Managing the Narcissist

As promised, this is Part 2 of the Narcissist subject. If you missed Part 1 then you can read it here. We discussed the difference between a run of the mill A**hole and a Narcissist in Part 1.  Understanding the differences and similarities can help us put the personality disorder into perspective and reduce our inclination to label people including our exes. Before embarking on this post we need to understand that we all have some narcissistic qualities but it is the extreme Narcissistic personality that we discuss here.

If you are living with, dealing with or related to a Narcissist or a personality that has high narcissistic qualities this is the post for you. There are ways to handle the narcissist if you must have them in your life.  Handling the Narc will save you from the emotional stress involved and long term damage that the Narc often causes.

The first thing that needs evaluation is whether or not you have to deal with this person.  If you can safely remove yourself from the person, that is always the healthiest route to take. If you don’t ‘need’ or require this person in your life, then why deal with them at all.  Cut your losses and disconnect from them immediately.

Managing the Narcissist

If you are related to the Narc, married or co-parenting with them, it is unlikely you can simply withdraw from the relationship.  On the other hand, you’re tired.  You’re exhausted.  You need to put an end to catering to the Narc. You’re not a holiday Inn nor a Wendy’s drive thru existing to accommodate and feed the Narcissist.

So, take a deep breath.[Tweet “

“] Why?  By nature you’re giving, caring and have a huge heart.  A Narc eats those things for lunch then belches so loud everyone can hear (a female Narc will nibble ever so daintily).  You’re going to have to get tough. You’re going to have to be sane.  They will tell you you’re insane, but you’re the most sane person in the world and you have to stay that way for you and for your children.  Here are 5 things you can do now to alleviate the pain, avoid being victimized and stay sane;

5 TIPS to manage the Narcissist

1. Understand that you can’t reason with a Narcissist-Don’t waste your breath. Using logic is like shooting blanks at a perpetrator. They don’t absorb facts or truths. They only have their own interpretation of the facts that are twisted to reflect well on them.  Stop talking and start doing. Don’t bother explaining. Take action where necessary to accomplish what you need to.

example a) as a co-parent- Give the Narc a calendar of the parenting schedule instead of explaining the schedule

example b) as a child of a Narc-Never explain or defend yourself. Instead, stick to facts while in any discussion

2. Tell the Narcissist how things will benefit them-if you need to negotiate with a Narc always approach your request with the POV of how it will help them, make them look good or benefit them in some way.  The Narc will cooperate if they see that they will be getting something positive from you or your request.

example a) as a co-parent-show them with the parenting calendar that they will have the children on their birthday, on Christmas Day or for a special event they have coming up.  Use a highlighter to bring home the point that he/she will get the kids on specific days and occasions then they will be less likely to complain about when you’re getting them. Remember, a Narc is like a child mentally, and will disagree and bring up petty differences like a 3 year old having a tantrum, even after you’ve done something for them.

example b) as a child of a Narc-you need them to sign a permission form for a school trip, or sign off on a sport registration? Tell them who else is attending the event, sport, or team. If there are people he knows involved, he won’t want to look like he doesn’t agree with your participation. To avoid looking like a jerk to the other people, he will sign the forms.

3. Set and maintain boundaries-this may include zero tolerance for verbal abuse or it may be that you can’t meet alone with that person but require a third party to keep the contact from deteriorating. For more tips on setting boundaries check “Stop Being Too Nice”

Managing the Narcissist

example a) as a co-parent; have exchange of the children in a neutral, public place to avoid unnecessary confrontations

example b) as a Child of the Narc-only seeing the narc father or mother with a sibling present, or at a neutral location

4. Minimize contact-the less contact =less stress for you-

example a) as a co-parent; avoid attending events or school teacher interviews with your ex. Instead arrange to attend when he isn’t there or make a specific appointment

example b) as a Child of the Narc-Avoid trigger locations or times of day with the parent. Stay away from home during hours that the parent might be drinking for example

5. Document Behaviors or verbal abuse-keeping a record of statements made, where, when can lend credence to your position. You need not ‘explain’ anything to the Narc (see #1) but recite the statements if need be.  When they have said abusive things or misrepresented the truth, you have documentation to back you up. You can also document when you have done favors for the Narc  to counter their argument that you ‘do nothing for them’.

example a) as a co-parent-you can show the Narc his behavior and state that is why you have little contact with him or the next time he accuses you of keeping the children from him; you can show him exactly how many times you have allowed him access on your scheduled time (including dates, events) because you will be keeping a record.

example b) as a child of a Narc-When the narc parent is sad and playing on your sympathies (being the victim) you can recite back to them their verbal abuse with exact statements including time, date and location. Reminding them of their abusive behavior will counter their claims that ‘you’ (as the child) are cold hearted or don’t care about them.

