"Narcissism" is a popular term these days, but its origins go all the way back to an ancient Greek myth in which a handsome youth named Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, then pined away until he died.
Vain, selfish, egotistical, even condescending: these are common traits of narcissists. Most of us have known at least one in our lives and can think we can spot them a mile away.
But love is blind.
Too often, we fail to see our romantic partners' worst flaws—especially narcissism. Part of the reason is that they are so convinced of their own infallibility. If they can do no wrong, then when something goes wrong, guess whose fault it is?
Their inflated sense of self-importance leads them to a sense of entitlement that may extend to your money. No matter how hard you work for it or how much you deserve your income, narcissists think they deserve it more—because they are superior.
Before long, they have convinced you, the inferior one, to defer to them on everything—including money.
In a relationship with a narcissist, you can say "goodbye" to your financial independence. And here's the worst part: narcissists almost never change.
They can't change, because first they would have to admit that they aren't perfect. They would also have to feel empathy for you, which they cannot do as they sink their teeth into your bank accounts and suck you dry.
How to Spot a Money Vampire
Not all money vampires are narcissists, and not all narcissists are money vampires. The two go together quite often, however. Here's are some signs that your lover, partner, or spouse is a money vampire:
They make their problems your problems. If they have old debt such as credit card balances or student loan payments, they may insist that it should be your debt, too. If you won't use your savings or income to pay off their debts, then you don't love them.
Their money lust is insatiable. Never satisfied, they may always "need" the next best thing: the newest technology and the most prestigious car.
They value things over people. The joy of receiving material things are above the feelings of others.
They are secretive. They like to spend your money without your consent or even your knowledge, and lie when you ask.
They are entitled. They expect you to take care of them financially, even to save them.
They are controlling. Money vampires know that control equals access. They may insist on controlling the budget—including your money—and on making all the financial decisions. Because they, of course, know more than you do.
They shift the blame. When they make a bad investment or financial decision, money vampires may deflect the blame, even shifting it to you.
What to Do
If you are dating a money vampire (or even just a narcissist): Run away!
If you're married, try these strategies to regain your financial independence and stop the loss of your assets:
Make a list of your financial challenges, ask your partner to do the same, and then make a date to discuss. Using the lists, come up together with a "master" money-problem list.
Once you have your master list, discuss and write down a solution for each item. How could you pay off that credit card balance—by paying $100 more each month, or selling an item and putting the cash toward that debt?
Separate your bank accounts. If you want a joint account for paying joint expenses, agree together on how much each of you should contribute to it. This step will return control of your money to you.
Retain your own retirement account. You need to have money for long-term needs that is safe from creditors. Make sure that you have funds in your name only, so your partner cannot spend them.
Have an agreement—prenuptial or postnuptial—drawn up defining the assets that each of you brought into the partnership or marriage. If you are not married and are considering living together, draw up a separate property agreement.
Agree on who is responsible for which expenses, and together put the agreement into writing.
If you cannot agree, do not simply give in. Instead, go to couples counseling.
To deal with money vampires, you don't need garlic or a wooden stake: you need boundaries. Guarding your financial empire requires a strong fortress.
Vampires await to swoop down and drain you dry—then to move on to the next victim. Beware! It's feeding time!