Dating a narcissist can lead to relationship trauma that wreaks havoc on a person’s mental health, nervous system, and physical well-being.
However, it can be avoided if you know how to recognize unhealthy behavioral patterns in romantic partners.
Since most victims of narcissistic abuse usually end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s crucial to know how to spot a narcissist early in a relationship.
This way, you’ll save yourself from a lot of psychological stress and emotional pain. So how can you tell if someone is narcissistic?
One of the obvious signs you’re dating a narcissist is that they’ll demand constant attention and admiration from you.
In this article, we’ll highlight a few toxic personality traits you should watch out for in potential love interests on the first date or at the beginning of a relationship.
HOW TO SPOT A NARCISSIST EARLY IN A RELATIONSHIP
How do you spot a narcissist at the beginning of a relationship?
It can be confusing to recognize the early signs of narcissistic abuse, especially when you’re developing feelings for your new partner.
However, if you stay vigilant and watch out for the red flags, you’ll be able to spot a narcissist fast.
Whether you’re new to the dating scene or you’ve been in an abusive relationship before, here are 9 ways to identify someone with narcissistic traits.
#1 Narcissists are super charming in the early stages of dating
When you first begin to date a narcissist, it can be incredibly exciting. Ironically, a narcissist may seem to be all about you at the beginning of a new relationship.
They will often tell you incredibly flattering compliments. These may be the things you’ve always longed to hear.
A narcissist may compliment your appearance or talents in such a way that you feel truly seen.
They may tell you that they’ve never felt so connected to another person before so early on in a relationship.
This sort of intensity can make you feel that this is truly your soul mate or twin flame. Narcissists do this to make you fall in love with them fast.
If a romantic partner is super affectionate or charming at the beginning of a relationship and you feel it’s too good to be true, you may be dating a narcissist.
#2 A narcissistic partner will shower you with lots of love and attention
Alongside this flattery, they may also shower you with lots of communication, quality time, fun dates, and beautiful gifts.
This period of intense attention a narcissist provides early on is called love bombing and can be mistaken for real love.
Research shows that love bombers text their partners significantly more than others will text.
It’s natural to think all this attention is a sign of how special you are to them, yet it is self-serving for the narcissist.
Emotionally abusive people employ this strategy to ultimately control their partners and keep them committed to them.
The love bombing hooks you into the relationship which makes it harder to leave the narcissist later when they are abusive.
If you notice that your love interest calls excessively or sends you a lot of text messages in one day, it could be a warning sign that you’re dating a narcissist.
#3 Narcissistic people always fish for compliments
Love bombing is self-serving for a narcissist early on in a romantic relationship.
This is not only because it hooks you into the relationship, but it’s also a means of receiving the attention a narcissist craves.
Wendy T. Behary, the author of Disarming the Narcissist, explains that narcissists have an insatiable need to be the center of attention, whether overtly or covertly.
A narcissist may demand a lot of attention by repeatedly asking you for compliments. But love bombing is a sneaky way of demanding attention.
After all, when they are texting you all the time and showering you with attention, it’s natural to want to reciprocate.
You may find yourself gushing to the narcissist about how amazing you think they are without even realizing that this is what they were seeking.
If a potential partner constantly asks for nice compliments instead of allowing you to give them naturally, that’s a big red flag.
#4 They want to speed up the relationship
You may have seen whirlwind relationships portrayed as very romantic in movies growing up. And, of course, some fast relationships do lead to happy, long-term marriages.
However, when your dating partner wants to quickly deepen your commitment together, it can be a major red flag.
In a healthy relationship, commitment signifies a deepening emotional intimacy between partners.
Yet, for a narcissist who tends to objectify others, your commitment is a tool for them. The more committed you are, the more they have secured your loyalty.
This makes it easier for the narcissist. They don’t have to work so hard to appear charming.
Once they have secured your commitment, they can flip the script to show you their coldness without you finding it easy to leave.
When someone wants to move to the next level in a relationship quickly, they may have a hidden agenda.
#5 You feel intoxicated by them
New relationships are typically very exciting. It’s human biology to think about your partner 85% of the time when you’re first dating, according to relationship experts.
However, there is a clear difference between this early intensity to form a long-term relationship and feeling high because of constant attention from a narcissistic partner.
Healthy attachment does include this sort of “intrusive thinking,” but it doesn’t feel like your survival depends on your significant other.
Feeling “high” by another person makes you crave them deeply. You may feel an intense urge to merge with them as if you could be one person.
