Do you ever wonder why relationships with a narcissist tend not to withstand the test of time? By definition, narcissists can create good temporary impressions, yet as strains and tensions emerge (which are normal), narcissists prove incapable of rising to the challenge. Having too many dysfunctional inclinations inhibiting them from managing complexities, it’s predictable that their connections with others will collapse.

The entire process of growth and maturation hinges upon a person’s application of insight and wisdom to life’s many challenges. With a comprehensive understanding of oneself and one’s circumstances, it is possible to move forward with well-conceived ideas of who you can become.

Narcissists, however, possess two foundational ingredients that work against relational growth:

  1. They lack insight into themselves and others.
  2. They are addicted to their own certainty.

In the effort to present themselves as ideal, narcissists either overlook or rationalize their obvious dysfunction. Then they double down by declaring how ironclad their interpretations of life are. They are on a continual quest to prove their superiority, meaning they reject input from you that might detract from their carefully crafted view of oneself. And when the predictable strains show within their relationships, they will naturally claim the status of Victim.

Along with this low-insight, high-certainty mindset come many other predictable traits that add to the inevitability of the relationship’s collapse. For instance:

  • They tend to be quite self-righteous, presuming no one else is quite as enlightened.
  • Narcissists cling to entitlement as if it is their birthright. They honestly believe they deserve special considerations.
  • When you differ, they are very quick to invalidate.
  • They show no appreciation for nuance, since that would disrupt their certainty.
  • Demands are frequent.
  • Expectations are common, reflecting a deeper problem of emotional neediness.
  • The False Self reigns.

Adding to the problems these traits create, you are faced with all sorts of challenges that are not conducive to relational success. For instance:

  • Since the narcissist must be certain, you are automatically labelled as wrong whenever you present a different perspective.
  • You will find frustration due to the narcissist’s lack of teachability.
  • With the narcissist being very stubborn, you can become the same in reverse.
  • Due to the lack of resolution of differences, your emotions become frayed, potentially bringing out the worst in you.
  • Sensing your vulnerability, the narcissist can become an insensitive jerk in responses toward you.
  • Love or honor are lost.
  • In the end, the narcissist proclaims innocence while presuming you are just stupid.

Can you see, then, how a relationship cannot withstand such psychological disarray, and how collapse becomes inevitable?

Understanding how a narcissist’s low-insight and high-certainty play out, there are certain do’s and don’ts to consider:

  • Don’t let the narcissist become the arbitrator of truth. Their lack of insight leads to untrustworthy declarations.
  • Don’t accept the job of making the narcissist see the light. That has to originate from within.
  • Do accept that narcissists will not trust you, but it is not about you. They don’t trust because no one is able to live up to their impossible, illogical standards.
  • By all means, don’t mirror the narcissist’s behaviors. They should be no one’s role model.
  • Rather than repeatedly speaking your truth (which has its place), do act upon your truth. Determine the boundaries and consequences that serve your purposes, and when the narcissist predictably complains, follow through nonetheless. No extra explanation is required.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a narcissist could show insight and make room for diversity and curiosity? But then, if that were the case, that person would probably not be a narcissist!

Because of their lack of insight, coupled with their insistence upon certainty, narcissists simply cannot sustain relationships. As time passes, their relationship foundations collapse, meaning you will be discarded as the narcissist moves onto the next set of circumstances having learned next to nothing in the process. But in the meantime, whatever you have with that person will be superficial at best.

As you commit to introspection and curiosity, you can become an awakened individual capable of growth and maturation. Just prepare for it to unfold without the narcissist’s coordination.

Les Carter, Ph.D.

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