It takes quite some time to discover they’re with a narcissist. And even then, they’d doubt themselves because the signs are so subtle.
Have you been wondering whether you’re actually with a narc or you’re just paranoid?
In this article, I give you 10 signs that you’re with a narcissist and what you should do if you want out.
1) They make you doubt yourself at every turn
Gaslighting is a staple of the narcissist’s playbook, and it’s something they start doing as soon as they are able.
They would nitpick your little mistakes and criticize even small things like the way you dress yourself or your choice of friends.
All these small things come together to erode your confidence in your ability to judge things on your own.
This, of course, means that they get to have their way in the relationship simply because you’d be way too busy doubting yourself to make a stand.
2) You don’t have any privacy whatsoever
It should perhaps not come as any surprise that narcissists also tend to be control freaks.
They might have asked that you share your social media passwords with them, or allow them access to your phone on demand.
Perhaps you’ve always seen it as ”normal” because… well, couples are supposed to share everything, no secrets, right?
Well, not quite. The thing is that simply because you’re together doesn’t mean your partner has a right to intrude on your privacy. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust, not on hovering over each other’s every move.
3) You feel compelled to maintain appearances
You shudder at the thought of doing anything that will ever make others think your relationship is anything but perfect.
Perhaps you’ve disagreed with them before in front of their friends and they ended up ghosting you for weeks. Or perhaps they shouted at you and slapped you when you were alone again.
The narcissist holds you to a high-rise pedestal of “the ideal”, so don’t you dare take a step away or they are likely to blow up.
The point is that one way or another, you’re afraid so you do your best to maintain appearances… or else.
4) They drag others into your conflicts
But while you feel a pressure to keep things between you look as pristine as can be, the same could not be said of your partner.
They have no problem dragging other people in to back them up when you confront them.
Perhaps they felt like they were about to lose and wanted to intimidate you, or perhaps they just wanted to shut you down.
Whatever their motivations, it’s hard to deny that it makes you feel small and humiliated… and that’s exactly the way of the narcissist so they can regain control.
5) They deflect confrontation and lie effortlessly
Whenever you try to confront them about something, they will always try to find a way to turn it around on you.
For example, if you’ve been having suspicions that they’ve been cheating on you, they’ll shut you down with something like “You think I’m cheating on you? The problem is you’re so insecure and you have low self-esteem.”
They also lie effortlessly. Ask them when they will return the money you lent and they’ll come up with a distant relative in need who doesn’t even exist. And you still end up feeling like a terrible person for asking for your own money back.
A healthy relationship won’t make your sense of reality go haywire because trust and truth is at the core.
6) They always have someone else to blame
All their errors and mistakes are someone else’s fault to begin with.
Narcissist will do anything to look good though and can make really exceptional faux apologies.
“Sorry I threw away your treasured childhood toy. When I was a kid, my mom would throw away mine whenever she was in a bad mood or if I did one tiny thing wrong…”
And then you end up manipulated into feeling guilty and you get pulled into taking care of them.
Or perhaps they insulted your best friend but then when you ask them to apologize they’d say something like “Okay, I did something wrong there but your best friend has been talking behind your back (not true), they are so impolite and rude!”
These “look at what they made me do!” excuses might not be exclusive to narcissists, but it’s a very big tell that you’re dealing with one nonetheless.
7) You feel incredibly isolated
It feels like you have nowhere to turn to, and no-one to trust. You’re not sure whether you can reach out to your friends or even your very own family.
This isn’t an accident. It’s a deliberate tactic narcissists use on their victims.
They would make you doubt or hate your friends, for example. Or perhaps they might turn your friends to their side and chase off the ones that remain.
To keep you trapped in the relationship, they make sure you have nowhere and no one else to turn to.
8) You always feel like everything is your fault
Every time something goes wrong, one of the first things to cross your mind would be some kind of “What did I do wrong?” or “I messed up again!”
Now, self-reflection is healthy, but feeling like you’re around a walking timebomb isn’t normal.
When they start verbally abusing you for asking what time they’ll get home, you don’t take it against them. It gets to a point that you even rationalize to yourself and friends that it’s your fault they got angry because you were insensitive with their work stress.
Even when they hurt you physically, you explain it away with “I triggered it.”
It’s not your fault though, because no one is ever prepared for narcissistic abuse.
You don’t even need to be in a relationship or friendship with a narcissist at this moment either—people who grew up with narcissistic parents also feel this way.
9) They won’t give you space
It’s like you can never be alone when you’re with a narcissist. You have no room to even breathe.
If you ask for some time to gather your thoughts, they’ll disrespect your request and won’t keep their distance.
Your journal? They read it without your consent then attack you with your private thoughts. When you confront them, it’s your fault because you didn’t hide it well enough. Heck, probably did that as a trap for them, too!
If you ever try to break up with them, they’ll manipulate people and circumstances in your life so that you’ll end up back to them again.
A narcissist wants nothing more than to control the people around them, and giving people no room to breathe is certainly one way of doing that.
10) Your relationships feel like a competition
A sign that you’re dealing with a narcissist or their abusive behavior is feeling immense pressure with your relationships whether they be romantic or platonic.
When they do something nice, you worry you’ll pay a steep price later. You feel pressured to prove your worth, from your looks to your career.
This is because narcissists love to demean their victims while keeping them around as long as it makes them look and feel good.
What to do if you want out
First things first—Protect yourself
There is no doubt that narcissism is linked to domestic violence, and there are multiple studies exactly about that.
So if you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse, and your abuser is close, the last thing you want is to be vulnerable.
It might be hard, especially if your abuser has been isolating you, but you need friends or family you can run to for help if things get dire.
And when push comes to shove, you can try calling a support helpline.
Get proper help on how you can leave
Get support even when it feels like there is no urgent necessity.
While it’s important to be surrounded by friends and family who remind you of your worth, expert advice is invaluable.
For relationship guidance, I recommend Relationship Hero. It’s a site with highly trained relationship coaches that help people through complicated and difficult love situations such as yours.
They can help you see patterns and stick to your decision, so you won’t go back- a big possibility if you’re not fully prepared emotionally.
Follow the “No Contact Rule”
Don’t reach out to the narcissist even if they threaten you. Cut off all contact instead—from SMS to email to social media.
Psychologists and experts on narcissistic abuse recommend ceasing communications once you are safely away.
Dr. Judy Rosenberg, founder of the Psychological Healing Center, explains that among the benefits of cutting communications is allowing the victim to grieve and have space to fully heal.
Once you overcome the guilt and shame of severing ties, you will gain a clear perspective and regain your sense of self once again.
Once you’ve managed to get out of narcissistic abuse, avoid falling into the trap of vengeance disguised as justice.
You worked so hard to be free, so don’t waste your time and energy by making your life about them ever again. They are no longer your job anymore.
Forgive yourself, and make time to grieve the parts of you that will have to relearn how to trust yourself and others.