Dating, 11 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist

11 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist

11 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist

If you’ve ever wondered if you’re dating a narcissist, this week’s video should give you clarity. In it, my brother Stephen and I give you 11 specific signs to watch out for (and some might surprise you!)

If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, I’d love it if you left a comment sharing your thoughts or hard-won lessons.

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Matthew:

If narcissism can be associated with a kind of obsession with control. And the way that I can do that, practically speaking, is if I can dismantle your ego, if I can dismantle your confidence. Because your confidence is a threat to my control. The more autonomous and confident you are, the more agency you have over your own actions and opinions, the less I am needed.

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Matthew:

Stephen, shall we talk about this very, very popular subject in today’s dating world, the subject of narcissists. Now you found an article on this subject. Do you want to just kick us off with the article that you found, and maybe we can shed some light on narcissists, the difference perhaps between diagnosable narcissists, people with narcissistic personality disorder, and those with narcissistic tendencies that can have a terrible effect on our lives, even though they’re not fully-fledged narcissists?

Stephen:

There was an article about a self-confessed narcissist who apparently gives advice on social media for how people can basically avoid dating a narcissist or find out if they are dating one. So he’s sort of turning to public service and he’s on… His name according to this is Ben Taylor, and on TikTok, he has more than 30,000 followers. So a narcissist on TikTok, what could possibly go wrong? By the way, I’m only joking. I’m sure he is a nice chap. He’s he’s doing his best to help people now. So, fair play.

Matthew:

He’s using his powers for good.

Stephen:

He’s using his powers for good. And Matthew, he gives some of the signs. So I want you to react to some of these, see what you think.

Matthew:

Okay, let’s do it.

Stephen:

Narcissists do not like having rules or limits imposed on them. If you are communicating your comfortable limits and they keep pushing those, beware. And I think the idea is just that being told no, or thinking that there are specific rules that apply to you, a narcissist will immediately assume. Yeah, but that’s nice, but I don’t actually have to keep to them. I can do what I want really.

Matthew:

Yeah. I suppose, does this get linked with just a problem with authority in general, an issue following rules in general in life?

Stephen:

Yeah. I think it’s like of social grace or cohesion. It’s just a sense that whatever I feel is right or whatever works for me is the thing I should do.

Matthew:

Yeah. I can see that. It’s funny, the whole, I don’t… The rules are stifling always seems to me. I mean, look, for sure there are rules in life. And sometimes with other people that we think are just silly, that that’s always going to be true. There always are going to be silly rules in life. But when someone has a blanket approach, just disregards other people’s rules about how they want to be treated or rules in society, that always seems to me to be a true lack of empathy. That this rule, although it may not be perfect, has been created in some form for us all to coexist better. It’s been created in some form to try to improve life because without this rule at all, you wouldn’t want to know what life looks like. It’s not even being able to make that leap, or it’s saying everyone else should follow this rule, but I shouldn’t.

In a relationship, when someone’s telling you that they have a rule, it’s for the purpose of them feeling better. So if we have no regard for their boundaries or their rules, it’s the same thing as saying, “I don’t care how you feel.” What I care about is how much freedom I have to live exactly the way I want to live within this relationship or as the case may be without. So very good. What’s the next?

Stephen:

He said, this is the one from one of his TikTok videos. He said, a narcissist will often degrade or humiliate someone to humble them and to almost break down their self-esteem so that they only come to you for validation or to kind of see if they’re doing the right things. So you’ll find ways to subtly poke at the things they do, their identity, who they are, what they’ve accomplished and kind of break them down so that they think they have to win your approval. That’s dark.

Matthew:

That’s dark. Isn’t it? That, to me, if you were… Look, firstly, I won’t speak to whether these are the… Stephen, maybe on this article, it says whether there are clinical psychologists that back these up as genuine signs of narcissism or not. But intuitively that makes sense to me because if narcissism can be associated with a kind of obsession with control, that I want to be in control. I want to have a kind of godlike status. And the way that I can do that, practically speaking, is if I can dismantle your ego, if I can dismantle your confidence, because your confidence is a threat to my control, right? The more autonomous and confident you are, the more agency you have over your own actions and opinions, the less I am needed and the less malleable you are.

