How to cope with being a narcissist

Wondering how to deal with the narcissist in your life?

You are not alone.

Many online blogs and support groups for victims of narcissists have sprouted up over the years, as people have realized the damage a narcissist has done in their lives.

All of this online support for victims of narcissism can bring a sigh of relief phew! Im not crazy!

But you probably want practical information, as well.

How do I deal with the narcissist? What do I do? Can I stand up to the narcissist?

Dealing with narcissists is challenging. You cant necessarily outsmart a narcissist, as they tend to be very cunning, manipulative people who are used to getting their way.

However, you can use smart strategies to deal with the narcissist and mitigate the damages.

Here are a few strategies to deal with the recalcitrant narcissist in your life:

1. Establish and Stick to Boundaries with the Narcissistic Person.

We often have this unconscious idea that we are held hostage to anyone who wants to talk to or interact with us. You can and should say no to the narcissist who is being overly demanding of your time.

For example, if a narcissist is hogging up all your time on the telephone, just tell them you need to go. Hang up if you need to. Dont let them monopolize your life.

2. Use Empathic Validation if You Need to Confront a Narcissist.

Empathic validation is a fancy way of saying, butter up your criticism with a compliment first. In fact, criticism (for anyone) is often best accepted in a sandwich form compliment, constructive criticism, compliment.

3. Avoid Sharing Too Much Information with the Narcissist.

The acronym TMI (Too Much Information) is often said jokingly when someone discloses some personal info that may be a bit too personal. But remind yourself that TMI with a narcissist is just about anything personal because the narcissist can and will use that against you.

For example, lets say you share with a narcissistic person that you were fired from a job once due to inputting the wrong information into a computer. The narcissist is likely to bring that up again, often in a nasty way, say, each time you use a computer. Or, worse, they will bring it up in front of a person you are trying to obtain a job from.

4. Dont Make the Mistake of Assuming the Narcissist Cares.

Dont ever assume that the narcissist has genuine feelings or cares. This can be one of the toughest realizations for a kind, caring person. It can be very hard to believe that another human being is really that cold and calculating. We have a tendency to go into denial about this sort of thing. But just try to drill this into your head: Narcissists really dont care.

5. No Drama! Let the Narcissists Games Roll Off Your Back

Narcissists are experts at games and drama. The extremely talented narcissist goes even a step further they stir up the drama, and then sit back, above it all, acting like they had nothing to do with it.

For example, a narcissistic mother would stir up a rivalry and animosity between two sisters. Shed say one thing to sister one, and then another thing to sister two. Then you, as sibling #3, gets put in the middle.

If you confront the mother about this, shell deny that she had anything to do with the drama, and then act all aggrieved that youd even suggest shed do such a horrible thing.

Try not to get sucked into games like this.

6. Dont Second Guess Yourself with a Narcissist.

You dont need to justify yourself to the narcissist. But, thats the game they are going to play with you. Its all about making you doubt yourself and your perceptions.

What narcissists typically engage in is an insidious psychological technique called gaslighting.

On a very simple level, it goes like this:

The narcissist does something selfish, and you confront them on it. The narcissist then twists the event around to make it sound like you were the selfish one.

Narcissists are experts at reframing reality in a way that makes them look good and you look bad.

While it can be infuriating and confusing, dont fall for it. Stick to your guns.

7. Remember: With a Narcissist, Its Not Personal and Never Was.

With a narcissist, you really truly are just a pawn in the game of life to them. And, if it wasnt you who took their abuse, it would have been someone else. While this may be cold comfort, do try to remember that you didnt do anything wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with you or bad about you if you have been the victim of a narcissists abuse.

8. Do a Reality Check After the Narcissist Spins a Story.

Narcissists are typically liars, and not only that, they are usually good liars. Part of the reason for this is that they dont feel guilt in the way other people do.

So, when the narcissist tells you something (particularly about someone else) that is very upsetting, take a deep breath. It may not be true at all! Does the narcissist in your life tell you things that other people are supposedly saying about you behind your back? Things like, Everyone kept telling me about you, but I didnt listen, or, Your friend told me not to trust you.”

