- People with narcissist personality style or traits often lack empathy, are entitled, arrogant, and controlling — making them extremely toxic to date.
- Insider spoke to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and narcissism expert, on the signs to look for if you suspect your partner is a narcissist and what to do about it.
- If you are dating a narcissist, you might feel a magical connection at first but during the relationship you might feel gaslit, undervalued, ignored, and controlled.
- “The best thing to do is to cut your losses, once you sense the red flags in the early days of the relationship — get out before you have too much of an investment in it,” Durvasula told Insider.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The term narcissism oftentimes gets thrown around, but it can be hard to pinpoint if you’re actually dating a narcissist.
The official definition of a narcissist, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a person who often lacks empathy, acts entitled, arrogant, and prioritizes themselves above all else.
This can impact all aspects of their lives including their money management, career, and above all else, their relationships.
But when you’re the object of a narcissist’s affection, those traits may not be so clear. Narcissists typically shower their partners with love, in ways that make it difficult to process that subtle feeling of being undervalued and ignored.
Insider spoke to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and narcissism expert who’s appeared on “Red Table Talk,” on the red flags you should look for if you suspect your partner is a narcissist and how to handle it.
Narcissists can be hard to spot on first glance because they’re extremely charismatic — watch out if you feel a ‘magical’ connection
The reason so many people have trouble identifying narcissists when they first start dating is because of how charming, charismatic, and confident they are.
According to Durvasula, the courtship phase of dating a narcissist is typically characterized by “love bombing” — a manipulation tactic of overwhelming someone with affection, acts of service, and gifts in order to get what you want.
“Vacations, gifts, elaborate experiences, constant contact, or just too much information and too much intense interest overall,” Durvasula told Insider. “A narcissistic relationship often starts as too much too fast — this is then followed by a cycle of devaluing, discarding, and ups and downs.”
An almost supernatural spark with someone might feel good in the moment, but can actually be a major red flag in the relationship.
“For me hearing that people have a ‘magical connection’ is often a red flag that this may be shaping into something toxic,” Durvasula told Insider.
Their behavior flips after you commit to the relationship, becoming less attentive, outwardly self-centered, and inconsistent
Soon after the “honeymoon phase” is over and a narcissist has gotten you to commit and emotionally invest in the relationship, there’s a flip that happens. The over affection might stop, the gifts could dwindle, and instead, there might be drastic swings in their behavior.
“As soon as the narcissist has you — like a kid with a toy — they become a bit disinterested pretty quickly, and the devaluing cycle happens, and then it is officially toxic,” Durvasula told Insider.
They might be less attentive, not pay attention to you when you or others when speaking, and be flakey with plans they might have kept during the early stage of your relationship. When they don’t get their way, they might be quick to anger and shut off.
“Look for how the narcissist manages stress and disappointment, how they treat other people, how they speak about other people, do they pay attention when you or others are speaking, are they sensitive if you make an off-handed comment they perceive as an insult, are they entitled [like being] too good to stand in a line, get angry when they don’t get their way,” Durvasula said. “Do they anger quickly, are they inconsistent and shady?”
You feel controlled, as if you can’t speak your mind without jeopardizing the relationship
Because narcissists are self-interested, they put their needs first. This might mean you experience more and more conditions to your relationship the longer your date.
Your partner might isolate you from your friends, tell you when you’re allowed to go out, and even what to wear according to what they want. Any disagreement in opinion can turn into a full-blown argument because they are the priority in their minds.
“You may find yourself more and more controlled, isolated from things that matter to you, second-guessing yourself, walking on eggshells — all of which characterize the narcissistic relationship,” Durvasula said.
But if you bring up their unfair treatment, a narcissist will likely gaslight you — a manipulation tactic used to make someone question their perception of the truth and reality. They may tell you that you’re misremembering an ugly fight where they called you names, say they misunderstood clear boundaries you verbalized, or blame their behavior on outside factors like stress or childhood trauma.
You make excuses for their behavior
If you find yourself defending your partner’s behavior, toxicity, and in some cases abuse, you likely are dating a narcissist. Durvasula said that if you say things like “it will get better” or blame your partner’s behavior on stress, a “touch childhood,” or say they “didn’t really mean it” these are all red flags.
“These are relationships when you often feel you are upside down and confused, and you are often making excuses and rationalizations for the relationship,” Durvasula said.
All of the toxicity and gaslighting may leave you feeling hollow and without a sense of self in your relationship.
“It can leave you confused, full of self-doubt, anxious, self-blaming, other negative moods including apathy, depression, a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness, increasing social isolation, a sense of shame,” Durvasula told Insider.
Relationships with narcissists are typically toxic, so cutting ties is the best next step
Your partner might tell you they’re going to be better or change, but Durvasula said it’s best to cut ties with them if you detect any of the warning signs.
“The best thing to do is to cut your losses, once you sense the red flags in the early days of the relationship — get out before you have too much of an investment in it,” Durvasula said.
Durvasula recommends going to a therapist with experience dealing with narcissists as they can recognize these warning signs and help work through the anxiety you might be feeling about the breakup.
“Relationships with narcissists are toxic. Period. They are characterized by invalidation, neglect, deceit, gaslighting, inconsistency, dishonesty — maybe not all of the above, but some,” Durvasula told Insider.