Ultimately, narcissism is built upon practices that are contradictory to relationship healthiness. There is nothing good that will come to a relationship when one insists upon controlling the other, shows no empathy, feels superior, requires entitled treatment, lives behind a False Self, and is chronically defensive. Such qualities run counter to the essentials for interpersonal success. Those traits ensure that as narcissists try to forge a connection with you, at some point it will fall apart. The foundation they stake their lifestyle upon is bound to crumble. A relationship with a narcissist is a matter of waiting for the narcissist to implode.
Yet, despite the obvious deficiencies of the narcissistic pattern, narcissists are notoriously unaware of their inappropriateness, and (taking it further) they actually proclaim themselves to be the standard bearers for The Way It Should Be.
Sometimes narcissists seem capable of blending with others. As long as there is no conflict and they get what they want, they may even be charming. But throw in some tension or disagreement, and watch how quickly they respond with childish immaturity. Most narcissists simply cannot stop themselves from being what they are any more than a fish can cease being a fish.
A leading thought underlying their predictable dysfunction is: “I already know what I need to know.” They tend to be very unteachable.
Consider these common illustrations:
- When a narcissist becomes bossy and critical, you might protest that such an attitude is not helpful. The narcissist will reply with something like: “I’m not trying to control you. I’m just being helpful.” In other words, you’re the problem for resisting their genius.
- When you attempt to discuss differences of opinion or preference, instead of engaging in a fair-minded exchange, the narcissist becomes instinctively thin-skinned and defensive.
- Instead of considering nuances and unique circumstances, the narcissist will insist that you to comply with their very narrow preferences, becoming quite overbearing in the process.
- When it becomes apparent that you will not bend to their requirements, here comes the anger. Sometimes it is in the form of stubborn criticism, often it becomes loud and insulting. The concept of clean assertiveness is completely lost on them.
- Then, when it is abundantly clear that you and the narcissist are at a standoff, you are blamed for being an impossible person. Contempt settles in, and you are treated as a pariah.
What is worse, each time you experience discord brought on by the narcissist’s dysfunction, any chance for harmony becomes more and more elusive. In fact, it is predictable that under duress, most narcissists will increase their erratic mannerisms. Of course, this leads to pessimism settling in while more of the same will be in store.
That is what I mean when I suggest that narcissists ultimately implode.
Their emotional disposition collapses under the weight of their own impossible ideals and requirements. Then their efforts to sustain good will with you are untenable.
Understand, narcissists do not approach relationships with the hope that a partnership can emerge. Instead, they want the final word. They do not see you as an equal to be respected, but as a tool to be used. They are narrow minded, meaning they have little capacity to navigate diversity of thought, interpretation, or opinion. For the narcissist, it’s “my way or the highway.” That being the case, they prefer subservient lackeys who will just do as they say. The more submissive you are, the more pleased they become, no need to implode.
Is it any surprise, then, to discover that you are not the only one who has received the same maltreatment from the narcissist? The older narcissists become, the more they experience relationship collapses. It just comes with the turf. And what is worse, in the narcissist’s mind, it’s inevitably the other person’s fault. Self-reflection does not happen.
In the meantime, you can have all sorts of reactions to the narcissist’s delusional living. For instance you:
- might feel revulsed just by being in that person’s presence.
- can think to yourself: “Here we go again.”
- might nurse the thought: “Would you please shut up?”
- can experience emotional fatigue and weariness, thinking: “Why bother trying to coordinate with this person.”
- might even begin wondering if you are indeed the problem, given the narcissist’s repeated insistence that you are.
- can feel duped.
- want desperately to get off the roller coaster.
As the narcissist’s pattern of resistance persists, that’s when it dawns on you that it is folly to nurse optimistic hopes. It may not be your nature to be pessimistic, but time and repetition become teachers. You can finally conclude that since narcissists are so intent upon propping up their false narratives, you will predictably be hurt and wounded. Is that what you want?
Given the high probability that the narcissist will not change and would be acting this way with anyone else in your position (and will implode), you may be forced to accept certain undesirable conclusions:
- Some people are beyond redemption. They don’t have the bandwidth to ponder meaningful insights.
- No pleading, coaxing, or convincing will cause them to respect you beyond what you have already experienced with them.
- As you continually subject yourself to their disdain, it diminishes you…something you can ill afford.
- Given the fact that the narcissist will push forward day after day with self-serving rationalizations, it becomes your task to make self-protective adjustments. You can’t presume that teamwork will happen.
Living with a narcissist can be like walking through a mine field, not knowing what will set off the next explosion, what will make the narcissist implode, but knowing it can be only one false move away. Once they wear you out, narcissists will move on toward the next target with the same initiatives intact. Recognizing that, you can choose not to subject yourself to their mistreatment. Let self-respect be what guides you.
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~Dr. Les Carter