It's not always easy to tell.
There is nothing worse than being in a relationship with a man who only thinks about himself. You know this guy, he's the one who constantly needs attention; whose ego is bruised at the slightest criticism; who always needs to get his way whether it's by picking the restaurant or deciding which side of the bed to sleep on.
But is this tender ego really hiding something more sinister underneath? Could he truly be a narcissist?
Or is he merely selfish?
It's a conundrum when you love someone like this. If you're looking for the facts, Google claims that there are less than 200K cases in the US (that link will download a fact sheet from Google, if you're interested) making narcissism quite rare among psychological disorders. Nevertheless, being labeled a narcissist is something we seem to throw around when we want to label someone a selfish jerk ... even when that label is wildly false.
There are many reasons we should stop doing this.
For one, it minimizes what's really going on. When someone behaves badly towards you, if there's a "label" that gets them out of paying the reasonable consequences for their actions, you can never really expect that person to change. In fact, by using the label, you create their magical "get out of jail free card" because it's out of their control.
"I couldn't help myself, honey..."
Masking selfish behavior behind a label gives the perpetrator an excuse to get away with their actions. The only way to prevent that is to stop using simple labels to mask complicated behaviors and get to the root of what is going on. That's the only way you will truly know if this is a relationship you should stay in, or leave.
The bottom line is — there is no cure for true narcissism. Some clinicians think that people can grow out of it as they age due to societal pressures on people to conform and "be nice". But most often if you can grow OUT of your narcissism, chances are, you weren't really a true narcissist to begin with.
So is your guy a narcissist or merely selfish?
We let our Experts weigh in. YourTango SVP Melanie Gorman sat down with renowned biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher; therapist and life/love/relationship coach Marcie Telander; psychotherapist, trainer and author Ross Rosenberg; and relationship help doctor Dr. Rhoberta Shaler to get to the bottom of what is happening with this often mislabeled term.
After watching, let us know what you think in the comments.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler offers support for anyone in a high conflict relationship and Marcie Telander offers compassion healing for individuals and couples in need. Reach out if you or someone you love needs help dealing with a narcissist in your life.