To most people, a “narcissist” is just someone vain and self-absorbed, a man or woman obsessed with their appearance and confident to the point of arrogance. But a narcissist can be a lot more than that. They might well be suffering from a psychiatric disorder called Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) — and to someone dating them and trying to win some of the love the narcissist keeps for him or herself, that can be a real problem.This disorder is widespread. It’s estimated to affect at least one person in 100, both men and women. It’s not unreasonable to believe that the guy you (eventually) dismissed as an “asshole” or the girl who left you wondering about women’s reputation as the gentler sex was, in fact, suffering from a mental disorder.
The beginningA relationship with a narcissist usually starts well. Narcissists can look great on paper. They tend to be attractive, charming and really committed to meeting “the one.” A narcissistic man often tell his new girlfriend that she is “the woman of their dream”; women tell their boyfriends that they were “meant to be,” making him feel very special. They also tend to want to move fast in the relationship. This honeymoon phase though ends quickly as they reveal their true self — and being with a narcissist soon turns from a thrill into an extremely painful experience. As one anonymous woman from Virginia put it in an Amazon review of Narcissistic Lovers: How to Cope, Recover and Move On by Cynthia Zane and M.S. Kevin Dibble:
“He went from loving, devoted, and committed to cold, critical, and most heartbreakingly, unfaithful, seemingly overnight. None of it made sense, and it was practically killing me waiting for him to return to the way it was.”Because the relationship starts out so well, and because the ugliness seems to come out of nowhere, even the most grounded people can get caught by surprise. They might later admit to having seen plenty of red flags but because the illusion of the narcissist’s great qualities is so vivid, they tend to be ignored:
“[T]he normal mind cannot grasp that someone who showed so much love, affection, attention, and tenderness could turn so cruel and vicious under any circumstances let alone without provocation of any kind,” says Anonymous. “I had never before seen it. I couldn’t believe that what I was experiencing was real. The ugliness only came out after many, many months of no ‘red flags.’”
Who usually dates narcissists?Although people with co-dependent tendencies are more likely to stay longer with a narcissist, even the most self-confident person can end up with one, if only for a short time. “mytvc15” of Cleveland, OH, described herself on Amazon as a “confident and happy person” — until she dated a narcissist:
“I was reeling, sobbing, confused and humiliated at the hands of a classic narcissist. Having had good judgment and good fortune, my first encounter with someone with this disorder came at 44, and at a time when empathy and compassion are my focus. So, when the narcissist in my life did everything I explained would hurt me, and attempted to humiliate me, I just couldn’t make sense of it.”For narcissistic men, victims tend to be beautiful, accomplished, trusting women who both mirror what they think they should have — someone beautiful in the mirror — and someone they feel they should be able to control. It could be you, right now.
So, are you dating a narcissist?It can be hard to recognize a narcissist — they are so charming and convincing! They spend their whole lives honing their skills. But there are a few questions you can ask about your partner that will tell you whether you’re dating someone with NPD, and heading for a great deal of future pain. Answer yes to more than a few of these questions, and you’ll need to take action. Early signs:
- Do they look young for their age?
- Are they exceptionally good in bed?
- Does he have issues with his mother?
- Do they push you to commit to him/her and talks about getting married very soon after you meet?
- Do they tell you “you’re the woman/man of my dreams”? Does she say that you’re a “perfect match”?
- Are they emotionally immature?
- Are they more of a receiver than a giver?
- Does he have grandiose tendencies? Does he compare himself to “other great men” and refer to himself as an “Alpha Male”?
- Do they exaggerate their accomplishments?
- Do you feel that your partner has questionable morals?
- Do they lie or manipulate you and others?
- Do they show a lack of empathy towards you and others?
- Do they accuse you or previous partners of being abusive or treating them badly?
- Do they blame everybody for their problems and never take responsibility for their life?
- Do they often get into conflict with others? Do they sue people — or are sued by others — frequently?
- Do they play the victim card often?
- Do they expect you and others to follow their plan without regard to what you want to do?
- Do they show a lack of remorse?
- Do you feel they have “no heart”?
- Are they moody (“Jekyll and Hyde” moody) for no apparent reason?
- Do they fly into a rage when you ask simple questions?
- Does being with your partner make you feel confused, chaotic, and drained?
- Does your partner say unbelievably hurtful things to you for no reason then accuse you of overreacting or being too emotional?
- Does he or she treat you badly and then disappear for days only to reappear and act like nothing happened?
- Do you feel worse emotionally since you started dating?
- Does your partner make you feel bad or worthless?
Educate yourselfIf you’re single and dating then learning about NPD is vital. You must know what you are dealing with in order to get out of the relationship quickly, pick up the pieces and move on. I highly recommend Cynthia Zayn and M.S. Kevin Dibble’s book. Narcissist Loverswill take you from the start of the disorder to identifying it and then to breaking up and moving on with your life. Once you have the knowledge you will more easily be able to take the right action, which is always to break up quickly and completely.
What to do when you realize you’re dating a narcissist?There is no way to fix or improve the behavior of a narcissist. Your best chance of happiness is to get out.
“If you are involved, or have been involved. RUN…and get help! Pick up the shattered pieces of your life and take them with you…you will be okay with help and hard work…with resistance!” says Lisa R. of Lombard, IL, on Amazon.
Breaking up with a narcissistYou may think that breaking up with a narcissist will put the end to this suffering and that the end is as simple — or no more difficult — than any other breakup. You’re likely to be unpleasantly surprised. You can expect the narcissist to:
- React with rage;
- Insult you and try to break you down;
- Half-apologize for the insults and try to explain themselves;
- Hurt you in any way possible;
- Try to make your life a living hell a much as he or she can.
Cease any communicationIt helps to heal when you can more clearly understand that the person who charmed and romanced you is in fact a sick and emotionally dangerous person. Narcissists are difficult to get rid of because breaking up with them means that they have no external supply of admiration. Any attention you give them lets them believe that you’re ready to give them more. That’s why you have to cease communication with the narcissist immediately and completely. You must be diligent about not communicating with them whatsoever, not returning so much as one word in a text or an email. In fact, you should block their phone number so that they can’t text you or phone you and refuse to meet under any circumstances.
Moving onNarcissists have clear sociopathic traits — lying, lack of remorse, manipulation and control, guilt if you question anything. It is vital to learn about them, especially if you are repeatedly a victim of them. Read Narcissistic Lovers to learn about the person you were involved with, understand what happened and recognize that the fault lay with your narcissistic partner, not you. Their actions were emotional abuse and you should leave as quickly as you can, try to learn from the experience and take heart that not everyone in the world is this self-absorbed. You may feel like a victim, someone who’s experienced a terrible thing and you may even become depressed and discouraged about life. But narcissists only make up a small minority of people, and now that you know how to spot them, you have a greater chance of avoiding them in future and finding the right person for you. It could take you a few months to recover, but your life will look brighter as you move on.
Narcissistic Movie Characters:
Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
We need to talk about Kevin
Famous NarcissistsI can’t be 100% sure here, but based on what I read, I suspect the following famous people are narcissists:
- John Mayer (Read this excellent article about him)
- Charlie Sheen (Read this excellent article)
- Paris Hilton
- Lindsey Lohen
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Merav Knafo is the co-founder of LookBetterOnline.com, She's a Usability expert, a web product designer, technologist and an active online dating user.