You see someone’s photo. You’re attracted. You read their profile or brief description of who they claim to be. You reach out. You exchange emails. You text. Maybe you’ll speak briefly and then, you meet. You’re hitting it off. Things seem great. However, it seems almost too good to be true. Is it?
According to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, narcissists are everywhere and in varying degrees. She explains that the current “swipe right” dating culture only feeds their agenda, it’s important to understand who they are and how to spot them.
What is narcissism? Many mental health specialists agree that narcissism is basically an individual who has an excessive interest or admiration of a false self they created to cope with early hurts as children. “Narcissists are disconnected from their true selves and are constantly working to appear better than others. They have an idealized self-image and are in love with that image which hides their true wounded self,” says Hafeez.
Dr. Hafeez shares some “red flag” characteristics of narcissists along with tips and insights that can spare many people the heartache and mental anguish that comes with dating a narcissist.
- Narcissists are off the charts charming.
They are incredibly upbeat and bombard you with compliments. Immediately you are captivated by them and their focus on you. They have quick wit, can read people and know what to say to make them feel good. “Narcissists are great at building rapport quickly; however, they are doing so to serve themselves first and foremost. In other words, they feed off the attention, admiration and validation of others so they charm with an agenda,” cautions Dr. Hafeez.
- In their mind, it’s really all about them.
The interesting thing about the narcissist is that they make it seem as if they are interested in you however they will always turn the conversation and back to them. “These are not team players. They look to their partner to be the source of their happiness and much of that happiness comes from getting approval or even sympathy,” explains Dr. Hafeez. “Early on in their childhoods the narcissist didn’t get the nurturing they needed to feel secure. They were neglected or made to feel as if they were bad, so they spend their time and energy showing how great they are,” she adds.
- Rules don’t apply to the entitled narcissist.
They’re most likely to have a handicap tag hanging from the rearview mirror of their Porsche. When asked about the handicapped tag they’ll launch into a descriptive, detailed 20-minute story about how they injured their knee, entitling them to the handicapped tag. They want to gain your sympathy. Other rule breaking behaviors, disobeying traffic laws, parking illegally in front of places leaving you waiting as they quickly “run in,” cutting lines, and even stealing. “They truly believe the world revolves around them and expect others to cater to their needs. This is due to needs being unmet earlier in life,” says Dr. Hafeez.
- They disrespect boundaries.
Be mindful of your boundaries! Narcissists will do things like invade your physical space, borrow or take belongings or even money without returning or repayment. They break promises without remorse and may even blame the victim. “Protecting your boundaries is incredibly important when dealing with a narcissist. When over stepping is permitted, it leads to codependence and a lost sense of self,” warns Dr. Hafeez.
- They look great on the surface.
Their desire to impress others may lead them to a lot of time and money on their physical appearance. They are all about status and achievement. They’ll brag about their education, their possessions, who they know, their accomplishments and typically, it’s exaggerated. “This again stems from the desire of approval. They care what others think of them so much that they use people and situations to fuel the false self they created,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
- They’ll disappear like a ghost and you’ll feel discarded.
Narcissists will put you on a pedestal as they complement and charm you. You will feel incredibly special, caught up on their intent gaze upon you. However, once they see you’re just as interested in your own well-being, that you’re protective of your boundaries, that you have other interests and put them in their place; they swiftly move on. When they see you won’t allow manipulation, they disappear and will be incredibly cold. They may even give the silent treatment and blame you.
- Their past relationships are all drama.
They will make it seem like their exes were all crazy, will share horror stories and make you feel as if you are the best thing they found. They paint themselves as the victim and may add that their ex still wants them. “Pay very close attention to how the person speaks about their past relationships,” advises Dr. Haffeez. “Narcissists typically won’t keep answers brief, positive and forward moving when it comes to past relationships,” she adds.
About the Doctor:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.