35 phrases narcissists use to establish dominance in a relationship

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You likely know the myth of the beautiful blonde Narcissus, who fell deeply in love with his own reflection that he stared and pined until he wasted away.

In many versions of the tale, Narcissus pines and laments to the gods, beseeching them to grant him his one true love (himself).

Now, Narcissus’ words did little to win over the gods.

But modern-day narcissists and manipulators seem to have a way of asserting dominance over us through the power of speech and manage to make up for Narcissus’ failings.

If you find yourself in a similar cycle and hear any of the following 35 phrases, be wary – you’ve likely got a narcissist on your hands.

Infatuation and adoration

First comes the love bombing stage, wherein you are showered with so much love and infatuation, you can’t help but fall head over heels and feel so incredibly special.

Yes, it’s only been a week since you met, but never has anyone shown you this level of care and attention. You feel blessed and fortunate, and feel almost worshipped.

  1. “I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
  2. “We don’t need anyone else.”
  3. “We’ll be together forever.”
  4. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
  5. “I can’t believe that fate brought us together.”

Devaluation and belittling

Next, the devaluation phase. 

You’ve already placed this person on a pedestal and have fallen head over heels.

You’re obsessed with them and think they’re obsessed with you, but then in arguments or disagreements, things really start to sour and the gaslighting begins.

  1. “You’re too sensitive.”
  2. “You’re crazy.”
  3. “You’re remembering that totally wrong.”
  4. “That never happened. Your mind must be playing tricks on you.”
  5. “What’s wrong with you? How could you ever say that to me?”

Endless excuses

Now you’re pretty hurt. This kind and gentle person who seemed to cherry-pick you out of everyone else and made you feel like the best person in the world is being so…mean.

But you can’t help but think back to all those nice things they said. How they stroked your ego and boosted your confidence and made you think that the stars had truly aligned in bringing you together.

So they come with a set of phrases to explain their behavior when you try to call them out on these nasty statements.

Suddenly, they’re no longer the bad guy despite making you cry and making you feel like you really were a bit crazy. 

They have a wily ability to double back and reassert their authority through coming up with a host of excuses that seemingly explain why they said the things they did. 

  1. “I’m sorry, I’m just so scared you’ll leave me.”
  2. “I’ve been cheated on before and that betrayal made me this way, but I don’t mean it.”
  3. “I don’t do it intentionally.”
  4. “I had a really bad childhood so I can’t help that I now act in this way.”
  5. “Love isn’t always easy. Everyone goes through periods like this.”

Constant criticism

Everything is fine and dandy again! They’re back to acting nice and loving, buying you flowers or other thoughtful gifts, and treating you so well. 

You wonder if the ‘bad’ period was even that bad at all. Every relationship goes through blips, right?

But then you start to notice how they always have something mean to say. These criticisms grow from tiny stray comments into a barrage of disparagement and hatred.

This is in no way justified, but think back to golden Narcissus lounging and gazing at his own reflection. He couldn’t share the limelight with anyone bar himself. Neither can modern-day narcissists. 

So they turn to devaluing you at every corner, criticizing everything you do to push you down and make them feel superior.

  1. “You’re so bad at drawing, it’s pitiful.”
  2. “Your friends don’t really like you, you know. I heard them whispering about it.”
  3. “This dish you made is disgusting. How bad are your cooking skills?!”
  4. “You’re looking a bit chubbier lately. Have you been skipping the gym?”
  5. “Your colleagues must really not like you if they didn’t invite you out on Thursday.”

Control and dominance

There is no equal footing in a relationship with a narcissist

Wherever possible, they will try to one-up you and assert that dominance through making themselves out to be more intelligent, more knowledgeable, and just always in the right. 

  1. “Well since I’m the one with the degree, I think we can agree that I’m right on this one”
  2. “I don’t want you wearing that out”
  3. “I’ve lived here longer, so I know better”
  4. “That’s such a stupid view to have. I thought you were cleverer than that”
  5. “I’ve just seen more of the world, so I understand it better”


By now, you’re so confused. Your connection wavers so quickly between hot and cold, you don’t know which way is up nor which down at this point.

You’re starting to doubt yourself and your memory, and your self-worth is shrinking by the minute.

And what’s more, whenever you voice the slightest doubt, the slightest hesitation, they remind you how lucky you are to be blessed with their presence. 

Any thoughts of ending the relationship are crushed as they spin every situation back around to make you the bad guy

  1. “I don’t know why you’re acting like this? You’re so lucky to be with me.”
  2. “Do you know how many other people that are out there who want me?”
  3. “I have so many better options to choose from, yet here I am with you. You could be a little more grateful.”
  4. “If you really loved me, you’d try harder.”
  5. “All this arguing, all this ungratefulness, and yet I still make time for you. Do you know how lucky you are? 

Insults and abuse

You have to be pretty worn down to sit there and take the following statements.

But I’ve been there myself, so I can’t judge.

Your ego and confidence so battered by the narcissist, you don’t even question the hateful statements they hurl your way. 

You just sit there and take it, accepting that you’re useless and loathed and they’re the best you’ll ever have.

  1. “Nobody likes you.”
  2. “You’re the one that did this to yourself.”
  3. “You’re such a bad person, deep down. It disgusts me.”
  4. “No wonder everyone hates you.”
  5. “Have fun dying alone.”

Escaping a narcissist 

Having been in the cycle myself, I know how silly it might seem to an outsider.

What sort of delusional person would stay and take this level of criticism? 

But the endless cycle of hot and cold, of titbits of love then floods of hatred wears you down to the extent where you are essentially trauma-bonded to this person and cannot leave.

You’re addicted to the moments of warmth and work overtime like a beaten dog for scraps of food. The reality of the situation is something you try to block out and certainly cannot see clearly. 

By this point, you’ve also likely been isolated from all friends and family who could have shown you better or pulled you out. 

Breaking free from emotional abuse instigated by narcissists is incredibly difficult. But it is absolutely something you need to do if the above phrases are part of your daily life.

Check out our guide on breaking up with a narcissist here.

And remember that even though your self-worth might now be in tatters, you are worth so much more than this person has to offer.

There is no saving a narcissist, but you can still save yourself.

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