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7 signs your partner is a narcissist and what to do about it

Gripping Netflix psychological thriller You is now deep into season three.

It follows the life of Joe Goldberg, a man obsessed with women, stalking them, and eliminating threats to his dominance.

But narcissistic personality disorder, like Joe’s, is a real mental health condition.

So how can you tell if someone around you is displaying signs of it? And what should you do about it?

What is a narcissist?

A condition in which people have an inflated opinion of themselves, a need for excessive attention, a lack of sympathy for others and react negatively to criticism.Woman looking away from man in anger

Psychiatrists at rehab clinic Delamere have advice on the red flags you should look for.

1. They lack empathy

The way someone with a narcissistic personality experiences emotion is different from most people. They don’t understand how words, deeds and actions can cause pain or hurt to others.

In a relationship, this translates to them saying cruel things, but not caring because they don’t feel anyone else’s feelings.

2. They’re manipulative

This could be controlling behaviour – telling you what you’re allowed to wear, who you’re allowed to spend time with or where you’re allowed to go.

Narcissists are experts at getting what they want. They don’t care what impact their manipulation has on others. They use it to get attention, validation and status.

3. They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, where someone leads you to question your sanity and attempts to undermine your perception of reality.

Narcissists will say or do something abusive and then deny it ever happened.

They will often try to minimise or invalidate your feelings. Along with making you doubt your memory, they’ll deflect responsibility and blame you.

Woman posing for selfie

4. They don’t have any (or many) long-lasting friendships

They have trouble maintaining relationships.

And when a friend no longer serves their needs enough, or threatens their self-image, they will distance or cut them off completely.

Because they can’t form long-lasting relationships, they will often lash out when you want to hang out with your friends.

5. They put you down

Narcissists hate feeling less than, weak or out of control.

So they will pull you down, call you names, hit you with hurtful words and jokes, or belittle your job, social life, personality traits or physical appearance.

Their goal is to lower your self-esteem to increase their sense of power and authority.

Man looking out of window
Controlling behaviour such as watching your every move or telling you where you can go, is common for narcissists.

6. They can’t take criticism

They will reject or ignore criticism, becoming angry, hostile or aggressive to others.

Their need to feel above others makes it difficult for them to take on board suggestions for improvement.

They hate not getting their own way and feel entitled to have their needs and desires met, as they simply can’t deal with disappointment or rejection.

7. Narcissists never apologise

Being abrupt, jealous and self-involved is common. But they will never apologise.

Instead, they’ll devalue your feelings by telling you that you are being overly sensitive or too emotional. If you try to reason with them, they will try ‘educating’ you instead.

Woman alone staring into distance

How to stay sane and deal with it…

  • Talk about it with a local counsellor, friends or join a support group who can help you.
  • Accept you can’t change them. And staying with a narcissistic person can be extremely damaging to you.
  • Leaving a narcissistic relationship will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But it is possible if you practise self-care, keep strong boundaries and constantly remind yourself why you need to walk away.