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3 Key Tells That You Are in a Relationship with a Narcissist.

03 Mar

3 Key Tells That You Are in a Relationship with a Narcissist.

By Neil Lavender, PhD.

You know what?

You are not the easiest person to get along with. And neither am I. We are all a bit quirky if you ask me. I like to think of us as a bunch of swimmers in one small pool. We’re all kind of fighting for our own swimming space, if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, there are certain people who take up more space than they’re entitled to. Worse yet, they pull others down in their self-centered efforts.

These are not your average swimmers. Most likely, these are individuals with personality disorders.

I spent most of my career along with my friend and colleague Dr. Alan Cavaiola researching individuals with personality disorders.  Especially narcissists.

There are many people who believe there are more narcissists today living in the United States than at any other time. Our entitlement, rock star, all about me mentality seems to be a swamp for breeding this type of individual.

So how do you know you’re involved with one? It’s easy if you know the right signs to look for. These are not your average swimmers.

1. You constantly feel that you are being used. You constantly feel that you are being used because, well, they are using you. Narcissists are notorious for having a sense of entitlement. They feel you owe them because they are so special and it is your privilege to be around them. They will borrow things and not return them, including your ideas and maybe even your lovers. They will use you for their own self-aggrandizement: if you are attractive, they will show you off to make themselves look better. If you have something good, they will want it; including your money, your influence, or your worship. They love to be envied.

I remember being around a narcissistic individual who loves showing off his backyard. He had numerous ponds in his backyard and whenever I was around him and we were in front of an audience, he would say “you know what, I’m coming over your house and I’m going to put one of these ponds in your backyard, even bigger than mine”. Everybody would talk about how generous he was and he soaked up the accolades. Of course this was all for show and he never showed up. Never.

2.      They are willing to take things to a level which you are not. Is next to impossible to work things out with a narcissistic individual. To straighten things out with them means that you are right and they are wrong and they won’t tolerate that because it is a massive blow to their egos. So they will dig in and fight you. They are not fighting to win the argument; they’re fighting for their sense of self-worth. The key to understanding narcissism is to understand that the down inside they feel like complete zeros so they have to put up a façade of superiority to manage to get through life on a day-to-day basis. So, if they don’t beat you now, they will find a way to beat you later or else they will feel like zeros again.

So choose your battles carefully. (Special thanks to my son and future blogger Matt for reminding me of this fact this afternoon. Nice insight, Matt!).

 3.      Overvaluation-devaluation Narcissists are notorious for thinking that you’re the greatest thing in the world when they first meet you. However, as you disappoint them; and inevitably you will, they will completely devalue you as an individual most likely cutting you off completely from their lives. This is a process psychologist referred to as “splitting”. It means experiencing life in black and white with no in between us. So don’t fall for that overvaluation in the first place. You will be like a moth attracted to a flame.

Okay, I said there were 3 Key Tells. But I’m on a roll so I’ll give you a fourth for free. :-)

  1. 4.      Narcissists get under your skin. Unlike the run-of-the-mill garden variety personality clash you might have with another individual, narcissists have a way of getting to you: you will dream of them at night, they will creep into your conversations regardless of the topics and you’ll be unable to stop talking about them or thinking about them.

I remember the time that I was scheduled to be a guest on a West Coast radio talk show. As usual, the producer first got on the phone with me telling me that the hostess had an encounter with a narcissistic partner and that our book had helped her enormously. He asked me not to mention this on the show because it was a personal matter. However, when I got on the show, the hostess talked for 45 min. about the situation herself! I barely said one sentence during the interview!

Now that’s getting under your skin!

When you encounter a narcissist in your own swimming pool, you will recognize them by an incredible amount of energy, splashing, swimming over other people, and a school of  devotees around them.

Best to swim out of their way.

Better yet, find another pool.

 

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16 responses to “3 Key Tells That You Are in a Relationship with a Narcissist.

  1. Paula

    March 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Yes. Find another pool. Hahahaha! This is great.

