How to Handle the Narcissist Without Losing Yourself
By Michelle Farris, licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert.
Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells around your partner? Are you constantly doubting yourself and seeking their approval? Is gaslighting a regular occurrence? If the answer is yes, you might be in a relationship with a narcissist. And you are not alone.
Narcissistic relationships can destroy your self-esteem, your mental health, and your ability to enjoy life. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. You can learn how to handle a narcissist without losing yourself in the process.
In this article, you will learn what a narcissistic codependent relationship is, how it affects you, and how you can break free from it. I will also give you 7 steps to handling a narcissist while preserving your sanity and self-worth.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic traits is emotionally draining. You spend most of your energy trying to appease them and avoid the abuse while hoping things will get better.
But they don’t.
Narcissistic relationships make you feel crazy because your thoughts and feelings are constantly under attack because they disrupt the narcissist’s desire to maintain control. Expressing even the slightest difference of opinion can trigger the narcissist’s rage and abuse. Coupled with their ability to gaslight you, narcissistic relationships can destroy your self-worth.
What is a narcissistic codependent relationship?
A narcissistic codependent relationship consists of two people needing each other other to validate their self-worth. While the narcissist has an inflated sense of self and needs to be the center of attention, the codependent person has a deflated sense of self and needs the narcissist’s love and approval to feel complete. Both people become addicted to the other person’s validation.
It’s a match made in hell.
Here are 7 steps to handling a narcissist while preserving your sanity and self-esteem.
- Build self-trust to minimize the narcissistic abuse:
The most important task in narcissistic abuse recovery is building self-trust. The narcissist will convince you that you’re the problem by excessively blaming and gaslighting you. Over time, this reinforces the codependent person’s low self-esteem and self-doubt.
To heal yourself from narcissist abuse, you need to create a foundation of self-trust.Start paying close attention to your gut and when something doesn’t feel right or fair, honor your own experience. Your feelings are your roadmap to lasting change and healing. With time and practice, cultivating your intuition will pay off nicely.
- Prioritize and set your boundaries and stick to them:
The narcissist will attempt to violate your boundaries by making you feel guilty for having them. They will accuse you of being selfish, unreasonable, or uncaring. But boundaries are essential for your well-being. Healthy boundaries will protect your time, energy, and values from being violated by the narcissist.
Take the time to figure out what’s really important to you. For instance, write a list of toxic behaviors that you will walk away from in order to minimize the abuse. Remember, healthy boundaries are about your choices, not getting the narcissist to change their behavior or listen to your feelings (because they won’t).
Knowing your boundaries will help you to communicate them calmly and firmly. And most importantly, with practice your confidence will grow as you reap the benefits of setting boundaries to protect yourself.
- Don’t take what the narcissist says personally:
The narcissist will deliberately say and do things to make you feel bad about yourself. They will criticize, blame, shame, or mock you for their gain. Narcissists will try to make you doubt your reality, your feelings, and your self-worth.
But remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them. Recognizing the narcissist’s behavior will help you not take it personally.
The narcissist is projecting their own insecurities and flaws onto you. They are trying to make themselves feel superior by making you feel inferior. Don’t take their words as gospel. As you continue to develop self-trust, you will regain control of yourself self-esteem and realize that their words no longer define who you are.
- Don’t try to change or fix the narcissist:
One of the biggest mistakes codependent people make is trying to change the narcissist. Assuming that if they love them enough, support them enough, or sacrifice enough for them, they will change their behavior and appreciate them. But this is a futile and exhausting endeavor.
The narcissist doesn’t want to change or be fixed. They don’t think there is anything wrong with their toxic behaviors. In order to preserve their self-worth, the narcissist thinks they are perfect and everyone else is flawed. Focus on yourself instead. That is where you have the most control.
- Don’t engage in their narcissistic drama or manipulative games:
The narcissist thrives on drama and chaos. They will create conflict and drama to manipulate you, control you, or get attention from you. Their mind games are meant to confuse you, test you, or provoke you. They lie, cheat, or betray you to hurt you or make you jealous. They will use guilt trips, fear, or anger to manipulate your emotions.
Don’t engage in their drama by trying to defend yourself.
It never works!
Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you upset, hurt, or angry. Don’t let them drag you into their toxic world. Stay calm, detached, and rational. Don’t feed their ego or their narcissistic supply. Remove yourself by being light and polite. If you have to fake it, that’s okay. The less reactive you are, the better.
- Seek support and validation from others, not the narcissist:
Seeking outside support is critical when you are in a narcissistic relationship. You need that validation and encouragement to take care of yourself while you figure out next steps.
The narcissist will try to isolate you from your friends, family, or other sources of support. They will make you feel like you are alone and no one understands you. They want you to dependent on them for your happiness and self-worth.
But you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not worthless.
You deserve support and validation from people who can empathize with you, validate your feelings, and encourage you to heal and grow. You need to surround yourself with positive and healthy people who can help you regain your confidence and self-esteem.
That will make the healing process more manageable.
- Consider leaving your narcissistic relationship, if you’re ready:
It’s hard to consider leaving any relationship, especially if you have invested a lot of time, energy, and emotions. You may still love the narcissist or hope that they will change. You may feel guilty or afraid to leave them. You may feel like you are giving up or failing.
But putting yourself first is never a sign of failure!
Sometimes, leaving is the best thing you can do for yourself and your well-being. Only you can make that decision so it’s important to not judge or condemn yourself if you’re not ready to leave. Just keep working on yourself, building your support system and cultivating self-trust.
Narcissistic relationships are very challenging and painful to deal with. They can make you miserable and make you question your sanity. You don’t have to let them destroy you. You can use these tools to handle a narcissist without losing yourself in the process. These steps are meant as a guidepost to protect yourself from narcissistic abuse.
If you are in a narcissistic relationship or know someone who is, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You are not alone. You deserve to be treated with respect. Stay connected to your support system and consider seeking therapy if needed.
Michelle Farris, psychotherapist Learn more about Michelle and how she can help you heal from codependency Get her FREE Journal Prompts for Self-care & Setting Boundaries here: https://counselingrecovery.lpages.co/codependency-council/