And if I’m a narcissist, I want you to be malleable so that I can control you. Or how do I make you more malleable? It’s not by making you stronger. Then I have a relationship of equals. Well, I don’t want you to be my equal. I want to be the best. So I have to make you malleable to stay number one and to stay in control. And I can make you more malleable by dismantling your confidence.

And if I’m the one who’s dismantled it, if I’m the one who has knocked you down and you are the kind of person that I can get away with this with, because let’s not forget, it takes two to tango. You need someone who is proportionately unsure of themselves or insecure, or carries trauma in proportion to the level of, let’s say, in this case, narcissism, that someone is showing. So I need to find someone this will work on, but if I can find someone who this will work on and then I can withdraw my approval of them, then it’s my approval they need again in order to feel good. So now they’re coming back to me to feel good. I become the source of your happiness. And if I am in the narcissistic category, that’s just how I like it. That I don’t want you to experience happiness outside of me.

Stephen:

And there’s almost that thing that they say that cults do this when they’re brainwashing people, but often they break you down, but unpredictably they’ll come and be really loving and build you back up. You know what I mean? Like it’s unpredictability. And it’s like, “Oh, they’re being really loving today. And I’m doing everything right.” But then it’ll be like, no, you put a foot wrong. You did something wrong. Like you’re a fool, you’re an idiot, you’re broken. And it’s that unpredictability can make you desperate for someone’s approval.

Matthew:

I think also it is hard sometimes when someone’s making us work like that, it takes up a lot of bandwidth. So, if you’re just trying to win someone’s approval again, you sometimes don’t even stop to think about why you’re doing this, or does this make sense that I’m trying to get this person’s approval? What am I doing here? They’re occupying you with a lot to think about, a lot to have to deal. I’m taking away your confidence. Now you’re having to work to get it back.

I do want to also point out though, because I think it’s important in wherever possible during these signs to point out the mass-market version of this so that we can all look for it in ourselves and say, “Well, look, I may not be a narcissist, but I’ve in some way in my own modest way, I’ve demonstrated this.

So when we talk about that concept of, if you’re… That one of the hallmarks of narcissism is I want to be responsible for your happiness and I don’t want you to derive any happiness outside of me. Well, most of us at one point or another have been in a situation where our partner has gone to do something that we feel jealous of. They’re going to do something really fun with their friends. And it’s something that we have this feeling of like, “Oh, I’m jealous that you’re going to do this really exciting thing without me, that I don’t get to experience it with you.”

Well, in a way, that’s just a mild for of the same thing. Isn’t it? That rather than put my partner’s happiness first and say, “Oh, this is wonderful.” They get to go and do this really great thing that they’re going to enjoy. And because I love them, I’m going to make my peace with the fact this happiness isn’t coming from me, that I’m not responsible for this and that it’s happening without me there. I am just going to love them enough to say I’m just really happy that they get to experience it. That’s a form of generosity that isn’t present in an awful lot of relationships. And it’s not because there’s a narcissist in that relationship. It’s just because that person has made it about them instead of making it about their partner’s happiness.

Stephen:

And that’s more like immaturity, like it’s immature to feel threatened by someone else every time they have a success. Every time your friend has a success, like, “Oh, that threatens me.” What does that say about me? That’s that’s not necessarily you’re a narcissist, it’s like immature. It’s like, you haven’t grown up. You haven’t.

Matthew:

Or insecurity or selfishness because you’re putting… you’re not putting how your part partner feels first or on a level with how you feel. It’s less important. It’s more important that I feel more successful all the time, or is more important that all of your happiness comes from the time you spend with me and not something you do outside of us. What’s the next one?

