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Is he a narcissist, or just very self-centred?
August 18, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I've been dating a guy (30) for half a year, and though I am blinded by love, I'm starting to see signs that he could be narcissistic, but am not sure.

I am a 23 year old woman, and am in love with this guy. He has admitted that he is very self conscious with his image, and I've noticed him looking at himself in the mirror or in a reflection every time we pass by one. He constantly talks about mens fashion, and what looks good on him. He changes his hairstyle all the time and asks me if I like it. He doesn't like his eyes, and so wears sunglasses whenever possible, because he says that he has lost his spark that he used to have, even though i love his eyes and have told him I'd rather see him without glasses, so then he takes them off eventually. He talks about himself all the time, and doesn't ask me questions. I'm always asking him questions, and from looking at some questions on this website I've learnt that some people communicate by asking questions to each other (like me), and others sort of expect you to contribute with ideas without them having to ask questions (possibly him?). But whenever I say something, instead of asking about it he says something about himself instead, as if he needs to prove something.

He still has his online dating profile up, even though he has told me that the last date he went on with another woman was a few months ago which I do believe because he used to tell me about his dates all the time until one day he told me he only wants to date me and nobody else, but he goes on his profile every day (he doesn't know I know this but I plan on asking him about it soon). I think he probably goes on the website for validation, and probably likes receiving messages from women because it makes him feel more worthy.

However, over time he has finally started to open up more and be more generous and comfortable and affectionate. He likes to hug me in public now, and hold my hand. This wasn't the case until quite recently, and I can sense that he likes me more every time we meet.

Also I've read that narcissists love to give lots of presents and shower their partner with compliments, and then go cold and distant on them. My boyfriend doesn't do this, he has never given me a present even though he said he would but then forgets or says it is still in in house or whatever, and he doesn't compliment me too much. But when he does compliment me, it is very thoughtful and he has started complimenting me a bit more every time we see each other.

Oh, also, we have never had sex, which is another thing I read about narcissistic people, that they use their partners for sex, and that they are very confident, but my boyfriend has told me things that he lacks confidence in, even though most of the time he is a bit of a show off. This is what makes me doubt he is narcissistic, and maybe just has low self esteem.

He hasn't met my friends, but someone close to me who was dating a sociopath for a few years says that from what I've described, they have similar personalities. I wouldn't say I agree as my guy seems quite normal most of the time and does listen to me sometimes, whereas her ex partner was actually abusive to her children and incredibly charming and manipulative in a scary way. My boyfriend isn't abusive. But sometimes I am not very good at judging people, and so this is why I've decided to ask metafilter. I realise most of you are going to say that it doesn't matter whether he is narcissistic or not and to dump him anyway, but my question is whether or not he is narcissistic or am I exaggerating here? Thank you!
posted by palomago to Human Relations (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
None of us can answer this question. We aren't your boyfriend or your boyfriend's therapist.


I think all the answer you need has been covered in your question from last week.
posted by Julnyes at 1:14 PM on August 18 [9 favorites]


The things you are describing are not traits of clinical narcissism. (You could casually call someone interested in their own appearance "narcissistic" as an insult, but it doesn't have much to do with the diagnosis.) Clinical narcissism involves a pattern where the narcissist is always right, and any problems they encounter are due to other people because of course it couldn't possibly be their fault, because they're always right. They're also the best at everything and if they encounter something they don't know how to do, they'll often refuse to do it. (My girlfriend is working with a kid in the process of being evaluated for this, so I've been hearing a lot about it lately.)

What you're describing sounds a lot more like simple insecurity, not uncommon and not a problem in itself. You don't say much about how you feel about this relationship, but don't freak out because someone who has never met the dude mentioned a medical term.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:14 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


Is this the same guy you asked about last week?
posted by Asparagus at 1:18 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


You are not in love with this guy. These questions indicate that you don't know him at all. And your gut is trying to tell you something is off. Listen to it. Never mind if he fits the definition of a narcissist. Have you talked to him about your concerns? Because adults in a healthy relationship are able to do that.