Check the veracity of the statement before being sucked into the drama (remember the earlier story about the narcissistic mom).

9. Dont Try to One-Up the Narcissist.

One of the worst things you can do with a narcissist is to try to beat them at their own game. Dont show off with the narcissist. Dont brag, preen, or otherwise try to make yourself look good in front of them.

Narcissists are the kings and queens of self-aggrandizement. If you try to compete with them on that level, you will always lose.

Now, this doesnt mean that you should act like a wilted flower and just slink around when the narcissist is in view. Work on having a healthy self-esteem and try to be as natural as possible.

10. Get Away from the Narcissist.

While this may not be feasible for the short-term, if you can, consider separating yourself from the narcissist as much as possible.

If you are still married to the narcissist and have children, consider the long-term effects of emotional abuse on the kids. It may be best if you leave.

However, if you do decide to maintain a relationship with a narcissist, try to keep some distance.

Get time away from them as much as possible so you can center yourself and get back in touch with reality.

11. Ignore the Narcissist Thatll Really Get Em.

Narcissists thrive on triggering reactions from people. This is how they gain power over you while you lose control.

So, when the narcissist goes on the attack, one of the most effective ways to deal with it is to just ignore them. This can be challenging, as narcissists have an intuitive way of pushing people’s buttons. Deep breathing and stress reduction techniques can help you keep your cool.

Don’t give up hope—there is a solution.

THE BASICS

  • What Is Narcissism?
  • Find a therapist who understands narcissism

A face-off with a narcissist is tough.

Whether it’s a divorce, a co-parenting situation, or a work scenario, a narcissist constantly twists the narrative to exonerate himself or herself and incriminate the opposite party. Perhaps the most painful dynamic is the narcissist’s ability to manipulate people into believing he or she is the victim in the scenario.

So, how does a person who has a conscience and is accountable stand a chance? It is almost as if a person’s character strengths become his or her weaknesses when tangling with a narcissist. The narcissist abuses the person’s trust, selflessness, empathy, and fairness.

A person should never stoop to unscrupulous tactics. Yet utilizing the power he or she possesses which the narcissist may lack is the key. This power includes the capacity for deep thought and feeling. Experiencing the deeper and more evolved emotional capacities such as empathy, sincere accountability, deep insight, authentic introspection, conscientiousness, and remorse, indicate the person has a solid depth of feeling. This deep streak allows the person to think at a level that a narcissist may be incapable.

Narcissists are typically analytical, intellectual, and calculating. These capabilities may be impressive in many areas, but they remain surface level with regard to human emotion. In fact, intellectualization is a defense mechanism unconsciously employed to ward off deep emotion. Extreme deflection, projection, and distortions also keep a person detached from deep and uncomfortable feeling states, like sincere insight. Yet it is insight along with authentic remorse and empathy that allows for the personal awareness of how he or she impacts others. This motivates a person to repair a rupture with a loved one and avoid making the same mistake in the future.

Occasionally a narcissist can display an intellectual understanding of his or her egocentric ways of relating but is unable to integrate this awareness at a deep emotional level, so permanent growth and change are rare. In addition, he or she often immediately and unconsciously distorts the interaction in his or her own mind, incorrectly believing he or she is the victim instead of the aggressor.

One of the ironies of a narcissist’s detachment from deep emotion is that he or she longs to be perceived as deep. He or she may mimic, copycat, or follow a deep thinker and feeler as a way of displaying his or her depth, but it often rings hollow because the deep thoughts originated from someone else.

In essence, a deep thinker and feeler is someone who readily has access to the complex capacities that allow a person to grow and evolve; to become better as a human. A narcissist, on the other hand, is usually preoccupied with all things superficial; status, power, money, control, or attention. A narcissist is frequently a shallow thinker and feeler due to a rigid and robust unconscious defensive structure that keeps deep and uncomfortable emotions at bay. Also, the narcissist is obsessed with winning the power struggle at hand, so remaining calm and thinking outside of the box is essential. At these times, a person’s best defense is to enact the power of deep and creative thought.