     
  2. Jackie Paulson

    March 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Oh my, I have been down this road with others before, where THEY want all of the attention, and when I feel used! I am studying this very topic right now. I am so sick of the negativity around me and the people too! I’d rather be a hermit than deal with them! Have you felt that way???? ♥ Jackie

     
    • Margaret Weeks

      March 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Yes, Jackie. I feel exactly the same way. That is why I got on this site today, because I’m at the end of my rope. Narcissist know I’m a good listener, I’m empathetic and supportive (oops, that sounds narcissistic as well) and they just take complete advantage of me. I have this friend that likes to come over unannouced while my boyfriend and I are eating dinner and turn us into quite literally his captive audience. He once went on for an hour and half about his excitement over a psychic that told him the “girl of his dreams” was coming soon. He likes to spend hours reading his poetry to me, or talking about all his spiritual epiphanies, yet he barely listens to mine, and when I have given him stuff to read that I’ve written, he takes forever to read it, and then barely comments on it! He gets overly excited about things he’s found interesting and can suck the very energy out of the room trying to get me as fired up about his “latest fascination.” He remains willfully ignorant when I tell him “I’m not really interested” in one thing or another, and will talk about it for hours. Example we went to the movies a few days ago, and he started sucking my energy from the gitgo, giving me a blow by blow account of his driving–while driving –using it as an excuse to interrupt me at every turn. I used to be a professional dancer and I’ve shown him some of my routines which he quickly dismissed with a “very nice,” then changed the subject. He then insisted on taking me to the Pina Baush documentary, a quirky modern dancer who I like sometimes but more often than not can’t relate to, nor understand. I told him that I am primarily a jazz and hip hop dancer and don’t really like modern dance, but as usual, he didn’t listen and I reluctantly went to this movie with him. He made an embarassing ass of himself after the movie by dancing in the aisles, even though he is a sixty-five year old man with no dance training. He then proceeded to wax poetic, wildly praising the movie trying to get me to reach his level of enthusiam…I wouldn’t mind it so bad, except he quickly shuts me down if I talk about things he’s not interested in. He becomes uncharacteristically quiet in a group setting because he can no longer be the center of attention, and probably feels if he can’t, why interact with people at all. Any advice? He’s kind, and not an angry person, so do you think I’m overreacting? Margaret

       
      • nlavender

        March 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        Thank you for sharing this information with us. No, we don’t think you’re overreacting. Yours is a common reaction to somebody who’s involved with the person with narcissistic traits.
        Here’s a quick tip: if you’re going to complement him, complement him on things that are real and not during times when he is trying to impress you or others. Try to reinforce the idea that people will like him for traits that are genuine, and not put on to get people’s admiration.
        Best wishes for success in this relationship.
        N.L.

         
  3. cyn1761

    March 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Great article! Sums up a complicated issue in a nice concise way.

    The problem with life is that you are walking through it minding your own business and suddenly before you waits the narcissist effortlesslessly swimming in that pool. He beckons to you and lures you to jump in under the guise the water is warm and inviting. Au contraire. You dive in and sooner rather than later you are alone and freezing in the deep end, treading water. The smart people are able to stay in the shallow water splashing about but those of us unfortunate enough to have something they want other, than pure narcissistic supply, are doing all we can not to drown.

    Narcissists are the most inauthentic people around and yet so few of us actually catch on to them. I suppose that the superficial quality of life cultivated in our fast-paced society leaves them at an advantage since deep relationships are few and far between. If you do have the misfortune of forming what you believe to be a meaningful relationship only to realize you have been carrying on with a mirage, woe be to you. And don’t expect people to understand or believe you when you try to explain the truth about Mr/Ms Wonderful. Unfortunately that is usually something that can only be discovered and believed once actually seen, and truth be told it’s never quite believable. I’ve been gaslit, crazy-made, you name it and did he get and does he get under my skin…oh you betcha!