Talk to your boyfriend and tell him what's up. Or go find someone whose intentions and affections you don't constantly question.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:18 PM on August 18 [9 favorites]


Whether or not he fits the clinical profile of NPD is totally irrelevant. Whether or not he is like your friend's ex is irrelevant. You are describing someone who doesn't seem to care much about you and doesn't exhibit any of the traits of a well-adjusted adult with whom you can build a healthy, happy, loving relationship.
posted by scody at 1:20 PM on August 18 [49 favorites]


I realise most of you are going to say that it doesn't matter whether he is narcissistic or not

Yes. Internet strangers cannot diagnose your boyfriend. Unless you're into collecting psychiatric types for your memoirs, why are you hung up on whether he meets that specific definition? The question is whether you're happy in the relationship. In your question, you didn't get even close to the real issue.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:22 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


I'm always asking him questions, and from looking at some questions on this website I've learnt that some people communicate by asking questions to each other (like me), and others sort of expect you to contribute with ideas without them having to ask questions (possibly him?).

Yeah, that's generally about small-talk at parties, or getting to know strangers, or trying to dodge questions about your personal life at work. Not interactions with significant others. I am the world champion of asking questions of other people to get out of talking about myself, but if I were dating someone who never asked me about myself I would DTMFA in a second.
posted by jabes at 1:23 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Are you talking "narcissist" as in "narcissistic personality disorder"? Because that is a clinical diagnosis and you being able to divine a clinical diagnosis by observing his behavior isn't something you can put any stock into unless you're a trained mental health professional (and if you were, you'd probably have a better idea of the answer better than any of us would.)

The other way that "narcissist" is used is an insult toward a person who is supposedly vain and self-obsessed. But in that case, it's still little more than an insult. Very few people are wholly unconcerned with their physical appearance and if you don't like someone it's easy to slap that word onto them because they look in mirrors when they pass them by and concern themselves with fashion.
posted by griphus at 1:23 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


You're getting hung up on the definition of a Narcissist, when really the guy just sounds like a bit of an idiot.

He's still checking his online dating profile even though you've been dating for 6 months?

You haven't had sex yet?

He never asks you about you and always manages to turn the conversation around to him?

He's never given you a gift even though he promised he would?

He hasn't met your friends?

Phew - this is a LOT of drama for a 6 month old relationship and I'd advise you to dump him. You're very young and naïve, he's more than old enough to know better,. I don't see this relationship going anywhere good.... sorry to say that, but I think you also know, deep down, that that is the truth!
posted by JenThePro at 1:24 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


I am a pretty narcissistic person.

Your boyfriend doesn't sound narcissistic. Your boyfriend sounds extremely insecure. He also sounds like kind of a twat.

It also sounds like you don't like him very much.

It doesn't really matter if he's got a diagnosable condition or if he's narcissistic or a sociopath or depressed or anything of the sort, because him Being A Named Thing or Not Being A Named Thing wouldn't change the dynamics of your relationship at all.
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


I give you my official permission to break up with this guy, regardless of any clinical diagnoses he does or doesn't have. "We aren't sexually compatible" or "he doesn't seem interested in my life" are valid reasons in and of themselves.
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:26 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


This question as well as the last one paint a picture of a dysfunctional relationship. There is nothing to save here. Don't waste more time on someone who isn't really into you. He's quite unlikely to change and there's nothing here that you can fix. Whether or not he has a mental disorder isn't important as he's already demonstrated that he's not capable of having a healthy relationship with you. You've given him 6 months of time with very poor results. I think it's time to dump him and find a functional, adult relationship.
posted by quince at 1:28 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


though I am blinded by love

Oh, and I would gently suggest that you try to stop using this sort of language to frame your problem. Framing the situation as one where you are "blinded by love" is dramatic and unrealistic, and it doesn't actually help you because A) it makes this relationship seem very romantic, and B) positions you as being helpless and unable to make any choices except follow along.

But how he's behaving toward you is not romantic, and you are not actually helpless, even if you feel attached to him, or scared of being single, or whatever. If you can start consciously choosing less dramatic language to describe what's going on, it will likely help you clarify what decisions you need to make, and give you the confidence to make them.
posted by scody at 1:30 PM on August 18 [33 favorites]


I do not know what, if any, clinical diagnosis applies to your boyfriend.

The social diagnosis that applies to your boyfriend is "kind of a hot damn mess." He wears sunglasses constantly because he's "lost his spark"? Christ on a tandem bike. Is he David Caruso?

