Dating in the digitally-driven world has its advantages but also downsides. You have access to get to know more people than you would ever come across in daily life, but at the same time, you don’t often get the opportunity of knowing someone’s background before you go out with them.
Even when you check their history online and do some research, there are things you can’t learn about people until you truly get to know them.
One issue you might not understand until you’re well into the relationship is narcissism. Dating a narcissist can be emotionally damaging and wreak havoc on your life and self-esteem. The difficult thing about narcissists is that they’re good at hiding it until you’re emotionally invested.
So what should you look out for?
What Is a Narcissist?
We often label people who are seen as self-centered or egotistical as narcissists. While they might have narcissistic features, that doesn’t mean they have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will lack empathy for other people, have an inflated sense of their importance, and a deep need for attention and admiration. Their history of relationships, as a result, is often rocky and troubled.
Essentially everyone might have some traits of narcissism, and these are what fuel us to take risks in life. That doesn’t mean we’re dysfunctional.
The dysfunction comes about when these traits comprise someone’s entire identity and create problems in their functionality and ability to form relationships.
When someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it may cause them to have an unstable sense of identity and self, be unstable in their work, and not have healthy relationships.
When you first meet a narcissist, they’ll likely appear charismatic, driven, and ambitious.
Understanding Narcissistic Relationships
When someone is in a relationship with a narcissist, they often feel varying feelings of both love and pain or emotional turmoil. They might sometimes want to leave but feel like they can’t.
Being in a relationship with someone who has these traits or a personality disorder can lead to declines in self-esteem and confidence.
It’s common to feel like you were duped because you may have felt you were falling in love with someone attentive and romantic, and then over time, that person disappears. You can feel lonely and like you don’t have an emotional connection.
You might feel less sure of yourself and give up other things in your life to try to appease the narcissistic person.
There’s also a term, narcissistic abuse, that often happens in these relationships. A narcissist often tries to protect themselves by holding power over other people and through aggression.
A malignant narcissist is hostile and will impose pain on others without remorse. Most narcissists, however, don’t realize they’re causing hurt to other people because they don’t have empathy. They’re constantly focusing on avoiding what they see as threats and making sure their own needs are being met. They’re often unaware of the impact of their actions and words.
Red Flags You’re Dealing with a Narcissist
Dating a narcissist can be extremely confusing. These are people who are adept at attracting others, so you probably started dating them in the first place. They also tend to be smart and strategic. The seductive elements of a narcissist’s personality can prevent you from initially detecting issues or red flags.
If there were one defining characteristic of someone with narcissistic traits or a personality disorder, it would likely be a lack of empathy. Empathy is how we relate to other people because we understand what they might be feeling or recognize their experiences.
A narcissist cannot do this, so everything is about them and their needs.
There is no consideration for other people’s feelings.
Someone without empathy might talk about what they’re going to do without asking how the other person feels, and if someone shares their problems with them, they might get annoyed or impatient.
Someone who’s a manipulator will often twist whatever situations arise to make sure they’re in line with the narrative they create. Often gaslighting occurs due to manipulation, so you might feel like you’re in the wrong or going crazy.
Manipulation is a tool to get whatever a narcissist wants, whether that’s status, validation, attention, or anything else they see as an essential need.
Need for Instant Gratification
Narcissists often want their needs always to be fulfilled on their terms, but they want it right away. That might mean they want you to answer their texts immediately or quickly do things their way.
If you tell them no or want to think about something, they might become angry or irritated.
Constantly Putting Other People Down
Narcissists thrive on putting up a façade that they’re superior to others. As part of that, hiding deep-rooted feelings of insecurity will often lead them to put other people down.
For example, they’ll talk about their incompetent coworkers or stupid friends. You might notice that a narcissist makes passive-aggressive jokes at your expense.
A narcissist expects and often demands that they’re treated as if they’re special by other people. People should do everything to meet their needs, but they don’t do anything to return consideration.
The world revolves around a narcissist in their mind.
You might see initial red flags of entitlement in how someone treats waiters or waitresses.
Lack of Follow Through
Finally, it can be a sign of narcissism if someone you’re dating doesn’t follow through with what they say they will. Narcissists are notoriously unreliable. They don’t go to appointments and break agreements and promises.
Along with not being physically dependable, they’re not emotionally dependable either, and there are ongoing examples of inconsistency.
One minute a narcissist might be available to you, and then the next, they’re nowhere to be found.