Narcissism Isn't the Only Red Flag

Narcissism Isn’t the Only Red Flag You Should Be Focused On

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Too many folks get hung up on whether someone is a narcissist or not. But frankly, narcissism isn’t the only red flag that points to a toxic relationship.

They say, “Well, my partner does this or that, but they don’t do this…so, I’m unsure about leaving the relationship because I don’t know if they’re truly a narcissist.

If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place because I am going to address this issue today.

There are lots of reasons to leave a relationship and a person’s narcissism is only one of them.  But since narcissism is the focal point of so many blogs, articles, and videos today, we have forgotten about basic decency as a required core foundation of healthy relationships. 

In this post, you’ll learn why narcissism isn’t the only red flag you should be focused on. Specifically:

  • Why a person’s narcissism isn’t the only reason you should leave (hello emotional abuse and emotional unavailability);
  • The five common reasons you should consider leaving a relationship (like, yesterday);
  • Specific examples of narcissistic and emotional abuse that you can apply to your own situation and decide if you should be planning your exit.

Want to stop the crippling indecision, stop being exploited, and finally live in alignment with your integrity and self-pride?

Then you’re going to love this post.

Let’s jump in.

5 Common Reasons You Should Leave a Relationship (regardless of whether someone is a narcissist)

Red Flag #1 – They constantly point out things they “don’t like” about you

Oddly, these may be the very things they loved about you in the beginning.  Narcissists groom their targets by claiming to love everything about them…the way they dress, their hairstyle, their interests, their taste in music, their love of the arts.

Then shockingly, the things they once loved about you became the reasons they were ‘forced’ to cheat, have lost interest, or caused them to start a new relationship with someone else.

The reason this manipulative tactic has such a profound effect on your self-esteem is that you’ve spent a good portion of your life developing your preferences, interests, personality, and personal style.  Along the way, you became comfortable in your own skin. 

Then, along came someone who appeared to love every little thing about you.  In fact, it seemed the two of you shared many things in common.

Then slowly, like dismantling a jigsaw puzzle, they began taking little parts of you away by claiming they were intolerable.  Things that meant the most to you:  your family, your friends, your appearance, your relationship with your children, the love you have for your pets, your charity involvements, your violin lessons.

Until you didn’t know who you were anymore.

Narcissists strive to keep people small and “well-disciplined”. This will play out through criticizing everything about you so that you end up changing yourself to fit inside the small box they’ve designed for you. 

True love doesn’t take away the things that make up who you are.  It doesn’t diminish you.  If you feel like you can’t do anything right, that you couldn’t possibly attract someone else, that you’re “too old”, too needy, too sensitive to be in a relationship with anyone else, this is a sign it’s time to leave.

Red Flag #2 – They Always Lie

Most people don’t want to be liars.  Maybe a friend asks you about their new hair cut or a new outfit they’re really excited about, but you don’t want to hurt their feelings by giving them your opinion.  This might be okay, especially that your taste in haircuts and fashion might vary wildly from your friend’s. 

However, when lies are used to cover up wrongdoing or to cause you to doubt your own perception of reality, these lies are abusive.  If lies are rampant in your relationship, then you’re in the wrong one.  Bottom line – you can’t have a healthy relationship with a liar. 

Red Flag #3- They Constantly Cheat

There are many varied ideas and belief systems that revolve around fidelity and what is considered cheating.  Some folks are into polyamory, and so, theoretically, are open to open relationships. 

It may seem the lines are blurred when it comes to what constitutes cheating and abuse, but they’re really not.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your partner gaslight you about the cheating?
  • Do they blame you for their choice to be unfaithful, citing your looks, weight, or preferences as reasons they are straying?
  • Do they insult you and make you feel undesirable?
  • Do they claim you’re overreacting and that ‘everyone cheats’?
  • Do they use cheating as a method of hurting you?
  • Do they pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do or cheat on you when you don’t do them?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then cheating is abusive in your relationship.  And even if you are trying out the polyamorous lifestyle and your feelings are constantly hurt by something your partner is doing, then you may want to ask yourself if you’re doing it because you’re truly open to it or doing it to hang onto someone (while abandoning yourself in the process).