For example, a client, Sally, was dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, Rick. Rick rarely concerned himself with his kids unless it allowed him to hurt Sally. He had not attended any of the kids’ doctor’s appointments or emergency room visits. During the marriage, he refused to care for the children when they were sick because he believed it was not his job. After the divorce, he rarely asked how the kids were doing when Sally informed him, they were sick. Yet he insisted on being contacted if a child needed to stay home from school and Sally needed to go to work.

The kids did not want to go to Rick’s house when they were sick. They wanted to remain in their own beds and in their own home. Sally was usually able to work from home to care for a sick child, but occasionally needed to attend an afternoon meeting or two. Despite the knowledge that the sick child desperately wanted to stay in his own bed at home and be cared for by a grandparent, Rick insisted a sick child be brought to him. He threatened to take Sally to court if she did not comply.

The day arose when Sally’s child woke up sick. He pleaded to be allowed to stay at home with his grandpa during the time she needed to attend a meeting. She felt intense empathy for her sick child who was in distress. She was aware Rick had been tracking her via her phone. Despite purchasing several new phones, Rick continued to be able to track her. She realized if she went to work, he would know she was leaving the child in the care of a grandparent instead of utilizing him, as he had demanded. The possibility of incurring Rick’s wrath terrified Sally, so she tried to remain calm. After careful deliberation, she decided to leave her phone at home during the afternoon meeting. She asked her father to contact her at the office if he needed her.

That evening, she received a text from Rick, “Too bad you had to stay home from work today. I hope you don’t get fired.”

Not only did Rick fail to ask about his child’s health, but he also unknowingly confirmed he was tracking Sally, which revealed his true motive. Rick made his own bed. First, he violated Sally’s privacy by tracking her phone without her permission. Second, he was too preoccupied with himself to care for a sick child in the past, which made the child’s resistance to his demand understandable. Third, he lacked insight into this, which stopped him from experiencing empathy for his own child. Instead, he put his self-serving desires in front of what was best for the child. Through his abusive behaviors, he illuminated what his true motivation was, which was to incriminate Sally, not to care for a sick child.

Following a court guideline is essential, yet narcissists often abuse the spirit in which the guideline was written. Also, the court guidelines are created in black and white terms as it is impossible to cover and include the nuances of every different situation when co-parenting. If a person feels like a narcissist is interpreting and utilizing a court guideline to win a power struggle in place of doing what is right for a child, it is important to advocate for the child. Thinking deeply about this situation is paramount. Consulting a therapist, attorney, or court official may also be necessary. A narcissist is no match for a deep thinker. Outsmarting a narcissist is the best defense.

How to establish parenting rules and peace of mind, despite a toxic ex.

THE BASICS

  • A Parent’s Role
  • Find a family therapist near me

Things I found myself saying in sessions this week:

  • “It sounds like there’s no middle ground, and this causes you to alternate between feeling hopeless and thinking that if you just increase the volume and intensity of your communication, your ex will respond favorably.”
  • “Whenever we lose a relationship—no matter how dysfunctional—there’s a sense of mourning. We grieve the lost hopes and dreams and the future we’ll never have with this person. When you’re in the thick of the grieving process, it seems as if you will always feel despondent, even though you know on a rational level that you won’t.”
  • “Parenting is the toughest job in the world. However, single parenting doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. Sometimes there’s a sense of relief that comes from relying on yourself and from not trying to control your children’s rules when they’re not in your physical custody.”

These interactions offer a snapshot of therapy with heartbroken, devastated, and disillusioned single parents following divorce from a narcissist. Though the stories are different, the theme is always the same:

The concept of co-parenting with a narcissist does not exist.

There is very little research about narcissistic parenting, narcissistic family dynamics, or the effects that this disorder has on children. Complicating matters is the fact that adult children who do seek therapy do not typically identify growing up in a narcissistic household as the presenting problem.

The following strategies can help you redefine your parenting plan and learn to adjust to solo parenting so you and your children thrive.

9 Strategies for Overcoming Parental Narcissism

1. Minimize contact. High-conflict people love to engage in psychological battle. The hidden agenda is to keep you entrenched in the relationship, even years after the ink has dried on the divorce decree. I have seen few dynamics more toxic than exposing a child to constant below-the-belt blows and mental warfare.