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Matthew:

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Stephen:

There’s one here that is ignoring your needs. I think this was one he mentioned in a video. Now that’s one, like your needs are just annoying to them. And it’s like, oh God, you want this thing, or this is important to you. The only thing with that one and obviously a narcissist would do that, but I reckon a lot of people would say that about bad relationships they had, where someone was bad at meeting their needs, or is like, “I really needed this much quality time with them. Or I wanted them to…” Whatever it might be. “I wanted them to spend more time together with my family,” or “I wanted to do this and they ignored that.” That may again have been signs of someone’s immaturity stages of their life, where they are particularly selfish. Maybe they just were very badly incompatible with you. And I feel like that’s one way someone could easily just go, “Yeah, my ex was a narcissist because they ignored my needs.”

Matthew:

Look, sometimes it’s, let’s also be real. It’s easier to say someone’s a narcissist than to come to terms with the fact that someone just wasn’t that interested in you. There are people albeit still a selfish act, there are people that aren’t really serious about us that aren’t as interested as we would hope and therefore don’t really… they weren’t trying. The relationship worked so long as you were catering to their every need. But when you have a need, you become an inconvenience. You’d just become a burden because I just, ah, God, you’re reminded, “I don’t like this person that much anyway. And now they’re asking something of me.” And now you resent them for it, but that’s not necessarily to do with narcissism.

It can be a kind of selfishness that you’re disregarding the fact that you taking and not giving is hurting somebody, but it can be a reflection of a relationship or a dating thing that you are in, because it seems better than nothing at the time, but you’re not as interested as they are. So that’s a distinction. Sometimes you can ask for something and they suddenly act aloof or give you the silent treatment or start to break away.

And you go, “Well, they’re a narcissist because they took all this from me, but now they can’t give anything in return.” Well, it might be because they’re not willing to. And it might be that at some other point with somebody else, they might give more. That’s a hard truth to accept, but it doesn’t change our reality, which is just that we want to meet someone who’s willing to contribute to the relationship at least at the level that we are. Even if they’re not going to… Relationships people contribute in different ways, but they’re at least willing to give on the level that we are willing to give to the relationship.

Stephen:

So last one in this piece is a narcissist will never admit they did anything wrong. It’s almost impossible for them. The only way they’ll say sorry for their actions is if they know they can manipulate something out of that apology.

Matthew:

Yeah, that’s an important distinction. I truly believe one of the most destructive traits of a relationship is someone that cannot apologize. And there’s a distinction to be made here, sometimes we are with someone. I mean, a lot of the time human nature is if you criticize someone on something, they get defensive. Most people are like that as a reflex response.

Stephen:

For sure. Most people don’t reflex apologize. A lot of people, their ego kicks in, scorpion tail comes up, and they’re like, “I don’t do that.” Or they just get mad because they know they do that and they’re annoyed that you’ve realized it.

Matthew:

But there’s a difference between someone who can come back an hour later, a day later, a week later and say, “Hey, I thought about what you said and you’re right. I want to work on that.” And someone who absolutely categorically thinks they’re right about everything and will use any amount of logic to persuade you, that you are the crazy one in this scenario. And that is a very, very insidious trait. When you’re with someone who… This is where you start questioning yourself and everything you know, when you are not feeling good about something, when something’s hurt you, when something’s made you feel a certain way and that person makes you feel crazy for feeling that. That person makes you feel like this is just representative of you being completely insecure, of you imagining things, the person who cannot apologize. You can’t work with a person like that. You can’t build with a person like that.

So if you are with someone that cannot apologize, cannot acknowledging the validity of what you’re feeling on some level, that is a major, major problem.

Stephen:

And I feel this is where these behaviors that really damage you over time. They are the distinction you’re looking for. Because like we say about the over diagnosis of narcism, I think some people just confuse people who have huge egos and they’re attention-seeking and you see them showing off on Instagram and stuff. It’s like, I don’t think every one of them is a narcissist. Some of them might be very well capable of saying, sorry. Or they might feel guilt when they do something wrong. They don’t manipulate. But they’re people who love attention, have huge egos, and think they’re the shit or whatever and love adulation. They might have a whole host of ego issues. But I think then people just look at someone like that and go, “Oh, that’s a narcissist.” And it’s like, but that person may not actually be like this manipulative or person who lies and makes you feel crazy.

