Narcissists can be exceedingly difficult people for others to get along with, but if you don't initially realize that the person you're dating, living with, working with, or are friends with is, in fact, a narcissist, you can find yourself seemingly suddenly in the middle of a relationship with a narcissist without having seen it coming. There are some subtle signs you're dating a narcissist who's really good at hiding it that might give you some added insight into what really might be going on with your partner and might keep you from feeling so blind-sided when the truth really does come out later on down the line.
You might think that narcissism always looks like it does in movies or on TV and that it'll be immediately obvious from interacting with someone. In that case, you may wonder how someone could end up in a relationship with a narcissist without knowing exactly what's going on. But narcissism can take many forms and sometimes it really can be difficult to suss out, simply because the person has gotten so good at hiding the signs. That's why being able to recognize some of the more subtle signs that the person you're dating might be a sort of hidden narcissist is important. Narcissism isn't always as straightforward as it may seem.
1. They Seemed Exceedingly Charming At The Beginning Of Your Relationship
Did your partner catch your eye because they were so charming early-on? In a piece that he wrote for Psychology Today, Preston Ni, a professor, communication expert, and author, said that it's not uncommon for narcissists to seem to be charming at first, before letting you in on what it is that they wanted (which is why they were really so charming). The charm often doesn't last, however, since it comes with conditions attached.
2. They're A Bit Of A Know-It-All
Dr. W. Keith Campbell, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia told the website for the Today show that narcissists tend to insist that they know things, even when those things aren't true, didn't happen, or they couldn't have really known them. If your partner does this all the time, no matter what you're talking about, that could be a subtle sign that they're a narcissist.
3. They Don't Do Well With Handling Emotions
Acknowledging your difficult or uncomfortable emotions isn't necessarily easy for anyone, but for narcissists, side-stepping these emotions is super important. Dr. Craig Malkin, PhD, a clinical psychologist, author, and lecturer at Harvard Medical School told Business Insider that those who are narcissists don't like being emotionally vulnerable or needing others and so they work hard to dodge those emotions, sometimes putting them back on you and making you feel them instead. That can be really difficult to deal with.
4. They Don't Seem To Have Friends From Childhood, High School, Or Even College
Long-term friendships mean that you've formed solid relationships with people and that they've stuck around for a number of years. Narcissists often don't have that. Dr. Albert Bernstein, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author, told Women's Health that healthy long-term friendships are a good sign because that means that they're able to still treat someone well, even if there's nothing that they want or need from the other person.
5. Their Childhood Stories Don't Make Much Sense Or Seem Too Good To Be True
In a piece that he wrote for Psychology Today, Malkin noted that disconnected or confusing childhood stories or memories can be another super-subtle sign of narcissism. If you can't seem to figure out why your partner remembers things so differently than their family or their childhood stories seem way too perfect to be true, that could be a tiny, sneaky sign that your partner is actually a narcissist.
6. You're Emotionally Drained After You Two Spend Time Together
Spending time with the person you're dating shouldn't be emotionally and mentally exhausting. If it is, that's another potential sign that your partner might actually be a narcissist. As PureWow noted, narcissists need all of your attention when you're together, which can result in you putting everything you have into interacting with them. That's exhausting.
7. They Can't Take Any Perceived Criticism
Criticism can be hard to hear, even if you typically handle it pretty well. It's never easy to hear that you fell short or didn't do something as expected. But narcissists typically can't handle hearing these things. In a piece that she wrote for Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, an author and professor emerita at University of Massachusetts Amherst, said that Canadian researchers have found that narcissists have a harder time handling rejection or criticism.
Dating a narcissist can be really difficult, especially if you weren't aware that your partner was one prior to the beginning of your relationship. But recognizing the signs that they could be one is the first step. If you've decided that the relationship should end, working with a therapist who can help you sort out your own feelings and work through any difficulties that might arise during the breakup may help you move forward more easily and allow you to put it behind you.