Living With A Narcissist: When Leaving is Not an Option

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be found in all walks of life. Sometime you may find yourself working for them or living with them (spouse, sibling, or parent); you may find that you must endure their presence as you do not have a viable option of leaving-at least at that given time. Living with a narcissist can be distressing and depressing, their behavior appealing and appalling.  A narcissist can be charming, romantic and funny…and he can be arrogant, deceitful, hurtful and despicable. Some people are able to cope with the roller coaster ride, but many others find it difficult to maintain a relationship with a narcissist.

People who are ‘codependent’ but don’t have a personality disorder (like borderline or narcissism) can have a perfect, if somewhat painful, fit in a narcissistic relationship. A codependent also has low self-esteem but theirs’ is boosted by the narcissist’s extroverted personality and aura of success. Furthermore, their low self-esteem allows them to endure the narcissist’s abuse. They feel guilty asserting their own needs and loving/caring for a narcissist makes them feel valued. It is also a perfect fit because the codependent doesn’t feel worthy of receiving love for the individual that they are, only for what they give or do.

Another common narcissistic relationship that “works” is with an adult who was raised by a narcissistic parent. Children of narcissists often choose a narcissist for a mate. Due to their childhood experiences, it seems natural to them- psychologically comfortable- to be manipulated by a handsome, charming, tyrannical and abusive lover.

When a person becomes aware they are living with a narcissist, they have several options. The first option is leaving the relationship, the second is limiting the relationship (for example if it is a parent who no longer lives in the same house), and another is to stay in the relationship. If they choose to remain in the relationship and emotionally vulnerable to the narcissist, they need to learn coping skills in order to survive and maintain their mental/emotional health.


Develop a support system

People outside of the immediate family are often impressed by the narcissist’s charm and find it difficult to believe that your own experiences are so very different from theirs; this can result in feelings of being misunderstood and isolated. Reach out to others and develop a support system of adults who are in no way charmed by narcissistic behavior. They may have narcissistic family members of their own, they may have been hurt or manipulated by a narcissist, or they are people who have never met/been charmed by your narcissist.

Enforce boundaries

Don’t do anything that you are uncomfortable with just because you are being asked to. Be consistent and firm with your own needs, desires and limitations. Let the narcissist deal with his own disappointment when his wishes are not met. Be mindful of your own personal limits, needs, irritants, and aspirations. State these clearly to the narcissist and be consistent when enforcing them.

Create win-win solutions

Narcissists demand those around them to perform contradictory tasks or behaviors and then become angry when their demands are not met. Develop Win-Win solutions and apply repeatedly; the narcissist will eventually become bored with his No-Win situations and abandon them for another means to get his own way. You can go to “conflict resolution” websites for details on how to develop win-win solutions.

Manage emotional outbursts

Neither partner should be allowed to treat the other with disrespect. At times you’ll be upset with each other and need to let off steam. If one person needs to vent feelings, that person must take responsibility for those feelings, not blaming the other for “making” him or her feel that way. If you’re being spoken to with anger or disrespect, stop the action right there. Make how you are being treated the issue. If necessary, walk away, letting it be known that you’ll gladly pick up where you left off when you’re treated with respect.

Know when you’re being “gaslighted”

If the narcissist says something and then denies saying it or claims to have said something when he really didn’t, and blames you for not listening or having a poor memory, you are probably being gaslighted. It can make you doubt your own sanity. Narcissists do this to throw you off balance psychologically although sometimes he’s simply responding to his need of the moment, forgetting what he previously said.

Learn negotiating skills

Learn more about the skills of negotiation (it will help you in all areas of life). Learn what is and isn’t negotiable. Some behavior you may not like but it isn’t life altering if you let it slide. However, if you let everything slide you’ll find yourself in a situation that is simply intolerable. Just because the narcissist wants something doesn’t mean he needs to get it or if he forcefully expresses himself doesn’t mean you have to give in. 

Maintain your own Self Esteem

The narcissist is bent on satisfying his own needs and does not concern himself with yours; this behavior along with all the criticism can lead to a loss of self esteem, loss in believing in yourself and no longer trusting your own judgment. You need to maintain your self esteem by giving yourself something the narcissist won’t give you- positive reinforcement. Say kind things to yourself, congratulate yourself on achievements big and small, remind yourself that you DO have good judgment and spend time with others who think highly of you.

Don’t keep secrets

One of the most difficult things to do is to be honest with others about how the narcissist in your life behaves. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed, especially if you’ve been covering for him. But don’t isolate yourself-find a friend or family member whom you can confide in. You might also want to seek out professional help to assist you in strengthening coping skills and determination.

Learn to understand the narcissist

Monitor and learn the narcissist’s body language. A narcissist’s body language can reveal feelings which he or she is trying to hide (for example, anger at not getting enough attention or subservience from others). You can watch for anger in the narcissist’s face when something is said that might be perceived as criticism or a threat to his authority. If you can learn his body language, you may be able to alleviate some of the emotional turbulence and reinforce his positive feelings or associations.

