"The wrong relationships teach you how to recognize the right one when it arrives." -Unknown

There are a multitude of patterns that point to the possibility that you're dating a narcissist, not limited to the few I will further discuss below. The most reliable source of information lies in your gut, I believe, but these signs will better allow you to pin down whether you're correct (the fact that you're reading this article right now means you've probably considered it). This doesn't necessarily mean that your partner has a diagnosable personality disorder, but it could indicate very unhealthy relationship patterns that are nearly impossible to escape. Narcissists, almost by definition, do not see the need to change their ways--and you should not expect them to change at all because they are quite content with their position. Without further ado, here are six signs you're dating a narcissist:

1. Your value is based on what you can do for them

Narcissists feed their egos with your constant stream of attention and affection. Of course, those are important aspects to healthy relationships, but they are more reciprocal and can be balanced with mutual growth and consideration. You may feel that you only hold a spot in this relationship contingent on satisfying their every need. You may also feel increasingly hesitant to ask for what you really want and need because they've convinced you their needs are more important than yours.

2. You are afraid of their judgment

Healthy relationships allow for you to disclose difficult parts of yourself and to share in each other's flaws and insecurities to a certain degree--you would feel comfortable and emotionally closer to your partner afterwards. With a narcissist, on the other hand, you are afraid they would look down on you (because they do). You may feel the need to embellish and impress them all the time in order to meet their 'level.'

3. They are emotionally closed-off and, ultimately, not okay with themselves

Some people take more time than others to open up on an emotional level, and that's completely okay. It does become concerning, however, when your partner is unable to acknowledge any sort of flaw or insecurity about themselves, as well as accept responsibility or fault for situations that didn't go their way. They are not okay with even the slightest hint of making a mistake towards you or anyone else. For example, you may tell them you're upset about something they did, and they will come right back with a million reasons you shouldn't be upset and why it's actually your fault for overreacting.

4. They always have to be right and get their way

It doesn't matter if you've explained to them why you're uncomfortable with a situation or that you've very much thought through a certain decision, what they think seems to trump what you think. Their objective becomes convincing you to think 'right' (their way of thinking) instead of trying to understand and respect your point of view. You may even become convinced that you really are stupid and they know best--this is a very toxic point in the relationship.

5. Overconfidence

At first you may be attracted to and impressed by their ability to take charge and be assertive in getting a relationship started. However, over time this may become more targeted into getting you to do what they want you to do. It's good to be confident, but to rail that confidence against a partner is toxic behavior indeed.

6. Who YOU are

Narcissists may be more attracted to you if you tend to have low self-esteem and identify yourself as selfless or a caregiver. You may also have had parents or family members who were narcissists, and this is a relationship pattern you are familiar with. Maybe you have a strong internal belief that people are all fundamentally good and you yourself have good intentions towards all people--you may assume your partner is the same, even though he may not be. This is NOT at all your fault, that's not what I'm implying, but rather who you are plays a part in your usefulness to the narcissist and what treatment you are willing to tolerate.

It's not okay for anyone to make you feel lesser than--particularly in a romantic relationship, which implies greater emotional investment, time, and vulnerability than other types of relationships. Examine your beliefs that guide why you've stayed with this person up to this point--do you think they will change? are you afraid that you won't find anyone else? do you simply want a relationship for the sake of a relationship? There is little chance you will be able to break the toxic cycle that entails partnership with a narcissist, and you deserve so much better than that.

On a personal level, I've had a pattern of ending up in relationships with narcissists. I didn't realize that I deserved so much better than them until I ended up with a wonderful partner who showed me how things could be different for me. I had been through so much unnecessary pain as a result of the narcissists in my life, but I do appreciate that I am better able to appreciate the man who has found a place in my life right now. This is also possible for all of you.