As I can personally attest, it’s not always easy to recognize that the person you’re with is high in narcissistic traits. (I’m using the masculine nouns and pronouns because there are more men at the end of the spectrum but feel free to switch up the gender.) Not everyone is the “Look at Me!” type, full of grandiosity, constantly needing to be the center of attention, and wholly self-referential. The narcissist in your life may be soft-spoken, even a bit shy, but the tip-off to who he really is isn’t so much as what he does but what he doesn’t do.
I didn’t realize it while I was in it but he manipulated me in every discussion I tried to have about the problems in our relationship. He’d either refuse to talk about it outright—by stonewalling or saying something like ‘Not that again. Do we have to cover the same ground over and over? It’s always the same tattoo”—or he’d turn the tables on me, saying I was unhappy because I made myself unhappy. Or he’d deny there was a problem at all. It took me a while to realize that he never took responsibility for anything. He blamed other people for doing things to him, including me. It was mind-bending.
What the person high in narcissistic traits doesn’t do constitutes a pattern of its own and, in many ways, makes him easier to identify. Once you’ve focused on what he isn’t doing, you can see that what motivates him isn’t the need to connect to you in any meaningful way—which is, of course, what you’ve been hoping for all along—but a very private and specific agenda which is making sure that his vision of himself stays protected and invulnerable.
So, if he’s not doing any of the following nine things—which people who actually want real connections do all the time—you need to wise up pronto.