Stop Focusing On Narcissist Types and Focus On These Red Flags

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A simple Google search for types of narcissist has over 32 million results. These list-based articles have altruistic intentions, as most authors seek to politely educate unsuspecting victims of the narcissist’s anatomy.

That said, such laser focus on the ‘types of narcissists’ can be short-sighted. That’s because debating and dissecting the ‘types’ limits people to focus on an exclusive checklist of preselected criteria. But what if you meet someone who doesn’t entirely fit all the boxes? What if you can sense that something doesn’t feel right, but that something doesn’t fit into a neatly packaged label?

Instead of spending so much time on labeling (which can be highly subjective), it’s more advantageous to learn the universal red flags that encompass all forms of narcissism.

Sure, differentiating narcissist types may be beneficial for mental health professionals. It may also be helpful for your own independent education. But for someone actively dating and seeking a healthy relationship – or in a new one – it’s far more essential to learn the red flags to avoid.

Five Early Warning Signs Associated With Narcissism

Almost every relationship with a narcissist will start out with the following warning signs. Because they can begin subtly, it’s easy to ignore or disregard them. However, once you become committed, these ‘small nuances’ can quickly spiral into a toxic abyss.

1. The Nagging Feeling That Something Isn’t Right

Most narcissists begin subconsciously thwarting your self-esteem and sense of security during the initial stages of dating. They may engage in outwardly concerning behaviors (such as flirting with other people in front of you). Or the behaviors may feel more confusing (like their feelings changing rapidly). Regardless, the narcissist will deny engaging in such actions when confronted.

This gaslighting feels both frustrating and perplexing. You start doubting if you’re being overreactive or looking too deeply into things. You start questioning if you’re the one making things difficult in the dynamic.  

Your intuition is powerful. When harnessed appropriately, it can help steer you in the right direction and parse out right from wrong.

When you’re talking to someone new, if your intuition starts screaming at you, pay attention! We each have primal, evolutionary instincts that warn us of impending danger. Emotions represent an information processing feedback loop. Our brains scan sensory information based on past and current experiences to accurately predict our next outcomes.

In other words, our bodies are meant to work to survive. If something (or someone) is threatening that survival, we’ll feel that nagging sensation in our gut. Listen up!

2. Constant Anxiety

When you are with a narcissist, it’s normal to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You don’t know what could trigger an explosion. Similarly, you also may not understand what makes them happy- as their mood can fluctuate depending on the day!

As a result, you may feel a heightened sense of anxiety. Will he be upset that you were in a meeting and couldn’t text back right away? Will she agree with your restaurant selection for dinner or throw a fit? Are you one wrong move away from a dreadful episode of silent treatment?

If you constantly worry about your date “making a scene,” you’re hypervigilant to the narcissist’s reactions. This hypervigilance fosters an inherent sense of codependency, as you eventually must placate your needs to quell your partner’s emotions.

Over time, this can result in a loss of identity. You continue to disregard your own needs or preferences to avoid your partner’s wrath.


3. Disregard For Boundaries

Imagine this scenario. Your date wants to take you to the fanciest steakhouse in town. However, you’re a long-term vegan for environmental and ethical reasons. You compromise on dinner, and you decide to order a salad. Immediately after the food arrives, your date insists incessantly that you just gotta try a bite.  

You politely refuse, but your date isn’t hearing any of it. It’s SO good- come on just one bite!

Opposing values isn’t inherently a red flag. Most healthy couples have a fair amount of differences between them.

However, disregarding your physical, emotional, or financial boundaries represents a serious red flag. Our boundaries are what separate us from other people. They provide us with implicit safety and protection.

If someone ignores, challenges, or blatantly stomps on those boundaries from the beginning, it’s only going to progressively spiral. You are allowed to have your own needs and preferences. Anyone who cannot tolerate your individuality isn’t someone worth your time or energy.

4. Subtle Manipulation

Narcissists obtain what they want through powerful forces of manipulation. However, this manipulation does not always appear outwardly malicious. In fact, many times, the manipulation seems innocent- so innocent that you’ll wonder if you’re the crazy one.

