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Are You in a Narcissistic Relationship? 26 Red Flags

Jessica Joe is a content creator specializing in how-to articles, personal essays, self-help, informative pieces and creative fiction.

Don't let them get You Down

Don't let them get You Down

Are You in a Narcissistic Relationship?

By Jessica Joe | October 29th, 2021

Do you feel nervous to express your honest feelings around your partner, for fear of a negative reaction? Do you often feel confused or in a daze? Are you experiencing sudden extreme appetite changes or are you noticing you’re drinking a lot more than usual, for no obvious reason?

Maybe you’ve simply noticed your self confidence has mysteriously plummeted over time.

Whether you’re hitting that honeymoon phase in a brand new relationship, or you’re in a marriage of 10 years, knowing the warning signs of narcissistic abuse can mean the difference between daily fog and confusion to a sudden, sharp clarity of mind.

So What is Narcissistic Abuse?

You might have a basic idea of the concept, but it can be really helpful to define what it means.First, its important to understand that this type of relationship is unfortunately much more common than you’d think.

According to new findings from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately half of Americans reported experiencing lifetime emotional abuse from a partner.

Narcissistic abuse doesn’t always look like physical violence or shouting, in fact, it usually doesn't. (Although experiencing those symptoms definitely doesn’t rule the possibility out!)

Narcissistic abuse is infamous for its ability to not strike suddenly and obviously, but instead it very subtly seeps into your subconscious over a long period of time, eventually undermining your ideas about life and the beliefs you once held about yourself through subtle suggestion and near invisible manipulation.

The basic idea is that the narcissist builds themselves up by crushing your perceptions and then making themselves your saviour as they stand atop the rubble of who you once were, masquerading the mask of salvation while holding the fatal dagger behind your back.

What does Narcissistic Abuse Look and Feel Like?

This specific type of abuse often doesn’t have a direct visual representation as much as an emotional one, which is one of the reasons why it can be so hard to identify- making it extremely lethal to your mind, emotions, confidence and soul, as it creeps in beneath your conscious radar and leaves a nest of ideas and thoughts that can, over time, degrade the very foundation you stand on.

Narcissistic abuse truly is very subtle at first, if you don’t know how to identify the many warning signs. One huge Red Flag of Narcissistic abuse, is the frequent implication that you make bad decisions or the consistent feeling that you can’t do anything right.

It can appear in the form of consistent “innocent” jokes poking at your flaws and personality traits or hobbies, repetitive phrases meant to make you question yourself (these phrases usually go unnoticed for a while) or blatant lying of things you know to be true.

Narcissistic abuse feels like losing your mind and yourself as well. It feels like losing your confidence and often your ability to speak loudly or even at all. It can mean you stop investing in your hobbies, family and friends and begin a deep isolated depression or even state of paranoid psychosis.

I am a Survivor

I myself have experienced several forms of long term narcissistic abuse and have survived the grueling recovery back to finding myself- or more of, the mourning of my old self and the rebuilding and birthing of a new me, from the ashes.

It can be truly terrifying to recognize that you would ever let yourself slip into an abusive relationship or that your partner (who you love) could possibly be capable of hurting you… Especially since a narcissistic abuser will consistently assure you that this is not the case- and that you are simply overreacting or misremembering, like you always do.

I still remember years ago when my best friend sat me down for lunch at a Costa Vida near my place and voiced her concerns that she could see I was slipping away from myself. She asked my permission to list some basic questions to identify if I was being mentally abused.

I agreed to take a look at the checklist with an open mind and she whipped out a well researched list of questions from experts on the topic, working to identify symptoms of gaslighting and Narcissistic Abuse. To my surprise, I answered “Yes” to almost all questions on the list.

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I slowly came to terms with the fact that my relationship wasn’t what it appeared to be and told her I needed 2 weeks to clear my mind and find the strength to move out. I’m forever thankful my dear friend reached out to me with good intention and asked me these questions. It might have saved my sanity.

Since leaving that abusive relationship (and a couple more after that) and seeking out a trustworthy therapist (which I would highly suggest looking into- its worth the investment) I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can about this phenomenon, so as to be able to identify the traits of Narcissism in relationships and prevent repeating the total destruction and strife I had previously endured.

