Narcissism is a term that gets thrown around a heck of a lot these days with all of the selfies everyone is taking and the participation trophies getting handed out left and right.
I am constantly hearing people refer to their ex as “narcissistic.” Which is slightly amusing to me because the only basis of that claim is almost always due to the fact that their ex isn’t catering to their ego anymore… which is kind of narcissistic wouldn’t you say?
Am I saying that that makes you a narcissist because you are here reading this?
What I am saying is that the statistics from the studies dealing with actually diagnosing narcissism are so vastly scattered across the board that it is nearly impossible to determine if someone is a narcissist without being a specialist.
The studies indicate that men are naturally more narcissistic than women. However, there is relatively little research that has been able to actually quantify the magnitude of the difference between the two.
The American Psychiatric Association defines Narcissistic Personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in the 5th edition, as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy and behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts”.
The APA goes on to lay out the possible characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. In order to be diagnosed with NPD the subject would have to display at least five of the characteristics.
Narcissistic characteristics have become more prevalent in our culture today.
As I said earlier, our connection with social media has led us to constantly posting minute-by-minute updates about our lives, pictures of our meals, and clamoring for likes from our “friends,” most of which we barely know.
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With narcissism becoming a norm in our society, the severity with which a person displays these characteristics must be taken into account if you are wanting to know if your ex-girlfriend actually had feelings for you or if she was just a narcissist using you to get her fix of admiration.
Originally, Freud thought that women were naturally more narcissistic than men, simply because they were preoccupied with their appearance and men were more likely to make decisions based on familial needs.
Tell that to my best guy friend who spends entire days picking out the right tie and 45 minutes on his hair every morning.
Sorry, Freud! Narcissism has hit our most recent generations like an epidemic.
Many studies point the finger at parents for the rise in narcissism. It became a staple a few generations ago to cater to the child’s ego by making them feel like they are special for no particular reason at all, that they were entitled to anything they wanted if the simply want it bad enough. As opposed to the generations before that that pushed for self soothing and working to earn sense of accomplishment rather than entitlement.
The differences in parenting styles aren’t the only differences between the generations that perpetuates this view of the world.
In 2008, Corry, Merritt, Mrug, and Pamp conducted a study that concluded that “the symptomatology of narcissistic personality resembles very highly the masculine sex role stereotypic of men in our culture, including physical expressions of anger, a strong need for power, and an authoritative leadership style.”
However with the ever-growing push for equality between genders, in both professional settings and personal, it’s not surprising that women have stepped up the likeliness of narcissistic tendencies as well.
It doesn’t just stop there. Narcissism doesn’t just vary among the genders. It varies with age. According to studies, the younger and upcoming generations are more likely to be narcissistic and self-absorbed than older generations. I like to think that it’s simply because we have access to so many more platforms and instantaneous feedback from a HUGE audience than the older generations did.
I posted a picture of my mother and I last summer, and she called me three days later wanting to know who commented and liked it. Her fear of technology keeps her off the internet. She only recently upgraded from a flip phone. However, that doesn’t stop her from asking repetitively what people are saying about that “instagraph” I took of her. (That was closer than when she called Facebook “the facespace.”)
Self-interest is something that all people have, it’s when that becomes the sole motivation for everything that they do that true narcissism comes into play.
But How Do You Know?
Narcissism presents itself differently in men and women. So, if you are wanting to know if your ex is a narcissist you could probably go ahead and assume, from what we’ve already discussed, that the younger she is the more likely it is that she has narcissistic tendencies.
Then you can go through the list of characteristic above and determine whether any of those are prevalent in your ex. The thing is, a lot of these things are things that are hidden from public view.
So, actually knowing your ex well would be helpful. It’s not like you can just go back and ask her to fill out a questionnaire.
Most narcissists don’t even recognize these traits in themselves.
Almost everyone these days has some of these traits. The more they have, the more narcissistic they are.
The great part is that narcissism can be something that you grow out of. So, it’s possible that someday, with maturity, your ex might grow out of these traits, since the prevalence of lifetime narcissistic personality disorder is greater in men than in women.
To be exact, the percentages of the likeliness that it lasts throughout their lifetimes are 7.7% and 4.8% respectively.
Narcissism manifests differently in women than in men. Narcissistic women are more likely to emphasize focus on their body, looks, charm, sexuality, and feminine traits.
In extreme cases this may appear in the form of eating disorders, such as Anorexia or Bulimia. I lesser cases, a woman might simply exploit her physical charms and sexuality to beguile her prey and secure a narcissistic supply.
