Surviving Life with a Narcissist

Sometimes, we know we are entangled in a relationship with a narcissistic. However, leaving the relationship isn’t an option. For many, the relationship is vital, like when the person is your boss and you cannot afford to leave your job, or the narcissist is your parent or adult child. So, leaving or cutting them out is not an option. Let’s start out by going over the characteristics of the narcissist. These are the official criterion for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

When you see these characteristics are present and you cannot cut ties or end the relationship,  there are steps you can take to survive life with a narcissist;

1) Recognize they have no empathy
These people truly don’t have the capacity for empathy. They will not authentically embrace the experiential world you are living.  In other words, these people can put on a good “caring” show in their effort to manipulate others for their own personal benefit. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting the to “understand” your world.

2) Don’t expect remorse
These people don’t feel bad about any consequences of their behaviors.  Why? There is no conscience, no compassion, no concern about the impact of their behavior on others, even those they love. So, learning to understand they do not have the ability to see how they are hurting you and not expecting any true feelings of being sorry. 

3) Know they feel entitled
Narcissists perceive themselves as holding rights—in their minds—that others would never assume. They live with a privilege beyond your imagination. Whether they are objectifying you, ruling your life, or believe that they deserve what they seek, when and where they seek it because it is already theirs—before the ask. Learning to set your own internal boundaries of what you can give and not give will be key in managing with them.

4) Expect Deception
The narcissist will tell you whatever they believe you need to know in order to get what they are attempting to extract from you. A lie is not a lie; it’s a mechanism to leverage outcome. A misrepresentation of information is the twisting of facts designed to manipulate another into compliance. This becomes a dynamic in which you must use a filter to determine if the information seems reasonable, if not, proceed as if you are not accepting the lie. Don’t argue as this will result in more lies. Set a boundary through your intuition and common sense.

5) Listen to your Critical Inner Voice
In narcissistic individuals, the intensity of their critical inner voices is directed at others and putting others down to make them feel better about themselves. They will project all their personal fears and doubts. In order to combat this, you need to be strong in your own sense of self. To protect yourself, find emotional armor or duck down to let it just roll off and not penetrate your self-esteem, or become your own critical inner voice.

6) Block Their Need to be Emotionally Dependent  
People with narcissistic tendencies require large amounts of emotional support and admiration to sustain them. They truly cannot function naturally and normally without the object of their narcissistic abuse serving as the foundation for their existence. As a defense, you can work to set a boundary with how far you are willing to go to give them and then stick to your own boundary by passively resisting the need to take care of them.

7) Seek support and professional help
To survive a relationship with a narcissist, most people need a support system. This system can include a structured support group with others experiencing the same dynamic. In addition, professional therapy is often helpful. Finding a neutral sounding board is critical for surviving a relationship with a narcissistic person in your life.

Today’s most recent research suggests that narcissism exists on a continuum from light to moderate to extreme. As you work to survive a relationship with a narcissistic person, recognize your boundaries and keep yourself healthy with support from friends and seeking professional help.

Suggested reading:

Jackson, Theresa. How to Sucessfully Handle Narcissists (2018) Independently Published, available on Amazon. 

In this book you’ll learn how to maintain composure, ways to be proactive instead of reactive, seven powerful strategies to handle narcissists, eight ways to say “no” diplomatically but firmly, keys to negotiate successfully with narcissists, and seven types of power you can utilize to compel cooperation.