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Has this happened to you or someone you know?  You go out with someone new and he or she is charming, sexy, self-confident, charismatic, intelligent, successful… You think, “Wow – this is it!” You are smitten, hooked - especially with the cocktail of your body’s romance chemicals kicking in.

But after a while, something doesn’t seem quite right. You start to notice that the conversation is ever-focused on this person and their importance. “I, I, I - me, me, me.“ When something goes wrong or this person does not get the admiration or full attention they need from you, it becomes your fault and what you have done wrong. Soon, you may see glimmers of jealousy, possessiveness, and/or control issues. How do you know if you're dating a Narcissist?You may also notice that there is an undertone of drama in many or all areas of this person’s life. And if you are a nurturing person who enjoys caring for or helping others, you are the perfect target for the narcissist. (RUN. FAST. AWAY. NOW.)

People with narcissistic personality disorder are fascinating and complex. They are often dynamic, good looking and very successful in their business or careers. They demand attention, respect and admiration from those around them. However, underneath the seemingly strong façade, they have very fragile egos and are threatened by criticism. They often live in fantasy, grandiosity and have a difficult time creating long-term, healthy relationships because of their inability to truly connect heart to heart.

As a dating coach and relationship coach, I have seen it time and time again. People end up in relationships that are one-sided, unhealthy, predatorial, and sadly, abusive. And they have a hard time getting out once they are entangled due to the manipulation, power plays and games the narcissist wields. If and when the partner of a narcissist does get out, they have a hard time trusting themselves to make good judgments in dating and love because of the trauma they experienced.

So how does this all happen and how can it be avoided? My advice to avoid the pain and suffering that comes with being involved with a narcissist is simple: Pay close attention and trust your gut. Warning flags are often subtle – but they are always there. As one of my mentors once said, “People teach you who they are. Believe them the first time.”

Take a look around: Does this person have long-term positive relationships with family and friends? What about their work relationships? Or do they go through life as emotional vampires, taking advantage of and sucking everyone around them dry? Do they consistently blame others for relationships gone badly? The bottom line is if you are looking for a healthy, long-term relationship there must be a true, unconditional regard for self and others at the core of the relationship. Unfortunately the narcissist is not capable of either.

If you are in a relationship that is harmful to your mind, body or soul, enlist the help of a professional, and the support of family and friends. You must create some new healthy boundaries and identify what it is within you that accepted this treatment. Once you identify it, you can heal it and be aware of it in your quest for a healthy, happy relationship!

For more information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder see: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcissistic-personality-disorder:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and in other areas of their life, such as work or school.

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, which is in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include: • Believing that you're better than others • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness • Exaggerating your achievements or talents • Expecting constant praise and admiration • Believing that you're special and acting accordingly • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans • Taking advantage of others • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior • Being jealous of others • Believing that others are jealous of you • Trouble keeping healthy relationships • Setting unrealistic goals • Being easily hurt and rejected • Having a fragile self-esteem • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence or strong self-esteem, it's not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence and self-esteem into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal. In contrast, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.

When you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may have a sense of entitlement. And when you don't receive the special treatment to which you feel entitled, you may become very impatient or angry. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — the best car, athletic club, medical care or social circles, for instance.

But underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. You have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make yourself feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and efforts to belittle the other person to make yourself appear better.

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