How to Deal With a Narcissist: Four Powerful Ways
Are you wondering just how to deal with a narcissist?
It definitely can be challenging, soul-stifling and literally maddening! The first step in how to deal with a narcissist is to recognize he is one. Here is the definition of a narcissist from the Mayo Clinic:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Does that sound familiar? If you are with a narcissist and things go south, it is never their fault. When things go well it is always their doing! You can’t win. A narcissist simply can’t put himself in your shoes, can’t look at things from your perspective. He does not have much empathy for your feelings if those feelings are blue and down. It’s all about him. Of course, if you are feeling up, he will notice and take credit for getting you in a good mood!
Self-Worth and Narcissism
If you are involved with a narcissist you may be feeling worse and worse about yourself. This is because narcissists are not very capable of truly meeting any of your real needs. This may not appear to be true in the beginning of the relationship, when the narcissist is going all out to win you over (to fill his own needs!). But once he has you, watch out! You will tend to feel depressed and like you don’t even exist when you interact with him. Because you don’t, in his psyche. Of course, there are degrees of narcissism and not all narcissists are totally unworkable. But they are all difficult to deal with.
Here are four powerful tips for how to deal with a narcissist:
Tip 1 for How to Deal with a Narcissist: Recognize the Signs
- Talks incessantly about himself
- Doesn’t ask about you, your concerns or your feelings
- Thinks he is very important and much better than others
- Needs a lot of attention and validation
- Is not very empathetic towards you
- Feels he is entitled to more than others (not fair)
- Exaggerates and brags about his accomplishments
- Plays a win-lose game where he wins and others lose
- Is very arrogant and judgmental and looks down on others. Towards you too– after the honeymoon period.
- Is a trophy or status-seeker who is into having only the best
- Is very mean if he feels slighted or criticized
- Cannot own up to what he did wrong
- At a very deep, unconscious level, he is totally insecure and feels he can’t really measure up. This is why he reacts badly to criticism and is so busy proving himself.
BTW, this is as true for women as it is for men. Narcissistic girlfriends may be more covert but soon their true nature emerges.
Here’s a good summary of our first key point: In her book, I am Free, therapist Bree Bonchay puts it this way:
“Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life, to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give your everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it.”
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Tip 2 for How to Deal with a Narcissist: Free Yourself from Self-Doubt & Blame
When you learn to clearly see who you are dealing with and understand the narcissistic patterns, you can free yourself from second-guessing about what you did wrong. You will be able to let go of thoughts like “I should have told him how much I enjoyed the comedy club he picked out and that I would love to go again! That’s why he’s not calling.” “My thighs are so big and I wore that clingy dress. That’s what turned him off!” “He’s unhappy because I am——(needy, too successful, am fat.” (Fill in the blank) When we don’t understand we are dealing with a narcissist and things blow up, it is ultra-easy to go into knee-jerk self-blame: “We fought because of something I said or did, or something I didn’t say or do.”
This is especially true because the narcissist will tend to blame you over and over again. You need to free yourself from this kind of negative self-talk so that you can see clearly who it is you are dealing with. This process is extremely liberating, as you focus on yourself and your own self-love.
Tip 3 for How to Deal with a Narcissist: Assess How Severe the Narcissism Is
There are different degrees of narcissism. In the less extreme case, a narcissist may be aware that something is missing from his emotional life at a deep level and he may be willing to work on developing empathy and compassion. A good litmus test of this is whether he is willing to go into individual and/or couples therapy or coaching. If he is willing, this is a good sign that he may be less stuck in his narcissism and more workable. It also shows whether he is willing to learn how to have a close, real, emotionally intimate relationship.
Unfortunately you may have to be ready to leave the relationship in order to activate your narcissist’s openness to getting help. It is often the specter of loss that opens up true appreciation for you and all you have to offer.
How to Deal with a Narcissist: Client Example
Joanne, a 50-something nurse came into our coaching program complaining about her narcissistic husband, Brad. Brad was a successful lawyer who was very self-aggrandizing. He always tended to blame Joanne for their arguments, even though Joanne was a very caring and accommodating person. If she left a jar out of the refrigerator, he became mean and angry. If she was late in feeding the cats he also threw a fit. He felt that things should go according to plan—his superior plan. Joanne was very unhappy with him.
Slowly she began to see Brad’s narcissism and learned how to stop blaming herself for their arguments. As she got more self-loving and stronger, she told Brad she would leave him if he didn’t get help. At first he tried to bully her out of her stance. But when Joanne stood her ground, Brad entered coaching with her. He began to work on some of his own childhood issues around being raised by a very narcissistic mother. Brad demonstrated that his narcissism was less severe. And Joanne and Brad are much happier as a couple.
Tip 4: Ask for Help in Dealing with a Narcissist
You can see now how assessing the severity of your partner’s narcissism is a very important step. If he will go for help, things could work out well. On the other hand if your partner is unwilling to seek treatment, chances are that things will not improve. You may be better off leaving the relationship.
So there you have four key tips for how to deal with a narcissist. This is not an easy task! If you would like help, take advantage of a free Breakthrough To Love session with one of my expert coaches.
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Dr. Diana Kirschner
Diana Kirschner, Ph.D. is a relationship advice expert, frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show and the creator of a globally available dating coach and Love Mentor® program. Dr. Diana is also the best-selling author of the acclaimed best-selling relationship and dating book, “Love in 90 Days”. Love in 90 Days was the basis of her PBS Special on love. Connect with Dr. Diana through her Dating Tips & Relationship Advice Newsletter.
“Diana Kirschner’s work is life-changing, love-affirming and wonderfully effective.”
~Dr. Christiane Northrup, Internationally bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.