How to Identify and Deal with Dating a Narcissist
Do you feel like you meet a lot of self-involved people on the dating scene? Events & Adventures has over 30 years of experience watching new relationships grow. We’re a singles activity club that has been bringing single members together for bucket-list adventures across 15 cities (and growing), for over 30 years. We don’t possess psychology degrees, but we do have extensive experience with people and what makes them tick. Our expertise has aided us in screening members before they join the club, equipping us with helpful advice that we share here with you. The chances of encountering a narcissist in your dating experiences is decent – if so, what to do?
The term narcissist has become increasingly popular recently, but it is important to understand what narcissism really is and, if you are dating a narcissist, how dynamics can affect your relationship. Narcissists are people with an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They often lack empathy for others and pursue power and control in their relationships. Someone can be narcissistic without being diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is pathological and more severe. If you think you may be entangled with someone displaying these signs and symptoms, there are tell-tales signs to confirm your suspicions, and steps you can take to protect yourself from emotional or physical harm.
Common Signs of Narcissism in Relationships
At first, it can be difficult to recognize a narcissist. They may come across as charming, witty, and engaging – traits that often make them attractive. But, as time goes on, you might start to notice a different side of your partner. They may become demanding and controlling, overly critical, and/or start showing a lack of consideration for your feelings. People with narcissistic tendencies use manipulation tactics to get their way and they might even become physically or emotionally abusive.
Narcissists are often extremely self-centered and believe that everything should revolve around them. This can be seen in how they communicate with others, as they may interrupt conversations or talk over people who are speaking. When dating a narcissist, you may also notice that they need constant validation and attention from their partners, becoming overly jealous or possessive if they don’t get it. Narcissists also have a hard time taking responsibility for their own actions, and often try to deflect criticism by blaming others or making excuses.
Protecting Yourself in an Unhealthy Relationship
If you recognize that you might be dating a narcissist, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and maintain some sense of autonomy in the relationship.
Set boundaries in stone, or at least on paper.
It’s important to set clear boundaries and communicate them to your partner. While boundaries should be established in any relationship, it is paramount if you’re dating a narcissist. Record verbal agreements and get them in writing if you can, with their permission. This will help you avoid feeling taken advantage of and disrespected, and will also give you something to fall back on later. Narcissists can unintentionally gaslight you into believing you are wrong, mistaken, or confused, but not if you have written or recorded proof that they agreed to previously.
Don’t settle for less – or you always will.
Don’t let yourself be manipulated into things you don’t want to do, and definitely don’t let your partner control your every move. Be assertive in expressing your desires and needs when dating a narcissist – including standing up for the enforcement of the first tip. This does not mean to be aggressive to your partner, it means you should politely remind them (and yourself) that your wants and needs are just as valid as theirs.
Standing up for yourself is only one side of the coin. As previously mentioned, a narcissist may not even realize that they are gaslighting you or taking advantage, so don’t get upset with them. Always stand your ground for the things that matter to you, but try remember that if the person you’re dating is worth your time, effort, and affection – they are also worth your time and patience. If you ever feel like your partner is the enemy, that’s your cue to leave.
Maintain each other’s self-esteem with equal effort.
Narcissists typically have enough confidence to go around, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to share it. After the love-bombing phase, when a narcissist is content in the relationship, you may have to put aside time for yourself. Self-care activities, getaways with your friends, and time spent with family can help to remind you that you are loved and appreciated. Dating a narcissist can be draining at times, but if you pull too far away, they may feel threatened.
Seek out professional help.
When you feel like the relationship is becoming emotionally abusive, it’s important to reach out for help and consider leaving. Don’t hold on to something that’s hurting you just because you’ve been clutching it for a long time. Though some studies have shown that therapy can garner results, convincing a narcissist that they need any kind of help is an uphill battle, so pushing them to go to couple’s therapy is likely going to start an argument. Stick to the other tips on this list and if they still don’t agree to work with a professional (or if things go beyond just emotional abuse) – it’s time to get out and find a community of supportive people. (More on this in a bit.)
If you are in an unhealthy relationship with a narcissist and need assistance, there are resources available. You can reach out to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or speak to a mental health professional who can help you learn more about narcissism and how to protect yourself in an unhealthy relationship. In the best-case scenario, you both go to couples therapy, but convincing a narcissist that they need help can be a daunting task. With the right resources and support, you can take control of your life and either fix your unhealthy relationship with a narcissist, or break free from it altogether.
Maintaining a Successful Relationship with a Narcissist
Some people seek professional help or find ways to deal with dating a narcissist, and in many cases, things work out fine. Love knows no bounds, after all. And just because your significant other either showcases narcissistic tendencies or has NPD, doesn’t mean you can’t live long and happy lives together. If it doesn’t work out, however, it’s important to remember that it likely isn’t your fault. You deserve to be respected and loved in a healthy, supportive relationship, and that means being able to maintain your autonomy.
Life After Dating a Narcissist
Not only does life go on if you choose to end the relationship – now you can start living a life you love! One of the biggest reasons people commit to their narcissistic significant other is that they feel trapped. Narcissists can be incredibly persuasive, charming, and charismatic. Because they are so self-absorbed, they tend to love-bomb and shower you with affection – while simultaneously making your entire life about them. Usually, their worst sides only present themselves when they’ve already implanted themselves deeply into your life. So, what’s the solution? Well, our best advice is to get back out there as soon you feel you are ready. This time, you’ll have the lessons you’ve learned to guide you.
Go On Events & Adventures
Events & Adventures is an activity club for singles only. We’re not a dating club, but have been bringing singles together from over 15 cities with more on the way, for over 30 years! Our charming and knowledgeable hosts put together more than 30 activities every single month, and they’re happy to walk you through every step of the process. The best part is, not everyone gets in! We do full background checks and hold live interviews with each new member to ensure they’re a good fit before they join. We want you to have the best time with the best people, and with decades of experience – we’ve gotten pretty good at weeding out the narcissists.