Swept off your feet with compliments, fancy dinners, and generous gifts—you think you've found McDreamy. When you describe the surreal time you're having to friends, it feels like you're talking about a movie. Yet, as the dating continues, you start to notice that it’s really all about him. He constantly talks about himself, prioritizes his needs over yours, is overly sensitive to any form of criticism—and is obsessed with status (the fancy dinners dates at the exclusive restaurants are starting to make sense).
You find that emotional intimacy is impossible, and your relationship starts to fizzle— and you realize it’s happened again.
You dated a narcissist. Again.
Only 7.7 percent of men have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but you may have dated one, or maybe even several, as they often flock to a certain type of woman. If you’ve frequently dated guys who make it all about them, you might have noticed a pattern. After the intense wooing is over, he’s quick to criticize you and put you down if you express any sort of resistance to his need to put himself first.
As a therapist, I've seen this seriously damage women's self-esteem and well-being. And over time, I've noticed that narcissists seek certain traits in potential romantic partners. So I spoke with other experts in my field to discuss trends and discovered that there are five common traits a narcissist looks for in a woman.
Do any of these sound like you?
01. You’re outwardly successful but maybe a tad insecure.
It can be tough to admit, but if you feel insecure about yourself even if you are attractive, put together, and successful, you may be advertising yourself as a great fit for a narcissist. “Narcissists tend to seek out people that will fill a template for what they believe will make them look good,” says Elizabeth Earnshaw, a trained Gottman Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. “In essence, [the narcissist’s] partner may be seen as an accessory,” she explains. A narcissistic man is attracted to someone who looks beautiful and accomplished—not because they like that person, but because her appearance and accomplishments fuel his ego.
However, a narcissist also wants a woman who isn't too confident because he wants to run the show. So if he senses your insecurities, he will be all the more attracted to you because you won’t likely threaten his own success, whether it’s real or perceived. While it might be uncomfortable to acknowledge your insecurities, owning them and making a plan to increase your self-confidence can help. When a narcissist senses your strong sense of confidence, he’ll back away.
02. You're a people pleaser (and can't help it).
Of course, we all want the guy we’re dating to be happy, but if it comes at the expense of your own well being, it’s unhealthy. A narcissist is looking for someone who will give him constant attention and emotional validation at any cost. Psychotherapist and author, Karen Koenig, says that individuals who attract narcissists often “don’t have a strong sense of who they are and what they want because they don’t believe it’s okay to take care of their own needs.”
A narcissist is someone who monopolizes the relationship and who never compromises. He just demands. Establishing boundaries so that your needs are acknowledged and met in a relationship could help prevent you from getting too deep and potentially trapped.
03. You avoid conflict like the plague.
While few people are actually fans of conflict, if you avoid conflict at all costs, you might be making yourself more attractive to narcissists. Patti Wood, body language expert and author, says that narcissists tend to want someone “who is low in ‘harm avoidance’ and high in ‘cooperation.’" If you tend to give in easily to the wishes or demands of others at work or in your personal life for the sake of avoiding conflict, you might fit the ideal profile of a potential partner for a narcissist.
If you often put your needs and opinions aside for the sake of avoiding conflict in the relationship, you’ll more easily fall prey to a narcissist who thrives when others provide the empathy and attention they crave. Yes, being willing to compromise in a relationship is important but being a doormat isn’t compromising.
04. You’re ignoring red flags.
One big red flag that signals narcissistic behavior is never taking responsibility for any negative events in one's life. Narcissists are known to play the victim when things don’t go their way, explains Patti Wood, and they will often blame their exes, bosses, and friends for anything negative that’s happened in the past. Don't make the mistake of ignoring this crucial red flag. If you are quick to explain away your date calling his ex “evil” or saying his boss was “out to get him," you are sending signals that you are okay with him blaming others for his mistakes. Yes—we all make mistakes but when someone refuses to take responsibility for his role in the event ever, you’re risking your own happiness and well-being down the line because soon he’ll start blaming you when things don’t go well.
05. You are swept up in the romance on the first date.
It's easy to allow yourself to be infatuated after the first date, especially when you are dating a narcissist (they're so attractive and charming at first!). Even though it typically takes some time for a narcissist to reveal his true colors, there are some subtle signs that you can look out for on a first date to help you steer clear of the second. Look past the "love bombing" and the overwhelming flattery and ask the following questions:
- Is there any back-and-forth in the conversation, or is it total domination?
- Does he accept your opinions even if you disagree with each other?
- Does he act entitled to certain things, or expect special treatment?
- Is he rude to the wait staff or bartender?
- Is he over-the-top on the first date?
- Is he invading your space?
If it's a resounding "yes" to one or more of these, it's a sign he does not deserve a second date, even if it occurred at a Michelin-starred restaurant. A narcissist thinks he’s the sun, and he’s looking for someone to orbit around his world and make him look good without causing too much trouble. Being confident in yourself, standing up for your needs and opinions, firmly enforcing boundaries, and not being afraid to say no and walk away, will help send the message to your narcissist that you aren’t going to fit in his self-obsessed world.