How to Recognize a Narcissist (and stop dating him)

Posted by in dating after divorce, online dating after 40, self-esteem in dating, single women over 40 | 18 comments

“I didn’t see it coming,” said Gena. “He seemed caring and sweet. Everything was going so well. I felt so attracted, like nothing I ever felt before. And then he disappeared. What happened?” Simply put, you dated another narcissist, Gena; someone who cared more about his needs than yours, a guy who ran for the hills when things became too emotional, when you expected things from him. Sure, he was charming, and he might have swept you off your feet. But is he a guy with relationship potential? Is he someone that you want to take back should he come knocking at your door again? Simple answer: NO! Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to figure out if the next charmer is a narcissist or a genuinely charismatic guy with relationship potential?

Here’s the dictionary definition of narcissism |ˈnärsəˌsizəm|:

• extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

Wouldn’t it be great if it were so simple to recognize a narcissist? In extreme cases, it’s very obvious. He talks about himself incessantly. When you’re wearing sunglasses, he’s looking at you but he’s really looking at himself  reflected in your glasses. You know the type?

The problem lies when it’s not so black and white, when a narcissist is cleverly cloaked in a different costume, that of the ‘nice guy’, the one who says such lovely things to you. You feel a connection like never before. It’s intoxicating to be around him. He’s fun, charming, and exciting. This feels like a soulmate!

If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

Women often attract the same guy over and over, and it’s not always easy to recognize that he’s shown up again. So, how do you know?

Five tips to recognize a narcissist

1. When you express your needs, he gets defensive. A narcissist puts his own needs first. He has a hard time hearing you express what matters to you, especially if you’re addressing something he’s done to you. Be alert the first time this happens. It’s not cool. Address it and see how he responds. If he still can’t make your needs important to him, he’s not a man who can build a relationship with you. Walk away.

2. When the going gets tough, he gets going. A narcissist can’t handle the pressures of your real emotional life. He will probably shut down in order to protect his own emotions and have nothing in reserve for you. A good relationship is built on mutual support. This guy will not be there for you in tough times. Leave now, before it gets harder.

3. When he’s hurt, he doesn’t feel sad. He feels rage. If you express that you’re upset with something he did, he will feel rage at you, not take responsibility for his actions. This is a recipe for disaster in a relationship. A healthy relationship is one in which both parties take full responsibility for their piece in any situation. If he can’t do this, you should not be with him.

4. He runs hot and cold. Narcissists in a relationship will give you mixed signals. He’ll be really into you, telling you that you’re the most incredible woman he’s ever met, and the next day, he is pulling away, acting aloof. In the example of Gena above, this is what she was experiencing. It is crazy making. But you don’t have to put up with it. If you recognize it early on, it’ll be easier for you to make a cleaner break.

5. He gets angry when you pressure him for a commitment. Narcissists are often enamored with their freedom. If you talk to him about commitment after you’ve been dating for a few months, he will probably freak out on you. He may show this through his words or his actions (disappearing). You deserve a man who wants to commit to you. Leave this guy to make room for the one who wants a real relationship.

What do you do if you’re already dating a narcissist?

Pay attention to what he does more than what he says. Many narcissists are wordsmiths, saying wonderfully touching things to you. They charm you with their words, but they don’t follow through with their actions.

If he exhibits any of the above behaviors, you are probably dating a narcissist. You should get out of this relationship as soon as possible.


Don’t make demands on him to change. He won’t.

Don’t nag him or play games with him, such as making him chase you by playing hard to get. These tactics will never get him to be the kind of guy with whom you can forge a healthy relationship.

Do speak to him with firm conviction. Tell him that this relationship is not working for YOU. And walk away, never to look back and hope for reconciliation.

If you need more help extricating yourself from a pattern of being in relationship with narcissists, whether it be at work or with a man, you can always use my contact form and ask for help.

It is my passion to help women stop dating the toxic bad guy and make room for a wonderful, available, loving man.






