Manipulation

Narcissistic supply is a form of psychological addiction and dependency, where the narcissist requires (demands) constant importance, “special treatment,” validation, and/or appeasement in order to feel good about him or herself. This insatiable craving to be “put on a pedestal” explains to a large extent the narcissist’s sense of conceit, entitlement, and self-absorption.

In order to constantly fill their “supply,” many narcissists deliberately find or create scenarios where they can regularly receive attention and the feeling of infallibility. They also purposely target relationships with individuals (victims) who are prone to their initial charm, gullible to their manipulation, and vulnerable to their exploitation. At home or at work, in ways large and small, the narcissist craves the constant stroking of their ego. They desperately depend on this “supply” to compensate for their inner emptiness and relieve their fragile self-esteem.

1. The Self-Anointed Know It All

The narcissist may position themselves at home, at work, or in social situations as the “know it all,” “expert,” or “authority,” constantly marginalizing, correcting, and invalidating others’ points of view. Narcissist know-it-alls are also frequent conversation hoarders and interrupters. Notably, even when they’re not criticizing or correcting your views, they may listen briefly and then go right back to what they were talking about, as if what you said didn’t matter at all. You exist merely as a convenient tool for their supply.

2. The Dominant Controller / Judge / Savior

The narcissist may target and position themselves in personal or professional relationships with those who allow them to dominate, judge, criticize, or marginalize on a regular basis. The narcissist feels full of themselves by controlling and subjugating others. A variation of this type of social domination is the narcissist who receives his or her supply by “rescuing” others, thereby proclaiming himself as the “indispensable savior.” 

3. The Merit Badge Collector / Pedestal Seeker

Some narcissists purposely select professional endeavors where they can be regularly admired and/or feared. In this case, a major reason for the narcissist’s choice is simply to be “superior,” “important,” and “special,” rather than sincerely desiring to make a contribution for the greater good.

4. The Boundary Violator / Exploiter

The narcissist may regularly use their charm, persuasion, or coercion to pressure people into giving them what they want, even when it’s clearly one-sided and unreasonable. Some are particularly fond of manipulating others into surrendering their boundaries. Here, the narcissistic supply is based on others succumbing to the narcissist’s exploitative influence, which they consider “winning” and ego-affirming. Many pathological narcissists do not relate, they use.

5. The Grandiose Showoff / Braggart

Some narcissists constantly engage in showing off, name dropping, status boasting, or “humble-bragging” about how great and wonderful their lives are, in hopes of receiving praise, recognition, and social media attention. They purposely want others to be envious of what they have, in order to feel better about themselves.

6. The Habitually Difficult / Negativity-Seeking Contagion

Certain narcissists are deliberately and persistently difficult, uncooperative, and/or confrontational, even when it is clearly unreasonable and unnecessary to be so. Here, the narcissist supply is the perceived power that comes from being dreaded and disliked. From the narcissist’s toxic and distorted point of view, it is better to be a thorn in the side of others than to be a nobody.  

In some cases, although the narcissist may be unaware, making oneself difficult subconsciously confirms the narcissist’s inner self-loathing—that he or she does not deserve to be loved and accepted, and does not have what it takes to engage in positive and healthy relationships (narcissistic wound).

7. The Living-Through-Others Faker / Wannabe

Some narcissists live through others in hopes of boosting their own low self-esteem or vicariously fulfilling their own unrealized fantasies and dreams. The narcissistic supply comes from basking in the reflected glory of those whom they take advantage of and exploit.

The common pattern of all the traits above is that the narcissist depends on a regular flow of narcissistic supply in order to sustain their superficial, egocentric, and conceited self-image. Those in a relationship with the narcissist are merely used as extensions of the narcissist’s self-serving needs. Deep down, however, most narcissists feel like the “ugly duckling,” even if they painfully don’t want to admit it.

Can a narcissist change for the better? Perhaps. But only if he or she is highly aware and willing to go through the courageous process of self-discovery. 

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Villains

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Characteristics

How do you know you’ve met a narcissistic sociopath or if there is one in your life? The following list of characteristics might be helpful. Does the person:

  • constantly make you feel like you are the problem, not them?
  • punish you with criticism or silence?
  • seem to get you to take responsibility for their errors or insults?
  • make you feel special and shower you with attention but then withdraw it for no reason?
  • obsess about their physical appearance and need compliments?

