Are you in a Relationship with a Narcissist? How to Spot the Signs

relationship with a narcissist

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Signs of narcissistic behavior in a relationship

A recent study has revealed that 1 in 200 people are narcissistic and over 158 million people in the United States alone, experience low self-esteem whilst in a relationship with a narcissist. 

You may be in a long-term relationship or a new relationship, but if you have arrived at this article then there is every chance that you, or somebody that you love, such as a family member or close friend, feels that they may be suffering emotional abuse whilst in a relationship with a Narcissist. 

The behaviours being exhibited may indicate a partner with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).NPD is categorized by an inflated idea of self and a need for attention from other people.

What is Narcissism?

The word narcissist actually came from a Greek Myth, in which a young man named Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water

So when we refer to an individual displaying narcissistic traits or narcissistic tendencies this may include an elevated opinion of themselves that translates into a lack of empathy for others. 

Narcissism was first identified as a mental disorder by the British physician Havelock Ellis in 1898, he referred to it as ‘pathological self-absorption’.

But ‘having an elevated opinion of yourself’ could well describe dozens of people you know, so at what point does just being somewhat self-absorbed become narcissism? 

And what makes a relationship with a narcissist an abusive relationship or a toxic relationship

In the next section we start by breaking down narcissistic behavior, then we look specifically at different types of narcissism, examine the impact and finally consider some ways that victims of narcissistic abuse may be able to deal with their situation.

Relationship with a narcissist
Being in a relationship with a Narcissist can be very frustrating and upsetting. Image - Zachary Kadolph, Unsplash

Are you in a Relationship with a narcissist?

While it might sound odd, the world we live in is becoming increasingly narcissistic.

Social media and mobile phones are packed with fun creative tools that encourage us to take selfies and short videos, add our special effects and upload them to our Insta reels and favorite accounts online. And we can do this in an instant, numerous times each day.

…sounds a lot like a modern day version of the Greek Myth ‘Narcissus’, getting lost in our own reflection – doesn’t it?

So how can you separate some of these increasingly common behaviors, to identify if your  Partner is actually a good person, or if they’re actions are far more concerning?

Signs of Narcissism

There are many signs of narcissistic abuse, which can help you to understand if you are in a relationship with a narcissist.

Narcissistic people are constantly concerned about their own needs

A true narcissist will always focus on themselves, their own needs and will only care about you for a short time, (often when you are fulfilling their needs).

If this sounds like your new Partner, then there’s a good chance that they are a narcissist.

Some additional red flags and signs of narcissism include:

  • Strong and constant need for admiration and praise
  • Superiority complex
  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Cannot cope with feedback on their behavior or mood
  • Behaviors used as a manipulation tactic
  • Severe lack of empathy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Their own needs are always the priority
  • Comes across as a control freak

All of these signs will present to varying degrees, depending on the individual and  their personality type.

relationship with a narcissist
Social media and mobile phones make narcissistic behavior much more common

4 Different Types Of Narcissism

There are many types of narcissism, and they all present themselves differently and impact those around them in different ways.

Knowing what these are will certainly be in your best interest, as this manipulative tactic can cause incredible levels of stress and emotional distress, from something that may well start out as a good relationship.

Here are 4 different types of narcissism and their traits:

1. The Grandiose Narcissist

A grandiose narcissist is the most well-known and commonly reported type of narcissist, confident and dominant by nature, they will exaggerate their self-importance and rarely show any signs of sensitivity at all.


The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), describes them under Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (NPD).

They will have very high self-esteem, which comes across as shameless, obnoxious and self-absorbed.

Their high self-esteem will give them a great sense of personal superiority and entitlement, which can result in aggression and hostility if they are ever challenged. 

2. The Vulnerable Narcissist

Also known as a closet, introvert or covert narcissist, the vulnerable narcissist will be hypersensitive, and their feelings can be hurt easily. 

They will have a particularly hard time processing any trauma or failure and will often be neurotic, worrying greatly about how others perceive them.

The distress, guilt and anxiety experienced by a vulnerable narcissist, will often create an internal conflict and irrational opinion of themselves, and with a weak opinion of themselves, their emotional abuse will take on the form of threats and distrust.

relationship with a narcissist 1
The Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissists are two of the most common forms of Narcissism

3. The Malignant Narcissist

A Malignant Narcissist is possibly the most dangerous form of narcissist to be in an intimate relationship with, due to their ability to be outwardly cruel and aggressive to those around them.

They have a distorted sense of morals and take satisfaction in creating disruption and ruining the lives of people they claim to care about.

Their abusive behavior can be linked to poor mental health, and further types of personality disorders.

4. The Communal Narcissist

This type of narcissist has only been set apart from the others recently and are by far the hardest to spot as narcissists, as they outwardly present themselves as good Partners

They are very aware of their own actions and how others view them, and because of this, they want to be recognized for being helpful, supportive and giving to their Partner, yet their behaviors are just as selfish and dominant as that of a Grandiose narcissist.

