Dating a narcissist: What it is like and how to deal with it

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Narcissist. It’s a term we use often, but what does it mean, exactly? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder 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.” Dating a narcissist, as you can imagine, isn’t exactly easy – they are egoistic, toxic, and often abusive.

Signs you’re dating a narcissist in the getting to know process

Given all of this, why would anyone choose to date a narcissist? Part of it is that narcissist are often skilled at hiding their true personalities, at least initially. Here are some signs of narcissistic behavior in various stages of dating:

  • They’re grandiose: Your online date didn’t just go to a great college, they had a 4.0 while playing a sport and partying every weekend. They doesn’t just love travel, they’ve been to pretty much every country there is. One of the signs you’re dating a narcissist is their inability to be average – consciously or not, they’re incapable of admitting they’re ordinary.
  • They’re emotionally cold: Narcissism is a personality disorder and one of the symptoms is an inability to deal with emotions, and what emotions are there tend to be shallow, which makes dating a narcissist much harder.
  • They’re extremely charming: That being said, at least at the beginning, narcissists know how to trick the people around them into thinking they’re special and unique and a perfect match.
  • They dominate the conversation: Narcissists love nothing more than the sound of their own voices and expect the same from you. If you’re dating a narcissist, expect a lot of one-sided conversations.
  • They think they’re right about everything: Relatedly, narcissists hate not being right, even when it comes to the most trivial things, and will flare up if you try and correct them, no matter how gently you try.
  • They’re entitled: Take a close look at how your date treats the waitstaff, or anyone with less power than them. The odds are high that it won’t be well, as narcissists consider most of the world beneath their notice.

Signs they’re a narcissist: Deeper into the relationship

Eventually, the honeymoon period wears off and the person’s true narcissistic personality emerges.

  • They’re manipulative and controlling: Narcissists often display toxic behavior like possessiveness or gaslighting, anything to erode your emotional health and make you feel dependent on them.
  • They never take responsibility: Whenever anything bad happens, it’s everyone’s fault but theirs, but most often it’s yours. Narcissists can’t admit to making mistakes so blame other people.
  • They don’t have any long-term friends: While they may have a range of acquaintances and casual buddies, long-term friendship requires trust and vulnerability, two things narcissists are incapable of.

Tips to deal with dating a narcissist

Bluntly, you shouldn’t. Dating a narcissist takes a toll on your mental and physical health, and you deserve better. However, if you can’t immediately end the relationship, here are some ways to cope:

Accept that you can’t change them

We’re all taught that the love changes things, but when it comes to narcissists, they remain the same no matter how many times you try to change them. Accepting that will help you tolerate their behavior.

Don’t expect to be able to compromise

When dating narcissistic, self-centered men or women, you often only have two options, their way or the high way. Until you can hit the road, it’s often best to just go with the flow rather than give your partner an excuse to lash out.

Develop interests outside your relationship

You can’t expect a narcissistic partner to give you the support you need, so finding it in a hobby or work or a new social group is a good idea. It will help if your partner tries to isolate you and can serve as a source of support when you leave.

Practice self-care

Dating a narcissist is incredibly hard and draining. Make sure you have a way of recharging your emotional reservoirs – journaling, therapy, and exercise are all ways to take care of you while you plan to leave.

Ways to leave a relationship with a narcissist

Narcissists are often at their most dangerous when you’re at the point of leaving them, which means that doing so isn’t as simple as it may seem. Bear in mind these tips:

Don’t tell them you’re leaving

Studies show that the most dangerous time for people in abusive relationships is around when they leave, and that’s true if you’re dating a narcissist as well. Don’t tell them of your plans, as they may lash out, or try and trick you into staying.

Have a plan

Breaking up with a narcissist isn’t like breaking up with a regular person. It’s really important, for your safety, to have all your ducks in a row. Log out of all accounts on shared devices, make sure they don’t have access to your bank account, make sure your documents and anything valuable to you is secure, and lean on friends and family for support.

Once you’ve left, cut off all contact

Narcissists can be charming when they want something, which is why it’s important that you don’t give them the opportunity. Block them on social media, don’t respond to calls or messages, and have a written list of all the harm they’ve done you so resisting the charm offensive is easier.

There’s no happy ending when dating a narcissist

It’s sad but true; narcissistic personality disorder makes the chances that you’ll be able to manage a long term-relationship with them slim to none. Don’t beat yourself up for falling for their charm. They’re very good at it. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself and exiting the relationship as soon as possible. And once you’re ready to date again, eharmony is a great place to find the perfect partner.