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Is My Loved One a Narcissist?

Lately, it feels like I’ve been encountering a lot of narcissism in my professional and personal life.  I’ll be posting a blog on how to deal with narcissists separately, but first, you’ve got to know what (and who) you’re dealing with.

Narcissism, as defined clinically, is different from self-aborption/self-centeredness.  I’ll give you a handy guide on how to spot the narcissists in your life (and in Saturday’s blog, tell you what to do about it.)Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of behavior that demonstrates a lack of empathy for others and a belief of exceptionalism, as well as a desire to be seen by others as singularly important.  The pattern is pervasive and long-standing and shows up in a variety of settings.

Some people might meet the criteria for the full-blown personality disorder; others display strong traits.  For the purpose of this blog, I’ll use the term “narcissist” as shorthand.

What does it mean to be in a relationship with a narcissist?  Simply put, it means that their needs will come before yours, nearly all the time.

If you’re in a voluntary relationship (say, with a boyfriend or girlfriend, rather than with a parent or a child), recognizing these tendencies might mean that you choose to end the relationship.  Because generally, just explaining how their behaviors make you feel will not be sufficient motivation for change.  That’s because of the failure of empathy that’s a hallmark of the disorder.

But in brief, here are the relationship indicators that you’re dealing with a narcissist:

1)  When you tell them how you feel, they’ll respond with how they feel.

It’s very difficult for a narcissist to listen to someone else’s feelings, no matter how calmly or respectfully they’re expressed.  But before calling someone a narcissist, consider your delivery.  If it’s angry, provocative, or otherwise inflammatory, it might be difficult for anyone to hear how you feel.

2)  A lack of consistency across their communication.

They might tell you one thing one week, and then something completely different another week.  Then they will not recall or feel they need to be accountable for the inconsistency.  That’s because whatever they feel at a given time is paramount, and they feel others should adapt to that.

3)  They want you to show admiration for any achievement of theirs, though they will not necessarily celebrate yours.

A narcissist will want credit for achievements so small you didn’t notice them (and then they might be annoyed that you failed to notice them.) They’re also likely to exaggerate successes.  And they may be jealous of your actual successes rather than happy for you.

4)  They’ll take advantage of your time and energy without seeming to realize they’re doing it.

That’s because what’s theirs is theirs, and what’s your is also theirs.  Because of their limited ability to empathize, they probably won’t understand when you say you feel exploited.  Because they believe they’re special, they’re confused when you don’t seem to realize that, too.  You should be eager to help them in any way you can.

5)  They may be snobby and entitled in their behaviors.  Or they may be extremely charming, and able to get others to do their bidding based on this.

But the common thread is that they are the center, and expect others to orbit around them.

If this sounds like anyone you know, please check back for Saturday’s post.

Is My Loved One a Narcissist?

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). Is My Loved One a Narcissist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2014
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