**Disclaimer: This article is based on opinion, and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or mental health condition, nor should it be considered mental health advice. This article is not meant to be internalized, nor intended to be used to call someone out for narcissism. If you feel you're the victim of narcissistic abuse please seek help.
Today's post comes to us thanks to a question submitted by a reader who believes that his girlfriend may be a narcissist, or at least behave like one more often than not. He'd like to know if she's a narcissist because he doesn't want to find himself wasting time in an unhealthy relationship. Totally understandable.
Here's the thing. While narcissistic personality is a real personality disorder, there's also the idea that narcissism can exist as a feature. For example, someone might have borderline personality and there may be narcissistic features. Not to mention the fact that at least some narcissism is said to exist in every human being (to a certain degree, anyway) as a mechanism for survival.
Why narcissism exists
If we humans had zero narcissism at all and were 100% empathetic with no care for our own wellbeing, we'd just give away all of our food, clothes, our shelter, and therefore wouldn't survive. The human race may even go extinct if zero narcissism existed because we wouldn't care what happened to ourselves, whether we ate or bathed. We wouldn't bother tending to our own needs because we'd be so consumed in tending to the needs of others. Who needs a bandage for the cut? Let it go septic, I'm too busy building shelter for my neighbor. You get the idea...
If you want to know if your partner is a narcissist, the best thing in my opinion would be to seek therapy. Narcissism can be difficult to spot, especially if you're struggling with trauma bonds. If your girlfriend refuses to seek help on her own, perhaps she may be open to couples therapy. However, it's my understanding that some therapists prefer not to stick a label on someone such as narcissism.
Rather than call her out, seek help for yourself.
Additionally, it may not be a good thing to drag your partner to therapy appointments with the objective of "proving that they're the narcissist in the relationship." That'd go over like a lead balloon. If you're feeling like you're stuck in a relationship with a narcissist, the best thing you can do may be to begin the healing process by seeking good therapy for your own wellbeing. Because it's said that many narcissists don't seek therapy on their own, it may be helpful for you to take the initiative for yourself to get help.
I'll add that in a situation such as this one, it's my opinion that therapy is a better choice over a relationship coach. I know, I'm supposed to be self-promoting to sell sessions, right? But here's the thing... While I love nothing more than to help others see their relationships nurtured and flourishing, there is no amount of relationship help than can "fix" a narcissist.
Why relationship coaching or advice falls short
You see, relationship coaches such as myself (here comes my shameless plug) may be able to help with things like outlining relationship goals, communication, help you in achieving a higher level of connectedness, support you in learning vital relational skills and mindfulness, help you to develop conflict resolution and so on... a narcissistic relationship is one that is toxic and therefore, unhealthy. And, a relationship needs to have at least a healthy foundation from which to develop, grow and flourish. Relationship coaches can help you process or sometimes even turn a breakup or divorce around but if you're dealing with a narcissistic partner, that wouldn't be a healthy situation for you. Make sense?
Sadly, many people in today's world tend to normalize the abuse they experience in unhealthy relationships. Narcissists make terrible relationship partners because they have a marked lack of empathy and awareness which is ironic, as some narcissists believe that they're empaths. A narcissistic partner will be more prone to manipulative tactics, games, projection, blame shifting, gaslighting, control and the list goes on.
If you believe that you're in a relationship with a narcissist, it's my opinion that seeking therapy is going to be your best direction. In other words, if you're stagnated in a narcissistic connection, all the relationship coaching in the world won't heal your relationship nor are you going to meditate yourself out of this one, buddy. Therapy is the way to go here. While finding therapy in today's world has never been easier, some prefer to speak with clergy, as many are highly trained to assist in such matters, or can direct you to staff who may be able to assist you far better than I, or any relationship advice ever can.
What are some signs of a narcissistic relationship?
There are many proverbial flags, but it's best not to "armchair diagnose" your romantic partner. I say this because unless you're trained in what to look for, some actions may seem narcissistic at the time or even be something that a narcissist would say or do, but the person may not be narcissistic at all.
If we're thinking that our partner is potentially a narcissist or somehow "bad." we may begin to take note of their behavior and exaggerate it in our mind. I'm not saying to ignore poor behavior, I'm saying that when we're looking for something specific, we almost always find it due to our own bias. This is called the confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.
While talking and communication with your partner can be a helpful indicator of their personality, many find that communication in the beginning of a relationship is rarely the same as time goes on. This is because in most circumstances, people are putting their best foot forward at the start of any new relationship. Over time though, we get to know someone more deeply, and we begin to notice aspects of their character that we did not see before.
What are some of the things a narcissist may do?
