How To Live With A Narcissist & How to Turn Things Around

live with narcissist

Following on from my very popular post about marriage to a covert narcissist our conversation now migrates to the topic of “How to live with a narcissist.”

I am trying to make this post a big more action focused. First up the terminology: you won’t find the word victim here, it has far too many negatives – I am going to use the word target instead. I would encourage you to also start shifting your focus in such a small way – the language you use will steer the pattern of thinking that follows.

The Aim: regardless of your situation and how well versed you are in this context I want you to implement one thing for me please. Be original. Do not generically swap out one problem for another. Tackle your own problem at its source – You. Trying to control a narcissist or change his/her behavior is a losing battle and a miserable one.

Trap #1 – Blame Game: If the focus of all your conversation start with something like s/he did ……..? or s/he is …….? then you may be stuck in a rut whereby you have focused all your attention on the negativity of blaming someone else for being themselves. Yes – you should accept them for who they are, if you think they are evil try to rephrase the thoughts into ” they do evil things” and ignore the core essence of their being – that is for their god to judge once he/she passes on, not you, that is one job you don’t want to volunteer for.

You Create Your Own Shame

First up I offer these words of wisdom from a brilliant book I read called Iron John:

Robert Bly provides the following:

The traditional way of differentiating guilt from shame is this: Shame, it is said, is the sense that you are an utterly inadequate person on this planet, and probably nothing can be done about it. Guilt is the sense that you have done one thing wrong, and you can atone for it.

When you start accepting that your actions are bad (guilt) it becomes a slippery slope down to the world of shame (e.g. you are bad). First you are made to feel that every action you take is bad then you stop taking actions and once you have become stagnant in life then the decay takes hold.

The same philosophy as above could serve well in this case – concentrate on your actions on a case by case basis. You are not a god so you have no business judging your soul as good or bad.

These are all very subtle emotions and probably go one behind the scene without you putting much thought to it. Unfortunately these are the exact lessons that most people don’t learn until it is too late. Experience is a brilliant thing to learn from but wouldn’t it be nice if you could spare yourself (or someone else) all the pain and time.



Video courtesy of John Bradshaw.

Do Not Let Your Self Esteem Erode

What most targets don’t understand (until it is too late) is that once you take on board the shame the problem quickly escalates to your attacked your self-esteem.

If the shame starts taking hold and you start thinking that you are in essence not great then your sense of self-worth has started a downhill spiral and eventually your self-esteem will bottom out. Don’t give it away – yes – it is yours and can’t be taken without your consent. May consent is not the perfect word but what I am trying to get at is that the narcissist has this way of shaming you into dropping all your defenses, then opening up your soul for their plunder (while you quietly watch on).


Do not Generalize or Take Advice that is not relevant to Your Situation.

dead end narcissistThat is a big contradictory I know. Do not believe everything you read on the internet or see on TV as gospel (yes, even this article you are reading now). Your situation is unique and no one else can give you the right advice for you. For a start – no one else knows what is going on in your head and you can’t communicate it all effectively so they never will.

Be wary of generalized advice particularly from counselors and therapists. If the focus is on the narcissist and not on you then you are doing something wrong – after all you are not trying to fix them. If you are then you need to stop that futile game – Narcissist can’t be fixed – sometime they can choose to fix themselves but outside invention seldom sparks that choose.

Remember – the solution need to be centered (in full) on you and on your needs/wants. Secondary considerations may be how to go about achieving them but still you are the focus.

Do: Build Your Own Autonomy

Until you are both mentally and physically self-sufficient you will be running uphill with the risk of sliding back down again. Here are some of the most common mistakes

  • physical dependencies – cigarettes, alcohol,
  • mental dependencies – drama, emotionally energy
  • financial dependencies – money, welfare
  • geographical dependencies – roof over your head
  • medical dependencies – doctors, pharmacies
  • attention dependencies – attention (negative or positive)

This is by far and large the hardest step which is why I have prepared an entire series of posts on the subject. Click here to go to my AUTONOMY BLUEPRINT series.

Do: Be Prepared to Walk Away at any time

It sounds very simple to say but a lot harder to put into practice. Women tend to do a lot better with this step than the men. Men: sometimes you just need to accept defeat and put yourself first. If you have kids then they are a lot better off not watching you turn into a puddle of a man in front of them.

Do: Reserve Your Precious Energy for Yourself

woman narcissistAs I alluded to in the section above about shame your emotions are your own to control. One step further is to say that your energy is your own to give away too. If you are feeling tired or you are feeling run down they are clear signs that

Disinterest: One powerful tool I used to deal with my ex-narcissist partner is to completely remove myself away from any chance of responding to the drama. It is a very hard thing to do but it is possible. The key lesson I want to impart on you here is that all the fuel for the drama comes from the target. I will say that again for dramatic effect and to hopefully impact on you a bit more

All the energy in the drama filled situation originates from the narcissist’s target. Have you noticed that the targets are uniquely selected not just anyone?


8 Replies to “How To Live With A Narcissist & How to Turn Things Around”

  1. you offer some really good advice in this article and unlike the fact that you remove the negatives at the start by taking victim out.

    I really relate to trap one here, if you can accept someone for who they are then you stop wasting energy focusing on the negatives. Once you accept that person for being who they are you can move on and get on with your own life. 

    Great post that I can relate to. 

    1. for some stupid reason we live in a culture where being a victim puts you on some sort of a pedestal and make you a lot more popular than anyone else.

      I am glad you enjoyed the post Darren. What you will find is that a little piece of truth (or two) will stick and six months down the track you will find a new way of thinking had sprout from it.

      cheers and talk soon.

  2. I love the topic of narcissism – without loving narcissists themselves – and am glad I came across this informative article. I have been studying narcissism in depth for several months now, and this personality disorder is nothing short of fascinating and chilling.

    Being prepared to walk away at a moment’s notice is, not only smart, but imperative. Planning an exit strategy should always be in the back of the target’s mind as a means of protection. It’s an important realization that each of us is responsible for our own emotions, and we shouldn’t let others – especially narcs – determine how we feel. 

    Withdrawing the narc’s fuel by not responding to their drama and acting disinterested is an essential coping technique, particularly if you have to continue living with them. I like how you differentiated between guilt and shame. Very interesting. Thanks for this great post!

    1. it is a strange past time Holly – reading about narcissism.  I hope your interest is in psychology at large and not just the dark shadows that lie within.  (refer to Robert Bly’s book called the Little Book On the Human Shadow).  

      I am using the same technique on lawyers now.  Hopefully they will leave me alone too.  Some of them can be very self centered, and money centered.

  3. Hi Remy!

    So sorry you had to experience this, but I’m sure you learned a ton. I’ve been in a relationship with an overt narcissist before, so I understand how they play on your weaknesses and emotions. In my situation, the relationship was fairly short term so I was able to cut things off without much damage, but I had a young child with them. It’s been hard determining how to deal with them in the parenting roles. I appreciate your advice on this. I’ll reread this post and sift thru everything to see which nuggets I can apply to my situation.

    1. You are welcome Tiffany,

      don’t be afraid to share any extra tips you have for the rest of us too.  No two experiences are the same and it is a topic without much support.

  4. Great article and I couldn’t agree with you more.  I dated a narcissist for years and everything you mentioned here is the truth.  I think it’s too easy to make yourself out as the victim and point the blame at all of their faults and how they are treating you.  But the real thing is that you are allowing them to keep the power.  The longer you stay in that weak spot of thinking it’s all them and how miserable you are with how they treat you, the more powerful they feel. Your best bet is to just walk away and leave the situation and like you said, you cannot change them, so you might as well just leave!

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