You can't swing a cat without hitting a narcissist these days, and unfortunately many of us have ended up with, or are currently in a relationship with one.
Narcissists are pretty obvious when they're in their full glory, but what you may not realize is that narcissism lives on a spectrum, and it's actually a fundamental developmental need that we all share. When we're small our parents feed our healthy sense of narcissism by telling us we're great and that we can do anything we set our minds to.
This is a necessary part of healthy development and while you can't really overfeed a person's narcissistic hunger, you can definitely get too little of it from your environment leading to a real deficit in the self.
You would think that feeding the narcissistic need in a child would lead to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the disorder actually stems from deprivation and ultimately a deep sense of inadequacy. Narcissists are deficient in a strong sense of self and self-value, which is why they so traditionally overcompensate.
The narcissists you're probably more familiar with are charismatic, have big egos, focus on appearance and lack empathy. They are at once completely charming and very often affable.
If you've read any literature or blogs on the disorder you might see the same characteristics and qualities being repeated. However narcissists are very good manipulators and they have an insatiable desire to get what they want. This means they'll do anything to have things their way, and they learn different strategies depending on their early life experiences.
Beware however because there are several indiscernible characteristics that slip by even the most savvy and evolved women.
The following qualities may or may not be pointing to narcissism in your relationship, but it's easy to miss some that might not be so obvious. I have included what I call a "healthy version" of each one because if you don't know what that looks like it will be even harder to see the unhealthy dynamics you might be living with.
Here are five behaviors that might feel good but could also mean you're with a narcissist:
They feed you.
Even though you might expect a narcissist to ignore you, they're actually really skilled at giving you just enough to keep you hooked. I had a very wise person tell me once that I was "feasting on crumbs" in my relationship. This always stuck with me because it so perfectly describes the phenomenon that happens when we survive on the bare minimum, knowing deep in our hearts that we deserve much more.
Healthy version: Your partner should feed your mind, body and soul. While you won't always feel satiated you should never feel deprived or taunted when it comes to fulfillment.
You'll read that narcissists can't apologize, but let me assure you that some do. The only difference between their apology and a healthy person's apology is that his will be for your behavior. For example he'll say something like, "I'm sorry you got so mad at me" or "I'm sorry that you were so upset last night." That's not really an apology in my book.
Healthy version: An apology always includes some form of accountability or responsibility even if the other person doesn't agree. You should hear an "I statement" in some form.
Narcissists are actually big givers, but in a certain form. This is why they last the longest in relationships with women who enjoy being doted on with gifts. It's deceiving when they seem so generous, but notice if there's a nagging feeling in your gut that you need more.
Healthy version: Your partner should meet your needs emotionally, physically and spiritually. Gifts are nice, but it will never be enough to meet your deeper and more intimate desires.
Sure they'll go along with almost anything because they tell you it's all about you. Turns out they're keeping a running list in there head that unbeknownst to you is promising them a return on their investment. Nothing is without condition with the narcissist so even though you might think they're supportive there is usually an ulterior motive. Next time you don't feel like doing something they want to do you'll be reminded of how out of their way they went for you.
Healthy version: Your partner should be supportive and go along with you when you ask, but they will also feel the right to say no when they can't do something. They will expect the same of you.
Narcissists are notoriously known for not asking questions but they are curious. Their curiosity is actually disguised criticism however. You'll hear them say something like "Didn't you say you were going to the gym after work?" or "Are you feeling good about that dress you're going to wear to the party tonight?" These might seem benign in the moment, but if you listen more deeply they have an intention to shame and belittle.
Healthy version: Healthy curiosity shows genuine interest and a level of respect for you and your efforts. When you're seen and appreciated for all that you do you'll know it's right because it feels so good.
Making a relationship work with a person who lives somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum is much more viable than someone with the full-blown personality disorder, but it's essential that you know what you're dealing with. Just honor what you feel, trust your gut, and know that you deserve nothing but the best.