Are You Dating a Narcissist?

Lena Aburdene
Punch Purpose Lena Aburdene


By Punch Purpose Lena Aburdene

Have you ever had a situation that goes something like this?: You meet someone and it feels like the stars align. This person is so into you and lavishes you with attention, romance and gifts. The relationship moves very quickly and it feels like you have met “the one.” Months down the road when things have settled in comfortably, things start to change. The person who used to adore and worship you now fluctuates between needing you desperately and devaluing you. Perhaps as time goes on, the person who you thought cared so much becomes more emotionally unavailable, distant and cruel. The “Jekyll” part of the personality starts to overtake the “Hyde.” How did this person who used to be so wonderful and made such an effort to be with you all of the sudden turn out to be so opposite than what you thought? This can leave someone confused, hurt, angry and depressed. If this situation sounds similar to something you have experienced, you may be or may have dated someone with narcissistic tendencies. Here are some of the warning signs:

1. They are madly in love with you right off the bat and the relationship moves very quickly: People with narcissistic tendencies use fantasy like projections when picking a mate. Usually it takes a certain amount of time to fall in love with someone. Sure, you can feel chemistry and a connection with someone but to fall in love with who a person truly is (flaws and all) takes some time. A person with narcissistic tendencies loves the intense feelings and the attention. Sadly, their intense interest in you is more so about them and their needs than it is about you.

2. They fluctuate between adoring you and devaluing you: People with narcissistic tendencies are very hot and cold. They can be mean and critical one second and then sweet and loving the next. This becomes very confusing because you are still seeing glimpses of the wonderful person you first fell in love with but you are also getting to see another side that makes you feel bad about yourself.

3. They have little ability to empathize and everything is on their terms: Someone with narcissistic tendencies doesn’t really see things from your world or from your point of view. Everything is about them and what they want. They ignore your needs in the relationship and only focus on getting what they want or what works best for them. They will always be their number one priority and everyone else will always come after that.

4. They cheat, lie or manipulate and don’t feel remorse: Narcissists don’t really empathize so when they do something to hurt you, they don’t really feel remorseful. This can actually be the most hurtful part because it may make you feel like they never cared about you at all. Moving on can be very hard because a lot of people feel that they need closure or apologies that they will never get from narcissistic people.

5. When it’s all over, it’s like you never mattered: A classic case narcissist mostly uses people for their own gain and has very little emotional connection to those that are in their lives. Because of this, they discard people in their lives very easily. I recently watched an episode of the new HBO show Girls and in this particular episode, one of the characters who had broken up with her serious long-term boyfriend 2 weeks prior now finds he already has a new girlfriend. Shocked that he could move on so quickly from something so serious she exclaims. “you’re a sociopath!!” and walks away. Even though she was the one who broke up with him, she is shocked that it feels like their relationship meant nothing to him at the end of the day and that she was easily replaceable. People recovering from narcissistic relationships are often in shock that someone who once claimed to love them so much has moved on so quickly and without any sense of remorse.

How to spot a narcissist: I always tell my clients to take the time to really get to know the people they are dating before getting too emotionally invested or putting all their eggs in one basket. There are definitely fairy tale stories out there of two people falling madly in love with each other right at the get go and spending their lives happily ever after, but that is generally not the norm. Keep your guard up the more intensely the person is into you and the earlier on it occurs. Past relationship patterns are also very important to look at. As mentioned above, people who are narcissistic are intense very quickly and end up leaving a trail of shattered relationships and people who are left to pick up the pieces (and often need quite a bit of therapy after being in the destructive path of a narcissist). If you get an idea of the dating history of someone and it follows a certain pattern, pay attention to that. Yes, people can change, but past relationship patterns can raise a lot of red flags. The reason people have a hard time of extricating themselves from a narcissistic relationship is because it is hard to get past the fact that someone who used to be so wonderful and loving can turn so cold, hateful and lacking in remorse. These people hang on because of the glimpses they get of the good side and hold out the hope that if they were only “good enough” or “better”, or unconditionally accepted and loved this person then they could get the nice and kind person back. It turns into a vicious cycle and the more you get into a relationship, the harder it is to get out of. Being in a relationship with a narcissist will make you feel crazy and most narcissists actually don’t actively leave relationships; they wait to be left first. It can be really hard to get out of a relationship like this and if you have never been in one, it’s hard to know how. If someone makes you feel worthless or crazy and you know they are not treating you with respect, or empathizing with you, that might be hard to change. Learning to spot negative patterns early and having the strength to know what you deserve in a relationship is one of the best things to do if you find yourself involved with one of these people.