Incidentally, one of the narcissist’s favorite tricks is to claim they have a sex addiction, can’t help themselves, and then appeal to your good heart to “stick with them through it all”.  All this accomplishes is you staying in a relationship where you will ALWAYS be cheated on.  I’ve been in this field for over ten years and I’ve never seen a cheating narcissist STOP cheating.

Red Flag #4 – Their words don’t match their actions

Narcissists are absolute geniuses at telling you what you want to hear at just the right moment to keep you hooked in the relationship.

Think back to the last time you caught them cheating or they suddenly materialized after disappearing off the face of the earth for two weeks.  Regardless of the dialogue that played out, I would imagine they successfully rationalized and minimized their relationship crimes. 

In the moment, you may have even felt like you could sympathize with what they were saying.  They promised they would try to do better, that they love only you, that the two of you belong together (and should get engaged), that they’ll get that house the two of you looked at, that they will break it off with the new person.

And you bought into it.

Alternately, they may have come back saying they met someone new and now can’t decide between you or the other person.  This is the initial step in their plan to triangulate between the two of you

This is precisely what they do to people who are over-conscientious (willing to give the narcissist the benefit of the doubt) and who tend to over-intellectualize (tries hard to empathize and believe the narcissist has some understandable reason to be hurtful). 

It also plays into the fairytale you have in your mind about their finally having The Epiphany and renouncing their awful behaviors for the sake of true love.

Before you know it, you’re accepting things you never thought you would in your relationship, vowing to stick by their side, and feeling like a fool because of it.

That’s because, on a subconscious and intuitive level, you know the narcissist is a liar who has absolutely no plans to change.

Red Flag #5 – They make you choose between them or your children

Narcissists are jealous of anything or anyone that takes your attention away from them.  Your children are no exception.

One of the most heartbreaking elements of narcissistic abuse is the disconnect that often happens between abuse victims and their children.  There are few things that make the narcissist feel more powerful than having so much influence over you that you are willing to obey their commands and interact with your children according to what the narcissist deems fit. 

I’ve even seen parents kicking their older children out of the house because the narcissist said it was time for them to go.

There are two common and unfortunate scenarios that typically play out when one is involved with a narcissist regarding their children.  First, abuse victims are so consumed with the narcissist due to crippling self-esteem issues, trauma-bonding and PTSD symptoms, they have little attention or energy to give to their children.  Many times, all they can do is clothe and feed them, but have very little capacity to be truly present with them.  This often results in children feeling unseen, neglected, and unloved.

Second, because parents who are targets of narcissistic abuse often develop such extreme levels of anxiety, depression, and hypersensitivity, they can become impatient with their children, or find themselves resenting their children for behaving in ways that upset the narcissist. This leads to a further disconnect, with the children feeling unloved and unworthy, which may lead to their developing either codependent or narcissistic traits as a defense mechanism. 

If either of the above scenarios describes your relationship with your children, it’s a sign that screams it’s time to leave.

The Life-Changing Magic of Opening Your Mind to Other Reasons Someone’s a Crappy Person

It doesn’t matter whether someone is a narcissist if these five common relationship crimes are happing to you. 

Narcissism isn’t the only red flag in relationships

Emotional abuse and emotional unavailability are not issues you can fix by staying in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about you or your feelings.

Learning how to let go of toxic patterns (and relationships) can be challenging, but it’s always worth the effort. Unfortunately, over time, abuse often progresses- it can become so bad that you lose your entire sense of self.

No matter your circumstances, you are inherently deserving of love and happiness. It’s possible to break free from unhealthy cycles and find fulfillment and joy in life (and relationships)!

Today, after healing myself through the exact steps in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp, I experience healthy happy relationships that are kind, supportive, and fulfilling, and I have absolutely no trouble in walking away from anyone who is manipulative or abusive because I feel safe and in ownership of my worth and power.

I want the same for you too.

If you want to become aligned with these truths to actualize your recovery out of the pain and into truly healthy, wholesome, and fulfilling connections, then I’d love to help you.

Get Started On The Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

One of my greatest passions is helping previously victimized people become empowered. If you are ready for this astounding upleveling, the best thing you can do is join the Break Free community. 