The fact is we pretty much all date someone ridiculous and bad for us when we're 23, and this is your turn. So break up with him and move on to the phase of your life when you do things that make you happy instead.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:31 PM on August 18 [13 favorites]


He constantly talks about mens fashion, and what looks good on him. He changes his hairstyle all the time and asks me if I like it. He doesn't like his eyes, and so wears sunglasses whenever possible, because he says that he has lost his spark that he used to have,

I stand by my comment in the previous thread suggesting that he is using you as his beard.
posted by Melismata at 1:35 PM on August 18 [11 favorites]


Gosh, palomago, I'm sorry. I don't know if he sounds like a classic narcissist but he is absolutely a drip. You deserve better, and you clearly WANT better, and I think the sooner you go and seek better the better off you will be.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:43 PM on August 18


To elaborate on my comment from above; in this question and your last one, it sounds like you're fishing around for a reason to break up with him because of his behavior. (He's gay, he's a narcissist, etc.) You're trying to make your reasons for breaking up all about him. Re-frame them to be about you and your needs in a relationship. I want and deserve to be with someone who wants to have sex with me. I want and deserve to be with someone who asks me questions about my life. Give yourself some agency here; you can break up because your needs aren't being met, not only because of your boyfriend's issues.
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:43 PM on August 18 [27 favorites]


If my saying "yes, he's a narcissist" is what will make you say "okay, then, I'll break up with him," then yes, he's a narcissist.

If my saying "no, he's not a narcissist, he's just a jerk" is what will make you say "okay, then, I'll break up with him", then no, he's not a narcissist, he's just a jerk.

If my saying "he's neither a narcissist nor a jerk, he is actually a fruit bat in disguise" is what will make you say "okay, then, I'll break up with him," then he's neither a narcissist nor a jerk, he is actually a fruit bat in disguise.

Etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on August 18 [37 favorites]


My real point is that I suspect that subconsciously you are sort of looking for "permission" to not like this guy, or for a reason to "accept" that he is bad for you. But the only guidestick you should be using when it comes to "should I break up with this guy" is "am I satisfied with the way things are". And if you're not, it is okay to call it quits.

Everything else is just detail. You say that you accept that we're probably all going to tell you it doesn't matter whether he's a narcissist or not, but you still want to know anyway. That's like being on the Titanic and saying "okay, I know that it doesn't matter what shape the iceberg is because it still hit us, but I still want to know whether the iceberg was square or triangle-shaped."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't think having a label for him is going to change the situation one way or the other. I do feel like you are trying to convince yourself that you're in a romance, even if it seems you don't like him or enjoy yourself. I feel like this relationship looks good on paper, you've invested 6 months of your time, and you'd feel bad about just being by yourself or not in a relationship. Break up and enjoy your time by yourself and/or dating people who actually want to be with you.
posted by sfkiddo at 2:13 PM on August 18


Six months of "exclusive" dating and he still has an active dating profile? Just dump him already. You deserve better.
posted by stowaway at 2:17 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Your boyfriend is begging you to break up with him. Begging you.
posted by mochapickle at 2:22 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


A week ago, you were asking whether he is narcissistic or gay.

Five days ago, after he came over and proved everyone in the thread right, you acknowledged that you needed to start forgetting about the guy.

Today, you are still with him and you're asking if he is narcissistic.

No, he does not sound like someone who has narcissistic personality disorder. He does sound like a terrible boyfriend for you and I have no idea why you're putting up with him and his bullshit when you could be so much happier with someone else or even by yourself.

I said it last week and I'll say it again: The relationship you have with him right now is what he wants his relationship with you to look like. If you're okay with that (you should not be okay with that) then you need to accept this state of affairs. If you're not okay with that then you need to leave.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:26 PM on August 18 [19 favorites]


He might not be narcissistic, but he sounds really, really awful to try and date. Just. Awful.

So, good news -- it's not a personality disorder. Bad news, he's still a self-absorbed shallow jerk with only one toe in this relationship and seven -- SEVEN -- years of experience at manipulation on you. I'm not saying that this age difference is unworkable, but the relationship dynamic could certainly be impacted. Why isn't he in a relationship with a woman who's close to his age? Because we're old enough to identify when a dude is so insecure and / or vain that he wears his sunglasses all the time until we compliment his eyes enough. Ew.

Also, someone not being abusive isn't a good enough reason to be in a relationship with them. That should be just a basic, baseline expectation of another human being. There are literally millions of men in this world who are not abusive, go find one who is also interested in you and who won't wear his sunglasses inside.
posted by mibo at 2:58 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


The relationship you have with him right now is what he wants his relationship with you to look like. If you're okay with that (you should not be okay with that) then you need to accept this state of affairs. If you're not okay with that then you need to leave.

