Like any millennial woman, I could easily lament the detached, digital way in which we date. Between apps, weird dating trends, and just plain bad luck, it’s easy to feel resigned to a solitary life of collecting cats. This is why narcissists are so dangerous — and why sometimes even the smartest, most observant women ignore or don’t see these narcissist red flags. Narcissists are charming. They know how to manipulate friends, coworkers, and partners. And they are always looking out for Number One.
We may throw around the term “narcissist” loosely to define anyone who is vain or has a borderline unhealthy amount of confidence, but that’s not what narcissism is. Narcissism, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a “mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Did this definition just send a chill down your spine? Did it remind you of an ex — or that new person you just started seeing? Narcissist red flags are sometimes difficult to catch on to, but thanks to the brave souls of Reddit, they are now much easier to name. Here are some of the most sinister narcissist red flags to look out for.
1. Love Bombing
How quickly did they tell you that you were “unlike anyone else”?
A former Redditor laid out several narcissist red flags, but the first one is what gets you: Love bombing. According to Psychology Today, love bombing is the “practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction — think flattering comments, tokens of affection, or love notes on the mirror, kitchen table, or windshield.”
If your new S.O. is coming on really strong, be cautious.
It can be easy (and not to mention, fun) to be swept up in a whirlwind romance. And if you’re lucky, maybe this person is just super into you and things are moving fast! But still, as Wanda Pierce said in Bojack Horseman, “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” Try hanging out with your beau and some of your friends to see if they are feeling the love as much as you are.
2. Taking Subtle Digs Or Negging
Does your partner act mad when you don’t understand their “jokes”?
The same Redditor continued to describe narcissist red flags, and this one is sinister. After a narcissist love bombs someone and wins them over, the narcissist will start to chastise, criticize, and neg their partner. This can be subtle at first, like suggesting that your hair looked better a different way or comparing you to someone else in a negative manner.
Over time, these small comments can add up.
According to Healthline, “Negging can damage your self-esteem and change the way you live. It can also spiral into severe emotional or physical abuse.” If you start to feel like your partner is degrading you on any level, it’s time to have a talk. If they brush you off, it’s time to reconsider the relationship.
3. Future Faking
It’s easy to fall for someone who already sees a life with you.
One of the narcissist’s many manipulative tools is future faking, or making larger-than-life promises that they cannot keep. According to eHarmony, future faking can be really mentally draining and damaging.
This could be a last-resort tactic, too.
If the narcissist feels like they are losing you, they might start making vague promises about the future to reel you back in. For example, if you have talked about wanting to take a weekend trip together, they may promise the trip “really soon” just to make you stay.
4. They Don’t Seem To Have Many Friends
Or any friends at all.
Narcissists are able to love bomb their partners because often enough, there aren’t many other people in their lives. Sure, narcissists are excellent at charming casual acquaintances, but they have a harder time maintaining long-term, close relationships. Reddit user RacerguyZ pointed out this red flag of dating narcissists quite succinctly.
And there’s research to prove this.
Philip Leifeld, who co-authored a 2016 University of Glasgow study on narcissists, explained the reason to Vice:
“On first impression, narcissists are successful in finding friends, but over time the pattern is reversed. The less narcissistic you are, the better you are at finding friends. And the reverse pattern is true for emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence doesn’t initially help you to be identified as a potential friend, but over months people will appreciate the personality trait and seek out your friendship.”
5. You Feel The Need To Defend Them
This is a weird one, but it’s totally true.
When someone gets involved with a narcissist, it is easy for that person to lose sight of their needs, wants, and feelings. If their narcissistic partner does something that hurts them, they won’t go and cry about it to their friends. If anything, they will defend their narcissistic partner’s bad behavior.
Distorting the truth will only work for so long.
Narcissists are very good at making their partners feel like they are asking for too much. This makes it easier for the narcissist to control their significant other. If you are constantly defending your beau’s actions to concerned friends or family, it might be time to think about why you are defending them.
6. They Shift Blame To You
Nothing is ever the narcissist’s fault.
According to Psychology Today, narcissists have to feel superior to others in order to feel good about themselves. Because of this, if they make a mistake, or if they are not exactly where they want to be in life, it’s not going to be their fault.
This is a major one.
Reddit user Carradee agrees. They also point to a few other narcissist red flags, like using vague language and quoting things out of context to fit their argument. Yes, all couples have fights and may blame each other every once in a while, but if it is happening often, get out.
7. All Of Their Exes Are “Crazy”
This is as red as red flags can get.
Yes, we have all genuinely had some person in our lives that was, how do we say it politely, a little unhinged. But if your new S.O. talks about how all of their exes were crazy, watch out, warns Reddit user emcaty. People who say all their exes are nuts might have “made” them that way.
This is called crazy making.
Crazy making is a tactic used by narcissists to make you feel like the rude, demanding, or over-the-top one, even when you are being anything but. The bad news is crazy making can be hard to spot, especially in the beginning of a new relationship. Like the rest of these narcissist red flags, there isn’t a finite or concrete manner to determine if your S.O. is using this tactic on you.
There are some clear examples that should have you running, though.
Some of the more obvious signs of crazy making are if all of their past partners were “crazy,” if they get defensive and shift the blame when you try to address an issue, or if they try to tear you down when you are in a good place. Basically, crazy making is meant to keep you under their thumb.
8. They Don’t Respect Your Boundaries.
Respecting boundaries is part of the foundation of any healthy relationship.
Let’s say you felt like things were moving too fast with your new partner and you clearly explained that you wanted to slow things down in order to feel more comfortable. If they’re a narcissist, they won’t like having this boundary set, even if they really don’t mind spending less time with you.
They just want to be the ones making the rules.
Reddit user tryptychz listed issues they were having with an ex and asked if they were narcissist red flags. One of the behaviors, number seven on their list, was that he did not respect any boundaries they set. Other Reddit users confirmed that this is typical of the narcissist. According to Huffington Post, the best way to deal with this type of behavior is to calmly set your boundaries, and stick to them. Do not engage with the narcissist, who will try to emotionally manipulate you into giving in.
9. They Are Emotionally Absent
Despite what rom-coms have taught you, you can’t save them.
Are you seeing someone who rarely makes eye contact, only talks about surface-level topics, or shuts down any time you try to express emotion? Yes, it could be that they had a really rough breakup and are reluctant to be vulnerable again, but if emotional absence is combined with any of these other narcissist red flags, you may have to take a step back, as Reddit user tryptychz did.
A reason why so many smart, valuable women stick with narcissists is because they think they can “fix” their emotional unavailability.
Maybe if I am the best partner ever, he will see that I am worthy of respect and love and he will be cured and love me the way I want to be loved! The unfortunate news is you can only lead a horse to water; if a narcissist ever wants to change, that’s on them.
You Just Have A Gut Feeling
At the end of the day, you have to trust your intuition.
Some people who have had relationships with narcissists in the past, like Reddit user echk0w9, just had a feeling that something is off about their now-ex. Sometimes there isn’t a clear-cut reason why being with someone feels weird or damaging, it just does.
This isn’t just one of those narcissist red flags, either.
If you are dating anyone and have that weird gut feeling about them, listen to it. Maybe you just need to talk something out with your partner, but if the feeling persists, you know what to do. You got this.