Dear Kim – I Can’t Determine if My Partner is a Narcissist!

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Dear Kim,

I’ve been in a relationship for a year and a half with a guy I’m now engaged to.  Everything is good for the most part, but he can get pretty mean when we argue.  He sometimes tells me I’m selfish and/or vain/conceited.  Do you think he’s a Narcissist?  I can’t figure it out with all the info out there on the topic!

Thanks for any info you can give me.


Dear Ivy,

First off, thank you for following my blog and for reaching out.

You’re right.  There seems to be a “Narcissism Craze” happening around the world right now.  Part of that is due to increased awareness, and the other part is due to more people giving a voice to their experiences with this form of abuse.  

Without knowing more about your background with your fiancé, I will give a general response about behaviors of a non-disordered person vs. a disordered person, such as one who might have NPD.

I have been in a few relationships in my time.  No relationship is perfect.  People sometimes get angry and say things they don’t really mean.  In the heat of the moment, they want to project their insecurities and/or pain onto their partner. This is all part of being human.  Generally, only people who have excellent control of their emotions are able to avoid saying hurtful things when they are upset at another.

For example, a man who’s just found out his partner is talking to another man might say something like, “That’s okay.  I never really loved you, anyway”.  This is a statement that he normally wouldn’t say, but because he’s feeling insecure, his only way to avoid feeling “less than” is to say he doesn’t care about her as he doesn’t want to give the impression that he’s needy.  It could be that his partner was feeling insecure herself and allowed another man to flirt with her, but doesn’t really have feelings for anyone else.  These types of interactions can usually be overcome in a “normal” relationship through mutual communication.

I’m not sure why your fiancé would call you selfish or conceited.  I don’t know what happened prior to him saying those things, but if he doesn’t normally call you those names, he was probably feeling hurt or angry about something and temporarily lost control of himself.  Maybe there is an issue the two of you need to work on together.  If everything else in the relationship is good, it’s doubtful that he is a Narcissist.

A Narcissist, on the other hand, will not let a moment go by without making you feel inferior.  Normally, in a relationship with a Narcissist, the only time they feign nicety is when you threaten to leave or they want something from you.  There is a definite imbalance in the relationship.

Narcissists almost always call their partners names.  In fact, if they aren’t, that would be the unusual event.  They are also very sadistic in their interactions.  For example, I once confessed to my Ex that I wished to be closer to my mom and sister.  He later used that against me by saying, “See, you are such a loser, even your own family doesn’t want you.”

See the contrast?

There are different levels of Narcissism, and we all have a touch of it, but it’s typically not pathological, i.e., we can all be a little selfish at times and lose control of our emotions.  The important thing to focus on is whether his negative behaviors have become a pattern.  Whether or not he’s a narcissist has more to do with how you feel being with him. 

Hope that helps!

© Kim Saeed 

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whatglasses says March 3, 2014

Oh my gosh. The good to bad ratio was about exactly 1:9. I finally left him, exactly one week ago. It was really explosive. I’ve started antidepressants and weekly therapy (I go again tomorrow) and I am so freaking glad to be done with him. I know I will need to heal from this, and also from my childhood, but I had been wanting to leave for months. Just too scared, and he kept telling me he loved me. I found out he was seeing another woman and I left. It hurt. I felt like I was going to die. But I am going to be okay, and I was never going to be okay with him. I am sad, of course, but trying to be really kind to myself and lean on my support system. I’d been trying to prepare to leave him – it just happened sooner than I thought it would. I honestly never thought he would cheat on me, but it is what it is.

I wouldn’t recommend antidepressants for everyone, but I’ve been feeling suicidal (even before I left him – our relationship was really bad) and it just got to be too much, so I went to the doctor and asked him to put me on something. I’ve only been taking them for 6 days but the suicidal thoughts are gone. I wish I would have called the doctor sooner because it is a huge relief to have those thoughts gone.

    Kim Saeed says March 5, 2014

    I’m glad to know you found the strength to leave and are sticking with it. And don’t apologize for the antidepressants. Sometimes they are very necessary, such as in your case.

    I know you are in tremendous pain right now, but you will soon feel the emotional benefits of leaving an abuser. Hang in there. You can do this…you’ve already opened the pathway to your happiness.

imfree says March 3, 2014

Hi Ivy,

I’ve experienced the behavior to which you refer. I think it’s important to be completely aware of your actions and feelings at the time, and truly ask yourself, “was I being selfish, etc.?” If you are able to reflect and realize that you weren’t being selfish then that’s the first step. Also, just the fact that you actually took the time to truly reflect on this possibility, most likely shows that it wasn’t you that was acting selfishly. If your partner accuses you of something, which seems entirely out of reality or proportion, they are most likely using a primitive coping mechanism called projection. They are essentially unwilling to accept undesirable feelings or behaviors, and so they try to project them onto you. Similarly if someone accuses you of cheating, and you have given them no reason to think such a thing. That can be a red flag. If they occasionally use projection during times of stress or arguing, in my experience, this can be a sign of personality disorder.

Hurt 2 Long says March 2, 2014

I agree with the different levels. My ex-narc was very mean – physically, emotionally, & verbally – before I divorced him. In the following years, that seemed to have calmed down in him, but he always wanted to still have some control with me. We tried to reconcile but by that time I was much more knowledgeable & that knowledge is power!! Gone were his physical & verbal attacks but the emotional remained. I began to see him for who he really is. Everyone just loves him, but I know the real person. He has never & will never put anyone or anything before himself, including our children. The more I would try to back away, the stronger he came on. That is, WHEN he wanted it that way. I’ve learned thru this site & many others that I was nothing but a supply source & during the times he was getting that supply filled elsewhere, he was 100% unavailable to me. The truth really, really hurts sometimes! To be made aware of the fact that your entire 20+ years together was really only maybe 2% love & 98% control on his part. If you’re giving your all & it’s still not enough, the problem doesn’t lie with you & you can’t fix people. Thanks again, Amy, for this site 🙂

    Kim Saeed says March 5, 2014

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. Awareness is usually the first step in getting away from these disordered people…

    You mention you’ve divorced, but is he still in your life?



      Hurt 2 Long says March 5, 2014

      We share children so he’ll always be in my life. No contact is not possible but I’ve learned that for my well-being, to always reroute the conversation back to the children when he gets off course. And to make any contact as short as possible. I’m learning that this is not something I will ever just “get over”, but rather something I will consciencly have to work at. The experts are right….for the victims, it’s just like a gambling addiction. Just one more roll, just one more try & maybe it’ll be different this time. But it’s not. So I’m picking up the pieces of me & concentrating on repairing me & standing on guard to protect my children.

        Kim Saeed says March 5, 2014

        That sounds like a great plan.

        I’ve had a reprieve because I finally had to get a restraining order against my Ex because of his stalking and harassment, but that will likely be over soon.

        However, I have no feelings for him anymore, so I will do what I need to in order to keep him at arm’s length, and whatever’s necessary to keep it that way.

        Best wishes for your recovery…

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