Are you dating a narcissist?
Many couples come to see me regarding problems in their relationships and I have found a large proportion of these cases to be affected by a narcissistic element. Often, one person exhibits many narcissistic traits, making the success of the relationship more of a challenge.
So what exactly are the typical traits of a narcissist?
1) “It’s all about me”
Dating a narcissist can be extremely challenging because they are mainly motivated by what’s in it for them. They are motivated by self interest – pure and simple. If they do not see any gain for themselves, they will be unlikely to do it. If it means they can make their partner happy but there is no specific gain to them directly, their interest will be low or non-existent. Of course, if they sacrifice and then know they will be widely seen as a wonderful person, they might still do it for the recognition. A relationship often serves to enhance a narcissists image. The bottom line though is that they only engage in activities where there will be some type of gain for them. They do not engage in purely selfless acts for the benefit of others.
2) Narcissists lack empathy
Narcissists do not think in a healthy and balanced way. They lack genuine emotional connections with others. Despite this, they are incredibly adept at acting the part of a caring person, at least initially or when acting the part is called for. One thing that I have noticed time and time again is that narcissists don’t feel the natural, normal emotions many feel. What they have to do is act out what they think would constitute a caring, empathic person.
So, in the beginning when dating a narcissist, they will be very attentive, very romantic and appear wonderful in many ways. They will write cards, be thoughtful in sending flowers or other gifts, writing loving texts and arranging romantic dinners. A narcissist cannot sustain this behaviour however, as it does not come naturally to them. They do all the caring stuff as a means to an end – to capture the other person’s affections and gain emotional control. Once the other person is hooked, they can go back to being their normal selfish behaviour.
3) Narcissists are excellent at manipulation
Narcissists seem to have a 6th sense when it comes to uncovering other people’s weak spots. They are adept at figuring out another person’s vulnerabilities and they use this to achieve their personal goals. If you are insecure about the way you look, they may initially make you feel as if you are the most gorgeous person ever, but after a while they will use this against you. They will possibly drop the odd hint about how there are so many good looking people where they work or they will insinuate that their partner is not taking enough care of themselves. They do this to establish value. In this way, the slowly influence their partner to feel they are not good enough and that they are lucky to have someone who stays with them. It’s subtle most of the time, but their subtle negative comments do the job of keeping you full of self doubt.
4) Narcissists never take the blame
Narcissists are not good when it comes to receiving constructive criticism. As far as they are concerned they are victims of others people’s ineptitude, lack of competence and/or other people’s negligent actions. They are unable to see their role in things going wrong. Instead they will lash out and convince others that it is their fault, that they are the one with the problem. Narcissists are very good at creating a mindset for themselves that involves denial of reality. As I mentioned before, their thinking is distorted. They twist reality to fit their way of seeing things, Dating a narcissist means you will very rarely be allowed an audience with an objective person who will see your side. Don’t expect to hear them say “sorry” either.
So what do you do if you suspect that you are dating a narcissist?
Narcissists can still be loveable even though they give very little back in a relationship. They are often charismatic and charming.
1) Understanding and context
Try to understand why your narcissistic partner is the way they are. Sometimes, you can see obvious signs from a dysfunctional childhood. Some narcissists use the bravado to hide their own sense of shame and inadequacy. Understanding promotes tolerance of their behaviour.
2) Don’t try to change them
Trying to argue with a narcissist is often a waste of time as they tend to be very set in their ways. They have rigid thinking and are not swayed easily. Trying to get them to see your way of thinking is a futile exercise. Instead, accept who they are and what they are willing to give. If you feel resentful at their behaviour in a relationship, trying to change them is not an option.
3) Highlight the benefits to them
As narcissists are motivated by personal gain, you may be able to influence them in this way. Show them how something will benefit them and you might be able to get their cooperation. Work with them and play to their interests.
4) Stand up for yourself
Let your narcissistic partner know when they annoy you. The more you allow them to mistreat you, the worse it will get. Be assertive and let them know when you are not happy with their behaviour. Your responsibility is to communicate your needs. If you find that your requests are repeatedly ignored, it might be time to rethink the status of the relationship.
5) Ask for what you need
Dating a narcissist can be a lonely experience and you need to be quite resourceful and self sufficient to cope. As narcissists often lack empathy, they need to be told what is expected of them. Ask for what you want and make instructions as clear and precise as possible.
There are many types of narcissistic behaviour, severe and long standing narcissists are often diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some narcissists have less severe characteristics and they have the most chance of enjoying a successful relationship.
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