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  • Dana Webster

Narcissism: Explained

The term narcissism is thrown about a lot these days to describe people (usually male partners in an heterosexual dynamic) who appear to be pathologically self-involved. But, what is a narcissist exactly and how do we tell if that's really what's going on?

Definition: Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others. (Wikipedia)

It's that last bit that distinguishes itself as a personality disorder. While self-interest is, in itself, a healthy ego trait, a true narcissist partner is incapable of acknowledging the needs of another. It's like they look right past you when you when you express a desire.

In all relationships, an honest conversation about needs and wants is a really good thing. A mutual sharing, offering, and receiving of needs is the ideal. However, if your partner says no to giving you a back rub because they really, really dislike doing it, but offer to make you a cup of tea instead, this is not narcissism. It's compromise.

We can't have everything we want all the time (unless you are narcissistic 😏). Being refused is frustrating but does not constitute a personality disorder. It just means coming up with something else more or less satisfactory.

The danger in labelling within-the norm-behaviours a personality disorder is that we give our power over to it, throw up our hands in defeat, and miss out on an opportunity to help our partner better understand us which then invites them to meet our needs. Make sense?

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