Living with a narcissist means your life is a constant drama, and you have a constant challenge to be your own person, do what you want, and live according to your own values. Is it an impossible task? When a narcissist loses everything, he/she can be vindictive and dangerous in many ways, so be prepared for resistance to any changes you want to make.

If you are living with a narcissist, he/she thinks of you as his/her possession to treat any way he wants, and you must live up to an impossible standard. You will be belittled and humiliated and hurt no matter how careful you are to live by his rules. How long you bear it?

Living with a narcissist means putting yourself last

Narcissism is a personality disorder. It’s not just selfishness or a lack of empathy. It’s the need to dominate, manipulate and control, and your narcissist depends on you to be exactly as he/she wants you to be or abuse is bound to follow.

We all have some traits related to personality disorders, but a true personality disorder means “traits are inflexible and maladaptive and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress” (DSM V pg. 647). And one doesn’t just develop a personality disorder; it starts early and continues along the path leading into adulthood

Living peacefully with a narcissist is difficult because a narcissist has to be right all the time. A narcissist is a perfectionist and will lash out at anything that feels like an injury or an insult. Narcissists are also expert at gaslighting. Here is what arguing with a narcissist sounds like.

6 things to do if you are living with a narcissist

1. Learn about narcissistic behaviors

You may have feelings that things aren’t right and your loved one is manipulating or lying to you. You don’t have to be fair or believe everything he/she says. You can get the facts about what you’re dealing with.

Narcissism is a spectrum that ranges from the merely self-absorbed to one who has a clinical diagnosis of narcissist personality disorder. A diagnosis validates what you are seeing with your loved one and the different struggles you both face. Most narcissists have one or more of these key traits in common:

  • Grandiosity
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Arrogance
  • Using people
  • Poor empathy

2. Understand that you can’t change him

When dealing with narcissism, accepting the things you cannot change brings you a lot of serenity. First, recognize that for some, their narcissism covers up their internal pain. This is not your problem, though. You don’t have to fix life for them.

Understand that you must choose your battles because you will seldom win. Likewise, understand that narcissists seldom go to therapy because they believe everyone and everything around them is the problem and not them.  Even if they go to therapy, the focus is on others and not on accepting responsibility for themselves. If you go into therapy, you may become more independent and happier.

3. Act do not re-act

Act, do not re-act, to belittling, abusive behavior. Reacting means you give your power away to the narcissist. Your defensiveness starts a battle of wits which you will never win. However, acting comes from a place of power. It keeps you focused on what needs to be focused on. What do you want to accomplish? Speaking rationally about behaviors you won’t tolerate is healthy way of communicating whereas reacting with anger comes from a position of weakness. You can leave the room. You can go to a safe space. You can take a break. You can start new habits of thinking about what’s happening and stop arguing.

4. Live In A Big World

Take care of yourself on all levels – physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. This is about understanding and coping with your own wants and needs. Keep the focus on you. Participate in hobbies and leisure activities without the narcissist, as well as some with the person whenever possible. Don’t let your narcissist feel you are attacking him/her.

5. Protect Yourself From Abusive Behaviors

Do not take on their blaming, belittling, and abusive ways. You are not at fault. Get emotional support from other family members (not your children) and from friends. Emotional support will never come from a narcissist unless it behooves her or him in some way.

6. Have a safe place to get away

Find a place of safety to which you can escape when you feel overwhelmed by malignant narcissism. Even though you may not experience physical abusive, the incessant demands for ego gratification make narcissists emotionally neglectful and abusive. You need space and comfort to rebuild your sense of self esteem.

Only you can decide what to do with an unsatisfying relationship. Not all narcissists are alike. Some, who have just a few traits, may be willing to work on issues, but those who fit the definition of a narcissistic personality disorder will be more challenging.



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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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