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So, You're a Narcissist

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

You only think about yourself. You only talk about yourself. When you have a chance to listen to your partner talk about their day, you think, "Blah, blah blah...when will I get to talk?" You have no ability to attend to the emotions of others, because you don't care about them. You do what you want to do for yourself, and you never do anything for others. In bed, you are a receiver, and don't concern yourself with your partner's pleasure.

Are you really a narcissist? Maybe....but maybe not. Maybe you're extremely selfish. Maybe you're afraid of the intimacy that results in taking care of others. There is also a possibility that you are as unaware of your feelings as you are others'. If you are aware of the aforementioned traits, own them and want to do something about them, chances are pretty good you're not a bonafide, DSM-verifiable narcissist. But I bet your partner and their therapist think you are!

The premature evaluation of other helping professionals (and/or the internet) and your partner can create a hole that selfish men need to climb out of as they repair their image with new/better behavior. After weeks of effort to be more thoughtful, you may find yourself still in the narcissist hole. Is it fair? Nope. It's just the way it is. You are earning trust and attempting to disprove a theory others hold about you and your behavior. The bad news is people are more convinced than ever that you're a narcissist when you backslide. The good news is, if you keep trying, you will earn trust and confidence others have in you back in less time than it took you the first time. If you want to convince yourself and others you can be a Present Dude, you can't give up. It takes time and patience to correct our reputations. So how do you do it? How do you convince others you can be a caring person and partner?

Step One

Check in with yourself. Do you want to stay in your relationship? Has too much damage been done by your behavior? Is the trust repairable? Do you want to repair it? Why HAVE you been so selfish? Is it based on fears of intimacy or is there past trauma that needs to be addressed? Making changes in your relationships will probably require some therapy. It is certainly going to require a lot of self awareness and a plan. It's likely this awareness and planning are not going to be second-nature to you. Reading on the subject (like this great blog!) or a good book on feeling feelings, meditating and creating a plan you share with someone else are all good ideas that can result positively for you.

Step Two

Turn toward your partner's complaints and own them. As soon as you begin saying "but" and trying to explain why you do what you do, you're dead in the water. "But" negates your partner's feelings. Turning toward your partner involves physically turning your body toward them, looking them in the eyes and affirming their feelings about your behavior. An affirming statement sounds something like this..."I know I have hurt you with my selfish behaviors, and I want to make changes that will help both of us be happier in our relationship. What are some things I can do for you?" Can you imagine if you said that to your partner? The look on their face would be priceless! Can you imagine how happy you will be in your relationship? Nothing worth having is effortless.

Step Three

Develop a plan and execute it. You're going to need to write it down and look at it often at first! Keep a copy in a couple of rooms of the house and take a picture of it with your phone. In which spheres (see my blog post on intimacy) of your relationship have you fallen short? In each of those spheres, write the ways you have failed in the past and what you can do to correct your behavior. What are daily behaviors you can begin to exhibit to connect more deeply with your partner and care more about their needs in the relationship. This plan does not mean you will completely forget about yourself. On the contrary! The plan should INCLUDE your plans to engage in self care. Tom Rath's book, "Eat, Move, Sleep" is a good start. Mindfulness apps like Stop, Breathe, Think or Headspace are great places to check in with your thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

Step 4

Get feedback. This is a tough step, because you may get feedback you don't like. You may hear that what you have been doing is not enough, that you started strong but haven't been doing a lot lately, or that it just isn't working. There is also a possibility that you will hear great things like how much your partner appreciates your effort to consider them and how much closer they feel to you because of your efforts to connect with them. And get feedback from yourself! How are you feeling about what you've done so far? Are you happier? Proud of yourself? Do you notice that your fears of deeper intimacy have been met by the satisfaction of deepening intimacy with others and great self acceptance?

Step 5

Don't stop! Recognize that selfish is your default. You may find yourself in your default mode every now and then. If you quit, your relationships will return to miserable state they were in before your hard work. Progress is not linear. Progress happens in fits and starts. Keep going! You can do it!

I don't know if you are a narcissist or not. What I do know is that most men are not true narcissists. Are we selfish, are we afraid to feel feelings, do we struggle to communicate and be vulnerable? Yes...all of them. Does it make us narcissists? No, it does not. But if you get feedback that you only think of yourself and don't want to change it, what you might actually be is an asshole. You can't find that diagnosis in the DSM...which is more treatable.

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