When I dormed in college, I met a guy who lived across the hall from me. He seemed like the perfect guy. When I sat on his roommates black futon in their living room, he told me all about how he is a fantastic cook. He pursued a culinary arts degree but decided to instead be a personal trainer so he considers himself an expert in health and wellness. He told great stories, unbelievable, complicated stories. Usually they were about near death experiences. One time, in Eagle Scouts he ran away from a bear. Another time when he drove home from Maryland, he drove under a tornado and heard his car shake. I didn’t realize in these conversation that I didn’t really talk about myself. I assumed I just didn’t have anything to say.

This guy seemed impossible. He seemed almost perfect. Everything about him had been what I wanted to be. I needed a guy like this in my life. I needed an inspiration. He was fit. He practiced yoga. He seemed like he had his life together, or so I thought. But what I didn’t realize was that all of this was a facade. It was how he wanted to be seen, but not who he really was.

After having been with each other for two year officially and three years unofficially, we had a nasty breakup which I will right about later, because oh my gosh is it a wild ride. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that my ex is a narcissist. For those who don’t know and use the term loosely to maybe describe a person taking selfies or maybe someone who might be venting their problems, I will explain what narcissism looks like. It looks like a person who constantly needs admiration- not someone who wants to be complimented, but will fish for compliments and will get upset if there aren’t enough of them. Narcissism looks like a person who cannot take any criticism no matter how small. Narcissism looks like a person who thinks they are entitled to whatever they want whenever they want. A narcissist makes promises they rarely keep. They make those promises to manipulate you to get what they want.

My ex didn’t show these signs right away. The thing about narcissists is that they are really hard to notice until it’s too late. You have an idea of them as a person. You believe their crazy stories and their charm until they get what they want, until they push your boundaries, until they take and take until there's nothing left.

It started with the little stuff. He’d pretend to have an interest in the music I liked when I brought it up. I asked him to listen to my favorite band and he said he might later. He never did. I didn’t even realize this because I was distracted by his wit, and his charm. When we’d watch shows together, he never had an interest in anything I’d suggest, but he always had a show he wanted to show me. Then it got worse with other things. He never held down a job because he hated authority. He hated people telling him what to do. He could never hold down a job because he hated being told what to do. He was especially bad with police.

He couldn’t handle any criticism. He claimed he couldn’t handle it from me in particular because I’m his girlfriend and he cares a great deal about what I think. But I notice now, he got bent out of shape from any criticism, whether it be his parents, his brothers, or even teachers. He dropped a class because he couldn’t handle his teacher criticizing his editing skills because he believed he had better credentials than her, a professor with teaching experience and actual industry experience.

He’d take advantage of his parents money, always asking for more hand outs because he didn’t want to work. His parents cut him off. He called them constantly demanding an answer. He called his mom everyday for six hours straight and when she finally did answer, he screamed at her on the phone for almost an hour. I remember that night he asked me if I judged him for screaming at his mom.

I didn’t notice his narcissism because I notice his depression first. I noticed it most when he didn’t have money. I noticed he paired it with drinking. And that when he drank, his true colors came out. His soft boy facade disappeared and he became this monster I didn’t know. Not a monster like large and scary but a monster like arrogant, aggressive, rude, entitled. I saw the narcissist behind the flesh. I hated it. If I knew he drank, I’d hide in my room and wait for him to be sober again. To be him again. And then he’d sober up, and he’d say he’ll never drink again. And then he’d do it again.

I think knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn’t spend so much time on him. I wish I had met other people. Real people who don’t pretend to be the this impossible person. Maybe he isn’t a narcissist and this is me just venting my frustration of a failed relationship. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to be careful. I need to listen to my gut. I need to not waste my time and put people on a pedestal because nine times out of ten, they don’t deserve to be there. If you’re dating a narcissist, you probably won’t realize it right away, and that’s fine. That doesn’t make you a horrible person. Get out when you can. And don’t regret the time you spent with them because even though they never truly cared about you, at least you tried to truly care about another being. That’s something your narcissist may never be able to do.