Linda* was elbow deep in dishes after dinner when she heard the sound of her cat hacking up a hairball.The 32-year-old had a choice: keep scrubbing the plates in the sink, or clean up the mess she knew was awaiting her in the living room. Linda’s husband had also heard the cat throw up, and he expected his wife to drop the dishes and get down on the carpet.When she didn’t, “he freaked out and started throwing dishes into the sink and screaming at me about how I was an idiot,” Linda tells SELF.
“He did not talk to me for two or three days, even though I would ask him what was wrong.It was only when I broke down and apologized that he started to talk to me again.”Three and a half years into their marriage—and 13 years into their relationship—Linda and her husband sought the help of a therapist, who diagnosed the man with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).As defined by the Mayo Clinic, NPD is “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.”His constant manipulation, his verbal attacks on Linda—only to switch to playing the victim moments later—and his gaslighting tactics all pointed the therapist to the diagnosis, Linda says."I did not believe it at first because, after being with someone for that long, I wanted to believe that he was a good person and I had invested in something that was real," she admits. I just felt relieved."Dating a narcissist can be a confusing, miserable experience that slowly erodes a person's sense of self-worth.
But it's not always easy to tell whether the person you're dating simply has certain personality flaws or is an actual narcissist.It often seems easier to try to ignore the signs, blame yourself for their behavior, or try as hard as possible to keep the peace, as Linda did—anything but admit the person you love may have NPD.While most people may seem to exhibit hints of narcissism here and there, people with NPD cross the line of healthy confidence and believe they are more important than everyone else all of the time.