Figuring out what makes a Narc tick is essential.  If you’ve done any research or read Part 1, then you know that their number one concern at all times, is how they appear to other people like their friends, colleagues or family members. Anything that may cause a lapse in their perfect image will cause insecurity and a possible lashing out. If you have questioned or challenged them, then you are the source of their perceived demise.

What are the triggers that cause arguments, abuse in your relationship with the Narc? 3 Triggers

1. They are among their supply-often in their ‘group’ they find security in dishing out nasty verbal remarks and will target you if they think they can get away with it

2. You’re on their turf. In their house, office or their favorite restaurant they will take on a sense of territorial power

3. You’re alone with them-you become vulnerable because they feel they can say anything to you and no one would believe you anyway if you were to report their conduct

Think about your personal situation and try to identify triggers in your relations with the Narcissistic personality.

Often just being yourself, thinking for yourself and making decisions without consulting them can cause anger in the Narc.  When the Narc is angry with you, they want to stop you from doing what you want in order to take back control. They want to show the world that ‘they make the decisions’ and they will not be ‘disobeyed’. Your independence will threaten them. What does this mean if you’re a co-parent with a Narc ex? It means that you have to really work on #2 to ensure you can have access to your children and keep the parenting schedule somewhat intact.  Make them think your ideas are actually theirs. This is where you’ll be out of your comfort zone but in order to manage a Narc we have to try to think like them (to a point).  If we can see things the way they do, then we can anticipate the problems before they happen.

In spite of this effort, know that in dealing with a Narc, you can be as sweet and cooperative as Apple Pie Al a Mode, this will not guarantee reciprocal cooperation from your ex.  The Narc will always take issue with any suggestion on your part, no matter how gentle, that things could be done differently or better.

The other serious problem in dealings with a Narc is they are almost always sure to misrepresent the truth.  They will fabricate and make up stories about you. They undermine you, no matter how hard you try to accommodate their needs. Why? Because they simply fear that your very presence will expose their perfect image they have built up for so long.  [Tweet “

“]They may hold powerful positions in some cases, but they are still insecure children underneath it all. Think Hitler.

The thing is, Narcs can be highly charming and gregarious.  Like anyone, they have some good qualities.  The problem is when you cease to feed that constant need in them, that’s when things get ugly. In the end we have to let go of the idea that this person loves us or that they can change.

Finally, remember, you’re not a Wendy’s Drive Thru. You’re not a Holiday Inn, and you’re not Apple Pie Al a Mode. You no longer exist to feed or accommodate his/her supply. You will never please a Narcissist.  You stopped that when you left.  So try incorporating some or all of the 5 tips, and identify your narc’s triggers and you’ll reduce your personal emotional costs in your relationship.

Share your thoughts, leave a comment, I love ’em!

Psssst, Book Winners;

Kim Robinson“Within a Child’s Heart”

TamaraShalom in the Home

Chrys FeyThe Great Escape; a Girl’s Guide to Leaving a Marriage

LivDivorce Poison

Val Boyko-My Divorce Women Open Up About Moving On

Kathleen-When Life Changes or You Wish it Would

Michelle Rogers-Children in Changing Families

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33 Replies to “Managing the Narcissist”

  1. I’ve been in a relationship with the same man for almost 11 years now and been married to him for over 2.5 years now. When we were dating I always noticed some narcissistic traits in him..but we were doing a long distance relationship. So even though there would be a lot of crying, screaming and shouting…I could still escape it. My friends and family always told me to leave him and at a point I did manage to break away..but then he moved to the same city as me and we got back in touch. I was on the re-bound and being with him again felt so easy and comfortable..however 2/3 weeks into it the same cyclical pattern started again…of him bullying me, screaming and yelling at me and having temper tantrums. Finally after years of therapy and marriage I realised we both have co-dependency issues. So even though I know he is a narcissist I have issues with leaving him..and he has issues with his temper and bullying as well as insecurities. It’s such a mess..and at times I feel so helpless. I’m so tired of felling this way!

