Last week, we talked about the love addiction again (with a new IG post, please read the previous blog post about love addiction here) and how it is often a coexisting condition for a sex addiction and/or a Narcissism. I have talked about the traits of a narcissist before, so this week, we will take a deep dive into what it feels like to be in a romantic relationship with a narcissist.
Working as a relationship therapist, I can’t tell you how many times I see couples with one of the partners with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) or Narcissism. I also encounter a narcissistic partner and a partner with BPD together in an extremely chaotic and high conflict relationships, quite often. But vast majority is an empath partner ending up with a narcissistic partner, who gaslights, manipulates, neglects, and even severely abuses their partners.
It breaks my heart to see what these highly empathetic people endure daily, in the name of love. This is a global phenomenon and we need to start talking about it more as there are countless victims everywhere in the world, who’s lives are ruined by a narcissistic partner.
Narcissists are more prevalent in western culture, which values the individualism more than the collectivism. Anecdotally, I think narcissists in US make about 20-30 % of the population these days at least. I am hoping this list will be helpful in filtering these predators out. So that people who are in a dating scene or in a relationship with a narcissist currently, can save themselves from years of possible abuse and a heartbreak.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you will see…
1.Love Bombing (idealization phase)
If there is anything that a narcissist is good at, (they possess a few real talents) it is Love Bombing. They are a master at making their next potential partner feel extremely SPECIAL. You might think, “This is too good to be true.” Well, it is!
What can really throw you off is that they are often just like someone, who lives next door. They are not a prince-charming. They may not be particularly a good looking, physically fit, financially successful, or have a higher education level/a higher social status (so they look for all these qualities in a partner to enhance their fragile ego). They often are someone, who you won’t find very attractive without the love bomb. And that is how powerful love bombing is! We find people more attractive when they are attracted to us. And the narcissists prey on their victims, using this simple human nature.
So how can you tell if someone is love bombing you? The love bombing usually does not last longer than 6-8 weeks. So take things slow as narcissists can’t keep up their act for too long. They don’t know how to have a real relationship with intimacy and true connection. Soon enough, you will start seeing a drastic change (they will show you who they really are), after 6-8 weeks of dating a narcissist. And if you don’t like what you see, get out while you still can. Because now that the Love Bombing is over, the devaluation (read #8) will follow. And you DO NOT want to be around for that.
2. Fast progression of the relationship
Narcissist usually move things very quickly in the relationship, so they can get their victims hooked in ASAP. It is flattering that someone seems to be so sure about you in the very early stage of the relationship. But be mindful that healthy people take time to get to know each other. Be skeptical if anyone wants to move things along too quickly and tried to accelerate the intimacy.
Again, take your time getting to know them, and see how they respond when you set healthy boundaries. The narcissists will push back and try to manipulate you and that’s your cue to run.
Narcissists cheat, lie, steal, to get what they feel should be theirs. They take whatever they want (money, admiration, sex) without any concern for who they hurt. Do something nice for the narcissists and see how they respond. It’s likely that they will take it for granted and not show a true gratitude. They are so entitled that your kindness is just expected.
4. Compulsive lying
They lie with minimal effort. You won’t be able to tell when they are lying. Just assume that they are lying as long as their lips are moving.
They feel no shame or guilt so they can look at you straight in the eye and lie. They even get a pleasure of tricking people. As they are not able to feel anything real and chronically feel bored, this could be a source of entertainment. They lie whenever it is convenient for them even about tiny little things. They also lie to hook you in. They lie to make people feel sorry for them, telling you stories about crazy exes or fake illnesses or injuries.
5. Future faking
They start planning a vacation with you. They tell you all the things you will be doing together in the near future. They talk about the perfect wedding and the perfect house they want to buy with you. Sometimes this is done as a tactic to reel you in as quick as possible. Sometimes they actually feel sincere when they say these things. They still shouldn’t share these fantasies with you on their first impulse though, as they often change their mind at a drop of a hat. But narcissist don’t feel guilty or remorseful about the hurt or the disappointment they can cause to their partners, if things don’t work out as they planned.
From their past experiences, they should know better (as same thing always happens) and act with more care when getting involved with someone in a romantic relationship. But if they thought about other people’s feelings, we won’t call them a narcissist, right? They forget about all the future plans they have made with their partners as soon as the infatuation wears off and the love bombing phase is over.
6. Needing constant validations
They have extremely low self-esteem and do not believe anyone can actually love them. So, they constantly bid for admiration. Sometimes this happens in a form of self-pity. “I don’t like my body.” They are asking you to tell them that you like their body. Sometimes it happens in a form of bragging, “I am a such a good and honest person.” Again, they are asking you to agree with them and fishing for compliments. *Most narcissists have both grandiose and vulnerable characteristics. I will write about this in a future blog post.* Sure, we all have some insecurities but if someone does this constantly in your presence, be weary.
You won’t be ever be able to fill that empty cup for them. Also, watch their response when you give them the praise and when you don’t. They will either act very entitled or get upset.
