Narcissists are masters of disguise and often go undetectable, at first anyhow. Definite signs don’t emerge until after you truly get to know them, though you might see some faint warning signs from the get-go.
But if you were in blind love, you probably disregarded any cause for concern. You continued seeing them through rose-colored glasses until you simply couldn’t anymore.
The signs become too glaringly obvious over time.
Narcissists come in all shades and sizes. They can be hard to spot, and they’ve worked hard to make it so. A narcissist can be anyone, look like anyone. Most are somewhat good-looking because they’re obsessed with their appearance, their outward projection to the world. They want no one to know how damaged they are on the inside.
Narcissists can be tall, short, thin, though rarely fat (they usually workout enough to maintain themselves). But some just look average.
My ex-covert narcissist husband had the sweetest looking baby face, almost a trustworthy one. It’s shocking to think that a face so nice-looking could be so cruel and reckless.
Some are smart and some are dumb, though it’s the smart ones that you should fear more. Most are funny (or think they are), outgoing, and charming. Most love to be the life of the party but some are quiet, introverted and more covert.
I’m not saying this is a complete list, but here are some signs you might be married to a narcissist.
51 Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist
Narcissists are usually quite popular.
They might be the first to buy a round of shots at the bar. They often are incredibly charming with a wonderful public persona that they’ve been polishing and perfecting since Lord knows when.
They often tell stories of how heroic they are; how they’ve saved lives or rescued cats from trees on the daily.
Being a good covert narcissist takes practice. They might accidentally let their faces slip and flash a glimpse of their darker (truer) self. But rarely in public. They save that for home and for the people close to them.
Everyone who knows them casually thinks they are the bee’s knees and how you, their spouse, are so lucky.
When they do something nice for you, they’ll broadcast it to the world.
Everyone must know what a wonderful, selfless, thoughtful partner they are… (vomit).
They’ll treat you like a queen in public.
They’ll shower you with praise and affection when they have an audience. They tell everyone how perfect you are, how they would never hurt or leave you, how your marriage is ideal and should be envied by all.
They don’t always shy away from creating a scene in public.
Especially when alcohol is involved. Alcohol can make a narcissist even more ruthless, so beware.
They can fly into a rage over nothing. My ex has made many scenes in many restaurants.
If you dare leave them, they’ll spread vicious rumors and evil lies.
They’ll spread rumors to your neighbors, other parents at your child’s school, your friends, anyone you have a relationship with – truly anyone they can.
It’s cruel and you’ll get a lot of side-eyes and whispers behind your back.
Ever notice how much they loved telling others how abused and mistreated they were by their evil ex? Every ex they’ve ever had is awful and rotten.
And if you end up being their ex, this now applies to you.
They need to appear successful and worshipped.
Whatever their field, they need others to think they are the god of what they do, and that no one on the planet can hold a candle to their level of genius.
Everyone else is simply lucky to be able to worship at the feet of sheer brilliance.
They love putting others down to prove their superiority.
They need to be ‘better than’ and will make sure to point out the reasons why they are so.
They need their ego stroked…constantly… by you… by everyone.
It could be said that what a person with narcissism really suffers from is a deficiency of self-esteem. And that they rely on external, material things and other people to feed their ravenous egos.
Like a succubus or vampire in a way, they need to nourish themselves by basking in the glow of other’s approval and admiration.
They’ll shamelessly show you their selfies and glorious photos of them doing incredible things, then and ask what you think.
My ex was so starving for ego-boosting that he traveled for work with the company of questionable lady-companions, there to endlessly stroke his ego and stroke (eh-hem) another thing too.
They crave attention.
Like I crave chocolate at 3pm, narcissists feign for attention – they love the feeling of being the most important person in the room. Since NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is a self-esteem disorder, they are unceasingly insecure about their status.
And while they seem cool and confident outwardly, inwardly they’re always on the hunt for their next ego-boosting fix.
It must be exhausting.
They need to be the smartest/best/coolest person in the room.
Nothing inflames a narcissist more than if they don’t feel as though they are the most important person at any given social event.
If someone obviously more successful, richer, or smarter is around to upstage them, they will dismiss the event as lame. When they leave they will go on and on about how everyone there was terrible and inferior.
Of course, they demand you agree with their assessments on why The Jones’ are not as cool and as honorable as people think.
