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What It’s Like Dating A Narcissist

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Written by: Zeina Islam

Reviewed by: Semmy Adeleke. B.A, M.S.


People often think that if they were dating a narcissist they would know. And even when going through really tough times with a partner, they will almost never come to the conclusion that they are with a narcissist; until it’s too late anyway. So let’s break it down!




What is Narcissism?

“Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” (Mayoclinic, 2017(1)).

Diagnostic Criteria


For this personality disorder, diagnostic criteria includes 5 of the following:

  • Special (believes he or she is special and unique)

  • Preoccupied with fantasies (of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love)

  • Envious, Entitled, Excessive admiration needed

  • Conceited (grandiose sense of self-importance)

  • Interpersonal exploitation

  • Arrogant (haughty)

  • Lacks empathy

What does this look like in a person with NPD(2)? Symptoms of this disorder may include:

  • Having excessive self-admiration

  • Always expecting to be viewed as superior even if they’ve done nothing to deserve it

  • Demands the best, sense of entitlement

  • Taking advantage of others in order to achieve something they want

  • Behaving in an arrogant matter most of the time

  • Having trouble accepting criticism, often reacting to criticism with rage

  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior

  • Buying a lot of materialistic things to compensate for how insecure they are


Dependent Personality Disorder Types Are Easy Targets For Narcissists


Are there specific personality types that are drawn to the narcissist? Because a narcissist is excellent at manipulation, anyone can be affected. However certain personality types have a tendency to be more prone to the effects of a narcissist. Dependent Personality Disorder is classified as DSM 5 Personality Disorder Cluster C(3). These personality types are very dependent and reliant in interpersonal relationships. Diagnostic criteria of DPD(4) include 5 of the following:

  • Difficulty making everyday decisions

  • Excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others

  • Preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of self

  • Exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself

  • Needs others to assume responsibility for his or her life

  • Difficulty expressing disagreement with others

  • End of a close relationship = beginning of another relationship

  • Noticeable difficulties in initiating / doing things their own

  • “Take care of me” is their motto


Other symptoms may include

  • Difficulty making decisions on their own

  • Hard time expressing opinions/thoughts

  • May lack confidence in specific areas which is why they feel they need reinforcement

  • Avoids disagreeing with others due to fear of losing their support

  • Difficulty initiating projects (e.g., applying for jobs)

  • Feelings of helplessness when alone

  • Urgently seeking new relationships when one fails

  • Both afraid of being abandoned and afraid to abandon their partner

  • More likely to be (and stay) in an abusive relationship

People with this disorder are often easily impressionable. If a person with DPD is dating someone with NPD, they are more likely to believe that the arrogant and entitled nature of their partner. A narcissist will feed off of this person and successfully use manipulation tactics and gaslighting easily to control their partner. People with DPD are often submissive and will rarely challenge their partner. This makes people with DPD an attractive and easy target for a person with NPD.


It is worth noting that personality disorders apply to all relationships, not just romantic ones. For example a person with DPD may have a relationship with a parent in which they are overly dependent. They may require that their parent accompany them on doctor visits, or cannot do age appropriate tasks without consulting or receiving help from their parent. Bottom line is that a personality disorder can apply to all relationships that person has and is not exclusive to dating.


Dating a person with this disorder can make your life a living hell. In most cases, people in a relationship with a narcissist often end up developing low self-esteem after being with their partner for a while. But how can you identify that you are dating a narcissist?



What does dating a narcissist look like? (signs)


1. They have a way with words

Narcissists have a way of speaking that makes them come off as very charming at first, they are very smart in terms of making themselves look like a person you would love to be around. At the very beginning of a relationship, a narcissist will also make you feel very good about yourself, but you might start to notice that they will say or do anything to get you to do something they want. Look out for any signs that someone you are just starting a relationship with is coming on too strong. Love bombing(5) is a typical sign of this early in the relationship but subsides once they have obtained their partners trust.