While there are many things a narcissist might do which can set of your internal alarms, suffice it to say most people don't realize when narcissism is happening, especially when they're around it regularly. Narcissists don't wear signs, and I've heard stories of people realizing they'd experienced narcissistic abuse or was around a narcissist years, even decades after the fact.
Here's a short, basic list of a few points...
Inflated ego / not humble.
Highly envious of others / believes others envy them.
Lacks empathy and self-awareness, so many narcissists believe that they're empaths.
Seeks attention / plays the victim / requires ongoing praise.
Lacks respect for others / hurts others to get what they want.
Constantly competing / plays judge, jury and executioner / believes everyone is competing with them.
Belief that they're somehow superior to others.
Internalizes / believes everything is about them.
Perceives everything as a type of threat.
Highly critical / simultaneously highly sensitive to criticism.
No boundaries / doesn't respect yours.
Insecurities / repressed insecurities.
Exaggerates achievements / strategically fishes for or demands recognition.
Preoccupation of image / wants "the best of" mentality.
Impatient or angry when they don't receive attention, enough attention, or they believe someone else is getting the attention they want for themselves.
React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior.
What are some things a narcissist may say?
Please keep in mind that just because your partner happens to make one of these comments does not necessarily mean that they're narcissistic. People make all kinds of statements, and it's the frequency and context that is important to note. By contrast, narcissism is oftentimes not readily recognized, or even noticed by the victim. Sometimes the most positive, enlightening sounding words in the right tone can be completely missed, although it's narcissism. If narcissism were easy to spot, you wouldn't see people suddenly realizing that they were raised by a narcissistic parent or that their boss' fits at work points to narcissism. There's no two ways about it, words can hurt.
That said, the following is a list of manipulative statements that a narcissist may say.
You're just jealous. Narcissists are notoriously threatened by confrontation, and often view everyone and everything as a potential threat. They may shift blame to you by calling you jealous when they're called out. They flip the situation to avoid shame or blame.
You clearly have trust issues. Often stated as a form of manipulative invalidation, a narcissist does not like to believe, let alone hear, how their behavior triggered feelings of insecurity in you. This is a form of gaslighting which can make you feel crazy and isolated.
My exes are horrible or crazy. A narcissist will attempt to make you feel special in the moment by speaking negatively of their exes. However, this is oftentimes a manipulative tactic of control, and intended to make them appear as the victim. They want you to think they're paying you a compliment in the moment (by not calling you horrible or crazy) and they're hoping you'll be an easily manipulated people-pleaser and live up to their unrealistic expectations / feel sorry for them as the victim of such a horrible ex.
You are overreacting again. This is an example of how narcissists will invalidate your emotions and gaslight you by denying your reality. Narcissists want to say or do whatever they please, and are completely unaware of (or just don't care) how their behavior impacts others, so they'll use this tactic to diminish your feelings and devalue you.
You are too sensitive. This is often said by a narcissist attempting to gaslight you into believing that your strong feelings about their bad behavior are invalid. They'd love nothing more than for you to believe that it's your own sensitivity that is causing your negative feelings toward them.
We have a special connection. Narcissists are notorious for love bombing and hoovering. Love bombing is when they shower you with affection and attention, perhaps even gifts, favors, love, adoration, etc., in an attempt to win you over. Narcissists have an uncanny ability of convincing you that your relationship is special and unique. Hoovering is their attempt at sucking you back into their cycle of abuse.
We're meant to be. Statements such as these are often used during the love bombing stage in the narcissistic cycle of abuse. Love Bombing > Devalue > Discard > Hoovering > Love Bombing > devalue > Discard. Statements such as these attempt to keep the victim on the hook.
Let's only focus on the good stuff. This statement is said by the narcissist who wants to gaslight you and deny your reality. They want you to focus on the "good" and ignore all of their terrible behavior. The narcissist prefers that you not pay attention to maltreatment and only focus on the positive about the relationship. They'd love for you to primarily put your attentions toward the first few months of the relationship when everything was peachy, before their narcissistic mask fell all the way off.
You'll never find anyone else to put up with you. This may be said by the narcissist during an attempt to devalue your feelings, such as if you were to try standing up for yourself. It's their way of convincing you during a hoovering stage that you'll not find anyone like them, as no one quite understands or tolerates you the way the narcissist does.
You need a thicker skin. Narcissists believe that showing too much compassion is a sign of weakness on their end. This is an example of the type of verbal abuse a narcissist may dish out versus offering you healthy emotional support.
Look what you made me do. The translation here is that the narcissist refuses to accept responsibility or accountability for their actions. They intentionally hurt people but make up grandiose excuses to justify their behavior - or, they simply blame you by making this type of statement.
