Ever get the sense that your boyfriend thinks the world revolves around him?
Does he treat other people as disposable and seem to lack empathy?
Then there’s a good chance that you’re dating a narcissist.
I’m going to tell you how to recognize a narcissist, what it’s like to date one, and what you need to do next.
The Signs Your Boyfriend Is A Narcissist
Before we start, I should say that some of these indicators are subjective so don’t go ahead and dump him just because he’s fishing for compliments. The real test is how his actions and attitudes affect the people around him.
Does your partner make you second-guess reality?
Do you ever feel the desire to tape record your conversations just to prove to them that they DID say something even though they’re insisting they didn’t? Then chances are you’re experiencing gaslighting.
Gaslighting is the act of manipulating the truth by psychological means in order to make someone question their own sanity and thereby, gain power over them.
Gaslighting has become a trendy catchall term that gets misapplied a lot these days but true gaslighting is very real and very harmful. It’s one of the most common tactics of narcissists and the truth is, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it.
Narcissists are able to twist the truth in order to make you feel crazy, and gain control over you. This is what gaslighting is all about.
For example, let me paint you a scenario: You’re in a big fight with your boyfriend. He says “You’re worthless, I’m the only guy who’d ever put up with this. You’re going to die alone.”
For some reason, you don’t dump him on the spot. A couple weeks later, you can’t stop thinking about it so you bring it up. He says “I never said that. Why would I ever say something like that? That’s horrible.”
Now, you start to doubt yourself. He seems so sure. Did you misremember? This is gaslighting at work. He calls into question things that you KNOW to be true and it sends you into an emotional tailspin.
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When you start to doubt your own sanity, he wins because now you have to rely on him to tell you what’s true and what isn’t. This kind of power is extremely attractive to a narcissist.
Narcissists insist on their own superiority over others. They’ve taken self confidence to the extreme and believe that they really are the centre of the universe.
They think that they’re the most special and unique person in the world and that it takes a very special person to understand their greatness.
This is why narcissists can be very flattering to the people around them: since they’re so amazing, then you must be amazing too since they want you around. To this end, they often exaggerate their own achievements, talents and stories.
They’ll often talk about how lucky you are to have them. And their sense of self worth can border on manic.
3. Inability to take criticism
Criticism is something that really sets narcissists off. Instead of taking notes and growing as a person, they’ll often lash out in anger and turn criticism around on you. They may also be dismissive or sarcastic.
Narcissists don’t like it when someone questions their inflated view of themselves and so they need to find a way to minimize the criticism of others.
When you talk about yourself does your boyfriend always change the topic back to him? This is because, to a narcissist, it’s difficult to feel empathy or care about someone else beside themselves.
Some amount of selfishness is normal but relationships are about overcoming this natural instinct and putting someone else’s needs above our own.
Narcissists are unable to do this enough to create a happy, healthy relationship for both parties.
5. Double standards
This is part of narcissists’ inflated sense of self and comes with a sense of entitlement. Basically: “I’m so special that the rules don’t apply to me.”
They’ll often skip the line, cut corners and do whatever it takes to get what they want, without considering how this affects other people, like you.
Maybe he yells at people in the service industry because, in his view, they’re there to cater to his every whim.
Maybe he speeds excessively or drives drunk. Narcissists will often be very judgmental of other people for doing the very same things that they do on a regular basis. This hypocrisy comes from a lack of self awareness.
6. Lack of empathy
Narcissists are prone to abusive behaviour because they have difficulty feeling empathy for others. Since they don’t consider the feelings of other people, they don’t have any qualms about manipulating and degrading others for their own benefit.
This can be malicious or simply oblivious but one thing’s for certain: true narcissists will treat others badly and when confronted, they will exhibit a lack of guilt or shame.
Basically it comes down to an inflated sense of self importance, a failure to empathize with others, and being prone to manipulative behaviour.
What To Do If Your Boyfriend Is A Narcissist
But that raises the question: if you find out your boyfriend is a narcissist, what are you supposed to do about it?
First, I’d caution you against diagnosing your boyfriend with narcissism. In truth, narcissism is a spectrum. Meaning we all have elements of narcissism in our personality. It can ebb and flow depending on what’s going on in our lives and often it will fade as we become more mature and learn more about other people.
Yes, being a narcissist isn’t always permanent. But, and here’s the important part, you’re not going to be able to fix him. And trying to will just put a lot of pressure on you, him and the relationship itself.
Instead, decide if this is something you can live with. I’m not saying roll over and play dead. I’m actually going to give you some very tangible steps you can take to protect yourself and get your own needs met while dealing with a narcissist.
But, to some extent, this is who he is. He’s not just going to wake up one day and be a completely empathetic, selfless person. But since you’re reading this article, I get the sense that he’s got other positive qualities that make him worth being with. You just have to decide if the good outweighs the bad.
