Warning Signs for Narcissists In Relationships

Many Relationships With Narcissists Feature A Big Start and a Disastrous Finish

by Dr. Sylvia Gearing and Chris Gearing

January 26, 2024

Many of us know the pain and agony caused by relationships with narcissists.

Unfortunately many of their habits like gaslighting can even create severe traumas that can take years to heal. When you are manipulated into losing your own sense of reality, you begin to fundamentally doubt yourself and your ability to trust your own perceptions. Over time, our sense of agency and sense of self can be deeply compromised or destroyed. 

Just as narcissistic conditions are on a continuum, so too are their relationships. 

As Dr. Jean Twenge notes, many relationships with narcissists feature a big start and a disastrous finish. These relationships tend to be chaotic, confusing, and destructive, and there is minimal, if any, empathy – certainly not reciprocal empathy. Relationships with a narcissist can become particularly painful if you get too attached, too committed to them, or give them too much power. Your worth is dictated solely by how they view you in that moment, and that view can change rapidly and wildly like a weathervane blowing in a storm. 

In an effort to protect ourselves, we must be able to discern the signs of a narcissist and narcissistic relationships before we get too deep and risk getting hurt. Here are some telltale signs of narcissistic relationships to watch out for:

The Narcissistic Glow

What’s worse is that the beginning phases of these relationships can feel so alluring. The magic and charm of a narcissist is unmistakable and intoxicating. Passion and connection flows quickly and easily through mutual admiration, adventure, and possibly even romance. The relationship positions each party as “someone special” where each partner is adored, admired, and oh so attractive. Unless we have experienced these situations before, we can quickly fall prey to attaching ourselves to such people basking in the light of the narcissistic glow that neutralizes the self-doubt or red flags from the tiny voice in the back of our minds.

The Power of Self-Love

Much like a black hole, narcissists’ sense of love and adoration never extends or escapes beyond their own crushing gravity. Their self-aggrandizement knows no bounds, and the sense of entitlement means that everything good in this world is meant solely for them. While often charming, exciting, and self-serving, they navigate professional and social circles in a relentless search for recognition, praise, and acclaim. They may attach themselves to larger causes or relationships temporarily, but this will only last as long as it works to their benefit and can be usefully exploited. However, their self-glorification also compromises their ability to see things clearly, and they are often confused or angry when others question anything about them – something they said, their choices, or even what they ordered for lunch.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

In their eyes, any person is disposable and ultimately unimportant. That includes long term friends, romantic partners, and even immediate family members. Any efforts from the other person go unappreciated or unnoticed, and in fact that effort may be viewed as weakness, desperation, or other naive vulnerabilities to be exploited. After all, other people exist solely to meet their needs and further their ambitions. When the relationship no longer serves the interests of the narcissist, the other party is quickly devalued, pushed aside, and promptly escorted out. They do not tolerate people who can be seen as a drain, a disappointment or even embarrassing. The end of these relationships can be traumatic since it is so often without warning or cause leaving many of us confused, drained, and hurt in their wake.

Disposable People

Related to the previous point, the narcissist views even long term and emotionally intimate relationships as easily replaceable and interchangeable. Whether it’s parents, partners, families, friends, professional relationships, pets, or even their children, they treat them casually and have no need to invest in or maintain the relationship. Sentimentality has no place in their world. What many people would consider normal methods of attachment and connection do not exist in these relationships. At the slightest disappointment, frustration, or criticism with someone or something, they feel justified to simply move on and find someone or something new. Narcissists feel no obligation or concern for those they leave behind. They only care about the next brand-new option, new adventure, new opportunity. Anyone or anything can be replaced with “something better.” The survivor has to come to terms with the fact that the narcissist’s primary concern was always their own self-interest. Anyone or anything that did not acknowledge or serve their endless need for acclaim and comfort was always going to end up in the garbage can. Any distraction from their self-centered concerns, such as the normal needs of a relationship, would always threaten their fragile attachment. After all, the only thing that ever matters to narcissists is their own welfare and opportunities.

Masters of Manipulation

Narcissists are known for their effective manipulation of others. They can easily forge shallow alliances that make them feel like they are in control and effective with other people. The people around them are only there to serve their needs, and the narcissist will do whatever they can to make sure those needs are met. Since they often appraise themselves as a good if not outstanding person, they see no fault in how they treat others. The unfortunate reality is that their commitment to a career, a romantic partner, or to causes are governed solely by how useful they view that commitment in that moment. Other people are only important if they augment the narcissist’s standing in the world. Manipulation is one of the main tools of the narcissist. They will use whatever means they have to access the resources, affection, or labor of other well-meaning people. They are masters of pretending to care, and experts at saying what the other person wants to hear. They will make promises of loyalty, devotion, and future plans with no real intention of following though if they change their mind. They travel the world jumping from shallow relationship to shallow relationship often ultimately ending up alone in the end.

In Love With The Mirror

The only people who tend to survive and continue relationships with narcissists are those that meet their most fundamental needs. Making them look good, allowing them to be in complete control without criticism or blame, and never complaining and constantly adoring, they live in the shadows of the narcissist. “Good vibes only” is the only acceptable option. This “perfect mirror” reinforces the self-aggrandizement the narcissist craves without meeting any wants or needs of the person holding the mirror. If the mirror slips or shatters, the narcissist withdraws affection and affiliation suddenly. Quickly retreating to irritation and disillusionment, they move on to find the next best option to replace and forget the person or thing they left behind. 

Vengeance Is All Mine

Narcissists tend to be exquisitely sensitive to any minor criticism, misunderstanding, or disapproval. If anything is perceived as an insult or challenge to their position, retaliation is the only answer. If they feel attacked, belittled, or even simply uncomfortable, they will return fire as soon as possible. Extreme levels of anger and rage can be provoked even with the most minor mention of imperfection or inadequacy. Narcissists are especially reactive to feeling ashamed or vulnerable. They insist on living their lives without explanation, expectations, or edicts. Rules and accountability are only for other people.

If you or someone you know is recovering from a relationship with a narcissist…

Call us today at (972) 596-7229 to learn more or send us a message on our Contact Us page! GearingUp’s “Narcissist Recovery” therapy programs was designed by Dr. Sylvia Gearing to help individuals recover from the special challenges of narcissists. Narcissists can cause extreme amounts of emotional and psychological damage even in a short amount of time. We are here to assist you with your recovery and regaining your healthy sense of self. 

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