My best recommendation is to find an online program to keep you on track and to offer support.  The Break Free Program has been vetted by therapists and neuropsychologists as an effective step toward getting over narcissistic abuse. Aside from keeping you safe from narcissists, it also empowers you to go out into the world with confidence.

Join Break Free and learn to:

  1. ✅ Dramatically overpower your addiction to the narcissist so you can stop being their victim
  2. ✅ Get to a place of acceptance so you can stop doubting yourself over your decision to heal your life
  3. ✅ Set limits and create stronger boundaries against emotional manipulation that has caused you to act out of character
    + so much more!

Just click the link to join:

👉 Join now with a sliding scale and lifetime access.

I created Break Free for people who sincerely want to take action and begin healing so they can finally stop the crippling pain, heal, and live the lives they deserve. 

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Leave a Comment:

Theresa Conley says July 16, 2022

Thank you Kim. This message was very informative and helpful.

Angela Butrick says October 11, 2021

All 5. I’m experiencing all 5. The last one, hit me the most. I’ve felt a disconnect but didn’t know why. I’ve dealt with different forms of abuse my whole life but this relationship has been indescribable….i thought I was losing my mind. And for the most part I figured I deserved it. But seeing now for the first time how much it’s taking from my little guy… That poor baby. He’s only 6. The bullshit stops today.
I wish I could afford your boot camp but your emails will be my life line. Thank you so much. You saved my life

Jelena says October 11, 2021

Thank you for another very interesting article.
I’m very concerned about my child. I see that they began to copy my husband’s bad behaviour to me. I’m deeply saddened and worried.

Sandy says October 10, 2021

I broke free from my tormentor in 2015, and I learned everything I needed to do it from Kim and her advice. Thanks, Kim! And now, if ever I begin a relationship, it’s on a three strikes, yer OUT basis. No one is EVER gonna get away with leaving me in tears on a regular basis, ever again.

Lilly says August 6, 2021

It is crazy how I thought I fell for this person. Always has a sharp tongue, impatient with my ptsd, depression, anxiety. I have a lil boy who looks up to him. Sadly this is not a good or healthy role model in anyway. Was degrading women infront of my boy. Talks down about me when I am not around. Makes fun of my opinions or how I speak. Just an all around bully. Wasted 3 years soon four of my life for games empty words life everything. How I am so upset pissed ready to blow him up, for pretending to play house and being a dad to my son. We have over came so many hurdles between us. I am and have been making a lot of changes to be better healthy. Yet the sacrifice from me is still not done by him. Not willin to see he is losing us his home, family 4 years down the drain. For what he is to damn afraid to man up and see the benefits of learning. To have happiness pride changes healthy love n life future. But as the saying goes can’t teach an ol dog new tricks

Anonymous says April 16, 2021

The cycle. That’s how I know I’ve had enough and this relationship is not meant to be. Everytime you let them back into your life because they know exactly what words to say so that you will give them the benefit of the doubt…yet again, they show their appreciation by making you wish you hadn’t, leaving you more upset than ever, that you fell for their lies once again. I cannot reconnect because they only want what they can’t have. I guess if I want any type of closure then I will stay “wanted supply” that he may never EVER have again. By the time they find another form of supply to chase, I will have healed, thanks to Kim’s honest and truthful advice as well as others here sharing their stories. I pray everyone rises above the abuse. It’s not fair and we would not do this to others.

Amanda Lee says February 9, 2021

I suffered this in mirror image, for 15 years. I had no clue, the last several years i spent on a downward spiral, emotional outburts, manic episodes lasting months, nervous breakdowns, i thought there were 3 of them, in reality it was just one really big break from reality. I was lost, couldnt hold on a conversation, i walked in circles, lived in confusion. I had broken. I had the ephiany one day, it wasnt me. It wasnt me. So my breakdown was actually an awakening. Its been hell and he actually managed to erase me from my daughters life, she has no memory of me at
all she says. Today is her 16th birthday. Its been two years since i opened my eyes. The most painful two years of my life, but growth hurts. Realizing the part i played and becoming a wiser woman. Love to anyone going through this

Marjorie says December 5, 2020

I was just thinking about this and I am glad I found this post to serve as a reminder that I need to leave . COVID is slowing me down , He made my money unavailable, and I know if I walk out he won’t let me back in , so I’m playing it cool , until I have my money and A lawyer!