This need for enmeshment occurs because the intense attention a narcissist provides early on in a relationship can be intoxicating.
Their attention can make you feel like the most desirable and fascinating person alive.
There is no shame in enjoying this attention. Yet, the problem is that this intense passion can make you feel addicted to the narcissist.
If you feel an uncontrollable desire to be around a new partner all the time, you may be a victim of love bombing.
This is even more disturbing if you don’t normally behave this way in new relationships.
Narcissists are often needy and attention-seeking people who trap their victims into falling deeply in love with them to the point where they become enmeshed.
Once you get to this stage, it’s often difficult to detach from them and enjoy your independence in a relationship.
#6 When narcissists discuss past relationships, it’s always the ex who was at fault
Before securing your commitment, a narcissist focuses on putting on a good face. Yet there are sneaky signs of the person to come underneath their charming mask.
A red flag that you may be dating a narcissist is how they talk about past relationships. In most relationships, unless they are highly abusive, problems are co-created.
Even if it’s hard to see at the moment, it’s natural to contribute to the relationship problems which upset us.
A person with healthy interpersonal skills takes time to self-reflect. Even if it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, they notice the ways they contributed to relationship breakdowns.
However, a narcissist is unwilling to take accountability. Therefore, when you talk about their past relationships, the relationship problems will always be their ex’s fault.
If your new love interest tends to blame their previous romantic partners for a breakup, they may have narcissistic traits.
#7 There are cracks in their stories or personality
Early in a relationship with a narcissist, you may not see many cracks in their persona yet.
They will likely still be very charming but you may notice little comments or behaviors that seem “off.”
Perhaps the narcissist you’re dating frequently compliments your intelligence and yet, in front of their friends, they mock you.
Or maybe they slip in a conversation by saying they went to the movies with a friend the night they said they were having dinner with their mom.
If you find yourself downplaying things they did or said as “not a big deal” when they don’t sit well for you, this is a warning sign.
Healthy partners are consistent with their words and actions. Furthermore, it’s important to feel safe bringing up discrepancies if you hear them.
#8 You are afraid to bring up concerns with your partner
When you’re dating a narcissist, you will find that when you bring up concerns they will always deflect.
This pattern will have the natural likelihood of making you stay silent about your feelings or needs.
You will naturally want to avoid how they turn issues around on you.
They may gaslight you by saying that you were confused, misunderstood them, or didn’t see things correctly when you have a concern.
If you find yourself walking away from a conversation with your partner thinking, “What just happened?” this is a sign they may have gaslighted you.
Another sign you’re in a relationship with a narcissist is that they’ll make it your fault if you bring up a concern.
They’ll refuse to apologize or accept blame for anything. This is because, somehow, no matter what, they will find a way of changing the narrative and blame it all on you.
They will be defensive and make excuses for their actions. Somehow, their inappropriate comment or behavior will be entirely your fault.
There is no way you’ll win an argument when you’re dealing with a narcissist because they can never admit their wrongdoing.
#9 You begin to feel fixated on their happiness
In a healthy loving relationship, it’s natural to care about your partner’s well-being.
However, if you’re with a narcissist, you may find yourself obsessing over how to make them happy.
You may notice you walk on eggshells because you don’t want to offend them.
Perhaps you start individual therapy to “fix” all the issues they said you had when when they blamed you for everything.
Getting trapped in the cycle of making your partner happy is part of narcissistic abuse.
This is because when they’re angry with you, they often become cold and critical.
Once you feel high from their intense love and attention, this sort of withdrawal can be depressing and anxiety-inducing.
Furthermore, their change of behavior toward you can trigger panic attacks.
Whether you are addicted to a substance or a person, withdrawal from the thing that makes you high feels life-threatening.
Therefore, to keep your narcissist happy with you, you may begin to fixate on their happiness and neglect your own needs.
I’ve highlighted a few tips to help you recognize the traits of narcissism in potential partners to avoid falling into a toxic relationship.
It’s important to know how to spot a narcissist early because their abuse escalates over time.
Initially, it may be hard to notice any abusive behavior from your narcissistic partner.
But over time, your sense of self will deteriorate more and more as they become more abusive.
This narcissistic relationship pattern can last for a long period before you realize what’s going on.
The good news is that you can recover from narcissistic abuse.
Yet, if you know the warning signs of dating a narcissist and heed them, you can save yourself much heartache and trauma.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience.
She sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation and has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes.
Every week, Krystal contributes to her blog, Confidently Authentic, to provide empowering dating, relationship, and mental health advice.