8 Tips On How To Spot A Narcissist and What You Should Do About It
Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be a frustrating endeavor. Here's what you need to know.
Many clients who come through my door—those ready to file for divorce—state a long list of reasons for getting one, but more often than not it is because the non-narcissistic spouse is fed up with the one who is!
There are many definitions and interpretations of the word narcissist. In my opinion, I think this personality type can be defined in a soundbite: "It’s all about me!" Self-centered, an inflated sense of self, admiration of oneself, and the belief that his/her needs should top the needs of those around him/her, are all typical indicators that will eventually cause trouble in a relationship, unless the narcissist’s mate doesn’t care about the kind of abuse only a narcissist can mete out.
More clearly: A narcissist is a person with a widely diverse personality. On one end of the personality spectrum, he/she can be the charismatic leader who is capable and able in many ways; has loving family and friends, but who has distorted sense of self-importance. He or she bears this mantle because underneath he/she really feels a deep sense of insecurity, inadequacy and feelings of worthlessness. The slightest criticism can set them off—the need for the spotlight always looms large. This behavioral type tends to be highly manipulative having little regard for other people’s wants and needs. She/he really views others as objects rather than humans.
Below are strong indicators that will help you identify the narcissist. Take heed!
* If you find your spouse dominates the conversation over dinner and other one-on-one activities together, you can be sure they have a great deal of "self" interest and little of that in you.
* If your love is charismatic and has a need to charm you—that is a strong signal that they are testing your reactions to those charming and chivalrous acts as a means by which he/she can control you. Narcissists are obsessed with control. They are trying to identify your "hot buttons" so they can constantly affect your moods and temperament.
* If the narcissist begins to play various mind games with you then you will know you have a problem. Messing with your psyche is another major clue. The narcissist is a master at introducing mind games such as "shaming," "projection," "smearing," and "gaslighting," (a method to make the victim question everything about him or herself, including their own sanity). Their constant task is to keep you off balance and vulnerable. If you find yourself feeling inadequate, insecure, not good enough, and constantly moody, you can be sure the person who swept you off your feet is going to be big trouble as the relationship progresses.
* If your spouse tries to divert an argument in which you are engaged and change the focus or subject of the dialogue, you know you’re dealing with a narcissist. Should you confront him/her about lying to you, for instance, he or she will try to steer you off topic by talking about your childhood, your family, your friends, or insecurities and even your lifestyle choices before you even realize the narcissist is doing it. They will often use blanket statements and broad generalizations to justify their points while attempting to diminish your points of view. Comments like, "Everyone knows that about you."
* If he/she begins making threats. These can overt or covert and one more tool of the malignant (far end of the spectrum) narcissist. If their ploys don’t seem to work, they will start making statements such as, "I’m going to tell everyone about the ‘real you’ including your family, co-workers, boss…" And even suggest they will do the same others with whom you are in regular contact. They do this as a strategy to lord control over you.
* If your narcissist engages in "triangulation," which means they recruit another person who will take his or her side—share their warped views or who have said something negative about you in the past, that is yet another clear and definitive sign. The narcissist will say things like, "Well, it’s not only me who thinks you are paranoid or super sensitive or demanding, your cousin Mary said the same thing about you. In fact, Mary told me she had valid reasons for not trusting you." Often, the narcissist will recruit a couple’s children to persuade one or all of them to gang up on you.
* If your mate turns his/her attention elsewhere when you’re trying to carry on a decent conversation, you can bet your mate is a narcissist. Activities like incessantly checking their e-mail on their smartphone; gazing out the window; doodling on the restaurant placemat… these are all indicators you have hooked up with a full-blown narcissist. If he/she does not seem engaged or responsive to your part of the conversation, that too is a neon flashing sign that he/she is only interested in him or herself. I always tell my clients that if you begin to heavily compliment a narcissist mate, during a conversation where he or she has tuned out, they will suddenly perk up and focus on you, intently. This little "test" leaves you with no doubt that you are with a narcissist.
* If the narcissist attempts to isolate you from friends and family by cleverly convincing you that he/she is the only person you can really trust, you’ve got a real problem on your hands. The narcissist will come off as obsessively caring and supportive to gain your unwavering trust. Then, they will slowly, but surely, talk you into cancelling social events by criticizing the people who will attend these events. Through this isolation, they will eventually alienate you from the people you need the most.
Though I know it can be painful and frustrating, there is no way to find a level relationship playing field with a narcissist. You can’t win an argument; can’t convince them of anything. Sadly, chances of you getting them to modify their behaviors are nil. No amount of joint therapy will help with your relationship with him or her unless your narcissist works on him or herself first. I often tell my clients (both family law and the patients I counseled when practicing as a psychologist) that the ONLY way to win with a narcissist is NOT to play.
David J. Glass, a shareholder at the Los Angeles law firm of Enenstein Ribakoff LaVina & Pham, is a Certified Family Law Specialist and has a PhD in Psychology. As such, he understands the many complexities of marriage, family, and divorce on many levels.