….. work things out with the narcissist in your life? Well, you can actually. You can, IF you are willing to give up everything while receiving NOTHING, are willing to tolerate abuse in many forms, and accept a lifetime of debilitating affects of such treatment. This article will be more specific and oriented toward having a narcissist romantic partner; some of my earlier writings were more general toward not only Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but other Cluster B Personality Disorders (PD) as well (‘Cluster B’ is a category within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, aka DSM-V). This post will be written from the perspective of ‘still thinking’ you can work out a romantic relationship with a narcissist, and what it will take. Please note that I will do my best to show gender equality; many men have experienced narcissist abuse as well. With all my heart, I hope there is not one person who will after reading this, still think that working out a relationship with a narcissist would be the right choice to make. There hasn’t been anything in my life more debilitating than my ex-narc relationship, and like most of us, I’ve been through quite a few significant, traumatic experiences, none more devastating than my narc relationship.
” Narcissists do not process or view the world and relationships normally. Due to this fact, it must be accepted any relationship with a narcissist will be wrought with difficulty. They think, live, act, and react from a completely different set of ‘rules’ than the rest of humanity.” L.A. Gilliam
Let’s break it down. I will present just what it will take from you, to make a relationship with a narcissist (aka ‘narc’) work. I will include examples from my real life experiences. If you have been in a relationship with a narc, or are in one now, there is no doubt some (if not all) of these things will resonate with you. You will have to decide if you are willing to live ‘like this’:
- Accept there are ‘rules’ for you that the narc will have no interest in reciprocating. Example: You may be expected to ‘dote’ on the narc, with little to no reciprocity. I was expected to make and serve coffee, milk, and cookies on a consistent basis. Once in a great while, I would receive a cup of coffee, and I was to show abundant and effusive appreciation when I did. I, on the other hand, was expected to ‘serve’ as part of my regular duties (oh yes, we have ‘jobs’ in narc relationships), without much authentic appreciation. It was the regular environment created because the narc had many expectations of me, but I wasn’t allowed to have my own. You will have ‘rules’ to follow in a narc relationship, but don’t dare expect reciprocal treatment. The narc receives a great sense of power, control, and superiority when we ‘bow’ to their demands. Make no mistake; this entire dynamic is about power. You have none in a narc relationship and placing rules upon us is to ensure the power dynamic stays unbalanced.
- Accept you will always be lied to. Big lies. Small lies. Lies of all sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and flavors. Oh, the lies! Lies you are told directly. Lies you hear told to others. Lies told to ‘friends’ (I put ‘friends’ in quotation marks because real friends don’t lie to each other). Lies told to family members. You will hear so many lies! You will be tangentially involved in lies to others. You will discover lies that blow your mind. Lies, lies, lies. Heaven forbid you ever question one of these lies (even when you know the truth based in reality); you will likely be told something along the lines of, “I’m not going to argue with you”, when in fact you weren’t arguing at all, merely asking a simple question regarding the lie. You may be told, “I don’t live in the past”, which is narc-speak for “Yes, I lied, but you have no right to question me – and now I am MOVING ON!”. Lies are as natural to a narc as breathing. Big, small, significant, inconsequential. It doesn’t matter to a narc. Lies are part of the deal. At my engagement party during ‘story time’, the narc I was involved with took credit for removing someone from a car after an accident. Nope. Lies. Lies to all our friends and family gathered for the party. The man had already been removed from the car before we got to the accident. In a narc’s world (remember they live and think differently than we do), credit belonged to THEM for this heroic act. Nope. Lies. To friends, to family, during our engagement party. Lies. So, so, so many lies.
- Accept you will have no rights. If you are asked to do something you don’t want to do and stand up for yourself, be ready for the ‘discard’ (when the narc erases you from their life and you don’t hear from them for days and weeks). Narcs have ALL the rights in a narc relationship; YOU have none. You have NO right to speak of your opinions, your desires, your needs. A narc, in their own mind, has every right to do or say anything at all, and you better just go along and make nice, play along to make the narc happy. You have no rights.
