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Do you suspect that someone you’re dating or, worse yet, your long-term partner has narcissistic tendencies? Understanding how a narcissist behaves is the first step toward confirming (or, hopefully, ruling out) that your partner is a narcissist. There are signs to look for. As we’ve said in another blog post (“How To Spot A Narcissist”), “Research has revealed there is virtually no connection between I-talk and sub-clinical narcissism. So, if narcissists aren’t rambling on about themselves, what do they talk about? Narcissists may actually talk about themselves less, preferring to make authoritative statements about the way things are rather than how they feel… If you want to spot a narcissist… look for someone who has absolute clarity about a situation, and an undying commitment to his or her opinion.”
If you’re beginning to suspect your romantic interest is narcissistic, then another related question is, does their personality trait affect how they relate to and perceive you? Writing for Psychology Today, Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D. examined several research studies of narcissists and found that first off “In order to think a partner is worthy of them, they need to see that partner as sufficiently attractive and high-status. But narcissists have a deep need to feel good about themselves, and this often comes at the expense of other people. That is, they will often puff themselves up compared to others and blame other people for conflicts and problems.”
That one perception — seeing their partner as “sufficiently attractive and high-status” — is crucial, because it seems to be different for narcissists. In personality surveys, one line of questioning focuses on “partner enhancement.” That trait, says Seidman, “is defined as viewing one’s partner more positively than one views oneself; self-enhancement would be the opposite.” People without overt personality disorders tend to “enhance” their partner early in a relationship and over time come to see them more realistically and objectively.
Narcissists do not follow the normal pattern — according to Seidman, they neither “partner enhance” at the beginning of a relationship nor in the long term. In another twist to the research findings, “subjects high in narcissism were more likely than those low in narcissism to be enhanced by their partners, particularly for male narcissists early in the relationship. This suggest that male narcissists, in particular, are attracted to partners who boost their egos early on.”