  1. Hi. Your post is spot on!

    There is an excellent book out called Narcisstic Lovers. My ex has some very narcissitic (“N”) qualities, combined with ADHD and maybe even a little bit of OCD. All the characteristics were very well covered at first, but became apparent years into our relationship. Very charming at first but his self absorption quickly took over. I thought maybe it was a bit of mid-life crisis when he wanted to spend thousands of dollars starting a photography businesses part-time. I encouraged that,despite his neglect of other important aspects of our relationship. It has become apparent to me that the “business” (3 years later, not a single paying customer) has been a way to gain narcissistic supply and feel good about himself. He rarely ever apologized for outbursts and rudeness during our relationship. Attempts to go to couples therapy failed because it “made him feel bad about himself” (I quote) Very clear “N” traits, according to that book.

  2. What a combination ~ Narcissist + ADHD + OCD! Each one alone would make for relationship challenges. I can’t imagine all three. The thing that struck me most about your comment was how couples therapy made him feel bad about himself. That’s a true sign of a narcissist. It’s all about him. I’m glad to hear that you’re not with him anymore. I hope you’ve found love with an emotionally available and healthy man.

  3. I just realized I’ve been dating a Narcissist for the past 6 years. After 4 years of him not wanting to commit I moved away but he still makes a point to keep contact. He has visited me 5 times in the past 2 years. He has only kissed me a handful of times and only told me he loved me twice in all these years. He always made me feel like it was my problem. He has never told me I’m pretty, smart, or anything nice. I always feel bad for him. He was abused as a kid and has a pretty rough past and bad relationships. He is now being accused of child molestation by his ex girlfriends daughter that supposedly happens 12 years ago and he may go to prison. I feel if I try to completely end things now I will add fuel to the fire. I feel sick. He swears he didn’t do it but if he is a true narcissist he wouldn’t admit to it anyway, right? I live 1200 miles away but how do I end things? He knows my family back home. Will he be a threat to them? Help!

  4. Hi Missy,

    Thanks so much for your comment on your narcissist boyfriend. It’s a complex issue, so I’ve decided to answer in my blog post today. Please check it out:
    I’d love to hear your comments on today’s post.
    There is a solution to your problem. Help is on the way!
    Sending you love…

  5. I’m definitely dating a narcissist: charming and attentive at the start, educated and affectionate. Problem areas: 1. has tantrums (once I was. 20 min late pickin him up a the train station, he went on and on about it for 30 minutes and threatened to leave and go back to his home state 200 miles away). 2. He’s cheap if he is spending on himself or me but expects me to be forthcoming with paying for meals or expensive sunglasses, droppin hints like bricks. 3. Overreacts to perceived slights, getting snotty and making nasty, below the belt remarks to me. 4. Is more worried about what everyone else thinks rather than what his words and actions may mean to me. 5. Pushed and encouraged me to move to his state, then when I secured a professional license allowing me to work there and secured a job interview he disappeared without warning – using a minor disagreement as a reason to ignore my calls and texts for days (we used to speak and text 3 to 4 times a day for months). Then when reached says he needs space and downtime for himsel to analyze his life. Selfish and cruel – after all that drama calls me stupid.

    That flipped a switch in my head and I broke contact, blocked his numbers, etc until I had a couple of glasses of wine, called him and got the lamest list of self-centered excuses as to why I don’t satisfy his requirements to be his wife (aka dote on him and make his priorities #1 above all others). I am sad and confused as I really enjoyed the best parts of our relationship, disappointed I overlooked the warning signs and things that bothered me in my continuing to let myself be reeled in when the hook, not the trip that followed was the best part of it. I’m angry disappointed at myself for feeling weak and missing him.

  6. Hi Magda,

    This guy sounds like a classic narcissist. He is unkind to you in so many ways. Good for you for breaking up with him! Many people don’t have the strength to break up. In emotionally abusive relationships like yours, it is common for people to leave and come back seven times before being able to leave for good. It’s easy to be lured in by the charm of a narcissist.

    So, please don’t beat up on yourself. It’s hard to break the cycle on your own without proper support. I hope you are seeing a therapist or coach who deals with abuse. Many women in my practice have come from emotionally abusive relationships. Contact me if you’d like to explore coaching as a way of honoring yourself more and saying goodbye to jerks like this for good!


  7. I’ve been dating a Narcissist for a year-and-a-half. About a month ago, I finally kicked him out of my house. He got all this things out of the house and his equipment off my property–whew… At least I thought I could breath again. After five days, he came back, and for some reason, I’m having a hard time getting him out of my house. I’m addicted to him. We live in the same small town (in fact, his ex and two daughters live on the same block as I do). The only way I know to get away from him is to sale my house and move out of town. Please help.