On my search for answers and healing, I discovered Richard Grannon, a Youtuber who I would personally bestow a type of “Narcissistic Abuse Guru”, though he humbly claims not to be an expert on the topic (he isn’t a psychologist or therapist specializing in abuse) and he simply has a lot of great advice and insightful tips on the matter.

26 Red Flags of Narcissistic Abuse

From my years of personal experience with this type of relationship, long nights of well researched googling, tips from a certified quantum hypnotherapist specializing in narcissistic abuse and crucial advice from influencer(and total badass) Richard Grannon, I have compiled a checklist of 26 Red Flags you may be experiencing Narcissistic Abuse.

Please note that this list is not meant to diagnose anyone with narcissism.

My intention is simply to help you touch base with emotions or symptoms you may be experiencing in a relationship, that you may not have previously been able to consciously identify. In the end, only you can decide if you feel you are being treated fairly or not in a relationship.

If you’re even a bit curious as to whether or not there’s a possibility you may be suffering from this subtle but powerfully destructive type of abuse, I would suggest reviewing this checklist with an honest and open mind.

So without further adieu, here is a checklist of 26 Red Flags and warning signs you may be involved in a narcissistic relationship.

1. You don't feel comfortable saying no.

Maybe your partner has asked to borrow the car or money or wants to get physically intimate with you and you aren’t up for it. You must hold yourself accountable for speaking your truth and saying, “no”.

In a healthy relationship, it would feel pretty comfortable to express how you feel. In a Narcissistic relationship, saying no can be paralyzing and you may be scared of a negative reaction.

2. When you do say no, you are later or immediately emotionally punished for it.

So you’ve rounded up the courage to say no and now your partner is punishing you. This can range anywhere from name calling, to shouting, to withholding intimacy, to guilting, to “icing you out” or giving you the cold shoulder.

Of course no one likes to be told no, but punishing someone for not giving in is parasitic and manipulative in nature.

3.You often feel judged.

We all have our insecurities and those can easily be heightened if our partner is openly criticizing every little action we take. Maybe they talk down on what you choose to eat, make little comments about what you wear, or maybe they simply have a degrading tone of voice when they talk to you and you feel insignificant or dirty around them.

4. You feel like a fraud or a “false prophet”.

Narcissists will often treat their victim as if they had advertised themselves a certain way and are now falling short on promises of who they “claimed to be”. If you often feel like you’re lying about who you are, when you’re simply just trying to be yourself-- this could be a potential warning sign.

5. You feel like nothing you do is ever good enough and you can’t do anything right.

As I mentioned before, this is a huge and very common warning sign that you’re in a narcissistic relationship. You are constantly trying to please or impress your partner and in turn, they are never satisfied with anything you do, in fact, they are often mad at you and express what you do wrong on a frequent basis.

6. You often feel intense feelings of despair.

A brutal side effect/symptom of abuse is “random” bursts of absolute despair. It can feel like an anxiety attack or like a dense, crushing weight of depression on your chest. These attacks can seem to come out of the blue or at night when you’re laying next to your partner and yet feeling totally alone.

7. You feel punished for being worthless.

Along with feeling judged and not being able to do anything right, the codependent in a narcissistic relationship will often feel they are being punished/judged/hated for being a burden or being worthless.

It’s so important that you don't define your worth on someone else’s approval and instead claim your sovereignty in recognizing your immense self worth.

I promise you, you are worth more than gold and deserving of only the best.

8. You don't know who you are anymore.

We all go through life changes and evolve over time, but while abuse can lead to rock bottom and therefore result in growth/evolution, losing your identity to a swarm of negative thoughts, depression and confusion can be extremely damaging and even lead to personality disorders.

If you feel lost or as if you don’t know who you are anymore, please seek a therapist if at all possible.

