Not everyone out there is a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to dating. But when it comes to narcissism, they excel at pulling the proverbial wool over your eyes.
And if you think you’re already in a relationship with a narcissist, it can be hard to the signs for what they really are – and the narcissist makes sure of that.
So whether you’ve dealt with narcissism and are hesitant to date, are in a toxic relationship and need clarity, or if you simply want to avoid dealing with a narcissist altogether, here are the red flags you should look out for:
The Narcissist Relationship Cycle
Perhaps one of the most difficult signs of a narcissistic relationship is the actual narcissist relationship cycle itself. Narcissists are cunning and they know how to manipulate your emotions and slowly trap you in a relationship.
So before we look at how to spot a narcissist easily, let’s look at narcissist relationship patterns to understand what they do during the course of a relationship:
- Idealization: At first, the narcissist will idealize you, compliment you, and give you lots of positive attention – all to get you “hooked” on those good feelings and continue to seek them from the narcissist.
- Devaluation: Once you’re hooked, the narcissist will begin to manipulate you by isolating you, distorting facts, verbally assaulting you, and treating you in ways to lower your self-esteem.
- Love Bombing: During the phase of devaluation, the narcissist will still “love bomb” you by giving you the positive attention they did in the beginning. This is all to confuse you so you don’t truly recognize their abusive behavior as abusive – you love the good feelings so much that you excuse the way they behave.
- Discard: Eventually, the narcissist may leave you because you no longer serve their purpose, or you leave. However, even if you do leave, they will twist the story so that they broke up with you and they are better off without you.
- Hoovering: Except, they will try to win you back because, as hooked as you got on those happy feelings, they got hooked on controlling you.
If the narcissist is successful in hoovering you back into a relationship, the entire cycle starts again.
As I said, recognizing this narcissist relationship pattern is extremely difficult when you are still struggling with a narcissist – so let’s look at some clear red flags you can spot when it comes to your involvement with a narcissist.
How Do You Spot a Narcissist Easily? Narcissist Red Flags Checklist
Keep these narcissist red flags in mind when you are starting a new relationship or dealing with a toxic one:
1. The Relationship Develops Too Fast
During that idealization stage, the narcissist is going to come in hot and heavy with compliments and professions of love. They want to rush you into a commitment to “trap” you in a relationship.
In the beginning, they will lay on the charm thick by showering you with compliments and making you feel like a rockstar before they even get to know you. They will also try to create superficial connections with you and claim that you are “destined to be together” or “perfect for each other”.
2. They Like to Throw Pity Parties and Play the Victim
Looking back, this is the one glaring red flag my ex demonstrated very early on in our relationship.
When a narcissist talks about conflict in their life, they are always the victim. Whether they are telling you about a breakup or being fired from a job, it is never their fault.
Narcissists can’t deal with a reality that contradicts what they want to be true so they tell stories to create a version that better suits their need to displace guilt and avoid responsibility.
Oftentimes, they will villainize the people in their stories. These people are horrible and treated them like garbage – yet, you may notice the narcissist treating others in their life the exact same way.
3. They Have Few to No Friends
The narcissist will claim their tiny social circle is due to all the people who have wronged them in their life but the truth is, narcissists are incapable of forming deep connections.
Because narcissists use people feed into their sense of self-importance and superiority, once a person fails to do this the narcissist drops them and moves on.
Except for when it comes to relationships where they have put their claws in so deep that they will fight to maintain the control they have established. Otherwise, friends are disposable and it’s likely their family are “monsters” that they want nothing to do with.
And they will keep you away from their family as well since you may the truth about who they really are. They will also try to keep you away from your friends and family so that no one clues you in to what a horrible person they are.
4. They Are Arrogant
Narcissists act like they are superior to others and you’ll notice this smugness early on in the relationship.
They talk about themselves as if they are more important than they actually are and tell you they are associated with people in positions of power when they are, in fact, not.
For example, my ex worked for a company when we met. The owner was a well-established man in our community and my ex spoke of him like they knew each personally.
I came to learn that he had only met this man once while working there and they had no connection whatsoever.
It may seem like a small, innocent thing but it can be a clear indication of narcissism when paired with their arrogant behavior such as belittling, criticizing, and judging people (especially minorities).
5. They Never Apologize
Again, narcissists will never take responsibility for hurting you or doing something wrong, so they will never apologize.
Instead, they will deflect the guilt and make it your fault. They will never try to compromise or understand your side of things – they are always right and they will try to use situations to “teach” you the truth.
This makes arguing with a narcissist frustrating and angering. There’s nothing you can do change their minds or get them to accept your side of things.
6. They Control and Manipulate
As the relationship progresses, narcissists will begin to exhibit controlling and manipulating behaviors but, because they love bombed you in the beginning, you are unlikely to notice them right away.
During the narcissist relationship cycle, they will begin to take control of your life by claiming their demands are out of “care”. For instance, they may not want you to go out clubbing with your friends because they are “worried” something will happen to you because they “care” so much.
They may convince you to have a shared bank account because they want to take “care” of you and handle the finances.
Eventually, they will start to create a sense of dependence by convincing you that they are the only one who “cares” for you and that you can’t rely on other people.
7. They Will Gaslight You
As part of their desire to control and manipulate you, narcissists will do what is called “gaslighting” (which you can read more about here).
This is a form of emotional abuse where they lie and make false accusations in order to spin the truth and have you guessing your own memories and reality.
Gaslighting happens slowly and deliberately during the narcissist relationship cycle and is one of those red flags that are hard to spot until it is too late.
One example would be the narcissist always telling you that you are “too sensitive” when you get upset at them. Another example would be calling them out on something they said they would do but they are adamant that they never said it.
8. They Freak Out If You Try to End It
As I mentioned above when I was talking about narcissist relationship patterns, they will try to hoover you back if attempt to leave or break up.
This is because your threat of ending it sends them into panic mode. They spent so much time and energy trapping you into a relationship that they are desperate to keep you right where they had you.
The narcissist may love bomb you, make false apologies, and make false promises to change but this is all just to get you back into the abusive relationship.
When you leave a narcissist, you become one of those people who “wronged” them and the entire break up will become your fault.
(Spoiler: The bullshit the narcissist will cause when you leave is totally worth being away from them. Trust me.)
Keep An Eye Out!
I’m not saying that you should approach every future relationship with crippling skepticism but knowing how to spot a narcissist will give you the confidence to establish boundaries and end relationships that are not meeting your expectations.
And, if you’re already in a relationship with a narcissist, I hope this narcissist red flags checklist helps you gain perspective on what is happening to you so you can start taking the steps to get out and heal from your experience.
How about you? Were there any others signs you noticed in your relationship with a narcissist? Share them in the comments below!