Navigating the nuances of self-centeredness can be a tricky affair.
It’s a universal truth that we all have moments when our focus turns inward, often more so when juggling the complexities of relationships. It’s not unusual or wrong; it’s simply being human.
But there’s a stark difference between occasional self-focus and the consistent, overbearing traits of a narcissist.
Distinguishing between the two is crucial, particularly when it involves someone you’re romantically involved with.
So, how do you discern typical self-interest from alarming narcissistic tendencies?
Drawing from my personal encounters, I’m here to equip you with clear signs to watch for. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it might just help you make sense of the relationship you’re in.
1. They Always Want Your Attention
Narcissists thrive on attention, like plants under sunlight. This hunger for being the constant focal point is even more pronounced in a romantic context.
When dating a narcissist, you may find your time, energy, and attention perpetually hijacked by their needs, their wants.
And should you deviate from giving them your undivided attention, they aren’t shy about drawing you back in, by any means necessary.
This incessant demand for your attention can serve as a telling indicator of their narcissistic nature.
It’s entirely normal to enjoy giving your partner attention, but when it morphs from a want to a command, it’s a strong warning sign.
The rule of thumb here? If they demand rather than appreciate your attention, you might just be sharing your life with a narcissist.
2. Social Status Is Everything To Them
It’s not unusual to be worried about how other people think of you – after all, that plays a crucial role in your interactions with others.
However, what sets this trait apart for narcissists is that social status and how everyone looks at them is often the only thing that they care about.
If you’ve ever been left high and dry by your significant other for the sake of “preserving” or “improving” their appearance or status, you might just be dating a narcissist.
And if they don’t apologize for it if you call them out? Definitely a worse sign.
3. They’re Vain
I don’t mean that they pay a lot of attention to themselves – but vanity in the sense that they always need to look good.
I’ve had dates that threw a full-on temper tantrum over the smallest speck of food soiling their clothes or refusing to go out at all because they have nothing to wear from a packed wardrobe.
Vanity is one of those signs that can be difficult to figure out if you aren’t looking for it.
But a good way that I personally use is just asking yourself: “Does my date care more about their appearance than they do about me?”
If the answer is yes, then your reply for a future date should be “no”.
4. Issues With Things They Can’t Control
I’ve noticed that something all narcissists have in common is that everything has to be absolutely their way, all the time, and anything else is unacceptable.
As a result, they’ll often exert control over anything that doesn’t conform to their image or their goals – including you.
If you think that your date or significant other is always questioning everything that you do and telling you to follow what they say instead, you may be dealing with a narcissist.
Both parties in a relationship need to have their own level of autonomy, but there’s no place for that in a narcissist’s world.
5. They Dismiss Your Concerns Or Criticisms
In a narcissist’s mind, they are the be-all and end-all of everything that should and can matter.
They can do no wrong, and any attempt by anyone to tell them otherwise isn’t something that they’ll take seriously.
At best, they’ll ignore you – at worst, they’ll attack you for daring to say that they’re anything less than what they think they are.
I’ve never met a narcissist that was fine with feedback or criticism, no matter how deserved or constructive.
To them, they are the best thing to happen to the world since it was created, and anything that says otherwise is just fake news.
6. Experts At Gaslighting
Of course, narcissists can’t completely control everything around them and they can only deny reality for so long.
In these situations, they use one of the most effective tools in their arsenal: gaslighting. Your reality doesn’t matter – they’ll talk you into accepting their own.
This is particularly nasty because it can be so effective. Since you’re already attached, you’re more likely to listen to them than yourself and it takes a long time to snap out of that mindset.
If you notice that your opinions never matter to your date, get out of that date immediately.
7. Lying All The Time
Another way narcissists try to control the narrative is just by lying. I like to joke that I’ve never met an honest narcissist – and it’s kind of true.
All narcissists I’ve met lie often and with ease, even if there’s no need to lie at all.
Why? I can only suppose that lying is just something that they do instinctively.
It’s a quick and easy way to get yourself to appear better, and people generally don’t bother to investigate any further.
I’d say that lying is one of the most reliable traits of a narcissist – and as soon as you pick up on it, run.
8. Showers You With Attention
Better known as “love bombing”, narcissists love to use this tactic if they know they’re running out of options to keep you in the relationship – or simply just reinforce their hold over you.
They shower you with compliments, attention, and anything you may want, usually to get something from you.
This can also be difficult to ignore because it can seem so harmless at first, but it’s a habit that you can easily figure out once you’ve stayed long enough in the relationship.
This is one of the cases where what feels good definitely isn’t good for you: not only are these shows of affection not sincere, they’re downright manipulative.
9. Aggression And Abuse
Some narcissists don’t play the nice and subtle route with what they want: others go all in and have no hesitation in showing aggression when they don’t get it.
Aggressive and abusive behaviors are the hallmark traits of the very worst narcissists, and should always be a red flag whenever you see it.
I’m not just talking about hitting you or raising their voice – posturing, implied threats, or anything all count. It’s especially apparent if they use this often when they don’t get their way.
And even if you think you’re not at the receiving end of this kind of treatment, it’ll only be a matter of time before you will be.
10. Overly Active On Social Media
If there’s one thing that narcissists may probably love without any question, it’s social media.
It’s the perfect place for them to project their ideal image of themselves, and seek quick and easy validation to do it.
I’ve had dates who never wanted to do anything if they weren’t on social media – absolute nightmares.
Social media by itself isn’t that bad, but if you find your partner spends all their time on it, or making sure that everything is “post-ready”, they might be a narcissist.
And while it’s alright to measure milestones and post them on social media, it shouldn’t dictate your relationship.
11. Clingy And Needy
I’ve found that narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most exhausting ones to deal with is the clingy narcissist: the one who requires your attention all the time and will sulk if they don’t get their way.
They’ll stick to you all the time because you’re the only one that gives them attention – the only thing that they actually care about.
This is particularly difficult to deal with since they’ll make you feel responsible for your own self-worth, but the best thing to do is to really walk away.
Staying will make them even more dependent on you, and you more burdened with their care.
12. Exploits Others
One of the more nasty traits of a narcissist is how willing they are to exploit anyone for their own needs.
Because they think that their needs are the most important, they have no complaints about bending the rules, people, or anything to their own advantage.
Morals don’t matter to them, only results – and especially results that make them look good. If you encounter this kind of behavior, it’s a good bet that they’ll exploit you too.