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6 Telltale Signs You're Dating a Narcissist, Expert Reveals

Don't let the love bomb fool you. Be aware of the red flags you have a narcissist on your hands.

Dating can be a totally fun stage when you're with the right person. That being said, some relationships can be quite challenging at times, and you may not even understand what's happening. Eat This, Not That! Mind + Body reached out to Leanna Stockard, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for LifeStance Health, who reveals the red flags that signal the person you're dating is a narcissist. Since narcissists start off all lovey-dovey, the signs may have you feeling a little confused and not knowing exactly what to do. So keep reading and pay close attention to these telltale signs you're dating a narcissist.

Narcissists start off your relationship with love bombing.

man giving his girlfriend gifts, love bombing signs you're dating a narcissist

Stockard reveals, "Narcissists often engage in love bombing at the beginning of the relationship." A type of manipulation, love bombing is how the narcissist expresses just how much they want to spend time together. They will make you a priority and surround you with a lot of affection.

Beware, as when a narcissist feels as though they've captivated you, your importance and their affection starts to dwindle. Stockard warns, "If you notice your partner is not who they were at the beginning, and you are consistently doing things to get that person back, you may be dating a narcissist."

Related: Here's How To Deal With Being Betrayed by a Best Friend, Expert Says

They lack empathy towards others.

conceited man talking to his girlfriend

It's very challenging for narcissists to have empathy for others. Stockard explains, "Your partner may display this by failing to recognize your needs or emotions in a situation, and their main concern remains on their own needs or emotions."

They'll always make themselves a top priority, believing they have more importance than anyone else and are, simply put, very special. They can experience bad relationships with other individuals unless the narcissist thinks of them as being of similar uniqueness and importance.

You always feel like you're being manipulated in your relationship.

manipulative, toxic relationship, signs you're dating a narcissist

If you're always feeling like you're being manipulated, this is another one of the telltale signs you're dating a narcissist. Narcissists typically use a manipulative tactic known as gaslighting. This includes being manipulative in a given situation with the intent of making you feel like you imagined something, and/or that your feelings and version of what occurred are "crazy."

Stockard says, "In addition to gaslighting, a partner that engages in the silent treatment is also using this as a manipulation tactic. Often, the silent treatment makes you feel as though you have done something wrong, and you need to work toward something or take responsibility, just to get them to talk to you again." She adds, "Narcissists do not take any responsibility for what they have done; they will not apologize, and they can often use defense mechanisms to put the blame back onto you, criticize you, and make you feel devalued."

It's crucial to be mindful of manipulation, as it sometimes happens gradually as time passes.  The way it's approached may vary, too. "Because of this," Stockard explains, "I recommend consistently taking the time to evaluate how often these manipulation tactics are occurring, and overall how the dynamic of the relationship is impacting you."

Related: Signs A Loved One May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health

If you feel as though you're not good enough, you may have a narcissist on your hands.

woman upset in bed

"I'm not good enough" is a very common phrase Stockard hears and one of the signs you're dating a narcissist. She tells us, "A narcissist's goal is to feel adored by the people close to them. If you are consistently feeling like you are not good enough in the relationship, that you feel that you cannot do anything right, or if you are feeling that you are 'walking on eggshells,' you may be dating a narcissist."

Narcissists always seek admiration.

man taking selfie with girl friends

Does your partner always direct a conversation to be all about them? Stockard tells us narcissists constantly try to be showered with affection, be the center of admiration, and have everyone see their "greatness."

Insecurity and poor self-esteem are traits of a narcissist.

man feeling insecure on couch

You may be wondering what goes through the mind of a narcissist that causes them to behave this way. Well, another one of the signs you're dating a narcissist has to deal with their insecurities. "A narcissist's behaviors often stem from insecurities or a poor self-esteem," Stockard explains, adding, "Due to this feeling, they are self-centered, selfish, and are consistently in search of admiration. This self-focus leads to manipulation tactics to avoid blame, they will engage in things that will solely benefit them, and will do this at the expense of others."

Understand a narcissist's behavior, and learn how to say no to them.

woman scolding boyfriend

It's possible your narcissistic significant other knows they are narcissistic and may want to learn more about themselves and instill changes in their behavior. If that's the case, it's possible to make modifications that can result in a positive relationship that works.

"If this is the case in your relationship, it is very important to set boundaries with your narcissistic partner," Stockard tells us, adding, "I recommend being a part of their process by understanding their narcissistic behaviors, learning to say 'no' to them, notifying them what your expectations are in the relationship, and explain what you are and are not willing to tolerate."

However, if your significant other continues with the same old behaviors, Stockard recommends staying calm but assertive and addressing their behavior with them. The expectations from a narcissist may be that you will lose your cool and yell, which will give them the perfect opportunity to blame you for confronting them. This is why your presentation and approach are of utmost importance.

Stockard adds, "I also encourage partners dating a narcissist to take care of themselves and to not put your entire focus into your partner; engage in your hobbies, rely on your friends, and take care of your own emotions. You matter in this relationship, and it is important to understand that the work your narcissistic partner will be doing on themselves is going to be a consistent process." You will need to exude patience, it can be a totally exhausting process. As Stockard suggests, consistently be mindful throughout the process and acknowledge how it has affected you.

If your partner's behavior is abusive or you feel like you've lost yourself, end the relationship as soon as possible.

woman, toxic relationship, looking discouraged on couch

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is difficult, and the decision to leave them can be even harder. Stockard points out, "The adoration and affection you received at the beginning of the relationship is often what keeps a person in this relationship," adding, "Partners of a narcissist sometimes feel that 'if they just did x, y, or z differently' then, their partner will get back to the person they were before."

If this develops, Stockard strongly recommends you to really comprehend just how dating a narcissist has affected you. She advises, "If you have felt that your partner's behaviors are abusive, and/or if you are feeling like you have lost your sense of self, it is time to cut the ties with them. It is also time to cut ties if/when your partner does not acknowledge their narcissism, and see no reason to work on it or change." She adds, "You cannot do x, y, or z differently to change your narcissistic partner, this change needs to come from their own understanding of their narcissism, and their own desire to modify their behaviors. I believe if you have to 'deal' with dating them, then it is time to leave."

If the narcissist has not instituted change, know that it is time to break things off with them. Their sheer disrespect of the boundaries you established in the relationship should not be tolerated. Stockard concludes, "If you feel that you are being abused, work with your support systems & additional resources to leave the relationship safely."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa