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What are things narcissists do in a relationship?

Narcissists can be challenging partners in relationships. Their behavior often leaves their loved ones feeling confused, insecure, and walking on eggshells. Understanding common narcissistic behaviors can help make sense of the dysfunction.

Do narcissists exploit and take advantage of others?

Yes, narcissists frequently exploit and take advantage of others in relationships. Their sense of entitlement leads them to use people for their own gain. Some common exploitative behaviors include:

  • Borrowing money with no intention of paying it back
  • Persuading a partner to pay for things like dinners, vacations, etc.
  • Using a partner for free labor, rides, housing, etc.
  • Taking credit for a partner’s ideas and accomplishments
  • Blaming the partner when something goes wrong, even if the narcissist is at fault

The narcissist feels entitled to the time, resources, and energy of their partner. They have little concern for their partner’s needs or limitations.

Do narcissists lack empathy and disregard others’ feelings?

Yes, lack of empathy and disregard for others’ feelings are hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissists struggle to understand others’ perspectives and emotions. Their own needs and desires take priority. Some examples include:

  • Saying hurtful, critical, or insulting things without considering the partner’s feelings
  • Becoming impatient or angry if the partner expresses vulnerabilities or needs
  • Disregarding the impact their actions have on the partner
  • Failing to see things from the partner’s perspective
  • Ignoring when their partner is upset

The narcissist’s emotional world revolves around themselves. Their partners’ independent thoughts, wants, and feelings are dismissed or meaningless to them.

Are narcissists controlling and possessive towards their partners?

Yes, many narcissists exhibit controlling, manipulative behavior towards romantic partners. Their need to exert dominance and hold power over others drives this possessiveness. Some examples include:

  • Dictating rules about appearance, hygiene, diet, etc.
  • Isolating the partner from friends and family
  • Monitoring or limiting phone calls, texts, social media
  • Interrogating the partner when they return from being out
  • Accusing the partner of cheating with little or no evidence

This controlling behavior serves to make the partner dependent on the narcissist. It also satisfies their need for power. The narcissist views their partner more as an object they own rather than an equal.

Do narcissists gaslight and manipulatively undermine partners?

Yes, narcissistic partners frequently gaslight and undermine their romantic partners as part of the abuse and control. Gaslighting refers to distorting the truth and denying reality to destabilize victims. Examples include:

  • Denying something happened or was said, even when there is proof
  • Discrediting a partner’s memories and perceptions
  • Withholding/twisting information to confuse the partner
  • Projecting blame for issues onto the partner
  • Using intimidation and lies to control the partner

This psychological manipulation makes the partner doubt their own sanity. The narcissist avoids accountability for their actions by making the partner seem “crazy” or “irrational.” In addition to gaslighting, narcissists undermine partners in other ways, like:

  • Belittling accomplishments
  • Patronizing/talking down to partner
  • Criticizing and judging partner’s interests
  • Trivializing partner’s thoughts and feelings

This gradually breaks down the partner’s confidence and self-worth, making them more vulnerable to the narcissist’s control.

Do narcissists exhibit extreme jealousy and paranoia?

Yes, narcissistic partners often display intense and irrational jealousy towards their mates. Their paranoia about infidelity or abandonment fuels this possessiveness. Common jealous behaviors include:

  • Accusing partner of flirting or cheating without cause
  • Interrogating partner about past and present relationships/partners
  • Snooping through partner’s phone, accounts, belongings
  • Showing up unexpectedly to monitor partner’s activities
  • Threatening harm against perceived romantic rivals

This pathological jealousy stems from the narcissist’s insecurity and need to feel special. They interpret ordinary interactions as threats. Their baseless suspicions and accusations further isolate the partner.

Do narcissists lack accountability and blame others?

Yes, narcissists habitually avoid personal accountability by shifting blame onto others, especially romantic partners. Their sense of superiority makes it impossible to take responsibility for their actions. Some examples include:

  • Blaming the partner for problems the narcissist caused
  • Denying wrongdoings even when confronted with evidence
  • Saying the partner “deserved” the narcissist’s bad behavior
  • Failing to follow through on promises or obligations
  • Twisting facts to make the partner seem at fault

This refusal to own up to mistakes often leaves partners feeling frustrated, powerless, and trapped in dysfunctional patterns. The narcissist deflects accountability to uphold their inflated self-image.

Do narcissists feel entitled to special treatment?

Yes, narcissists have an exaggerated sense of entitlement which extends to their intimate relationships. They expect partners to cater to their needs, wants, and comforts without reciprocation. Some examples include:

  • Expecting partner to run errands, cook meals, etc. without offering to help
  • Assuming partner will pay for things like dinners, movies, etc.
  • Becoming angry if the partner cannot attend to their needs 24/7
  • Acting arrogantly and making demands rather than requests
  • Exploiting partner’s time, resources, compassion without appreciation

Narcissists view their partners as extensions of themselves, and believe they deserve special privileges in the relationship. Their sense of superiority makes them act entitled to being served and pampered.

Do narcissists lack remorse and quickly move on after breakups?

Yes, narcissists generally lack remorse and empathy, which allows them to move on quickly without grieving the relationship loss. Some examples include:

  • Ending the relationship abruptly and coldly
  • Refusing to discuss or process the breakup
  • Seeming unaffected by pain caused to partner
  • Immediately jumping into new relationships after the breakup
  • Denying any problems and blaming the partner for the breakup

The narcissist’s shallow emotions make it easy to discard old partners and idealize new ones. Their ego prevents them from looking inward at their own behavior. Instead, they feel victimized by the breakup and paint the partner as the villain.

