6 Dating Red Flags of Narcissists Most People Mistake As Green Flags

There are certain seeming “green flags” that are actually the dating red flags of a narcissist. The last one may surprise you.

Love bombing is viewed as “finally” meeting your soulmate.

Most people see excessive affection, attention, and contact at the onset of dating as a sign that the relationship is making progress. Yet there’s a distinction between the future-faking, mirroring, and fast-forwarding involved in love bombing and authentic desire and interest. The latter is usually more of a slow, organic burn while the former can become an all-consuming fire that fizzles out quickly. People who love-bomb you usually aren’t looking for something authentic and long-term. Some are love-bombing you in hopes of getting you into bed or an exploitative relationship. Stay wary of anyone who contacts you excessively during the early stages of dating, who makes you imagine a future with them early on, and who seems to share all your hobbies, interests, and dreams in an unbelievable way.

Honesty even when it’s brutal and cruel.

“At least they’re honest!” is a regular acknowledgment that we often hear even after a potential dating partner delivers what is obviously a deliberately hurtful message. “Honesty” without empathy is cruelty – and for narcissists, it’s usually not even that honest. Narcissistic and psychopathic individuals find a sense of significance and importance in causing you pain. That means they’ll also manufacture lies, distort your true qualities, and project their own misdeeds onto you – all in the name of “just being honest.” Don’t fall for this trap. Be honest with yourself when their cruelty is a huge red flag and know that their lack of empathy and callousness will only escalate later on in the relationship.

A “quirky” sense of humor.

We all want a partner who has a good sense of humor – someone we can exchange witty banter with, who makes us laugh and also appreciates our jokes. Yet the normalization of “bullying” humor can make us forget that there are certain types of humor that are more toxic. For example, research shows that sarcasm that is used to chronically bully and demean others can actually be a potential red flag of psychopathy. A little sarcasm here and there as a spice may not be hurtful, but perpetual sarcasm and contempt are major red flags you’re dealing with someone who will make you the butt of their jokes.

Too much openness and “vulnerability.”

Vulnerability has become normalized in our society to the point where it overrides privacy and healthy boundaries in the dating world. A narcissist that discloses all of their trauma and sob stories (whether real or false) in the beginning does it for far more sinister reasons than someone who is occasionally prone to oversharing or is hoping to find a witness to their pain. If you find yourself on a date with someone who, unsolicited and unprovoked, starts talking about the woes of their childhood or their cheating ex (in a narcissist’s case, they were the ones who usually cheated), take heed. They may be trying to paint themselves as the victim early on to manipulate you. They might also pry into your traumas in an eerily mechanical way to identify what wounds they can use against you later on as ammunition. Establishing true intimacy doesn’t mean you have to projectile-vomit everything horrific that ever happened to you or feel obligated to share your traumas in turn with a stranger. You can build up to disclosing more personal things when you feel most comfortable.

Having many close friendships with the opposite sex (or same sex based on their sexual orientation).

Another aspect of modern romance that has been far too normalized is the prospect that every dating partner is going to have suspiciously close friends of the opposite sex (or same sex depending on their sexual orientation). It should be noted that provoking jealousy or jealousy induction is associated with narcissism and psychopathy. There’s nothing wrong with having genuinely platonic friendships, but you might be seeing it as too much of a green flag if you ignore blatantly shady behavior between a dating partner and his or her so-called “close friends” for the sake of wanting to seem secure and mature. Remember that this is not about your insecurity – it’s about basic respect. If you notice behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to your gut, and assess your personal boundaries. And remember: you deserve to be comfortable in a relationship where someone’s friend’s list doesn’t consist of ex-partners or potential love interests.  If someone you’re dating is using his close friends against you to provoke jealousy, run as fast as possible in the other direction. You never have to compete for someone who is truly worthy of you.

An over-the-top interest in spirituality and your spiritual beliefs.

We’re in a beautiful era where spirituality has many forms and comes in many faiths. It can seem like a major green flag when someone shares your spiritual beliefs or is at the very least interested in learning more about them. Yet if you find that a potential dating partner is interrogating you about your spiritual beliefs in a way that seems over-the-top and suspicious, be aware that there may be a hidden motive. Narcissists and psychopaths use your empathy, spirituality, and compassion against you: so when they’re asking about your spiritual beliefs, they’re actually assessing your capacity to forgive them and how willing you are to bend over backwards for them even after they’ve harmed you. Solution? Make sure that whatever spiritual beliefs you have are still paired with a healthy set of airtight boundaries. Don’t tell potential dating partners things like, “We are all one,” “Forgiveness is the way,” or offer to sing kumbaya with them. Don’t offer to read tarot for them, ask about their birth chart, or excitedly suggest they’re your twin flame (or buy into their claims that they’re yours). Instead, casually mention how you find it empowering that spirituality reminds you of your own divinity and all the good you deserve. If your dating partner is a man, tell them God is a woman and see how they react. In all cases, share stories that showcase that your faith and spirituality won’t prevent you from holding someone accountable. After all, standing up to a bully is the most spiritual thing you can do for yourself and others. Dating is no exception.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.