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Dating Someone With Narcissistic Traits: Signs and What To Do

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Have you ever felt like the person you're dating is absolutely perfect in the beginning of the relationship? They shower you with praise and attention, and everything feels like a fairytale. But then things take an ugly turn as their charming facade fades away.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be dating someone with narcissistic tendencies. Relationships with narcissists start out strong, but slowly reveal themselves to be shallow and one-sided over time.

Dating a narcissist can be a confusing, miserable experience that slowly erodes your self-esteem. But there are ways to identify narcissism early and cope with its effects. This guide will teach you how to spot the signs of narcissism, handle conflicts safely, set boundaries, and care for yourself if you're in a relationship with someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors. Let's dive in so you can learn how to protect yourself and make informed choices if you find yourself dating a narcissist.

a person sitting laid back with sunglasses on acting as if he has narcissistic traits

Jump to a section on identifying if your partner has narcissistic traits and what to do about it:

How to Identify If Your Partner Has Narcissistic Traits

Narcissism exists on a spectrum. Many people exhibit some mild narcissistic traits without having full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). So how can you determine where your partner falls on the narcissism scale, and how concerned you should be?

Here is an extensive list of some key signs to distinguish true narcissists from someone who just has a healthy amount of confidence or normal human flaws:

  • They're self-absorbed to an extreme degree. The conversation revolves around them, and they show little interest in learning about you, unless it serves their image. Narcissists will steer conversations back to being about themselves and may even ignore direct questions you ask about yourself in order to talk more about themselves.

  • They constantly seek compliments and validation. Their self-worth depends on being admired. Narcissists will frequently fish for compliments, put down others as a way to prop themselves up, name drop, and flaunt material possessions.

  • They feel entitled to special treatment, praise and accommodations from others. They exploit people for personal gain. Narcissists believe rules don't apply to them and that they deserve exceptional treatment at all times. They have no problem using manipulation, guilt trips, threats, or other tactics to get their way.

  • They brag excessively and exaggerate achievements to seem superior, but are preoccupied with perceived flaws, jealous of others and hypersensitive to criticism. Narcissists construct an elaborate false image of themselves as supremely accomplished, intelligent, attractive, etc. But deep down they harbor extreme insecurity and lash out aggressively when anyone threatens their inflated self-image.

  • They lack empathy, remorse and emotional depth in relationships. You feel dismissed, devalued and unimportant. Narcissists are unable to step outside themselves enough to authentically care about a partner's emotions, needs, or experiences. Relationships with them will revolve entirely around serving their wants and feeding their ego.

  • They can be charming and charismatic at first, but it feels fake over time. The charm gives way to anger if you don't sufficiently admire them. Many narcissists know how to turn on the charisma early on to win people over. But eventually the mask slips and their charm turns to emotional abuse techniques like gaslighting, silent treatment, raging, and love bombing.

  • They're controlling and manipulative. They use guilt trips, gaslighting or anger to get their way and keep you on eggshells. Narcissists frequently resort to underhanded manipulation tactics to maintain control in relationships. They may guilt trip you if you can’t do something for them, gaslight you into thinking you’re crazy, insult you then suddenly shower you with love again.

  • They blame others for mistakes and project their own flaws onto you. They refuse to take accountability. Narcissists are incapable of honestly self-reflecting. They deflect blame for their own shortcomings and failures by assigning them to others instead. Don't expect them to ever sincerely apologize for their actions.

  • Their moods are unpredictable. They may idealize you then abruptly turn cold, distant and critical. The narcissist's perceptions of others swing radically back and forth from idealizing to devaluing. One day they adore and praise you, the next they act irritated, critical and distant - often for reasons that have nothing to do with you.

  • They need constant praise and validation. Your needs and feelings are irrelevant to them. The narcissist's insatiable appetite for admiration overtakes everything else. They show no genuine interest in your life or feelings unless it directly serves their ego. The relationship exists only on their terms.

  • They cheat, lie or manipulate with no remorse. Rules don't apply to them. Extreme selfishness and impulsiveness leads many narcissists to serially cheat on partners, bend the truth, break promises, and exploit people for their own gain without guilt or shame. They'll come up with justifications for why they're in the right.

  • They rage or sulk when you don't give into their demands. They use pressure tactics to get their way. Narcissists frequently throw tantrums or give the silent treatment when they feel thwarted. They may verbally insult you, say extremely hurtful things, yell, slam doors, break things, etc. to intimidate you into compliance.

  • They're jealous of your relationships, interests, success or attention. They try to sabotage or control these. The narcissist wants to occupy the primary role in their partners' lives. They resent signs of independence like outside hobbies, friends, career pursuits or family obligations. They will undermine these subtly or overtly.

The more these narcissistic traits are present, the higher they likely fall on the narcissism spectrum. Many narcissists won't show their true colors until months into dating someone. Pay close attention early in a new relationship so you can spot any red flags ASAP.