Recovery after a narcissistic relationship: Recovery after a narcissistic relationship can be very difficult. Many people are driven to therapy because they have been left completely shattered and fragile after a relationship with a narcissist. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about YOU. This has everything to do with the flaws of the narcissist and their inability to make real, meaningful connections with others. What they have done to you is what they have done and will continue to do in all their relationships unless they recognize this within themselves and get help. The problem is, most narcissistic people never recognize that they need to change. Remember that you deserve a relationship that builds you up, that makes you feel safe, and that brings you happiness and warmth. A person who is narcissistic cannot give this to you, simply because they are not capable of it.

Further Resources: For more in depth information on narcissists there are two great books: Malignant Self Love by Sam Vaknin  and, Help! I’m in Love With a Narcissist by Julia Sokol and Steven Carter

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17 Replies to “Are You Dating a Narcissist?”

  1. Thank u for posting this. My soon to be ex-husband is a narcissist and everything you described is so true. The hardest part for me was finally breaking the cycle and realizing that the problem is not me, as he would like me to believe. The craziest part is that we have a 2 yo daughter and another one on the way and although we cannot be together in an intimate relationship we have a great friendship. He is still a narcissist though and I see it shine through in his actions all the time but for some reason just being friends for our children allows me the room to stand up for myself without him disrespecting me. I’m still trying to make sense of it all.

  2. It is amazing to me how “cookie cutter” narcissistic relationships are! My ex-husband completely fits this description and has actually been diagnosed twice with NPD. I was always concerned for our son because everything I read said to keep parenting time to a minimum. Luckily for me, once he realized I didn’t adore him anymore he moved on completely.

  3. Hi Logan and Samantha,

    Thanks so much for your comments.

    It is amazing how cookie cutter these type of relationships can be but comforting to know when you aren’t alone and that other people experience this. It’s also really helpful to know, it isn’t you. It sounds like both of you found the strength to leave these relationships and deal with them in a way that feels best to you. That’s awesome and I really applaud both of you for being able to do that.

    Thanks again for reading and contributing your personal experiences to this blog.


  4. It’s amazing to me how my former girlfriend and mother of my two children was able to convince me that all of the problems in our relationship were my fault. I once broke free and had just begun a new relationship when my x talked me into moving back in with her. Within a couple of months of ending my lease, my new relationship, moving back in with my x, and spending a huge amount of money on my x, she found a reason to end the relationship and throw me out without notice. Had to call the police. I can see now that it was a premeditated plan to destroy my life and crush me. WOW! Evil really does exist!

    I’m free today and will never be controlled by another human being again.

  5. Thank you so very much! I am just getting out of a 10 plus year relationship with a nacissist. It took me awhile to realize what his problem was because he would apologize, and APPEAR to be remorseful, but looking back, it was his way to make sure I didn’t leave and kept waiting for the normal man I fell in love with would surface again.

    I pity him and the only saving grace is he is such a recluse that I don’t think he will pick another victim. At least I hope not! It is nice to know I am not alone.

    Thank you again!

  6. I just got out of a 2 year relationship and she fits the above description to a tee. I feel like an idiot. I made the fatal mistake of holding on to glimses of the person I fell in love with even though I noticed they were becoming less and less frequent. I`d catch her in lie after lie, usually about stupid things at first, then more serious ones later. When confronted, she would lie more, get angry and often storm out while convincing me I was crazy and insecure. She never would admit I saw what I saw, or heard what I heard. I started to notice she was stabbing me in the back and involving others in our affairs which she also would deny. She would say I was making it all up and that she loved me. I could see the looks on the faces of others who knew something, yet no one would actually come forward. Probably bc she was their boss. I knew my instincts were screaming at me but somehow she made me turn a deaf ear. How did i fall for this? Idiot, like I said. The person who convinced me we were best friends and the love of her life refuses to have any contact with me. She sold me out as being crazy and insecure to everyone around us and im still wondering if she isnt right. Its like I meant nothing to her and it was all some sort of twisted game from day one. If a narcissist has no remorse or empathy, why do they bother to lie to your face about how they really feel? Whats it matter to them if you know the truth? Do they enjoy ripping hearts out like she did mine? Im still left stunned by the whole thing and that she could be capable of such cruelty but its over now.

