Are you a narcissist?
It’s (hopefully) not a question most of us ask ourselves. But being in a toxic relationship can make you wonder.
Toxicity can play such havoc with your emotions and psyche you lose sight of who you are. It can make you behave strangely — even badly, turning you into someone you barely recognise.
I’ve seen both men and women struggling in the wake of toxic or abusive relationships and there’s often a nagging doubt about their own role. Do I have some narcissistic traits too?
Hopefully the answer is yes — because it’s a good thing. Some narcissistic traits are healthy: indicative of confidence or good self-esteem.
It’s just that when a relationship has turned you upside down, it’s hard to figure out where the line begins and ends.
So What’s Narcissism in a Relationship?
“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego.” — Amanda Torroni
Clinically speaking, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition, characterised by an extreme self-focus coupled with the inability to consider the feelings of others.
NPD, like any personality disorder, is not black and white so there are risks in rushing to a diagnosis. But it’s helpful to consider narcissistic traits after a breakup, so you can better understand your relationship — and your place in it.
There are reams of narcissistic literature out there but for some quick and easy reassurance that it wasn’t you, it was them, try this.
7 Signs You’re Not a Narcissist
1. You want to educate yourself about relationships.
After your breakup, you jump online, you dive into the literature, you ask people who know more than you. You want to know what happened. You want to understand your ex-partner’s operating system and how something that started so well could turn so bad. You want to figure out what’s going on for you now — why you feel so exhausted and broken by them. A narcissist won’t educate themselves because they’ll think they did nothing wrong — that the problem was with you. That they’re fine and you’re the one who needs fixing.
2. You’re up for seeing a therapist if you need more help.
If you’re really struggling you’ll reach out for help. A narcissist won’t — or they might start in therapy all bright and shiny but after a while the therapist won’t be good/intelligent/understanding enough for them. Or, as soon they sense the therapist can see behind their mask, they’ll be off and running.
3. You don’t have a string of broken relationships behind you.
Depending on your age and stage, you might have a few relationships that haven’t worked out. But narcissists keep up the pattern — often right through until old age. Because they can’t (and have never been able to) love, and they need constant adoration/validation, they can’t sustain intimate relationships. You’ll often see this pattern repeated in their friendships and work. They’ll bubble and charm for a while — but they can’t keep it up. They’ll often bolt before they’re found out.
4. You’re struggle with anxiety/self-doubt after the breakup.
Intense or difficult breakups can leave people with low mood, anxiety and trauma symptoms, such as hypervigilance, flashbacks, panic and paranoia. You can become extremely fearful at the prospect of bumping into your ex again. Even a sighting of them on social media can distress you. It’s also common to second-guess your role in the relationship, worry about what you did wrong and doubt your attractiveness as a partner. These things need to be addressed so they don’t get in the way of you loving again.
While narcissists are deeply insecure at their core, they’ll generally only feel one of two emotions after a breakup: a false happiness because they’ve moved onto someone else or anger (if you ended it). When their egos get bruised, narcissists can become fixated on payback or smear campaigns. So if you called time, go quietly and don’t look back.
5. You’re able to apologise genuinely.
In fact, if you’ve been with a narcissist, you’ve probably apologised far more than you need to — for little, if anything. You may have apologised just to keep the peace. Genuine apologies are not on the narcissists’ song sheet. Even if they do manage a “sorry” here and there, there’ll be an agenda underneath.
6. You don’t keep contacting your ex just to “see how they’re doing”.
Most of us are prone to a little low-key stalking when we break up with someone — until we see the light. But it’s never over for the narcissist. They’ll keep tabs on you any way they can. It’s not that they still love you (they didn’t and they can’t), it’s just that they need to use you to validate themselves. They are driven to check they could still have you if they tried. And they might keep doing it for years after you’ve broken up. Hopefully you know there’s no gain in responding, unless you need to stay in contact because you have children together.
7. You’re reading this post.
Narcissists don’t read about narcissism. Are you kidding? They’re (superficially) all good with who they are. And, of course, they have much better things to do — and way cooler people to play with :)
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