No wonder. This statement can be followed by anything such as "no wonder no one likes you at work. No wonder you didn't succeed. No wonder..." anything that makes you feel worthless. This can be said during narcissistic rage, and is a demeaning comment meant to gaslight you.
Why are you triggered? This is a narcissistic statement made to deflect and to shift blame onto you when the narcissist sustains a narcissistic injury such as a criticism, or when you challenge them. Since the narcissist views almost everything as a potential threat, a mere question or comment may be construed as such. They will shift blame back toward you, to try and make you think it's you are in the wrong for challenging the narcissist.
You're being selfish. This is a typical narcissistic statement that deflects from their bad behavior and attempts to shift any blame back toward you, especially when you try to stand up for yourself. Oftentimes this type of statement will be said after the narcissist has experienced a narcissistic injury such as a criticism.
You only have yourself to blame. This is the narcissist attempting to tap into your empathy such as when you try and stand up for yourself. The narcissist is trying to shift blame toward you.
We're not going to go there. This is a manipulative and controlling statement the narcissist makes when they don't want to discuss something, or when they know that they're in the wrong, and that they're about to hear it from you.
Why are you bringing that up? Because the narcissist does not want to take accountability or receive any blame during a disagreement, they gaslight you into thinking you're being irrational, or that your opinions or feelings don't matter.
But that was in the past. Narcissists hate it when you stand up for yourself and lack accountability. This is often the type of statement used by a narcissist when they're hoping you'll ignore their history of abuse.
Why do you prefer (your friends/family/anyone else) over me? A narcissistic attempt to control who you see and when, as well as a manipulative attempt to isolate you from those closest to you.
It didn't happen that way / that never happened. This is the narcissist's attempt at gaslighting you, otherwise known as denying your reality. They're trying to make you question your own sanity and believe that the past didn't really happen.
I'm only doing this because I love you. Another form of this statement might be "it's for your own good." Narcissists justify their horrible behavior in any way possible. This statement can be used in conjunction with physical or verbal abuse.
You have to choose a side. Narcissists love drama, they thrive on it. They love ongoing drama whether it be in the home, in the workplace or with romantic partners. They love choosing sides and will make such statements when recruiting flying monkeys such as during a smear campaign. Statements such as these are manipulation tactics.
I'm acting this way because of money/stress/work/you/the moon/not enough fiber Narcissists are rarely going to accept blame or fault for anything, so if they can't blame a person for their insidious behavior, they'll blame a situation. This type of statement is often made by a narcissist to gaslight and manipulate. They'll blame anything, anyone, or any situation.
Chill out, relax, stop making a big deal of nothing. The narcissist will downplay an incident of abuse, or tell you that something was less important or impactful than it was. Because narcissists have such limited self-awareness, they do not understand the magnitude of the wrecking ball they are when it comes to destroying their victims.
You don't know what you're talking about. Because narcissists are very insecure, this isn't an uncommon statement. The narcissist's ego has a low threshold for criticism. Narcissists constantly compare themselves to others and to a narcissist, life is a competitive test. They purport themselves to be experts on whatever matter is being discussed, which is a defense mechanism for their inflated, yet fragile ego.
Grow up, you are immature. To the narcissist, much of what others say is "immature" to them, and what things they do admire they will take for their own. The narcissist likes to insult and ridicule their victims because it is a form of soothing their own insecurities.
You're taking it the wrong way. In a disagreement or any type of discussion where the narcissist knows they're in the wrong, or when you point out their being wrong, they'll attempt to manipulate you through this type of gaslighting.
We'll talk when you're not drunk/mad/mean. During a discussion when you have called-out the narcissist for their bad behavior and they feel cornered, they will attempt to manipulate the situation by shifting blame to you and disconnecting. They may stop texting, hang up on you, walk away or even give you the silent treatment as a form of manipulation.
Stop projecting onto me. The narcissist isn't stupid, they know the armchair psych lingo. They want you to feel like the crazy one, so they attempt to deny your reality and turn the tables.
I don't know what you want me to say. This is a narcissistic statement that can be an attempt to avoid real conversation and avoid any blame for their bad behavior. I feel like when a narcissist makes this statement it translates to the narcissist wishing out loud that they knew what to say to shut you up and stop you from calling out their horrible behavior.
I thought you were special/different. The narcissist wants you to bow to them. They want you to stop calling out their behavior and immediately reverse. This is the narcissist wanting you to believe they're as special and unique as they think they are.
I had no idea that would hurt you. This is the narcissist trying to avoid responsibility for their wrongdoing. This is a manipulative statement that is often used by a narcissist to avoid the blame in an argument.
If you feel like your romantic partner might be a narcissist, again it's best to seek help. Narcissists can be incredibly harmful to a person's mental and emotional health and happiness, which is why getting help is so important. XO