- Accept that reality no longer exists; what you live, see, hear, experience no longer exists. Reality and the truth will be twisted to suit the narc’s power and control needs, and your very reality will be modified to suit THEIR needs and wants. This can take the form of literally denying certain things; a narc may say, “I never said that”, or “That’s not what happened’, or even, “Why are you making things up?”, when you KNOW THE TRUTH. This is called ‘gaslighting’, and is a very real, extremely damaging, and insidious form of emotional abuse. When my fiance’ and I were looking at engagement rings, we BOTH (not just me) settled on one of the most beautiful rings we’d ever seen in our lives. We talked about that ring often; the design, the significance, the beauty. Oh, how beautiful it was! It was our ‘dream ring’, and unbeknownst to me, my fiance’s exuberance and delight with the ring was all for show. More lies. When the proposal came and I was given a much different, smaller, simpler, and ‘standard’ ring (it had none of the detail or elegance of the ring we had picked out together), I was told I would be receiving ‘THE’ ring the night of our engagement party. Nope. Never happened. Later in bed, the night of our party after all guests had gone home, I asked about our ‘dream ring’. I was told, “I never said you were getting that ring.” WHAT??? I then offered the emails where we discussed our ‘dream ring’ as proof and was told, “I thought you knew that I wasn’t giving you that ring.” WHAT??? Was our ‘dream ring’ expensive? Yes. Did we plan on buying it? YES. I was wearing a fraudulent ring that in its own right, was actually quite pretty. However, it was NOT ‘the dream ring’. Lies, lies, lies. Gaslighting. Denying the truth and reality. This is truly not about the ring; it is about the depths of denial and twisting the truth and reality that occurs regularly in the narc relationship. To continue in a narc relationship, is to accept that gaslighting / emotional abuse will be part of your life. No need arguing when these things occur; you will be dismissed.
- Accept that being belittled, demeaned, called names, usually veiled as ‘humor’ and/or ‘jokes’, and never having YOUR achievements celebrated is part of the relationship. Meanwhile, you are to applaud loudly and tell the world about every single little thing in the narc’s life. I remember so CLEARLY the disappointment I felt when I was met with complete SILENCE as I told the story of my career accomplishments that meant the world to me. You see, I’m a teacher and at that time was teaching 8th grade intensive reading in a high needs, Title One school where over 75% of our student population lived at or below the poverty level. It is rare for these students and families to put emphasis on education; often they are struggling to put food on the table. This particular year however, was an outstanding time in my teaching career; one particular class won TWO national reading contests that year. TWO! National contests!!! TWO!! I was so happy for them, so proud of their effort and success, and could not wait to share this exciting and joyous news with my fiance’. When I did, I was met with silence. Not. One. Word. I found this SO BIZARRE I got in contact with a trusted family member who intervened, talked with the narc, and THEN I was ‘celebrated’ with a dinner out. I didn’t need dinner. I needed the GENUINE sharing of my joy; something that will NEVER happen with a narc. Any show of joy for YOUR accomplishments is false, as they are extremely jealous of anyone or anything that does not relate to them personally.
- Accept that you will be presented and promised the world, all your hopes and dreams to come true, only to find that in reality those promises are only ‘BAIT’. Yes, bait. In actuality, if the narc showed us the truth of who they are right from the start, NO HEALTHY PERSON would choose to continue the relationship. Enter: BAIT. A narc will make promises, will initially show you a persona that in no way resembles their true selves, and will create falsehoods and plant seeds of ‘promises to come true’ in your mind, to capture you in the beginning, and KEEP you there throughout the relationship. The fact here however, is that promises are not kept, the seeds planted will never take root. NARCS ARE EMOTIONAL FRAUDS. If you break off the relationship, it is very common for the narc to come back and make all the verbal promises again, promise change, promise growth, and anything and everything they think will once again hook you. This is known as ‘love bombing’, in a narc relationship and is effective as most of us (in the beginning) take these promises and statements as TRUTH. Don’t do it. NEVER GO BACK. Love bombing never lasts, is never based in truth, and again you will find yourself baited and hooked for nothing more than further abuse.
- Accept there will be multiple ‘others’ in the relationship. Oh yes, narcs must have constant attention, admiration in excess, and will often have multiple people, multiple love interests scattered here, there, and everywhere to serve these needs. Narcs MUST have attention, must have a sense of admiration at all times, and get antsy and distraught if this attention / admiration is lacking for too long. My fiance used online dating sites to accomplish this feat; prior to my relationship, there was an ex with whom there was regular contact, there was a woman up north being courted and ensnared, as well as a woman here locally in the mix. The narc was involved to some degree with all three, at the same time. Of course, there were commitment promises made to each, with the woman from up north thinking SHE was the only one. The woman who lives here locally thought SHE was the only one. Eventually, the woman from up north found out about the local woman (and vice versa), and the proverbial ‘you know what’ hit the fan.
- Accept there will likely be sexual dysfunction on some level, to some degree. It is common that some narcs have a degree of sexual addiction, in conjunction with this dysfunction (what a catchy line). The addiction may be hidden in the form of cheating, online sex apps, multiple partners, and the like. On the other hand the dysfunction may be primary, as in my case. Without getting into the details, sex equaled power, and an opportunity for an ego boost. It was a common request from the narc to “Tell me I’m the best you’ve ever had, even if its not the truth”. Yeah. I’ll leave it at that. Dysfunction and addiction go hand in hand relative to the sexual component of a narc relationship; sexual abuse of a narc’s partner is not unheard of.
So, there you have it, once again. To make a relationship with a narcissist work, you must accept these insidious, abusive components of the relationship. As stated previously and with all my heart, I hope there is not one person who will after reading this, still think that working out a relationship with a narcissist would be the right choice to make. THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE. Best, L.A.