2. Establish firm boundaries. Structure in all settings can provide children with a safe, predictable, and secure buffer from insidious psychological damage. The emotional roller coaster a narcissistic parent perpetrates can be even more detrimental to a child’s healthy ego-development than overt abuse.

How to cope with being a narcissist

3. Avoid feeling sorry for your child. Nobody deserves to grow up with a selfish, self-absorbed adult, but there are worse plights. Showing pity for others only perpetuates a victim mentality and prohibits them from moving forward and seeking healthy relationships of their own.

4. Vow to be calm, pleasant, and non-emotional. This is a Herculean task if ever there was one, but if your ex is gaining emotional intensity and threatening to take you along for the ride, someone’s got to consider the impact on the kids. Deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and support groups can do wonders for your physical and mental well-being.

5. Limit the amount of telephone or texting your child has with your ex while in your custody, and vice versa. Barring emergencies, the best-case scenario is no contact at all. Unless you suspect that your ex is not adequately caring for your child, it’s best to stay out of their house. Conversely, allowing your child to contact you about something your ex is doing or not doing is to invite triangulation. The upside for the child of asserting himself or herself in the presence of an unwieldy parent is to learn valuable coping skills for dealing with difficult personalities down the road.

6. Teach and model social/emotional intelligence. Point out positive examples of single-family households where appropriate. At some point, a child grows up and is capable of more abstract observation. Better he or she learns about proper emotional regulation and healthy coping skills from you. I’m a fan of age-appropriate, straight-shooting communication, especially when the narcissism runs extreme.

7. Nurture your child’s unique qualities and independence. Somewhere between infancy and adolescence, the narcissistic parent loses focus (if they ever had it) and stops seeing the child as a distinct individual with feelings and needs they must validate and meet. The child becomes, instead, an extension of the parent. The parent sees normal emotional growth as selfish or deficient, and this is what they mirror to the child. For the child to get approval, he or she must meet a spoken or unspoken need of the parent; approval is contingent on the child meeting the parent system’s needs (Donaldson-Pressman, & Pressman, 1994, p. 30).

8. Do not criticize your ex in front of your child. Narcissistic behavior is abominable, no doubt, but children are not equipped to deal with the psychological weight, no matter how “mature” you feel they may be. Complicating matters is that many narcissists are model citizens to the rest of society: They pay their bills on time, garden every Saturday, attend church on Sundays, and are actively involved in the PTA.

9. Banish the term ‘co-parenting’ from your vernacular. I have the utmost respect for adults who bravely endeavor family therapy following divorce from a narcissist. The work is hard and intense, and insight and pain relief are often long in coming. During those especially trying hours when I’m pulling out all the therapeutic stops, I sometimes find myself saying something like the following in a session:

“You described your situation like a nightmare from which you may never awake. I get that your pain is overwhelming and all-consuming. I’m going to ask you to suspend disbelief for a moment, and consider something: Once you’ve worked through the grief and the trauma, when you understand what drew you to this person in the first place, after you’ve made improvements to your self-esteem, and internalized that no matter what you do, you can never reason with this person—then you and your children will come out the other side. Trust me. I’ve been there.”

Click here for “Forget Co-Parenting With A Narcissist, Round 2

Check out my bio for my online course: Co-Parenting Without Chaos: Lose the Drama, Drop Your Toxic Ex, Keep Your Kids Safe.

Being discarded by your partner is one of the most devastating experiences you will ever face. In many respects, it is such a difficult loss because it involves the experiences of abandonment, rejection, betrayal, and oftentimes replacement. It is particularly painful because the loss is intentional and is done by someone who knows you well and who has volitionally chosen to throw you way. The pain of this personal rejection hurts profoundly because the other person is telling you that you are unacceptable.

This creates feelings of low self-worth and causes psychological trauma to your attachment system, which can result in a fear of relationships and a fear of investing in others in the future.

