I began a ministry for single mothers almost two decades ago and have had the privilege of talking to thousands of single mothers across the U.S. Through the years, I’ve conducted many Q&A’s and, of course, the regular questions of sex, dating, loneliness, and future mates come up often. But I’ve recently been struck by the number of conversations where the term “narcissist” has come up. So I began to do a little research. Sure enough, narcissism seems to be on the rise – or at least is being charted as such. According to the National Institutes of Health, modern western societies are experiencing a narcissism pandemic that rose from a reported 12% in 1963 to 77% in 1992 among adolescents. In its simplest interpretation, an Ohio State University study in 2021 defined narcissism as “entitled self-importance.” But why the rise?
Could it be the helicopter parenting of the 1980s and 1990s, where children perceived that their parents’ worlds revolved solely around them, backfired? Could it be the increased pressure of social media and the promotion of the Instagram-famous, YouTubers, likes, clicks, and followers finally caught up with us? Could it be that “die to self” and “pick up your cross and follow me” died and the world laid down their crosses and picked up their egos? I have no doubt that the further the world migrates to the culture of anything goes, New Ageism, paganism, worship of self, and truth as only “your truth” and not the undeniable truth of the Creator of heaven and earth, we will see this trend continue.
So, how do you identify if you may be dating a narcissist? Here are eight clues. While no one tip exclusively denotes that you are dating a narcissist, a combo thereof would be a clue!
1. Narcissists Obsess About Success
Their importance is defined by their accomplishments. How quickly they climb the corporate ladder or achieve social media followers or accomplish their goal matters to them. They will likely list their resume of accomplishments early on in the relationship in hopes of impressing you. They may cite their resume of accomplishments in social settings, erroneously thinking their worth is tied to their resume.
2. Narcissists Want to Be Admired for Their Attractiveness
While caring about your appearance is certainly not an outright sign of narcissism, the obsession with it can be. Clothing, hair, and how others perceive their attractiveness is of paramount importance. It is important they perceive themselves as the most attractive in a room. It is not uncommon that designer cars, clothes, high-end jewelry, and the like, would be especially important to complete their “look.”
3. Narcissists Want to Be Perceived as Heroes
Initial impressions will yield immense kindness, good manners, and chivalry. They are often charismatic and well-liked by the general public, as many won’t discern their true character. They want to be perceived as a “rescuer” rushing in to make your life easier. They will say things like, “I can’t believe someone treated you like that, before.” However, this hero persona is short-lived, and manipulation usually births quickly after that. (Note: The problem is that many get wrapped up in the early heroism and don’t see the tide shift!)
4. Narcissists Want to Be Validated and Needed
They fish for compliments and need their work to be acknowledged. They want you to acknowledge when they’ve washed your car, helped the elderly lady across the street, or volunteered at the soup kitchen. They will keep record of their service to you or others and will likely bring it up again. It is especially meaningful for them to be needed. When the car breaks down and leaves you roadside, this is of great merit to the narcissist, as it fuels their need to rescue, further solidifying that you can’t live without them. But for them, you wouldn’t survive.
5. Narcissists Hold Grudges
The Word teaches us that love keeps no record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13:5), but they do. They remember what you did and said. And they will attempt to get you back for it. They want you to pay. They strategize ways to do so and may sit on the revenge for some time. But make no mistake; they did not forget. Forgiveness is hard for them. They want someone to pay for their pain and hardship.
6. Narcissists Want Power and Control
This is a given. They want to be in charge and will go to great lengths to do so. It is much harder for them to follow others. They want to control their environments (and yours) and it could manifest through an obsession with tidiness, promptness, or organization. They tend to overreact when they aren’t in control, or things have not gone in a way that was previously projected.
7. Narcissists Are Very Jealous
They often need to be placed above all. In fact, many will pull you from God. They won’t say it this way, but they need to be worshiped above anything else, as your all in all. They promote idolatry in this way. They don’t mutually seek God with you. They seek to be God to you. They may be active in the church (as this can be a place to get power), but they aren’t seeking a deep relationship with their King. They want to control your relationship with the Lord.
8. Narcissists Truly Believe They Should Get Everything They Want
They are the epitome of the “me” culture. What about me? They expect those around them to be compliant in ensuring everything is always about them. How did they feel? How were they treated? Were they served first? Were they the first ones thought of? Their world revolves around them.
But here’s the really important part of understanding what is at play. Read 1 Kings. Read 2 Kings. Read Revelation. Narcissism is nothing but the Jezebel spirit. The Jezebel spirit isn’t exclusive to gender, nor is narcissism. Men and women alike are suffering with this. We must first recognize that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood enemies (Ephesians 6:12). We are battling evil rulers and authorities in the unseen world. Sadly, most of us aren’t fully aware of the spiritual war going on that so easily deceives us and steals our joy. Come against those evil spirits. Wrestle not against flesh.
Singles, you must take responsibility for your dating life and stop ignoring red flags when the Holy Spirit is guiding and leading. Stop trying to fix and counsel your way out of a narcissistic relationship. Stop ignoring the warning signs or making excuses for behavior. Stop dating narcissists. Stop marrying them. Do not be deceived into thinking you can fix them if you can just endure. The stronghold must be broken off them, which requires them to humble themselves, submit to the Lord, and fully walk in freedom with Him. Sadly, many will not do this. Do not enter into marital covenant with them, singles. It gets far more complicated – just ask any heartbroken divorcee. God has more for you. There are many good Christian men and women out there.
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Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.