Could you be dating a narcissist and not even know it?
After starting to date again after divorce, I often found myself drawn toward highly successful professional men who are competitive in business and strongly determined to continue to build their own financial empire. Their determined, confident attitudes and visible business successes appealed to my strong desires for security and stability.
A recent first date I went on was with this type of guy. My date with a dentist turned into a three-hour marathon of misery for me when he insisted that we sit in a back booth that he had reserved in advance with the hostess by visiting the restaurant the night before and then he told our server that he would leave an extra generous tip if she served our meals at a very leisurely pace.
Right away he launched into a one-sided brag fest about how he got elected president of his college fraternity and why he easily scored highest in his graduating class on the dental board exam. He then dropped names of all the famous people he knows who live in our city and then went on to reveal the names of all the famous people his dad knows too. By the time the pasta finally arrived, I wanted to collapse into my plate from sheer boredom and exhaustion.
After that mind-numbing experience, I ran to my car and swore off dating for several months.
Unfortunately this was just one more very disillusioning date with a narcissistic man. I had already experienced many others.
Several times I dated a man exclusively for three to six months, expecting things to become more serious over time, only to have them abruptly break things off with very little explanation or distance themselves with vague excuses about why they couldn't continue to spend time with me.
After spending many frustrating weeks trying to figure out how to get each of these men I had dated exclusively to connect with me on an emotional level so that our relationship could continue to grow, I finally discovered that there was a big disconnect between the type of relationship I was expecting to unfold and what these narcissistic men were able to contribute in terms of intimacy, emotional connection and respectful two-way communications.
I discovered that I was living on crumbs and pretending it was a whole nutritious meal.
Are you dating a narcissist? Here are six warning signs:
1. He is pre-occupied with how things around him appear and how he is perceived by others. He aggressively pursues financial success and is not content with what he already has acquired or achieved. He has a strong craving for admiration, praise and his home, car, clothes and high status are a direct measurement of how successful he appears to others.
2. He exploits or takes advantage of others to get what he wants. Narcissists are highly skilled at using others' talents; taking advantage of their desire to avoid conflicts and their good natured helpfulness as a means to an end to achieve their own goals.
3. He does not appreciate or even see your unique abilities and natural gifts. Highly self-absorbed, narcissists are so driven by how they can use others to benefit themselves that your own individual strengths, abilities and achievements are often ignored or dismissed as inconsequential.
4. He resents authority and despises correction or being told what to do. He is reluctant to accept any blame or criticism and strongly prefers to be in control of things and those around him at all times. Having his faults pointed out to him or even having to admit that he made a mistake can set him off into a fit of rage.
5. Petty arguments often erupt into power struggles. The narcissistic man thrives on being right so disputes are rarely resolved. Mediation and counseling rarely helps to improve communications with a narcissist because this type of person sees themselves as under attack and can't stand for their actions to be subject to the opinions of others and held up to the light.
6. He disregards your healthy needs for attention and affection. Since narcissistic men often lack empathy and the self-examination necessary to create an intimate relationship, you'll often find yourself running on empty. Attempts to get more affection from him often leads to him creating a secret life to run to and evading your questions about what is really happening or not happening in your relationship.
If you recognize these signs in a man that you are dating, it is helpful to remember that narcissists have very rigid expectations (especially for themselves) and so this type of man rarely changes his ways.
Understanding or experiencing intimacy and love within the context of a balanced and healthy relationship is not on the agenda of a narcissist.
Unfortunately, many times we keep trying to change a narcissistic man into who we'd like them to become or the reverse -- trying to twist ourselves like pretzels into a perfect version of what he wants instead of cutting our losses. Recognizing the traits of a narcissistic man and realizing how deeply rooted they are is critical so that we can begin taking back control of our own life and start to move forward in a healthier direction.