Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a book by Dr. John Gray, that "provides a practical and proven way for men and women to improve their communication by acknowledging the differences between their needs, desires, and behaviors." Obviously, men and women are different. In a past, toxic relationship, I bought this book to help me figure out what was going wrong. Was I simply bad at communicating? It seemed that most of our arguments stemmed from poor communication, and I assumed, as many women do, that our problems were my fault.
I believe now that I was simply dating a narcissist. And in fact, I'm probably drawn to narcissists, like most people are. Men are almost 40% more likely to be narcissists than women, and narcissistic men are more likely than anyone to gain leadership roles or positions of power. Narcissists are often very charismatic, sure of themselves, and are masters at making positive impressions. As an empathetic person, I'm easily seduced by narcissists, drawn to their charm, and easily manipulated by their wants and desires. Or I was, until I figured this out. Below are nine signs of a narcissist. These are all character traits I've experienced first-hand. Once you know the signs, they are far easier to spot. *Fair warning.*
1. Controlling the Conversation
Narcissists loves to talk about themselves, and they'll redirect the conversation back to them any chance they get. If you're talking for "too long," they'll make it known that you're boring them. One guy I briefly dated actually said, in a joking manner, "how long is this story going to take?" Only, I hadn't been talking more than a minute, and if I were to rib him back, he'd become immediately defensive. Which brings me to point number two.
2. Huge Ego, and Easily Offended
The narcissist will have no problem making fun of others, but as soon as the teasing gets personal, they'll become easily offended. For empathetic people like me, this tactic usually works because the last thing we want is to hurt someone's feelings. Large egos and an inflated sense of self-importance are usually pretty clear signs of narcissism, but to really test someone, see how they respond to light teasing. A normal person won't take a light-hearted joke personally, but narcissists take everything personally, whether they show it or not.
3. Image is Extremely Important
Usually, a narcissists image is more important than reality. This can manifest in any area of life: professionally, romantically, socially, sexually, financially, academically, etc. A narcissist will go to great lengths to impress you, which can be charming at first. They may have a nice car, nice clothes, or seem very high status. Most of the time, their image is highly curated to make them seem special or to gain admiration. A big red flag is when someone wants to be admired for their possessions, rather than for who they are. The same man I briefly dated would always say, "I want 'fuck you' money." BUT he never did anything to further his career or to start a side hustle. He just liked the idea of being successful and admired without actually being successful or admired.
4. They Don't Have Many Long-Term Friends
Most narcissists won’t have any real, long-term friends. If you dig deeper into their personal life, you may find they have "friends" but none they could call in an emergency. They may also trash-talk their friends, family, or people they work with. If you're dating a narcissist, they will become angry when you want to hang out with your own friends, or they may be overly critical of the people close to you. One ex boyfriend would be vocally mean about my best friend, but always when she wasn't there. Not to mention, she was one of the sweetest humans on the planet-his meanness stemmed from a place of jealousy and desire to have 100% of my time, all the time.
5.They Have to be Right About Everything
When you fight with a narcissist, you'll know it because you will never be right and they will never admit that they're wrong. Compromising with a narcissist is impossible, and usually ends up with one person conceding entirely. What's even more insidious is that they often insist that they can, in fact admit that they're wrong. They might say something like, "I know I'm not always right, and I have no problem admitting I'm wrong. I'm just not wrong about this." Crazy shit.
6. Boundaries Don't matter
A narcissist will totally disregard another person's thoughts, feelings, possessions, and physical space. The same man I've mentioned throughout this post used to come to my apartment and turn up the heat. Seems minor, right? But he never asked to touch the thermostat, and I was the one footing the heating bill. When I asked him not to change the thermostat, he accused me of not wanting him to come over which quickly became the case when I came to understand how crazy he was. A narcissist will also cross boundaries by consistently canceling plans or making promises they never intend to keep. If someone continually lets you down, they aren't good for you-friends, family, romantic interests, or otherwise.
Narcissists will expect preferential treatment from others, and become angry if they even think they're being slighted. A good way to gauge entitlement is to pay attention to how someone treats wait staff, flight attendants, or other service workers. Normally, people are nice to wait staff because we have no reason not to be nice, and kindness makes life easier, right? Good people spread good feelings. A narcissist will talk down to wait staff or pick fights with anyone they encounter in an attempt to assert dominance. Narcissists believe the world revolves around them, and that's not a difficult trait to notice.
8. They are Extremely Charming
I touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating. Narcissists can be very charismatic and persuasive. The beginning of relationships with narcissists often feels really good, because they make you feel special and wanted. Usually, feelings develop quickly and you might be uncertain about where you stand. A narcissist wants you to feel insecure in a relationship, because they thrive off the weakness (or perceived weakness) of others. The minute a narcissist is bored, or feel slighted, they'll either leave or turn to manipulation, which brings me to my final point.
9. They WILL Try to Manipulate You
Narcissists need to feel that they have the upper hand, so they'll intentionally arouse negative emotions to gain attention or feel powerful. One of my first boyfriends would tear apart any idea I had, or react with confrontation and anger if I wanted to discuss a problem we were having. He was extremely sensitive to criticism but was quick to judge, ridicule, or blame others. Common tools of manipulation are guilt, shame, or playing the victim. If you're a people pleaser or extra empathetic, a narcissist may easily hijack your emotions and manipulate you into doing things they want you to do.
Once I knew the signs of narcissistic behavior, I was able to spot it almost immediately in people. I encountered it most often in romantic relationships, but anyone can be a narcissist: friends, family, coworkers, etc. And while narcissism is more common in men, plenty of women exhibit these traits, too.
After I broke up with one particularly insidious narcissist, my therapist recommended I attend a workshop for victims of emotional abuse. I went to one session and never returned, because I didn't like feeling like a victim. Sure, the guy was probably emotionally manipulative and toxic for me to be around, but I left him. I saw and felt the signs, even before I knew there was a term for narcissism or emotional abuse. I felt it in my gut, and you will too. Listen to your instincts. Nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of any of these behaviors.