2. They require excessive attention and admiration

Of course, an appropriate amount of attention from your partner is great, but narcissists require an obscene amount of attention. They want to be their partner's main focus and get very agitated if their partner has other priorities. Academic, career, and personal obligations mean nothing to a narcissist and they will prioritize their needs over whatever their partner has going on. Narcissists can be very jealous and may require that their partner refrains from having friends of the opposite sex. Eventually they may restrict their partner from seeing friends of the same sex and even family. They hate to see their partner love someone else more. Narcissists use other people to give them a sense of self-worth and feel powerful.


3. They don’t have many long-term connections

Narcissists usually do not have many long-term friendships or personal relationships. Since they almost always end up negatively impacting the people around them, it is common for them to have conflicts with others. They may get into arguments or physical altercations with strangers or people they know. Substance use is common among narcissists and it amplifies their rage and inappropriate behavior. People around narcissists may get tired of dealing with public embarrassment which is another reason they may lack long term friendships. They often make their friends feel guilty for having other people in their lives too, so people end up straying away from them. Acknowledging and respecting boundaries is not something that a narcissist does.



4. They never apologize

No matter how apparent it is that your partner is the wrong party in a situation, they will never apologize or show guilt. They may gaslight their partner or offer a distorted recount of events. They have a hard time taking accountability for their actions and rarely apologize. Admitting fault is very rare, as most narcissists often react to criticism with rage and disbelief. They lack empathy so trying to explain your hurt to them, falls on deaf ears. You will end up arguing in circles with a narcissist and never reach a practical solution.


5. They constantly make you feel bad about yourself

If your partner is always finding something about you, whether it be personality or appearance, to pick apart and criticize it could be a major sign that they are a narcissist or have narcissistic tendencies. Narcissists feel the need to belittle the people around them in order to get a sense of self-gratification and feel like they are better than everyone. Picking apart things that are unique to you is what narcissists do best. If you start questioning who you are because of things your partner says or does then you may want to do some reflection on your relationship.


6. They gaslight you

Gaslighting is one of the major things that can negatively impact someone’s mental health and well-being. Narcissists rely heavily on gaslighting as another technique to belittle their partner and induce self-doubt, thus decreasing self-confidence.

Signs you may notice in yourself as a result:

  • You no longer feel like the person you used to be

  • Frequent apologizing for little things

  • Wondering if you’re being too sensitive

  • You make excuses for your partner’s behavior

  • You look drastically different physically

  • You're afraid to speak your mind


Can They Be Treated?


Short answer: depends.


Long answer: it is not your job to help a narcissist seek treatment. This personality type can be very dangerous and manipulative. Even professionals are advised to use caution when treating someone with narcissistic personality disorder. In clinic, professionals should try not to directly challenge their sense of entitlement, or to be put off by their anger and demands. Their concerns should be acknowledged, and they should be provided reassurance that they are receiving the best care available. Tactful negotiation tactics and limiting patient demands for specific treatments/testing may be necessary. Medication is usually not indicated but can be used on a case by case basis. CBT(6) is normally the route of therapy. As with most CBT, treatment results are largely dependent on the patients motivation for treatment. As untrained professionals, those in the lives of narcissists should not attempt to treat them.


 


Being in a relationship with a narcissist is one of the most emotionally, physically, and mentally draining experiences that one can go through. Such relationships often leave a person feeling emotionally exhausted and ready to give up on everything in their life. If any of these red flags ring true for you, it is so important to prioritize your well-being and get out of this relationship as quickly as possible. It will only get worse. You may want to consider speaking with a professional to help you process your situation. It can be quite the emotional load being with someone that has been tearing you apart daily and even more exhausting trying to heal from the trauma. Connect with your loved ones for support. You’ve got this!



Definitions

(1) Ref: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662#:~:text=Narcissistic%20personality%20disorder%20%E2%80%94%20one%20of,lack%20of%20empathy%20for%20others.


(2) NPD = Narcissistic personality disorder


(3) DSM 5 Personality Disorder Cluster C: characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.


(4) DPD = Dependent personality disorder


(5) Love bombing: an attempt to influence a person by demonstrations of attention and affection. It can be used in different ways and for either positive or negative purposes. Psychologists have identified love bombing as a possible part of a cycle of abuse and have warned against it.


(6) CBT = Cognitive Behavioral Therapy




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