If your partner is constantly seeking attention, validation, or admiration while keeping your needs secondary, you could be dating a narcissist. The narcissism diagnosis gets tossed around frequently, so it can be difficult to differentiate between a true narcissist and someone who just loves attention. To know if you’re dating a narcissist, look out for the following signs:
Grandiose Personality—Your partner believes that he or she is the reason other people are leading better lives. Because they believe they are more important than everyone else, it’s challenging for them to fathom how other people could survive without their contributions.
What this could look like: When your partner discusses a work project, he takes credit for the final product without any acknowledgement of colleagues. He tries to tell you that despite everyone pushing back or “getting in his way”, he single-handedly found the answer.
Grand displays of affection (initially)—If your partner laid it on thick in the beginning—i.e. flowers, gifts, or saying “I love you” soon after meeting—you experienced what psychologists call “love bombing”. This technique is used to move the relationship forward quickly, but on a false pretense—one that is self-serving as opposed to genuine.
What this could look like: You were swept off your feet, but that narrative quickly changed when you communicated needs of your own. The exchange of gifts comes easily, but the exchange of real communication has barriers.
Your partner is living in a fantasy—Since reality doesn’t back up that grandiose personality, your partner will create a narrative that does. You might hear your partner tell stories that speak to unlimited power, brilliance, or importance. These stories are protective mechanisms to help offset shame or a lack of self worth.
What this could look like: Your partner tells a story about that time she got a scholarship to an ivy league school, but she doesn’t end up going. When you ask why she took out loans to attend a state school instead, she becomes furious and combative. Your innocent question is met with rage and anger, as it potentially challenges her fantasy.
You partner turns the conversation on you—Whenever you discuss a problem with your partner or have some constructive criticism, the conversation seems to be redirected at you. A narcissistic person will try to make you feel guilty, overly sensitive, or just plain wrong about the issues you’re experiencing. Gaslighting is the formal term that describes this kind of emotional devaluation technique.
What this could look like: You tell your partner that you are upset when she shows up late for plans. Instead of apologizing or offering up a reason, she flips the conversation on you. She might say something like, “Why are you so controlling?” or “Would be really great if you could loosen up”. Gaslighters know that if you question your own feelings, you will continue to doubt yourself and the poor treatment you are receiving.
Your partner is a bully—To affirm those feelings of superiority, narcissists will frequently demean others. Your partner harbors a fragile self esteem so tearing people down—especially publically—is a way to preserve his sense of self.
What this could look like: The waiter delivers the wrong meal to your table. Instead of asking for a replacement, your partner escalates the situation from mistake to confrontation. After embarrassing the waiter and asserting dominance, your partner will not feel any shame or remorse for making a scene.