Trust your gut instinct if someone seems too self-focused or makes you feel bad about yourself. Those aren't normal relationship issues - they're abuse tactics by someone with narcissistic traits. Let's look at healthy ways to handle dating narcissists next.

How to Cope with a Partner who has Narcissistic Traits

If you realize your partner exhibits many narcissistic behaviors, here's how to cope and reclaim your self-worth:

  • Manage your expectations: Accept this is unlikely to be a two-sided, emotionally fulfilling relationship. Let go of changing or fixing them. Just focus on protecting yourself. It's important to recognize that a narcissist's extreme selfishness and lack of empathy mean the relationship will always be imbalanced. Don't waste energy hoping they will transform into an equal, caring partner. Direct that energy into self-care instead.

  • Create distance: Minimize contact time to preserve your mental health if you're not ready to fully exit the relationship yet. Grey rock them - give short, unemotional, boring responses that don't satisfy their need for drama. Limiting exposure to the narcissist's manipulations and mind games can help clear your head, re-center yourself, and plan next steps from a more grounded place.

  • Establish firm boundaries: Decide what behavior you will and won't tolerate from them, and stick to those limits. Leave if they cross major boundaries repeatedly. Make a plan of what's acceptable and what's absolutely not, and follow through on the consequences. For example, if they continually guilt trip you after you’ve said you won’t tolerate it, take a break from the relationship for a set period of time. Hold them accountable.

  • Stop blaming yourself: Their narcissism is not your fault. You deserve healthy love. Don't let them make you feel inferior. The narcissist projects blame onto others to escape accountability for their own toxicity. But you are not the problem. Remind yourself daily that you deserve respect and real love. Don't internalize their distorted view of you.

  • Bring up concerns gently: Use "I feel..." statements to share how their actions hurt you. But don't expect true accountability. State needs without drama or insults. While avoiding accusing language, calmly explain how their behaviors damage you and the relationship. But be prepared for defensiveness and counter-accusations in response, not genuine apology or change. Manage expectations realistically.

  • Get support: Confide in trusted friends, join support groups, and seek counseling to process confusing emotions. You need validation that the relationship is unhealthy, not your fault, and can't be changed. Connect regularly with people who remind you of your worth, strengths and agency. Therapists who understand abuse from partner's with narcissistic traits can help you gain much-needed clarity and rebuild your sense of self. Don't isolate.

  • Boost self-care: Make sure you stay connected to your own interests, friends and family life outside the relationship. Keep your self-esteem strong. Pour energy into meaningful activities that remind you of your talents and values. Spend time with emotionally healthy people who care about your welfare. Eat well, get enough sleep, lean on your support system. Don't let the narcissist's devaluation infect your self-image.

  • Plan a safe exit: If the relationship is toxic, work privately with professionals to leave safely. Take steps to get housing, financial accounts etc. in your own name only. Surround yourself with support while exiting. Leaving a narcissist has risks, so discretely line up the logistics - separate bank account, place to stay, trusted friends on standby for support. Therapists also provide guidance on safely extracting yourself. Have an exit strategy in place before making any moves.

While narcissists rarely change, you can take back control by enforcing rigid boundaries and distancing yourself from their manipulations. Prioritize self-care and lean on others until you're ready to leave safely. You deserve so much better.

Stay Vigilant for Narcissistic Love Bombing

One common narcissistic trait to be aware of early in dating is the technique called love bombing. This is when someone showers you with over-the-top romance, flattery and "perfect" partner treatment at the start.

They'll act incredibly attentive, committed, loving and interested in everything about you. They'll insist you're their soulmate after mere weeks. This intense affection feels amazing, but it's ultimately fake and short-lived.

Once the narcissist feels confident they've won you over, the love bombing stops abruptly. You're left confused by the whiplash as they turn critical, controlling, and self-focused instead.

Love bombing is intended to accelerate intimacy and get you addicted to their praise. But it's just a self-serving manipulation, not real love. Remind yourself actions speak louder than words. Judge potential partners by how well they truly know you and meet your needs, not by over-the-top gestures.

The more someone tries to fast-forward intimacy without taking time to learn who you really are, the more cautious you should be. Love bombing early on is a huge red flag, because healthy people understand that authentic connection requires time, consistency and seeing all sides of someone. Immediately bombarding you with flattery, gifts and promises of eternal love screams manipulation, not genuine interest.

Pace relationships gradually so it's clear you both value whole-person intimacy, not just infatuation. Beware of excessive flattery and gifts too early from someone who still feels like a stranger.

Take it as a big red flag if their affection seems to depend on you appeasing their every whim. True partners will love you steadily without expecting constant flattery, obedience and pandering in return. Their attention won't turn off like a faucet if you stop inflating their ego 24/7.

Prioritize finding someone who makes you feel respected, heard and valued for your whole personality, not just your ability to stroke their ego. Their interest in your hopes, dreams and vulnerabilities should run deeper than infatuation.