Matthew:

Yes. Actively seeks to control your thought and ensure that you question yourself in the process. To throw a couple more in, one narcissistic tendency is, a lot of people go on a date and they’re like, “I had the best time. It was amazing. We did this, we did that.” And they don’t actually ever think to themselves, “Well, hang on. Did that person actually ever ask me anything on the date? Did they take any pains to get to know me at all on that date? Did they make my opinions seem interesting or important? Were they even interested in my opinions? Did they come out of that date knowing far more about me than when we went in. Or did I just have an amazing time because of how exciting this person was?” Because we did something really amazing on the date. Because they made me feel really special.

And let’s not forget, it’s not like a stretch that someone with narcissistic tendencies could understand that asking you questions and being curious about you would be something that would impress you.

So the key here is to recognize that early on a narcissist doesn’t ultimately care about your feelings, but they do care about the way they make you feel as a reflection of how great they are. If I can make you fall in love with me by the end of this date, then I’m going to feel really special. It’s going to remind me how great I am.

Stephen:

Yeah, they care about their status a lot and how they’re perceived.

Matthew:

That you go home and tell all your friends how wonderful they were. And it’s one of the reasons that in the beginning, people may… I can understand, by the way, someone hearing that and going, “Well, that’s great, Matthew.” So what you’re saying is if I go and have an amazing time on a date and they ask me lots of questions and they show interest in my life and they make me feel really special, then those are all warning signs.

I’m not saying that. I’m saying that the truth is the only way you really know if this is part of the show they’re putting on to make you fall in love with them so that they can get that good feeling or whether this is a genuine desire to know you to see you and for you to be happy with them. The only way to know that is over time.

The only way to know that is to watch and see if that curiosity about you is consistent, to see what happens when you start actually expressing needs, to see what happens when you ask for something, or when you talk about something that you are struggling with, or when you bring up something that they did that you didn’t appreciate. How do they react to those things? That’s when you start to get a picture of whether all those things you saw in the beginning were a beautiful thing, because they were just a reflection of all of these things they’ve continued to be, or whether those were actually a sign of something more insidious, which is that it was all about them.

They gave you the greatest date ever and made you feel unbelievable so that they could feel like they were valuable and in demand. It’s why you can never judge. It’s why you should never grieve a great date if it doesn’t go anywhere. You should never get off of an amazing date and grieve it if it goes nowhere. And the truth is most people, the more amazing the date was, the harder they grieve. “I don’t get it. We had the best time.” Well, that’s not a reflection of anything. Some people are really, really, really great at making you have a good time.

This is no reflection of whether someone’s a good partner or not. This is just a reflection of someone’s ability to put on a great show. And putting on a great show isn’t a relationship. So if the next time you have an amazing date or an amazing couple of dates with someone that suddenly falls off a cliff and doesn’t go anywhere, tell yourself, “Oh, they’re great at putting on a show. They have a great act.” And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great act, but it’s an act. It’s not real. It’s not about what we have, because if it was about what we have, then it would’ve become something.

I had this point written down, everything is personal to a narcissist. Everything is about them. You know those people in life who you do something and someone says, “That’s totally disrespectful to me.”

But it absolutely had nothing to do with them at all. It’s the same as someone cutting you off in traffic and you get so mad because you think it’s like this person just, they disrespected me. Not this person was late. This person’s in a rush to go somewhere, which is much more likely by the way, because are we really saying they can have any real intention toward you as a faceless person in a car that they don’t even know. The far greater likelihood is this is about everything except you. But we get mad because it’s about me.

Now again, this is one of those interesting areas where I would say that there’s a narcissism inherent in being human, because we’re all guilty of this, every single one of us. We go to the coffee counter and someone’s kind of rude. And we go away and go, “They were rude to me. That was about me.” And now you hate that person, but what’s more likely that they had some problem with you or that this person is going through something in their life that’s making them this way or that this person has been living their life this way the entire time. So I think there can be a trait in a true narcissist that everything is about me.

