What are some red flags in narcissistic relationships?

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D.

This month’s book Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D. asks the question “Are you in a relationship with a narcissistic?” This blog is dedicated to some of the red flags that people have with narcissistic traits. There are many different traits, but I have picked out a few that stand out to me.


According to Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a lack of empathy is the key defining characteristic of the narcissistic person. They cannot identify or recognize the experiences and feelings of other people. If they are sad, everyone is experiencing a bad day, but if they are happy and you are not, there is something wrong with you. While in a relationship with a narcissist, they can leave you feeling misunderstood, isolated, unseen and confused. Red Flag: when you are talking and they yawn, pick up their phone, look around the room, or do anything but listen to you while you are speaking, they are showing a lack of empathy which could be a red flag. Remember this will not change over time but only get worse.

People who are grandiose constantly exaggerate their talents, accomplishments, connections, relationships, experiences, intelligence, wealth and success. The problem with grandiosity is that it manifests a sense of self-importance. Red Flag: when it comes to relationships these people have “the great loves of their lives” or the “perfect romance”, but what has happened is they have intellectualized this concept and it is not real. Over time they become disappointed with the relationship, especially when you have to get down to the nitty-gritty of life such as “honey the dishwasher has broken again.”

Red Flags

Entitlement means that people expect to be afforded special treatment, normally without reason or cause. They believe that they deserve the best in life, that people should comply with their demands, and they can do whatever they like. You know those people that drive down the hard shoulder in a traffic jam! Red Flags: watch how your partner treats service staff such as restaurant staff, bartenders, and clerks, etc., do they should them respect or are they demanding? Also observe how they treat people that can do something for them, and how cold they can be to people who cannot.

Manipulation is a major weapon in a narcissist’s arsenal where they will twist the situation and work at getting what they want, no matter what the cost, because of their lack of empathy. According to Ramami Durvasuala, Ph.D., “they frustratingly turn things around in such a way that you end up giving them what they want and exhaust yourselves in the process.” Red Flag: Pay attention to when you feel “played.” It is more of a feeling that you have just dealt with a con artist. In the beginning, it could look like “I had a tough childhood so I say mean things.” Financially you could be taking on more financial responsibility and spending more money to keep your relationship going and your partner happy.

Anger and Rage appear to be a universal theme for people with narcissistic traits, whether it is physical violence, yelling, throwing objects, slamming doors, threatening violence, or storming out of the house. Rage is when someone is out of control, escalating quickly and turning into violence and aggression. Red Flags: watch out for inappropriate displays of anger early on in the relationship. How is his driving, erratic, cutting people off, criticizing them, cursing at them, or worse? Rage is rage and although it might not be directed at you at the beginning of the relationship, it certainly can as you progress through your relationship.

Narcissism & Self Esteem

According to Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., narcissists have poorly regulated self-esteem, meaning on days that they feel admired and loved they are doing great, but on days when people are not paying attention, then their self-esteem suffers. This is where they can become jealous of you, your relationships with family, friends and co-workers, activities that you enjoy doing, or even your accomplishments. Red Flags: Pay attention to early and bizarre accusations about infidelity. Are they looking at your phone or e-mails, stalking your social media account? People who experienced this, in the beginning, say they felt “cared for,” but this is just plain and simply jealous.

In the book, there are many more red flags, such as lying as narcissists have to lie to save face, gaslighting, controlling, emotionally cold, vain and seductive to name a few. Remember, if the relationship does not feel right, then it is not