Nothing ruins their good time more than someone being better than them. And then they are simply bored by conversations that aren’t about them.
They can’t take criticism… At all… Ever.
They explode if they hear anything unflattering.
They are hypersensitive to anything that could remotely be considered criticism, even of a constructive nature.
They take everything personally.
The problem is never them, it’s always everyone else.
They can’t wrap their pretty little head around being accountable or taking responsibility for any failure or shortcoming.
To them, the problem is not their bad behavior, the problem is other people who ‘caused’ them to behave badly.
They find it unfair that they haven’t gotten their due in life because they are better than 99.9 percent of people.
They use people, then discard them.
People are prey. Something to be used.
They are always taking, never giving (for sincere reasons anyhow). They usually only give to get something in return- recognition, praise, accord, money, sex…anything they desire.
They believe no one is to be trusted.
Probably because they themselves aren’t trustworthy, they believe that everyone else is out to get them. Ironic huh!?
They are unfaithful.
Either you’ll find out about their indiscretions, or you won’t. Narcissists are great at covering their tracks.
You may know about an affair here or there but it’s doubtful you’ll know about all of them. 3X is probably a conservative estimation of the number of affairs they’ve actually had vs. the number of times they’ve been caught.
Of course, no matter how much solid, black and white evidence you have, they’ll just deny, deny, deny. They’ll lie to your face while swearing on their mother’s life.
If you confront them with solid proof they can’t deny (which they will), they’ll turn it back on you. That’s when they’ll accuse you of having an affair.
Or convince you (and themselves) that YOU caused them to be unfaithful. You drove them to it because if you had, or hadn’t done XYZ, then they wouldn’t have strayed (…and strayed… and strayed…).
Because they are brilliant liars, and because they have you conditioned, and because your self-esteem has eroded from the years of being married to a narcissist, you might actually believe them.
And you might actually believe them when they swear that they will never run around on you ever again. This, of course, is a giant load of BS.
More than they need you, they need their egos stroked …. via their dicks sometimes.
They are hypocritical.
It’s okay (even expected) for them to cheat, and do whatever they want, whenever they want, but not you, never you. You must follow their rules.
They lie (and are awfully talented at it).
They could look you in the eye, swear to g-d, and still lie to your face.
Sometimes they actually believe their lies, and sometimes they just don’t give a shoot about ‘embellishing the truth.’
They’ll lie about the stupidest, most ordinary, mundane matters. Like, why would one lie about something so trivial as where they ate lunch!? Usually, they have an angle, but sometimes I think they just plain like to lie.
They are master manipulators.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder MUST get their way, and they’ve become experts at manipulating people into giving it to them.
They modify their behavior, their stories, and their lies to tailor a situation in their favor.
They are like chess players who use people as their pawns.
Interactions and conversations are something to be won, by any means.
If lies and manipulation don’t work, they’ll threaten.
If someone sees through their lies and manipulation and dares to challenge them, they’ll be met with threats of either physical violence or sinister schemes.
They could threaten to ruin the offender financially, tarnish their good name, destroy their career, or threaten litigation (my ex’s go-to move).
They don’t tire easily in the game of vengeance.
They can be like a dog with a bone if they want to punish someone who dares to go up against them.
Narcissists don’t easily forget, or forgive. They move on with revenge in the most conniving of sorts.
And heed my warning, as you may yearn for some vengeance for yourself too: If you play in their game, on their level, YOU will be the only victim of your (attempted) vengeance. Because in this game, you play to lose. Simply said, they just aren’t worth it.
Rules and ethics don’t apply to them.
They’ll drive drunk, run red lights, cheat on their income taxes… they tailor their value system to suit them in a given situation.
They do what they must in order to get a leg-up.
They rationalize their shadiness in a concocted way or truly believe they are above the law and standard moral code. Though they’ll pretend to be the most ethical SOB the world’s ever seen.
They struggle to work under people.
Narcissists can’t succumb to being told what to do, even in an employment situation. They loathe having a boss.
They will either be fired a lot, or they’ll own their own company.
If employed, they’ll endlessly complain about their boss. If they are the boss, they’ll complain about how exhausting it is being the boss.
Either way, they’ll complain. And they’ll take out their work-related frustrations on you, somehow, someway, as they do with every other disappointment in life.
They have little respect for boundaries.
Yours or others… But especially yours.