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Types of narcissists

I have found it useful to divide Narcissistic Personality Disorder into three main subtypes: Exhibitionist, Closet, and Toxic. Some theorists give them different names or they may describe fewer or more types of Narcissists. The ones that I call Toxic Narcissists, they may call Malignant Narcissists; or they may describe all non-Exhibitionists as Covert Narcissists. 

Putting the names aside, the easiest way to recognize which subgroup you are dealing with is by paying close attention to how they prefer to get their narcissistic supplies. In brief:

  • Exhibitionist Narcissists: Want to be admired
  • Closet Narcissists: Want to be associated with someone that they admire
  • Toxic Narcissists: Want to dominate and make the other person feel worthless

I have found it useful to divide Narcissistic Personality Disorder into three main subtypes: Exhibitionist, Closet, and Toxic. Some theorists give them different names or they may describe fewer or more types of Narcissists. The ones that I call Toxic Narcissists, they may call Malignant Narcissists; or they may describe all non-Exhibitionists as Covert Narcissists. 

Putting the names aside, the easiest way to recognize which subgroup you are dealing with is by paying close attention to how they prefer to get their narcissistic supplies. In brief:

  • Exhibitionist Narcissists: Want to be admired
  • Closet Narcissists: Want to be associated with someone that they admire
  • Toxic Narcissists: Want to dominate and make the other person feel worthless

Why is it important to recognize which subgroup a Narcissist belongs in?

If you are planning on being in a romantic relationship with anyone who suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you need to understand exactly what you are getting into and how it is likely to affect your relationship.  You can get some basic information about the person by simply recognizing that they have Narcissistic issues. If you have done some reading about Narcissism, you will have discovered that Narcissists are:

  • Preoccupied with self-esteem issues
  • Self-centered
  • Lack emotional empathy
  • Ultra-sensitive to perceived slights
  • Easily angered
  • Devaluing  
  • Very status conscious

 All of this makes it difficult for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to sustain stable, intimate, and loving relationships.

Narcissistic Subgroups

If we take the above information a step further and sort Narcissists into these three basic subgroups, this gives us even more information about how they are likely to react in intimate relationships. You may have been in a relationship with a Narcissist without realizing it.

Each of the three Narcissistic groups has their own typical relationship pattern. Because there has been so much focus on the Exhibitionist Narcissist, many people do not realize that any other type of Narcissistic Personality Disorder exists. This means that you could be married to a non-Exhibitionist Narcissist for years without realizing it. 

When things go badly wrong, and the spouse’s narcissistic traits are suddenly more obvious, people ask me: “Is it possible that my husband (or wife) suddenly became a Narcissist after all these years?”  The answer is “no,” Narcissistic Personality Disorder is formed in childhood and is diagnosable by early adulthood. You just did not recognize the signs till now.

Why is their Narcissism more obvious now?

It usually turns out that some life crisis has threatened the Narcissistic spouse’s self-esteem. In his or her attempt to cope with this challenge, the person has increased the use of narcissistic defenses. This has now made these defensive behaviors much more obvious.  

This means that it is highly likely that your spouse’s Narcissistic difficulties and coping strategies have been creating problems in your relationship the whole time that you have been together. You simply did not understand that this was the issue. Once you understand what to look for, you will probably be able to see how your mate’s Narcissistic sensitivities may have played a role in many of the fights and misunderstandings that the two of you have had over the years.

An Introduction to the 3 Narcissistic Subgroups and their Approaches to Relationships

Below is a brief introduction to the three major subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and some examples that illustrate how they might act on a first date with someone new.  How they act on that date can provide useful information on how they would be in an ongoing intimate relationship, should one develop after that date.  The difference is that on a first date, they are putting their best foot forward.  If you do not like their behavior then, you are even less likely to enjoy their company later on when they are taking you for granted and not trying so hard.

Narcissists are usually fairly overt when it comes to demonstrating their relationship style because they are not usually aware of what their actions say about them.  They also tend to repeat the same relationship patterns over and over again. You are usually safe assuming that: If they do it with you on a first date, they have done it before, and will do it again.

