Are you in a relationship with someone who needs a constant flow of attention or validation? Does your loved one criticize you for no reason? Do you have a friend who insults you but flies into a rage if they receive even gentle criticism? If this sounds familiar, that person might have a narcissistic personality. A relationship with a narcissist can be difficult to navigate, but setting some clear boundaries can help. Call Promises Behavioral Health today at 844.875.5609 to learn more about treatment for narcissistic personality disorder and how to navigate a relationship with a narcissist.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Narcissistic people are generally quite grandiose individuals with an exaggerated sense of their accomplishments and talents. They perceive themselves as very important and assume everyone else does as well. Unfortunately, along with seeing themselves as the center of the world, they don’t develop much (or any) empathy for others. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) states that a person with narcissist personality disorder must have five out of the nine following personality traits:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance
- A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- A belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- A need for excessive admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- Interpersonally exploitive behavior
- A lack of empathy
- Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
- A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
If your loved one exhibits at least five of these qualities, they may have a narcissistic personality disorder. A mental health professional could give an accurate diagnosis and suggest treatment.
Tips to Transform Your Relationship with a Narcissist
It can be difficult to improve your relationship with a narcissistic person – whether they’re a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend – because doing so requires their willingness and participation. Below are some helpful tips for how to stop enabling a narcissist, set boundaries, and improve your relationship.
1. Start from a Place of Compassion
In a relationship with a narcissist, it’s not always easy to feel sympathy for their self-centeredness. However, it is better for your own emotional health to practice compassion. A common myth about narcissism is that it stems from an extreme level of self-esteem. In truth, it’s more likely to be the reverse. Experts believe that narcissism is a reaction to fear, insecurity, and low self-esteem. When a narcissistic person lashes out with hurtful words or actions, it’s not necessarily about you. Knowing this may help you take their hurtful words or actions less
personally. Have some compassion for yourself, too. Setting boundaries is an important act that can improve the relationship. And it’s an important way for you to show respect for yourself, too.
2. Don’t Let Your Narcissistic Loved One Take Advantage of You
Narcissistic and self-absorbed people are very good at getting what they want. When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you may find they expect you to focus on their needs to the exclusion of your own.
Have a few phrases ready, and you can avoid situations where you give in just because you don’t know how to say no. For instance:
- I’ll think about it.
- I’m satisfied I did the right thing.
- I have other priorities right now.
- I’ll let you know when I’m available.
- I need “_______.”
3. Put On Some Emotional Armor
The narcissist in your life will likely think their ideas and opinions are better than yours. Their point of view is firmly entrenched in the “I am right” position. You’ll often encounter pushback when disagreeing with them, so be prepared to shield yourself emotionally. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s not personal. Try to avoid these kinds of situations when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable.
4. Choose Your Reaction
It’s easy to get aggravated or emotional around someone who’s self-obsessed. It is wise to change your expectations of their behavior. Narcissistic people don’t have a lot of emotional flexibility. They’re not able to step outside of their own worldview to see the world in another way. One consequence of this is that you can often predict how they’ll react in certain situations. In any relationship, there are times when it’s better to say nothing. One exception is when it’s a boundary-crossing situation. If you feel it’s important to restate your boundaries, don’t hesitate to do so.
5. Stop Giving So Much
A relationship with a narcissist can sometimes feel like a one-way street. You give, and they take. One of the most important boundaries you can set is one word, “Enough.” Whether it’s a friend who constantly asks for favors or a partner who expects you to give way to all their preferences, it may be time to give less and do less. It’s hard, but the first step in asserting yourself is to stop enabling selfish behavior. Make time for your own needs instead of always focusing on theirs. When you have a choice to make, choose what you want instead of what you think they want.
6. Make Yourself a Priority
Relationships always involve some give-and-take. Sometimes one person’s needs and priorities take over for a while, but things eventually return to normal. When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it can seem as though things never go back to normal. Their needs and priorities are always somehow more urgent. Narcissists and self-absorbed people believe the world revolves around them. And they often expect that friends and partners share that belief. It’s vital that you insist the relationship allows for your needs, too.
7. Consider Seeing a Therapist
Therapy isn’t just for people with mental health problems. If you’re conflicted about your relationship, seeking professional therapy can help you get some clarity. A therapist can also provide guidance as you start to work on setting boundaries in your relationship.
The Benefits of Using Therapy to Navigate a Relationship with a Narcissist
Therapy is an effective way to navigate a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits. It can help to bridge the communication gap that often exists between narcissists and their partners. Therapists can provide valuable insight into why the narcissist responds in certain ways and how best to respond accordingly. Therapists can also provide tools for managing difficult emotions that can arise during interactions with a narcissist.
Additional benefits include:
- Creates a neutral, safe environment of trust and understanding
- Allows both parties to express themselves without fear of judgment
- Improves listening and communication skills
- Reduces the narcissist’s usual power dynamic and levels the playing field
- Teaches how to set and respect boundaries
- Both parties can work through their issues
- Teaches how to manage difficult emotions better and healthily
Overall, using therapy to navigate a relationship with a narcissist is an effective way to create a healthier and more positive dynamic. With proper guidance and support, both the narcissist and their partner can learn how to manage difficult emotions, establish better communication patterns, and build a strong foundation for a successful relationship.
Discover Effective Therapy for Narcissistic Personality Disorder at Promises
Promises can help individuals with narcissistic personality disorder find effective treatment. We also understand the importance of addressing underlying trauma and incorporating family dynamics into treatment. We work with our clients to develop an individualized treatment plan that focuses on addressing the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, fostering insight and understanding, and ultimately helping the individual build healthier relationships. Call 844.875.5609 or fill out our online contact form to learn how we can help.