Have you ever felt distraught or found it hard to move on after dating someone who was self-centered? If so, your partner might have been a narcissist, or a person with narcissistic tendencies.
A narcissist is arrogant and expects special treatment — whether or not he or she does things to warrant it. If you’re wondering whether your partner could have been a narcissist, it helps to know these basic traits. In this article, you will learn how to regain your confidence and put your life back on track after dating a narcissist or someone with these tendencies.
Did your partner:
- isolate you from your friends to maintain control over you?
- make him or herself feel good by putting you down?
- chip away at your self-esteem?
- only give you a compliment when you were about to leave?
These are some of the traits of a narcissist or someone with narcissistic tendencies. Only a psychiatrist can diagnose a narcissistic personality disorder, though the broad definition of a narcissist is someone who:
- expects to be recognized as superior or special, without superior accomplishments.
- expects constant attention and admiration from others.
- is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of success.
- lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings of others.
How Did You Feel in the Relationship?
The only way narcissists can satisfy their grandiose ego and create the illusion of superiority is by putting others down. They love to play cat and mouse, establishing a pattern of putting you down so routinely that you begin to believe that they are better and more accomplished than you — and you accept being the mouse.
Says Rachel, “My ex-boyfriend was a narcissist, and I stayed with him much longer than I should have. The reason was that he gave me intermittent reinforcement. Most of the time, he was self-absorbed and obsessed with himself, alternating between feeling he was the best ever and the worst ever. Then, every so often, he would shower me with love and affection, and I would think, Oh, right, this is why I love him. But when he took the love and affection away, he was so distant, so self-involved, and I felt like the problem was me, that it was my fault.”
We understand narcissism well enough to know that if you are dating a narcissist, or someone with narcissistic tendencies, you will very likely feel unsupported and put down. Your partner will not empathize with you and will not be there for you. Narcissists expect all the attention and will steal your good ideas, making them theirs. They will almost certainly get angry when you disagree with them.
If you experience any of these feelings, you should get out of the relationship. Moving on quickly is your best bet — no question. There is lots of information available to help you figure out if you are dating a narcissist. I strongly suggest you learn what you need to know and move on. There is nothing to be gained by spending a lot of time on a person who is causing you so much grief.
Focus on You
While many experts focus on the narcissist, I prefer to focus on you and the lessons you need to learn so that you can let go, move on, and hopefully never repeat the experience. Before you can move on, the most important thing to understand about narcissists is that underneath their apparent self-confidence is a profound lack of self-esteem.
Narcissists do not think well of themselves, and to make themselves feel better, they choose partners who doubt themselves and their capabilities.
Let me put it this way: If you had strong self-esteem and confidence in yourself, you would not be chosen by a narcissist as a possible partner. This is because narcissists like to control and feel superior. People with healthy self-confidence who make the mistake of entering a relationship with a narcissist quickly become aware of the emotional abuse and cut the relationship short. They recognize that there is something out of balance and that it’s easier to move on. Most importantly, they refuse to take the blame. Instead, knowing they are unhappy, they focus on themselves and deal confidently and quickly with a relationship that has no value.
Stop Judging Yourself
When you doubt yourself and lack confidence, you become the perfect target for a narcissist. Narcissists are appealing at first. They give the impression of strength and confidence. Their goal is to charm you and make you think it is all about you. If you weren’t blinded by the attention and weren’t questioning your own self-worth, you would realize a lot sooner that your date is interested in you only because you appear weak and less worthy. Of course, if you had known this in advance, you would not have entered the relationship.
To avoid entering another relationship based on your self-doubt, ask yourself: How can I take care of myself better? How can I avoid sending out signals that I need help or a savior, or lots of attention? Nip it in the bud by believing in yourself. Then you will not attract someone who spots a good potential partner because of your low self-esteem.
Some narcissistic traits, when used appropriately with personal boundaries, make for exceptional people. Ambition, motivation, even arrogance and desire for power, are good attributes when balanced with humility and not used at the expense of others. Wanting to feel powerful is a positive desire. Needing to feel powerful by putting others down is unhealthy.
The First Clue
Was there a time at the beginning of the relationship when you asked yourself, How is it possible that such a great person is choosing me? That was a good clue. Your lack of confidence was the reason you attracted a narcissist.
A colleague of mine has noticed that there is often an imbalance between narcissists and the people they date. Superficially, narcissists are exceptional people dating partners who appear much more ordinary. Such an imbalance in personality, looks, and attributes, where one is extroverted and the other introverted, sets alarm bells ringing. At bottom, the extroverted, superficially exceptional ones are that way only in their own mind. It is their prey that are the genuine ones, and often quite successful — except that in the shadow of the pretender, they disappear.
If you are overcoming dating a narcissist, remember this: You are a solid, genuine person and probably more successful than you allow yourself to believe. Narcissists are picky. They don’t date just anyone. They look for successful, accomplished people who are nice enough to let the narcissist’s self-created superiority overshadow them. If you have allowed a narcissist to prey on your lack of self-confidence, stop! No more downplaying who you truly are. It’s time to rise to the top. The lesson here is that you are much better than you think you are. Embrace the truth and move on!
The Mirror Theory
I often suggest to my clients that every person who comes into our lives has been invited by us to show us something about ourselves.
So, assuming I’m right, if you have attracted a narcissist into your life, you may want to ask yourself how you are acting as a narcissisttoward yourself. How are you neglecting yourself? How are you putting yourself down? In your own nice way, do you feel that you are better than others? Do you subconsciously put others down when you are feeling insecure about yourself? Not all the narcissistic traits may be mirrored in you. A good question to ask yourself is, What traits are the biggest problem for me, and how do I do that to myself? Then ask how you do it so subconsciously that you had to attract a narcissist to teach you a lesson.
This idea is a lot to absorb. It is what you need to shift from being a victim to owning your own journey. People who have dated a narcissist yet had the guts to move on are bruised emotionally and often collapse into being a victim. Because they are hurt, they feel even less confident of themselves, and that can lead to blaming themselves for staying in the relationship too long. They can become abusive toward themselves and actually perpetuate in themselves the narcissistic tendencies they had the courage to leave.
Moving on After Dating a Narcissist
Be a victim no more! The relationship has ended. Embrace that truth. You want to move forward, with no more abuse. Rise to the top — your top — by consciously shifting from putting yourself down to showing deep empathy for yourself. Then rebuild your self-confidence by taking an objective inventory of who you are. No cheating! No counting yourself short!
Promise yourself that from now on, you will be your own leader. You will believe in yourself and your achievements and will shower yourself with empathy. Yes, empathy, the quality totally missing from a narcissist, may just be the perfect antidote to dating one.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jun 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2014). How Do You Recover from Dating a Narcissist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 2, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/05/how-do-you-recover-from-dating-a-narcissist/