10 warning signs you’re in a relationship with a narcissist

The term “narcissist” is thrown about pretty easily these days.

Sure, there’s more awareness of narcissists and their traits compared to several years ago.

But does that mean everyone who lacks empathy is a narcissist? Certainly not.

Most of the time, someone just has an avoidant attachment style rather than narcissism.

So how do you know if you’re actually in a relationship with a narcissist? Check out these 10 warning signs.

1) They change around other people

Because narcissists are so good at manipulating people, they know exactly how to change their persona to get what they want.

It’ll be like a switch has flicked inside them. One minute, they might be whispering nasty things in your ear.

The next moment, they’ll be working the room – complimenting your friends, cracking jokes, and making everyone think they’re the nicest person ever.

You’ll think they’re in a great mood or that they’re the charming person you fell in love with again.

As soon as you leave the party, they’ll go back to treating you worse than dirt on their shoe. And it’ll feel confusing, painful, and very unsettling.

2) Their behavior feels hot and cold

Katy Perry was onto something in her song “Hot N Cold” back in 2008. When you’re dating a narcissist, no two days will feel the same.

One moment, they’ll be showering you with love and affection. It’ll feel so amazing and you’ll be on Cloud 9.

But the next moment, they’ll be putting you down, manipulating you, controlling you, gaslighting you, or just all-around making you feel down.

Just remember that hot and cold behavior in a relationship doesn’t always mean your partner is a narcissist. They could also have an avoidant attachment style.

3) They put you down

Sometimes, it’ll be subtle. But sometimes, it’ll be downright obvious and spiteful.

Narcissists like to feel important and powerful to protect their fragile egos. According to experts, they know that they’re different and feel insecure about it.

Because they feel threatened by anyone who appears stronger or more dominant than them, they’ll put them down to make themselves look and feel better.

When you first start dating someone who’s a narcissist, they may make subtle comments that don’t make you feel good.

Or they’ll give you backhanded compliments. Like, “You look nice! It’s a shame you don’t make an effort more often”.

As time goes on, their criticism will get harsher and harsher – because the more they can get away with, the further they’ll push it.

4) They show little care for your emotions

There’s a common misconception that narcissists can’t feel or express any emotions. However, this isn’t true, according to experts.

The older a narcissist is, the longer they’ve had to learn and mimic certain emotions.

And while they do experience feelings, they don’t truly understand the whole spectrum of emotions a non-narcissist feels.

So, they’ll often show little regard for your feelings. When you’re sad, they may act supportive for a while, but quickly get annoyed about it.

 Or if you’re feeling anxious, they may something dismissive, like, “Get over it” or “What’s wrong with you?”.

Overall, you won’t get the feeling they truly care about how you feel.

5) They tell you you’re “too sensitive”

Because a narcissist has little empathy for others, they genuinely don’t understand why you get emotional about certain things.

If a dog dies in a movie, they won’t get why you’re crying about it. If you feel anxious to drive somewhere, they’ll find it stupid.

They may have learned what these emotions are, but chances are, they’ll get easily frustrated when you express how you feel.

Something you may frequently hear them say is that you’re “Too sensitive” and that you need to “Get over it”.

Usually, this comes from a place of jealousy – because you can feel emotions they can’t, which makes them feel weak and insecure.

6) They try to control you and your actions

10 warning signs youre in a relationship with a narcissist 2 10 warning signs you’re in a relationship with a narcissist

Narcissists fear rejection more than anything, so it’s highly likely that they’ll be controlling in a relationship, according to experts.

If your partner is a narcissist, they’ll get overly jealous or possessive of you.

For example, they may not like you going to the gym or won’t want you going on your own. When you wear certain clothes, they’ll tell you to get changed.

Because they know how to manipulate people, they’ll make you feel bad about doing things they don’t like. They’ll act hurt, upset, or tell you how “worried they are” about you cheating on them or leaving them.

Ultimately, this will be a tactic to get you to stay home and stop doing things you enjoy – like going to the gym, seeing friends, wearing what you want, or even visiting family.

It may start with small things in the early days, but it’ll progress into so much more the longer you date them – which can end up putting you in a very dangerous situation.

7) You catch them out on small lies

Lying is one of a narcissist’s best tools in the box to manipulate. Because they have a grandiose sense of self, they want to be envied and admired by others.

For them, lying is the best way to get attention and make themselves look good. And when you’re dating a narcissist, you’ll catch them out on lies now and then.

It’ll start with small things, like telling you they called a friend when they didn’t.

Eventually, it’ll progress to much bigger things. Like cheating on you or lying about their job. They may even lie about a family member dying to get away with something or make you feel sorry for them.

Why does it get worse over time? Because the more a narcissist gets away with, the further they’ll push you.

Usually, a narcissist knows they’ve lied about something. But because they have such an elevated sense of self, sometimes they actually believe their lies.

They think they’re better than what you’re accusing them of (like being a bad partner), so they may genuinely not believe you.

A selective memory has often been attributed to narcissists – only believing the good things about what they’ve done and “forgetting” the bad.

8) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is probably one of the worst things you can experience.

It essentially means someone will attempt to confuse you or tell you you’re wrong (when you’re not) to manipulate you and make themselves look better.

Thanks to TikTok and many other online reports, people are becoming more and more aware of what gaslighting is and how to spot it when someone is doing it to you.

As one Reddit user says, when they confronted their narcissistic dad about the abuse they experienced as a child, every allegation was met with a denial, like:

“That didn’t happen”.

“That is a hallucination”.

“Memory doesn’t work the way you think it does”.

These are lies the narcissist will tell to play on your insecurities, confuse you, and get you to believe that you’re wrong and they’re right (when they’re absolutely not).

9) They love talking about themselves

Another clear warning sign you’re dating a narcissist is if they’re arrogant.

Narcissists love talking about themselves and making themselves look good.

You’d think this comes from a place of genuine self-love, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Narcissists actually loathe themselves, according to experts. But because they despise feeling inferior, they talk, talk, and talk to get you to like them.

They feed off other people’s love and validation. So, they can spend hours upon hours talking about themselves – with little care for what anyone else has to say.

To them, they are the best and most important person in the room – and so their voice is the only one that matters!

10) You feel addicted to them

Another thing narcissists fear is abandonment. So they’ll do everything they can to stop you from leaving them.

The primary way they’ll do this is by controlling you. But another thing they’ll do is make you feel addicted to their presence.

They’ll want you to crave them. So they’ll do what they can to make you miss them – including stonewalling or canceling plans for no reason.

It’s all part of their manipulation to get you to need them.

For this reason, people with anxious attachment styles in relationships are primary targets for narcissists.

When they feel their partner withdrawing, they want to reach out more – which is exactly what the narcissist wants.  

Final thoughts

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it won’t be a pleasant experience.

Dating them may start off extremely well. Your partner could be perfect and charming. They’ll make you feel the happiest you’ve ever been.

And slowly, the manipulating, gaslighting, criticizing, controlling, and belittling will start.

Eventually, you’ll feel lonely, misunderstood, isolated, and like there’s something missing in the relationship.

Why? Because the narcissist genuinely doesn’t understand or truly care for you. And somewhere deep down, you’ll feel it. 

Amy Reed

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

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