  7. Thank you so much, I dated one for a year and a half, and she cheated lied, and manipulated so so much. She bounces around man from man. She admitted to me that sge has cheated on every man she has been with since she was a girl, she craves the excitement and honeymoon stage of the relationships, then cheats with a new one. And continues the cycle. Dropping one like. He never existed. But she learns how to manipulate a person. With me, she would try to tell me how it is, my opinions didn’t matter,and she would be so convincing. At the start, its just like you stated. I remember her ex boyfriend texting all the time asking, I don’t understand what happened, I wish we can work this out. Ect. Now I know, she left me for no reason three times. Then wanted me back I’m assuming because of her need to cheat for her need for attention. I was always very confused as to why.. She would go up and down with her emotions. And everything had to be her way. She destroys men. Reading this makes much better sense. I’m sure she left because she found a new excitement, and she can never see what she has, only what she wants at a time.

  8. John, I feel you, Same stuff here almost. Try to remember that it is nothing that you did, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. In my opinion, they have cycles, like my Desi, they get the excitement of the new person, his status ect. Endorphins pumping and it fills their self esteem.

    She will keep doing it over and over again because its how people like this stays happy. In the meantime they have a double life, even lying to friends and family. My friend calls them vampires lol. They use, manipulate, control, and get a rush oit of doing it. And once they get no more fullfilment, they jump to the next victim and do it all over again.

    I was and still get bad feelings, flashes of how she used to be, but it was all a manipulation to get you closer, and to manipulate abd lie to you better. These people live off of the excitement of the rush of new things, and drama.

  9. I just realized I was in love with a narcissist. This after an 18 month reign of on again, off again. He came on like gangbusters and broke up with me after 3 months. He was back 6 months later only to end it after 3 months again. He was everything as described above, charming to start, then unavailable, then could never brake away – he continued to text me for the next 9 months but was never available to date. Until 2 weeks ago, when he met me and of course, me being hopeful that this was going to be a new beginning, we spent the night together. I texted him the next day saying I enjoyed spending time with him, etc. I didn’t hear from him for 10 days. When I questioned him, he immediately turned it on me. His response was very telling – he went on to say what a giving person he is, how he does this and that for people. How he could not have a relationship with me because revisiting a past relationship doesn’t work for him. It was an eye opener. I let him think we can be friends, but in reality, that friendship would be one-sided just as our romantic relationship had been. Me being available and giving of myself, he not.

  10. I just realized after three months that I was in love and dating a narcissist, possibly someone who ahs borderline personality disorder, as well. My ex-boyfriend came on very strong telling me he loved me very quickly. Soon after he was thanking my mom and dad for raising such an amazing daughter and telling them he was going to marry me someday. We even talked about having our child someday and names we both wanted for our children. I quickly became caretaker to his seven year old son and I didn’t mind at first. Actually, I was the one that suggested if he needed help to just ask since he had full custody at the time. But there were red flags that I didn’t fully recognize until looking back in hindsight. He was very emotional and got angry at the slightest criticism, however constructive it was. I was walking on eggshells and afraid to say anything that could set him off. He always said I was too good for him and he was always making me promise not to ever leave him. However, he acted very cocky and talked himself up a lot I could tell he had insecurities. One day he suggested he found our dream home and wanted to see it immediately. He had our entire future planned and was all excited about it. I felt uncomfortable because two weeks earlier he was telling me all of the plans he had to build onto his own house and buy the property behind his. It was strange how he flip flopped so fast, plus being together only 3 months it was way too fast for me. He sensed my hesitation and went into a rage one night how I hurt his feelings. I left and he immediately apologized and asked me to come back. After that we fought almost every other day over nonsense. I felt like I was the crazy one since he always turned everything on me. It was impossible to hold an adult conversation. He drank alcohol daily which didnt help and every time he drank he would start an argument with me. Finally after yeling and cursing at me one night in front of his son when I packed my bags to leave I realized the rlelationship was futile. But again after leaving he texted and said all these nice things to lure me back even how much he loved me and how he couldn’t wait for our trip to Florida in a couple eek. We talked it out on the phone and 6 hours later after not hearing from him (he wouldn”t answer my texts) I went to his house to find him cheating on me with another girl. He had just told me 6 hrs before how he told his son I would be back and we were getting together the next night. When I caught him cheating he just looked at me and waved. His eyes were all glassy and he looked as if he was in a haze. I know he was drinking but this time it looked like maybe he was on something. I was shocked! I am a strong, educated woman and I am not only disappointed it took me 3 months to see this but I am baffled as to why I am heartbroken. I know he has a serious problem and I would NEVER go back to him but I am struggling with trust and confidence now. Since I caught him I let his entire family know what he did and told them he needs help. This has been a pattern for him in past relationships I now know. He was very cruel over text a few days later but is now being nice. We both wished ech ther well and he thanked me for taking care of him and his son and apolgized for how things went down. Not sure if he meant it, I would like to think he did. What do you think? And do you think a guy like this will ever try and contact me or get togeher again? I just want to brace myself in case. Thank you!