9. You used to be confident, but now you question and second guess every little thing.

You used to use your voice and say what was on your mind. Now you question if you are being rude, too loud, if you even know what you’re saying, if you’re even worthy of speaking up, if you sound ridiculous. This isn’t to say that humility and self-awareness aren't valid virtues or that we don't all have insecurities sometimes, but now you second guess every little thing from choosing where to eat, to what to buy, to trusting that you’re a good driver. Making decisions or even talking feels crippling to you.

10. Your partner makes promises of change but it never lasts.

This usually happens when you’re on your last straw. You’re serious about walking out the door this time- you may have even started packing your bags. You’ve had enough and you express this and this is when your partner gets on their knees and reminds you of the good times and the true love you have and they promise this time that they will actually change.

You may even notice a real change for a couple months, but if counseling is not sought, often the abusive cycle will continue.

11. You’re scared to bring problems up with them or to express how you really feel.

In a healthy relationship, the door for conversation is always open and you feel safe to express how you feel. If you bring up an issue in the relationship and your partner immediately shuts down, gets angry or begins projecting blame back on to you: this is a huge red flag of narcissistic abuse. Healthy people may be a little hurt, but initially they won't lash out at you and instead they’re concerned as to how they can help change for the better.

12. You find it's hard to talk sometimes, your brain gets fuzzy and you trip on your words.

A major red flag of abuse is the inability to express yourself fluently and comfortably.

The reason for this, in simplistic terms, is that the abused person has been subtly conditioned to being attacked on an emotional/mental level- and speaking now triggers a fight or flight reaction that causes the victim to think with the part of the brain associated with survival, instead of the part of the brain that deals with creativity- thus hindering speech.

  • I was actually abused and gaslit so intensely on a subconscious level, that I developed a stuttering speech impediment, despite once being a confident public speaker.

After a year of therapy I have fully recovered!

13. You’re eating less or your appetite has drastically changed.

This can be the symptom of many things. Maybe you’re depressed, maybe your diet or schedule has shifted and your body is adjusting, or maybe you’ve been shamed for your weight.

Paying attention to your appetite changes can be a dire signifier that your body is trying to tell you something.

  • In my own personal experience with narcissistic abuse, I developed anorexia after leaving the relationship. A common misconception of anorexia is that every person who deals with the mental disorder, is dealing with a type of insecurity or fear around weight.

While this is sometimes the case, in my scenario, I was simply so depressed and lost in who I was, that I no longer had an appetite or will to eat and I lost 30 pounds in just a couple months. Again, after therapy and much help from a true friend, I have fully recovered.

14. You’re drinking a lot more alcohol.

For many this can be an obvious behavior pointing to a running away or hiding of something you don’t want to come to terms with. For me this habit was a bit difficult to identify because I was 21 and living with 8 friends who all wanted to party on Monday, Wednesday and of course Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

What I didn’t realize was that by constantly drinking (and drinking heavily) I was actually escaping looking at the truth: I was not happy where I was.

15. You feel isolated from friends or family.

While sometimes this is circumstantial (ie: Your family lives in Utah, you’ve moved to Oregon) often an abuser will work to isolate the victim from friends or family so as to make their partner feel more vulnerable and dependent.

Its so important to always have friends or family you feel comfortable reaching out to. If you feel you have neither of these, Know that you are loved.

here is a number you can call if you feel isolated and alone.

16. Your partner is always bashing your family, even though you’ve asked them to stop.

There is a huge difference between having a tiff or squabble with your inlaws vs consistently bashing them in front of your partner, in a way that degrades you and your loved ones.

There are a couple important factors here. One, your partner is not respecting your request to stop the bashing and two, you are being brought down, isolated and shamed as these are people you love, respect and associate with.

17. You feel you can’t confide anything negative about your partner.

In fact, you feel guilty reading this article! You feel you have to hide all the hurtful things they do or say, from your therapist, from your mom, your best friend, from your sister- heck, you even hide things from your journal and yourself.

You are consistently covering and protecting the things they do.

18. They will only show you love if you do what they want you to do.

This type of love is called “conditional love” and while there are some crucial conditions to place on engaging in a working relationship (ie: if you don’t show me basic kindness and respect, I’ll leave) there are other conditions that are not as pure.

If you feel love will be withdrawn if you don’t please every little thing your partner does, this may be a sign you’re in a narcissistic relationship.

