How to Live With a Narcissist
Some narcissists are obviously obnoxious, offensive and obstinate. Others, however, present as attractive, appealing, easy-going people. It’s not until a direct confrontation occurs that their narcissism becomes obvious.
Summon up the courage to tell him (or her) that he’s self-centered and he’ll either continue doing whatever he was doing as if you hadn’t said anything at all or he will become irate. “Me? Me? Self-centered? How do you think that makes ME feel?”
Though all narcissists are not cut from the same cloth, they do have quite a few traits in common. Here are a few:
- Narcissists find it hard (if not impossible) to truly appreciate the validity of another's point of view. They act as though others think and feel the same way they do. And if they don’t, something's wrong with them.
- Narcissists need constant validation from the outside. Admire and respect them and they do fine. Find fault with them and watch out! Grandiose narcissists will strike back venomously; closet narcissists will shrink back into their cave.
- Narcissists often display a façade self based on impressive and admirable traits. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, if it weren’t mere window dressing. Their façade self is fake, covering up a real self that's insecure and vulnerable.
- Narcissists view others as extensions of themselves. They set the standards of behavior and don’t tolerate opposition – especially if another’s viewpoint requires him to act in a way she doesn’t want to.
- Narcissists believe that they’re entitled to special treatment. Whether it’s a “stupid” law, or a “dumb” demand, narcissists feel that they shouldn’t have to go along with the pack and conform. They believe they are of higher status; therefore why adapt just to please another.
- Narcissists use money to help them feel special. Status items such as expensive clothes, cars, homes, dinners and trips are essential ways that a narcissist enhances his ego. Spending money, if you have it, is one thing; spending money, if you don’t have it, is quite another. Regardless, a narcissist believes that he deserves the best. And easily fools himself into believing that the money will be there in the future, even if it’s not there right now.
- Narcissists may make a show of generosity by being big tippers or picking up the bill. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice that generally such generosity is based upon establishing a reputation for themselves as a VIP.
If you discover that you are living with a narcissist, what can you do to make your life easier? Read on.
It may seem strange to say “discover” that you’re living with a narcissist, but it’s true. Many people don’t realize that their partner (or parent or adult child) is a narcissist, discovering it only after much time has elapsed. Why isn't it obvious at the very beginning?
- Narcissists are great masters of disguise, describing their behavior in the best of terms, (i.e. I’m only doing it for you!) Hence, it may take awhile for you to ‘get’ what’s really going on.
- Though narcissism has a bad rep (egocentric, egotistical), narcissists also have positive traits. Indeed, they may be quite charismatic and charming. Hence, it may be hard to believe that narcissism is driving their behavior.
Once you recognize narcissistic behavior, you need to do something to protect yourself. Here are a few ideas:
- Know What You Will Tolerate and What you Won’t
Trust your own judgment. If he (or she) is spending recklessly, know what’s ok with you and what isn’t. That doesn’t mean that all spending has to be done your way (unless you’re 2 narcissists battling it out). But it does mean that you don’t tolerate the narcissist’s explanation for free-spending (i.e. Hey, you only live once.”) And you take necessary steps to protect your financial future.
- Bolster Your Own Self-Esteem
Don’t expect your narcissist to build up your self-esteem when he has just helped tear it down. That is something you must do for yourself. Spend more time with people who think well of you. Get involved with pleasurable activities that bolster your ego. Be kind to yourself.
- Know When You’re Being ‘Gaslighted’.
When your narcissist says something, then later denies saying it or claims to have said something different, you can begin to doubt your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is she nuts? Am I nuts? What’s going on here? Your narcissist may be doing this maliciously to gain the advantage. Or, she may be simply responding to her need of the moment, forgetting what she previously said.
- Develop a Positive Support System
If you've been covering for your narcissist, you may feel embarrassed to let people know what’s going on. Nevertheless, see if there’s a trustworthy friend or family member with whom you can share your feelings and fears. Also, consider seeking the help of a professional who will be able to offer you support and objective feedback.
- Don’t Tolerate Denigrating Emotional Outbursts
At times your narcissist will be upset and need to let off steam. But “how” one lets off steam is significant. If you're being treated with disdain and disrespect, stop the action. Make the immediate issue HOW you’re being treated. Express your outrage. Demand an apology. And if necessary, walk away, letting it be known that you’ll be happy to pick up where you left off when you’re treated with respect.
- Learn the Skills of Negotiation
Just because your narcissist wants something, doesn’t mean she needs to get it. Just because she expresses herself forcefully, doesn’t mean you fold. Everything is negotiable. You just need to know where your power lies. Then you need to convey it and enforce it. The skills of negotiation will empower you in many areas of life – in the present and in the future.
- Accept that you’re not going to do a total makeover of your narcissist’s personality.
Nor should you want to. If the relationship is that bad, consider ending it. If it’s not, see if you can work together to create rules of acceptable behavior.
Living with a narcissist is not easy. However, putting into practice these 7 principles will save your sanity and be a reality check for your narcissist – a win-win situation.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com.
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