How to Know You're Dating a Narcissist: 10 Enormous Red Flags

How to Know You're Dating a Narcissist: 10 Enormous Red Flags

Not many people went online to find a date 20 years ago. Now, 15% of all U.S. adults have used online or mobile dating services, according to Pew Research Center.

Whether you meet a dating partner online or in person, if you have not known them for a length of time (or anyone else who has), you need to be cautious before moving forward into a close relationship.

While being cautious, be looking for red flags warning you that this person is not an emotionally healthy individual. The reason it’s important to understand these red flags is because we often assume that because we have a good heart and would never think this way, that other people would not as well. But sadly, we live in a world where all sorts of personality disorders exist. So it’s always better to be cautious and prepared before finding yourself trapped in a relationship that could emotionally, physically, and spiritual harm you.

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” – Proverbs 22:24-25

Someone with a narcissist personality disorder or other personality disorders, who isn’t seeking professional treatment, will cause you long-term relationship problems.

Check for these red flags to know if you’re dating a narcissist:

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  • 1. They are still legally married.

    1. They are still legally married.

    If he or she is dating or has a profile on a dating website while still legally married, that’s a major red flag. If someone claims they’re “separated” or “it’s complicated” in their profile, do not engage. You do not want to be the other woman/man!

    The biggest red flag of a narcissist is their need for constant admiration and their lack of contentment. A narcissist is often looking for something more than what they already have.

    If you find out the person you’re dating is still married, especially after they’ve said they are divorced or widowed, break things off immediately. He/she has been lying to you. And even with excuses, they’re still cheating on a spouse.

    I talk to men (this male friend shared the advantages of waiting to date) and women who have stayed single for years during and after their divorce and are now thriving. Plus, if someone is willing to date you while married, that’s a sign he/she doesn’t have integrity (a sign of narcissism) and will probably do it again in their next marriage.

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  • 2. They're intensely romantic, but not authentic.

    2. They're intensely romantic, but not authentic.

    Narcissists are very charming and often intensely romantic from the start. You and the narcissist will like all the same things, want to eat the same food, and you’ll be showered with gifts. He or she is an excellent sales person, trying to sell him or herself to you – to hook you quickly. But the catch is that the narcissist is a lemon with a shiny exterior.

    He/she is not really interested in getting to know the real you because he/she’s too busy trying to entice and ensnare you. Once entangled with a narcissist, it becomes very hard to break away without feeling intense pain.

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  • 3. They lie and keep secrets.

    3. They lie and keep secrets.

    A narcissist gets caught in lies. He or she keeps secrets from those closest to them and lies about certain aspects of their life. Someone who has integrity and values honesty won’t mind you digging into their background to verify what is said. A narcissist, on the other hand, has much to hide and will attack you if you ask for transparency by blaming you for not being trusting or calling you “crazy.”

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  • 4. They often break rules.

    4. They often break rules.

    The narcissist is a rule breaker. He or she feels above any rules that other people have to follow. He/she might not wear a seatbelt, will probably text and drive, and often go above the speed limit because he/she is the exception to the rules and the laws of the land. This includes all moral laws and other rules as well. He/she might be a police officer or say he/she knows many officers and can get away with these things.

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  • 5. They don't respect your boundaries.

    5. They don't respect your boundaries.

    He or she doesn’t respect boundaries and manipulates to get you to do things you didn’t want to do. You say you want to wait to have sexual relations, but the narcissist pushes you to go beyond what you’re comfortable with – often without you realizing. He/she wants to move in together shortly after meeting or dating. If you find it hard to say no now, before you’re married, how much harder will it be once you are married?

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  • 6. They don't show real empathy.

    6. They don't show real empathy.

    He or she really doesn’t care about your feelings or what you may be going through. Narcissists lack real empathy. The narcissist might say that he/she cares but his/her actions don’t back up this claim. When you’re sick they do not understand how to help you – he or she needs to be told exactly how because narcissists can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes. He/she can’t relate on an emotional level. 