For example, say you’re on your third date with a new man, and you straighten your hair for the evening. Usually, you prefer your natural curls, but you felt like doing something different.

Your date continues to extravagantly gush about how amazing your hair looks. He emphasizes how it looks so much better that way and how you should consider straightening your hair more often.

In fact, he loves it so much that, on your next date, he almost seems dejected when he sees your hair back in its natural state. And so, moving forward, you start making more of an effort to straighten your hair.

Compliments can be deceiving. Narcissists thrive on using flattery to convince or coerce people to do the things they want. Furthermore, the more narcissists ‘get away’ with the toxic behavior, the more they will engage in it.

Manipulation can also come in the form of mocking. If someone laughs or criticizes your taste in music or hobbies or work, that’s a considerable red flag. Narcissists typically struggle to accept viewpoints that are different from their own. Moreover, they find it reasonable to put down others in lieu of these differences.

5. Arrogance and Self-Centeredness

Narcissists talk incessantly about themselves. They are their own focal conversation point, and they will turn essentially any discussion to one that highlights their thoughts, opinions, or strengths.

In addition to this excessive boasting, they keep themselves high on their pedestals by subsequently lowering down others. It’s not unusual for narcissists to talk poorly about other people or find faults with everyone they interact with.

Does your date talk terribly about his or her ex? Does she treat the waitstaff with disregard and utter rudeness? Does he exhibit concerning themes of racism or sexism?

Most of all, do they walk around like they own the place and like the rest of the world owes them a huge favor?

This isn’t a sign of confidence. It’s a sign that they believe they matter more than others, and it’s a sign that they will always put their needs in front of yours.

Even if the narcissist appears interested in you, this interest serves as leverage to suit their needs. When they want you, they want you– on their terms, under their conditions. When they want something else? There’s a strong chance you’ll be minimized, ignored, disregarded, or criticized.

Stop Focusing on Narcissist Types- Start Focusing On The Red Flags

It doesn’t matter what kind of narcissist is sitting across the table from you. Narcissist types, by nature, are controversial. Instead, what matters is how you feel, how you respond, and what you do next.

Ignore the red flags, and you will continue to be hurt. Ignore the red flags, and the narcissist will continue to hold the power and control.

If you know you need to purge the horrific addiction and devastating emotional and spiritual contamination from a narcissist, then consider The Break Free Program.  Healing is a process that can open up some truly transformative revelations and opportunities when we give ourselves the chance to recover and thrive. 

Please know that as crippling as it feels to finally break free from abuse, there is an end to it.  The body and mind know how to heal themselves when we create the conditions for them to do so.  Students of The Break Free Program write in to tell me all the time how their lives have been changed incredibly by following the steps laid out for them.  I am always humbled (and grateful) when I hear success stories from those who thought their lives were over.  

This can be possible for you, too.  And it’s my deepest wish that you begin healing and living the life you deserve.  

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Lee says October 4, 2023

This is so true, Kim. Seeing and acting on these red flags early on in the relationship can save so much wasted, time, finances, and heartbreak. It’s key to listen to your intuition. I know this to be true from not taking your sound advice previously

Rebekah says August 4, 2020

my ex friend and my husband

Does the Narcissist Miss You After No Contact? - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says July 30, 2019

[…] see, all the above have nothing to do with missing you, and everything to do with the Narcissist.  It’s all about their ego, entitlement, and having control.  These are the only two things that make up the Narcissist’s […]

Nicole Harris says June 7, 2019

I read all this articles that talk about how narcissist don’t treat their partners very nice. My ex was never outwardly rude or nasty to me until the very end. I mean he never even yelled at me and we hardly argued. However, he did cheat and lie often which are very selfish acts for his benefit. Do you still consider this narcissism? I know this article is about not labeling and im soo trying to let this go, but i find myself continuing to look for an answer, an explanation.

    Kim Saeed says June 8, 2019

    Hi Nicole,

    If he has a pattern of cheating and lying, it means he is not emotionally safe to be in a relationship with…and certainly not to be trusted.

Sam says March 16, 2019

Thanks for putting this information out – it explains so much. Yet, it is going to be like ripping out my soul to get out, which I know I must.

