10 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist

By Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

If you’re dating a narcissist, you are likely to find that the relationship becomes tumultuous. This is because the symptoms of narcissism can make it difficult to get along with others and have loving relationships. 

If you suspect that your partner may be a narcissist, it can be helpful to learn about the different signs that indicate narcissism. Further, it’s important to know where you can turn for help when your well-being is damaged by a relationship with a narcissist. 

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a diagnosable mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides diagnostic criteria to help clinicians identify mental health conditions. As a personality disorder, narcissism represents a deviation from what is typically expected of a person in terms of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. 

There are 10 different personality disorders, and narcissistic personality disorder has its own unique symptoms. Individuals with narcissism present as grandiose, and they have a need for constant admiration. 

Criteria for NPD

The DSM specifies nine criteria that indicate the presence of narcissistic personality disorder. To be diagnosed with the condition, a person must show five or more of the following traits:

  • An extreme sense of self-importance 
  • Fixation on finding perfect love or being more powerful, attractive or successful than other people
  • Believing that they are special and should only surround themselves with special people
  • Demanding constant admiration
  • Feeling entitled to favorable treatment and compliance with all of their demands
  • Being willing to take advantage of other people to get what they want
  • Showing a lack of empathy and inability to understand other people’s needs
  • Presenting as jealous, or believing that other people are jealous of them
  • Behaving in an arrogant manner

Signs You May Be Dating a Narcissist

If you’re dating a narcissist, you may suspect the person has a mental health condition or personality disorder, as there will probably be a significant amount of turmoil in the relationship. While diagnostic criteria are helpful, some specific behavioral examples can paint a clearer picture of whether someone is a narcissist.

1. They Are Charming

While the symptoms of narcissism can make it difficult to have a meaningful relationship with someone with this condition, a person with narcissistic personality disorder will come across as quite charming in the early stages of a relationship. They would not be able to win over a new partner if they revealed their negative traits in the beginning of a relationship, so they rely on using charm in order to attract partners. They also tend to be charming with other people, even if they are unpleasant in their romantic relationships. 

Charming behavior is necessary for someone with narcissism to maintain a positive image in public. In fact, research on loved ones of narcissists has shown that people with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be quite charming and likable in public. They can come across as incredibly personable and social, both in public and during the beginning stages of a relationship, since they are putting their best foot forward.  

2. They Lack Empathy

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder lack empathy, so they have a difficult time understanding other people’s feelings. If you’re dating a narcissist, this means that when you’re upset — especially about something they have done — they will have a hard time understanding your perspective. They will be able to hurt your feelings and say cruel things and feel no remorse because they do not empathize with your feelings. 

3. They Love Talking About Themselves

Keep in mind that one of the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder is having an exaggerated sense of self-importance. In a relationship, a narcissistic person will enjoy talking about their accomplishments, and they may even exaggerate their achievements to impress you or others. Narcissists also require excessive admiration, so they will enjoy telling others of their accomplishments and receiving praise in return. 

4. They Constantly Need Validation

While narcissists are grandiose on the outside, they often internally struggle with low self-esteem. This means they must boost their self-image with external validation. When you’re dating a narcissist, they will require an excessive amount of attention and praise. If you aren’t providing it, they may try to seek it elsewhere. Research has shown that there is a link between narcissism and infidelity, which is likely explained by a narcissist’s need for constant validation. 

5. They Gaslight You

Gaslighting is a common psychological tactic used in abusive, controlling relationships, including those in which one partner has narcissistic personality disorder. Gaslighting involves one partner convincing the other that they are “crazy” and that their understanding of reality is wrong. For example, a narcissist may engage in abusive behavior and then convince their partner that the abuse never happened. A narcissist may also call their partner “crazy” and claim that all relationship problems are because of the partner being crazy. 

6. They Are Manipulative

One of the signs of narcissistic personality disorder is the ability to exploit other people for personal gain. In the context of a relationship, this can mean the narcissistic partner manipulates the other person to get what they want. A narcissist may ask to borrow money and promise to pay it back, but never do so. They may also be overly sweet and kind to get something out of their partner, only to be cruel after getting it.

7. They Have To Be Right About Everything

Narcissists are arrogant and haughty, so they feel that they are above their partners. They will go to great lengths to ensure they make it clear that you are always wrong and they are always right. Even when faced with evidence that they are wrong, a narcissist will refuse to accept that their partner could possibly be correct. 

8. They Lack Long-Term Friendships

If you’re dating a narcissist, you will likely find they don’t have many close friendships. They may have a few casual acquaintances that they interact with from time to time, but long-term friendships are rare for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder. This is because once people get close to a person who is highly narcissistic, they will eventually see some of the negative traits, such as exploitative behavior, haughtiness and lack of empathy. In most cases, people will not want to maintain a friendship with someone who has these traits. 

9. They Ignore Boundaries

Narcissists feel that they are entitled to have all of their demands met, meaning they will not care about your boundaries. If they want something from you, they will not care how it affects you or whether it interferes with some other area of your life. For instance, you may tell them that you cannot answer phone calls when you are at work unless there is an emergency. Even if you try to establish this boundary, a narcissistic partner will repeatedly violate it because they feel entitled to contact you whenever they wish. 

10. They Belittle You

Research on loved ones of narcissists has demonstrated that narcissistic individuals tend to belittle those closest to them. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, they will likely call you names when they are angry. They may call you dumb or ugly, or they may point out all of your weaknesses in order to make you feel bad. Because of their lack of empathy, a person with narcissistic personality disorder will not feel guilty about belittling their partner.

How NPD Is Diagnosed

While these signs are suggestive of narcissistic personality disorder, keep in mind that only a professional can diagnose this condition. If someone has symptoms that may suggest narcissism, a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker, will diagnose the condition utilizing the DSM. They will evaluate a person’s history and current symptoms to determine if they meet diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment

If someone has narcissistic personality disorder, it is unlikely that their behavior will change without treatment. Professionals recommend ongoing therapy for people who live with narcissism. In some cases, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder may benefit from taking medications to address co-occurring issues like anxiety and depression.

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder should be individualized to meet a person’s unique needs, but some specific forms of treatment may be more beneficial than others. For instance, a type of treatment called psychodynamic therapy can help people to address defense mechanisms that develop with narcissism. 

Finding Help

If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you may need to seek support for yourself. Even if your partner refuses to seek therapy, you may benefit from mental health services and resources. Research has shown that women who have been victims of psychological abuse are more likely to live with depression, thoughts of self-harm and poor mental health. Since narcissistic behaviors like gaslighting and manipulation can rise to the level of abuse, your own mental health may suffer. 

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can begin to take its toll, especially if you have been subjected to manipulation, belittling and being made to believe that you are crazy. Whether you choose to leave the relationship or not, it is important to find help for yourself if the relationship is beginning to interfere with your well-being. Symptoms like anxiety, sadness, difficulty concentrating and low self-esteem may indicate that it’s time to seek therapy. 

If you’re looking for help for mental health challenges that have arisen after being in a relationship with a narcissist, the Nobu app can be an effective resource. This app offers several free features, including lessons from mental health experts, a mood tracker and training on mindfulness practices like yoga and deep breathing. For an additional fee, you can schedule sessions with a licensed therapist, who will meet with you online. See what positive changes Nobu can create for your mental health and overall well-being — sign up and download the app on your Apple or Android device today.

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Edited by – Jonathan Strum Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor’s in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. He has written, edited and published content for health care professionals, educators, real estate agents, lawyers and high-level university faculty… Read more.
jenni jacobsen
Written by – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has seven years of experience working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health… Read more.
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Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips

Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.