How to Live with a Narcissist
Narcissists can be horribly frustrating. Everyone probably knows one — people who are so wrapped up in themselves, so demanding and demeaning, that they leave no room for anyone else. Sounds like a horrible person.
Yet, there’s something enticing about narcissists that pulls you in. Perhaps it’s his or her self-entitlement or know-it-all, does-no-wrong outlook. You’ve always been one to subjugate your desires, anyway. So, though you hate to admit it, your narcissist’s confidence and cockiness may be (or used to be) a turn-on for you. It’s amazing that your favorite narcissist can be both appealing and appalling.
If you’re not ready to toss your narcissist out of your life, you’d better learn how to deal with such a personality.
Putting into practice the following skills will both strengthen your ego and preserve your sanity.
1. Learn what is and isn’t negotiable.
Some behavior you may not like but it’s no big deal if you let it slide. Let everything slide, however, and you’ll find yourself in an intolerable situation. She spends recklessly. Why? Because she wants what she wants when she wants it. She doesn’t want to be confined by your “stupid” rules. After all, “you only live once. Why restrict yourself?” In these types of scenarios, you need to know what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t. This doesn’t mean that her spending habits must align with yours. But it does mean that you speak up and use your leverage to prevent patterns from getting out of hand.
2. 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 find yourself doubting your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is he nuts? Am I nuts? What’s going on here? Your narcissist may be doing this maliciously to throw you off balance. Or, more likely, he’s simply responding to his need of the moment, forgetting what he previously said.
3. Don’t tolerate denigrating emotional outbursts.
At times you’ll be upset with each other and need to let off steam. But how one lets off steam is vital. If you’re being spoken to with disdain and disrespect, stop the action. Make how you are being treated the issue. Express your disappointment. Ask for an apology. If necessary, walk away, letting it be known that you’ll gladly pick up where you left off when you’re treated with respect.
4. Learn negotiating skills.
Just because your narcissist wants something doesn’t mean she needs to get it. Just because she expresses herself with force doesn’t mean you have to fold. Everything is negotiable. You need to know where your power lies and how to convey it and enforce it. Learn more about the skills of negotiation. It will help you in many areas of life – today and in your future.
5. Bolster your own self-esteem.
Don’t be surprised if your self-esteem tanks because your narcissist is bent on satisfying his own needs, not yours. This doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you. What it does mean is that you’re not getting enough positive reinforcement. So, say kind things to yourself. Spend more time with others who think highly of you. Get involved with group activities that bolster your ego.
6. Stop keeping secrets.
Don’t isolate yourself. It may be hard to be honest with others about how your narcissist behaves. You may feel embarrassed, especially if you’ve been covering for him for so long. Nevertheless, see if you can confide in a trustworthy friend or family member about what’s been so frustrating for you. And don’t hesitate to seek out the help of a professional who can assist you in strengthening your coping skills and building up your resolve.
Living with a narcissist is not easy. Accept that you cannot create a major makeover of another’s personality. Nor should you want to. If it’s that bad, consider splitting. But if you want to stay together, do your best to put these strategies into practice. As you do, it won’t be long before you notice how much better you feel.
Narcissistic man photo available from Shutterstock
Sapadin, L. (2012). How to Live with a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/27/how-to-live-with-a-narcissist/