Watch out for these red flags.
You know that icky feeling you get following yet another high-drama argument with your partner about the same issue you’re now fighting about for the thirty-seventh time?
You just know, deep down in the pit of your gut, that something is terribly wrong with this person, but you don’t want to overreact and go so far as to call what they’re doing emotional abuse.
People often have this gut instinct early on, but try to talk themselves into ignoring the signs of a toxic relationship.
That deep-seated feeling is your wise inner voice informing you that this relationship isn’t normal, this person refuses accountability for their actions — how can you possibly be to blame for everything? — and that you may be a victim of narcissistic abuse.
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by a person with character traits consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorders (NPD) or other related personality disorders, such as Borderline Personailty Disorder (BPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (i.e., sociopaths or psychopaths).
While the person treating you this way may not meet all of the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of NPD according to the DSM 5, they may still display a number of narcissistic traits, and their treatment of you may certainly rise to the level of narcissistic abuse.
Here are 9 signs of narcissistic abuse that lead to a toxic relationship and that may cause you irreparable emotional damage if you don’t break free.
1. Your partner lacks empathy and is extremely selfish.
If your partner seems to habitually disregard your needs and feelings there is a good chance they just don’t care about you, because their only true goal in life is finding out what others can do for them.
Low empathy goes hand-in-hand with the ability to use others for personal gain. If behaving in a kind and generous way toward you results in some kind of benefit for them, they will do it.
This contradictory behavior undoubtedly leaves you feeling absolutely bewildered because you come to the realization that they do, in fact, know how to behave, but are deliberately choosing not to.
2. Your partner is arrogant and egotistical.
If your partner has the expectation that they are viewed and treated as superior — with or without accomplishments to back it up — it’s pretty likely there’s something not right there. They might exaggerate their achievements or even make their hero stories up altogether.
Interestingly, they may seek out other people who they believe are equally exceptional because anything less would be unworthy of them and all of their self-aggrandized supremacy, all the while seething with resentment toward them.
3. Your partner has an insatiable need for approval and reverence.
If you notice a pattern of your partner needing you to constantly stroke their ego and tell them they are genius, smoking hot, and are, of course, more talented than everyone else at everything, it is quite likely you have wondered, could you remember this ego boost for longer than twenty minutes before you need another compliment?
It is quite likely that they are also fixated on illusions of power, status, authority, intellect, and other externally focused qualities because they need to feed their hollow need for significance.
4. Your partner asserts power and dominance.
Narcissists have a fragile sense of self and because of these deep-rooted feelings of weakness, they overcompensate by being power/control freaks.
They often seek jobs and relationships in their life where they are in a position of power, where they can justifiably force others to do things their way, or have influence over situations, as a way to reinforce their continual need for proving their self-importance.
Sadly, they may seek out partners who are strong, enjoying the challenge of breaking them down.
5. Your partner has an overinflated sense of entitlement.
Does your partner demand and expect they deserve immediate, unquestioning, and automatic compliance? Do they feel slighted if they perceive life as difficult, as if they were owed something special? Do they feel entitled to respect, love, and compassion but don’t feel responsible to extend the same courtesy to others?
If this is the case, it’s not just a bad attitude, it’s an attitude that has turned malignant.
6. Your partner feels resentment and envy at the success of other people.
This follows along with their entitled outlook on life. They may see another person’s accomplishment as a threat to their superiority and feel competitive toward them. They are often petty, childish and jealous because they see other people as competition.
Due to this faulty mindset, they also believe others are jealous of them.
7. Your partner is vindictive, aggressive, and moody.
When individuals are resentful and entitled and have a corresponding immature emotional development, they tend to behave in predictable patterns of unpredictability. Like Jekyll and Hyde, their behavior fluctuates widely (and often quickly) between normal and outright reprehensible.
They’re often passive-aggressive, moody, whiny, see themselves as the victim, and busy themselves with plotting and exacting revenge on others, and enjoy lashing out. All of these traits lead back to your inner voice screaming in your head, what in the world is wrong with this person?
8. Your partner is defensive and hypersensitive.
Narcissists are unable to accept criticism and they tend to view any feedback as threatening and insulting.
If you notice your partner is overly upset when you offer the slightest suggestion contrary to what they have said, are overly annoyed if you give them feedback, or even fly into a rage if you outright disagree with them, you know you are dealing with someone who is undeniably toxic.
9. Your partner has a shifting personality.
This is the basis of a poorly formed sense of self and is usually displayed in behavior such as kindness followed by cruelty and shifting opinions.
If you’ve experienced the utter frustration of being with someone who presents themselves as having solid (even over-inflated) opinions that are presented as true convictions one minute, but then present contradicting opinion hours or minutes later, you know this character deficit is truly extraordinary.
Their chosen persona is often based on the situation, in terms of the company they are in, what their goal is (admiration, stirring the pot, or sounding educated) and how they are going to benefit from the character they take on at that given moment.
If your partner possesses any of these nine traits of narcissism, warning bells should be going off in your head.
You’re in a toxic relationship and a victim of narcissistic abuse.
Listen to these warning bells and get out. This is your survival instinct that refuses to allow your self-worth to be shattered into a million pieces.
Tell that narcissistic abuser in your life to pound sand before it’s too late.
Joanne Erman is a leadership coach that works in private practice in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.