You try to define your boundaries, but it doesn’t make a difference. They love crossing lines.
My ex-husband got off on shock value. He was trying to be like the old Howard Stern (who I happen to love, just for the record). He felt it appropriate to tell raunchy jokes in the presence of grandmothers or coworkers. Making people uncomfortable was his cheap thrill.
Narcissists push people’s boundaries as a way of getting attention, all the while thinking they are hilarious and Avant Garde.
They attempt to ostracize you from friends and family.
They’ll give the stupidest reasons why friends A and B aren’t good enough to be your friend. And how neighbor C is a total loser. And how Auntie D is annoying and intolerable.
The real reason they don’t want you to have close relationships with friends and family is because of the risk of exposure. Keeping you from your loved ones is their way of doing reconnaissance. Their dirty little secret is kept safe if you don’t have anyone to tell it to.
Their twisted thought process is: remove the people, remove the problem.
They need total power over you and can’t have anyone interfere, or worse- talk some sense into you.
They want total control of you.
They will spy on you, read your emails and your texts. They might have you followed if they are particularly paranoid.
They can control you if they’ve managed to cut off your relationships, isolate you socially, and erode your self-esteem.
By design, they are all you have left. They want your world to be a world of one, and that one is THEM (not you obviously).
They rule with an iron fist and don’t you dare question their royal authority.
They insist on strict financial control.
Most don’t grant their spouses access to bank accounts or other financial information. They will keep you in the dark financially. And if you earn money, they deem it their money.
They might give you a meager allowance, but every expense must be run by them first. You need their permission to buy yourself a new T-shirt sometimes.
Yet they can spend as they please. They can spend on what they want, when they want, and on whom they want.
They’ll want to project the image of a perfect family.
Everyone, even the kids, must toe the line.
The household must maintain the image of perfection with how they look, their grades at school, their social status, and their reputation in the community.
No one in the family is free to be themselves. They must be whoever the narcissist king/queen wants them to be.
They either make you dress like a whore, or a nun.
They’ll have a very particular way they’ll want you to look, never mind how you yourself want to look.
Most demand that their partner is attractive, dresses well, and stays in shape. Their partner needs to be attractive to be the envy of others.
Against my better sartorial judgment, I would wear ridiculous, age-inappropriate, revealing getups to appease my ex’s taste. I felt quite absurd in these crop-tops and mini-skirts. But why would he care about my feelings concerning what is on MY body?
He wanted people to admire me like the possession I was (to him).
The purpose of your presence is to make the narcisisst look cool and admirable.
Or, it could be quite the opposite. They may want to dim-down your style. They may not want you to warrant any admiration, as this would threaten their ego.
They might want you to go completely unnoticed, dressing dull and drab on the outside, much like how you feel on the inside.
However they want to showcase you, or lack thereof, they will let you know. Whatever they expect you to wear, and to be, you will wear, and you will be…because you know what happens if you don’t.
They need to be worshiped in the bedroom too.
Narcissists must hear how they are the best lover in the world, that they are the greatest you’ve ever had, how you’ve never known love-making until then.
My ex needed constant reassurance that he was the biggest and the best. To be clear, his bedroom skills were perfectly average, at best.
Narcissists will have sex with anyone but claim to be picky and discerning. In their minds, they’ve conquered only the most beautiful and talented lovers.
They enjoy pushing sexual boundaries, whether their partner is comfortable with it or not.
You may think that your partner is a sex addict… I used to. But now I think he simply used sex (a lot, from a lot of different women, never men, though I’m not certain) as yet another way to boost his ego.
All narcissists are ego-boosting addicts… whatever it takes it to get their rocks off .
They might wear sunglasses inside (… and other attention-grabbing fashion choices).
My ex-husband wanted to look like a celebrity, so he literally wore sunglasses inside. Yes, he was that guy! Narcissists have warped self-awareness so he was completely unaware of being that guy. He thought that he looked like the coolest dude ever.
He looked like a total douche canoe… but try telling a narcissist that.
They have weird, twisted relationships with their parents and siblings.
They usually have some sort of love/hate relationship with their mother or father.
My ex was always striving for approval from Mummy while competing with his brothers to win (to what win what I’m not sure). Their family dynamic was like a three-ring circus.
Preceding him, there are probably many narcissists stretching far down the family line, maybe going as far back as Zebubkus. A narcissist begets a narc, begets a narc, and so forth.