  11. I am struggling to determine whether my ex is an Narcissist.
    He left his ex for me a year ago and moved straight in with me and my daughter. Within 2 weeks he had persuaded me to take out phone and PC contracts for him in my name (he said he had no credit rating)
    I paid for 3 holidays this year with the promise of him paying me back, he took loads of cash off of me too and there was always a reason that he could not pay back…. He always lost jobs because of than his own fault.
    Whenever we rowed, it would always be my fault! He started getting verbally and physically violent but would never apologise.
    None of his stories made sense… He would brag about being in prison a few years back and how he was an ex marine…. He would tell everyone this within 5 mins of meeting them? But dates did not add up!
    I caught him lying so many times, he left me once and a bottle of champagne went missing… I asked him why he would take that as he hurt me enough by leaving and not paying me back? He said it broke and got angry that I suggested he took it… When we reconciled a week later I found the champagne at his parents house… He even tried to give it back to me as a gift for breaking the other one… But I worked out it was the same bottle? Caught out! And he tried to act as if he was doing something nice for me when I was right all along!
    I have shamefully found myself begging for his return, but he just ignores me!
    10k of debt in one year and last I heard he was swanning round with the latest gadgets whilst I am paying off his debts in my name…. How can he not feel guilt? He old not even give me my phone back…. He said it got broke but I know he has sold it…..
    I have been off work for 3 months with depression over this and he is off on holiday to New York tomorrow…. What about my money?
    How can he not feel guilt?
    How can he be so happy after what he has done to me… Everyone at the pubs loves him, his family blame me… I want to scream… Nobody believes me… I even tried to take my own life and leave my poor 9 year old motherless because he told me to do it and I won’t be missed.
    I still want and love this man….. What is wrong with me?
    Is he a narcissist or have I come a cross this to try and find an answer…..
    Will he contact me again?
    Not heard from him for 4 days since I texted him to say I have realised he does not love me and I will leave him lone now… Thought he would reply but has not…
    Please help me, I am rock bottom.

  12. Wow…did this hit home! My boyfriend of two years just broke up with me and my story reads exactly like the article!
    Hot ~ Cold ~ Done! Leaving me to figure out what hit me! Hmmm…well I just got my answer from this article! Thank You!

  13. I think its a little unfair to pick on a narcissist, i wouldn’t normally just say this but i am a diagnosed narcissist and i find this offensive! so what about caring for people. No one won’t get anything they want out of life without lacking remorse, feelings for others now thats a joke, i personally moved from girlfriend to girlfriend in weeks just because i got bored of them over time.

  14. I broke up with a man in August who fit this description to a tee! He was a SEEMINGLY honest, committed, caring and thoughtful guy. He wanted to be exclusive after less than 2 weeks of dating – glaring red flag no. 1! About 6-7 months into the relationship, he revealed himself to be everything you’ve described above. Relationships with narcissists, no matter how committed they seem, rarely last very long. Also, narcissists tends to end their relationships rather disrespectfully…by text, email, or no communication at all. They’re too self absorbed to considering feelings other than their own. Their dating failures are never their fault – it’s always something wrong with the other party, but NEVER their own personal shortcomings. Pay attention to how they speak of and lump all of their exes into the “crazy” or “boring” category. It’s not the exes, it’s them! They quickly hop from relationship to relationship leaving a broken messy trail behind them and wonder why they’re still single at 40+. They’re always chasing that “new relationship” feeling because they’re lacking something within themselves, but they never deal with it. Ultimately, their loneliness is their own doing – it’s quite sad actually.

  15. Oh, and they always have the audacity to think they can contact you out of the blue like an old pal, no hard feelings, but offering no apologies. That’s how arrogant they are. Sickos and weirdos I tell ya!

  16. Wow, now I see a recent relationship for what it really was–a no-win situation with a self-absorbed man. I feel relieved to read this article, but at the same time sickened to see how many months of anguish I felt over a man. Why someone would behave this way toward another human I don’t know. I can only imagine the wake of broken hearts that preceded me, and that will follow. The hardest part was the hold and cold action–going from completely loving one moment to cold and distant (and passive aggressive) the next. And thinking nothing of it. And rebounding right into the arms of another woman when I wouldn’t take the crap any longer. Poor girl. Worse still (or a blessing in disguise) is when I did a background check and discovered all kinds of things (lies by omission) and a problem with alcohol and tax evasion. Wow. I feel like I dodged a bullet in the long-term, but my short term involvement left me feeling quite fragile. I’ve learned my lesson–proceed slowly in getting to know someone. If they care about me, they’ll be willing to wait, and show me.

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