7 Questions to Ask When Determining Whether Your Partner Is a Narcissist

Updated on March 26, 2018
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Our lives are made infinitely richer by our relationships. I love finding ways to strengthen them at home, at work, and with friends.

Narcissist or Just Self-Absorbed?

Slapping the label of narcissist on your partner, boss, friend, or mother-in-law is the hottest thing going in pop psychology today. Everybody on the face of the planet has become utterly convinced they're being mistreated by one. In reality, though, most of us are not dealing with narcissists but simply self-absorbed people who are annoying, yes, but abusive, no. So ...if you're dating someone who has you wondering, ask yourself the following 7 questions :

A narcissist loves flattery from strangers and eats it up
A narcissist loves flattery from strangers and eats it up | Source

1. Does He Care More About What Strangers Think of Him Than What You Think of Him?

The person you're dating may initially captivate you by his charming way with strangers—joking with servers at restaurants, chatting it up with salespeople at stores, and always telling engaging stories at parties. You may think: What a catch! But, as the relationship develops, you see his easy rapport with strangers does not carry over to his relationship with you.

A narcissist feeds off the attention he gets from casual relationships— the mail carrier who laughs at his joke, the co-worker who praises his sense of style, the barber who admires his full head of hair. While most of us take these everyday compliments with a grain of salt, he finds them extremely gratifying. This superficial give-and-take that most of us call chit-chat” is more meaningful to him than a deeper relationship with you. He's the life of the party but shallow as a puddle one-on-one.

2. Does She Consider Herself Special in Some Way, Setting Herself Apart from Regular Folks?

Just like Superman with his x-ray vision, a narcissist believes she, too, has unique powers that set her apart from everyone else. She often brings up her specialness in conversation because it's central to her identity. She may see herself as unusually perceptive, a superior communicator, exceptionally attractive, or uncommonly moral. She may see herself as a princess, deserving preferential treatment, luxurious surroundings, and lots of admiration. She may exaggerate her importance, making comments such as: “Everyone is always coming to me for advice...My entire family would be in shambles if it weren't for me...People are always telling me I should write a book about my life!”

Some narcissists see religion as their super power. They believe they have a special one-on-one relationship with God in which He speaks to them directly and guides their everyday lives. We've all heard NFL players thanking God for their Super Bowl wins and actors praising the Lord for their Academy Awards. They think God sees them as exceptional, deserving of recognition, and this confirms what they think of themselves. In your relationship, the narcissist will always be the one who sets the course and leads the way because, after all, she's being steered by a Higher Power.


Some narcissists think God is guiding their everyday lives and helping them attain greatness.
Some narcissists think God is guiding their everyday lives and helping them attain greatness. | Source

3. Does He Give You the “Silent Treatment?”

If you're like many people, you clam up when you get mad, frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed. You don't want to say something you'll regret so you wisely refrain from speaking until you've sorted out your thoughts and can speak rationally about them. This may take a matter of minutes or a few hours. Your intent is to avoid hurting your partner and damaging the relationship.

The narcissist gives the “silent treatment” for an entirely different reason—to punish, control, and demoralize. Make no mistake about it, he's using it to make you suffer and squirm. In fact, some narcissists like to give the “silent treatment” without explanation, putting their victims off-balance and making them feel scared and vulnerable. Their vengeful self-imposed muteness can go on for days, weeks, and even months. They take the "silent treatment" to the extreme and use it often. If you try to become more assertive in the relationship, the narcissist will use it as a weapon to squelch your independence.


4. Is She Thin-Skinned?

A narcissist takes offense at the slightest of slights. She's highly sensitive to any perceived insult. She can't take a joke, can't laugh at her foibles, and can't let anything go. She's never self-deprecating. You may start censoring your speech around her so as not to hurt her fragile feelings. You may feel like you're constantly walking on eggshells. When you make comments not even directed at her, she may interpret them as a personal attack. You gradually realize you'll never win and become resigned to it.

It's nearly impossible to talk to a narcissist about anything you find troubling in the relationship. She will take what you said, twist it, and make you the bad guy. A narcissist is not self-reflective so you're in for a losing battle. She can play the martyr like nobody else.

If she hurts you, don't hold your breath waiting for an apology. A narcissist rarely if ever says “I'm sorry.” If she were to even notice your distress, she would only offer a lame, insincere acknowledgment. She would never say, “I'm sorry I called you dumb. I was mean.” Instead, she would say, “I'm sorry you reacted that way to what I said.” She puts it all on you.

5. Does He React With Anger When You Disagree With Him?

When others disagree with us, we find it annoying but not cause for anger and rage. A narcissist, however, gets unduly upset when someone has a differing viewpoint. He becomes hell-bent on changing her opinion or berating her for clinging to it. He cannot tolerate losing an argument. He cannot be wrong.

A live and let live attitude is not part of his makeup. A narcissist will argue with you until he's beaten you down and you've lost the will to live. Debating back and forth is futile because he doesn't want to listen. A narcissist (deep-down) is an insecure person who needs to believe he's always right. He's drawn to a woman who avoids confrontation and is willing to smooth over rough patches to make his life run smoothly. He does not look for an equal. He typically wants someone younger, less experienced, and easy to influence.

To a narcissist, winning an argument is more important than maintaining a healthy relationship. Deep-down a narcissist is an insecure person.
To a narcissist, winning an argument is more important than maintaining a healthy relationship. Deep-down a narcissist is an insecure person. | Source

6. Does She Ever Give You Compliments?

A narcissist believes her role is to receive compliments, not give them. You may start to feel like you're walking through the desert, searching for a drop of water, if you're seeking praise or validation from her. You'll start to lose self-esteem and that's exactly what she wants. When you're unsure of yourself, you're in a weak position. She's in control and more powerful.

