Many survivors of narcissistic relationships describe navigating it like walking on eggshells. Sure, I agree with that description, but after surviving a narcissistic parent then a husband I think it can be more like crossing a field of broken glass or dodging landmines. The bottom line is navigating how to survive a narcissist is unpredictable, painful, and messy.
The best-case scenario is to leave the narcissist, grieve the relationship and start over. However, when we look at how to survive a narcissist, there are cases when this just can’t happen. The reasons can range from financial to childcare to health issues.
Therefore, you must have some coping mechanisms to get through the worst of a partnership with a narcissist.
Learn all you can about narcissism.
Narcissists have a pervasive sense of entitlement, need high control, and demonstrate low empathy. Spend time reading about narcissism and learning about the character traits of narcissists. When you are armed with knowledge, you are more likely to predict future behavior and navigate the tough times effectively.
For example, if you know that a narcissist doesn’t like animals, then don’t ask that person for help when the dog is sick. Learn to handle the canine’s care on your own.
Predict the cycle.
There is a consistent cycle of narcissistic influence in almost every narcissistic relationship. It has four stages/: Love bombing, devaluation or tension building, rage, and heart and flowers.
The love bombing stage is when the narcissist overwhelms you with loving actions, words, and behaviors. You think you’ve found true love until it stops.
When the love bombing is over, the narcissist begins the slowly devalue you. The toxic person may make subtle remarks about your appearance or give you the silent treatment. This is all to keep you off-balance so you will continue to work for the narcissist’s intermittent affection.
Establish strong boundaries.
We often hear that you need to establish boundaries with a narcissist, yet many survivors don’t know what those look like. First, make a list of what’s important to you. What are your values, morals, and standards? Then, establish your boundaries around these.
Henry Cloud said that boundaries teach others how to respect and love us. Although the love may look different from a narcissist, at least there’s an invisible barrier as to where you start, and the narcissist ends
One of my boundaries with the narcissist was established around therapy. A narcissist and I went to see five marriage counselors over ten years. When the narcissist gave up, I continued, even though it made that person angry. I knew what I needed, and I stuck to my rules.
Narcissists often manipulate others by slowly drawing them away from their support system of family and friends. Do your best not to let this happen. Keep those connections that are important to you. Even if your time with those people is limited, make sure it happens. You need a touchpoint in reality, and those people can do that for you.
Get emotional needs met.
Hopefully, you can find one person who understands what you are living with or going through. Lean on that person. You can tell them, “I don’t need you to fix this. I need you to listen.” Be careful and don’t let the emotional involvement turn into an affair, because that’s like throwing bacon grease on a. Campfire. But be sure to get your emotional needs met by a good friend or family member. The narcissist simply isn’t capable of meeting your emotional needs. They cannot even meet their own.
Find the good in the narcissist.
One of the most important tips I can give you to survive the narcissist is this, find the good in them. I remember as a little girl, my father would tell me that if you look hard enough, you can find the good in anyone. Maybe the narcissist is great at keeping the yard looking good, Maybe the narcissist likes to throw the ball with your son or play dolls with your daughter. Find a good trait and focus on that when the going gets tough.
For example, the narcissistic parent in my life taught me to be independent and as my friends say, “a boss chick.” I am glad because if this parent had taught me that, I would’ve been destitute after my divorce.
Have no expectations.
Don’t expect the narcissist to change or magically get better. The person you are with has a personality disorder, this is a mental health disorder that cannot be treated with medication like bipolar disorder or depression. People with personality disorders can change their behavior, but it takes acknowledgment and hard work, typically over years. Understand that you are dealing with and you won’t get let down over and over again.
Yes, this article is all about you. In order to survive the narcissist, you have to do you. Remember that you need to show dignity, respect, and civility toward yourself first, then others. Be sure to get in therapy. Join Surviving Narcissism’s “Team Healthy,” an online forum where we support each other and learn more about narcissism.
My hope for you is that with clarity, you realize you deserve more. And then, you stop worrying about making the narcissist happy and take care of yourself once and for all.