    1. Hi Nadia, thanks for sharing your story. It’s hard for me to give you any advice partly because it sounds like you want to be in the marriage and have chosen to marry this person knowing his personality problems. My only thought is that it may become increasingly difficult to get out and the abusive patterns may get worse. That’s something to consider in weighing out whether to continue in the relationship. Wishing you all the best and I hope some of my tips help you!
      Also, I should add there is always a mutual benefit to any relationship (as you say, co-dependency), even a dysfunctional one. So maybe it would to help to think about what you’re getting out of it and if you still want that. Breaking it down can help you focus on what you want.

  2. Lisa, this article is a must-read for all people, whether or not they are in a relationship or have friends and family who are narcissists. I love how you break it down, literally, to a point where even though someone isn’t fully a narcissist, they can still have narcissistic tendencies.
    As for myself, I’ve dated men like this. Sadly, it was during my college years right after my real father was murdered and my mom and stepfather were going through an ugly divorce. I began to have little to zero self-confidence and didn’t have a father type to confide in. Between alcohol and egotistical men, I let my confidence and definition of what it means to be a strong woman decline.
    It was when the narcissism turned into abuse that I had enough. Back then, I could take the verbal but as soon as the physical started, that’s when I had enough. It took some soul searching and sobriety to open my eyes again and now I am with a man who speaks to me the way I deserve to be spoken to and vice versa. We respect one another and value each other’s company more than we could ever imagine. He works hard, volunteers for at shelters for abused animals and supports me no matter what. He’s the complete opposite of what I dated when I had no self-confidence and I could have let him slip away because he came in my life when I was on my last strings.
    I think women, and men, need to love themselves and truly respect themselves and the world around them. Narcissism is such an ugly quality. I hope more people read this article! Very well written and needed in our world today.

    1. Thank you so much Gina, for your compliments and for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I think we’re vulnerable to this type of relationship when we’re struggling to find our confidence. As you mention, the verbal abuse and in your case physical abuse wreaks havoc on your self esteem and confidence and without those, it’s hard to see straight and find our way out. I’m so happy for you, that you’ve found the love you deserve! You will inspire many women and men reading this who may be struggling in a bad relationship.

  3. I have a feeling I’ll have to apply these tips every once in a while to deal with a few people I know. And I love the picture quotes you shared! I have a hard time saying “no,” and I know of a couple of people who need to be brave. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Chrys, yes I think these tips can apply to different kinds of relationships that might be necessary but not always healthy. Practice saying ‘no’ and it will get easier. When I used to say ‘no’ to my kids (when they were small) I would start with “I would love to but….”. It seemed to tame their anger at being refused. 🙂

  4. This is awesome Lisa and such a VERY important topic. I feel it does go hand in hand too often with the domestic abuse as I’ve seen the end result in my career. Very sad. I don’t have a narc in any personal relationship but have HAD to be around one frequently – no choice (you can figure it out I’m sure). And my best method was to just say absolutely nothing. Head nodding in the affirmative (to agree whether or not I did or it was to appease them) just so they would go away and it eliminated any confrontations. I absolutely love your advice and suggestions. You rock always, my friend 🙂

    1. Hey Mike, yes sometimes the nod and smile is all you can do. Avoiding the ‘fight’ is okay, so long as you’re not sacrificing too much. But you’ve probably seen your share of s**t. This is definitely a form of abuse. Thanks you for sharing here, Mike!

  5. Fantastic tips for people. I like the first one- you can’t reason with them. People feel like they are letting go when they don’t stand up for themselves, but with a narc it doesn’t get you anywhere. Walking away gets you somewhere. Else, that is!

    1. Great point, Jodi! Walking away is sometimes the best was to ‘handle’ the situation. Being somewhere else is healthy, indeed. Thanks Jodi 🙂

  6. So true. And so weary of dealing with someone like this as a “co-“parent. Even his anger outbursts prior to leaving the relationship were like a child’s temper tantrum in an adult body. And the externaliazing–i.e. I wouldn’t have broken the children’s toys if they weren’t in the kitchen, etc. etc. lordy.

    I can so relate to this. Thank you for posting.

  7. I won a book!??
    Sorry to start with that. It’s not about me!
    I’m definitely not the child of a Narc, or the spouse of one.. but wow. I’ve seen them in this world.

  8. Hi Lisa,

    What an excellent description of narcissists with examples! Congratulations for painting such a vivid picture of these monsters. I have not only read about them but seen a few. I think narcs are arrogants and bullies, cruel and selfish, self-centred and unreasonable.

    Yes, arguing with them is like challenging their authority, which they feel transcends all over the universe! Their only aim is enslaving all the people around them, their ego is hurt if someone dares to go against their wishes, they feel they are all powerful and can control anybody. They can quickly shift all the blame to you, making you feel you are the culprit for all their discomforts!