1. Exhibitionist Narcissists

This is the group of people who come to mind when most people hear the word “Narcissist.” They like to be the center of admiring attention. They tend to dominate conversations, feel entitled to special treatment, act supremely confident, enjoy telling stories and giving advice. When they feel insecure, they use what I call the “GOD Defense:”

GOD = Grandiose, Omnipotent, Devaluing

The “GOD Defense” is my shorthand way of describing the defensive, unrealistically perfect facade that Exhibitionist Narcissists attempt to construct to hide their own self-doubt. Instead of presenting themselves as normal human beings with assorted talents and flaws, they insist that they are special, perfect, know everything, and are always right. They also expect everyone around them to agree with their point of view.  In their mind, they are “above” and everyone except a select few is “below” them.

Because this arrogant posture is a thin, easily-pierced façade and not how they really feel inside, it is easily disrupted.  This makes Exhibitionist Narcissists hypersensitive to even minor slights. They are quick to get angry and ready to fight over things that most people might not even notice. They can also be quite cruel because they lack emotional empathy.

When they are not bragging about their own accomplishments or telling stories in which they play a heroic or starring role, they are busy devaluing anyone who disagrees with them. They may cruelly mock someone who is within hearing distance: “Boy, does she look fat in that dress!” or “I can’t believe how stupid our waiter is.”  They tend to be oblivious to other people’s real reactions to their attitudes and behavior.  They are so blinded by their own defenses that they assume that everyone either agrees with them or thinks that what they are saying is amusing.

Basic Exhibitionist Narcissist Relationship Style: They are insensitive and bossy. They expect whomever they are with to admire and agree with them about everything. Disagreement is seen as criticism and is met with devaluation They need continual reassurance that they are special, perfect, and always right.

2. Closet Narcissists

Unlike their Exhibitionist Narcissist “cousins,” Closet Narcissists are uncomfortable when the spotlight is directly on them. They want to be “special,” but they are conflicted. They have usually been trained since childhood that they will be attacked if they openly display themselves for admiration. They often have had an Exhibitionist Narcissist parent who devalued them because he or she saw them as competition. They were only rewarded with praise for admiring their Exhibitionistic parent. Their own narcissistic grandiosity was squashed or was deeply buried in their personality.

In general, Closet Narcissists tend to be more insecure than Exhibitionist Narcissists. They feel too exposed and vulnerable to enjoy being the center of admiring attention. They are afraid that other people will see all their flaws and attack and devalue them the way their Narcissistic parent did. Instead, they find ways to attach themselves to people, causes, religions, and other things that they admire and consider special. They then feel special by association.

They do not say: I am special, admire me!

They say: This is perfect and special. You should admire this! (my religion, my lover, my school, this book, etc.)

Instead of being openly demanding, Closet Narcissists sometimes try to manipulate the situation to get their way indirectly. They may play the victim and use your pity to persuade you to do what they want. They often pretend to be much nicer than they really feel inside.

Many people with Closet Narcissistic Personality Disorder allow themselves to be used by their more confident friends. They live for the praise that they hope to get by working hard for the people, causes, and groups that they admire. There is a song in the movie “Beaches” called “The Wind Beneath My Wings” that beautifully describes the type of appreciation that most Closet Narcissists dream about getting from the people that they idealize.

Closet Narcissist Basic Relationship Style: They choose someone that they can idealize as perfect and special. They bask in this person’s reflected glory. They imagine that some of this specialness will rub off on them. They treasure the small bits of approval that they get from whomever they idealize. They often form relationships with Exhibitionist Narcissists because they mistake their defensive grandiosity for true self-confidence.

3. Toxic Narcissists

Toxic Narcissists are the “meanies” of the Narcissistic group. They are not satisfied by being the center of attention, they want complete dominance and others to submit. They usually have a sadistic streak and enjoy hurting other people. They want you to obey and fear them.

Some are what I think of as “Failed Exhibitionists.” They are angry and bitter that they have not been able to live up to their own unrealistic fantasies of limitless achievement. They envy anyone who has what they want. They have given up on being a constructive force in the world and are now mainly intent on thwarting other people’s happiness.

