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Is Your Boyfriend Really a Narcissist?
Before you do anything, you’ll need to get a better idea if you truly have a narcissistic boyfriend. Whether you decide to stay with him or break up, it’s important to understand the nature of someone with these traits. This knowledge will help you prepare for your next step.
You may be surprised to know that a person with some narcissistic traits does not necessarily have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Like most mental health issues, narcissism falls on a spectrum. Your boyfriend may have a few frustrating traits that can be managed within a fairly healthy relationship, or he may have so many traits that he leans strongly toward having a personality disorder. It’s not up to you to diagnose him, only to tell if the relationship has a realistic hope of being healthy for you.
Everyone has a bit of ego in them, but people with narcissistic traits really crave admiration from others to bolster their self-esteem. There’s a strange mix of excessive self-confidence and neediness with narcissism. Some key tendencies include self-centeredness, extreme self-confidence, frequent exaggeration about themselves, defensiveness about flaws, and emotional manipulation. Again, these will all fall on a spectrum within any individual, and not all traits may display as strongly in a person with more moderate tendencies.
Mild Narcissism – Should You Stay or Should You Go?
How about just a little narcissism? According to Psychology Today, a person with mild narcissistic traits can have some side benefits. They are often happier and less reactive to stress. They tend to be less prone to depression and can recover from major problems more easily. A person like this is often popular and entertaining to some degree.
It’s still important to remember that while they usually present an admirable front to the world, their ego is somewhat delicate and vulnerable. They can display dramatic mood changes or temper tantrums if they feel emotionally threatened in some way. Because they feel so strongly about their own self-importance, they can emotionally tear someone else apart with little regret. You may not even know what set them off until later. And you may find out it was an off-hand remark or unintended lack of attention on him that caused him to feel threatened.
So, does this sound like your guy? If so, he probably has some unhealthy and frustrating traits of narcissism. However, if you’d rate consider this to be only disruptive once in a while, or something you two seem to manage when it comes up, you may find you can stay in this relationship.
If you decide to stay with him, these tips can help you weather those inevitable rough patches.
- Use your sense of humor to diffuse the tension. Try saying, “I know you didn’t really mean that because that would mean you’re a big jerk (nudging playfully with elbow and a smile), and we both know that isn’t true…” If you can hook him with an inside joke or their sense of entertainment, this can change the mood in a positive way.
- Be aware that he will be reluctant to apologize verbally. However, he may express his wish to mend things by being genuinely sweet in some way or encouraging you to do something you both like. While you probably won’t hear him say “I’m sorry” very often, this is the language he can speak when he knows he has caused a problem between you. At another moment when emotions are stabilized, you may be able to discuss the problem more directly.
- Anyone hoping to have a good relationship needs to have honesty at the core. Being honest about relationship issues can be rough when he has some narcissistic tendencies. Be calm and straightforward and be prepared for some potential fallout emotions are running high. If you can save this kind of disclosure for a time when you are both feeling more open and relaxed, you’ll have a better conversation.
- Understand that his behaviors are coming from a place of emotional pain. He probably had to difficulties in his childhood by putting on this exaggerated shield of confidence. The problem occurs when he still uses this shield in everyday life as an adult, not a vulnerable child. What he used to save himself from difficult relationships in his childhood is unintentionally repeating the cycle of difficult relationships. Having some sympathy for this can help you stay focused and unwavering when he gets defensive.
- It’s possible to have a successful relationship with someone who has a few mild traits of narcissism. However, that does not mean you have any obligation to stay with him. You are entitled to not deal with that at all if you don’t wish to put up with it.
Moderate to Severe Narcissism
If you believe your narcissistic boyfriend has traits that are much stronger than mentioned above, you truly have little chance of having a successful relationship. This may be hard to hear, especially if you feel you have strong feelings for him. If you endure high drama and feel like you aren’t much in control within your relationship, it is time to leave. No amount of humorous exchanges or honest conversations will change these patterns.
Be watchful that a temper tantrum does not become verbally abusive or threatening towards you. Any verbal abuse you tolerate can escalate to physical abuse, and that means you could eventually be in real danger.
It’s one thing for a person to feel somewhat unique and entitled to more attention, as is the case with people who have milder traits It’s another thing entirely to slander someone and isolate them from their social network. These and other destructive behaviors are hallmarks of moderate to disordered narcissism. If this description fits your relationship, your boyfriend is a master of manipulation and will do anything to make sure you feel small and unempowered.
Your only real choice to stay safe is to leave him before things get worse. While this can be a very difficult situation to endure, it’s the only way you can ensure your own emotional health. Here are a few important points about stepping away from this painful relationship.
- Cut him out of your life entirely. This means absolutely no intentional contact. You may need to change your phone number and be cautious who you speak to about the situation. You may even need to call the police if you feel truly threatened. If you have mutual friends or acquaintances that may be more loyal to him, say nothing and make every effort to show little to no reaction about your situation. Stay as far away from any drama he may be involved with because he will surely suck you in if he has the opportunity.
- Be prepared for possible begging and slander. Because of his fragile ego, he may spend some time pleading and charming you into staying so he can keep you close and in his control. And when you reject this, he will come at you with a storm of lies and stories to destroy your reputation. If he can’t have you, he’ll try to emotionally crush you. This is not something you can prevent, but you can be prepared.
- Stay close with your true support network and lean on them. They will not be fooled by his manipulation but some people in your life will. This may be hard to watch, but it is a necessary step. His manipulative fire is fed by your emotional reactions. If you cut him off and give him no fuel, his focus will be more likely to turn elsewhere. Unfortunately, it may also mean that he has already captured the attention of another woman to fill in your place.
Moving Forward with a Narcissist Boyfriend
Narcissism can wreak havoc on romantic relationships. However, it’s far from a black-and-white issue. If you feel like narcissism is a third party in your relationship, now is the time to evaluate your situation closely and make the best choice for you.