Derived from Greek mythology, the term narcissistic personality disorder is used for a person who has an unnatural sense of self-importance and is overly self-involved. In the ancient legend, Narcissus was a handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection. However in contemporary society which promotes self-love and the pursuit of one’s needs and goals, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize this potentially destructive trait in individuals as well as relationships. Here are some signs of narcissistic trait in a relationship which should put you on your guard before it is too late.
Excessive display of love at the beginning
A narcissist is more often than not a charmer – they have to be in order to first attract a partner in a relationship on whose emotional and physical resources they can feed on later. Thus one of the earliest signs of narcissism in a relationship is, paradoxically, excessive attention to the partner by the narcissist. Whether male or female, a narcissist will shower a partner with attention that is way over the top. When they talk to you, you will feel that you are the most important person in the world at that moment. You will feel flattered and special like no one else has ever made you feel before. It will seem like no time at all before the narcissist wants to spend every moment with you. He/she will declare you that you are his/her soul-mate, that you and he/she are exactly alike, that you understand them like no other person does.
Unusual haste in commitment
While a normal person would take his/her time in committing to a relationship, one which is marked by a narcissistic bias would be hurtling towards a commitment. Even before the partner realizes what is happening, the narcissist would be asking for a commitment of some sort, whether romantically, or a partnership of any other kind. Healthy relationships take time to develop, even when two people are deeply in love, since their relationship is based on open communication and realistic expectations. A narcissist though will want to commit incredibly fast and you should know why – a narcissist is in an undue rush to enter into a committed relationship not only because of the shallowness of his/her emotional attachment but because he/she wants something that the partner can provide like important information, physical labor or emotional resources. A narcissist needs such a partner to provide him/her with attention, approval, adoration and admiration that his/her dysfunctional personality needs to feed on.
The most obvious trait of full-fledged narcissism in a relationship is that it is all the time about one partner. The narcissist will always put his/her own needs before everyone else’s. If you live with a narcissistic partner, you may find that it is perpetually about his/her likes and dislikes, feelings and requirements. You will find yourself getting ready for a dinner out whether you feel like it or not, simply because your narcissist partner is free this evening. On a more serious note, you may find yourself working two to three shifts because your narcissist partner wants to go on Caribbean cruise for the coming holidays or has his eye on the latest 52-inch LCD TV model. Some amount of selflessness in natural in a relationship but when it is about fulfilling the needs and priorities of one partner, only and always, the relationship smacks of narcissism.
Lot of anger
A narcissistic relationship is marked by the presence of a lot of anger. At first the rage of a narcissist will be indirect, aimed at someone else. The main function of demonstration of this rage is to intimidate and control others, including you, so that you know what to expect when you refuse to give in to your partner’s needs and demands. Eventually this temper will taken on a more physical form like banging fists on the wall or table, breaking or throwing things, hurling abuse and it is only a matter of time before a narcissist’s rage is directed towards you. Even when you are not the direct victim of his/her temper, you will be subject to constant criticism designed to erode your self-esteem, your confidence, and give them even more control over you. The more fearful you become, the more the narcissistic partner will rule by fear.
Extreme anxiety felt by the weaker partner
Even if you are unable to consciously identify the process by which an overly charming admirer turned into a raging, demanding partner, you can still recognize a narcissistic relationship by the feeling of extreme anxiety and nervousness, especially when your partner is around. It feels as though you are perpetually walking on eggshells and the slightest mistake in word or action can be your undoing. This is the inevitable consequence of the fear that the abused partner has been subjected to by the narcissist’s temper. As a result the weaker partner becomes highly vigilant, nervous and overly sensitive to every threat. The more insecure you become, the more powerful your narcissist becomes.
Just when you think you cannot bear to be in this relationship anymore and want to opt out, your narcissist may respond by turning into a sweetheart. You see the person you fell in love with suddenly emerge once again. This is a ploy of emotional manipulation and is a common trait in narcissistic relationship. By resorting to acting as the person you fell in love with, the narcissist ensures that you do not leave the relationship altogether. After a particular nasty episode he/she may will plead and promise the sun, moon and stars if you will just give him/her one more chance. At this your heart melts and your guards come down. You are filled with hope and a renewed optimism for the future, and you cling on with all of your might. But this phase does not last for long, and very soon you are back at the receiving end of the narcissist’s renewed anger and criticism. It is this duality - the “pull and push” behavior – which marks out a narcissistic relationship in the most painful way.
Feeling of isolation
Finally a narcissistic relationship is characterized by the abused partner feeling completely isolated from any other supportive relationship. Over time you may end losing touch your family, friends and co-workers. The isolation is likely to happen without your realizing it; it may be through covert and overt acts of criticism in an attempt to turn you against the people you are closest to so that the narcissist is not unmasked (by your well-wishers) for the person he/she really is. Eventually friends and family tend to become tired of all the excuses you make and even they step back from you. Before you know what has happened, you are completely alone and thus completely in power of the narcissist.