How to Spot a Narcissist on the Prowl

Recognizing the Red Flags

Article Written by Randi Fine

Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

Narcissists are everywhere. These predators covertly walk among us in droves. Adept at changing their personalities in pursuit of their life-blood, narcissistic supply, and presenting with a human appearance, they are virtually unrecognizable. This reality is terrifying to anyone who has ever been unwittingly targeted and trapped in their webs of deceit.

The good new is that, though you must be extremely cautious, there are clear warning signs to watch for and dating protocols to diligently follow that will help to protect you.

Charismatic or Pitiful Individuals

Narcissists are notorious for their charismatic personalities. This ability is crucial in capturing narcissistic supply and when recognized should be avoided. But they can also present as people who are down on their luck: their ex left them, parents were abusive, they’re financially struggling, no place to live, etc. If they size you up as compassionate, forgiving, generous, and/or someone with undefined boundaries they may use this tactic to make you feel sorry for them. Warning: Both could be traps.

Life Story or Situation Closely Matches Yours

Narcissists want to bring your guard down. One way to accomplish that is to point out the commonalities that exist between you. They may relate similar stories to yours, share similar backgrounds, enjoy the same things you do (sports, music, hobbies, food, etc.), or express similar life goals. If you say you are considering relocating to a specific area they may say they’ve always thought about moving there. Warning: If things seem too perfect right out of the gate they probably are not.

The Interview

Narcissists interview potential victims in the dating and honeymoon stage of the “relationship” so they will eventually know exactly how to hurt them. They pretend to be totally interested in what you have to say and encourage you to share your goals, hopes, dreams for the future.. They also encourage you to reveal the details of people, events, or traumas that have caused you pain. This tactic makes you feel as if you have finally found a best friend; one who is is interested in what you have to say, is easy to talk to, and “gets” you. Warning: Everything you say can and will be used against you. The purpose of the interview is to get you to reveal all your emotional buttons. You can be certain they will eventually push every one of them. Don’t share any personal information until you know exactly who you are sharing it with.

Too Much Chemistry

Narcissists get the endorphins firing in your brain to create an addiction to them and blind you to the truth of who they really are. Many women tell me that they would not have normally been attracted to the narcissistic men but there was “just something about them” they couldn’t resist. Men usually tell me that the narcissistic women are irresistibly beautiful. These statements are general. Sometimes the men are good looking and the women physically unattractive. What’s important to know is that if physical intimacy enters the picture too soon you can easily be trapped. When allowed to be expressed, chemistry with a narcissist is usually intense. To avoid the temptation, only date in neutral places; never at either of your homes. Warning: Beware of fiery beginnings. Take it slow.

Leave the Caretaker in You Home

Narcissists will test you to see how generous, understanding, and flexible you are. If you show that side to them they will know you are an easy mark. Let them pamper you for awhile. Resist the temptation to offer up any of your money. Do not feel as if you have to reciprocate any of their gestures or expenditures. Once they’ve been carefully vetted you can loosen that up a bit. Warning: Don’t be a rescuer or look to be rescued. Healthy relationships take two whole, mentally healthy people who have resolved their own issues and are invested in each other one hundred percent. If you have the tendency to give too much, work on your boundary system before you begin dating.

Verify, Verify, Verify

Narcissists lie about everything so take nothing they say at face value, no matter how sincerely it seems to be said. Assume, until proven otherwise, that nothing said to you is true. Verify everything you’ve been told; who they are, where they live, where they work, who their family is, how much money they have or make, etc. If the information cannot be verified it is likely to be false. Warning: You may be dating an imposter.

Name Smearing

Narcissists notoriously smear peoples’ names for revenge purposes. Beware of anyone who talks trash about her/his exes. Their exes are probably very nice people, just as you are, who were victimized and then either thrown away or wised up. Warning: You could be next.

A person with good intentions should pass this test with flying colors. When in doubt, trust your instincts. They never lie. If something feels “off” then it is. Yes, you are over-cautious because you’ve been badly burned, but anyone truly interested in you will allow you to set the rules and the pace. Do not be pressured.


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