If someone is showing multiple narcissistic red flags, don't ignore your intuition just because the love bombing feels amazing at first. Reign in your emotions so you don't get manipulated into a toxic relationship. Show self-love by demanding the love you truly deserve.

How to Safely Exit a Relationship with a Narcissist

If you realize you're deep in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, it's essential to make an exit safety plan. Their perceived loss of control over you can spur retaliation and worsen the narcissistic traits. Take precautions as you leave:

  • Get counseling to process confusing emotions. Therapists can help you mourn the illusion of the perfect relationship to accept reality. You need support building your confidence to leave. Breaking the trauma bond with a narcissist is extremely challenging. A good therapist provides judgment-free guidance to untangle your emotions, gain clarity, and rebuild your sense of self worth. Lean on their expertise before and during separation.

  • Line up alternative housing if needed. Open your own bank account and collect important documents so you control access to your money, belongings and personal info. Financial and housing dependence keeps many people stuck in toxic relationships. Discreetly secure your independent access to money, essential documents and a place to stay before making any moves to leave. This could involve staying with trusted friends or family temporarily.

  • Surround yourself with supporters who see the truth about your partner's abuse, will validate your feelings, and remind you that you're strong enough to leave safely. Stay connected to people who know the real you and can act as your sounding board, cheerleaders and protector while exiting the relationship. Avoid isolating yourself, which makes you more vulnerable to the narcissist's manipulation.

  • Wait until they're occupied, then pack and go quickly. Avoid explaining where you're going. Shut them out on social media too. Consider a restraining order if you feel unsafe. Plan your exit for when the narcissist isn't around, and leave without providing details on your destination. Block them on all channels they could use to harass you - phone, email, social media etc. Document any threats or abusive behavior in case you need evidence for a restraining order down the line.

  • Keep communication brief and impersonal. Don't get dragged into defending your decision - they'll exploit openings to manipulate you. Stick to your guns, maintain distance, and don't look back. If some logistics require you to talk to them, keep it short, unemotional and all business. Don't justify your reasons for leaving - they will argue endlessly to wear you down. Stay strong and focused on your freedom.

Regardless of all the advice given throughout this post, it is always best to seek professional help for the safest outcome on dealing with your issues!

While enduring narcissistic abuse takes a toll on your health and self-image, many abuse survivors go on to rebuild their confidence, create new personal and career goals, travel more, make new friends, and find partners who cherish their real self.

You have so much life ahead to explore your passions and find someone who appreciates the real you. Take it one day at a time - even small steps creating distance from that person with narcissistic traits will set you on the path toward healing. You deserve authentic, healthy love.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts:

Dating narcissists takes an extreme emotional toll over time. Their manipulations can leave you anxious, depressed, doubting yourself and walking on eggshells. But by recognizing narcissists' common tactics, enforcing rigid boundaries, being gentle yet firm expressing your needs, and surrounding yourself with support, you can minimize their power to hurt you.

If devaluing behaviors worsen no matter what you try, make a safe exit plan. There are healthier people out there worthy of your love. By prioritizing self-care and cutting contact if necessary, you can heal and avoid these toxic relationship patterns in the future.

You have so much value - don't let narcissists diminish your spark. Trust your gut when it tells you someone is toxic, even if they're charismatic at first. You deserve a genuinely mutual, caring partnership that helps you thrive. Keep speaking up for your needs and settling for nothing less.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissistic Relationships:

How do you know if someone is a narcissist?

Common signs of narcissism include them seeing themselves as superior and craving constant praise, one-sided emotional conversations, exploiting people, lacking empathy, charm that fades to criticism, unpredictable moods, anger when you disagree with their views, jealousy of your independence, and dishonesty. Pay close attention early on to spot these red flags.

Why do narcissists love bomb?

Narcissists use excessive flattery and gifts early on, known as love bombing, to make you addicted to their praise and accelerate emotional intimacy quickly. But it's just a self-serving manipulation, not real love. Love bombing fast forwards a relationship before true intimacy is built, which is a huge red flag.

What makes narcissists ultimately unsatisfying partners?

Relationships with narcissists are ultimately shallow because their feelings are transactional, not authentic. They're concerned only with themselves, not mutually meeting each other's needs. All they truly know and care about is their own ego, leaving their partners feeling lonely and inferior. It will always be a one-sided relationship.

How do you deal with a narcissistic partner?

To cope with their manipulations and nonstop narcissistic traits, minimize contact, give boring unemotional responses to them, firmly set boundaries about tolerable behavior, get counseling support, boost confidence through outside interests, and make a safe exit plan focused on self-care. Enforce strong boundaries and prioritize your mental health above all.

What happens when you leave a narcissist?

Narcissists often retaliate via threats, insults, spreading lies about you, or trying to hoover you back into the relationship with faux apologies, flattery and promises. Stay strong, maintain distance, document their behaviors, get counseling support and lean on people who validate your choice to leave. Their anger at rejection eventually fades.


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