What are the early signs to look for, so that you’re able to discover if your new love interest is in fact a narcissist?
This one has me puzzled. Cause the truth according to my experiences, is that in the beginning, there are most likely very few warning signs! Sometimes even none. Such is the narcissist’s acting skill, that I believe it can actually fool just about anyone, initially.
Despite this, I still have been racking my brain, trying to find the few clues that can be found in the chambers of memories. I’ve come up with a few things.
Seems too good to be true. This is a common statement that many survivors of narcissists can recall, from when they first start to date the narc. I remember thinking on my first date with Hero: How can he be single? He is so handsome, has a good job, is charming, attentive, etc. So, if you have met “the perfect person”, just take things slowly for a while.
Try to really get to know their “core”, what are their dreams, fears, etc? If they seem to mirror you a lot, instead of talking about their own goals, ie: “Wow, I want 3 kids too!”/”You’re kidding, my dream destination is Bali, too!”, I’d say this is a red flag, too.
I got one small hint about this on my very first date with Hero. He claimed “he’d always wanted” to travel to a certain country, after I’d told him it was my dream to go there. (A very long time later, when I actually went there, it turned out he didn’t even know where the place was located geographically!)
To try to poke a hole in this “mirroring” thing, you can try using follow-up questions. For example, I could have asked Hero: “Oh, what a coincidence, what is it that draws you to that specific country?”, etc.
Lack of accountability/Blame-shifting. Now, this was the only “clear” early warning sign I got, that something was “off” when it comes to Hero, my ex. And even that, was several months into dating. He was supposed to pick me up a certain time, since we were going for an outing of some kind. When he was an hour late, I called him asking where he was. He said he’d overslept after partying. But instead of apologizing for making me wait, he went on to asking me why I hadn’t called to wake him up? I was perplexed by this arrogant answer.
My mother was at my place at the time, and I remember that she said to me: That’s a warning sign, that he puts blame on you, for something that he should be apologizing for! Ah, indeed, mother’s always right! (At least this time).
I remember looking at the sandwiches and hot chocolate that I’d made for the outing. They looked so sad where they lay, waiting on the kitchen counter. I felt a warning from within myself in that moment; something within wanted me to look at the stark contrast between my behavior and his. I brushed it off and thought it was a one time thing. Little did I know, that this moment was to be followed by years of torment.
Moving too fast, OR moving way too slow. Now, I know the most common thing to hear from survivors of narc abuse, is the tale of “the whirlwind romance”. How the narcissist wants a commitment fast, moving in together after only a few months, etc. And I agree, this is indeed a huge red flag. It means that the narcissist wants to have you trapped in a commitment, so that you’re less likely to leave, when his mask drops and the abuse starts.
The knight falls of his white horse eventually!
You should never be in a rush to make a big commitment. Take your time and get to know the person well, first.
My belief is that there are several “subcategories” of narcissists, however. (More on this in a future post!). In my case, Hero surely charmed me the first few weeks. But then he didn’t push for commitment at all, quite the opposite. (And I want to be clear that after 4 years wasted on him, I am completely certain he is very much a narcissist! Despite the “not pushing for commitment”).
I do not know how to correctly describe/interpret this behavior of his. Best way to describe it is, that after the first few weeks, he started to seem quite uninterested in seeing me. Meaning, he took a long time to reply to texts, he rarely had time to see me, etc. This made me very insecure indeed.
I asked him if he wanted to stop seeing me? He then assured me that he liked me very much. Every time we did see each other, we had a wonderful, romantic time. I think what he was doing was managing down my expectations (another abusive tactic of narcissists!) He used this very early in the relationship, which may not be the most common approach. It was effective though, as it kept me on my toes. It was as if though he was seeing how little of an effort he could “get away with”, while still keeping me around.
So, all in all, look for the initial stage of the relationship to be healthy. What I mean by healthy, is that it neither makes you stressed, nor insecure. A healthy partner is consistent, trustworthy, and patient, making your love grow at a steady pace, while they make you feel safe.
Oh, I wish there had been more warning signs. It wasn’t until 6 months into dating, when I got the sign that hit me like a truck, that I truly understood: something was terribly wrong with Hero. (Post: Sledge Hammer, you can read it Here). For a list of signs that become evident even further into the relationship, read Telling Traits, Here.
So, it can take time to spot a narcissist. What you can do to protect yourself, is to work on your boundaries, before dating. But, more on that in future posts!