19. You’re terrified of feeling guilty.

Odds are, you’re a pretty decent person. With this comes the basic want to do what is “right” or what is helpful to yourself and those around you. This is a healthy personality trait to have!

What is not healthy, is a crippling fear around guilt or shame, most likely obtained from childhood trauma.

Unfortunately, wanting to do what’s right can easily slip into intense fears around being wrong or unintentionally hurting someone and this can make you an easy target for sociopathic abusers.

20. You believe that by continuously turning the other cheek and sacrificing your own emotional well being, you will save your partner by showing them what real love and kindness is.
I myself have fallen into this trap and it goes along great with being afraid of guilt. You may not recognize it, but while you are a good person, you fear abandoning your partner.

Perhaps you’ve been abandoned yourself and would never wish to leave someone. Unfortunately, tough love is most likely what this person needs, as they don’t see your kindness for what it is (strength) but instead, a weakness they can easily exploit and a sign that they can do whatever they want and you’ll never leave.

  • This is especially dangerous if you have kids. You may think you are setting a good example by never leaving and always turning the other cheek, but what if you’re actually sending the message that it’s okay to treat people terribly or that it’s okay to take abuse over and over again?

Again- don’t feel guilty, you’re doing the best you can, I assure you…

but consider these possible truths.

21. They act like they’ll help you, but you’ve got some real issues.
Your partner makes sure you know how kind and generous they are to sacrifice their time and energy to help you, in fact, you’d pretty much be screwed without them, considering you’re so incredibly difficult to deal with (what with all your mental health issues and selfishness and drinking problems and shopping problems and so on).

They act like they are your saviour and you are kind of a huge burden.

22. You feel you have to beg, wait or fight for attention and love, and you often go without.

Your partner always seems to be emotionally unavailable and you feel like a burden asking for simple things like a heartfelt conversation, an opinion on your recent project or even cuddles.

They treat you like a dog with an owner who doesn’t take them on enough walks.

23. When they say sorry, it’s more like, “I’m sorry you feel that way”.

This is not a genuine apology and is a simple form of projection. It sends the message that you should be sorry that your emotions are out of control and that you’re even bothering expressing yourself with something so trivial and unimportant because clearly, your partner has done no wrong.

24. They are always right. Always.
Every once and a blue moon, you might have a good point (if you are agreeing with them) but most of the time you don’t really know what you’re talking about and your chirping in on the subject is cute and extra at best. And don’t dare try to tell them they are wrong- because they're not (ever).

25. You feel you don’t deserve the utmost respect.

If you don’t respect yourself or recognize your worth, you will attract people who feel the same about you or who feel they can make that insecurity even worse and take advantage of you.

This isn’t to say that you deserve to be treated with disrespect at all, it’s simply that sociopaths and narcissists are very good at identifying and exploiting this very insecurity.

26. What would it look like, if you treated your partner the way they treat you?

Mirror the way your partner treats you in your mind and replace it with yourself. Often we take what we absolutely would not dish and we never second guess it, because hey! At least we are holding ourselves accountable for being good people... right?

But you’re a person too and how you treat yourself doesn’t just affect you, but your family, your friends, your kids and future generations of individuals.

And yes, it affects your partner as well. It is not love to accept abuse, you aren’t doing them any favors by allowing them to continue abusing you.

Love is Your Birth Right

What you feel, do, think and say, has a tangible and intangible ripple effect on the entire world and it absolutely IS important that you are treated fairly and with respect- you are deserving of the absolute best, I promise you.

Perhaps you are amazed to find you just answered yes to half or even all of these questions or perhaps you are feeling meek and unsure about a lot of them.

Take a mirror to the situation and ask yourself, would I ever, (ever, ever, ever) treat someone the way they are treating me? Your answer may bring a dull painful ping to your heart, or it may free you from wondering!

Either way, please know that help is all around you and you are absolutely worthy and deserving of love and respect to the highest form.

If you are being physically or mentally abused in a relationship, please seek help. Here is a hotline.

You deserve happiness!

You deserve happiness!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Jessica Joe

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