How to Identify Narcissism in Relationships
Narcissists are all around us. They are in our workplaces, teaching in our schools, at our churches, and even in our families. Experiencing narcissism in relationships can cause relationship issues. It doesn’t matter if this is a work, professional, family, or social relationship. Narcissists are difficult people to have a healthy relationship with. They’re also misunderstood and not everyone fully understands what narcissism is.
“Narcissistic personality disorder is named for Narcissus, from Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. Freud used the term to describe persons who were self-absorbed, and psychoanalysts have focused on the narcissist’s need to bolster his or her self-esteem through grandiose fantasy, exaggerated ambition, exhibitionism, and feelings of entitlement.” – Donald W. Black
Some folks believe there is an increase in narcissism these days. While this may be true, perhaps it’s simply that the internet and social media world make it easier for narcissists to thrive. They are certainly seen in the media and as public figures. Whatever the case may be, you likely know several narcissists. This is important to be aware of and something that needs to be addressed more often, especially in churches.
In this article, we’re going to look at what a narcissist is and share ways to identify if you might be in a relationship with a narcissist. There is hope for relationship issues with narcissists. Counseling is the best first step. They need to be willing to change and usually need professional help to do so.
What is Narcissism?
The Mayo Clinic says this about narcissism: “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. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
A narcissist is a person who deals with narcissism in their own life. The layperson might say a narcissist is an extremely self-absorbed and self-centered person. They’re also often abusive, though not always.
Common Traits of a Narcissist
- A “my way or the highway” attitude
- Acting entitled
- Breaking rules
- Charming personality (Often described as sickly charming or “sketchy cars salesman’ charming. This charm is a mask, however, and it will wear off as they become more comfortable with you and start to show their true side.)
- Don’t take responsibility for problems or relationship issues
- Inflated sense of self-worth
- Lack any empathy
- No impulse control
- Spreads and promotes negative emotions
- Overstepping boundaries
- Play the victim
- Violating boundaries
Remember, not all these traits will apply to all narcissists. They’re experts at hiding and putting on a different view for different people. Others are often shocked to discover what a narcissist is like and may not believe others because they can be so incredibly charming and likable.
If you see yourself on this list, it’s incredibly unlikely you are a narcissist. Most narcissists are not self-aware enough to identify these traits in themselves. It does mean you’ve got some things you need to work on, and it would be a good idea to reach out to a counselor.
Signs of Narcissism in Relationships
Wondering how to decide if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist? Here are some common signs of narcissism in relationships:
- They manage to become the center of attention at a gathering that’s supposed to be focused on you such as a birthday party or special work event
- Boredom sets in quickly after your “honeymoon” phase wears off
- They may begin to engage in affairs or other behaviors trying to find the next person to be interested in focusing attention on them
- Constantly turning the conversation back to themselves, disregarding your thoughts and feelings in conversation and make it about their thoughts and feelings, interrupting you to turn the conversation back on them
- Feeds your negative emotions. May even turn around any positive emotions you have to contort them to something negative
- Rarely celebrates positive moments and emotions in a healthy way with those they are in a relationship with
- Isolates you from others. They may control your use of the phone, email, and social media or control your social calendar. Often making manipulative comments to make you feel guilty about outside social contact and relationships
- Shows different personalities around others than they do around you
- Treats you as though you’re not worthy of the same things they are. May even make specific comments about “bad” things that happen to you and “good” things that happen to them. Some narcissists may even take away things from others to further devalue them
- Unable to show any true vulnerability. This is tricky as they may act like they’re sharing deep vulnerability but it’s all false and over-inflated
If you believe you are experiencing negative issues related to narcissism in relationships, it is best to seek professional help. These people are rarely aware of the problem and will usually deny it. They may deny until something extreme happens to help them become more aware of what’s going on. In some cases, something like intervention is needed to help the person see fully what is going on.
Narcissism in Other’s WordsHere are a few quotes about narcissists and narcissism in relationships that will hopefully help you understand the qualities and behaviors of a narcissist better:
“Narcissism has more in common with self-hatred than with self-admiration.” – Christopher Lasch
In the Seven Deadly Friendships by Mary DeMuth says this about narcissists:
“Narcissistic people take more than they give, and they use flustering tactics to do so – usually making you feel crazy.”
“Narcissists are masters of pathologizing your emotions. They convince you that your emotional reactions to the abuse are the problem, rather than abuse itself.” – Shahida Arabi
“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” – Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
“There’s a reason narcissists don’t learn from mistakes and that’s because they never get past the first step which is admitting that they made one.” – Jeffrey Kluger
“Narcissists are consumed with maintaining a shallow false self to others. They’re emotionally crippled souls that are addicted to attention. Because of this they use a multitude of games, in order to receive adoration. Sadly, they are the most ungodly of God’s creations because they don’t show remorse for their actions, take steps to make amends or have empathy for others. They are morally bankrupt.” – Shannon L. Alder
“Babies cry to get their needs met. Narcissists are great actors and often use tears as a tool of manipulations, this is an abuse tactic! Do not allow them to let this work as guilt, they are acting!” – Tracy Malone
“Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared. It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.” – Sam Vaknin
“The narcissist enjoys being looked at and not looking back.” – Mason Cooley
“Emotionally, narcissists are like brick walls who see and hear others but fail to understand or relate to them. As a result of their emotional shallowness, narcissists are essentially devoid of all empathy or compassion for other people. Lacking empathy, a narcissist is a very destructive and dangerous person to be around.” – Mateo Sol
“Narcissists have poor self-esteem, but they are typically very successful. They feel entitled; they’re self-important; they crave admiration and lack empathy. They are also exploitative and envious. The malignant types never forget a slight. They may kill you ten years later for cutting them off in traffic. But they act perfectly normal while plotting their revenge.” – Janet M. Tavakoli
“Narcissists install a mental filter in our heads a little bit at a time… ‘Will he get upset if I do/say/think this? Will he approve/disapprove? Will he feel hurt by this?’ Until we can uninstall the narcissist-filter, our actions are controlled by narcissists to some degree.” – Sam Vaknin
“The only changes a narcissist makes are masks and victims.” – Unknown
Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues
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