    Blessed is the person who can walk out on them, they don’t let go.

    1. Oh, so well put, Balroop! They are blame shifters and their ego is the most important thing to them. I don’t think they see it though. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  9. Love these tips! A close friend of mine married and then divorced a narcissist, and a lot of these ring very true with some of the things she shared with me. Too bad people don’t come with warning labels on them before you get married!:-)

    1. Hi Jess, I love that idea of warning labels 🙂 I wonder what mine would say. Maybe care labels would be handy too. Thanks for stopping over!

  10. This is all so true and saddening. I have been trying to get out of a marriage with a narcissist for three years and keep getting pulled back in. He has made me feel like everything is 100% my fault… and I feel like I have absolutely lost my mind. I don’t know who to believe anymore… my gut feeling or his words… that is the most horrible place to be. They are so good at playing the blame game that you really start to believe it. For my sake and for the sake of my child, I hope I get the courage to get out soon.

    1. Hi Lena, well, I hope this mini article has helped you in some small way. Getting pulled back in is quite common. Usually the Narcissist is a strong personality type, even magnetizing. Always, always, always without exception listen to your GUT feelings NOT his words. Yes, I hope you can get out soon because the longer it goes on, the less confidence you will have. All the best to you! Stay in touch here at The Great Escape 🙂

  11. I was separated in 2005. I got grief for years from family and friends how I needed to “fight more for my rights” during the divorce proceedings. Unless you were married to a narc you have no idea how much they love the fight and will drag it on endlessly. I knew this so chose to take less financially just so I could get away as quick as possible. The reason I find myself on your blog is not that I have any regret over that decision at all. It’s my distress over what he puts my kids through emotionally and was looking for answers. My daughter is showing classic parent alienation symptoms with me. Otherwise I knew the only way to “win” was to wash my hands of the situation. This man would stoop to any level to get his way no matter who it hurt and I instinctively got that. My oldest has been spared because he lived with him long enough to have first hand experience but he does a number on my daughter. It’s so sad for her. She is so sweet and just wants to make him happy. I know how conditional he is and will rip his approval and any material things right out from under her if she doesn’t toe the line. She goes to his house for a weekend and won’t even look at me when she comes home. There’s sooo much more but I want to say thank you for making me feel less alone about saying to people my situation is different. What he does is not normal.

    1. Hi Kerri, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. A Narc wreaks havoc on his victims. Leaving him was the trigger and there is no such thing as forgiveness to a Narc. They fear abandonment and being ‘found out’ and divorce will certainly bring out those fears. Check out my video on Parental Alienation. I think it will help you out in regards to your daughter. I hope this article helped you out. Thanks for sharing here as it always helps other people to know they’re not alone.

    2. I have a friend who has 6 kids to a man who said when she left him that he would ruin her. He has systematically worked his evil ways to alienate each child. So far 3 kids have stopped all contact. He was unfaithful, dishonest, irresponsible disappearing without an explanation. He ran my friends health and emotional well being into the ground. How does she deal with the courts that say the kids can decide not to visit. The reality is that he is bad mouthing her and making it a choice for them to turn their backs. What can she do to stop this?

  12. Joan,
    You don’t mention how old the 6 children are but I will update you on my situation. I originally wrote that post 2 years and now my daughter is 20yo. After living with her father and dealing with him directly she finally sees him for what he is. She will still talk to him but understands that I’m not the bad guy and has totally come around. The interesting part is I also have 2 younger boys (18 and 16 yo now) that one after another he has bribed to live with him. (Notice the pattern, 16yo when the kid “can decide” without a court order he starts with the bribery. I’ll buy you a car and everything else under the sun (just as long as he doesn’t have to give “her” child support.) well the 18 who has been there for a year now told me the other day he hates him, he’s a control freak but feels trapped because he’ll lose his car etc (if he moves out, he loses the car his father said). The 16 old who just got dragged into the con is trying his best to be diplomatic and split his time equally. What a burden for a kid!!!!!!!
    I also have a friend that was totally alienated from her children from her narc and they are now in their 20’s and have a normal relationship with her and are cool with the father. The point is if he’s a true narcissist you have to tell your friend to hold on, don’t blame the children and be honest about the man without bad mouthing him. they will come around because his true colors will show up and he’ll undoubtly start on them with his narcissistic ways once they can’t be controlled anymore. It’s a terribly obnoxious road but tell her to keep her head up
    Good luck

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