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How NOT to Date a Narcissist

Avoiding narcissistic men in Los Angeles is a bit like trying to avoid the rain in London. Even after interviewing a few experts and reading articles on the topic, it seems that when it comes to narcissists, there just isn’t a one-size-fits all model. That’s why they are so tricky to spot. If they all wore Armani suits, drove Ferraris and name-dropped, it would make life for single women in La La land (or anywhere!) much easier. But narcissists come in all shapes and sizes and really are easy to love—in the beginning. Surprisingly, they may be the men who, on the first dates, are amazingly supportive, good listeners and offer to help you in some way. They literally sweep you off your feet and make you feel incredibly special. This is why single moms, especially, are easy targets for the manipulative narcissist. So, as I venture out into the dating world, I desperately want to avoid falling for these men who, while charming and fun in the beginning, are users, spin-masters, chaos makers, and hurt those closest to them.

In Psychology Today’s cover article “How to Spot a Narcissist,” author Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., does a great job explaining the personality disorder. I like to dig deep and try to understand what lies beneath complex behavior, as it helps me become more compassionate. I didn’t realize, for instance, that most narcissists have a deep fear of not being good enough and are prone to episodes of depression or anxiety. I learned a lot from his article, but I kept thinking that it still didn’t help me, as a newly single woman, be able to spot a narcissist on the first date. I mean, I don’t want to find out that a man is really a jerk six months later when he cheats on me and wreaks havoc on my life. Right? So, how does a woman quickly discern whether the man she meets is the real deal or a narcissistic spin master?

For help, I interviewed Debra Cucci, MA, MFT, a therapist in Los Angeles who also runs support groups for women navigating the dating world in LA. Over the past 20 years, Cucci has become an expert on narcissists as she has counseled many women whose marriages and children have been drastically affected by the devastating fallout from living with one. While it may not always be possible to spot a narcissist on the first date, Cucci insists that there are quite a few characteristics that give away the disorder.

“Their presentation is a facade. They just may be too good to be true,” Cucci explained the other day in her office.

“One way to discern if they are who they portray themselves to be is to ask them (during a first date) ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing in your life?’ This is [a good question] because they tend to pretend that their lives are perfect,” she said.

Looking around her office, I saw many books written by experts on this personality disorder, that I want to read, such as The Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller. Cucci explained that a person diagnosed with clinical narcissism is not just a silly person who is vain and self-absorbed. (If that were the case than most of us would have to admit to being a narcissist at one time in our lives!) No, a person with this personality disorder can be extremely dangerous, or in the very least, assured to cause emotional damage to your life and those of your children. This is because they will often do whatever it takes to achieve their goals and feed their inflated sense of self. But when times are hard, a narcissist doesn’t handle it well. So in down times, such as times when there are issues at work, marriages often fall apart as a wife and children typically bear the brunt of the narcissist’s bruised ego. If things aren’t going a narcissist’s way, for instance, he may act out in a variety of ways, like having an affair, being hyper critical of family members, having extreme mood swings, abusing alcohol or drugs, etc.

So with that in mind, I asked Cucci to come up with some telltale signs of a narcissist, that women can look for on the first few dates:

  • A narcissist will blame other people for things that aren’t working in their lives.
  • Does he diss his ex or put other people down often?
  • Narcissists like to play the victim role. Be wary if you hear things such as: “It’s my dad’s fault, he wouldn’t pay for college” or “I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t get out of it.”
  • Name dropping is an obvious trait of a narcissist. They love to believe that they are special and will try to impress you with who they know.
  • Many narcissists have a love/hate relationship with their mother, as often they have narcissistic moms, who may likely have told them that they were extremely gifted, like her. (This can also be true about having a narcissistic father, but dads tend to be less available emotionally, so one is more affected by their primary care-giver.)
  • Is he predatory, but “in a good way?” Many narcissistic men can be sexy and athletic, giving them the confidence to approach women easily. They tend to have a lot of experience with women and therefore become good predators, “smooth operators” and can charm women—especially those with less dating experience.
  • Is he not able to show sympathy? This is a tricky quality to spot in the early stages of dating a narcissist, as often they pretend to be terribly sympathetic to your plight. But if, once they have you as a sex partner, they no longer seem sympathetic to your life issues, or they are no longer good friends unless their interests are being taken care of, then you know they are a narcissist.
  • Does he make grandiose offers, statements and promises in public, but rarely follows through in private? A narcissist may offer to help you move or babysit your children in front of friends or family, but then forget to follow through a week later.
  • “Narcissists attack you and devalue you if you don’t give them what they want,” warns Cucci. This trait isn’t easily seen in the beginning of a courtship, however. This is why Cucci says it’s important for woman not to have sex with a new man for two months. This seems mighty hard to do! … But she insists that narcissists won’t wait that long.
  • He has nearly 1,000 friends on Facebook, but not that many close, deep friendships with other men.

Did these tips help you? Do you think you’re dating or are in love with a narcissist? Chime in—I’d love to hear from you!