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Narcissism in Men: The Red Flags You Need to Watch Out For

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 11th March, 2022


The subject of narcissism has been worn out in recent years, but not much has been said about the growing narcissism we face in our Muslim communities. Now, I’m not talking about the overtly self-obsessed, selfie-lovers and attention seekers, although these are traits of them, I’m talking about the covert narcissists, who put their narcissism into practice on a more subtle level.

The wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Covert narcissists are by far the most dangerous type to come across, as people are easily fooled by them. These people are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity.

However, propping up their delusions of grandeur takes a lot of work and that’s where their dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors come in. They have a large collection of masks that they exchange whenever they need to. For example, they may choose one day to wear the religious mask and on another day wear the family-man mask. The type of mask they choose to wear will depend on who they’re planning to deceive that day and it’s the reason why narcissists can never be consistent in their character role play. If they’ve portrayed themselves as practicing Muslims to gain the trust of people, then it won’t be long before they start to display contradicting behavior, because being religious men is simply not who they are.

For the past seven years I have been working as a counsellor to help Muslim narcissists deal with their narcissism and to help co-dependents heal from their traumas caused by narcissists. I’m telling you this, so that you can imagine the large number of people I have come across who possess both personality disorders. Add to that, the number of people I have come across in my own personal life and the personal experiences of friends and family members.

One thing to get straight here, before I move on, is that both Muslim men and women can be covert narcissists, but this article is about those who are men.

Red Flags

These are some of the traits of the covert narcissist.

  • Having a grandiose sense of arrogance and self-importance.
  • Needing constant praise and admiration.
  • Displaying envy and jealousy of what you or others have.
  • Having a strong sense of entitlement to everything they want. 
  • Moving very fast into relationships to get what they want (i.e., money and sex).
  • Exploiting and using others without feeling guilt or shame.
  • Frequently demean, intimidate, bully or belittle others.
  • Offending people with their “jokes” that feel like personal attacks on the self-esteem of others.
  • Are flirtatious, charming and come across as being “too good to be true”.

Are All Narcissists Evil?

Many people believe that narcissists are evil criminals who are out to destroy people, but this isn’t always the case. More often than not, it’s those who fall for the façade that narcissists display, who allow them to start playing their evil games, because they choose to ignore the above signs and brush red flags under the carpet. This is easy to do when the narcissist is tall, funny, doing well financially, handsome and charming, but the simple reality is:

A narcissist will take you for a fool for as long as you let them.

Narcissists not only lack empathy but also a true sense of self. Their insecurities make them derive their value from external sources, which is why they like to have trophy wives, valuable material possessions and good careers. Their survival involves protecting their fragile egos at all costs and this can involve destroying someone mentally, physically, spiritually and/or emotionally. Hurting people’s feelings makes narcissists feel good, as it gives them a sense of power and control, regardless of how kind, loyal and supportive their partners are to them.

With the emergence of many Muslim marriage/dating apps and more frequent meetings that people are having, more and more people are displaying narcissistic traits, due to having many options to play around with. They juggle different people at the same time (with different masks on), ignore or ghost people who fall for them and treat people with disrespect (i.e., request photos without hijab early on and ask inappropriate questions).

Narcissists are simply on the hunt for people they can fool for their own entertainment and if they manage to do so, they will never have respect for them and will manipulate them in various ways.

Most narcissists don’t set out to destroy people from the get-go.

It happens later on in a relationship when they feel that they have managed to drain their partners of all the supply they need (the benefit(s) people give them that keeps them hanging around). If people leave them first (unexpectedly) and before they have the chance to secure a back-up victim, they will do everything in their power to destroy them out of revenge for having their ego wounded by the rejection. 

What Do Narcissists Look For?

During counseling sessions, narcissists have told me that they respect people who trust their gut instincts, have strong values, principles and emotional intelligence. If they aren’t able to fool you or play their game on you, they will either try harder to test your loyalty to God, your values, sense of self and morality or choose to respect you by leaving you alone and move onto finding someone naive. For the most part, they just want to have fun and fill an empty void in their lives, which often results in multiple heartbreaks for their victims who have fallen in love with them. However, the narcissists I spoke to claim that they don’t feel sorry for them or see them as victims, because they knew what they were getting into from the beginning when they experienced (and accepted) various acts of verbal, emotional and physical disrespect. Some narcissists will even be honest and admit to people that they aren’t the best of people, to free themselves from the inevitable pain they will cause them, only to be surprised to see them stay and “help them” become better people. This is a common behavior trait found in high-level co-dependents who have a strong need to prove their worth, be the hero and feel important.

Narcissists will always test your tolerance and reaction to their bad behaviour from the beginning to see how far they can go. If you’ve seen the Tinder Swindler on Netflix, you’ll see how Simon Leviev invited women on a private jet on their first date. If a woman accepted this, then he would know she’s incredibly naive, not smart and therefore easy to manipulate, con and fool.

