Are you dating a narcissist?
Dr Jozelle Miller
February 7, 2023
Are you dating a narcissist?

Continued from last week

Ways to cope with narcissistic behaviours in your relationship.

Understanding that narcissistic personality is a mental health condition and not a personal choice is important. It doesn’t mean you have to accept being treated in a way that may hurt you, though.

Most people with the disorder aren’t fully aware of how they behave or the consequences these behaviours might have on others. It’s part of the condition’s complexity. This is essential to understand because it might help you realize that trying to “change” them or “show” them their wrong ways may not always be fruitful.

In all cases, it’s important for you to develop coping skills that can protect you from getting hurt.

1. Educate yourself on narcissistic personality disorder:

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the emotional distress of being in a relationship with a narcissistic personality is to understand the disorder.
Learning about the symptoms and complexities of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can help you develop empathy for your partner but also protect yourself from believing anything they do or say is “personal.”

Understanding narcissism can help you depersonalize any insults, criticisms, and otherwise hurtful actions. Acknowledging that it’s not about you but rather their own mental health condition is a powerful tool in managing a relationship with someone who has a narcissistic personality.

2. Don’t idealize your partner:

People with NPD may be charming, engaging, and confident at times. Consequently, they can draw people in with their attitude and energy. As with any other relationship,it’s important not to idealize the other person but rather see them as they really are, including their not-so-charming moments.
This means you might want to look at how they treat other people, how they talk about previous relationships, and how they behave with you when they’re upset.
Having realistic expectations for what you’ll be able to get out of your relationship is important. This also involves not justifying their behaviour when you feel hurt.

3. Clearly communicate how their actions affect you:

Since people with NPD may be less likely to be aware how their behaviours affect you, it’s important that you make your concerns heard. Staying quiet just for the sake of “keeping the peace” might work against you in the end.

When someone lives with NPD, any criticisms, even slight ones, can rub them the wrong way. Being prepared for a strong reaction or defensive attitude when you talk with them is also important. Protecting yourself from narcissistic abuse involves not allowing another person to demean, diminish, or trample your authentic thoughts and feelings.

4. Set clear boundaries:

Some people with NPD may feel entitled to intrude on every part of your life. In their eyes, your main purpose in life may be to serve their needs. They might not fully realize you have your own needs. Setting boundaries can be incredibly beneficial for managing a healthy relationship.

It’s also important to lay out these boundaries clearly and acknowledge when they’re disrespected or challenged. Maybe your partner constantly texts or calls you when you’re out with friends, demanding your attention. They may even become really upset and accuse you of not giving them the attention they need at the moment.
Verbalizing your boundary then is important. You may reply with a simple “I’m busy, and I’ll get back to you when I can.” You could also be more specific and say something like,“Please don’t disrupt me when you know I’m spending time with friends or family.”
Expect pushback but try to hold firm.

5. Don’t internalize hurtful comments:

Of course, building thick skin is easier said than done. Some people are naturally more sensitive than others, and it may be difficult not to let hurtful behaviours get to you. It’s crucial to internalize the fact that their actions aren’t a reflection of you. They’re manifestations of a personality disorder.

Taking criticisms and insults personally will quickly degrade your confidence and self-worth. Growing thicker skin can help you maintain a healthy sense of self and a realistic expectation of your relationship.

This doesn’t mean overlooking unacceptable behaviours, though. Even if they have a mental health condition, they don’t have the right to persistently mistreat or demean you.

6. Develop a support network:

In some cases, you might not receive the support and attention you need from a partner with NPD. Cultivating new friendships and maintaining existing bonds can help you get emotional fulfilment outside your relationship.

Some people with NPD might attempt to isolate you. They might try to maintain dominance and control, so they have your attention all the time. This might make sustaining other bonds challenging at best. However, consider that you also need attention and support. If you’re not getting enough from the relationship, you have the right to look for it somewhere else.

7. Get a therapist:

Whether or not your partner is receiving treatment for their mental health condition, it can also be a good idea to speak with a therapist yourself. In addition to helping you learn about and understand your partner’s narcissistic personality, a therapist can provide guidance and support.

While you may be receiving blatant or subtle messages that your needs don’t matter from your partner, a therapist can remind you to prioritize yourself. A mental health expert can also help you recognize when your partner uses manipulation tactics or other narcissistic tactics and when this behaviour crosses into abuse.

8. Prepare ahead of time if you choose to leave:

Leaving a relationship with someone who has NPD can be extremely difficult. Some people with NPD may have a difficult time letting you go without trying to pull you back in repeatedly. In some instances, they might want to have the last word, too. Whether someone is sowing doubt in your judgment or making you feel guilty for leaving, it’s important to remember the reasons why you made the decision. It may also be necessary to prepare beforehand and lay out clear reasons for leaving.

Though it can feel like an effective means of correcting behaviour, threatening to leave, and then failing to follow through may backfire. It may give them more power and reaffirm there’s no need for them to change.

Consider saying you’re leaving only when you’re prepared to do so.

It can also be helpful to cut off communication entirely, as they may make attempts at drawing you back to them. They may also move on quickly from the relationship and treat you terribly after.