You’re recently started dating someone who is charming, charismatic, confident, successful, intelligent, and attractive, but you’re starting to notice that they have a superficial, selfish, arrogant, and manipulative side as well.

It is terribly confusing because you feel a strong connection to this person but they lack empathy and refuse to be emotionally close with you. You think to yourself, “What is going on? Am I falling for a narcissist?”

This article is going to walk you through 10 of the biggest red flags of dating a narcissist so you can better protect yourself from abuse and manipulation.

They Can’t Take Responsibility For Their Actions

A narcissist will use a variety of different manipulation tactics (i.e. projection, stonewalling, gaslighting, self-victimization, etc.) to avoid taking responsibility for their actions when they contradict their grandiose self-perception.

A teacher speaking about a narcissist's grandiose self-perception

Here’s the catch though, they don’t view their flirting as wrong. They feel entitled to doing whatever they want because their grandiose self-perception leads them to believing that they are special and unique. But they have enough awareness to know that their flirting damages how others see them.

So, they deny responsibility and manipulate you into believing that you “misread” the situation so they can keep their grandiose self-perception and public persona intact. They do this because they are emotionally incompetent. You see, narcissists have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they can’t regulate.

A narcissist thinking about how much she hates herself

To prevent these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions from damaging their emotional stability, they construct a grandiose self-perception out of narcissistic supply to suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

If you didn’t know already, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists get from their surrounding environment

If they were to take responsibility for their actions, it would destroy their self-perception and compromise their emotional stability. Instead, they use manipulation tactics (i.e. projection, gaslighting, self-victimization, etc.) to avoid taking responsibility for their actions so they can protect their emotional stability

Suggested Reading:

If you want to protect yourself and heal from narcissistic abuse, you must grasp a comprehensive understanding of how a narcissist’s inability to regulate their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions drives them to be so abusive. Our article How Are Narcissists Made? has a lot of helpful information about this.

They Don’t Respect Your Boundaries

Respecting your boundaries would require a narcissist to view you as an equal. Sadly, this is never going to happen because narcissists believe that they are special, unique, important, and superior. They refuse to acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs because they don’t view you as an equal, just a source of narcissistic supply.

Speaking of narcissistic supply, healthy boundaries prevent narcissists from getting it.

Narcissists need narcissistic supply to feel emotionally stable. Therefore, your boundaries are both offensive and a foreign concept to them.

We had the privilege of connecting with a licensed psychotherapist Andre O’Donnell, M.A, LMHC, to create a free resource that you can use that teaches you how to set boundaries with a narcissist that actually work. If you can’t leave the narcissist in your life, feel free to use that guide to better protect yourself from their abuse.

Suggested Readings:

It can be extremely difficult to wrap your head around the fact that someone (the narcissist) can blatantly disregard and disrespect your boundaries. Our articles Is It Abusive for Narcissists to Ignore Boundaries? and What Causes a Lack of Boundaries in a Narcissistic Relationship? has a ton of information that you may find helpful.

They Love Bomb You

The term “love bomb” or “love bombing” is used to describe a phase that many romantic narcissistic relationships go through during the beginning stages of the relationship. This phase occurs when a narcissist uses mirroring and future faking to manipulate you into feeling like you have finally found the perfect person for you.

A teacher teaching a class about love bombing

So, if you have a corrupted perception of love and believe it is controlling, manipulative, and abusive, then the narcissist will mimic or mirror that belief of yours to convince you that you have found your soulmate. The love bombing phase is all about the narcissist doing/saying whatever they need to say to be exactly who you need them to be.

Suggested Readings:

In our articles What Do Narcissists Do During the Love Bombing Phase? and How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last? there’s a lot of helpful information that you can use to figure out if you have been love bombed by the suspected narcissist in your life.

You Feel Insecure When You Spend Time With Them

One of the many reasons that narcissists are incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship is that they feel threatened by the well-being of others. That’s right, they can’t stand when other people around them are doing and/or feeling well. This is because deep down narcissists feel inadequate, unlovable, unwanted, weak, and worthless.

A teacher teaching her students about the painful thoughts feelings, and emotions that narcissists have.

Instead, they use projection, a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and projects them onto someone else, to regulate their emotions.

What this looks like in practice is that the narcissist invalidates, devalues, and degrades you so they can have someone to figuratively point their finger at and think to themselves, “I am not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, they are.” So, it is very common for those dating a narcissist to feel insecure when they spend time with the narcissist.

They Claim to Have a Crazy Ex

The biggest threat to a narcissist’s grandiose self-perception and public persona are the people that they abuse. You see, narcissist’s are able to convince a majority of the people in their life that they are charming, special, unique, charismatic, and successful, but they can’t do this with the people that they abuse on a regular basis.

A narcissist who is well-liked by her peers.

Surprisingly, narcissists are aware of this which is why they will do everything in their power to discredit the people that they abuse. If you are dating someone who says horrible things about their ex, there’s a chance that they are a narcissist trying to discredit their ex before they’re exposed as an abuser.

Of course, some people will have one or two bad things to say about their ex without being narcissistic. But they aren’t trying to cram it down your throat the first few times that they see you like a narcissist will. They know that their ex has all the information needed to discredit their grandiose self-perception/public persona and it terrifies them.

Suggested Readings:

When a narcissist wants to silence their ex, or someone else that they’ve abused, they will enlist flying monkeys. Our article What Are Flying Monkeys? has a lot of helpful information about this. Also, our article What Do Narcissists Say About Their Exes?” is a great resource that you can use to learn more about the manipulative things narcissists say about their exes.