Their poisonous intent is very obvious when they present in an overt form, such as the classroom bully who terrorizes the weakest kids or the boss that likes to angrily devalue a different person every day in front of the whole office: “You screwed up again! What are you an idiot? Or did you decide to get yourself fired today to get on unemployment because you are too lazy to work?”

Toxic Narcissists can also present more covertly, such as your seemingly “sweet old aunt” who always manages to ask you embarrassing questions that make you squirm in front of the whole family: “Why are you so fat? Neither of your parents was fat as children.” Or, “Such a shame that you lost your job again! How many jobs have you lost? Why can’t a bright girl like you keep a job?”

Toxic Narcissist Relationship Style: Their goal is to establish themselves as better than you and make you feel inferior and inadequate.  Life with them is one long putdown.  You can never please them.  They will never praise you.  Any self-confidence that you entered the relationship with is likely to get eroded and replaced with self-doubt.

Devaluation and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

All Narcissists will devalue other people to support their own self-esteem. By devalue, I mean that they will say insulting things that are designed to make someone else feel worthless.  The three types of Narcissists differ, however, in whom they devalue, how often they devalue, and when they devalue. 

Exhibitionist Narcissists: Exhibitionist Narcissists will openly devalue other people whenever they cannot get the admiration that they crave or when they feel criticized. In general, they will not devalue people that they consider ‘above’ them on the status totem pole, only those who are competing with them or who are clearly below them. 

The Exhibitionist Narcissist’s use of devaluation sometimes leads untrained people to mistake Exhibitionist Narcissists for Toxic Narcissists.

Closet Narcissists: Closet Narcissists are more likely to devalue themselves than other people. They are always apologizing. If they do devalue other people, it is likely to be behind their back or take the form of coldly withdrawing. They are more likely to openly express envy than to publicly insult or berate another person. 

Toxic Narcissists: Toxic Narcissists like to see other people squirm in embarrassment. They also like to knock people off stride. They often begin an interaction by putting the other person down in some way. They may do this subtly or they may be bluntly and openly devaluing. Unlike the Exhibitionist Narcissists who usually first display themselves for admiration and only resort to devaluation when that is not working well, Toxic Narcissists lead with devaluation. They generally prefer being feared to being admired—or they may equate the two things

All Narcissists use other people to help regulate their self-esteem. If you are contemplating a relationship with a Narcissist (or are already in one), it can be very helpful to recognize their subtype, what they are looking for from you, and what this means in terms of how you are likely to be treated in the relationship. Depending on your inner resources and preferences, you might find one type of Narcissist tolerable as a relationship partner, while another type of Narcissist might literally drive you insane.

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Instagram and narcissism

This may be a surprise to you, but there are 23 million people in America who are actively narcissistic. Though you may know the signs of narcissism from someone’s actions, this type of behavior can actually be measured. As you might imagine, many studies have been done involving the use of technology, and narcissism is included in this category.

In a study published in Computers in Human Behavior, researchers posed the question: Would narcissists follow other narcissists on Instagram? The study also sought to determine whether or not this behavior would contradict their own character of being a narcissist.

The two-part study was done to answer this very question. The results from the first part proved that people who post tons of selfies and groupies are perceived as narcissistic. The results of the second part showed that those same narcissists on Instagram showed favorable attitudes toward fellow narcissists on the popular social media platform, as shown through likes and follows.

That last one may seem like a reach because that would be admiring a being that isn’t themselves. But don’t forget that a huge portion of why narcissists love themselves so much is because of the avid attention they pay to what others think of them.

In other words, if someone has more Instagram followers, a fit body type, or the eye color they want, those types of things make them aspire to be like that person.

Another point this study makes is that there are two types of narcissism we should probably take into account: grandiose narcissism (the aforementioned), and vulnerable narcissism. Vulnerable narcissism is associated with insecurity and social withdrawal.

In other words, a person who is a vulnerable narcissist may constantly post selfies as well as “like” and follow other narcissists, because deep down they aspire to be as in love with themselves as they portray themselves to be.