A narcissistic supply refers to any source that feeds the narcissists ego and need for adoration. A lot of times a female narcissist that has children will see them as an extension of herself.
Their achievements suddenly become her achievements.
As if she has somehow proven her superiority to those around her by raising a son or daughter who earned their own notoriety.
The narcissistic mother will ingrain a sense of guilt and dependence in her children that cannot be easily severed once established.
Appearance is very important to a narcissist. While narcissists, both male and female, believe themselves to be attractive, they will spend an unprecedented amount of time grooming themselves to attract attention.
This obsession with bettering their appearance may lead to drastic measures, such as multiple plastic surgeries despite there being no real issue with her appearance. Narcissists tend to be very gifted at using their appearance to assist in seduction and manipulation. This can sometimes be seen in them choosing to wear revealing or provocative clothing.
Most narcissist submerge their innate sense of insecurity under waves of a falsified confidence.
In a female this usually shows up as a drive to make others seem smaller in their capabilities. If your ex seems to be overcompensation when it comes to her confidence, you may have been dating a narcissist.
Money can be a huge issue for those that are narcissistic. For most the pursuit of money isn’t even the issue.
Usually, it’s the perception of having money that is the focus. Spending money on flashy or trendy items that might gain them stature would be a tell-tale sign. Many narcissist even go as far to spend money they don’t have, putting themselves deep in debt.
A female narcissist has been compared to a black widow when it comes to her ability to be faithful.
After gaining the admiration and love they want within a relationship, they will continue to search for it outside of the relationship.
Much like a black widow spider, she will fawn over the mate to get him in the first place, get him under her thumb, and then cast him aside in order to continue to feed her ego’s insatiable desire for attention.
This isn’t limited to the female narcissist, men do this as well.
Lastly, a majority of narcissists consider everything a challenge. Being competitive is how they establish a feeling of supremacy.
So, if your ex seemed to have a constant competitive streak going on with her sister or… every other female ever… then yeah she might have had at least one narcissistic characteristic.
Learn to Identify Control Tactics
Narcissists like to play with the people in their lives like puppets. They are the masters of turning the situation on it’s nose by using many different techniques.
- If you try to confront a narcissist with an issue by explaining your view point, she might abruptly end the conversation by either telling you to shut up or, my favorite, “I just really don’t want to talk about this right now.”
- If an argument does ensue and she is losing, she might suddenly switch topics, possibly even starting a whole other argument that she can win.
- If she can’t defend her position or tactics then, like most narcissists, she’ll stick with emotionally-based personal attacks like bringing up old fights or anything that puts you on the defensive.
- In women it’s actually more likely that they will start accusing you of the things that they are guilty of. Shifting the blame is a classic move along with taking on the role of victim. They may even accuse you of unfairly attacking her.
- Seeing the world in extremes, Black and White and Good and Evil, is also a common trait of narcissism. Either you understand her way of thinking and agree or… well there is no other option for her. She wouldn’t allow you to agree to disagree if the argument actually made it that far.
- As if making you feel like crap for not seeing her point of view, she’ll need to make everyone around her believe it.
- If the tactics this far haven’t driven you mad, your ex might begin denying things that they’ve done or said. This causes a distortion of reality. Basically the goal is to make you feel like you are losing your mind. Yes, it’s manipulative. Yes, it’s a punk move. And it absolutely works.
- A common problem in relationships these days is communication, along with that problem when paired with narcissism is volume control. when an argument isn’t going a narcissist’s way and distractions aren’t working, the not-so-logical reaction is to get louder. And, as we know, narcissists aren’t exactly prone to taking the logical route.
Understanding the Dynamics of a Narcissistic Relationship
Narcissists do everything they do to gain attention and adoration. Generally, they’ll seek out people who are willing to give them this type of attention. These people are called the “Narcissistic Supply.” Basically, they use one person as their supply until they either get bored or see something that looks more entertaining.
Healthy relationships are built on trust, communication, and security. Unhealthy ones are filled with uncertainty, aggravation, and infidelity.
Relationships with a narcissist often start of with her making you feel powerful and needed. She will have made you feel like you are the only thing in her life worth living for. Looking back it will be easier to spot this type of pandering and manipulation, because they will have become the epitome of everything you’ve ever wanted in a women.
Then, after making you feel like you are her absolute everything she’ll take the opportunity, she’ll stop pretending to be someone she’s not. I’m not talking about when a girl says “I love football,” when you first start dating and then sits through games with you to make you happy. That’s just what dating. I’m talking about the type of girl that straight up memorizes the players of all of the teams and the stats. For a narcissist, the act of manipulating someone is just as much of a thrill as receiving the adoration itself.