In a vacuum, the answer to your question is "I don't know" In a context where you have asked other questions about this same individual, I'll have to go with FAMOUS MONSTER. I have no idea why you are asking this question. It doesn't matter what may be technically wrong with him, he's a crappy boyfriend and isn't really changing and it's not a great relationship for you. We deserve great relationships. Go get one with some other guy.
posted by jessamyn at 3:04 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


This sounds like a shitty relationship and you deserve better. Break up with him.
posted by Slinga at 3:12 PM on August 18


I don't know what he is but from this question and the last one I do know that he has some interest in keeping you around despite not really liking or respecting you. I'm worried for you that eventually, to keep you hanging on longer, he will do one of the things that would make the rest of his behavior acceptable in your mind, like sleep with you once or buy you a gift one time. And then this relationship will drag on for years, because you'll be thinking "he can't be gay, we had sex once," or "he can't be a complete jerk, he bought me that present."

I'm not saying that this age difference is unworkable, but the relationship dynamic could certainly be impacted. Why isn't he in a relationship with a woman who's close to his age? Because we're old enough to identify when a dude is so insecure and / or vain that he wears his sunglasses all the time until we compliment his eyes enough. Ew.


Oh, and this. It's not that it's some crazy age difference, but the idiocy you'll put up with drops dramatically between 23 and 30 and I find it very interesting that he's not trying to pull this on someone his own age.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:13 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Sorry I stopped at "He doesn't like his eyes, and so wears sunglasses whenever possible" because that sums it up pretty well.

You don't need to determine whether he is a "narcissist," or just self-centered, shallow and immature to decide whether or not to break up with him. From your description he sounds insufferable.
posted by radioamy at 3:22 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


I'm just going to say what I said last time.

This is a toxic relationship and I have no idea why you are asking this question after what you said in the last thread and to me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:45 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Oh, and now I've read your question in more depth (I didn't, because I saw your username, skimmed, and lo and behold nothing has changed):

he goes on his profile every day (he doesn't know I know this but I plan on asking him about it soon). I think he probably goes on the website for validation, and probably likes receiving messages from women because it makes him feel more worthy.

Not the actions of someone who is a) in a relationship they b) care about. Sometimes people forget to disable their dating profiles when they're in a relationship. It happens; other things gain a greater importance. They don't, however, check it every single day while having a 'girlfriend.' In quotes because what he has isn't a girlfriend. What he has is, I'm sorry (and I have been you, ok, so this isn't a value judgement against you), an emotional doormat who will put up with any bullshit he gives you because Reasons.

DTMFA and move. on.

and I can sense that he likes me more every time we meet

You're projecting what you want onto what he is doing while ignoring all the other evidence. DTMFA and move. on.

and so this is why I've decided to ask metafilter. I realise most of you are going to say that it doesn't matter whether he is narcissistic or not and to dump him anyway,

Which is why we are giving you the exact same advice we gave you seven days ago. Nothing has changed.

DTMFA and move. on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:51 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


You are too busy focusing on the textbook definition of narcissism and whether he fits that, when you should be focusing on the fact that your relationship sounds very weird and this guy sounds totally emotionally unavailable and unable to have a healthy relationship. To be blunt, this guy sounds like a douche bag. You can do better.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:23 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


If you search on line for "relationship with a narcissist," I think you'll find that he doesn't fit the psychiatric model. A person can have narcissistic traits and still not be, clinically, a narcissist.

You need to think about his issues in terms of how he treats you, and whether you're getting what you want and need. You're thinking a lot about him and his problems. Try thinking about you and your experience of him. How do you feel when he does the things you've been asking about, now and last week? Can you be yourself with him? Do you feel like your life is better with him in it?
posted by wryly at 4:27 PM on August 18


He's a narcissist in a manipulative, self-centered way, but maybe not a clinical narcissist. No one can diagnose someone over the Internet, and personality disorder diagnoses can be subjective and are only intended as guidelines for treatment anyway. He could meet the clinical definition without even exhibiting all of the behaviors associated with the disorder since no mental herh diagnosis requires someone to exhibit every singe symptom.

