Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who is narcissistic? Even if you don’t know the exact clinical definition of the disorder, it is likely that you have encountered people who harbor a lot of the self-absorbed traits that can make narcissistic people particularly challenging to partner with.
People who have a lot of narcissistic tendencies have deficits in their ability to reflect on how others might be feeling and tend to focus on themselves. True narcissism that meets criteria for diagnosis according to the DSM 5 is quite rare, but traits and characteristics are more common. When dealing with a narcissistic person you might notice yourself feeling:
- Emotionally neglected
- Frustrated by their self-focused tendencies
- Gaslighted (the person denies the reality of what has happened or refuses to acknowledge their role or take responsibility)
Narcissistic people are primarily interested in satisfying their ego, and often this is done through eliciting adoration and attention from others. An underlying need for validation and self-worth drives these behaviors, and it can become a drain on relationships, since people with narcissism struggle with empathy for others or recognizing that others have needs, too.
The Bait and Switch
Narcissists will go to any length to gain a follower, or someone who will recognize them as special and superior to others. Love-bombing is a common technique for narcissists, in which the person bombards you with compliments, adoration and affection to win you over. The charm can be quite compelling and all-encompassing, and you may find yourself wondering if it is too good to be true.
When the adoration is attained, a narcissist may gradually change their behaviors. The drive for what is called “narcissistic feed” is strong, and this means ensuring that people around them are praising and recognizing them as special and superior. If a narcissist begins to feel slighted or observes that their loved ones are not offering them enough narcissistic feed, they may begin to engage in manipulative behaviors to restore the level of praise and adoration they require. The shift in behaviors can be disorienting for the person in a relationship with the narcissist. The behaviors can be abusive and belittling and may even make the person feel as if they are losing their mind, particularly if gaslighting techniques and dishonesty are being used.
Are We Encouraging Narcissism?
With social media and selfie-obsessed culture, we may be inadvertently encouraging narcissism within the general public. Positive self-image has become a widespread phenomenon long overdue, but true self-worth and self-love is not the same as self-obsession and does not require the adoration of others to thrive.
Unfortunately, the self-absorption trends that social media has encouraged impacts the ways we interact with others. Constantly comparing ourselves to our friends, loved ones, and even strangers, can take a major toll on our self-esteem, making us feel worse about ourselves in the long run. Self-focused living takes us away from real connections and reciprocated relationships; it results in surface-level, competitive acquaintances rather than friendships.
True narcissism is not a result of too many selfies or being obsessed with social media, but narcissistic traits can be fed from the overuse of these cultural trends. Whether we are exploring our relationships with others or looking at the ways we think and feel about ourselves, authenticity is needed and often that stems from being vulnerable.
If you find yourself involved with a partner who has narcissistic traits, consider the impact of the relationship on your own mental health and whether this is offering you the love and support you need for a healthy relationship. Good self-care means recognizing the balance of what your partner needs as well as what is best for you. Healthy self-esteem can be attained without relying on the excessive adoration of others, and it can be maintained with introspection and compassion for others as well as yourself.