How The 3 Types of Narcissists Act on a First Date

You can predict how a narcissist will act in a relationship from your first date
Written by Dr. Elinor Greenberg

When you say the word “Narcissist,” most people immediately picture an outgoing, extroverted person who appears supremely self-confident and immediately takes center stage in every gathering. While this is an apt brief description of the behavior of a typical Exhibitionist Narcissist who is feeling grandiose, it leaves out many other people who also have Narcissistic Disorders.

I have found it useful to divide Narcissistic Personality Disorder into three main subtypes: Exhibitionist, Closet, and Toxic. Some theorists give them different names or they may describe fewer or more types of Narcissists. The ones that I call Toxic Narcissists, they may call Malignant Narcissists; or they may describe all non-Exhibitionists as Covert Narcissists.  Putting the names aside, the easiest way to recognize which subgroup you are dealing with is by paying close attention to how they prefer to get their narcissistic supplies.

In brief:

1. Exhibitionist Narcissists:  Want to be admired
2. Closet Narcissists:  Want to be associated with someone that they admire
3. Toxic Narcissists:   Want to dominate and make the other person feel worthless


Why is it important to recognize which subgroup a Narcissist belongs in?

If you are planning on being in a romantic relationship with anyone who suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you need to understand exactly what you are getting into and how it is likely to affect your relationship.  You can get some basic information about the person by simply recognizing that they have Narcissistic issues. 


If you have done some reading about Narcissism, you will have discovered that Narcissists are:

– Preoccupied with self-esteem issues
– Self-centered
– Lack emotional empathy
– Ultra-sensitive to perceived slights
– Easily angered
– Devaluing
– Very status conscious

All of this makes it difficult for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to sustain stable, intimate, and loving relationships.

Narcissistic Subgroups

If we take the above information a step further and sort Narcissists into these three basic subgroups, this gives us even more information about how they are likely to react in intimate relationships.

You may have been in a relationship with a Narcissist without realizing it.

Each of the three Narcissistic groups has their own typical relationship pattern.  Because there has been so much focus on the Exhibitionist Narcissist, many people do not realize that any other type of Narcissistic Personality Disorder exists. This means that you could be married to a non-Exhibitionist Narcissist for years without realizing it.

When things go badly wrong, and the spouse’s narcissistic traits are suddenly more obvious, people ask me: “Is it possible that my husband (or wife) suddenly became a Narcissist after all these years?”  The answer is “no,” Narcissistic Personality Disorder is formed in childhood and is diagnosable by early adulthood.  You just did not recognize the signs till now.

Why is their Narcissism more obvious now?

It usually turns out that some life crisis has threatened the Narcissistic spouse’s self-esteem. In his or her attempt to cope with this challenge, the person has increased the use of narcissistic defenses.  This has now made these defensive behaviors much more obvious.

This means that it is highly likely that your spouse’s Narcissistic difficulties and coping strategies have been creating problems in your relationship the whole time that you have been together.  You simply did not understand that this was the issue.  Once you understand what to look for, you will probably be able to see how your mate’s Narcissistic sensitivities may have played a role in many of the fights and misunderstandings that the two of you have had over the years.


An Introduction to the 3 Narcissistic Subgroups and their Approaches to Relationships

Below is a brief introduction to the three major subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and some examples that illustrate how they might act on a first date with someone new.  How they act on that date can provide useful information on how they would be in an ongoing intimate relationship, should one develop after that date.  The difference is that on a first date, they are putting their best foot forward.  If you do not like their behavior then, you are even less likely to enjoy their company later on when they are taking you for granted and not trying so hard.

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