A lot of people in this situation wind up asking themselves how they missed something so obvious. I beg you not to blame yourself for missing it. This is caused by something I call “selective blindness.” Similar to selective hearing, it is caused by our inability to see the past what we want to see. Someone is giving you what you want, despite the growing amount of cynicism in the world today, we are hardwired to stay hopeful from a young age when it comes to love.
Not that being hopeful is ever a bad thing. I’ve dated at least three narcissists and I still think Alfred Lord Tennyson had it right.
“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
It’s all just a matter of perspective. Although after the last phase of being in a narcissistic relationship, I can understand why someone might see a positive outlook being hard to grasp. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. That’s why I’m taking the time to put this information out there.
Learning to spot a narcissist either before you get involved or before they get bored with your brand of adoration and decide to rip you to shreds can save you a lot of heart ache in the future.
During this last phase where they basically make you doubt everything you’ve ever believed, they will straight up make you feel like you are nothing. They will make you jump through hoops to try to please them and keep them around, yet they will show no remorse when they opt not to reconcile, even after you do EVERYTHING they ask you to.
They basically manipulate you into thinking that you are the problem. They enjoy pushing and pulling you into doing this simply because they like to feel in control. And they don’t care who they have to destroy emotionally to get what they want before they move onto to someone new and start the cycle all over again.
That’s exactly what this is for them, a perpetuated cycle. By removing yourself from the process you will save yourself a lot more heartache than you’ve already been dealt.
What to Do with This Information
Why am I telling you all of this?
Does it make it easier to get over it, knowing that you’ve been used?
It doesn’t. I know this.
It’s going to suck no matter what.
But, what I do know is that realizing that nothing you did or do will change the person that they are, can help you make the healthy decision to leave them in the past. Also, you clearly don’t need to waste your time wondering what you could’ve done differently. Once you realize that your ex was a narcissist, you can go ahead and just mark that question as “n/a.”
Because, there is nothing you, or anyone else can do that will change the person she is.
Now, there is one upside to things. It’s scientifically proven that women are more likely to accept that they are narcissistic, or at least that they display narcissistic characteristics. The downside to this?This realization has to be instigated by someone they trust. And who is they only person that a narcissist will trust?
If you didn’t already guess where I was going with that the answer is, themselves! They don’t trust anyone to know them better than they do.
So, unless you’ve learned a lot about how to manipulate the most stubborn people ever into having a life-altering self realization during your time with your narcissist, then it’s probably better for your mental health to leave them in the past and hope that they come to this realization on their own eventually.
Is it selfish?
Yeah, in the same way that putting on a seatbelt is when your passengers refuse to.
It’s more like slef-preservation. The way I see it, your ex being a narcissist, they will do what suits them with no real concern for who it hurts, no matter what. You have to take care of you. And constantly subjecting yourself to being jerked around is not good for you. Especially when there is an entire world of other people out there to choose from.
Once you recognize your ex as a narcissist you can make a healthy decision for you. And knowing how to spot a narcissist in the future will empower you in your dating endeavors.
I don’t suggest just jumping right back in the dating pool. Now, is the time to work on yourself and getting your life to a place where you are happy with it, with or without a S.O. Focus on that and give your heart time to at least partially heal from the split.
Eventually, you’ll be happy with your life where it is and you’ll be ready to get back out there in the dating world. The upside is that, even though narcissism is on the rise, the likeliness that a woman is a narcissist is still 1 in 4 as opposed to the likeliness that a man would be, which is 3 in 4. So, if and when you finally get back out there and give dating a chance, just remember to try and keep a positive outlook.
There are women out there that aren’t narcissistic. In fact, statistically there are way more that aren’t than there are narcissists. Try and give them the benefit of the doubt, because I guarantee you that the woman that ends up sitting across from you on that awkward first date is likely to have been hurt by a narcissist AND to get stuck with one again in the future
So, instead of waging war against all women because the last one screwed you over, take the time to actually get to know the next person you date and continuously adjust your perspective to stay realistic.
Keep your friends close, and if you start to think that your new girl is being narcissistic ASK THEIR OPINION! It is so much easier to see things clearly from the outside. That’s why it’s easier to see your ex for who she is now than it was when you were with her.
You have a choice. You can let this experience break you, or turn it into a stepping stone to make your life better. It’s up to you.