We’ve all had those moments where we thought our partner was insanely, pathologically selfish. (At least, those of us in LTRs have…) And, though it’s tempting to label your S.O. a narcissist when you’re annoyed, there’s a major difference between cockiness, arrogance, overconfidence, and true narcissism.
While on the surface, they do share some qualities, the difference between a selfish jerk and a clinical narcissist is that the latter has no real empathy for others, making their relationship with you all about them and their self-image. They don’t care about you on a deeper level, beyond what you mirror back to them. Though we’ll emphatically caution that making an actual diagnosis can only be done by a doctor, if you’re paired up with a narcissist, there are some signs you can look for to help you hightail it away from this person before you get in too deep.
To help you identify whether you’re really dating a narcissist, below are seven red flags to look for.
They Don’t Appreciate You
Narcissists have extreme difficulty really appreciating others. “They cannot simply enjoy you for who you are, feel proud of you, or acknowledge your efforts in any capacity—for example, when you’re trying to help or make them happy,” says Dr. Rhonda Freeman, a neuropsychologist who focuses a lot of her studies on narcissism. “This lack of appreciation might be hard to detect initially, because they might boast about you to people they know or be attracted to you because of certain special traits or accomplishments you have.” But remember, there’s a big difference between appreciation and your partner using your specialness to make themselves look good, or wanting to have you as a partner because of your qualities or resume.
They Never Take Responsibility
Narcissists tend not to tolerate being held accountable for rudeness, callousness, or other social offenses, says Freeman. “At times they’re overtly hostile, but other times they reframe their behavior in other ways, including but not limited to: a joke, a mistake, someone else’s fault, your hypersensivity, your (unwarranted) concern about what other people think, or twisting reality so that rather than he/she is viewed as the victim,” she says. If they constantly say things like, “It was just a joke! You know I wasn’t serious,” or, “You’re so sensitive—you know I didn’t mean anything by it,” and, “You always worry about what other people think! Are you insecure or something?” you could be dating a narcissist.
They Insist They’re Trustworthy
Narcissists often want full access to the new person they’re dating, says Freeman. “Trust is fragile, and deep trust is typically earned by and reserved for our inner circle, because they’ve consistently demonstrated that they care for us, are loyal to us, and would never betray us,” she says. However, narcissists tend to want access to the ‘inner circle’ level of trust without putting in the time or work to demonstrate that they’re worthy of it. “To them, to go from 0 to 100 is normal and many become annoyed when their new partner is not instantly on board and ready to share absolutely everything,” explains Freeman. Trust should never feel forced. If you feel your partner is pushing you to say, do, and share certain things, narcissism could be at play.
You’re Always Getting Into ‘Trouble’ With Them
Many narcissists have certain physical standards of the people they are dating. “They feel it is their right to comment, correct, and criticize when you do not meet those standards. For most people, to be ‘corrected’ regarding our looks or physical presentation is hurtful and at the least considered rude. However, this will be viewed by the narcissist as your fault for disappointing them,” explains Freeman. For example, you showed up to a movie date wearing a casual outfit, a ponytail, and minimal makeup. Your date starts laughing or immediately points out your casualness and may say something rude like, “I guess today is a day you just don’t care how you look, huh?”