7. Anger tantrum
Fights with narcissists can escalate quickly as they can get upset very easily, when they are told they are wrong or when they hear “no” from others. They don’t have the emotional maturity to acknowledge that they are wrong. Nor do they have the skills to regulate their emotions like fully grown adults they are. But instead, what you will see is them throwing an anger tantrum like a 5-year-old child. How they behave in that moment is the narcissist’s true emotional age.
They had you up on a pedestal and now they are going to knock you down by devaluing you! In another words, the love bombing stops and the devaluation starts, when they know that they have you. The reason for this is, the narcissists have such low self-esteem and immense self-hatred that once you fall for them, your value starts going down.
After all, if you really like them, you can’t be all that great, right?
Based on recent research, the most interesting thing about this is that the narcissists are really bad at recognizing their partners’ negative feedback. No matter what feedback they get, the narcissists don’t doubt their partners’ commitment as much as non-narcissists. They are quite delusional when it comes to how much their partners are into them, or invested in the relationship. These cognitive distortions protect the narcissists’ low self-esteem but promote their bad behaviors towards their partners.
You tell your narcissistic partner how they hurt your feelings and here are several different ways they can gaslight you.
One, they tell outright lies that are not true. “I never said that.” “You are forgetting that I already told you that.” Two, they blame you for it. “Well, if you didn’t make me so upset, I wouldn’t have yelled at you.” “It’s because you are always stressing me out! How can I be nice to you?” Three, they tell you either you are overly sensitive, or crazy. “You are making those up in your head! I never lied to you.” “Don’t be so sensitive, I was just tired when I said those things to you.” Four, they up the game to shut you up and throws an anger tantrum. “I am so sick of this relationship!” “You always make me feel like a failure!”
10. Lack of empathy?
Do you think narcissists don’t have any empathy? Then how were they able to be incredibly attuned to you during the love bombing? Because they do HAVE the empathy muscle and they were open and aware to your feelings and your needs in the beginning. So, when they stop showing empathy towards you, that means that they are choosing not to use it. They do what feels right for them following their impulses to serve only their own interest. It might be hard to hear this, but narcissists just don’t care about you when you become no use to them.
They just can’t be bothered to think about how what they say or do will affect you.
11. Love addiction/Sex addiction/and other addiction
Addiction is a maladaptive coping skill for easing the emotional pain and escaping the reality. Not all but a lot of narcissists seem to have a sex addiction and/or a love addiction or other type of substance and behavioral addictions. Through sex/love addiction, narcissists gain sense of control and power over others. The chase and thrill of seducing and having sex with someone serve as their drug of choice. Addicts always crave more and more of the drug over time, as their brain becomes tolerant of the intensity and the frequency of the past use. So narcissists’ pursuit for more frequent and more intense limerence (falling in love feeling) and sexual activities will continue as their addictions escalate.
12. Adverse childhood experience-neglect, abuse, chaos, or trauma
Narcissists often come from a family with emotionally neglectful and overly-indulgent parents. One of their parents or both parents could be a narcissist themselves. Some suffered from physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, or a neglect in a chaotic and traumatic environment. So of course, we can have empathy for them. But that doesn’t mean that YOU need to save them from their pain, while enduring the narcissistic abuse. They are stuck in their personal hell, because they don’t get help for their sickness. They are NOT your responsibility.
What you need to do is, to save yourself before the abuse gets too bad. The narcissists can go to therapy and do the hard work to better their lives. But they usually just play the victim and keep abusing other people come their way. Many people had a horrible or not so pleasant childhood. But that doesn’t justify anyone’s bad behavior towards others, especially when it is as cruel as the narcissists’.
When a narcissist totally used you up, or you’ve become an inconvenience for them (as you challenge them or demand more from the relationship or make them feel ashamed), they will discard you. Once they treated you like the most important person in the world. But now, they simply can’t be bothered with you because they already found another source of a narcissistic supply (or supplies) lined up. Their self-esteem is so fragile that they can’t handle being alone so they always overlap their romantic partners. They might have been dating another person or multiple people during the whole time you two were together. But don’t feel bad. The new narcissistic supply will be discarded just like you when the narcissists eventually get bored, except individuals with BPD. Narcissists love the unhealthy and chaotic, roller coaster relationship with people, who have BPD or BPD traits .
I hope knowing these 13 signs will help you stay away from getting into a relationship with these predators in the first place.
But what do you do if you are with a narcissistic partner already? It is not my place to tell you what to do with your life. But Just know that narcissists rarely ever change and the narcissistic abuse gets worse and worse over time.
Think about why you are wanting to leave the relationship and why you are wanting to stay. Make a list of things that are most important in a relationship and in a partner. How many of those needs are met in your current relationship with your narcissistic partner and how important are they to you? No one can tell you what the right decision is as you have to make it for yourself. Whether or not you decide to leave or stay, I recommend working with a therapist, who can support and guide you through this difficult journey.
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Liz Wee, LMFT, ATR
Do you want to learn more about how you can improve your relationship with your partner? Or are you an individual, who's working on self right now to have better relationships in the future? I would love to assist you!
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