Q & A: How Do I Communicate with A Narcissist Without “Hurting” Him?

Q: Thank you for this site. I have been divorced for a year from a husband of 15 years and three kids. I believe he is a high functioning narcissist, very successful, etc. His biggest characteristics are lack of empathy, inability to do anything constructive with any form of criticism, bad listener, sent many mixed signals. I was constantly fearful of triggering his negative moods (he was never abusive, violent, unfaithful–he is hyper-proud of his morality and very black and white / right and wrong), and know the silent treatments well.

That being said, I am the one who left him, a did have two affairs while married (still in relationship with the second)–trusting your confidentiality here–and am grateful to get to experience life and relationship with no fear, freedom to say anything on my heart and mind, etc.

My question is: since he is raising our kids 62% of the time (he is financially independent, I moved out of the big new house we had just built, etc –and I was afraid of what he would do if he didn’t have the kids enough) and he just last night told me how much he still misses me, loves me, etc.  How do I communicate with him truthfully and in a way that minimizes his hurt for my kids’ sake? I know I can’t help him and he won’t listen to anything I have to say, or place any value in my reasons (in his mind I am very much wrong and he is right).

I spent 15 years trying to do all different things to make him happy–now he has to figure that out on his own. Rambling… What is the best way to communicate compassion but boundaries to a high functioning, hyper-right/wrong NPD? Do I just say,

“so sorry I can’t tell you what you want to hear. I want you to be happy, but you can only find that within yourself. I want to be a wonderful co-parent with you, but I am not your wife.”

I am trying to let go of the desire for him to understand. I am a naturally joyful, happy and grateful person. We had everything anyone could possibly want and he still only looked for what was wrong and expressed no gratitude–except when it was a “show.” I can’t just cut him off because of our kids.  I want to move forward as compassionately and true to myself as possible.

Thank you. Peace. W

A: As you said, he will not hold any value in your speech. Your compassion and your opinion are irrelevant. Do let go of the desire to make him understand; it is an exercise in futility. Do set boundaries and stick to them. Your best approach would be with an objective, non-emotional response that does not give him any narcissistic supply (positive or negative). Lecturing him on finding happiness within himself is not going to work. Try something more pared down and less emotional. Example: “I am not the person who can make you happy. Our relationship will continue to be that of co-parents to 3 wonderful children. Speaking of our children… (change topic to children)”. You don’t need to cut him off but you should minimize the time spent with him or communicating with him. Don’t give him opportunities to seek approval, love, etc from you- that continues to feed his need for narcissistic supply. The further you disengage from him, the sooner both of you will be able to move on.

(thank you for the compliment)

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