    If only we could switch skins as easily as they do ;)

     
    • nlavender

      March 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Unfortunately, your experience is all too common.I have my own narcissists in my own life that I still struggle with on a daily basis. The worst thing for me is when they are your bosses or have some other type of power over you. That’s the worst! Thanks for the great post you couldn’t have said it any better.

       
      • Margaret Weeks

        March 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

        thanks for the new advice. really superb. i will definitely try this: only compliment him on his authentic qualities, and that is all. but do you think i should try to gently sit him down and say something like: “you know, sometimes i feel like an unpaid lifecoach or therapist with you, and when i try ocasionally to reach out and ask for help, and you’re suddenly no longer in your comfort zone of being the center of attention, you seem to shut down.”_i’m just wondering if narcissists are totally clueless to their behavior: how self-absorbed they come across, and if they were taught that just improving their listening skills or empathy a little bit, how much better their relationships could become..would saying something like this help them? i know he is a very lonely narcissist because people undoubtedly become exhausted by his all-about-me behaviour and start distancing themselves from him. i know this has to be true because he’s a total extrovert with very little friends and has consequently vigorously latched on to me because i do give him the attention he obviously thirsts for. am i expecting too much to ask him to reciprocate a little more in the attention area, or should i just dump him, or should i just endure and accept? thanks for any advice.

         
  4. Human

    March 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    All too frequently I come across the phrase “If only I had known then what I know now…” from victims of psychopaths/sociopaths/narcissists. It is good to see that knowledge and awareness is now spreading about this age old issue. On behalf of humanity, THANK YOU for your invaluable contribution!

     
  5. Margaret Weeks

    March 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I got on this site today, because I’m at the end of my rope. Narcissist know I’m a good listener, I’m empathetic and supportive (oops, that sounds narcissistic as well) and they just take complete advantage of me. I have this friend that likes to come over unannouced while my boyfriend and I are eating dinner and turn us into quite literally his captive audience. He once went on for an hour and half about his excitement over a psychic that told him the “girl of his dreams” was coming soon. He likes to spend hours reading his poetry to me, or talking about all his spiritual epiphanies, yet he barely listens to mine, and when I have given him stuff to read that I’ve written, he takes forever to read it, and then barely comments on it! He gets overly excited about things he’s found interesting and can suck the very energy out of the room trying to get me as fired up about his “latest fascination.” He remains willfully ignorant when I tell him “I’m not really interested” in one thing or another, and will talk about it for hours. Example we went to the movies a few days ago, and he started sucking my energy from the gitgo, giving me a blow by blow account of his driving–while driving –using it as an excuse to interrupt me at every turn. I used to be a professional dancer and I’ve shown him some of my routines which he quickly dismissed with a “very nice,” then changed the subject. He then insisted on taking me to the Pina Baush documentary, a quirky modern dancer who I like sometimes but more often than not can’t relate to, nor understand. I told him that I am primarily a jazz and hip hop dancer and don’t really like modern dance, but as usual, he didn’t listen and I reluctantly went to this movie with him. He made an embarassing ass of himself after the movie by dancing in the aisles, even though he is a sixty-five year old man with no dance training. He then proceeded to wax poetic, wildly praising the movie trying to get me to reach his level of enthusiam…I wouldn’t mind it so bad, except he quickly shuts me down if I talk about things he’s not interested in. He becomes uncharacteristically quiet in a group setting because he can no longer be the center of attention, and probably feels if he can’t, why interact with people at all? And yes, I am suffering from the phenomena of having this narcissist get under my skin, and it is really bugging me. Any advice? He’s kind, and not an angry person, so do you think I’m overreacting? Margaret

