Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or NPD) falls on a spectrum. It can look different in different people and various situations. This spectrum of presentation is one of the reasons it can be incredibly challenging to know if you're in a relationship with a narcissist.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist can make you second guess everything you know, making you constantly question yourself. This uncertainty makes it even more challenging to tell if your partner is a narcissist.
Narcissists often cut you off from your support system of family and friends. They lie to make you sound crazy. They manipulate your loved ones into not believing you. Frequently this means, you don't have anyone to turn to for help, no one to validate what you're going through.
The DSM (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) lists nine criteria for NPD, but someone only needs to meet five of them to qualify as a narcissist clinically.
Nine official criteria for NPD
Grandiose sense of self-importance
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
The 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 or arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
But knowing the official criteria doesn't make it any easier to recognize a narcissist, especially one you're involved with romantically.
Additionally, when you're trying to figure out if you're in a relationship with a narcissist, you aren't wondering if your partner has NPD; you're wondering if how your partner is treating you is normal, healthy, and safe. Your feelings are important and valid! You deserve to feel safe and loved in your relationships. When you start to question their behavior or your responses to how you are being treated, you may want to look out for the following:
Your partner was very charming and suave when you first met them. Narcissists are amazing actors and know how to manipulate people to get what they want. They can pretend for a long time until they feel that they can fully control you and that you don't have another way out.
They always have to be the focus of the conversation. Nothing is more important than them and their needs. If the discussion does not center around them, they will find a way to change it back to them. They are master manipulators.
They lack empathy. Narcissists can't put themselves in your shoes; they are not able to grasp the concept of feelings, so they can't make you feel validated, understood, or loved. They are bored or uninterested when you talk about a bad day or a problem with your friend. However, they are perfect pretenders, which means they can fake feelings to a point.
They are hypersensitive to criticism and get extremely angry when criticized. They take every negative comment as abuse against them They enjoy playing the victim. You can never bring up how your partner made you feel or how they upset you without them getting offended and angry. Frequently you don't say anything and choose not to confront their behavior because when they get mad, you fear for your safety or just want to keep the peace.
Nothing is ever their fault. Your partner will never take accountability for anything and will never apologize because they believe they can do no wrong. They will lie and use elaborate excuses, anything to deflect from how they behaved.
They gaslight you. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse. It's very dangerous and damaging; the narcissist tells blatant lies and spins the truth, often putting your safety and wellbeing in danger. This can cause you to question your own sanity!
Their outward image is so much more important to them than their inner reality and they will often buy designer name items as they want nothing but the best for themselves as it is a symbol of a higher status. they crave being and having" the best."
Additionally they can be impatient, hold grudges, use your words against you, manipulate you to getting what they want, usually at your expense, and constantly criticize you.
These behaviors, especially combinations of several of them, can cause you to feel so much pressure to do and say the "right" things and can lead to feelings of confusion, depression, anxiety, frustration, and low self esteem.
Narcissistic partners want to keep you feeling "less than" and "not good enough", because they want you dependent on them and they feel good about themselves by belittling you.
If you think you are in a relationship with a narcissist, please follow me on Facebook or join my free, private, Facebook group "Confusion to Clarity "where you can learn more about narcissistic trauma and discover ways to cope and heal.