when love isn’t love: 6 signs you’re dating a narcissist


insert dumb caption about me “riding away from shitty relationships” here.

Spoiler alert: I date the wrong guys.

They often are emotionally unavailable and aren’t in the right place in life. But the best thing about some of them – they’re narcissists. (“Best” being a relative term, of course.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have found a handful of guys over the last few years that were great. They were kind, smart, funny, attractive, had their shit together … they were lovely. But *something* was missing. And I know some people can be in relationships and not care if the *something* is missing. But I cannot be one of those people. Not sorry.

On top of that, America’s president (can’t get myself to capitalize that) is a RAGING textbook narcissist. A malignant narcissist at that. So I thought what the hell; let’s educate the people. So, if dating a narcissist is foreign to you, consider good ole Donny as the narcissist with America being his poor, abused lover.

Dating a narcissist is not what you often think it may be – and it’s not the same as someone who is selfish; it’s much more than that. It’s often confusing, convoluted and incredibly damaging. You know the phrase “mind fuck” – yea that sums it up. So how do you know if you’re with a narcissist? Here are six signs that are fairly consistent with these types of people – that I vetted through a Licensed PsyD, so it’s not me ranting about random shit.

1. Incredible charm and a fast-moving relationship
Oh the charm. Every word and action is undeniably dripping in it. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the charm. There is extra attention, kind words, small gifts, date nights, acts of affection … whatever makes you fall faster and harder. Once the charm and “love” have been established, relationships with narcissists tend to move very quickly.

Falling in love, in all reality, is a science: a biological and chemical reaction of another human. It takes time for that connection to develop. Relationships with narcissists move quickly, with intense highs (and even more intense lows, but more about that later). They are obsessed with “ideal love” and as soon as you show any sign of weakness or make a mistake, they will never let it go. Sadly, this person is not really interested in you; it’s more about their needs being met.

2. Serious lack of follow through
Words are meaningless. You begin to distrust everything this person says. Pay attention to follow through and reliability: do they break dates with you, fall through on promises? Here’s a big one: are they emotionally there for you when they need them? This is especially draining when you consider this person to be “your person.” You know, the one you go to first with anything and everything – good and bad. Often these people are nowhere to be found when you need them most.

3. It’s all about them
To me, this is the most obvious trait of narcissism, but not one they all have. These people love to talk about themselves, often talking over you or not even hearing what you say. They completely dominate each and every conversation and you get little in edgewise. Eventually, you just stop talking all together. You fade away and become nothing more than an accessory for this person.

4. Masters of manipulation
They have no qualms about cheating, lying or manipulation. I remember being completely set up one day. This person said he went through my email and emailed a guy to see if we ever hooked up (long before the narcissist and I were together) and then sat on my floor and cried to see if I’d “confess” to any of it.

Long story short … he really didn’t do any of that; he just wanted to see if I would tell him anything. Wait, WHAT? Shannon, that’s confusing (and messed up) as fuck. Sure is. Narcissists often spin one convoluted story after another, with you never ever being able to get your head straight.

5. Empathy is a foreign concept
Exhibit A up there? The narcissist never even APOLOGIZED for lying, setting me up and basically being bat shit crazy. Not even after he got the answer he wanted. (I never hooked up with the guy he was concerned about.) You don’t get apologies with narcissists. So, to throw a line out there that this person once told me: “don’t hold your breath.”

Empathy is not a strength of theirs. Your feelings don’t matter. Your needs don’t matter. Because of this, they actually share many similarities with sociopaths. (This tidbit was added by said Licensed PsyD; it’s not me calling names or exaggerating. So chill, dummy.) Whenever I brought up that something hurt me, the response I got was “well, it’s not my fault you took something I said/did that way.” Everything was always my fault.

6. You never know what you’re going to get
The high highs and low lows I talked about? They are real. And soul-crushing. You never know which version of this person you’re getting. And you have zero control over the relationship; it’s 100% controlled by them.

My favorite example for this is Puppy Group C. There were three groups of puppies – when a person went in to feed puppy group A, he played with the puppies and gave them treats. When this same person went in to feed puppy group B, he put the food down and left, with no interaction. When puppy group C got fed, this person alternated between love, affection and treats, and giving the puppies the cold shoulder. Guess which group had the biggest co-dependency and attachment issues? Puppy group C.

This is what narcissists do with you. Leaving you hyper vigilant in what you do and say. You stick around though because every now and then you’ll get that high – the charm – the reason you fell in love. But it often fades quickly, leaving in its place negative feelings about yourself. Stop letting people treat you like puppy group C, damnit! (And, to that point, stop treating people like puppy group C.)

 Ok, so now what?

 Relationships with narcissists often leave you shattered, with little-to-no self-worth. It took me years to get back to being myself … to get back to feeling like I was actually a good person and deserved to be happy. I mean, I’m no saint; but I am not THAT bad of a person where I should have questioned my worthiness of love or happiness.

The most important thing to remember (and often hardest) is that this is not about you. It’s about that person’s own issues and their inability to have meaningful relationships.

And for Christ sake, stop trying to change these people.

Listen carefully: THEY.WILL.NOT.CHANGE. Unless, of course, they think they need to. But most narcissistic people never recognize that. You deserve a relationship that builds you up, that makes you feel safe and that brings you happiness. A person who is narcissistic cannot give this to you, because they are incapable of it.

It hurts to admit when love isn’t love; it’s hard to know when to walk away. I get it; I’ve been there. But here’s me, master of breaking everything she touches, giving out relationship advice: know your self-worth; know you’re not the problem. Surround yourself with people you love and go for. You are are worth it.


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