Agreed, the modern dating pool is a mess and the bar is in hell (see: orange peel theory), so it’s easy to equate insensitive behavior with straight-up manipulation. But, everybody isn’t a narcissist, some people are just mean assholes.
A narcissist is someone who has an exaggerated sense of importance, resulting in an extreme need for admiration. Typical narcissistic traits are, having a strong sense of entitlement, lacking empathy and sensitivity to the feelings of others, and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success or power. However, at the core of their over-inflated confidence, narcissists have a very fragile ego. They usually interpret people’s lack of worship as an attack on them. And in their usual fashion, they must respond in kind.
In today’s dating world, we misuse the word ‘narcissist’ (extracted from the mental health condition, Narcissistic Personality Disorder) to describe the age-old classic Asshole. Your ex who forgot to wish you happy birthday is probably just an asshole, but that guy in your DMs who was overly loving the few times you went out and then changed drastically as soon as you let your guard down and became vulnerable? That’s a Narcissist.
To prevent you from actually dealing with a Narcissist, who is likely going to manipulate and abuse you, let’s weigh in on several scenarios that may reveal if your partner is a narcissist or just an asshole.
Getting upset whenever you spend time with your friends
You may never say it in front of your partners, but sometimes, watching them sulk a little can be cute whenever you leave them to spend time with your friends. Especially when you know you look scrumptious while at it. Some fleeting jealousy, in moments like that, is human. But over time, if it persists, it frankly becomes irritating.
That’s when the ‘A’ word comes in, and it ranges from: asshole partner that calls you every five minutes when you’re out (Like, can you relax?) to Asshole partner that deliberately tries to sabotage your outing. This is when things begin to take a sinister turn.
If your partner goes out of his way to make sure you don’t honor your appointments with other people or gives an ugly expression to their jealousy, by picking up fights, just because you aren’t spending time with him? You’re 100% dealing with a narcissist.
Narcissists are pathologically envious people. Understand that if they are in a relationship, they want your attention at all times, and they also don’t want to see you having a good time with friends or family members.
They look at their phone more than they look at you
We get it, most of us are pretty much attached to our devices. However, quality time with your partner demands that the phones go off, and if devices stay on, it should be because you guys are doing something on it, together.
If your partner obsessively checks their phone whenever you both are hanging out together, that’s a rude asshole, and the clear message their action passes across is: they don’t value your company.
They never (ever) extend the olive branch after a quarrel
Girl, why are you the one always saying sorry? It’s embarrassing and frankly, we’re shy on your behalf.
Narcissist or Asshole? For me, its 50:50.
A narcissist fears accountability. Accepting blame and apologizing for wrongful actions means that they have to hold up a mirror and see they aren’t perfect. Their fragile ego cannot handle that. If they apologize or reach out first after a fight (because sometimes they do), they do it for ulterior motives. It might be because they want to make themselves feel better, or just because they want to spin the story so that the blame reaches everybody like party jollof in a wedding.
Or… imagine this other possibility… a partner who never wants to make up with you after a fight, just doesn’t like you like that. Stand UP!
Constantly giving you the silent treatment
This one is tricky because your partner may be conflict-avoidant and unable to communicate their feelings. But there’s a huge caveat here, and you may need to shine your eyes very, very well, because more often than not, your bae isn’t conflict-avoidant anything; he might just be a narcissist who is weaponizing his silence to manipulate you into doing his bidding.
Ladies, the silent treatment tactic is a classic narcissistic move. It’s literally the 36th Law of Power in Robert Greene’s “The 48 Laws of Power”, the unofficial handbook for seasoned manipulators all over the world. Here’s an excerpt from the book: “Ignoring people who thrive on your attention is an effective power tactic…act as if you weren’t interested in the first place…meanwhile, you maintain your superiority”.
You can see, abi?
For us, the silent treatment leans strongly towards the narcissist scale, and to be honest, I have seen many abusers wield this seemingly harmless move to gather sympathy from their partners and coerce them into doing things they don’t want to do. Hence, I won’t be advising any girl to stick around to find out if the actual issue is that their partner can’t open their mouth. It’s 2024; everyone say, ahhhhhhh.
They are selfish lovers
He likes to be on the receiving end when it comes to oral sex but draws the line at giving it. Foreplay lasts about 60 seconds—after he deposits saliva in your mouth and twists your nipples like you’re the reason a dollar is 1400 naira, he proceeds to a dry and painful penetration. Wahala. He pressures you to get on the pill because he doesn’t like condoms. Errr. He makes degrading comments about your body. Hmmm. He makes you try out things you are not comfortable with. Bombastic side-eye. He insists he is faithful, yet he can’t pee without crying and you’re constantly treating venereal diseases. Criminal offensive side-eye.
These are all asshole moves. Don’t let anyone use your body as an object. Sex is meant to be for consensual and mutual pleasure. Your sexual needs and health are just as important as theirs.
They rarely ever sing your praises
If your boyfriend or girlfriend refuses to compliment you or celebrate you whenever you hit a milestone or earn an achievement, they are first and foremost, your enemy. Then, secondly, a narcissist.
Narcissistic people will devise a way to detract from their partner’s happiness whenever its time to celebrate them. Understand that they tend to see the success of others as a threat to their superiority.
They talk about how sexy other women are
Sorry, babe, we don’t care how chill you are with things like this. Your man shouldn’t be frequently making comments about other women’s beauty. If he does, he’s an asshole. And this includes sly moves like him wishing you a happy birthday by starting with, “You’re not the most beautiful woman in the world but…”
But…but what sir? *Bombastic side eye* That’s your woman, YOU should be her biggest cheerleader. Period.
Showering you with excess love and attention for a length of time, then suddenly switching up
From the stories of “That’s not how he was before”, “It’s like he changed overnight”, “I’ll stick by him to remind him who he once was”, and other stories that touch.
Babe, if he lovebombs you, he’s a narcissist who’s playing the long game. By love bombing, I mean he’s showering you with excessive bursts of affection in a short period of knowing him to lower your guard. The end goal? To make you feel secure enough in the relationship so that when his true manipulative nature is revealed, and instability ensues, you are tricked into continuing the relationship by clinging to the good memories provided in the past.
Demanding you split bills 50-50, despite them earning higher
Let’s be serious, we don’t need a clinical diagnosis to describe this scenario. That’s an Asshole. And no babe, don’t allow him to deceive you that he’s a feminist.
Typically, if a narcissist is earning higher than you, they would want to pick up majority of the bills, simply so that you depend more on them. That’s how they can gain power to control the relationship.
If you suspect you are dealing with a narcissistic partner, there is a high chance that you are also being emotionally abused. Confide in a mental health therapist or a friend you trust, to determine if you need to remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes, when we are in love, bloody red flags look pastel pink.