     
  6. Luka

    April 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I’ve worked with all kinds of people; crazy, autistic, neurotic, selfish, evil; but I had to say that I only worked with one severe narcissist about 10 years ago and he was the ABSOLUTE worst out of all of these. I forget the name of the site but it had 100 narcissist traits and I checked off about 90% pertaining to this guy. I was almost in tears because it makes sense now what this guy was. I was severely damaged by this guy even 10 years later and I didn’t realize until much later that I didn’t even do anything wrong. I’m pretty much a doormat so I let others have their way but I was damaged by this guy. and he was CRUEL. He’ll turn the whole workplace against you or at the very least talk about/demean you for no other reason then you just happen to be standing there; and he was persuasive to everyone surrounding him that he’s justified. However, the most important thing in understanding this whole thing is what I read somewhere that “don’t take it personal, you’re not human you have no feelings you’re just a tool for their means”. It’s so crystal clear now. This was an unusual case and this guy owns a part of Houston, Tx simply by his persuasiveness and twisted ego and I realize that maybe there was nothing that I could do that was worth it, and this guy was EVIL. Some people of this magnitude you just have to avoid I hate to say it but at least I’m empowered to stand up for myself a little better.

     
    • nlavender

      May 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Your experience is like so many others! Thanks for the comment.

       
  7. Wutiwuf (what u think is what u feel)

    October 15, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Hi! Great info! However, I am new to all of this convoluted nonsense. I am reading this and wondering if I am the one with the problem here, and not my husband. I am soooooooooooo tired of all the double standards with this person that I am supposed to love. I end up getting angry, he remains calm I look like the narccisist. I spent the entire weekend trying to get this man to UNDERSTAND why I was upset. It is always like this…. I am afraid to leave… I think I am strong enough to go, then I think well maybe if I had of approached the situation calmer, maybe it would not have turned out that way. To give an overview of my interpretation of the relationship. Here we go because I need someone to hear me and thank for listening. When I met this man almost 10 years ago, I am now 42. I met him at a singles dance lol.. He made me feel important. We lived about an hour and a half away from each other . He would always drive to see me in the first couple of weeks. Started telling me that he was falling for me and that he could see no other women but me. I moved into his home quite quickly, I know my desperation is evident.. Things started to change a little. He started to ask me more about my past relationships and I told him all about them. I would ask the same and he would tell me bits and pieces and certainly not the truth as I would find out from others later on. Then he asked me to get rid of everything from my past( pics, numbers, even lingerie that I brought with me, said he would buy me new stuff. Had I not been so pathetic I would have buy me new stuff then I will throw it away. Then I asked the same from him as it only seemed fair. That was nothing but a big fight for days as his pics of his ex wife were more important than mine were. He said that I was being controlling. Then he had to go to a wedding and the plates and everything was already paid for so I could not accompany him. Little bit at a time he would tell me that there is a woman who is in love with him and finally he told me she is going to this wedding. He said I could break up with him until after the wedding if I wanted. When he came back from the wedding the next day, he told me nothing happened with her and he told her he was sorry but he is seeing someone. A month passed and things weren’t sitting right with me. Little things he would say or someone else say did not match with his explanation of that night. He told me it was a cabin and that a lot of people were staying in it and that he slept on the couch. I found out from his nephew that he did not sleep on the couch as that is where his nephew slept, slept in the bedroom with the women in question. I had him take a polygraph after a year of fighting about this he failed. I stayed. How stupid. Whenever I want me feelings to be heard by this man about anything still today he will not get it. I am wrong. He is the biggest victim of circumstance that I have ever encountered. Everyone else is important but me. The only time I matter is when he has no one else around. WHY??? Am I having such a hard time leaving, why do second guess me all the time??? I was injured a year ago and feel quite trapped, I feel manipulated and taken advantage of all the time.. I like to ride my bike a lot , and now am unable to do so with my injuries. I expressed this to him one day. How sad I felt about not being able to ride anymore . He said that must be awful. Then he got up went outside in the shed and got his bike out waved to me and rode away. How can I disarm this man and regain my self-esteem. At least until I am strong enough to leave.?? Thanks again for listening.

     
    • Luka

      March 5, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Wutiwuf, I’m sorry you had to go through that. *hugs*

       

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