Understanding the difference between someone who has narcissistic personality traits and narcissistic personality disorder – a clinical diagnosis – is important. If your partner does have a narcissistic personality disorder, here’s what you should consider before embarking on couples therapy.
Narcissism occurs on a spectrum.
Most people have at least a few narcissistic traits.
People who have a lot of narcissistic traits can be toxic.
The term “narcissist” refers to someone who has a clinical diagnosis of “narcissistic personality disorder” or pathological narcissism.
Many survivors of narcissistic abuse think that attending couples therapy may save their relationship, but couples therapy is usually very unhelpful if one partner is a narcissist or has a high level of narcissistic traits.
If you suspect you’re being abused, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit their website – please be aware computer usage can be monitored; be safe.
You’ve probably heard the term “narcissist” thrown around a lot online in reference to someone who seems overly confident. While there is such a thing as having a healthy amount of narcissism, people who score high on narcissistic traits don’t usually have healthy personalities. Their narcissism can even lead to a specific type of abuse known as narcissistic abuse.
How do I know if my partner is a narcissist?
Narcissism occurs on a spectrum. It’s most commonly measured using a tool called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and possible scores range from 0 to 40. The average score is typically in the low or mid-teens. You can have narcissistic traits while still having a healthy personality – but you can also have an unhealthy personality that does damage to your relationships without being a pathological narcissist.
It’s important to know that not everyone with narcissistic personality traits has pathological narcissism since pathological narcissism is rare. People meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder when their narcissism affects their ability to function. A narcissist will usually struggle with dysfunctional interpersonal relationships – romantically, with peers, at work, and with family – because of their lack of empathy. They may also be attention-seeking and intolerant of disagreements or being questioned because of their belief that they are superior to everyone around them.
Traits of a narcissist
Most narcissists exhibit similar traits. Keep in mind that your partner doesn’t have to have all of these traits to have narcissistic personality disorder.
Here are some traits that signal you may be dealing with a narcissist:
A sense of superiority
A constant need for attention/validation
High level of perfectionism
Need for control
Never takes accountability
Lack of empathy
Poor or no boundaries
Views everything as a potential threat/attack on them
Driven by their emotions, and seeks external sources of validation
Inability to think abstractly/with nuance or hold space for multiple perspectives.
Fear of rejection and struggling to be vulnerable or trust others because of it.
High levels of anxiety
Often project their behaviors onto others – there’s a saying that you know a narcissist is cheating because they’ll be accusing you of it.
If your partner has these traits, while it seems like couples therapy may help you understand each other better, it’s actually unlikely to be helpful.