  8. Good for you for recognizing that your boyfriend is a narcissist. That’s the first step, being able to admit that this is what he is, and not stay in denial as so many do.

    And kudos to you for kicking him out once. That means you can do it again.

    The answer for you is not to sell your house and leave. It’s YOUR house! He is the one who needs to leave.

    You need support in order to do this and stay strong. If you’re not in therapy or getting some support for your mental health, please make sure to do so right away. There are hotlines and support groups for emotionally abused women in most cities.

    After you have support in place, kick him out of your house. Stay firm this time. I don’t care if his ex lives next door to you, he doesn’t belong in your house or anywhere near you.

    Let me know when you’ve kicked him out and are ready to find a healthy man to love. I can help you with that!

  9. I dated a textbook narcissist for 3 years. Everything I’ve read that described this classic personality type makes me almost fall off my chair with disbelief, as though I’m reading the biography of our relationship. I don’t like spending so much time researching this because I feel like I’m devoting more time in addition to the time I wasted trying to resolve the toxicity but I’ve found myself almost falling for it again (I didn’t!)

    That first narcissistic relationship ended years ago, and I went from a previously confident person to a woman whose self-image and self-trust was twisted and scarred. I have remained single for the years since that ended. Partially to build myself back up, and partially because I RARELY feel chemistry with men I date. Rather than considering this research a devotion to figuring them out (which I don’t care), it is wholly to figure out why, when I consider myself to be a good catch – adventurous, funny, and down-to-earth – I seem to magnetize to these men, and how to deflect them and figure out from the START that these are more than just small flaws or quirks. That’s the catch.

    I have always been attracted to free-spirits and artists. I’ve never been interested in men who try to spoil me with gifts or superficial things. (I realize there are men in between these categories, I am just giving the two extremes because both seem to possess narcissist tendencies). I can’t stress to women who’ve never experienced this type of abusive relationship how easily and quickly you can find yourself there, no matter how intelligent you are. It’s so stealthy, it can happen like a car accident, yet it feels like it’s happened over time. You can’t point a finger to the moment you started feeling like garbage and unwanted, because three months ago, it seemed awesome! It was hideous experience, but they have incredible manipulation skills that chip away at your worth yet somehow make you feel like you’re lucky to be with them. It’s masterful. If this were an art form, they would be Van Gogh. Or maybe Jackson Pollock – that sh*t was messy and confusing!

    So why I am revisiting this topic after saying goodbye to that mess so long ago? Well one, he’s tried to put himself back into my life recently. He’s about to get married (poor girl!) and without going into a play-by-play, out of nowhere he’s emailing/texting, asking mutual friends where I’ll be and then planting himself there, actually showing up and my house and trying to reminisce about old times and telling me how the guy I’m dating is an idiot. Ladies, beware. This is another residual effect.

    The second reason I’m revisiting this topic is because recently I was spending time with this new guy for a month or so (we’d been acquaintances prior and true to form, he is a musician). He was SO charming and we connected so well that I felt a sense of panic. I took a step back and began to really analyze his behavior. Not sexy or impulsive or romantic, huh? But necessary. I dodged a bullet on another guy who is off somewhere about to wreak havoc on some other girl’s life.

    Besides some of the classic behaviors listed in your article, I’d like to add a few that should be recognized (and this is meant at the very beginning stages):

    * Ex-girlfriend talk. They might boast that they’ve never been dumped. They could cite stories of how they’ve driven women “crazy,” that women stalk them or flip out on them in public and they INSIST on sharing this stuff with you. These stories may be true or not, but they find this deeply entertaining. There’s behavior called ‘gaslighting’ that’s worth a look!

    * They feign humility. An alternate to the grandiose or overinflated attitude is a guy who acts overly humble, to draw in the many women who find this attractive. Been there.

    * They feign empathy and compassion, for the same reason listed above.

    * This one is a two-parter: 1. He has no interest in what your life was like before you met him. One actually said to me “I don’t want to hear about your life before us.” Don’t mistake this for him wanting to feel exclusive to you. 2. He is OVERLY interested in your past (especially romantic) life and may ask too many personal questions too early on that you are uncomfortable revealing. Don’t mistake this for an attempt at a deep connection. He’s building an arsenal or a game plan.