If you do decide to give it a shot, here are a few ways you can create a balanced relationship with a narcissist.
1.Call him out on his lies
One of the most powerful tools in dealing with a narcissist is the truth. If you’re able to show him that he can’t get away with lying and manipulating the truth, then he’s going to be forced to be honest with you.
So don’t feel pressured to take what he says at face value. Be willing to question him if something seems fishy. And don’t act on his assumptions without making up your own mind first.
There’s a fine balance to strike here. If his exaggerations don’t affect you or anyone else, it’s fine to let them slide here and there.
But if he’s telling harmful lies in order to put you down, you need to show him that you’re not afraid to stand up for the truth.
In part, this helps establish your own agency in the relationship as it shows that you’re able to make up your own mind, rather than letting him call all the shots. It also shows him that you’re not someone he can be dishonest with. If he wants to avoid conflict, he’ll have to work to be truthful.
2. Set healthy boundaries
Because narcissists lack empathy, they tend to violate the boundaries of others. Since they have trouble understanding how that makes you feel, and because they don’t really care one way or the other, they have no real incentive to change their behaviour or respect your wishes.
This can involve things like taking your possessions without asking, snooping through your phone, eavesdropping on conversations, showing up uninvited, and giving you unwelcome opinions and advice.
It’s important to recognize these violations for what they are, so you can begin to create healthier boundaries where your needs are respected.
The first step to creating boundaries is to make a plan. Write down times they’ve violated your boundaries in the past. This list isn’t about throwing it back in their face. It’s simply about finding the areas of friction so that you can decide which ones to push back against.
Let’s start with an easy one. Say you caught him going through your phone without your permission. Chances are that made you feel unsafe. You also felt resentful that he doesn’t trust you. In this case, a simple step you can take is to put a password on your phone and not allow him access to it. This is the easy part.
The difficulty comes in when he starts pushing back against this boundary. He says “Why is there a password on your phone? Are you hiding something? If you don’t have anything to hide, then why do you feel the need to keep it from me?”
Narcissists can be relentless with stuff like this. They feel entitled to every part of you because they see themselves as more important than you.
When they lash out at you, counter this by remaining calm and simply explaining your point of view. Remember that having boundaries isn’t selfish. Privacy is your right and it’s your decision to make how private you want to be.
3. De-escalate the situation
When you set boundaries, a narcissist will often take this as a personal attack and lash out at you. If you let him get under your skin and make you angry, then he’s effectively won. Narcissists thrive on conflict. If he can escalate things then he’s got you right where he wants you.
Here’s one trick that works well: when they raise their voice, you lower yours. Eventually they’re forced to lower their voice to hear you better and this can de-escalate the situation.
Another good move is to just leave the room. If he’s unwilling to calm down and hear your point of view, show him that you aren’t going to sit around and be yelled at. Sometimes it just takes a quick walk around the block. The silence he’s left with will make him really consider his feelings and behaviour.
4. Let go of the need for approval
One of the biggest tools a narcissist has is their approval. If you treat them the way they think they deserve and cater to their every whim, then they’re going to shower you with praise and attention. If you deviate from their desires, they can turn cold or downright nasty.
If you’re able to withstand this kind of behaviour then he’s going to learn that you’re not someone he can easily manipulate. The more you let go of your need for his approval, the more you’ll be able to maintain your own boundaries and values without fear of repercussions.
5. Use this phrase: “How would you feel if I said that to you?”
This is a phrase that can have a powerful effect on a narcissist because it forces them to consider your point of view.
It might not always be effective but if you use it sparingly, it can shift the conversation and make them aware of how they’re actually treating you.
Part of narcissism is failing to feel empathy and this phrase can be the kick in the ass they need to consider someone else’s feelings.
6. Get outside support
This is advice that I’d give to anyone in a relationship but it goes double when the person you’re with has narcissistic tendencies.
You need to have a life outside of the relationship for several reasons. First, when you’re able to be independent, socially and financially, you won’t be at risk of getting sucked into his version of the world.
And having a rich social life without him means having other people to talk to about him, either just to vent or to sort the truth from the lies. So keep up with your friends and don’t become isolated in your relationship with him.
7. Be compassionate
I know how tempting it is to fight fire with fire but if you stoop to his level, things aren’t going to work out the way you want them to.
Instead, do your best to keep an open mind and be kind and compassionate towards him. This won’t always be easy but, in the long run, it’s going to prevent a negative spiral which will make a healthy relationship impossible.
Unfortunately, dating a narcissist will require you to be the bigger person, a lot.
8. Walk away if you have to
Unfortunately, in many situations, a happy relationship with a narcissist just isn’t’ realistic.
If he’s unable to treat you the way you deserve and you find your life is suffering as a result of his manipulative and selfish behaviour, you need to know when to walk away and not look back.
It doesn’t matter how good this relationship COULD be. No relationship is worth sacrificing your own mental and emotional health.