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Instagram

2016 study published in the journal Social Networking recruited Instagram users and had them complete the Five Factor Narcissism Inventory.

Results showed that “grandiose” narcissists — who are typically extroverted and attention-seeking — are more likely to post photos emphasizing their physical appearance. Specifically, they post photos highlighting their progress toward health and fitness goals.

Narcissists use Instagram primarily to look cool. That’s according to a 2016 study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. For the study, 239 undergrads who were active Instagram were measured on the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale and asked about their motivations for using Instagram.

For a 2016 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers recruited 212 active Instagram users in Korea and had them complete the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

Results showed that narcissists were more likely to post selfies and updated their profile picture often than less narcissistic individuals.

The authors write: “Narcissists can post and manipulate specific photos to make themselves and their lives appear to be a certain way. Instagram appeals to narcissists, because many interactions on it are ‘surfacy’ or ‘shallow.'”

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11 signs

1. They were charming AF… at first

It started as a fairy tale. Maybe they texted you constantly, or told you they loved you within the first month — something experts refer to as “love bombing.”

Maybe they tell you how smart you are or emphasize how compatible you are, even if you’ve just started seeing each other.

“Narcissists think that they deserve to be with other people who are special, and that special people are the only ones who can appreciate them fully,” says Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW, founder of Kaleidoscope Counseling in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But as soon as you do something that disappoints them, they could turn on you.

And usually you’ll have no idea of exactly what you did, says Tawwab. “How narcissists treat you, or when they turn on you, actually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own [beliefs].”

Weiler’s advice: If someone came on too strong at the beginning, be wary. Sure, we all love to feel lusted for. But real love has to be nurtured and grown.

“If you think it’s too early for them to really love you, it probably is. Or if you feel like they don’t know enough about you to actually love you, they probably don’t,” Weiler says. People with NPD will try to manufacture superficial connections early on in a relationship.

2. They hog the conversation, talking about how great they are

“Narcissists love to constantly talk about their own accomplishments and achievements with grandiose,” says psychotherapist Jacklyn Krol, LCSW, of Mind Rejuvenation Therapy. “They do this because they feel better and smarter than everyone else, and also because it helps them create an appearance of being self-assured.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Angela Grace, PhD, MEd, BFA, BEd, adds that narcissists will often exaggerate their accomplishments and embellish their talents in these stories in order to gain adoration from others.

They’re also too busy talking about themselves to listen to you. The warning is two-part here, says Grace. First, your partner won’t stop talking about themselves, and second, your partner won’t engage in conversation about you.

Ask yourself: What happens when you do talk about yourself? Do they ask follow-up questions and express interest to learn more about you? Or do they make it about them?

3. They feed off your compliments

Narcissists may seem like they’re super self-confident. But according to Tawwab, most people with NPD actually lack self-esteem.

“They need a lot of praise, and if you’re not giving it to them, they’ll fish for it,” she says. That’s why they’re constantly looking at you to tell them how great they are.

“Narcissists use other people — people who are typically highly empathic — to supply their sense of self-worth, and make them feel powerful. But because of their low self-esteem, their egos can be slighted very easily, which increases their need for compliments,” adds Shirin Peykar, LMFT.

People-reading tip: Folks who are actually self-confident won’t solely rely on you, or anyone else, to feel good about themselves.

“The main difference between folks who are confident and those with NPD is that narcissists need others to lift them up, and lift themselves up only by putting others down. Two things people with high self-confidence do not do,” Peykar says.

As Weiler explains it, “Narcissists punish everyone around them for their lack of self-confidence.”

4. They lack empathy

Lack of empathy, or the ability to feel how another person is feeling, is one of the hallmark characteristics of a narcissist, Walfish says.

“Narcissists lack the skill to make you feel seen, validating, understood, or accepted because they don’t grasp the concept of feelings,” she says.

Translation: They don’t do emotion that belongs to others.

Does your partner care when you’ve had a bad day at work, fight with your best friend, or scuffle with your parents? Or do they get bored when you express the things making you mad and sad?

Walfish says that this inability to empathize, or even sympathize, is often the reason why many, if not all, narcissists’ relationships eventually collapse, whether they’re romantic or not.

