One of the biggest problems for victims of narcissistic abuse is that we usually struggle with the question: Is he/she really a narcissist?
This question is totally understandable. You may have invested a lot of time and energy in the relationship and you don’t want to leave just like that. If there is a chance that your partner can change their hurtful behaviors, you want to stand by them.
Now if you’re new to the subject of narcissism, you may want to read Telling Traits. (Feel free to explore my other blog posts about narc behaviors as well).
If you’ve read up a lot on narcissism already but still feel unsure, I will try to discuss how you can “test” your theory, and my personal experience of being sure/unsure. Let’s start attacking the subject from various angles.
First, I’d recommend you to start journaling. (Secretly). This way you can keep track of how your partner’s behaviors are truly affecting you, and see how it has developed over time. It is also useful seeing in front of you, how much/how often do you see the destructive behaviors of the partner? (Lies, cheating, manipulations, lack of empathy, remorse and accountability, for example). Our minds often tend to “smooth over” and deny bad times in the past. Keep track of how things really went down, and how much it affected you! (Since if your partner is a narcissist he probably “brainwashes” you a lot, so your own voice of reason is weakened).
Can my partner get a diagnosis?
He could, but it is highly unlikely. One of the core traits of narcissism is lack of accountability. The blame is always on someone else and not them. It is very unlikely that the narcissist seeks therapy, so I wouldn’t wait around for a diagnosis.
Maybe he is just stressed/depressed/emotionally immature? Or maybe he just has “a few” of the narcissistic traits, which means he could be “cured” or can change?
Now, this is a tough one! Many victims cling to this sort of wishful thinking for a long time. I was no exception! Personally, it took me one year, from my first suspicion, until I felt “quite certain” my partner was a narcissist. Then another year of him making promises to change, and breaking all of them. Then the break-up. And then another year of him hoovering, playing the role of the good guy, etc. While not changing a single thing about himself. Now, if you are better at math than I am, you’ve already concluded that it took me three years until I was absolutely certain that my partner (now ex), is in fact a narcissist, and nothing else. I now know that he will never change. Ever.
Now, you can do as I did. Stay around and hope against hope that the unacceptable, hurtful behaviors, are just “stress” or “misunderstandings”, or whatever. But I wouldn’t recommend that route. What I would recommend is that you take a long, hard, and honest look, at what your relationship is like. I’d recommend you do this when you are alone, meditate on it, or just sit yourself down and write down answers to the tough questions, like;
Is my partner treating me with respect and love, in his actions? Do I trust my partner? If my partner betrays my trust, does he do what I require of him to rebuild that trust? Is he/she transparent and willing to make personal sacrifices to rebuild the trust?
Is my partner making me a stronger, happier person? Is my partner honest? Does he take responsibility for his own mistakes? If I explain my hurt feelings, does he show genuine empathy and caring? Does he show remorse, and if so, does it last longer than “in the moment”? Does he make real and lasting changes, to ensure I am not hurt by him again? Does my partner care as much about my needs as his own? Is my partner faithful?
The list could go on, but you get the picture. If a large part of your questions are answered with a NO, I think it says pretty much about the state of your relationship. It might not be a narc “diagnosis” per se, but it sure is showing you that you are not being treated well and that something is truly wrong with your partner.
“I’m still not sure… [insert name here] has his “good moments”, too”.
(If he’s a narcissist, the “good moments” are nothing more than an act, from a skilled actor). But, if you really still feel unsure, despite the fact that you answered most of the questions above with a “no”. Despite that when you think about it, your partner often shows no empathy, remorse or accountability… Well, then why don’t you take the chance to test if your partner really can change? Go to your sister’s/friend’s house, or a motel, or wherever, for a weekend or so. State clearly what your needs are, if you’re going to be able to continue the relationship. Put down in words to your partner, exactly what changes they need to perform, and within which time limit you expect the changes to be executed.
This is also a tough one, and you need to be ready for the fact that your partner may not care about your demands at all. (What does that tell you?) And be ready to face the consequences of your ultimatum, or your partner will only respect you even less, if you go back when he didn’t care enough to meet your needs.
I say; listen to your inner voice. And hear it. The truth is, if your partner is lying, cheating, gaslighting you, blaming you, deflecting, showing no empathy or remorse, manipulating you, etc. chances are high that they are indeed a narcissist. But can you ever be one hundred percent sure? Maybe you can. Maybe you stay around, like me, until years later, and you’re finally sure, but so incredibly weakened by the emotional abuse, that it will take all your strength to escape, and your mental health is hanging on by a thread. I would not recommend that.
If you are in a relationship that is damaging to you, you don’t need to be “sure” if the partner is a narcissist. Why take that sort of gamble with your heart, life and health? Just leave. Or leave, and set your own conditions for what you need, in order to give this person another chance. If your partner has hurt you deeply and repeatedly, and could care less, it is even more likely that they are a narcissist! If your partner is not a narcissist, they will wake up after damaging you, and they will WANT to agree to your terms. And it won’t be lip service. They will comply and do everything to make you feel safe and loved, again. Key here; do not listen to words, see what actions they are taking. Narcissists are masters with manipulation by words, and false promises!
What kind of demands should you put on your partner, for them to prove to you that they can be a safe and caring partner? That’s another post!
For now, I’ll leave you with;
If it swims like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably IS a duck!