Every day women ask me how to avoid the “narcissistic man.” They are asking out of general concern, usually due to a recent negative dating experience. In our culture, people with narcissistic traits are so common, that nearly everyone has had some kind of contact with this type of person. Nothing is more devastating than when a kind and compassionate person spends too much time with someone who is pathologically narcissistic.
The good news
Research shows that when we meet these people in person, we can usually determine whether the person has negative traits fairly quickly. They are often the people we do not like upon a first meeting. They are the ones that over inflate their value and are immediately trying to impress those around him or her. Their behavior simply does not feel genuine. Most people make the decision to avoid further interaction with such people. Women tend to be skilled at picking this up fairly quickly but often ignore their gut reactions while dating and become infatuated with how charming, intelligent or extraverted a narcissistic man is. Many of these types of men also do not feel the need to hide that they are narcissistic. They are proud of it and will tell you from the start. A true narcissist can be very transparent early on.
The bad news
Most of us are not equipped to pick up narcissistic cues while looking at someone’s social media accounts or online dating profile. The very traits that we do not like in person are actually found attractive in social media or in online dating. Women continuously look for very intelligent men who are extraverted and ignore the rest of the options available. As a woman, it is highly likely that unless you know exactly what you want and what to look for you are likely screening narcissists in to your dating life rather than out.
“I do not want to date someone boring.”
When I work with clients to better understand what they see when they are online dating, I often hear this sentence, especially from women. I encourage all of my clients to ask themselves, honestly, if they are looking for short-term mating or a long-term relationship. Most women will respond with the latter. If your goal is to look for a long-term committed relationship with a compassionate partner then you need to stop prioritizing meeting people who are built for short-term mating and recognize that your desire for a non-traditional relationship can take many different forms.
Narcissists are charming, intelligent, creative and alluring. They know how to create chemistry and know how to get their own needs met. They count on you feeling that “connection” very early on and use it to their advantage. Narcissists are rewarded in our culture with short-term dating opportunities and are often found more often in our dating pool (especially as we age). A whirlwind romance may occur and within a few months the honeymoon will be over. The narcissist will move on and you will be left in a great deal of pain wondering what happened.
If you want to avoid dating a narcissist, stop looking for someone to make your life exciting (that should be your own job). Get offline as soon as possible and do not turn off your intuition or instincts while meeting new people. If something feels off, it is likely off. Your first date should be fun and exciting but not at the expense of your gut. If you are unsure, pace the initial stages of the relationship and try to collect more data regarding whether the person is simply trying to get his needs met or is capable of taking your needs into consideration. This can be seen very early on in such behaviors as where he decides to take you on your first date (e.g. Is the location convenient for you or him) and how he treats others in your presence. Subtle signs of emotional insensitivity are usually apparent in the early stages of dating.
Mr. or Ms. Boring is likely a better long-term partner
Healthy relationships evolve and it is likely that the “boring” date will turn out to be a wonderful partner. It is not a coincidence that many women report that they met their husbands as friends first while they were chasing some other man! It took time for these women to recognize the wonderful qualities their friends demonstrated on a regular basis and to tie that in with their own fantasy of what dating and marriage should look like. If you are looking for a healthy, committed relationship, you should give the “nice” people a chance to show you what a long-term relationship should really be about.
What to do if you are a “narcissist magnet”
Some of us, either because of what we do for a living or how we grew up, are a magnet for attracting narcissistic individuals. You are at more risk if you are in a helping profession that requires a high level of compassion and listening. Narcissists like people who will admire their stories and often look for other who have strong listening skills and will not compete for their need to be in the spotlight.
If you have dated more than one person who is extremely narcissistic, working with Rapport to determine why this keeps happening or with a therapist of your choice will help you uncover the deeper issues that are impeding growth in your dating life. Often, boundary setting and our own self-involvement are areas that can be improved. When we are emotionally stronger and more attuned to ourselves, narcissistic individuals become less attractive to us.
If you are someone you know could benefit from a consultation to determine if you are a “narcissist magnet,” please contact Dr. Rhodes.