You know enough about narcissism to know that you don’t want to fall for one. But you also know that a narcissistic personality disorder can be difficult to detect during initial encounters. Further complicating matters, if you are an empath, your compassion will make you an especially attractive target for a narcissist. How can you be vulnerable enough to trust someone new without entangling yourself in a toxic, unbalanced relationship?
This article outlines seven common signs that your relationship might not be as healthy as you’d like. Alert: some of these signs might not feel like red flags. Yet. You may feel that you can logically explain why these red flags would be troubling in someone else’s relationship, but not in yours.
Whether you’re right or not, we can’t say. But we can say that if you ignore these signs, you proceed with the relationship at your own risk. Dating a narcissist might feel easier, more magical, more romantic than any other relationship you’ve been in. Looking back, however, you might realize that the very fairy-tale nature of your relationship should have been a warning to you that you were falling for a scam. If your relationship seems too good to be true, it probably is.
1. Too much too soon.
People with narcissistic tendencies are often skilled at creating the illusion of attachment early on. At the time, it might feel like you’ve found your soulmate. Looking back, you might wonder how you could have been so blind to basic flattery.
- Does it seem early for your partner to be saying, “I love you”? How well do they really know you?
- The romance might be amazing, but what about the friendship? Is this someone who listens and cares? Is this someone you can rely on?
- Do you feel pressured to move the relationship faster than you’d otherwise choose?
2. Exaggeration or lies.
People with narcissistic tendencies use exaggeration, embellishment, and outright lies to move their agenda forward. You may excuse this now by telling yourself, “they were just nervous,” or “it’s only natural that they wanted to impress me.” Looking back, you may kick yourself for thinking these patterns of exaggeration or telling lies (whether deliberate or not) would somehow just disappear.
- Does your partner ever tell people one thing in public, but tell you something different in private?
- Does your partner ever embellish stories when they re-tell these stories in front of a group?
- Have you ever seen your partner stretch the truth in order to get out of a tight spot?
3. Not following through on commitments.
People with narcissistic tendencies are prone to future faking, which is a pattern of promising the pie-in-the-sky without much follow-through. This may be very hard for you to recognize if you are crushing on this person. You will give them the benefit of the doubt, even if it’s the fourth time they are late, after promising they will never do it again. Looking back, you may feel duped that you gave them so many second, third, fourth … 50th chances.
- Does your partner do what they say they are going to do?
- When your partner doesn’t do what they say they are going to do, do they take responsibility? Or do they blame it on someone or something else?
4. Checkered relationship history.
You may be very flattered when your partner tells you that you’re the only person that’s ever been able to understand them. Looking back, however, you may wonder why you had the hubris to think that the long-term prospects for your relationship would be different than any other ones that your partner had experienced.
- Is your partner able to maintain long-term, warm relationships with friends, family members, or colleagues?
- Does your partner have a history of broken relationships, in which they feel that they have been wronged or misunderstood?
5. Easily bored when the conversation is about you.
Empaths often love to listen. Narcissists famously exploit good listeners to their advantage. An equal partnership will require both partners to invest deeply in the other person in a myriad of small, day-to-day kindnesses. At the beginning of your relationship, you may feel great satisfaction in providing the love and care for this person that they’ve always deserved. Looking back, you might wonder why ‘propping up’ someone else felt like love.
- What happens when you do talk about yourself? Does your partner ask follow-up questions or give any indication that they are interested in learning more about you?
- When confiding something about yourself, do you feel that you need to express yourself quickly before your partner loses interest or gets bored?
6. Compliments Tied to Put-Downs.
Narcissists often offer compliments that are tied to put-downs. In the moment, these compliments might make you feel like a million bucks. Looking back, you’ll realize that being in a relationship with a person who puts other people down was a sign that you’d eventually get the same treatment.
- Does your partner compliment you by comparing you favorably to someone else? “You have a great body. Not anything like my ex.”
- Does your partner compare themselves to others or set up hierarchies? “You are the skinniest woman in the room.” “Your brother is the second-best teacher at the school.”
Narcissists gaslight their partners by self-assuredly insisting that their version of reality is more valuable than yours. At first, you may find your partner’s confidence appealing. Looking back, you might wonder why you didn’t notice sooner that your partner’s confidence didn’t leave room for yours.
- Are you apologizing more often than you used to do?
- Do you have a sense that something’s ‘off’ with the relationship when you are apart, but feel that this sense of unease gets swept away when you are together?
- Do you find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior?
- Do you assume that relationship problems are because of something you did or didn’t do?
- Do you tend to take most of the responsibility when your partner is irritable or angry?
To understand more about detecting and managing narcissists, check out my Negotiate Your Best Life YouTube channel so that you won’t fall for a narcissist’s tricks.