It can be difficult to tell if that great guy or gal you’re dating is really a narcissist. After all, hiding who they really are is what narcissists do best. And the worst narcissists, the ones you really need to watch out for, are the best at concealing it. Even those folks who believe they’ve acquired Sherlock Holmes level detective skills for spotting these wolves in sheep’s clothing still find themselves raising an eyebrow, questioning every indelicate word, or dubious action. Fortunately, there are three tell-tale early warning signs. So, if you see any of these, do yourself a favor, and swipe left.
RED FLAG #1: The relationship moves at lightning fast speed
Many people mistake the swift pace of the relationship as proof of love, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Narcissists move the relationship at lightning speed to get you invested emotionally, and often financially, in the relationship before you have the time to figure out their true character. Their sense of commitment urgency is not founded from a place of true love; it is a race to beat your BS detector’s alarm from sounding off and alerting you to danger. The early declarations of everlasting love and the talks about marriage and children are always to get you to lower your guard, and commit to the relationship. It’s characteristic of these personality types to marry or move in quickly. They build intensity swiftly by monopolizing all your attention and spending every waking minute with you. And when not with you, you can bet your phone will be flooded with texts and phone calls reminding you how much they miss you, and how they can’t wait to see you again.
Always stay in control of the pace of the relationship, and don’t get swept up and mistake intensity for intimacy. Healthy people won’t be put off by your request to take things slow, but narcissists will guilt, or shame you into keeping up with their pace.
RED FLAG #2: You’re put on a pedestal
Who doesn’t like to be complimented and appreciated? Especially, when the praise is coming from someone you’re really into. But, too many compliments are an early red flag of a predator.
You’re so much better than all my exes.
No one has ever made me this happy before.
You are the best thing to ever happen to me.
I have been waiting all my life for someone like you.
You are the not like anyone I’ve ever met before.
You’re the most loving and kind person I’ve ever known.
You’re the best at (fill in the blank) ________.
Compliments that sound like the above aren’t real compliments when the giver doesn’t really know you. You might be as wonderful as they proclaim you are, but seriously, it takes more than two weeks or even a couple of months for anyone to get to know all sides of you and to appreciate you for the multi-dimensional human being that you are. When compliments are given too liberally they aren’t compliments; they’re flattery. And the Webster dictionary’s definition of flattery is: “Excessive and insincere praise, especially given to further one’s own interests.” There are a few reasons why narcissists use excessive flattery and elevate their partners to pedestal level status. Flattery lowers your guard. Someone who thinks so highly of you isn’t someone who you need to be concerned about, right? Wrong! And personality disordered people need to raise their partners to near god/goddess-like status because the more perfect, and wonderful they build you up to be, the more special they become by association.
Beware, although the idealization stage feels amazing, and can be difficult to resist, it comes with a steep price. When you’re being lifted by unrealistic appraisals of your perfection, you can bet you’ll be expected to remain perfect 24/7, and if you dare falter, you’ll be criticized, and devalued for being, well… human.
RED FLAG #3: They never take accountability for their circumstances
If you listen carefully to their stories, you’ll hear a lot about how people have done them wrong, but what you won’t hear is any accountability or admittance of any wrongdoing. Whether they’re talking about how they have fallen on hard times, or why their previous relationships didn’t work out, they will always be the innocent party. Their unfortunate circumstances are always caused by something, or someone else, and they’re never at fault. Their boss had it out for them. A co-worker was jealous and lied to get them fired. Their ex was mean, selfish, crazy, not who they thought, and so on.
We all have the natural tendency of wanting to put our best foot forward in a new relationship. Of course, no one wants to make themselves look bad, but healthy people will share their history in a more balanced way. They may tell their stories with a positive spin, but won’t dump the entire blame for all of their misfortunes onto the laps of others.
Narcissists can’t admit they’re wrong because they view things as all good, or all bad. This is called All or Nothing Thinking, or Splitting. It is a defense mechanism that is evidenced by the inability to integrate both positive, and negative qualities of self, and others into a unified whole. In their minds, people are either right, or wrong, or all good, or all bad. For narcissists to admit that they’re wrong is equivalent to admitting they’re all bad, and essentially horrible, and worthless.
Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.
Copyright © 2016 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved.