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.
A narcissist feeds their ego by making you disappear. They do this by dominating conversations, expressing aggressive opinions, or generally just talking so much that you barely get a word in. It may seem like they're animated and interested, but don't be fooled.
Take this for example: Say you come home and your partner asks you about your day. Suddenly, it's been over an hour and you've heard all about what your significant other has had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you never even had a chance to tell them about your huge, gigantic promotion. They don't really care about what you have to say - you're only there to feed their ego.
People in relationships sometimes challenge each other, helping one another grow or kick bad habits. However, it may start to seem as if these discussions have somehow become a series of conversations where your habits and life are constantly being picked apart. Your significant other swears it's all for your own good (i.e., "That weight you put on is unhealthy, I just want you to be healthy," or "You're too sensitive. This sort of tough love is helping you become a functioning adult"). You may even find that your narcissistic lover is suddenly yelling at you for catching the common cold because your immune system just isn't up to par with his superior standards, and that's something you need to (and apparently can) work on.
These critiques aren't helpful in any way, though, because a narcissist doesn't challenge you out of love. They don't care if you become a better person - they just care that you're a subordinate person. They use constant critiquing to pick apart your memory and warp your sense of self. This is a tactic referred to as gaslighting - and the longer it goes on, the less you'll be able to trust your instincts about what's good for you.
It may seem pretty harmless when your narcissistic lover brags about the amazing deal he landed at work. Anyone would, right? But it's when deals go sour that things get real, fast.
Narcissists take their reputations very seriously. And when someone potentially harms their self-image (psychologists call this narcissistic injury) the consequences are dire - and people will pay. Here's a typical example of narcissistic injury: your significant other plagiarized an essay from another student during a college final. His professor asked him about it - merely hinting that they may have worked together. Suddenly, the other student is a total monster who's been stealing your partner's work all year.
Narcissists will enact a full-on smear campaign against anyone who challenges them. Anyone brought down in the process (like that poor student who was cheated off of) is just a casualty. "I'm sorry" doesn't exist in their vocabulary - there's only "you're wrong" or "they're out to get me." Never underestimate the lengths a narcissist will go to protect their reputation because this is the most important thing in the world to them.
It's not really a narcissist's fault that they can't comprehend emotion, it's part of their disorder. To a narcissist, emotions are a sign of weakness because any emotion can easily shatter the façade of perfection that they've spent decades creating. At their worst, your narcissistic significant other will call you weak and tell you that nobody else would love someone as whiny as you are. At their best, your narcissistic significant other may feel slightly annoyed that you sometimes become emotional - even if it's totally normal.
Picture this: Your narcissist bae makes you a really great pancake breakfast. You tell him how elated you are, because you didn't have time to make breakfast yourself and you didn't expect to have something so delicious. You are genuinely excited because pancakes are your favorite. In turn, he yells at you for exaggerating and blowing things out of proportion. He calls you a liar who is trying to get something out of him (though you're not sure what that could be). Suddenly, you're arguing because your beloved narcissist doesn't understand the difference between positive and negative emotions.
If this sounds like your significant other, put down the pancakes and go home!