Do narcissists engage in infidelity and risky sexual behavior?

Yes, narcissists are more likely to engage in infidelity, affairs, and risky sexual behavior within relationships. Some examples include:

  • Pursuing sexual relationships outside the primary partnership
  • Secretive communication and plans with exes or new partners
  • Dishonesty about time spent away from partner
  • History of serial cheating in past relationships
  • Participation in risky sexual activities like unprotected sex, multiple partners, etc.

The narcissist feels entitled to pursue pleasure and validation outside the relationship. Their ability to compartmentalize allows them to justify and rationalize the unethical behavior.

Do narcissists project perfection but are privately insecure?

Yes, despite their confident exterior, most narcissists secretly harbor deep insecurities and fears of inadequacy. Some examples include:

  • Needing constant praise and recognition from partner
  • Reacting strongly and angrily to criticism
  • Struggling with failure or disappointing partner
  • Masking low self-esteem with arrogant, boastful behavior
  • Obsessing over appearance, achievement, status

The narcissist’s bombast and attention-seeking exists to compensate for negative feelings about themselves. Their perfectionism reflects oppressively high self-expectations. The narcissist fears being imperfect, ordinary, or mediocre.

Do narcissists lack empathy and only serve their own interests?

Yes, one of the hallmarks of pathological narcissism is a severely limited capacity for empathy. Narcissists demonstrate an inability to understand and share others’ thoughts and feelings. Examples include:

  • Focusing conversations on themselves and their interests
  • Failing to ask about the partner’s life or listen when told
  • Getting bored and disinterested when not the center of attention
  • Disliking doing kind things for partner that don’t directly benefit self
  • Dismissing the partner’s pain, fears, insecurities, goals, etc. as unimportant

The narcissist prioritizes their own ego and needs. The partner is relevant only in terms of validating or serving the narcissist. Their empathy deficit reinforces toxic relationship patterns.

Do narcissists feel rage and lash out when challenged or criticized?

Yes, many narcissists react with anger when their partners question, challenge, or criticize their behavior. Some examples include:

  • Becoming verbally abusive towards partner
  • Making belittling, demeaning comments
  • Slamming things, punching walls, throwing objects
  • Giving partner the silent treatment or disappearing for hours/days
  • Gaslighting partner into thinking they provoked the reaction

The narcissist perceives feedback as an attack on their inflated self-image. Their fragile ego cannot tolerate challenges. So they rage against their partner to reestablish dominance and avoid accountability.

Do narcissists oscillate between idealizing and devaluing partners?

Yes, narcissists tend to swing between putting their partners on a pedestal and then abruptly devaluing and diminishing them. Some examples include:

  • Early in relationship, showering partner with praise, gifts, adoration
  • Frequent bragging about partner’s beauty, intelligence, talents to others
  • Sudden shift to criticizing and berating partner over minor flaws
  • Demeaning partner’s appearance, personality, capabilities
  • Treating partner with indifference, contempt, or disgust

The narcissist builds partners up as magical and superior to earn affection and affirmation. Once confident of the partner’s devotion, the narcissist devalues them to gain a sense of power. Partners suffer emotional whiplash from this cycle of idealization and devaluation.


Narcissistic relationships follow dysfunctional patterns due to the narcissist’s disordered personality traits, including entitlement, exploitation, control, and lack of empathy. While narcissists can initially seem charming, attentive partners, their self-absorption and manipulation inevitably poisons relationships. Knowing the red flags can help identify narcissistic behaviors early on before partners become entrenched in abusive and exploitative dynamics that erode their self-worth. Breaking free requires connecting with support systems and developing the courage to stop compromising one’s own needs and well-being. There are kinder people out there capable of truly mutual love.

Narcissistic Behavior Examples
Exploitation and entitlement Borrowing money with no intention to repay, using partner for free labor, taking partner’s ideas
Lack of empathy Impatience and anger at partner’s vulnerabilities, ignoring partner’s feelings
Control and possession Dictating partner’s appearance, limiting contact with friends/family
Manipulation and gaslighting Withholding information to confuse partner, denying events that occurred
Extreme jealousy Accusing partner of cheating with no evidence, interrogating partner’s activities
Blaming others Saying partner “deserved” mistreatment, twisting facts to avoid accountability
Entitlement Expecting partner to run errands and serve needs without reciprocation
Lack of remorse Ending relationship abruptly and coldly, refusing to acknowledge hurt caused
Risky sexual behavior Pursuing affairs and unprotected sex outside the relationship
Insecurity Needing constant praise from partner, reacting angrily to criticism
Lack of empathy Focusing conversations on self, ignoring partner’s thoughts and feelings
Rage when challenged Verbal abuse when criticized, gaslighting partner about provoking anger
Idealization and devaluation Early praise and gifts, later criticism and contempt towards partner

In summary:

Narcissistic relationships involve exploitation, control, manipulation, jealousy, blame-shifting, entitlement, lack of remorse, infidelity risks, insecurity masking as arrogance, lack of empathy, rage when challenged, and cycles of idealization and devaluation directed towards partners. Recognizing these dysfunctional patterns is key to protecting one’s self-worth and integrity.