    A woman says August 11, 2021

    Text book narcissist. Wow now i understand the hatred and cruelty I have been subjected to. Wants to leave me penniless at 60, in the process of getting me evicted from the very home I worked on, wants to strip me of everything including the car, put everything is his name so it is his, earned a fortune but invested only in himself, ran off with a richer woman and told me to quietly leave without making ‘any legal fuss’. Needless to say after being his housewife for ten years I have no where to go and no means to pay for it.He cleverly used the laws to serve himself ensuring that I did not understand as I am abroad; I have been legally trafficked, exploited and mistreated and then discarded as if I were a piece of rubbish. My son says just because you won’t eat the lion it does not mean it won’t eat you. I did not want to have to accept that I had been fooled by him but finally i realize it is because he is a master at deceit through false generosity and half truths and lies.

NATASHA SIMON says September 12, 2020

Kim Saeed, your work is so amazing. You walked the journey, so you know mine. I am very grateful for your help. The legal system needs to be educated and trained on how to identify and make judgements on crimes committed by narcissists, because they are certainly clue less.
I was taken from a live of high class to no class in the space of 3 short years and nothing to show for it but a life of regret and rebuilding.
How can that ever be right !!!
they say to forgive – NO.
they say forget revenge – NO.
Criminals that LOVE crime do not deserve the goodness of life.

RB says September 8, 2020

Thank you, Kim. I found your blog last year(?) while doing a lot of research. I’ve been researching this for almost my entire last marriage. Whatever you are sending out via email right now is exactly what I need to hear. We circle, we cycle, we spin. It takes years for all of the work we have to put into healing. So, even when I know all these things are true, the way you have chosen your blog posts and the way your writing is changing recently is right on target with what I need to hear/remember/remind myself of. Thank you so much.

    Kim Saeed says September 14, 2020

    So glad to know my writing is resonating with you, RB! Sending hugs…


Anonymous says September 6, 2020

Cheaters for sure. I caught the idiot coming through a hedge near my house to find the back entrance into a girl’s house nearby. I didn’t realise it at the time, I thought he was so infatuated with me that he was checking up on me! I actually laugh out loud about it these days when I think about it. When you get their behaviour, you really get it. NOTHING is as it seems. Even after all this time, out of nowhere, another piece of the jigsaw suddenly falls into place.

GEM says September 6, 2020

My daughter’s ex-husband is a narcissist. My daughter became disabled with bipolar disorder during their marriage. They got divorced and he got full custody of the 3 minor children. He recently got remarried. At first everything seemed fine with his 2nd marriage. One of the reasons it was fine is that he made my daughter look insane to his new wife. He and his new wife talked about her adopting the kids and they had a “Mom Ceremony” so the kids would call her mom (never heard of such a thing). My daughter is doing very well. She is great when with the kids and never talks negatively about their dad. Recently, her ex must have been in his low self-esteem stage. He lost his job. After this, he said he thought he had COVID and stayed alone in the bedroom for about 10 days. I knew he was faking. When tested, he was negative. His new wife almost had a nervous breakdown because she had to do everything. She was getting little sleep. She told the kids she felt like she was going to have a heart attack and they would probably be glad if she did. After he came out of his “COVID” room, she was so stressed that she stayed with her parents for 2 nights. Then, he got his reward. Her parents took their daughter and him on a Mississippi Cruise. Now, he is going to be a real estate agent (worse job for him). He doesn’t like people and doesn’t like taking orders. At this time, he is still in his “high” stage – he hasn’t started his job yet. His new abuse strategy is getting the three children to feel embarrassed about their mom’s disability. My daughter is upset, but is keeping quiet. He is trying to manipulate all 3 children and his new wife is going along with this. I believe this is called narcissistic parental alienation. My husband and I, grandparents, have a wonderful relationship with our grandchildren (even though 4 hours away). We do not think it would be healthy to intervene about his new abuse. If we do, we will be punished and he won’t let us see the kids. This whole situation is very sick and he is secretly abusing many people. I caught on to him after the divorce. I accidentally read about narcissists and the light turned on. He is the example of a true narcissist. It is very difficult to deal with him and what to do to diffuse him. The only thing we can do is keep in contact with the children. Many times, he interferes with phone conversations and makes them put us on speakerphone. It seems almost every time we call, the grand kids either have to go to bed or eat supper. These times are always so drastic and coincide with our phone calls. My daughter, us, and others in our family only care about the kids welfare and do not want to stir anything up for them. This is a very difficult situation and so hard to stop him from this behavior.

    a woman says August 12, 2021

    The tables will turn. Keep on doing what you are doing and stay grounded and strong in the belief that good can and will overcome evil .

