Learn more about how to know if you’re dating a narcissist – and what to do about it.

Entering into a romantic relationship can be an exciting experience. You’re learning about each other, trying new things together and (hopefully) feeling plenty of butterflies. But what happens if your new relationship turns out to have some unexpected ups and downs? Will you know how to determine if these are typical bumps in the road or something else?

While all relationships have some conflict, it’s important to keep an eye out for more serious red flags when you’re building a new relationship. One serious issue to look out for is dating a narcissist.

Unfortunately, recognizing whether you’re dating a narcissist isn’t always easy, as their manipulative and charming behavior can be deceiving (especially at the beginning of a relationship).

Understanding the signs of narcissism is essential. By learning about these red flags, you can better assess your partner’s behavior and determine if the relationship is healthy and worth pursuing.

Keep reading for more insight into how to tell if you’re dating a narcissist and what to do if you are.

Understanding Narcissism

The first step toward identifying if you’re dating a narcissist is to better understand what narcissism actually is and what it looks like in a relationship.

Exploring Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. Individuals with NPD often have an inflated sense of their own worth and achievements. They may also struggle with forming deep connections and maintaining healthy relationships.

While many people use the “narcissist” to describe individuals who may be self-centered or selfish, true narcissism is more than a personality trait. It’s an actual personality disorder.

8 Narcissist Partner Traits to Watch Out For

To identify a potential narcissist, pay close attention to their behavior and communication style. 

Narcissists often:

  • Love to talk about themselves, without showing much interest in others.
  • Belittle or demean others to elevate themselves.
  • Gaslight, manipulate, or control others.
  • Act with arrogance and consider themselves superior to others.
  • Feel entitled to special treatment and expect others to cater to their needs.
  • Use various manipulation tactics, such as guilt, to control others.
  • Lack empathy or struggle to understand or acknowledge other people’s emotions.
  • React negatively to criticism or perceived threats to their ego.

It’s important to be careful when labeling someone as a narcissist, as people may display some of these behaviors without having NPD.

A man dating a narcissist argues with his partner

Key Signs That You’re Dating a Narcissist

In addition to the narcissistic traits listed above, there may be some other signs that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. People with narcissistic personalities often use some common tactics to try to control their partner and/or relationship.

These include:

Love Bombing

Love bombing is a common tactic used by narcissists in the early stages of a relationship. They will shower you with attention, affection, gifts, and compliments, making you feel extremely special and desired. 

This excessive admiration can lead to insecurity in relationships, as the sudden intensity may make you question its authenticity. Be cautious if your partner’s affections seem too good to be true, as this could be a warning sign of dating a narcissist.


Gaslighting is a manipulative technique narcissists use to make you doubt your own perceptions, memories, and sanity. They might deny things they’ve said or done, accuse you of making things up, or twist your words to make you feel confused and disoriented. 

This behavior can be emotionally draining and harmful to your mental health. If you find yourself questioning your reality frequently, it might be a red flag that you’re dating a narcissist.

Dismissing Your Feelings

A lack of empathy is a telling sign of narcissism. Narcissists struggle to understand and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They might dismiss your feelings, criticize you for being too emotional, or simply show a lack of interest in your well-being. 

Pay attention to how your partner reacts when you express a concern or emotion. Be wary if they seem indifferent or unable to empathize with your experiences. This could be a sign that you’re dating a narcissist.

A couple of women argue in a kitchen

Being in a Relationship with a Narcissist

So, what if you are dating a narcissist? What if your new relationship seems great at first, but then signs of narcissism start to become apparent? 

You’re not alone if you want to continue the relationship anyway and hope that your partner changes. But it’s important to be clear on the impact dating a narcissist could have before determining whether or not to move forward with the relationship.

Emotional Impact of Dating a Narcissist

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can have a significant emotional impact on you. Because they often lack empathy and have a strong sense of entitlement, your relationship may leave you feeling emotionally drained or undervalued. 

Their inability to understand or take responsibility for their actions may also lead to emotional distress for you in the relationship. It’s difficult to feel fulfilled and happy in a relationship if your partner constantly dismisses your emotions or downplays your concerns.

Narcissists are also notorious for manipulating situations and gaslighting their partners, which can lead you to doubt your own feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. This constant self-doubt can eventually affect your mental health and self-esteem, making you feel trapped and unsure of your own emotions.

These challenges can not only affect your current relationship, it’s possible they’ll have a lasting impact on how you feel about yourself and relationships in general.

Managing Unrealistic Expectations

One of the biggest challenges you may face when dating a narcissist is dealing with their unrealistic expectations and constant need for admiration. You might find yourself constantly trying to please them. Their expectations may be so high that it becomes impossible for you to meet their demands. This dynamic can leave you feeling frustrated and emotionally drained.