They Get Angry When You Can’t Spend Time With Them

One of the most disturbing parts of being with a narcissist is the fact that they don’t view you as an individual with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, they view you as something that they are entitled to having power and control over at all times.

One of the most common ways this belief manifests is the rage that they have when you can’t spend time with them. They are truly incapable of acknowledging/accepting that you have a life of your own. They expect you to be readily available at all times so they can get enough narcissistic supply.

A narcissist on the phone with his girlfriend.

In the beginning stages of the relationship, you might have mistaken this controlling behavior as interest or a special connection. But the fact of the matter is that they want to control the whos, whats, wheres, whens, and hows of your life. When someone wants and/or feels entitled to having every second of your life, it is a huge sign that you are dating a narcissist.

Suggested Reading:

In our article What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship? there is a lot of helpful information that you can use to learn more about the way narcissists approach their relationships.

They Need to Be the Center of Attention

A narcissist’s well-being is heavily dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can attract. Just as a quick reminder, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists receive from their external environment.

They use this supply to create a grandiose self-perception and public persona that helps them suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Obviously, narcissists need to have the attention of others to get narcissistic supply.

This, combined with the fact that they would emotionally implode on themselves without narcissistic supply, often causes narcissists to place themselves in positions where they can be the center of attention at all times.

A narcissist placing themselves in a position from which they can be the center of attention

In fact, they are often uncomfortable and angry when they aren’t the center of attention because it makes them feel inadequate, unwanted, worthless, powerless, and unlovable. While this may sound absurd, it is important to remember that when you’re dealing with a narcissist, you are dealing with someone who has the emotional maturity of a toddler.

A simple example of this would be a narcissist’s tendency to never listen/pay attention when you are talking about your life. They will get distracted, check their phone, cut you off, even yawn, simply because they can’t stand not being the center of attention. It is just another manifestation of their emotional immaturity and a sign you can use to spot a narcissist.

Suggested Reading:

Our article Five Signs That a Narcissist Wants Your Attentionhas a ton of helpful information that you can use to learn more about a narcissist’s need to be the center of attention at all times.

They Claim to Have a Lot of Special Accomplishments

One of the nine characteristics/personality traits that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

Someone speaking about the core characteristics of a narcissist

This often manifests in the form of them speaking about their goals as if they already happened. For example, if a boss told his/her narcissistic employee that they were in for a promotion if they kept working hard, a narcissist might twist that in their mind and tell others that they already got the promotion.

They do this because they need to support their preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love in order to feel emotionally stable. For those dating a narcissist, this can be a really destabilizing thing to uncover because they’ll begin to spot all of the lies that their perception of their romantic partner was built off of.

A man realizing that the narcissist was lying to him the whole time.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bragging, but narcissists walk around like they are just made of special accomplishment and full heartedly believe that others should see/treat them as such. It is a huge sign that you are dating a narcissist.

Suggested Reading:

Our articles Why Do Narcissists Fantasize? and Why Do Narcissists Make Up Stories? have a lot of information that will help you better understand a narcissist’s tendency to claim they have a crazy amount of special accomplishment and live in a fantasy world where they are the most successful, powerful, brilliant, beautiful, and desirable person around.

They Tell You a Sob Story About Their Life

Two of the biggest narcissist magnets are overly empathic people and rescuers.

People who are overly empathic have a tendency to be too in tune with other people’s emotions and mirror them with the same intensity. When they cross paths with a narcissist, their tendency to mirror others will turn them into a huge source of narcissistic supply.

A woman teaching others about how narcissists pray on overly empathic people.

A rescuer is someone who feels the need to rescue/save other people. They take on the responsibilities, burdens, and problems of other people, and they concern themselves with other people’s lives, problems, and decisions more than their own. Rescuers are notorious for putting themselves in bad situations just to rescue or save the narcissist.

The good-hearted nature of an overly empathic person and rescuer often gets taken advantage of by narcissists with a sob story about their life. If you are in a relationship with someone who is constantly flaunting their sob story in your face and pressuring you into helping them “fix” it, or even using it to justify their behavior, there’s a good chance that you are with a narcissist.

They Compare You to Their Ex

One of the first manipulation tactics that narcissists will use to groom you into feeling comfortable justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing their abusive behavior is triangulation. This occurs when someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party.

A woman being triangulated by the narcissist in her life.

Narcissists use triangulation to control and manipulate other people so they can have power and control over their surrounding environment. This is important for them because being in a position of power and control gives them access to an unlimited amount of narcissistic supply.

A simple example of a narcissist using triangulation to compare you to their ex would be, “Are you seriously upset that I messaged that man/woman on social media? You know, sometimes I wonder why I even left my ex because he/she was never this controlling. I must be a complete idiot for thinking you and I could work.”

Suggested Reading:

Triangulation can be really obvious, like the example above, but it can also be incredibly subtle. Our article Why Do Narcissists Triangulate You With an Ex? will help you understand the subtle ways that narcissists compare you to an ex so you can better protect your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

It is our hope that this article helped you gain some clarity on whether or not you are dating a narcissist. While only a mental health specialist can accurately diagnose someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) these red flags that you learned about today are reliable signs that you are dating someone who harbors narcissistic traits.

You should use this information to adjust your expectations for the relationship, because narcissists won’t change, and come up with a plan of action that best suits your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

 American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

Nambiar, Aditi. “Warning Signs of a Self-Absorbed Person.”