5. They don’t have any (or many) long-term friends

Most narcissists won’t have any long-term, real friends. Dig deeper into their connections and you may notice that they only have casual acquaintances, buddies they trash-talk, and nemeses.

As a result, they might lash out when you want to hang out with yours. They might claim that you don’t spend enough time with them, make you feel guilty for spending time with your friends, or berate you for the types of friends you have.

Questions to ask yourself

  • How does your partner treat someone they don’t want anything from?
  • Does your partner have any long-term friends?
  • Do they have or talk about wanting a nemesis?

6. They pick on you constantly

Maybe at first it felt like teasing…. but then it got mean or became constant.

Suddenly, everything you do, from what you wear and eat to who you hang out with and what you watch on TV, is a problem for them.

“They’ll put you down, call you names, hit you with hurtful one-liners, and make jokes that aren’t quite funny,” Peykar says. “Their goal is to lower other’s self-esteem so that they can increase their own, because it makes them feel powerful.”

What’s more, reacting to what they say only reinforces their behavior. “A narcissist loves a reaction,” Peykar says. That’s because it shows them that they have the power to affect another’s emotional state.

A warning sign: If they knock you down with insults when you do something worth celebrating, get away. “A narcissist might say ‘You were able to do that because I didn’t sleep well’ or some excuse to make it seem like you have an advantage that they didn’t have,” Tawwab says.

They want you to know that you’re not better than them. Because, to them, nobody is.

7. They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse, and it’s a hallmark of narcissism. Narcissists may spew blatant lies, falsely accuse others, spin the truth, and ultimately distort your reality.

Signs of gaslighting include the following:

  • You no longer feel like the person you used to be.
  • You feel more anxious and less confident than you used to be.
  • You often wonder if you’re being too sensitive.
  • You feel like everything you do is wrong.
  • You always think it’s your fault when things go wrong.
  • You’re apologizing often.
  • You have a sense that something’s wrong, but aren’t able to identify what it is.
  • You often question whether your response to your partner is appropriate.
  • You make excuses for your partner’s behavior.

“They do this to cause others to doubt themselves as a way to gain superiority. Narcissists thrive off of being worshipped, so they use manipulation tactics to get you to do just that,” Peykar says.

8. They dance around defining the relationship

There are thousands of reasons someone might not want to label your relationship. Maybe they’re polyamorous, you’ve both agreed to a friends-with-benefits situation, or you’re simply keeping it casual.

But if your partner is exhibiting some of the other symptoms on this list and won’t commit, it’s likely a red flag.

Some narcissists will expect you to treat them like they’re your partner so they can reap the intimate, emotional, and sexual benefits while also keeping an eye out for prospects who they deem superior.

In fact, you may notice that your partner flirts with or looks at others in front of you, your family, or your friends, says therapist April Kirkwood, LPC, author of “Working My Way Back to Me: A Frank Memoir of Self-Discovery.”

“If you speak up and own your feelings about their disrespect, they will blame you for causing a fuss, call you crazy, and use it as further reason not to commit fully to you. If you don’t say a word, [that also gives a] non-spoken message that you don’t deserve to be respected,” she says.

If it sounds like a lose-lose situation, that’s because it is. But remember that you deserve someone who is as committed to you as you are to them.

9. They think they’re right about everything… and never apologize

Fighting with a narcissist feels impossible.

“There is no debating or compromising with a narcissist, because they are always right,” Tawwab says. “They won’t necessarily see a disagreement as a disagreement. They’ll just see it as them teaching you some truth.”

According to Peykar, you may be dating a narcissist if you feel like your partner:

  • doesn’t hear you
  • won’t understand you
  • doesn’t take responsibility for their part in the issue
  • doesn’t ever try to compromise

While ending the relationship is the best game plan with a narcissist, Weiler advises on avoiding negotiation and arguments. “It will make you feel crazy. The thing that drives a narcissist crazy is the lack of control and the lack of a fight. The less you fight back, the less power you can give them over you, the better,” she says.

And because they never think they’re wrong, they never apologize. About anything.