They have unpredictable reactions and violent outbursts, seemingly out of nowhere.
They implode over the slightest of reasons.
Something anyone else may sigh over and not think about two seconds later could devastate someone with a narcissistic personality disorder for hours.
A driver who cut them off, or even a slight traffic jam, could set them into full-blown rage mode.
They don’t have a realistic view of themselves or others.
They see the good or bad but have trouble seeing the grey. Therefore, they either love you or hate you, and it changes throughout the day, depending on the circumstances.
They can’t hold the concept that people are dynamic and can be both good and bad, and somewhere in between, at all different times and altogether too.
Psychologists believe this thought pattern developed during the NPD’s childhood. The theory is that, as children, they weren’t seen realistically or loved for their real selves, imperfections and all. Remember, a narcissist is often a byproduct of a preexisting narcissist.
Their moods change on a whim, without much rhyme or reason.
They might act jolly and joyful one minute, then angry at the world the next, for no obvious reason.
For example, if they are in a good mood, they love the food, service, and ambiance at your favorite local café. But if they are in a bad mood, they hate everything about the place. The café in this example is the constant, nothing changed – same food, same server, same ambiance- it’s their mood that has changed and hence changed their experience of it.
You must agree with them ALL the time or there will be HTP (Hell to Pay).
To make themselves feel ‘better than,’ they will smack-talk people you care for and insist that you agree with their harsh insults.
It becomes easier to tell them that you agree with their assessment that “the Blum’s are stupid and ugly”. It would be futile to disagree or offer an alternate opinion regarding the poor Blum Family.
They must get their way.
It’s their world and you just live in it.
Even if they ask you what you want, they expect you to answer with what they want. They really don’t care what you want.
My ex would sometimes ask me where I wanted to go for dinner!? And I’d give my answer, fully knowing it didn’t matter one iota which restaurant I chose. His response always went something like this: “that place is gross, let’s go here (i.e. restaurant I want to go to).
Him going through the motion of asking was simply a scene to play out; we never actually went anywhere I suggested. I realized he wasn’t actually asking me; I was just his sounding board.
Now apply this revelation to every time they’ve asked for your preference on a matter. Your answers, your preferences, and your opinions do not matter to them.
They never cared for your opinion; zero shits were given. Theirs is the only opinion that matters or that is correct.
It’s all your fault.
Every fight, every bad action was because you caused it. You provoked them. Things are going wrong in their life because of you.
When they are feeling down, as the person closest to them, they’re quick to put you down further. Making you feel worse makes them feel better.
You must accept all the blame, leaving them with none.
They must assign blame.
Even things and events that don’t warrant any blame assignment, they must find someone or something to blame. Then they’ll fixate on it.
They don’t understand that sometimes, as the old saying goes: shit happens; sometimes there’s no one to blame.
They are verbally abusive.
Their words can cut you like a knife through the heart. They sling the vilest insults and accusations.
My ex used to literally foam at the mouth, and not literally spew fire from his lips. Nothing was sacred or safe from his verbal annihilations. No subject was off-limits: not my parents, not my siblings, not my friends. He’d lay into me about everything and everyone. Usually over something trivial that had nothing to do with my parents, or my siblings, or my friends.
Their verbal abuse can escalate quickly. Yelling tirades can quickly turn into something physical.
By now, you’re probably familiar with punched walls, smashed stemware, flying dishes, whirling airborne keys, shoes, or other small to medium-sized objects.
Some narcissists like to use their fists. This is something that should only happen once, because hopefully you are gone and out before they get the opportunity to lay a hand on you again.
After spewing their vileness, they just pretend it never happened.
You’ll be left shaking in tears, hurt to your core (no one has ever said such nasty things about your grandma). All the while they’ll just carry on with their day, all la-dee-dah, like nothing happened.
They get to end the fight when they want it to end, and only when they want it to end. You may have wanted it to end hours ago, or never wanted it to start in the first place, but they get to choose, not you. It’s only over when they say it is.
They will never apologize, EVER.
“Sorry” is not a word in their vocabulary. They can’t bring themselves to say it.
It’s as if by saying that very word they’ll short circuit and burst into flames.
They will make you feel crazy for illuminating truth amongst their lies.
You could present someone with a narcissistic personality disorder with a thousand reasons why they might be wrong about something, but they’ll just double down.