Anonymous says September 2, 2020

Mine was the best cudler ever…. But he ghosted, he triangulated me with younger women and he cheated. I cought them almost in the act…in his boat on the harbor. After seven cycles I was a biochemical chaos and totally devastated. Trying to build myself up now, and still missing ‘some of the persons’ that he was.

    Dan Helmer says November 11, 2020

    Exactly you always miss the way they were Too good to be true. That’s the hook

    a woman says August 12, 2021

    Interesting what you say about a boat in the habour; I was told coldly by his mother that he could sail needed to sail and therefore should sail; He used his boat as a dating site, having spent 150k on the purchase and thereafter unlimited amounts on every gadget imaginable and went off with his female crews for 6 and 10 weeks at a time;. He met a rich grandmother and then sent a new years round robin to my children showing her climbing up his mast. He leaves me penniless.I still get that longing for when he was nice to me too. its like coming off heroin. He now has a cold heartless indifference to me and is in the process of evicting me from our home. Unfortunately in France evicting partners is not rare, so no one really thinks there is anything wrong with it. France has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Europe because the value system turns a blind eye to abuse; one can always leave and get a job! And the state will provide emergency housing and emergency money to cover food so the perpetrator who has paid his taxes is let off scot-free. Just part of a debased life.

Anonymous says September 2, 2020

I never caught my husband cheating, but, from the beginning I did notice him looking at my friends up and down. He always said I was cheating. I was wondering if statistics show that he was most likely cheating. I always knew that he knew I wasn’t cheating so I assumed he was putting attention on me doing it. He even made my kids think I was.

    RB says September 8, 2020

    Yes, (reader also cheated on) that is a common thing that happens. Narcissists accuse you of things they are doing, so that they put you on the defensive. Form of gaslighting. My ex accuses me of lying (dealing with children issues, divorced). But it’s because he never told me the truth. He accuses me of what he’s doing.

      Dan Helmer says November 11, 2020

      Perfect! Then you know you are involved with one

Kathy says September 2, 2020

After reading this, I was shocked to see how all of the three, and yes, I mean three, toxic relationships did almost all of the five listed traits. The one which I did have boundaries on and saved me each time was the dislike of my children. I thought for a long time; I was being selfish or spoiling my sons as I was told this so much. But after reading this, I now know loving and protecting my children was what saved me from a life of complete grief.

    NATASHA SIMON says September 12, 2020

    Yes you are so very correct.
    saving your children is the best foundation and freedom that we can give our children.

    Anonymous says April 16, 2021

    It’s very true, we are much more willing to protect our children then keep ourselves away from toxic people. I managed to have a 5 year relationship with the narcissist but he only met 2 of my 3 children, who all live with me, once, maybe twice and briefly. I kept his storm of disfunction way away from them, hoping he would change… and of course he never did.

Wren says September 1, 2020

Kim, I absolutely agree with this. One of mind tricks they pull is in the early stages, when the cracks are beginning to show, and when they are testing your dedication to their abuse. They’ll do something awful, like seriously flirt with someone, right front of you, and even be bold enough to ask for her number, right in front of you, and then tell you none of it happened, it was all in your head, it wasn’t as bad as you say, you’re too sensitive and jealous, etc. You tell yourself they are right, ask yourself what’s the matter with you, and then resolve to be a better person. He’s a catch, after all, and you could lose him if you don’t change.

I wish I had been strong enough to stop it right there. I wish i had come across someone like you back then. I would have run for my life. That is the hope of your articles. Anyone who isn’t quite hooked in yet can use the education you offer to make better decisions before their life is ruined. Love isn’t always easy. Relationships take work. But they should never ever ever wound you by slicing like a razor to your soul. If anyone nicks you like that once, don’t stick around.

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