The Narcissist’s Playbook: Identifying Behavior Patterns (Part 3)

The term ‘Narcissist’ is heavily overused in the world these days.  However, they do exist, and they can be extremely toxic people in marital relationships. Understanding how to spot one and how to deal with one when they are being difficult is really important. And even more important, is how to recover from Narcissistic Abuse. This article series is going to be broken up into different segments: Identifying a Narcissist; Possible Causation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder; Spotting Narcissist Tactics and Habits;  Dealing with a Narcissist; Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse; Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well ‘de-bunking’ theories of Narcissism.  Society has gotten far too comfortable calling people narcissists without being properly informed. Therefore, to better explain who a narcissist is, how they operate, and how you can handle a narcissist, follow along this series of articles for a 101 on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Part 3: Identifying Behavior Patterns a Narcissist

As stated in the earlier articles, Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) is very hard to diagnose. In many cases, people can exhibit many traits that are associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, without actually having NPD. Below are some examples of traits and behaviors of a person with NPD, and how they can be spotted in a relationship.

Identifying Patterns of NPD in Relationships

  • They are extremely charming people when you meet them. They will be extremely complimentary and loving.
  • They have a need for control and lack responsibility
  • Known to name-drop
  • Inability to truly be vulnerable.
  • There is a lack of accountability, where they will take credit for things that go correct in the relationship and displace any negative aspects on the other partner.
  • Persons suffering from NPD typically have a lack of boundaries and a lack of respect for other’s boundaries
  • Conversations in the relationship will start to become all about the person with NPD. They will often ‘fish’ for compliments and praise, when they do not feel they are getting the attention they deserve.
  • A person with NPD will often put down the other person in the relationship as a way to make themselves feel better, and feel more in control
  • Gaslighting- if you know it, you know it. Read our article on gaslighting for more information.
  • They will panic if and when you want to break up, because typically a partner is a source of admiration they want to take from.

This is a long list and it could go on and on, because again, it all comes down to the impaired ability to feel empathy.  Reading the list above, it is hard to imagine how someone would stay in a relationship with a narcissist, but below is a chart that shows examples of how these traits that seem negative actually transition over time.


TraitIn the Beginning of the RelationshipTowards the Middle or End of the Relationship
Ability to Be Charming                      This sense of charm and complimenting is so nice in the beginning, it is how a person with NPD can ‘wow’ you and stand out. You will be convinced that you two are the most compatible people ever.You will be able to say one thing that will set the Narcissist off. Any little thing you do will bother him or her. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Talking About Themselves a LotThis comes off in the beginning like any two people getting to know each other.The self-centered conversations won’t end. In fact, you will start to notice lies and exaggerations in their stories.
Name DroppingIt makes them feel like they are important to know important people, and typically it is attractive to meet someone who is so well connected.The person probably lacks little if any connection to the people they name drop. Notice if you have never met these people who he or she name drops so often,
Need for ControlIn the beginning, this comes off as planning fun dates and activities. It can come off as completely “sweeping someone off their feet” and make you feel like no one else is aroundTowards the end of a relationship with a narcissist, there is a chance no one will actually be around, because a narcissist attempts to isolate their partners from family and friends to gain more control over their lives.
Lack of AccountabilityThis starts as a sense of the person being carefree. How attractive is it when a person doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and can pick up and move on?Well, one day that ‘small stuff’ won’t be so small. It could be hurting a loved one without looking back, injuring a person and not looking back. Be careful of this.
Feed Off ComplimentsOf course, everyone likes to be supported and complimented when you start dating, it makes you feel appreciated and loved.The second the compliments stop; they will begin to fish for it. When their ego is not being fed the way they want, they will have no problem seeking out others to fill their need to admiration.
They Are Right About EverythingIn the beginning this sense of knowledge and being right can be very attractive—not only is the person kind and complimentary, but they are so smart.The reality is, they probably don’t fact check, and you will likely notice that a lot of the things they were ‘right about’ they weren’t, they just said it with a lot of confidence, because they truly believed and will still believe they were correct.
Panic If you LeaveThis seems normal, because break ups are hard, and you will begin to think he or she values you.The truth is, Narcissists don’t like failing. You leaving the relationship is a failure. They want to prove they known how to keep you, even at your expense. A narcissist needs you to support his or her ego.