You are collateral damage as she bolsters herself, minimizing your experiences and achievements in the process. If you get a promotion at work, she'll say, “I've gotten SO many promotion over the years. I've lost count.” If you're excited about becoming an uncle for the first time, she'll say, “I've been an aunt for 10 years. It's not a big deal.” She'll burst your bubble and you'll start getting depressed.

Want to Know If You're Dating a Narcissist? Just Ask!

7. Does He Genuinely Empathize With You When You Experience Heartache?

A narcissist has little or no ability to experience empathy. But he often fakes it, saying sympathetic words and giving comforting gestures, when it serves his needs. He may act compassionately when you're dating but give up the pretense when you're married.

Some wives say their narcissistic husbands began acting cold and unsympathetic soon after the nuptials. They first noticed the behavior when they needed their husbands to care for them when they were suffering from the flu, recovering from surgery, or getting over the death of a relative. The narcissists, unable to cope with the nurturing role, got extremely frustrated, angry, and resentful.

If You're Fascinated by Narcissists Like I Am, You'll Love This Book

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers

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      • profile image

        Kimber 

        9 months ago

        OMG... I'm 100% sure now that my husband is Narcissistic...and he has displayed all 7 signs plus I'm sure there's more, I'm so relieved he's up and left me now...I'm starting to feel better about me again...Thanks for all the information on the Websites about this issue

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        20 months ago from Bend, OR

        I think you should design your own, Smith. Sounds like a money-maker to me!

      • profile image

        Smith 

        20 months ago

        For an example of how a narcissist views women, communicates, and would respond to the above article, see dashingscorpio's comment. I'm sorry, I had to. Yes, technically that is an armchair diagnosis that we've all been warned against making. But to those who've experienced a true narcissist, tell me reading his comment wasn't uncanny. You aren't reading about narcissists because you've been told you are one, by any chance, are you? I can't be the only person that noticed this but I guess I'm the only one "contentious" enough to point it out. Now I want a contentious woman t shirt to go with my nasty woman t shirt.

      • profile image

        Letstalkabouteduc 

        21 months ago

        Terrific comments, dashingscorpio. You're so right about "narcissist" and "stalker" getting overused. I also nominate "controlling." I have several nieces in their 20's and "controlling" is usually what they cite when breaking up with a guy.

      • dashingscorpio profile image

        dashingscorpio 

        21 months ago

        Very interesting!

        "He's drawn to a woman who avoids confrontation and is willing to smooth over rough patches to make his life run smoothly."

        I would tend to believe most men don't look forward to coming home after "slaying dragons" all day to deal with confrontation at home. :)

        Proverbs 21:19

        "Better to dwell in the wilderness, Than with a contentious and angry woman." LOL!

        Natural compatibility trumps compromise!

        The goal is to find someone who (already is) what you want in a mate.

        Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

        Most fights and arguments are due to the fact that someone feels disrespected, unappreciated, or ignored/neglected.

        Anger is the Mask that Hurt wears!

        Having said that it's not uncommon for men to be accused of being "passive aggressive" or poor communicators. I imagine some of it has to do with (some) men's need to solve or resolve an issue once and for all each time there is a discussion about a topic. A "one and done" mentality.

        Once they see something is "coming up again" they just decide to shut down because they don't believe there is any upside to jumping through hoops all over again. In his mind he's not going to "play that game" again.

        Another possibility is he may have {extreme anger issues} and shutting down or avoiding is his way of not engaging in explosive or possible violent behavior. Naturally dealing with such a person it would be unwise to "corner him" or follow him from room to room to force anything.

        I believe the word "narcissist" is starting to become over used in our society much like "stalker". For some people the threshold is very low for getting a label placed on someone.

        If a guy pursues a woman for romance by calling her more than once he's a "stalker" and if he acts like she doesn't exist he's "narcissistic".

        Everyone who has a measure of "self-esteem" and confidence has had it ingrained in them that they are "special" or "unique" on some level and deserve to have "boundaries" and "deal breakers" when dealing with others. They believe they shouldn't have to "settle" for just anything.

        The "Narcissist" takes it the extreme! And yet each of us also (defines) what is "extreme". Our definition isn't universal. Perception is reality.

        The best way to deal with the silent treatment is to not deal with it.

        In other words keep on being busy with your life or simply move on.

        People tend to use whatever "works" (for them) to get what they want.

        People don't "change' unless (they) are unhappy.

        There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships: We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them (as is) or move on. The choice is up to us!

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        I can't see you having much patience for a narcissist, Bill. Once was enough, huh? I've never dated one, but my sister is married to one. He's given her the silent treatment for up to 2 weeks. They've been married over 30 years, and she now kind of enjoys it. She doesn't take it personally and it gives her a break from him. Couples can make it work, but it's hard.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        Thanks, pstraubie. Psychologists are coming to a more sophisticated understanding of narcissists -- that we're all narcissistic to some degree on the spectrum. They're also acknowledging some of the positive aspects of being narcissistic. It's a fascinating topic since we can all relate!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        21 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Nope, I'm not dating one, but I sure don't have much patience for them. I did date one in the past but not for long. :)

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        21 months ago from sunny Florida

        In hindsight I fear I may have been involved with at least one who exemplifies these characteristics but fortunately that was not of a long duration. Sadly I have a niece who personifies narcissim....

        Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

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