How to Survive a Relationship with a Narcissist - Part Four
Welcome back to the last post of my 4-part series on narcissism!
Today I’m going to share five ways you can protect yourself from this destructive and toxic personality, because it’s important to have your own arsenal to draw from when a narcissist comes knocking at your door.
So, let’s start with the most essential tool that will put YOU in the driver’s seat. It sounds over simplistic, but it will lay the groundwork for you in identifying narcissistic behavior and the earlier you can do that, the better. And that is?
Being alert and aware of the behavioral patterns you experience during interactions with others can fast track you in identifying narcissistic behavior BEFORE you get hooked into their web of decent and manipulations.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, narcissists are usually extremely intelligent. They ‘get to know you’, your hot buttons, your weaknesses and soft spots so they can use them over time to mold your behavior toward serving their interests.
Flattery is one of their favorite ways to initially connect to you. I mean, who doesn’t like to be flattered every once-in-a-while? It’s human nature to want to be appreciated. But, a person that consistently over-flatters you, beyond an occasional compliment, typically has an agenda and is a Big Fat Red Flag.
Use your awareness skills to pay close attention to sudden and drastic mood changes. Narcissists can change their entire demeanor in a hot second, leaving your head spinning. If it’s early in the relationship, we tend to ‘forgive and forget’ these episodes and consider them anomaly’s, when they’re really red flags. Take off those love induced rose-colored glasses and take a deeper look.
Also, try to pay attention to the trigger behind that change. Often, people have no clue as to why a person will abruptly change moods, but with narcissists, there’s always a pattern. It usually starts with one of two things: they are being asked a question that they feel threatened by (no matter how innocent that question might be) or they think they are hearing the word “no” or some other response that they perceive as rejection.
Rejection on ANY level will elevate a narcissist to “Code Red” faster than a speeding train. This is where you’ll start to see the rage aggression surface that I mentioned in the last post, almost like a cornered rattlesnake who bites and rattles to warn you they mean business.
If you feel your safety is at risk during that confrontation, immediately leave and seek neutral ground. Not all narcissists will go to the level of physical attack, but it’s not worth the chance that it could happen if you see things escalating.
Of course, not all narcissists are physical bullies. But, they can cut you to the core just as effectively with just a few, select words. Understand that they all use some form of emotional manipulation such as false love, guilt, fear or shame to get you under their control.
Once you aware of this being put into play, disengage immediately. End the conversation, change the topic or walk away.
Whatever you do, do NOT try to coddle, console, placate, justify or try to rationalize your way through conversations where they are trying to deflect or deny responsibility for their behavior. If you do, you are legitimizing their fabricated story and you’ve just hooked yourself into a never ending round-robin of arguments!
I guarantee you will never win a conversational point with these highly manipulative individuals. Why? Because they aren’t dealing in reality or facts and they can easily turn the tables on others who try to hold them accountable.
Instead, what’s most important when engaging with a narcissist is to react unemotionally and stand your ground, especially if they are engaging in rage behavior.
If you take nothing else away from this series, know this.
NOTHING drives a narcissist crazier than being unable to get a person to respond emotionally to their manipulations, evasive tactics or efforts toward intimidation.
Here’s the biggest reason why trying to rationalize your way through a conversation doesn’t work. Narcissists are not open to, nor have any genuine interest in, your perspective. That would require giving value to you as a person when it’s really all about them. You are simply a means to an end for their own life enrichment.
Their primary goal instead, is to get you to hand over your power so they can control you and your life. They do this by getting you to feel sorry for them, allowing them to dominate your attention and reap some form of benefit or service from you.
The next tool in your narcissist survival toolkit is a little harder for some people to employ and that’s setting boundaries. Nothing stops a narcissist dead in his or her tracks faster than for you to kindly and politely set a clear boundary of what you are, and are not, willing to allow them to do in your world.
Setting boundaries means you’re establishing control in what, with whom and where you are willing to share your space in the world. Setting boundaries is the kiss of death for narcissists because you’re saying “I’m the one in control of my life here.”
Want to know what narcissists do LOVE about boundaries? It’s when you set them and don’t stick to them, which gives outright permission to a narcissist to run roughshod over you the second they sense you can’t "walk your talk".
It’s SO critical for your health and well-being to be consistent and clear in whatever boundaries you set for them, because I can guarantee you waffling is like catnip to a cat for a narcissist. They live to control. Any sign that your boundary wall might be wobbly and they will make it their mission to chip away at you until you cave. Once that happens, future boundaries are in jeopardy because they know you aren’t solid at your word.
So, to recap your top tools for protecting yourself in a narcissistic relationship:
1) Stay aware when you interact with others. Don’t be so quick to discount red flag behavior as an anomaly. It might be the REAL personality you’re getting a glimpse of.
2) Watch for key narcissistic behaviors like too much flattery, sudden changes in mood swings (especially without a justifiable cause) and signs of attempts to intimidate.
3) Keep your responses to provocations unemotional. You simply won’t win. Ever. Because it’s never about the facts, it’s about their reality, a reality that emotionally healthy individuals can never truly understand.
4) Ground yourself in your reality. You aren’t going crazy. You’re just dealing with a dysfunctional and toxic personality disorder. Trust that you know the facts and can make decisions about who you share your time and life with.
5) Don’t accept responsibility for or “own” their plight. Narcissists LOVE having others take on the responsibility for their pain. It allows them to stay in victimhood and that is never healthy.
A narcissist can’t be changed.
If you invest in that path, it will only lead to frustration and pain. Keep your eyes and heart on what’s important in your life. At some point, you’ll have to face that choice of whether you want chaos, manipulation and degradation to continue as a daily diet if you continue to stay in a narcissistic relationship.
My hope is that, instead, you choose your own well-being as a priority and move on from this toxic personality.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering in a narcissistic relationship and you/they need a little coaching help to gain some perspective on this toxic behavior, I'm here to help! I conduct coaching sessions by phone or by Zoom session to ensure the health and safety of my clients.
To schedule, go to https://www.turningpointscoaching.com/book-online
In the meantime…stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!