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Am I Dating a Narcissist? Red Flags You Need to Know

Leaving a narcissistic relationship can be hard. When you’re knee-deep in the trenches of a narcissistic relationship, it’s common to have an unhealthy codependent attachment to your partner and be a bit disconnected from reality. These types of relationships leave their victims feeling weak with a foggy sense of self-worth and validation.

So, why do people date narcissists? They usually don’t…at least not knowingly. While there are some obvious signs of narcissistic behavior, many of the tactics narcissists use are covert and take effect gradually over a period of time so that you don’t even notice the impact they have on you.

how to leave a narcissistic relationship

How to Avoid Narcissistic Relationships

The best way to avoid narcissistic relationships is to have a strong relationship with yourself. Trusting yourself, believing your intuition, and having a firm sense of your value. Many times, narcissists try to shape their partner's sense of self-perception or self-value, but if you know who you are, no one can take that away from you, and you won’t stand for less than what you deserve.

That being said, sometimes it can be hard to avoid. After all, narcissists can be charming, and many are extremely intelligent. They are also masters of observation and reflecting exactly what you want to hear when you want to hear it. So, to avoid getting sucked into the dark hole that is a narcissistic relationship, here are a few red flags to look out for.

Love Bombing: Too Much, Too Soon

Sure, we all love living in a love bubble, but too much affection too soon may be an indicator of love bombing.

Love-bombing is traditionally the first stage in a narcissistic relationship cycle, which includes being showered with affection by your lover. This affection can be in the form of compliments, expensive gifts, an overexpression of PDA, or even frequent surprises. The relationship may also move really quickly during this phase: moving in or getting engaged after a really short time of knowing each other.

Here’s the thing: all relationships will move at their own pace, so this is more of a yellow signal than a red flag, but if the affection feels more like excessive flattery or a desire to impress rather than genuine affection and love, this is something you may want to look into more deeply.

is my boyfriend a narcissist, red flags in a relationship

Walking on Eggshells: You Feel Like You Can’t Be Honest

Despite their outer appearance and demeanor, narcissists are very sensitive individuals. Career Coach and social worker Jessica Sweet agrees, noting that “if you say the wrong thing, they can shatter and that can look like explosive anger. If they are easily offended and have major disruptions in all their relationships, this is a pretty good sign you're dealing with a narcissist.” Another sign to watch out for here is how they receive criticism. Jessica shares that “ narcissists are fragile deep down, and anything that is a threat to their ego will cause them to lash out in anger and denial and blame.” So, if your constructive criticism is always being perceived as a personal slight, this may be a red flag to watch out for.

Gaslighting: Making You Question Your Reality

People use the term gaslighting fairly loosely these days, which makes it difficult to see when it’s really happening. Merriam-Webster defines gaslighting as “psychologically manipulating (a person) usually over an extended period so that the victim questions the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and experiences confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and doubts concerning their own emotional or mental stability.”

Some signs that you are experiencing gaslighting include:

  • Wanting to record your conversation with a person so they can’t twist your words around later

  • The person who caused a lot of the issues you’re dealing with is now playing the victim

  • Shifting the blame when being held accountable (e.g. you called someone out for something and now they’re telling you what you did wrong on a completely unrelated matter)

  • Denying things that you have proof of

  • Telling you that you are “crazy” or are imagining things; constantly denying your recollection of the truth

  • You find yourself saying sorry for problems you didn’t cause to keep the peace

how to know if your partner is a narcissist

Feigning for Affection: Lack of a Connection

In narcissistic relationships, it’s not uncommon to have lots of sex, but when you dig deeper, there’s a general lack of affection or substantive connection built on mutual interests. The relationship may start off with a lot of steam and passion, but you’ll slowly start to feel as though it’s more of a transaction or performance. In other words, there’s a lot of lust, but not much love.

You Feel Like You’re Never Seen, Heard, or Understood

Because of their self-involved nature, a relationship with a narcissist can feel one-sided after the initial love-bombing phase. You may feel like you’re begging for attention or affection from your partner, or that they’re disinterested in your life outside of what you’re doing for them.

Sometimes this manifests itself as a lack of empathy. For example, maybe you are telling them something significant that happened to you and they simply don’t seem to care. According to psychologist and PMR Coach Matthias Dettmann, “Narcissists often have difficulty understanding or empathizing with other people's emotions or perspectives. They may minimize others' feelings or dismiss them entirely.”

Your Intuition

Sometimes your gut is trying to tell you something and your mind is busy trying to make sense of it all. While logic helps keep you safe and informed, your intuition does the same thing but at a different level. If your intuition is fired up and you feel that something is off, chances are you might be right. Do the work to make sure it’s not an internal trigger you’re dealing with (e.g. childhood trauma), and once you’re sure it isn’t–let your gut be your guide. Narcissistic relationships can be confusing and you won’t always be able to spot exactly what’s wrong, but you will have an idea. If the other red flags are prevalent in your relationship, have confidence in yourself without having all the answers.

Key Takeaways

You deserve to be in a happy relationship that adds to your life, not one that makes you question yourself and detracts from your sense of self-worth. Whether the person you’re dating is a narcissist, or just exhibits many of the red flags, know that you don’t have to settle. Trust yourself, listen to your intuition, and pursue love that loves you back.

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