Jennifer cannot believe how self-absorbed her boyfriend, Sam, is.
She used to be inspired by his confidence, but now it comes off as arrogance. Sam seems more than willing to talk about his life, his day at work and his accomplishments and dreams and absolutely unwilling to focus any attention on her.
Sometimes, Jennifer feels like Sam continues to date her just so that he has someone to talk about himself with.
Recently, she became aware of just how narcissistic Sam is when her grandmother– whom she dearly loves– died. This was a big deal for Jennifer and she is still feeling a lot of sadness and grief. Other than a, “So sorry to hear the news” from Sam, Jennifer has received little to no support or comfort from him.
This makes her feel even more empty and sad.
Are you in a love relationship or marriage with someone who seems all caught up in him or herself? Maybe your partner comes off as arrogant and self-centered. Perhaps your mate can’t seem to think or talk about anyone but himself or herself.
If so, you might wonder if your partner is narcissistic.
Being with a narcissistic partner can be painful. You might feel ignored, deficient in some way, irritated, angry and possibly even worried about this apparent personality flaw. You may wonder if your partner is in need of professional help.
It’s true. There is an actual psychological condition called narcissism. It is defined as: “A pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.”*
However, people who appear to be narcissistic, may actually have something else going on. They might not literally be narcissistic. There is often more to a relationship dynamic than what it appears. For example, your own insecurities or fears may cause you to perceive your partner as more self-centered than he or she actually is.
This doesn’t mean that you are wrong and your partner is right or that you don’t have valid reasons for how you feel. Absolutely not!
What it does mean is that if you want to stay in this relationship and you’d like to experience some improvement around this issue, you’re most likely going to need to re-evaluate the situation– including your role in it.
If you’re with a self-absorbed partner, remember these 4 relationship tips…
#1: Question the labels you’re applying.
In the moment– or in a series of regularly occurring moments– it may seem obvious to you that your partner is narcissistic. We caution you about applying this label to your partner (or to anyone) without truly understanding what it means.
To throw around labels like this can have real and negative consequences.
By all means, identify what’s true for you and how you feel. Figure out what about your partner’s words or actions is upsetting to you. It is far more effective to recognize that you feel ignored, for example, than to merely call your partner narcissistic.
Labels CAN be useful, if applied accurately and with an intention to better understand.
#2: Get clear about what you want and need.
Recognizing your wants and needs in your relationship is absolutely essential. For the moment, focus less on what you find upsetting about your partner’s habits and, instead, look at what you truly want from this relationship.
Be specific. If you feel ignored, what would it look like for you to be acknowledged and feel special in your relationship? Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write down what types of activities, conversations and experiences you’d like to share with your partner. How do you want to feel when you are together?
This isn’t a demand list for you to present to your partner. It is a way for you to get clear about what your priorities are when it comes to your relationship.
#3: Create agreements with your partner.
Use your list of wants and needs to create agreements with your partner. This is not about presenting ultimatums or making threats to leave (unless you are willing to actually leave).
An agreement needs to be cooperatively reached. Make your agreements specific and ones that each of you are honestly willing to follow through with.
For example, if you feel ignored by your partner, come up with some tangible and meaningful ways that you two can make a connection– whether it’s at home, during the workday, at a party or in some other manner.
Another example of an agreement might be that you your partner, you or both of you meet with a professional counselor or coach who can help.
#4: Make decisions about what’s in YOUR best interests.
Know that you get to decide what is in your best interests. A relationship is about two people coming together and honestly communicating about needs, but you are the one who ultimately chooses whether or not it’s wise for you to stay in the relationship.
If your partner truly is narcissistic and refuses to do anything about it, you might decide that it is unwise for you to stay in this relationship.
Even if the “narcissist” label does not apply to your partner, you might decide that there are no indications that the improvements you seek are going to happen. You may choose to end the relationship because you believe this is an undesirable and possibly unhealthy relationship for you.
What we urge you to remember is that you get to choose. After questioning you beliefs about your partner and yourself, honestly assess whether this is the relationship you want to be in right now.