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Spotting a narcissist

Sometimes our willingness to see the best in others leads to disappointment down the line. It may be due to a behavior your partner does not even realize they exhibit; but nonetheless, it may be increasingly difficult to embrace or tolerate the behavior as the conflict escalates and slights mount during the marriage or relationship.

According to Psychology Today, up to 6.2 percent of adults have narcissistic personality disorder. Whether diagnosed by a therapist or simply displaying these tendencies, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to be involved with this person as a spouse, romantic partner or friend if they exhibit this kind of behavior.

High opinion of themselves

These individuals usually regard themselves as superior to others. This often manifests itself as behavior where they are insulting to others, demeaning, do not reciprocate attention, or humiliate you or others in public to build themselves up. They take advantage of others, spend your money with little regard and may even be sexually promiscuous. Both men and women fit into this category.

Three steps to spotting a narcissist

Spotting this behavior can give you a better understanding of your situation and how to deal with it. Keep in mind that pointing out this behavior will probably not get them to change their ways – they likely will not understand it as anything more than a threat that leads to a power struggle. Here are three warning signs to look for:

  • Pay attention to their words: Watch for words that are extremely negative (“that person is a loser,” “I’m being treated unfairly,” “they are all idiots”) or positive (“you are so much better than they are,” “you are the center of my life”). Often they will display a lack of empathy in their responses, or shift a conversation to focus on them. While they regard themselves as superior, they also consider themselves victims and often operate as if they have been wronged.
  • Look at their behavior: They may say one thing, but their actions show something very different. They may say you are the center of the universe, but they treat you like a distant planet. They often look for others to blame when they make a mistake – this often is people close to them like a spouse or romantic partner.
  • Evaluate your own emotions: Think about how they make you feel. Are they building themselves up by demeaning you or others? When you observe him or her being critical of others, do you start to second-guess what they really think about you or what they say about you to others? Another common feeling is that they will never let you get a word in edge-wise.

No one chooses to have a disorder, so people with disorders deserve our empathy and support. Perhaps you can carefully manage the relationship if a spouse has these traits. However, these types of issues often need to be addressed by professional therapists with training. At some point, it may become a question of whether marriage is worth it to you and whether it is healthy for your children. If it is not, it is likely time to speak with an attorney with experience in family law and divorce.

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