Why, because I built so much of my life around this person that has controlled everything about me. I wish upon wish that I had figured it out when I was younger. It’s such a waste. And in that time, she has torn down relationships that would have strengthened me. I have so little support and I’m getting so old to be starting over.

    Kim Saeed says June 9, 2019

    We’re never too old to start over and be happy. Don’t give up on yourself…

The Dark Neuroscience Behind Falling in Love: What You Need to Know - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Personal Growth says January 1, 2019

[…] easy to reframe critical flaws as ‘cute quirks.’ It’s easy to overlook obvious red flags as we try to wiggle our way back into the comfortable bliss of […]

Shirley says December 15, 2018

Yes, Kim you are correct once again. My main focus should be on toxic red flags not what kind and if the person is a narc! Trusting my instinct and discernment. Thanks for adding just what to look for in a toxic person. Some of these things happened to me in my 30 year marriage to the narc. I wore my hair and got braces because of my own fears and his manipulation! I should have run then. Well, no matter I did eventually ask for my needs and they were ignored. I will take 50% of the blame but now that I am no longer ignorant, I know what to watch out for. That doo doo test that I failed miserably won’t happen again with anyone else. I have boundaries in place now and experience for future reference.

Unknown says December 14, 2018

I experienced all of the above, they were the battle of my everyday day. I am in no contact now for 2 months. I’m so depressed, he exposed me to my family and friends. I can’t look them in the eye. Avoiding going out, ending the days in my bed with loads of guilt and shame and hate and anger. I hate him and myself.

    Andrea says January 11, 2019

    How are you feeling now? I hope you’re ok?

Lee says December 14, 2018

I left my boyfriend two months ago. I cried for a month…then there was just an internal shift. Maybe it was that the silent treatment was continuing, or that he mocked my religious practices..maybe it was the Saeed newsletters I read over and over….maybe it was the tape recording of the fight he conjured on my birthday and continued 48 hours…the one I would make myself listen to when I began to long for the connection we had in the beginning…whatever it was, he finally broke his silent treatment after two months to the day. I wanted to believe his long, “I can’t forget you, I’ll always love you, You are my breath”, text….but I’d already been to that rodeo twice, this was the third one in a year. When he texted that he had gone around the corner to “cry”…the sudden recollection of his words to me when I cried came rushing into my head, “Your too Fu%$&ng Sentitive!”, and I knew it was a lie. I debated my response because I had, for so long, just tiptoed into the conversation trying to get my needs heard while not poking the bear. I sent a small text meant to not cause waves but remind him of his own words. He did not respond. I thought on it for another 24 hours and then said
EXACTLY what I believed was true. It read, “As usual, it’s all about how you feel, how hard it’s all been on you. Never once do you ever stop to consider what your words, actions or inactions put others through. You don’t get to manipulate me anymore because I died a month ago. You don’t have the right to text me after abandoning me and then blame me for “the way it ended up”, and you don’t cry…that would make you “Too %^^& Sensitive”. No apologies, No reflection of why I went home that day and no response to my letter or texts. Your definition of Love is not mine….But I’m doing fine, thanks for asking. Don’t text me.

The sick thing really, was that part of me wanted him to plead with me, promise me he’d change or he didn’t mean those things or that I was right and he’d try to do better…..I would have gone back, I know me.

And then he did what I had hoped he wouldn’t- He confirmed what I just said by cursing me out in a rage via text, placing blame, calling me names…. You know….because he loves me and I’m his “breath”.

And maybe it was all the tears, dry-heaving and pain I’d already gone through alone…or maye I heard his rage and realized it was because he could not control me anymore…and he didn’t know where I lived either (I moved 6 days ago)…but a giggle escaped from me and then I smiled…because I felt FREE.

