Sometimes men or women with narcissistic traits are easy to spot. You see the red flags on social media or you’ve heard the way they speak to someone close to them. However, it’s equally difficult to see those traits clearly if you are at the beginning of a relationship or have already given away pieces of your heart.
Narcissism is “extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them.” Narcissists are brilliant at camouflaging behavior until they have complete control over the relationship, and by then shame, guilt, and embarrassment can creep in making it difficult to leave.
In light of Dating Violence Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness month, we wanted to share some of the key warning signs of narcissistic behavior and emotional abuse. Whether you suspect that you are in a relationship with a narcissist or you simply want to be armed with knowledge, this list is for you.
Please note: If you are pregnant or considering abortion and in an abusive relationship, we can help. Contact us immediately. All communications are confidential to the fullest extent of the law.
1. Charismatic and insincere flattery
A friend of mine once felt trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. Although there were red flags from the beginning, the man’s charm and charisma convinced her to overlook “a few faults.” A narcissist often finds ways to compliment a person and yet still make them feel small or insignificant at the same time. They might start with over-the-top flattery but then begin pointing out faults or telling you how to be better.
2. An exaggerated sense of self-importance
Narcissists believe that they are a step above and can only associate with other special or high-status people. When a person turns their attention to you and makes you feel special and worthy, it can be easy to overlook everything else. However, take a close look at the way they treat and talk about those they perceive to be of “lesser” value.
3. Need for excessive admiration
Admiration is a narcissist's drug of choice. Because they crave the validation of others, they may dominate conversations with stories about themselves and their accomplishments.
4. Sense of entitlement
Narcissists believe that they are better than others and deserve special treatment. How does your partner react when they’re given a boundary or told “no”? Narcissists don’t believe the rules apply to them and can become abusive when desires are denied.
5. Interpersonally exploitative behavior
Narcissists use people to get what they want. They may seek to control through -
Gaslighting - Distorting the truth to instill doubt in the other person.
Verbal abuse - Blaming, criticizing, judging, name-calling, or threats.
Manipulation - controlling a person to get what you want.
Withholding - money, affection, communication.
Isolation - cutting you off from family, friends, and support.
6. Fragile self-esteem
Although narcissists act overly confident, their bravado is overcompensation for deep insecurity. Gaining praise and approval is a form of self-medication. When faced with even the slightest criticism, a narcissist often becomes enraged, sullen, or moody.
7. Lack of empathy
A common trait of narcissism is an inability to empathize with others. They struggle to see how their actions affect people, which causes them to evade responsibility for their actions. Blaming and deflection are common defense mechanisms.
My friend who I mentioned before is now living a healed life and leading others towards freedom. Through the support of friends, she was eventually able to leave the relationship and move towards healing. Although her past was difficult, she now finds purpose in helping other women recognize and escape narcissistic companions.
If you are in a similar relationship know this: your story’s not over and there is hope. Take courage, friend.
If you feel trapped in a relationship with a narcissist or someone who is emotionally abusive, you're not alone. First, seek trusted counsel - a wise friend, counselor, or leader. They will help you verbally process and give an unbiased perspective. If a relationship has turned abusive and you fear your partner, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 or the National DV Hotline by texting Start to 88788.
If you are pregnant and in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, make an appointment today. We will walk alongside you with support, care, and practical help. All our services are free and confidential. You can also call or text the 24/7 hotline, LoveLine, at 888-550-1588.