What is Narcissism and Does Your Partner Have It?

At some point in your life, you may have heard the term ‘narcissist’ or someone having narcissism. But do you know what it means or how to identify it? How do you know if your partner has narcissism? In this article, you will see some common symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder in romantic partners.

What is Narcissism?

What Is Narcissism

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), commonly referred to as narcissism, is a disorder where the affected individual views themself as more important or special than other people. This disorder can be genetic, though it is also considered a learned behavior or caused by outside influences. According to an article on Healthline, a few factors that can cause narcissism include overprotective parenting, child neglect or abuse, culture, and unattainable parental expectations.


Narcissists generally think highly of themselves, exaggerate things, and appear shallow or angry most of the time. However, those symptoms may seem vague. More specifically, people with NPD:

  • Demand recognition and feel entitled
  • Believe they are more important than others
  • View themselves as more successful, even if there are no achievements to support it
  • Fantasize about success and things they think they deserve
  • Use people for their own gain
  • Act arrogant and conceited

The Mayo Clinic also says that these people may become defensive and downgrade others, struggle with emotional regulation, have perfectionistic tendencies that can result in depression or mood swings if not achieved, and display difficulty managing stress.

Narcissistic Tendencies vs. NPD

Did you know there’s a difference between having narcissistic tendencies and having NPD? People can have some of the symptoms above but not have NPD. The symptoms of narcissism we see in others could result from traumatic events in their childhood. However, it doesn’t mean someone has NPD. In an article by Taylor Bennett, people who have NPD are described as having two distinctive differences from people with narcissistic tendencies.

For people with NPD, they use a person’s desire for love and affection to their advantage. You will see an extreme shift in their personality, and it will make you feel insecure or anxious. Your reliance on others can make you a target for them. A lack of empathy, leading to a compulsive urge to get what they want, means they may prey on codependent people or people who are overly trusting.

People with narcissistic tendencies, on the other hand, may only have one or a few symptoms of NPD. For example, obsessions with looking thinner or prettier could be caused by low self-esteem from events that happened in a person’s childhood. Even if someone has narcissistic tendencies, they will most likely express concern, sympathy, and kindness at times. This is a significant difference between narcissistic tendencies and NPD as well.

Does Your Partner Have NPD?

When considering whether your partner has NPD or narcissistic tendencies, it’s advised to avoid accusing them of it. The symptoms of both include anger and, possibly, aggression depending on the individual. NPD is unlikely to be properly diagnosed unless the person sees a licensed counselor. That said, there are signs you can look for to help deal with a partner who may have NPD:

The Relationship Deepened Quickly… Seemingly too Quickly

People with NPD need to be constantly told how much you love them, and they will want you to make them feel special at all times. They may go so far as to say “I love you” first or love bomb you. Although some people do feel love at first sight, it’s important to remember this may be a sign of NPD.

They’re Conversation Starters, Continuers, and Finishers – But Only About Themselves

These people will talk about themselves and nothing else, bulldozing over your comments if it doesn’t pertain to them. Keep in mind this may also be a sign of a person who is more interested in themselves than others. In other words, they may just be conceited. But, this is a common trait of someone with narcissism.

Their Friend Group is Small, and for a Reason

Maintaining friendships for an extended period of time is impossible for someone with NPD. More often, they will have “friends” whom they talk negatively about or make enemies with others. A partner with NPD will insult your friends, make you feel guilty, or claim you don’t love them when you want to hang out with your friends.

Constant, Hurtful Teasing Becomes Enjoyment for Them

Cracking jokes and picking on your partner is part of a healthy relationship. It can show the depth of your relationship because it will test your empathy toward your partner. However, if the teasing is persistent and comes at the expense of your self-esteem, this should be a red flag.

They Gaslight You

Gaslighting is where someone makes you question your own sanity by manipulating you. A partner doing this will make you feel inferior, insecure, and overly emotional to keep you in the relationship. It’s important to note that gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse. When you express your feelings, you should be met with concern and understanding. So, if your partner tries to make you feel crazy after voicing your feelings, this is a red flag.

“Sorry” Isn’t in Their Vocabulary

No matter what they do or say, a partner with NPD will always think they’re right. They won’t apologize because, in their mind, they did nothing wrong. This is more than being stubborn, but rather, it’s not even understanding they should apologize when they are clearly in the wrong.

You’re in a Never-Ending On-Again, Off-Again Relationship

If you mention wanting to end the relationship, a partner with NPD will try desperately to keep you in it. They will promise to change and that things will be different. Let’s say you really do cut off the relationship—your partner may get angry or vengeful. Dating other people to make you jealous, trash-talking you to anyone they know, and blaming you for everything wrong with the relationship becomes their primary focus.

A Narcissism Test Says They Have It

Did you know there are online tests that will tell you if you or a loved one has NPD? The one from Mind Diagnostics (https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/narcissism-test/) is an excellent resource. Ask your partner to do the test, or you can fill out the test for them. However, do keep in mind this test is not a diagnosis. It’s just a tool to see if your partner should seek help for their behaviors.

I Think My Partner Has NPD. What Now?

First, a person needs to be officially diagnosed by a licensed professional. Even if your partner isn’t diagnosed with NPD, psychotherapy (also referred to as “talk therapy”) can still help. Psychotherapy at its basic level involves helping a person change the way they think about themselves and the world. It encourages them to engage positively with other people, look at problems in a healthy way, and react to situations calmly.

There are numerous studies that have been done on narcissistic tendencies and NPD, psychotherapy, how to tell the difference between mental disorders, and what to do when dealing with someone who has one. If any of this applies to you, seek help from a professional if possible.


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