When they’re full of themselves, there’s no room for you.
In popular culture, the term “narcissism” is thrown about quite loosely, usually referring to vanity and self-absorption. This reduces narcissism to a common quality that everyone possesses and downplays the symptoms demonstrated by people with the actual disorder.
While narcissism DOES exist on a spectrum, narcissism as a full-fledged personality disorder is quite different. In dealing with the signs of narcissism, people who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder or those who have traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder can operate in extremely manipulative ways within the context of intimate relationships due to their deceitfulness, lack of empathy, and their tendency to be interpersonally exploitative.
It’s important in any kind of relationship that we learn to identify the red flags when interacting with people who display malignant narcissism, narcissistic manipulation, and/or antisocial traits, so we can better protect ourselves from exploitation and abuse, set boundaries, and make informed decisions about who we keep in our lives.
Watch out for the following covert manipulation tactics when you’re dating someone or in a relationship:
1. They’ll be on their worst behavior (without you even knowing it).
Narcissists and those with antisocial traits tend to subject romantic partners through three phases within a relationship: Idealization-Devaluation-Discard.
The IDEALIZATION phase (which often happens most strongly during the early stages of dating or a relationship) consists of putting you on a pedestal, making you the center of his/her world, being in contact with you frequently, and showering you with flattery and praise.
This is a technique known as “lovebombing” and it is how most victims get sucked in: they are tired of the “games” people play with each other in communication and are flattered by the constant attention they get from the narcissist. You may be fooled into thinking that this means a narcissist is truly interested in you, when in fact, he or she is interested in making you dependent on their constant praise and attention.
The DEVALUATION phase is next, and this is when you’re left wondering why you were so abruptly thrust off the pedestal. The narcissist will suddenly start to blow hot and cold, criticizing you, covertly and overtly putting you down, comparing you to others, emotionally withdrawing from you, and giving you the silent treatment when you’ve failed to meet their “standards.”