If they say the sky is green, it’s easier to nod and agree than to explain to them that the sky is, in fact, blue.
They can have addictions.
Drugs, liquor, porn, masturbation, gambling, bar fighting, online fantasy worlds… But they are ALL addicted to attention.
My ex-husband had an interesting ‘hobby’ (he loves to be unique). Can you imagine someone posing as a professional photographer online to hire models for salacious photo shoots!?
You can never make them realize that they have a personality issue, nor will you convince them to get therapy.
If by some miracle you get them to see a therapist, they will fire said therapist once said therapist challenges them or reveals a truth they don’t want to acknowledge. The session will most likely end with the person with the narcissistic personality disorder calling the therapist a quack, demanding a refund, and storming out. There will be yelling, cursing, and probably slammed doors (you know, the usual).
But let’s pretend that pigs fly, and you get your narcissist to return to therapy for a few more sessions, they usually don’t change.
If they stay in long enough (again, highly unlikely) to find out that they are indeed afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it’s been so deeply integrated into the depths of their personality, beginning in childhood.
They would need to seriously commit to doing the work with a highly trained, specialized therapist to make any semblance of progress.
Another problem is that there are few such specialists and little to no support groups.
Though, could you imagine!? Bunch of narcissists sitting in a circle admitting to other narcissists that they are less than perfect. It’s comical because it seems so impossible. Ya gotta laugh sometimes!
You’re in the discardment phase, and they treat you like yesterday’s garbage.
Alert: You’ve been scammed.
You were put up on a pedestal, love bombed, given the royal treatment, and won over. They got you in their grips, right where they wanted you.
Then came the devaluing, the obsessive control, and the discarding. They don’t see much value in you now that you didn’t live up to their fantasy (i.e. a robot who has zero inner life or personal opinions).
In the beginning of your courtship they were the perfect partner.
They were sweet as pie, flattering, and thoughtful.
You may have seen some red flags but were too in love to pay them much attention, so you swept them under the rug.
But then slowly and subtly the narcissist let down their façade and prince charming turned into a big, fat, verbally abusive, controlling, cruel, self-serving, unpredictable toad.
Depending on how tinted your rose-colored glasses, it may have taken you some time to notice their transformation – or ‘unveiling’ is a better description. They were always that same ol’ pig, but with lipstick.
You realized, little by little, that it’s easier to curb your natural personality and cater to their whims just to keep the peace.
Must keep the toddler (i.e. the narc) from having a tantrum.
All those tiny, red flags you brushed aside are now fluorescent and are screaming in your face: “see, you should have noticed us sooner, because now we’re bigger, and stronger, and you’re stuck.’
You’re asking yourself how you got so duped, and why?
The answer is complicated: some self-esteem stuff, mixed in with gullibility, stupidity, probably bad timing (not enough time spent dating), with a sprinkle of bad luck or perhaps karma.
This question is worth a deep dive into yourself, as you don’t want history repeat itself.
Once you figure it out, pay it forward and educate your loved ones on the dangerous ways of the narcissist.
I simply wasn’t aware these people existed and had no reason not to believe the lies. I was easy prey. I fell into the traps he laid like a blind, bouncing, (stupid) bunny.
It’s all a big bait and switch scam.
The main sign is that you are no longer you.
You’ve suppressed your true feelings, emotions, and opinions too much and for too long. You’re a servant, existing to cater to their absurdity.
One day, you take a hard, long look at who you’ve become. You compare it to who you were, and who you still are underneath the hurt and devaluation, and you don’t like what you see.
Life with a narcissist is damaging to your spirit, psyche, self-esteem, and soul.
You are no longer living up to your potential.
The darkness, control, and abuse will corrode your exuberance for life, the essence of who you are.
When I finally got divorced, my favorite cousin said how much she had missed the real me, the joyful, open-hearted me. I had become so serious about unserious stuff. I was always walking on eggshells, tediously crafting my words and tailoring my actions and reactions to keep him calm. I became a shell of my former self.
If you find you’ve become a shell, that is telling enough.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist – YOU’LL KNOW.
Not at first, but when their charming façade slowly melts away, you’ll know. You’ll see the ugly signs loud and clear. You’ll recognize the beast of which I speak. You will know.
But you’ll know too late… and you’ll wish you could unknow.
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