    * He may trip you up in conversation. I’ve noticed this one. You two are talking, or messaging, and he cuts it off in the middle with “I gotta run.” If this is a pattern, I’d beware. He’s making himself out to be some important dude and he’ll get back to you when it’s convenient. Don’t tolerate confusing behavior. Those are small ways of pecking away at your worth…if he can’t complete a conversation with you and will return at his convenience.

    Anyway, seems I’ve created a blog post of my own here…I didn’t mean to : ) Your article is so awesome, and is a reminder to be aware. It’s also not gender-biased, there are women that do the same. There are tons of great men out there and I’m glad there are forums that exist for us to help each other weed out the riff-raff. Hopefully we can learn from each other yet not psychoanalyze a good, fun date. It’s just that when these red flags pop up, know from others who’ve gone through the rough stuff that there is no cure for this…no matter how amazing you are you’re not going to fix it. Spare yourself and spend your precious time on someone who matters to more than themselves! : )


  10. Sarah,

    Thanks for your mini-blog post comment! I appreciate that you’re trying to spare other women the agony of dating a narcissist, or really being in a relationship with one.

    So, why did you let the ex back into your life? I know it can be very tempting to be back in his charmed presence again, but it’s a slippery slope. Believe me, I’ve done it.

    For me, the defining factor is, how do you feel when you’re NOT with a narcissist? Are you unsure as to where you stand with him? Does he make you feel like he’s time slotting you into his life (as you described in the ‘I’ve gotta go’ texts).

    A good guy makes you feel safe and cherished. A narcissist does everything to make himself/herself feel cherished. You are disposable.

    I also wanted to say that not ALL musicians and creatives are narcissists. There may be a higher number of narcissists among performers, but I’m an artist and my son is an artist/musician, and neither of us is remotely narcissistic.

    So, there may be a wonderful creative man in your future. Please don’t paint all men with a broad stroke. Take each one as he is, but remember to look for character above all other traits.

    Best of luck to you,

  11. wow! very nice article. thank you kindly.

  12. Hi, This guy from South America and I met him online and for three months he kept on contacting me but on several occasions he showed ignorance and showed rage as well but he told me I was important afterwards and he wants to come to the Europe and we can build our life together. Then one day he did not call me on skype where we kept in touch and then I questioned him why and he told me: “yeah, you always tell me when I should call you.” and then disconnected angrily. Then I called him the next day to reconcile and tell him I was sorry but I did not have a chance as he was charming again telling me he would be calling me soon as if nothing had happened. Also it happened that one night I saw him online and called him and he was angry and told me to go to bed he would call me later. I saw that I disturbed him in something… But still I had a big hope towards this relationship as he made me love him so much in the beginning. Then one day he kept on being on Skype and he did not call me so I called and he told me that he was talking to a beautiful girl and he is a free man he can do whatever he wants. Then for two weeks I did not hear of him… Then again he started contacting me but much more rarely but keep telling me ever since that he loves me but I can see that he keeps calling others too. When I ask him if he thinks we should stop he says he does not understand what I am talking about he loves me. I am going crazy. My question is: Is this a narcissistic person? What shall I do? He will soon come to the Europe. Shall I wait for him? Thanks for your help. I am really desperate…

  13. I good man will never put you down, shame you, try to overpower you. His words and actions don’t match. I can’t diagnose him, but I can tell you that this man is unkind and an emotional manipulator. My advice is to cut off all ties to him. This is not love. It’s abuse. Check out this site for support:

    If you don’t walk away from him and heal yourself from this type of man, you will continue to be attracted to emotional manipulators. You deserve better.

  14. Thank you so much Sandy! 🙂 I know that I must do this but I just needed reinforcement from outside as my mind knows what my heart doesn’t….

  15. It’s not easy to break away from someone so charming. You are under his spell. When you take that bold step to leave and cut ties, you will gain the perspective that he’s toxic. I wish you the best of luck!

  16. Thank you. One last question. Why does he do this? Why is it good for him?

  17. Because he’s a sick man. He’s not emotionally healthy. For some reason, he gets pleasure from hurting others. You want to be with someone who has a good heart.

  18. This article is from women’s perspective but things are not that simple. Reasons for some of the behaviour listed above: females are often passive aggressive; he is not really attracted to you; often two people are great separately and would work great on paper but simply they don’t match in temperaments etc.

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