This inability to apologize could reveal itself in situations where your partner is obviously at fault, like:

  • showing up for a dinner reservation late
  • not calling when they said they would
  • canceling important plans last minute, like meeting your parents or friends

Good partners are able to recognize when they’ve done something wrong and apologize for it.

10. They panic when you try to break up with them

As soon as you back away, a narcissist will try that much harder to keep you in their lives.

“At first, they may love-bomb you. They’ll say all the right things to make you think they have changed,” Peykar says.

But soon enough, they’ll show you they never actually changed. And because of this, many narcissists find themselves in on-again, off-again romantic relationships until they find someone else to date.

11. … and when you show them you’re really done, they lash out

If you insist that you’re done with the relationship, they’ll make it their goal to hurt you for abandoning them, Peykar says.

“Their ego is so severely bruised that it causes them to feel rage and hatred for anyone who ‘wronged’ them. That’s because everything is everyone else’s fault. Including the breakup,” she says.

The result? They might bad-mouth you to save face. Or they might start immediately dating someone else to make you feel jealous and help heal their ego. Or they’ll try to steal your friends.

The reason, says Tawwab, is because a good reputation means everything to them, and they won’t let anyone or anything interfere with it.

OK, so you’re dating a narcissist… now what?

If you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD, chances are you’ve already experienced quite a bit.

Being in a relationship with someone who’s always criticizing, belittling, gaslighting, and not committing to you is emotionally exhausting. That’s why, for your own sanity, experts recommend to GTFO.

How to prepare for a breakup with a narcissist

  • Constantly remind yourself that you deserve better.
  • Strengthen your relationships with your empathetic friends.
  • Build a support network with friends and family who can help remind you what is reality.
  • Urge your partner to go to therapy.
  • Get a therapist yourself.

“You cannot change a person with narcissistic personality disorder or make them happy by loving them enough or by changing yourself to meet their whims and desires. They will never be in tune with you, never empathic to your experiences, and you will always feel empty after an interaction with them,” Grace says.

“Narcissists can’t feel fulfilled in relationships, or in any area of their lives, because nothing is ever special enough for them,” she adds.

Essentially, you’ll never be enough for them, because they’re never enough for themselves.

“The best thing you can do is cut ties. Offer them no explanation. Offer no second chance. Break up with them and offer no second, third, or fourth chance,” Grace says.

Because a narcissist will most likely make attempts at contacting you and harassing you with calls or texts once they’ve fully processed the rejection, Krol recommends blocking them to help you stick with your decision.

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What is a narcissist?

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A true narcissist is someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It’s a mental health condition characterized by:

  • an inflated sense of importance
  • a deep need for excessive attention and admiration
  • lack of empathy for others
  • often having troubled relationships

What it boils down to, says licensed therapist Rebecca Weiler, LMHC, is selfishness at the (usually extreme) expense of others, plus the inability to consider others’ feelings at all.

NPD, like most mental health or personality disorders, isn’t black and white. “Narcissism falls on a spectrum,” explains Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for NPD, but it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a narcissist.

9 official criteria for NPD

  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • lack of empathy
  • envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

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Narcissism

A narcissist will often appear charming and easy-going at the start of a friendship or relationship.

Unfortunately, this is an act.

Over time, they will begin to undermine your self-esteem with their toxic communication style and cruel comments.

Most of a narcissist’s relationship problems usually stem from their own destructive behavior, but they remain oblivious to this fact.

Instead, they assume that their partner must be the cause of their woes.

A typical narcissist never takes responsibility for their actions.

In their eyes, they are perfect and cannot do anything wrong.

They are happy to shift the blame onto anyone and everyone else – including you.

Even if you present a compelling case explaining why something is their fault, it won’t make a difference.

They will ignore you, become angry, or accuse you of manipulation.


Your narcissistic partner or friend operates under the assumption that they are more important than you.

They don’t care about your life – they would much rather talk about what’s happening in their world.

Having your problems dismissed can damage your self-esteem, as it implies that whatever you say isn’t worthy of anyone’s time.


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Narcissism

The word narcissism comes from a mythical Greek youth who couldn’t pull himself away from his own reflection. Narcissus was beautiful. Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t have to be beautiful to believe they are. They’re convinced that they’re superior, even when it’s not the reality.

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