It can also lead to people-pleasing behaviors in other areas of your life, or make you feel resentful toward your partner.

Communicating With a Narcissistic Partner

Another challenge is communication. Narcissists often find it difficult to engage in productive and honest conversations. They are typically more focused on asserting their superiority or diverting blame than on resolving issues within the relationship. This dynamic can result in unaddressed conflicts and a lack of emotional connection with your partner.

Navigating Life Beyond Your Relationship

Maintaining a healthy social life can also be difficult with a narcissistic partner. They might become jealous or controlling of your friendships and social interactions. They may also sabotage your relationships with others, further isolating you from your support network.

This is one of the biggest challenges of being in a relationship with a narcissist. When you’re isolated from friends and family, you may not talk openly about your relationship and may not get key outside perspectives about the way your partner is treating you.

If you recognize these signs in your relationship, it may be beneficial to consider couples therapy. Couples therapy can help you work through the emotional impact and challenges that come with dating a narcissist. If your partner is not open to doing therapy together, individual therapy for relationship issues can also help.

A couple talks sitting on the floor and holding cups and coffee

How to Break Up with a Narcissist

If you’ve realized that your partner is displaying signs of narcissistic personality disorder, it may be best to break things off. 

Determining whether to stay or go is a highly personal decision and one that only you and your partner can make. But if you do decide to break up with a narcissistic partner, use the tips below to make a plan that takes their personality into consideration.


Before breaking up with a narcissist, it’s crucial to love yourself first. Build your self-esteem and emotional strength, as this process may be difficult. Gather support from friends, family, and professional resources like therapists or support groups. Do your best to disengage emotionally from the narcissist, as they may use manipulation and guilt tactics to keep you around.


When you’re ready to execute the breakup, plan for a safe and private place. Set boundaries by clearly conveying your decision to end the relationship and not allowing them to interrupt you. Stay calm, assertive, and avoid getting into arguments. Remember not to take their initial reaction personally, as narcissists often react with anger or self-pity when facing a breakup.


Moving on from a narcissistic relationship can be challenging. Continue focusing on self-love and healing. Lean on your support network and eliminate all possible contact with the narcissist. This might include blocking their phone number, social media accounts, and emails. 

Keep in mind that narcissists may try to win you back with grand gestures or feigned remorse; staying firm in your decision to break up is essential for your long-term emotional well-being.

Common Questions About Narcissistic Partners

How does a narcissist behave in a romantic partnership?

In romantic partnerships, narcissists may initially appear loving and charming. However, they can quickly turn controlling and manipulative, often using subtle tactics like guilt trips or gaslighting to assert their dominance. They may also be overly critical and dismissive of their partners’ needs and emotions.

How can you identify narcissistic habits in your relationship?

To identify narcissistic habits in your relationship, pay attention to how your partner treats you and others. They may show a lack of empathy, be overly critical or dismissive, and prioritize their own needs above yours. They may also try to manipulate you using guilt, gaslighting, or by establishing a sense of dependency.

Are there common patterns in narcissistic relationships?

Yes, there are common patterns in narcissistic relationships. They often begin with a honeymoon phase, during which the narcissist is charming and attentive. However, the relationship can quickly become toxic, with the narcissist exerting control, devaluing their partner, and engaging in manipulative behavior.

How can you deal with a narcissistic partner effectively?

Dealing with a narcissistic partner requires setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing your own emotional well-being. Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder and seek support from trusted friends or a mental health professional if needed. In some cases, ending the relationship may be the best course of action for your emotional and mental well-being.

A couple dealing with narcissism in relationships talks with a couples therapist

Get Help With Dating a Narcissist

Dating a narcissist can be challenging, especially if your partner is unwilling to change their behavior and seek help. They might be more receptive to professional help if they realize it could benefit not only their relationship but also their overall well-being. 

But even if they’re not interested in couples therapy, you can seek professional help on your own to improve your relationship…or end it.

Online individual therapy can be a valuable resource for understanding the relationship issues that might arise in a relationship with a narcissist. With the help of a therapist, you can gain a deeper understanding of how narcissistic personality disorder presents in your partner’s life and how it impacts your mental health.

A therapist can also provide guidance on how to navigate your relationship and help you maintain your emotional well-being. With the right support and resources, you can better understand the complexities of dating a narcissist and make the best choices for your mental health.

Still not sure if your relationship is healthy? Learn more about the signs of a healthy relationship or take our healthy relationship quiz.

And remember: relationships should be built on mutual respect and trust. If your partner is making you feel inferior, belittling you, or consistently prioritizing their well-being over yours, it may be time to reconsider the relationship. Ready to seek professional help? Contact Couples Learn today to book your free consultation.