Source: Romantic sunset Couple romance – panoramio. Photo by Ibrahim Asad. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Sarah was always falling for narcissists. With their magnetic charm and emotional intensity, they made other men pale by comparison. There was Ned, the aspiring actor, with his flashing eyes and effusive flattery, so skilled at performing that she failed to see the cold reality beneath the surface. Then Andrew, the sensitive poet, who won her heart with his romantic words and gestures, but became controlling and abusive, isolating her from her friends and exploding in rages that left her terrified. And Eddie, the brilliant entrepreneur and self-proclaimed genius who dazzled her with his PR and million-dollar schemes. But beneath the charisma was a sense of entitlement. He used people, borrowing from family and friends, and nearly drained her bank account.
Colorful, passionate, and exciting, these men lit up the landscape of her everyday life, sweeping Sarah up into a land of romantic dreams. But they undermined her sense of self–suddenly everything revolved around them. And they took her on an emotional roller coaster. Increasingly anxious, she felt her life spiraling out of control as romantic dreams became nightmares, leaving her feeling exploited and exhausted.
According to the DSM-5, 50-75% of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are men, men who initially seem compelling, charming, too good to be true, promising to fill our lives with excitement. But this excitement comes at a price, for narcissists have an insatiable craving for attention, lack empathy, exploit others, cannot take criticism, and lash out in narcissistic rage when others fail to meet their needs (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
If you’ve met someone who seems too good to be true, sweeping you up in romantic intensity, take a moment to examine the signs.
Do you have a narcissist in your life?
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition: DSM-5. Washington, D. C. :Author.
For strategies for dealing with narcissists, see Orloff, J. (2017). The Empath’s Survival Guide. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.