Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Is my partner a narcissist?

The signs can be subtle because a clever narcissist will operate stealthily and at a time may not even realize that they display narcissistic traits. There are certain things that show whether someone has narcissistic traits, without a shadow of a doubt.

Here are the common signs of a narcissistic partner

Lack of empathy

Narcissists feign empathy but they very rarely truly understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. As a consequence of this, they will behave badly and think it’s fine. if you behave similarly, however, the behaviour will be unacceptable. For example, they can make plans and not include you or tell you about them but if you did the same, they would not be happy at all. Due to the fact that they lack empathy, they can’t relate to how their behaviour would upset you. It is only when you give them a dose of the same medicine that they get a slight understanding. Instead of thinking, ‘I was a selfish git doing that’, they will still find ways to justify their behaviour whilst condemning yours. You just can’t win. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, get used to their double standards.

One set of rules for them, another for you

As mentioned above, narcissists can behave as they wish but the same set of rules do not apply to you. They will expect you to be neat and tidy for example, but they will leave stuff lying around. If you challenge them on this, the response will most likely benefit them in some way. Your behaviour will somehow be acceptable but for reasons only they can see as logical and fair, their behaviour is okay.

Another example: they may flirt with the opposite sex and feel it is fine but if you do the same you will be in trouble. Somehow, they will justify their behaviour and turn it around on you. They are masters at manipulation and never being at fault. It will make you think you are going crazy. You will doubt yourself and wonder if you are being unreasonable. They are good at making you doubt yourself and your perceptions.

They are extremely sensitive to criticism

Narcissists find it hard to accept criticism and this results in narcissistic injury – be prepared for it to be turned back on you. You will become the mean one for telling them what you don’t enjoy about the relationship. They won’t look at their behaviour and decide they need to up their game. Oh no – they will make you feel guilty for saying anything negative about them and you will be the one who ends up feeling like the bad one. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage or defiant counterattack.

When narcissists feel that they have lost, or when they feel rejected or abandoned, they don’t forget it. It will exist as an inner tension for them until they can somehow make you pay for daring to try to make them feel not good enough. The issues remain in their mind as “It’s all your fault” and, “How could you do this to me?” They want to strike back.

They rarely accept responsibility for their behavior

They will blame you for their feelings of inadequacy, lack of happiness and lack of love. When things aren’t going well it will be down to the fact that you are neurotic or that you are finding fault with them unnecessarily (even if you have very valid points to make). They find it difficult to take a step back and look at what you are saying objectively. Narcissistic injury gets activated to protect them from feeling inadequate and one of their defense mechanisms is to project back onto you. They cannot accept what you are saying because that might mean they aren’t as wonderful as they want to be. Again – it’s a losing situation.

Narcissists rarely experience guilt

The lack of empathy means that they can quite happily deny your emotional needs or flat-out refuse any of your requests without an iota of guilt. They won’t even give it a second thought. A person with empathy would communicate and try to compromise but a narcissist doesn’t bother with healthy relationship behaviour like that. Their motto is “What’s in it for me?” If it doesn’t benefit them in some way, they won’t waste their time.

They like to be in control and are often very controlling

They don’t like you to have fun without them. They must be included in everything you do but its fine if they exclude you from their life when it suits them.

When they get angry, you must accept it and say,” It’s okay that you are angry, I know it’s because you are stressed”. They have Carte Blanche to behave as they wish. They always do things to further their own aims. It’s rare they will be charitable just for the sake of it. If they are kind and charitable it usually to make themselves look good. there is always a payoff. They will tell you how to run your life and make you feel bad if you don’t comply. It’s a stealthy approach though and often you won’t realise it is happening until you are in the thick of it. The control will often be subtle, they wouldn’t be obvious and tell you outright that you can’t do something but their non-verbal behaviour will show you all you need to know about their disapproval.

They desire to be praised as wonderful no matter what they do

Narcissists love to be idealised and admired at all costs. If you keep feeding a narcissist in this way, they will keep you around for longer. if you dare to give them feedback in a negative way, they will keep score and discard you at sometime in the future. This may sound harsh but this is common behaviour of a narcissist. They m,ay act as if everything is fine, but it is very possible that if you upset them they will go back to dating behind your back to find someone who will admire them.

They use people to get what they want

Narcissists use people, they often lack true friends because they use people for what they can get out of them. They lack the healthy give-and-take attitude that is required for a meaningful friendship. They will keep people around them that make them look good or can help them in some way but that’s about all.

Narcissists can be very superficial people who don’t feel very deeply

Narcissistic individuals are extremely self-absorbed – me, me, me! They will wax lyrical about all their projects but gloss over anything you have to say. You may even come to think you are boring as they take no interest in what you do.

Many narcissistic individuals have anger issues and expect to be treated in a certain way

On the surface, narcissists want to be everyone’s friend. They want to be liked and admired. Underneath though, they feel they are superior to the average person and often regard others with a level of scorn. They expect to be treated better than others and receive special treatment.  They think they are superior when in fact this hides a deep insecurity within them.


In order to destabilise you emotionally and have more control over you, narcissists are prone to gaslighting their partners. This is when they make you believe things that aren’t true or real. For example, they may swear they have told you something when they haven’t. They like to make you doubt your own mind and will do this with subtle put-downs and snide comments. You will begin to lose perspective and doubt your sanity. They are excellent at this technique. I once counselled a narcissist who admitted to moving things around in the house and denying she had done this – she would move her partner’s car keys and then after he had looked for them, she would put them back to be found again. Her partner began to doubt his sanity over time.

Being in a relationship with a narcissist means you will be emotionally abused – without a shadow of a doubt. The only way to cope is to give up on trying to change them and make sure you have friends and proper techniques to be aware and maintain your sanity. If you are doubting yourself, speak to someone objective (not necessarily a friend who may be biased) who can help you maintain a healthy perspective. Sometimes you can’t help who you fall in love with and if you don’t want to leave the relationship – make sure you have help to keep your head above water. Narcissists can be emotional vampires.

Mandy X

Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

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