There are many articles online outlining the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder but, in my experience, real life is a little bit different – especially when it comes to romantic relationships. After sharing experiences with other people who have been with narcissists, I put together the 10 signs that I keep seeing again and again, and prove that your partner has a serious disorder that’s causing you deep pain.
Note: this is not to shame people with NPD, or encourage any discrimination towards them. In fact, I know people who are aware of their disorder and make genuine efforts to not hurt the people around them. This is to protect people from becoming victims of their malicious behaviour. I am not exaggerating when I say that a person with NPD is capable, and willing under specific circumstances, to ruin your life.
1. Your needs are a burden. Your boundaries are irrelevant.
People with NPD don’t really care about other people, unless they have something to give them. If you’re ill, don’t expect them to bring you as much as a cup of tea. They’d rather question how ill you are, and if they do end up bringing you that tea they will make it seem like they are doing you the greatest of favours.
Same goes for your emotions or boundaries. Are you sad because you had a fight and don’t feel like your usual jolly self? They will accuse you of ruining their day and tell you their lives would be so much better without you. Do you want some time alone to recover after a fight? Forget it, they will chase you around and keep yelling at you no matter how many times you tell them to leave you alone.
2. Their needs are to be met immediately.
Or expect mayhem. It can be as small as watching the TV show they want, or picking holiday destinations. Early stages of the relationship involve a lot of manipulation and rationalisation to convince you to do what they want. Later stages are full of anger and insults.
3. They feel superior to everyone else.
A woman I know very accurately described that they act as if they are a neurosurgeon or the president. They get very angry from people who ask anything of them, or people who don’t deliver immediately what they want. They have a “do you know who I am?” attitude and expect special treatment. They behave like they’re super busy, yet in reality they have tons of free time. They love comparing themselves to others to highlight how much better they are e.g. you may suggest that he goes to play football like your friend Jay, so that they can make friends – the reply will be "I have no time I have a very serious job unlike your friend Jay". They will also diminish people around them and use expressions like "I piss on them" and talk about how much better they are at their job. In summary, they act like Joffrey in Game of Thrones.
4. They make you feel like shit.
Love is meant to make you feel like the best version of yourself because they love you for who you are and lift you up. People with NPD make you feel like you will never be good enough. You may literally feel like going crazy because they make no sense. Verbal communication with them sometimes feels like you’re from different planets. Once you reached that stage, be aware; they will start gaslighting you and claim that you are actually crazy and do everything to prove it and devalue you. I find that calling people crazy is the classic go to move.
They may even create fictitious situations so that you feel isolated and diminished e.g. they might say that someone you both know thinks you’re emotionally unstable or aggressive – without any reason to back this up. If you’re out with a friend and they leave early they might claim that it’s your fault because of your “bad vibes” (the so-called "triangulation").
5. They’re an angel in disguise.
When you met them they were perfect. You felt like you won the lottery. Later on, this person slowly vanishes. You kept thinking that this person will come back, that you can go back to the beginning, but gradually you realise that this person you met was not real; it was all an act. Their perfect, charming self will appear occasionally when there’s need; when they fucked up and want to reconcile, when you’re in social situations, when they need something, etc.
6. They have sudden emotional outbursts.
The water goes from zero to boiling for no reason, especially if you say something that they translate as “I'm not perfect”. For instance, if you say “I wish you had asked me yesterday why I was upset”, expect a proper telenovela to unfold. Their emotions might go up and down a lot too; one day they might tell you to pack your stuff and move out, the next morning they will tell you what an amazing mother you’ll be and that they can’t wait to start a family with you.
7. They project everything on you to avoid responsibility.
This is what psychologists call "projection" and can be combined with "gaslighting". Examples:
“What you said hurt me” – that’s because you’re oversensitive, you need to toughen up.
“I wish you were there for me when I needed you at the hospital” – why, are you a little girl who needs me?
“I was really distressed and I didn’t feel you gave me support” – you didn’t make it evident enough that you were distressed.
8. They need constant attention and validation.
They love attention, even if it’s negative. That’s why if you break up they will try to get your attention in any way, from being overtly sweet to overtly aggressive. That’s why they also have a harem; you may notice that they talk about their exes, to the point that you feel like there’s 3 (or more!) people in the relationship. Their exes are always there, like a ghost, and you’re constantly compared to them. They also have intense relationships with people that are not in their lives in a real way. For instance, they might become super close with someone, especially a more junior person of the opposite sex, when they change jobs. Or they might suddenly start texting non-stop a long lost friend that they haven’t seen for years and you haven’t heard of before. As suddenly as these new people appear, they disappear (because people with NPD, like most people with serious personality disorders, can't maintain healthy, close, long term relationships).
9. They have impossible cleanliness levels.
And you are the person who stands accused if things aren't at the cleanliness levels they demand. You’re not allowed to leave dirty glasses around (but they are). They will remind you the house is a mess (but wont' do anything about it). They will smell towels and if they don’t smell fresh they will ask you to wash them again. They get disgusted by bodily fluids, especially after sex, and want to change bed sheets.
10. They isolate you.
This starts by devaluing people close to you; they might say that they’re not good enough for you, they’re not good friends, or that they’re a bad influence. They get jealous easily, so a night with your friends out is a potential threat. This will be very helpful for them when later on they will try to prove to people that you're crazy. They may try to hide jealousy as it doesn’t look good – and they need to always look good.
Do you recognise many of these behaviours in your partner?
Do you repeatedly feel like you lose yourself because of your partner?
Do you wake up with a feeling of anxiety, as if you're at war?
Do you feel isolated?
Do you keep wanting to break up but find it impossible to do so?