Why your ex isn’t always a narcissist
Relationships are hard. Friendships are hard. Life, in general, can be hard.
As adults, we learn to navigate our way through the issues that come with relationships and life in general through our interactions as youths and young adults. As children, we are still in the learning phase of socializing with others so things like sharing, being caring, taking ownership, compromising, and saying sorry can be difficult lessons to learn. It’s these hard lessons that make or break young relationships with many failing due to a lack of trust, communication, or just simply drifting apart.
As we get older we learn the hard way, that to keep someone you love in your life you need to work at it, and at times it can really feel like work.
A lack of mindfulness can cause small issues to worsen as rage and frustration take hold. When you are an angry partner you stop communicating. You become more internalized as your frustration becomes outwards and that means your other half won’t understand what the problems are. If there is a lack of understanding there is a lack of resolve and that’s when things can get bitter and nasty.
There are so many posts these days across social media stating ‘my ex is a narcissist’ or ‘I’m better off without you, you’re a narcissist’ but sometimes, your ex actually isn’t a narcissist, sometimes they may just be a dick. Hurt and hate can lead you to label others unnecessarily or presume things about others and that can be a dangerous game to play for both yourself and your ex.
The DSM-5 and narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a disorder that is characterized in the DSM-5 as someone who portrays self-importance, exaggerated need for admiration, power, and attention, and almost always have a lack of empathy. Typically those with NPD take advantage of others and can leave a trail of sorrow in their path.
Symptoms of NPD include some or all of the following qualities.
- Fantasies of power, attractiveness, success, or intelligence.
- Sense of entitlement and expectation of obedience from others.
- Exploitative in order to personally thrive.
- Reduced or lack of empathy.
- Intense envy.
- Arrogant and pompous demeanor.
It's normal for people to display traits of NPD however, that does not mean they are narcissistic, many wouldn’t fit the official criteria if they were being assessed and in those instances where someone is portraying one of the NPD traits, chances are they’re just being unbalanced and acting like a dick.
‘Real’ NPD impairs a person's capabilities to thrive in the world. It affects their relationships in work, friends, and family as their condition tends to be rigid leaving them simply unable to function in the real world along with forming real and lasting relationships.
In the ‘real world,’ many NPD sufferers will fail to maintain employment as it’s typical that they exaggerate their capabilities which becomes apparent once in the role. Many simply cannot keep up with their own delusions which can cause anger and frustration for the sufferer. In the family home or in relationships the NPD sufferer may become angrier as they try to compensate for the loss of respect in the workplace with increased abuses of power in the home, to make them feel superior once more.
They do not tolerate their ego being deflated.
Due to the pathological aspect of the condition, many may push the blame to their partner. Many may incite acts of domestic abuse while telling the abusee that it is their fault or that they were deserving of the mistreatment. They are strategic with the words they say and how they say them.
OK so maybe my ex wasn’t that ‘bad’ but surely he’s still a narcissist?
You have every right to feel hurt by whatever actions led to your separation. But in the heat of the moment consider the labels you place on your ex in a public setting such as social media. Sometimes actions may have selfish or jealous tendencies, maybe they cheated, or maybe they were just hateful to you? It doesn’t make it OK absolutely not however, it doesn’t always mean that they are a narcissist.
- Selfish with their time, money, or belongings.
- Lacks communication skills or very secretive.
- Likes to pamper themselves and take care of their appearance.
- Hurt you with their words.
- Left you and your joint responsibilities.
- Didn’t love you hard enough.
These are poor actions for sure but don’t depict a narcissist. By incorrectly labeling someone as mentally ill you are taking away from the condition itself and leading those who possibly need to seek help not to do so, out of social stigma or shame. Please consider your words.
Along with the incorrect labeling, it also tarnishes someone's character which is never fair. It makes you look spiteful, it pulls people into dramatics that they maybe don’t want pulled into.
You simply cannot fight hurt with hate.
I am not a clinical psychologist however if you are in a relationship with someone who is portraying the signs of NPD, please speak to your local GP, therapist, or close family or friend to ensure that you do not become the target of their grandiosity.