Narcissists will often test you with things like this, to see how naive and vulnerable you are before they try to obtain benefits from you such as money, sex and favours. Some will test to see how “desperate” you may be for a relationship and how lonely you are by suggesting things that aren’t safe, such as meeting him, a total stranger, at his house, driving around at night in his car or sending him private photos of yourself. If they don’t see that you have recognised these as red flags, especially if they present themselves as being practicing Muslims, or have strong boundaries in place, verbal abuse can quickly escalate to physical abuse and before you know it you’ve been used and discarded.

Running for the hills from such a situation will save you from entering a highly toxic relationship with someone who lacks empathy, consideration for your feelings and your desire to have a halal relationship. 

What Do Narcissists Need?

Deep down, narcissists are human beings who crave stability and want to be with people they can respect and fear losing.

The women I know who are in stable marriages with narcissists know exactly how to handle them because they’re very strong emotionally and confident. Women who have strong narcissistic traits both scare narcissists and help them to stay in line, because they don’t allow them to walk all over them and understand how the game is played. There’s a difference, however, between a woman who is diagnosed with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and a woman who has many narcissistic traits that she exercises from time to time for her benefit. Narcissistic men can’t marry narcissistic women like them; the relationship never lasts long unless there are significant mutual benefits, such as status and wealth. Putting two narcissists together is usually the equivalent of placing two bulls in one ring and seeing who will fight harder for dominance and survival. 

The partners they seek for long-term stability are women who have a balance of both empathy and narcissism and who use manipulation and reverse psychology to manage them. This is also very exhausting, to constantly have to “play the game” and keep up with their new games and tactics, but some women do it because the narcissists provide a very good lifestyle for them. A friend of mine married a narcissist who was very charming, successful and funny. Before he met her, he was involved in a typical narcissistic wash, spin and dry cycle with co-dependent women who fell for his charm, however, she didn’t fall for it and he found her to be strong and resilient enough to commit to her. I interviewed him a while back and he told me that she helped him to be a better man because she didn’t allow him to exercise his narcissism with her or their children. He also mentioned that he would have too much to lose if he ruined the relationship, knowing very well she would never take him back if he risked cheating on her, for example. Narcissists go out of their way to show these women respect and put a muzzle on their ego to have and keep them. This isn’t to say that they will change, most narcissists don’t unless they really put in the work to do so by speaking to psychiatrists, counsellors and religious elders for help, but they make the effort to manage their narcissism to save the relationship they’re in. They know that high-value women won’t accept their baggage of unhealed traumas and that playing the victim won’t work on them or get them a foot in the door. 

I don’t recommend or ever advise that women marry the narcissists they’re in love with or want to be with because they’re successful, but if you accept to take one on, then be prepared to go on the ride of your life and have your mental health brutally pushed off a cliff at the end, if you’re not strong enough to handle the toxic behavior they come with. It’s exhausting and you’ll most likely need therapy during your entire marriage to cope with it and maintain your sanity.

Why Do Some Narcissists Marry Women They Don’t Respect?

Narcissists will only marry women they don’t respect when they have no intention or will to change for the better. Marrying co-dependent women is convenient for them because their patience and tolerance for the most part gives them the space and power to fully flex their narcissistic traits and behaviour to gain control, power and authority. Narcissists will also risk cheating on empathic and co-dependent women because they know or assume that they aren’t strong enough to walk away from the marriage or relationship if they get caught. This cheating is often repeated because they don’t respect the women for accepting what they never would have accepted for themselves. 

Narcissists pretend to put their guards down and display emotional vulnerability to gain people’s trust in the beginning, so if they’re selling you sob stories, especially about the ex or they’re telling you how terrible their life is, how badly they were treated in a divorce and that they “need your help” to be better,  then know that this is a red flag and that you don’t owe them anything. They’re testing to see if you’re a co-dependent who will play the role of a martyr wife and take on all their issues at the expense of your own faith, time, energy, mental health and needs, because you want to give them hope that you’re the light they’re seeking at the end of their dark tunnel.

Co-dependent women who are religious but lacking in Islamic knowledge and their rights, will often be spiritually abused and controlled by narcissists who use misinterpreted Qur’an verses and Hadiths. 

Have You Been Fooled by a Narcissist?

Many of us have experienced a date with a man who has swept us off our feet before the coffee has arrived at our table. Don’t feel bad for experiencing that or falling in love, it’s an easy trap to fall into. However, know that many narcissists secretly hope that you trust your gut instinct and take off the rose-tinted glasses to see the flags in all their shades of red to save yourselves and them from the chaos and destruction they know they will bring into your life, if you let them. Even though narcissists lack empathy, they’re still humans who don’t like to walk around knowing they’re among the worst and hated of people. They just can’t help but grab the chance to continue and advance in their evil ways when it’s given to them. Narcissists always reveal themselves early on if you watch and listen to them carefully, so don’t be afraid to walk away when you feel something isn’t right – believe me, they need you to.

Mona Alyedreessy

Mona Alyedreessy

Mona Alyedreessy (PhD) is a British Muslim counsellor, coach and author of ‘The Muslim Narcissist’. She approaches the subject of narcissism and personality disorders from an Islamic psychological perspective to help people understand and recover from their traumas. IG: @themuslimnarcissist