The more important point is: I'd certainly be embarrassed to date someone so self-centered. Look, he is not interested in you. At all. He doesn't care about your book or your day or sex. Maybe he likes having someone around or wants to have a young girl wanting him so he can feel worthwhile, but he is never going to get better about being interested in you as a person. Not even if you stay with him for a decade and shower him with virtuous patience and love. Not even if you model polite behavior for him every single day.
posted by pineappleheart at 5:00 PM on August 18


Doesn't matter if he's a narcissist, if he's gay, if he's a two headed alien, he is not meeting your relationship needs and you should look elsewhere. Don't waste any more time on this guy.
posted by desjardins at 5:31 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


He's probably gay, very likely an idiot and certainly a bad boyfriend.

Act accordingly.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:35 PM on August 18


I am a little bit baffled as to why you are calling this dude your "boyfriend" when he refuses to have sexual relations with you even though you very much want it, continues to be active on dating sites, and doesn't like to spend time with you.

Sounds more like "unrequited feelings" than "relationship" to me. DTMFA.
posted by zug at 5:47 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


In your last question, you said you were 26; now, you're saying you're 23. Which one is it? (Not that I'm sure it really matters - I'm just wondering if you're fudging other, more important details to make this strange scenario more anonymous.)
posted by Salamander at 6:14 PM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I can tell you with unerring certainty what this guy is.



NOT MAKING YOU HAPPY.


And that's more than enough reason to let it go. It's not going to get any easier, so rip off that bandaid sooner, rather than later, ok?
posted by Space Kitty at 7:48 PM on August 18 [8 favorites]


I agree with Space Kitty. You've wasted 6 months on this guy who doesn't even have sex with you? Probably doesn't know anything about you, doesn't act like he's interested in you at all, and is too busy staring at himself and being self-absorbed and conceited to even act like a "boyfriend"? Honey, this guy is not your boyfriend. He's a friends with benefits that you don't even have sex with! Walk away.. no.. RUN AWAY. There are so many other great guys out there. This dude doesn't even sound like he's worth being even friends with.. so why would you even date him? You're "blinded by love"... are you sure it's the love you desperately want but isn't what you actually have? I can't imagine anyone could be in love with this guy besides himself. You deserve better. 6 months is too dang long to be wasting on a childish man oaf. He's fricking 30! He's not 21-25.. he should be at least a bit more well-adjusted to even be considering dating him. ..*sigh* ........just.... run.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:20 PM on August 18


You shouldn't be with him. You know this. Know it!
posted by J. Wilson at 11:02 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


This is not a boyfriend. He may be a boy, but he sure as hell ain't your friend. He's not a friend with benefits, because there are no benefits and he still ain't your friend. He is, like you said, very self-centered, also immature and he does not love you.
Whether or not he fits the definition of clinical narcissists doesn't really matter, as you already know, because he is simply not making you happy. And you deserve someone who does.

You already know all you need to know. Including what you need to do. I'm sorry.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:13 AM on August 19


I missed the last question, and on reading this one what jumped out at me was that he hides his eyes.

Hon. No lover in their right mind would hide their eyes from the one they love. Gazing deep into one anothers' eyes is, like, the thing you do before you even kiss. Then it becomes the thing you do do let your partner know "hot damn I am hot for your hotness let us be hot together".

If you do not know what the term "eye fuck" could mean, please drop this dude and hie thee to a man who will make your heart plunge into your stomach and your nether regions light up like a phoenix being reborn. With nothing more than his eyes.

In other words, this dude does not love you. I'm sorry. No worries. We've all been there. Find someone who does. Don't worry if it takes time. It's worth it.
posted by fraula at 1:26 AM on August 19 [5 favorites]


Thank you everyone, this is what I needed to hear to start to forget him.

You just said this--what, six days ago?--about the same guy?

Instead of trying to diagnose him, I would gently suggest that you get yourself to a mental health professional who can figure out what's going on with you.
posted by Gray Skies at 7:36 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


I am blinded by love

Nope, your life is not Twilight. You are an adult woman. You've posted two questions about this guy in a week. (though I'm confused because you've gotten three years younger in a week.) You have nothing positive to say about him or how he acts, but you claim you love him. Its more like you love having a boyfriend.

I have no idea what sort of person your boyfriend is, but I've got a sense about you. Break up with him because you are not a happy person right now. You're stressed, anxious and not getting laid.
posted by GilvearSt at 5:23 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


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