involved in hobbies, activities and spending time with friends.
Because unless you get your mind focused on something else, your mind will start dwelling on what if.
Everything you read or everything that’s in this article won’t heal your broken heart, but you’ve set the process in motion for time to heal your wounds.
The healing of a human heart is a long and tender process. But for now, honor your grief and find value in the difficult emotions you’re experiencing right now.
You’ve probably bottled up a lot of those negative emotions in the past in an effort to deal with your narcissistic partner. Now, you’re letting it all go.
Even if it’s hurting now, staying the course and not contacting them will benefit you in the long run.
12) You will continue to think about them – but that’s normal
Having a relationship with a narcissist isn’t easy, and as a result, you’re probably used to analyzing your ex-partner’s behavior and words to work out what they really mean.
After all, they’ve most likely been playing games with you in an effort to manipulate and use you.
You might have made excuses for their behavior, reframed their lies and tip-toed around their self-delusion in order to keep things peaceful.
This habit of analyzing their behavior may continue after the relationship has ended. This is why adopting the no-contact approach and deleting them from social media is crucial.
Experts say it takes 3 months to break a habit, so once the 3 months are over, you’ll wonder why the hell you thought about them so much.
13) You may feel shame
Once you spent time away from the relationship and you can look at things from a bird’s eye view, you may start to feel shame from letting the wool be pulled over your eyes for so long.
You may be asking yourself how you could have been so gullible and naive for so long. How could you let them walk over all over you for so long?
The shame may be especially pronounced if your family and friends warned you about your partner.
But the truth is, many people get manipulated and controlled by narcissists. They are known as being experts at seduction for a reason.
You may have some self-esteem and codependent issues you want to explore later, but for now, forgive yourself and have pride that you’ve managed to walk away. Not many people have the strength to do that.
You may also feel regret. You may wonder why you wasted so much time on them. And if you’ve had kids with them, or you’ve racked up debt with them, you may have more than wasted time on your mind.
But the best advice right now is to stop looking back. It won’t serve you any good. As Buddha said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
All you can focus on is right now, and be glad that you’ve got a life (without their limitations) ahead of you.
14) It’s time to love yourself
Narcissists are skilled at putting others down to elevate themselves, so your self-esteem may have taken a battering.
It’s unlikely that you were appreciated for who you are. Instead, you’ve only been complimented and appreciated when it suits them.
You may have suffered verbal abuse as well. Narcissists want their victims to stay insecure and doubt themselves. It makes it easier for them to play their wicked games.
The good news is, you’ve left your partner and they can’t hinder your growth anymore.
It’s a big topic on how to practice self-love, but for now, think of the people in your life that you love and respect. How do you treat them?
You are kind to them, patient with their thoughts and ideas, and you forgive them when they make a mistake.
You give them space, time, and opportunity; you make sure they have the room to grow because you love them enough to believe in the potential of their growth.
Now think of how you treat yourself.
Do you give yourself the love and respect that you might give your closest friends or significant other?
Do you take care of your body, your mind, and your needs?
Here are all the ways that you could be showing your body and mind self-love in your everyday life:
- Sleeping properly
- Eating healthy
- Giving yourself time and space to understand your spirituality
- Exercising regularly
- Thanking yourself and those around you
- Playing when you need it
- Avoiding vices and toxic influences
- Reflecting and meditating
How many of these daily activities do you allow yourself? And if not, then how can you say you truly love yourself?
Loving yourself and build your confidence is more than just a state of mind—it’s also a series of actions and habits that you embed into your everyday life.
15) It’s time to focus on yourself and how you can build a better you
It’s time to focus on yourself and recover meaning in life. Narcissists are skilled at making everything about them – so what’s likely happened is that they’ve been the center of your universe for a long time. It’s a significant change.
As humans, we create meaning through our relationships, and now you’ve lost a lot of meaning to your life.
But that’s exciting as well. You can try new hobbies, or go to a yoga class and meet new people.
Whatever it is, you can use up a lot of energy on new pursuits because you don’t have to worry about a narcissist dragging you down in life.
Reconnect with people who make you happy. See this is a great opportunity to build new meaning in life and a brand new self without limitations put on you by a narcissist trying to control you.