Learn to identify the danger signs

Although not all narcissists are prone to physical violence, there are enough that are to warrant watching for this trait if the narcissist displays some of the warning signs. Potential signs of danger that might forewarn of physical violence:

  • Possessive or controlling behavior
  • Verbal abuse
  • Constant criticism
  • Undue control of family finances
  • Isolation from family and friends



About Alexander Burgemeester

7 Responses to “Living With A Narcissist: When Leaving is Not an Option”

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  1. kit says:

    If you’re stuck with a narcissist, may God mercy. Thank you for sharing. I dated a guy and now realize this is his personality. He demanded attention. He wss OH so RUDE. Derogatory. Condescending. Not physically abusive though. He is the guy who is ultra important. Just can’t be done if he isn’t there to direct. I thought he wss silly, childish and a bit entertaining with his relentless attempts in acquiring me via pursuit and lavish boasting on his importance as a human. A bit overboard but I figured I I dated him, he’d back off. Once the outbursts started about his overwhelming debt ratio, initially I thought he was venting but it came to be all day, day after day. For a couple of months. I tried to go neutral and he went full steam ahead. Reasoning went straight through him. When I told him I was going to end it, he whined and pleaded. So I gave it another go. A repeated cycle. Finally I decided to let him end it. Reading these posts, I didn’t realize who I wss dealing with or in getting him to break it off, I went about it the right way. I let him know he wasn’t for me and I wasn’t for him. He got exactly what he gave- down talking , lack of praise, lack of interest. I stop fueling his supply. We did not live together, which is a major bonus. But because I know who and how I am, flaws and all, his attempts to make me be who he thought I should be to fulfill his mental needs were in vain. I couldn’t get into him and he just couldn’t understand why. So he finally dropped out and went on his erratic and merry way. Thank you once again for sharing your knowledge and advice!

  2. Murshid Alam says:

    There is a saying that ‘ Never love anytthing which cannot love back’. Absolutely, true. I personally think that it is advisable to love a dog than to love an evil narcissistic wife. It is because the innocent creature, even of no use, would certainly love you back. This, I have realised after 15 years of my marriage.

  3. Narayan says:

    Hi I had a narcissist girl friend for one and half here we just broke up for two months I cannot get her out of my mind is there any way to not think and remember of him every second , minute , my brain so terrible at this stage

  4. LINA says:

    I am living with a Narcissist after searching on the internet about his attitude.
    It is very stressful. I am planning of divorcing him since we do not have kids in our marriage.I can not even talk to him.Talking to him about how I feel is like I am complaining to him..Its like evreything you did was wrong.The devaluation is too much which I am still not out of my mind believing what he said about myself.
    It is true ,it’s killing your self-steem.
    He kick me out from the house,good thing I have a job and now he move to the house I bought which he did not shared any single dollar.I pay all the bills.,still he lives there like he was the King.

  5. Jacqueline B says:

    I have been married to a narcissistic man for 12 years. We have 3 years. I did not kno web wha I. was dealing with until .tomorrow. I started researching weeks ago. This man almost made me commit sui c ide. From believing b I was going to crazy to him convincing me how sick I was and soon I would be dead so he could have my house. he saw me with. Once I was on his radar he never stopped persuing me. The endless fighting and abuse has left me sick indeed. The emotional damage leaves m e frail and weak. He doesbt care about his children never helps. He only care about j is comfort only.3 years ago he dropped me li k e a hot potato. He moved into another room passes me without a word when he feels like it.I told him to leave but he refuses.Comes and goes as he wishes. I am stuck and he knows it because I am unemployed at this time.Dejected sad lonely without friends -a champagne without bubbles. : ( Now I look at my reflection in the brok en mirror of my life and I do nt recog ize the person who use ” to lo bcc e life d o full of self esteem and confidence. Now n is i feel li j e ZI am loc j ed in a cellar and I cant breathe and there n o one b to . save me. S tripped of everything including my voice…all t his and more from a husband who can barely read.

  6. Priscilla Melgar says:

    I have 5 children and a narc husband for 13 years. I am just now learning to defend myself and my daughter who is now 17. Right at this moment leaving will be hard as I have 5 kids, little ones. It’s been torment but it’s true, they have their good days but it’s just an abuser having a good day. My husband doesn’t like seeing me and my children laugh so we walk on eggshells. I worry about my children being affected by this. Its so stressful that I get in a bad mood because of it and I’m trying to be careful not to be in a bad mood with my kids. I remember when he would trace where I would go on his phone. It’s sad when your stuck and you want to be freed from the prison you’re in. I Wonder What It’s like to be free from a narc after so long. May God one day help me from this.

  7. Colleen D says:

    I went looking for advice on how to live with an unemotional, uncaring man … led me to the quora website and lots of comments from people who are narcissistic themselves or who live with a narc,
    Stories were so similar to my own and I now know what I’m dealing with, but the knowledge doesn’t help with the pain of feeling unworthy, unloved and used … but reading these articles does make me realise that I’m not crazy and the only thing I’m guilty of is loving a person who can’t love back …. I know I should kick him out but just when I get up the nerve to do it, he changes back into Mr Nice Guy ( altho’ it never lasts long) but the more i read … the stronger I’m getting at keeping my emotions under control and ignoring his meanness, I know it won’t be long until he either finds new supply or I blow up and send him on his way … either way, I’ll be better off alone than in this miserable state, good luck all!

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