One of the songs that has emerged from this is Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain – a song that I’ve come to think of as “Ode to a Narcissist”.
It’s not clear whether the song is about someone who would meet the clinical definition of a narcissist, or whether it’s about someone whose narcissism is perhaps, shall we say, more situationally generated by fame and wealth.
To be diagnosed in clinical terms as a narcissist, there are a number of specific features that have to be present. In my time as a clinician, I’ve only worked with one person who I thought could perhaps have benefited from assessment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
However, as a couples counsellor I regularly hear the word “narcissist” as one partner in the relationship describes behaviour in the other partner. Behind these descriptions there’s often pain and fear about the future of the relationship.
Your partner can seem like a narcissist to you because when the most important relationship in our life is not working the way we want and need it to, we do things to protect ourselves. Sometimes those protective behaviours can seem quite self-centred, and hence, narcissistic.
However, resorting to protective behaviours in these situations is quite rational and understandable. The basic problem is that when both partners have to focus on protecting themselves, the relationship doesn’t get nurtured and it is difficult to feel close and safe in the relationship.
Your couples counsellor can help you understand the protective pattern that you’ve fallen into in your relationship and can help you develop a new pattern where your needs are met in the relationship and you don’t need to protect yourself when you’re with the person you love the most.