many years says December 14, 2018

Thanks for this enlightening format to follow. I too searched the internet for over two years, trying to figure out how to escape the word salad, the mind games, the subtle lies, of my significant other, and I keep coming back to your site as you are down-to-earth in your synopsis of how to get free from the toxic non-relational gaslighting which is attempted to distort reality in favor of the Narc. My h can never admit that he is lying, or that he did anything ‘wrong’. Such as the flirting, which he can care less since it has damaged our relationship since day one of our marriage. He is not going to change, so, I don’t really care anymore. I have to live my own life, and get on with who I am, what my goals are, and who I can help along the way to also wake up to the fact that these seemingly ‘charming’ individuals are only in it for themselves. And it includes the whole nine yards of financial, emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and whatever else could be added to that list of abuse, as all of it does come back down to one word – ABUSE. It took me a while to figure it all out, as I am now not walking on egg shells, because I am walking to the beat of a different drum, not his anymore. I have in-house separation of a sort, and that seems to be working fine for the time being. You can’t talk to them as though they are a real person, because they will not change. It would take an act of God, to get them to change, and even then, they may be so mixed up in their own mind, they won’t even see their need to change. It’s like talking to a blank wall. So, yep, it’s not about me trying to figure out my husband anymore, it’s about getting on with my own life, and doing whatever it takes for me to do more than just survive.

LaSheka says December 14, 2018

Absolutely! There are two many red flags when it pertains to a Narcissist. At times they will do 1-5 on the first date, but the Love Bombing takes over. Thanks, for all that you do!

LOUIS says December 13, 2018

Kim, I was in an 11 month relationship. You refer to the narcissist as male in most of your articles. I believe my girl is a narcissist. Almost every point you describe in your articles point to her. Are most narcissists men or did I find a rare women. After 3 months dating, she moved in and I never saw a red flag until then. Then she immediately became extremely insecure. Seeing things that were not happening like pink elephants. Making crazy accusations of me having women on the side. I let her comb over my cell phone bill twice and she didn’t find anything strange. I literally had no time for extra curricular activities but then she would say I was doing things at work. For every minute we were together, my phone didn’t ring and I didn’t get texts from whores like she puts it. She thinks I am a cheater and a liar but I am not. I was married for 26 years and neither of us cheated. We just grew apart. Still friends so I had my ex call her. She told her he doesn’t have a cheating bone/muscle in his body. That helped for about a week. I had to stay about 15 minutes late for work and I didn’t text her to let her know for about the first 6 minutes. She lost it and broke up. Says things are always weird with me and my excuses. I am completely honest and loyal so now I am at a lost. She was cheated on or so she says by her ex husband of 28 years. This seems like high school crap to me. I have never had to deal with such suspicion of cheating or lying. Do I have a narcissist on my hands or just a really insecure woman?

    Rhea says April 18, 2020

    Sounds like she has some traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. Are you familiar with that one? Women can definitely, definitely be narcissists, but her being obviously insecure and thinking you were about to abandon her seems more borderline to me.

Douglas DUNCAN says December 13, 2018

I truly wish I had heard of you as a young man. Don’t have to worry about looking for a narcissist. Love is not found around every corner. 15 years between my kids mom and my narcissist. Raised my kids took care of my disabled mother 15 years. Last 10 were a living hell. Will never happen again. Wasn t looking when she came after me. I will never make that mistake again.. if you want unconditional Love I’ll find a child of a friend that wants to adopt a Grandpa and I ll get a puppy. Most precious things on Gods earth are children. Most faithful companion is a good dog.
God Bless all. Merry Christmaa

Ed says December 13, 2018

I’ve been married to. A narc for 40 years and have just now discovered why our relationship is so toxic. My understanding of the real problem is getting better and I’m hoping I can learn to cope with her better than I have been.

    Rhea says April 18, 2020

    It’s never too late to leave.

thePinch says December 13, 2018

Agreed wholeheartedly! The evolving terms are dizzying. Bad is bad is bad. Keep the focus on ourselves!

    Kim Saeed says December 13, 2018

    Hey there! Great to see you here 🙂

    Absolutely. We can’t go wrong when we follow our internal GPS!

    Kim XoXo

    Douglas DUNCAN says December 13, 2018

    Although we have been through something bad, focus on ourselves could make us a narcisisst. Love others unconditionally, help others, expect nothing back in this world. Your father in heaven will see your deeds and reward you.
    Plus loving others helps our heart. If it is not returned? I was not in a relationship again anyway. So no more loss.

Coeli Dwivedi says December 13, 2018

You nailed it!

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