You may joke about how your BF is a crazy narcissist for always posting selfies with fun Snapchat filters, but narcissism is actually a genuine, recognized mental condition. And the red flags run a whole lot deeper than just being a little vain (seriously, who doesn't check their hair every time they see their reflection in a mirror?).
Jokes aside, dating someone with narcissistic personality disorder can be unbelievably devastating, and narcissists have a reputation for being emotionally abusive. It's especially tricky because the signs that your partner is a narcissist can sneak up on you before you even have a chance to realize what has happened. They're nice guys in disguise, and so much more than just the vain basic-bro you generally write off.
Narcissists tend to be grandiose, charming, and attractive - like a The Notebook-style Ryan Gosling with the sheen of a mysterious bad-boy you can't wait to get to know. The problem is that on the inside they're intensely manipulative and often lack the empathy necessary to care about the fact that they’ve totally wrecked you. In fact, many people believe that narcissistic personality disorder covers up a severe lack of self-esteem. Plus, these people can be extremely toxic, especially if they lack self-awareness (and let's be honest, it's really hard for a narcissist to admit they're sick as intense denial about personal shortcomings is the heart of the disorder).
It may seem almost impossible to tell if you've fallen for a narcissist, but the love-bombing and charming white knight act only lasts so long. These nice guys are merely wolves in stylish sheep's clothing and perfect haircuts. But don't be fooled. Here are some of the major giveaways that your significant other is a total narcissist.
Narcissists seem like a breath of fresh air, and falling for one may feel like you're in a real fairytale love story. In fact, it seems like out of all the terrible people you've dated, someone is finally treating you the way you deserve to be treated. Sorry to break it to you, but narcissists frequently use a tactic called love-bombing to reel in innocent and vulnerable people.
A narcissist will shower you with more love and affection than you've ever received. They will tell you that you're "the one" and that they feel differently about you than all of the other girls and boys they've ever met. It's only a matter of time, though, before things turn sour and you're defending him to your friends saying, "But this isn't like him, he's nicer than anyone I've ever met!"
Typical relationships move pretty slowly - it takes a while to figure out if you're the kind of people who really can get along long-term. Yes, we all have friends who happened to meet their soul mate and were married after three months, but those folks are the exception, not the rule.
A blog post from Psychology Today by Dr. Steven Stosny describes how narcissists will likely profess their love for you after just a few weeks. But be warned: this isn't normal, and none of the feelings are real. If they're telling you that you're their soul-mate on date number 5 (or even on date number 10, 11, or 12), resist the urge to be swept up and run away.
You probably fell for your partner because of their infectious confidence - everyone wants to be with someone who knows what they want and feels like they can get it. They're not afraid to take you out of your comfort zone or to try new things (hello, weird Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant that no one else would ever try with you). It doesn't seem like there's anyway that this could be a bad quality, but when it's combined with a complete lack of respect for authority, confidence suddenly starts to feel a bit like delusional fearlessness. At this point, though, you're probably in way too deep and already suffering the consequences of their impulsive, risk-taking behavior.
Narcissists believe that they are above the law in every way - they like to break boundaries because it reinforces the warped idea that they're super, extra special. This can manifest itself in a number of ways. Maybe bae has a habit of shoplifting candy bars from CVS, even though they only cost a dollar; or maybe they constantly order off-menu when you're out on dates. Perhaps they even have a tendency to use fire hydrant curbs as their personal parking spot. This all seems harmless enough, but before you know it, they'll be testing your boundaries by doing nasty things and seeing how much you'll let them get away with.