Identifying Narcissists in Relationships

Synthia Stark

Recognizing Potential Emotional Abuse by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Sometimes, when we are in relationships, we find out that the other person is a narcissist. To clarify, this means that the person: 

  • Lacks empathy towards others including their partners and families
  • Has an oversized amount of entitlement and self-importance
  • Requires excessive admiration and attention towards them
  • Struggles to maintain all or any relationships 

These things are pretty problematic. 

Lacking empathy means that they are incapable of understanding others and are unwilling to compromise for anything. They are unable to drop what they are doing because a loved one is in trouble, such as a family emergency, like a relative being hospitalized. They are also unwilling to put the needs of others first — whether it is their partners or even their own children.

Having a lot of self-inflated importance is bad too. Sure, we can be confident, but excessive confidence turns sour and makes people run in the other direction. The streets are not going to magically part because you willed it to. There are other people in the world who are also important — however, if someone was a narcissist, they would fail to see the equality between individuals. 

I mean, respect is a two-way street. by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

Plus, narcissists want others to worship their feet. They expect praise all the time. As an aspiring therapist and former researcher, one could argue that some narcissists are very insecure. If they are not fed with praise, they get angry and combative. To continue powering the narcissist, you need to relentlessly worship them.

Living with a narcissist would be terrifying then — you’re walking on eggshells, trying to not offend them. However, walking on eggshells is a potential red flag. This red flag signifies potential emotional abuse, and emotional abuse can be just as bad as physical abuse.

Don’t believe me? Think of it this way, if someone had lived with a physical and psychological tormenter for many years, they will grow some affection for the tormenter as a survival mechanism, but they will also have low self-worth, becoming a doormat in the process.

Now, it’s not the victim’s fault — remember, the narcissist had this unusual power over them. However, if you know you’re living with a narcissist, sometimes people leave. The relationship becomes too draining, and you’ve lost all the energy that you used to have, so escape becomes the only option for survival.

1. Narcissists Are Preoccupied With Image

Narcissists typically spend an excessive amount of time perfecting their image around others. They want to look their best and will crush others in the process.

They will buy the biggest brand purchases, like luxury cars and fancy watches, all in an effort to look their biggest. However, confident people don’t need to hide behind these things. They can rely on their merits and talents alone to speak for themselves. by Marc Kleen on Unsplash

However, narcissists are concerned with their place in the so-called hierarchy. They want special privileges that no one else has and view others as being lesser than them.

They spend a lot of time in the fantasy world, envisioning words where people bow to their every demand. 

2. Narcissists Are Secretly Insecure

A narcissists' self-esteem is contingent on how others view them based on the earlier mentioned point of looking their best. This means that their weakness is also tied into their image.

For example, let’s say this person was rude to someone else. In return, the person throws the same behaviour back on them. If someone else doesn’t treat them nicely because of their fancy watches and clothes, they might respond by buying more of these things, in an effort to fit in.

It’s like there’s a gap inside them that cannot be closed fully. Thus, this is their weakness, but it’s also dangerous to catch a narcissist in a weak spot. Narcissists may get angry at people for treating them the way they were treating those people. 

Narcissists might double down on the lies and schemes, in an effort to avoid the problem. by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

3. Narcissists Are Constantly Making Comparisons and Will Drain You

When a narcissist enters a room, they often are fearful of being out-ranked by someone else. This someone else could be reportedly richer, more attractive, or even a bigger narcissist than them.

It becomes a battle of emotional vampirism, where the two end up fighting each other, psychologically through their wits and schemes. Since a narcissist is trying to one-up the other person, they will actively make comparisons to others and make snide comments to put the other person down.

Plus, a narcissist will try to leave those scenarios and only choose to be in situations where they meet others who are the opposite, the doormats of the world, in an effort to absorb their time, energy, and effort.

Even if you’re not a doormat, they will try to make you one, ever-so-slowly, until you become one. If you’re around a narcissist, you might find yourself losing your sense of clarity.

Before you reach that point, just to escape the person — they are not worth your time and effort, especially if they’re unwilling to change. by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

4. Narcissists Use Influence To Get What They Want and Sometimes Lie A Lot 

Narcissists, especially in short-term relationships, often try to gain the influence of others to do their bidding. They first dial-up on the charm, using witty words, talent, and power to get what they want. Heck, your boss could be secretly a narcissist in disguise. 

Anyway, they will use their influence to leave a good first impression on everyone that they meet, but things will start to crumble as time goes on. If you’re stuck with someone like this, especially in a romantic relationship, consider this question:

“Is this person worth my time and effort? What are the pros and cons of staying versus leaving?”

While you’re considering your options, keep track of the things this person is saying. Maybe even write it down somewhere, in case you think you’re slowly going insane. 

Sometimes, when you ask a narcissist something, they will say one thing, and when you ask them about it later, they will change their story — just because they can. 

When you ask them why they changed their story, they will claim to have never changed their story and may try to make you sound like a bad person.

“No honey, I didn’t say that thing. You misremembered.”

Documentation is good in this case, especially if you’re around someone like this. That way, they can’t pull a fast one on you. by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

5. Narcissists Exert Dominance and Control 

Sometimes when a narcissist has a void in their heart, they try to impose and exert dominance in others. However, everyone has the same level of worth as the next person — but try saying that to this person.

Instead, this person will manipulation to get what they want. They might even physically or emotionally harm others in the process, including fighting, criticizing, bullying, and attacking.

Instead of elevating others, they put others down. They will make as many sacrifices as needed to get what they want when they want. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to you what you end up doing with a person like this:

  • You could stay but your safety (and your family’s safety) could be harmed
  • You can continue to do online research about narcissists
  • You can think a bit more about what’s going on
  • You can go over the pros-and-cons of staying vs. leaving 
  • You could leave if things are super dangerous 
  • You could spend less time with this person 
  • You can seek third-party support from a crisis line 

Whatever you end up doing is up to you. At the end of the day, everyone deserves to be treated with respect — including you. 

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Mental Health Professional | Crisis Responder | Science Writer


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