This article was originally published on BLAC Detroit.

“Narcissist” and “narcissism” are words that have become part of our daily syntax. This has caused them to become thrown around, and many of us become desensitized to them. But narcissism is a legitimate personality disorder, and being in a relationship with a narcissist can cause significant and lasting damage. That’s why raising awareness about what narcissism looks like in relationships and beyond is critically important. Find out if your are in a narcissistic relationship.

“Narcissists are drawn to individuals who can be overly accepting of their needs. A Narcissist will look to gain the center of attention and purpose to practice dominance in the relationship formed.”  

Dr. Jan Newby

What is a narcissist?

Narcissists suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a mental health condition in which people have unreasonably high senses of their own importance. These people seek — and need — attention and to be admired by others. 

NPD causes problems in all areas of a person’s life, including personal relationships, communication, work, school, and finances.

Narcissistic Relationships: Are you attracting narcissists and don’t realize it? 

You might be attracting narcissistic relationships without realizing it. Some common symptoms of narcissism to look out for include:

  • An unreasonably high sense of self-importance that requires constant and excessive attention.
  • Lack of empathy and understanding of other people’s feelings and needs.
  • Always seeking validation and recognition, and believing they deserve special treatment and privileges, and becoming angry when they don’t.
  • Manipulative behaviors, like gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and playing the victim.
  • A tendency to think of themselves as superior to others and believe they can only relate to or spend time with people who are equally exceptional or extraordinary.
  • Believing everybody else is envious of them.
  • A lot of bragging.
  • Insisting on having the best of everything, from clothes to houses and cars.
  • An inability to handle criticism.
  • Difficulty managing their emotions and behavior.
  • Having low emotional intelligence.
  • Difficulty dealing with stress and change.
  • Trying to mask their low self-esteem and worth.

Empathetic people are givers, and oftentimes give others the benefit of the doubt even if it hurts them. Narcissists thrive from empathetic people, pursue to undermine them with intentions to gain power and ultimate control.”

Dr. Jan Newby

Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship?

Just because someone is a narcissist, it does not automatically mean they will emotionally abuse you. Know these warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship:

  • Name-calling and derogatory nicknames, sometimes disguised as pet names, like “my chubby girl.”
  • Yelling and screaming.
  • Belittling you.
  • Trying to embarrass you publicly through fights, sharing your secrets, or making fun of you.
  • Dismissing your feelings.
  • Insulting your appearance.
  • Belittling your accomplishments.
  • Making threats.
  • Trying to control you by monitoring where you are and insisting you respond immediately to their calls and texts.
  • Demanding to know the log-in information for your phone and all apps and social media accounts.
  • Making all the decisions, including decisions for you like quitting school, what to wear, and who you can spend time with.
  • Controlling your access to finances.
  • Frequent outbursts.
  • Being extremely jealous.
  • Constant guilt-tripping and gaslighting.
  • Trivializing how their behavior affects you, even when you bring it up repeatedly.
  • Blaming you for their problems.
  • Using the silent treatment and withholding affection.

How do I recognize patterns that lead me to attract narcissists?

If you feel like your past few relationships may have been with a narcissist, and you want to stop attracting these types of partners into your life, consider the following:

  • Take a close look at your past relationships: What initially sparked the attraction? Were you unable to set boundaries and felt constantly disrespected and belittled? These could be signs you have been in narcissistic relationships.
  • Check your own behavior: If you keep attracting narcissists, there’s likely a reason, and you may have certain personality traits that are pulling them in. Examine your own behavior in relationships. Do you tend to put your partner’s needs before your own? Do you fear being alone? Identifying these patterns can help you understand why you may attract narcissistic partners.
  • Recognize any patterns in your life: Was your mother a narcissist? Maybe you have an otherwise toxic family member? Cycles are hard to break and unfortunately, if you were raised by a narcissist, you may subconsciously seek out a partner with the same traits.
  • Identify your vulnerabilities: Narcissists often prey on people with low self-esteem. Take a look at your own vulnerabilities and work on building your self-esteem. Therapy can help.

“Narcissists at best cloak themselves as caring, masking character flaws of blatant defiance of others’ boundaries, resentful when someone else captures the spotlight, and leverage the need to be grandiose. Narcissists will consider individuals willing to be co-dependent a prime candidate for their outrageous expectations to be validated.” 

Dr. Jan Newby

What can I do to stop drawing narcissists into my life?

To stop attracting narcissists into your life, you should:

  • Set firm boundaries: Narcissists look for people with weak boundaries that they can take advantage of. This is why setting clear and healthy boundaries is critically important. To do so, don’t be afraid to say no, express your needs, and not compromise your values.
  • Get to know — and love — yourself: When you do the internal work it takes to educate yourself on your vulnerabilities and triggers, you can stop attracting narcissists — or at the very least, you’ll be able to immediately recognize their behavior and put a stop to it. When you start loving yourself, you will no longer be easy prey for narcissists, and you can start attracting the right people.
  • Seek therapy: Sometimes, a professional’s perspective is needed to help you recognize narcissistic traits in others and why you keep drawing these types of people in. A therapist can help you identify your own triggers, set healthy boundaries, and develop self-love and confidence.

How can I build healthy boundaries in relationships?

healthy boundaries in relationships
Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels

Making sure you don’t let any more narcissists take advantage of you starts with building healthy boundaries. But how do you do that? Consider the following:

  • Know — and hold firm on — what you want in a relationship and what you won’t tolerate.
  • Assess how you feel when you’re with someone. If you feel anxious and on edge and are afraid to express your feelings and thoughts, you may be dealing with a narcissist.
  • Talk to the person about your expectations and needs for relationships.
  • Speak up ASAP when a boundary has been crossed, or you’re feeling uncomfortable with something.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. 

What steps can I take to improve my self-esteem?

Improving your self-esteem is a key step to avoiding being preyed on by narcissistic. You can do so in a number of ways:

  • Therapy.
  • Practice self-love.
  • Find new hobbies and activities you love.
  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet.
  • Identify things you’re good at and focus on those strengths.
  • Surround yourself with uplifting and supportive people.
  • Stop people pleasing.

Stay up to date with all things mental health and how they impact the Black community with BLAC. For over 20 years, BLAC has represented the many diverse and brilliant voices of the Black community, providing in-depth stories and ideas that resonate with our audience.  

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