In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection. The term narcissist is thus used for a person who has an unnatural sense of self-importance and is overly self-involved. But when this trait becomes dangerous for the mental life of the person and those related to him/her, it can lead to a personality disorder. Even though it is challenging to live with a narcissistic partner, there are several ways you can make this easier.
Identify the problem
Narcissistic people are usually extraordinarily charming. While other people may marvel at their immensely attractive personalities, only people close to them understand the agony, unpredictability and frustration of being in such a relationship. So the first thing you need to realize is that the troubles in your relationship are not the product of your imagination but that there is a real problem and it is caused by your partner’s narcissistic behavior. Such a person is arrogant, selfish and believes that everything is about him/her.
Stop enabling the behavior
If you love your partner, you may find it less distressing to oppose his/her narcissistic behavior and play along with their delusions. However this will only enable their behavior till the point you begin to think their narcissism is ‘normal’ and you are being selfish for standing up to it. So stop supporting your partner’s flawed perspective since this will only encourage and further the psychosis
A narcissist will always put his/her own needs before everyone else’s. If you live with a narcissistic partner, you may find that it is perpetually about his/her likes and dislikes, feelings and requirements. So you need to distinguish your partner’s genuine needs from the distorted ones. Then set strict boundaries on which demands you are willing to meet and how much approval you are ready to give. And once you set these limits, be sure to stick to them. Narcissists are master manipulators and will use every trick in the book to bring back the focus on them and only them.
Limit one-sided conversations
Narcissists are completely wrapped up with themselves. Any conversation with them is only and always about their needs and desires. So when you see your partner starting off with one, terminate the conversation immediately or set a time limit on how long you are willing to listen. Don’t feel that you are being selfish in saying “No” and always remember that it is the narcissist who is being selfish by always putting himself or herself first.
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Don’t blame yourself
People with any form of personality disorder find it difficult to deal with the reality of their behaviors. At a deeper level, they may realize how hurtful they are but accepting this major flaw in themselves is just too painful. So disordered people, including those with narcissist personality disorder, spin others’ reality to make their own less painful and one of the most common ways to do this is by projection. If your partner suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, he/she may project a hurtful characteristic of their own on to you and one of the most common is mental illness. So if you break down in frustration at your narcissist partner’s selfish ways, he/she is most likely to scream back, “I’m not mad. It’s you – you who are raving mad”. The only way to deal with this kind of behavior is to refuse to be emotionally manipulated by the narcissistic partner. He/she may try to make you feel guilty and make his/her problems seem your fault. Recognize this as a kind of trick that they experts at and refuse to play along.
Avoid getting into an angry conflict
Don't get into a head-on conflict with a narcissistic partner. If he/she tries to draw you into a confrontation, stay calm since anything you say will be met with anger. In fact your partner may be intentionally goading you on in an attempt to make you lose control of yourself as well as the situation.
Seek professional help
In case you believe your partner simply has a narcissistic streak in his/her personality you can try to deal with the situation on your own. However if your partner’s narcissism is putting you through mental agony and wrecking your relationship, most probably it is because he/she has a narcissistic personality disorder. Living with such a person can leave you susceptible to extreme emotional turmoil and even emotional abuse. This is because people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder respond with extreme defensive and even violent actions to events which they feel threaten their perception as special and privileged. The only way to deal with such a situation is to seek counseling for your partner. However this is easier said than done since a confirmed narcissist will probably the last person to admit that he/she needs help. Despite the difficulty, you partner needs to undergo therapy and counseling if he/she is to get better and lead a fulfilling life.
Know when to leave
Living with a person suffering from narcissistic personality disorder can slowly but surely erode your sense of self-worth till you are left feeling worthless and incapable of being loved and respected. Before you know it, your partner’s narcissism may take the colors of emotional and even physical abuse. What is worse, the hurt and anger you experience at the hands of your narcissistic partner may get carried over to other relationships like that with your kids, parents and co-workers. While the decision to end a relationship may not always be easy, sometimes it may the only way out.
Coping with a narcissistic partner demands lots of patience. No matter how sensibly handled, a narcissistic person cannot be expected to stop behaving selfishly overnight and start treating his/her partner with empathy. It may take months of counseling and therapy before things get better. However the effort and time may well be worth if the person gets better and the relationship becomes equally satisfying for both partners.