The communal narcissist is driven by power, self-esteem and sense of entitlement, but are much more subtle in how they achieve this.

Although it may have started out as a healthy relationship, being with a narcissist who displays any of these traits, can have a severe impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing and is in no way a display of genuine love

relationship with a narcissist 2

The Impact of Narcissism

When you hit it off with a narcissistic person, especially in romantic relationships, there is likely to be an intense ‘honeymoon period’, where you’re doing nice things and made to feel like their best friend, and certainly the most important person in their life. 

But over time, it becomes impossible for a narcissist to display this high level of care and attention to anyone other than themselves, and their true colors become apparent, resulting in a sharp nose-dive in the quality of the relationship.

This often happens after a spell of roughly 6 months, or in some cases it can take a year or so. 

The Impact – Your relationship with a narcissist will leave you feeling quite unloved. 

The sad reality is that a narcissist will either have such low self-esteem that they aren’t capable of truly loving someone else, (vulnerable narcissist), or they will be so self-absorbed and obnoxious, that you aren’t enough of a priority for them to meet your needs, (grandiose narcissist).

A narcissist will become jealous very easily, which will result in them lashing out, either verbally or physically and spiraling into controlling behavior

In general, trait narcissism is associated with behaving in such a way that one is perceived as more likable in initial encounters with strangers— but this likability diminishes with time and increased exposure to the narcissistic individual.”

Other Impacts of Narcissistic Abuse

  • Feeling lonely, even during the relationship
  • Feel as though your opinions and wants are not important
  • Boundary problems
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Left feeling angry and defensive, after being made to feel incompetent for so long
  • Poor self-image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

This cycle can be broken down into 3 key stages, and by understanding them, you will be able to recognize which stage you may be experiencing and seek help if needed.

1. Idealization

Feelings of intense love and fortune are not uncommon in any new relationship, with electricity crackling between you both, and your time together full of physical affection and long phone calls to break up your painful time apart.

This is heightened even more so if you are in a relationship with a narcissist. They will elevate you to a level that you are unlikely to have felt in previous relationships, saying and doing all the right things

They will idolize you as their perfect Partner, the one they have always been looking for. 

2. Devaluing

At some point, (as with any relationship), the relationship will progress and the honeymoon period will eventually begin to fade into a more predictable routine.

That’s not to say that there is no love in the relationship, in fact, beyond the honeymoon period is commonly where a couple can understand and appreciate each other even more, albeit in a slightly less emotionally charged way. 

The difference during a relationship with a narcissist, is that instead of your bond growing, they will devalue you as soon as it occurs to them that you are not the perfect and faultless person they need.

Because remember – the only purpose you serve to your narcissistic partner is to build their own self-image and feelings of importance, and without this, they will become rude, cold and void of affection.

3. Discarding or Rejection

In a typical, loving relationship, a couple will continue to find ways they can work together and enjoy each other’s time. Of course there are arguments and times when you disagree, but the underlying foundation is one of love, and a desire to be in a healthy, lasting relationship.

But for narcissists’ relationships, once they believe their Partner can no longer fulfill their constant need to feel important, their ego will be impacted and narcissists simply cannot be content with this.

This is unfortunately where they will look to ‘reject’ the person they are with, pushing them away emotionally, and placing them at fault, until they can ‘discard them completely and the relationship ends

Then they will find someone new, and repeat the cycle of abuse numerous times, leaving a series of broken relationships and hurt individuals behind them.

Narcissistic abuse cycle
The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Dealing with A Narcissistic Partner

If reading this post has confirmed to you that you are in a relationship with a narcissist, then acknowledging this and taking some time to consider both the conscious, and unconscious decisions that may have brought you to this relationship.

Perhaps you have grown up with narcissistic parents? Or perhaps the put-downs and criticism is something that connects with your own self-doubts? 

It’s common that people who fall in love with narcissists, experience issues around codependency, and either consciously, or unconsciously, look to their Partner to form part of their support system.

While these questions can feel hard, and looking at yourself critically is not an easy thing to do, but by understanding more about why and how you find yourself in this relationship, is the best way to take back the reins. 

By reading posts like this one, and increasing your understanding of narcissism, you will be able to see through their layers of superiority, grandeur and ballooned self-worth, and understand it for what it truly is – deep-seated feeling of low self-esteem.

This will help you approach your Partner with compassion, and in turn, expect to be treated this way yourself.

Be sure to keep developing your own self-worth and confidence in yourself, and always strive to be treated equally in all situations.

Conclusion and Further Reading

Here are some more helpful articles to read if you are in a relationship with a narcissist. 

A genuinely healthy relationship should not leave you feeling like you are side-lined, emotionally or physically abused, and wondering if you are good enough for your Partner.

You can find a better person for you, who is capable of providing you with a healthy, intimate relationship.

If you Partner is not willing to confront their behavior and seek help, the best thing you can do is walk away.