    And when you ask him/her to sit with you, he/she cannot just focus on you and your needs. The narcissist is thinking about his/her needs or wants instead. He/she might even fall asleep. He/she might make excuses like he/she doesn’t like hospitals or use another excuse to get out of caring for you. But the real reason is they do not know how to exhibit sincere empathy for others.

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  • 7. They worry about their reputation, not character.

    7. They worry about their reputation, not character.

    The narcissist is always worried about his/her reputation instead of his/her character. It’s all about what he/she looks like to others or what other people think of him/her. They speak and act in such a way to impress others. If you notice small little lies or that you’re covering for his/her exaggerations, this could be a red flag.

    She says she makes more than she actually makes or is a manager when she’s not. He says he’s in the military, has a high paying position, and has been given numerous rewards or honors when he’s just a normal person like everyone else.

    They devote a lot of time and energy to create an image, and anyone dating or close to them must help protect that fictional image. Anyone who exposes the truth is their enemy.

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  • 8. They say all their past relationship partners were "crazy."

    8. They say all their past relationship partners were "crazy."

    He or she has a long history of relationships with “crazy” and controlling people, yet he/she was the one who cheated or was abusive. If you ask about the narcissist’s past relationships, and every single one of them was the other person’s fault, you might want to investigate further. If you ask to speak to any of the narcissist’s exes and his/her response is that you cannot, this could be a huge red flag that he/she is hiding something. If he/she has nothing nice to say about his/her past relationships, you’re probably dating a narcissist.

    I’ve had several bad relationships in my past, but I can analyze my own behaviors and see where I should have made better choices. I do not blame, and I take responsibility for my lack of education on narcissism, which caused me to see these characters as normal. But also, I’ve never cheated on any person I’ve dated or while I was married.

    Often narcissists find it difficult to stay faithful to one person and are often caught straying, which ends many relationships. Then they blame their partner for being controlling and/or crazy instead of taking responsibility for their wrong actions.

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  • 9. Their "friendships" are one-sided.

    9. Their "friendships" are one-sided.

    He or she has friends who feed their ego and/or offer perks that they can’t get anywhere else. Narcissists mostly use people for what they can get and keep “friends” for when they need them. They value relationships that give them something and discard those who refuse to be givers (because they are takers). Watch his/her interaction with friends. If their relationships seem to be one-sided, you could be their next victim.

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  • 10. Your relationship with them feels like an emotional roller coaster.

    10. Your relationship with them feels like an emotional roller coaster.

    Lastly, you notice a push-pull or hot-cold type of relationship. At first, you’re doing really well, seeing each other often, and then they disappear or ignore you. Often times they’ve discarded you and want you to come chasing after them. You start to think it’s over between you two and before you know it he/she’s back talking to you again and acting like nothing happened. You might wonder what’s up but rationalize it as no big deal. This could be because they’re distracted with other women/men, or it could be you’re on the emotional roller coaster they create with their victims.

    If you see this become a pattern of behavior, know that it won’t stop once you’re married. This a huge red flag that you’re not only dealing with a narcissist, but also maybe a sociopath or psychopath. This push-pull cycle happens to keep you unbalanced and insecure about the relationship. He/she pulls you close and then pushes you away over and over until you’re entangled and you’ll do anything to keep them close.

    I’ve coached many women in marriages where this was a major issue. Women ask me why their husband does this. This behavior is one way he/she continues to control and maintain power in the relationship. After he/she pushes you away, you grasp at whatever you can to pull him/her back, praying to save the marriage. It’s a very difficult experience and a form of psychological abuse that no person should have to experience.

    If you see any or all of these types of behaviors in one person while dating, get away before it’s too late. You deserve better than this type of relationship!

    Jen Grice is a Christian Divorce Mentor and Empowerment Coach, author of the book, You Can Survive Divorce: Hope, Healing, and Encouragement for Your Journey, a speaker, and a single homeschooling mom. She writes full-time at and empowers women to survive and heal after their unwanted divorce on her YouTube channel as well. Jen believes that through God's healing, grace, and redemption that all Christian women can survive... and even thrive, after divorce. Navigating this foreign territory we call divorce? Feeling alone? Start here!

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