But it’s also a trait about us humans in general, that we also have a tendency to think everything is about us. We might say that one of the ugly sides of all of us in a relationship is making everything our partner does about us. That you do this thing, and immediately, I imagine how it affects me, whether it’s you having a good time, whether it’s me not hearing from you for an hour, I’m jealous you’re doing something. This is about me. All of the ways that we, in an unjustified way, make our partners life more difficult because we make something about us is our own hint of narcissism that we have to check ourselves on at fairly regular intervals.

The other thing which we’ve certainly touched on is this idea that a narcissist fundamentally lacks a kind of… I’m scared to say empathy because I think it’s possible to have a sense of what someone else may be experiencing, but the act of caring about what someone else is experiencing is a different thing altogether.

So I may on some level have the emotional intelligence of knowing that the person that I’m dating is suffering, is having a hard time with something, but I’m not able to bring myself to truly care about that or act on that. Because there is nothing more important to me than my feelings. There is nothing more important to me than my favorite. I need my favorite, whatever that is, regardless of how it impacts someone else. I may understand how it impacts someone else in my quieter moments. I may acknowledge it. But ultimately it’s not nearly as important to me as me.

Stephen:

And you think, “Oh, I know that really how it’s them,” but I do want to do this anyway. I want to go and get ice cream. I want to go and get ice cream now. So I know they’re upset, but I want ice cream.

Matthew:

What? Am I not going to have an affair? What? Am I not going to do my favorite?

Stephen:

Yeah, I notice it… Obviously I’m going to have the affair, but I notice it hurts them. But that’s what I want right now.

Jameson:

There’s a great book called Against Empathy by Paul Bloom. And basically his argument is that empathy is actually kind of a baser emotion. So he has this whole argument where he argues for rational compassion instead. But one example he uses is that bullies are actually… people say that psychopaths are bad at empathy and bullies don’t have any empathy, but bullies are quite good at empathy. They know exactly the pressure points to make people suffer. And so, I do think that’s an important point, Matthew, where it’s like, it’s not that a narcissist might not… they don’t have no experience of empathy. They might just put themselves first so much that it doesn’t Matthewer.

Matthew:

Which is really disorienting when you have someone like that in your life, because you can have conversations with them where they seem to get it, where they show understanding of how you’re feeling. They sometimes can even show contrition, but it doesn’t change the fact that they always put themselves first. In other words, when the rubber hits the road, their actions remain the same because regardless of how much they may seem to understand your pain, “You’re right, you are right. I can’t believe I’ve done that. I’ll never do that again. You’re right.” They cannot change what they do because what they want their own selfish desires or for them avoiding their own pain, avoiding their own discomfort is the most important thing in the world to them. The concept of truly putting somebody else first is something that is alien to them.

But that’s a very hard thing because it’s one thing to be with someone who doesn’t even get it, who just makes you feel crazy, it’s another thing to be with someone who seems to get it, but still doesn’t do anything about it. And that’s a very, very painful thing because you have to then, because with someone like that, you can genuinely connect. You can actually connect with them. You can feel like they understand you. You can feel like you’re both on the same page. But that’s where you have to look at, well, is anything actually changing? Is this person actually starting to put me at least on the same level of importance? Are they actually taking account of my needs? Are they actually changing? Are they actually doing what they say they’re going to do?

And then we have to look at their actions. And if the answer is no, then the fact that they get it ceases to be important. If you keep torturing me and telling me that I get it, I know this is really hard, but you just keep torturing me anyway, does it Matthewer that you get it? Because my reality is no different. I’m still being tortured. So at that point you have to say, I can’t have a relationship with you because you’re still doing this thing even though you get it, which actually in some ways just makes it that much more egregious. Doesn’t it?

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Matthew:

Do you want to change your life? Go to this video now immediately right now. Because you want to be happy enough that you don’t settle for the wrong thing. You want to be happy enough that if you find the right thing, but that person ends up treating you badly, you can walk away from it.

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