Narcissists are usually fairly overt when it comes to demonstrating their relationship style because they are not usually aware of what their actions say about them. They also tend to repeat the same relationship patterns over and over again. You are usually safe assuming that: If they do it with you on a first date, they have done it before, and will do it again.
1. Exhibitionist Narcissists
This is the group of people who come to mind when most people hear the word “Narcissist.” They like to be the center of admiring attention. They tend to dominate conversations, feel entitled to special treatment, act supremely confident, enjoy telling stories and giving advice. When they feel insecure, they use what I call the “GOD Defense:”
GOD = Grandiose, Omnipotent, Devaluing
The “GOD Defense” is my shorthand way of describing the defensive, unrealistically perfect facade that Exhibitionist Narcissists attempt to construct to hide their own self-doubt. Instead of presenting themselves as normal human beings with assorted talents and flaws, they insist that they are special, perfect, know everything, and are always right. They also expect everyone around them to agree with their point of view. In their mind, they are “above” and everyone except a select few are “below” them.
Because this arrogant posture is a thin, easily pierced façade and not how they really feel inside, it is easily disrupted. This makes Exhibitionist Narcissists hypersensitive to even minor slights. They are quick to get angry and ready to fight over things that most people might not even notice. They can also be quite cruel because they lack emotional empathy.
When they are not bragging about their own accomplishments or telling stories in which they play a heroic or starring role, they are busy devaluing anyone who disagrees with them. They may cruelly mock someone who is within hearing distance: “Boy, does she look fat in that dress!” or “I can’t believe how stupid our waiter is.” They tend to be oblivious to other people’s real reactions to their attitudes and behavior. They are so blinded by their own defenses that they assume that everyone either agrees with them or thinks that what they are saying is amusing.
Example—Ted and Sue on a date
Ted, an Exhibitionist Narcissist businessman, went on a first date with an attractive woman Sue whom he met through an Internet dating site.
Here is how each of them described their date later:
Ted: “I really impressed her! I told her about how many important people I know, and I took her to a fancy restaurant and I ordered a fabulous dinner for her and chose an excellent wine that she had never tasted before. I can’t wait for the next date. She is hot! Next time we will end up at my apartment for the night.”
Sue: “Boy, that was a wasted evening. My date was so obnoxious. All he did was talk about himself all night. He didn’t ask me one question about me. Then he insisted on ordering a steak dinner and red wine for me over my protests. I never eat red meat and the salmon really looked good. I wanted to try this peach and vodka cocktail, but he insisted on this special wine instead. That was how it was all night. Everything was what he wanted. If he ever texts or calls me again, I won’t bother picking up.”
Basic Exhibitionist Narcissist Relationship Style: They are insensitive and bossy. They expect whomever they are with to admire and agree with them about everything. Disagreement is seen as criticism and is met with devaluation They need continual reassurance that they are special, perfect, and always right.
2. Closet Narcissists
Unlike their Exhibitionist Narcissist “cousins,” Closet Narcissists are uncomfortable when the spotlight is directly on them. They want to be “special,” but they are conflicted. They have usually been trained since childhood that they will be attacked if they openly display themselves for admiration. They often have had an Exhibitionist Narcissist parent who devalued them because he or she saw them as competition. They were only rewarded with praise for admiring their Exhibitionistic parent. Their own narcissistic grandiosity was squashed or was deeply buried in their personality.