If you have been discarded by someone you love you feel deeply wounded because this was an intimate relationship; you were vulnerable; you allowed yourself to trust this person; you gave him or her your heart. In the end, to be simply unwanted after all of this personal investment leaves you confused and devastated.

How do you recover?

First of all, let me assure you that you CAN recover. Your life does not have to be ruined by this experience. You can find love again. Heres some advice on how to recover from a discard:

  1. Allow yourself to grieve. Go in to your feelings; dont try to avoid them. The more you allow yourself to feel the emotions, the quicker youll heal.Grieving is the process of expressing the emotional energy stored in your body. You do this by talking about the loss and feeling the emotions surrounding the loss. Allow yourself to remember the good times (and the bad times.) Write out your feelings in a letter. Say Good-bye.
  2. Challenge your negative beliefs. As you be with yourself in your time of grief you will experience a sense of shock and denial, asking yourself, Did this really happen? Now what do I do? You will most likely be waiting for your lost love to return. (As an aside, hopefully, he/she wont return, as this will create a trauma bond that will further contribute to your loss of personal power.)You will also, most likely, ask yourself the question, Whats wrong with me that caused this?You feel unwanted, which will contribute to self-doubting thoughts such as, Im not good enough. Or, Im not lovable. You may believe you are defective or not as good as the other person or other people.If you have been in a relationship with a toxic person, youve probably been encouraged to believe youre the problem and you were never quite able to get it right. Thus, contributing to your negative beliefs about yourself.If your loved one not only discarded you, but also replaced you with someone else, this will cause further trauma because it is implying that you were the problem because obviously this other person is more acceptable and lovable than you are.In order to heal from a discard it is important for you to challenge these negative, self-defeating beliefs, replacing them with truth. Tell yourself statements, such as, I am enough. I can find love again. I am lovable. I can be whole. I can heal. I will heal.
  3. Put the responsibility back on the other person. Just because the other person is willing to leave you or hurt you and maybe even blame you, does not mean theyre correct on any level. Put the onus back where it belongs on the other person.Being discarded by your ex says more about the other person than about yourself. Dont blame yourself for the other persons actions or choices. The person who discarded you makes his/her own decisions based upon his/her own value system.Think about it. On some level, staying in a committed relationship requires an ability to stay with someone through the good and the bad and not only when it feels right, or when it is personally satisfying. Perhaps your loved one is incapable of that type of long-term relationship.Many selfish people discard others as a matter of course. Is this the fault of the other people? Or, is it more about the character traits of the one doing the rejecting?Use this imagery: Picture yourself lifting the mantel of responsibility off of your shoulders and placing it on the other persons shoulders. Visualize yourself being free from the burden of responsibility of the demise of this relationship.
  4. Learn the life lessons. Just because the other person chose to end the relationship does not mean that you cant gain something valuable from the experience. Ask yourself some questions:
    1. What did I learn from this relationship that I can take into my next relationship?
    2. What could I have done differently (this is not for self-blame, just self-evaluation and personal growth)? Perhaps the answer is that you should have left this person long ago yourself because you saw red flags you chose to ignore, etc.
    3. Am I better off for having allowed myself to love and invest in another person, even if the relationship didnt last?
  5. Move forward with your life. Remember to use this time for personal growth. Love yourself; be there for yourself; and whatever you do, dont collude with your abandoner by abandoning yourself. Rather, take yourself by the hand, figuratively, and go live well. Invest in yourself, your other relationships, and your future. Make plans and goals. Create a vision board. Move on.

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go. ? Katharine Weber, The Music Lesson

Last medically reviewed on October 16, 2019

October 21, 2019 Updated July 16, 2020

We’re all familiar with the selfie-loving form of narcissism. These are the people who believe the world revolves around them and have an exaggerated form of, shall we say, self-love. However, malignant narcissism is an extreme form of narcissism that, according to Healthline, also includes antisocial behavior, paranoia, aggression, and sadism, either against the self or others. Healthline notes that because malignant narcissism can present itself in many ways, it can be difficult to lock down a certain set of traits associated with it. Still, there are some distinguishable symptoms that might make it easier for you to recognize whether you’re dealing with this kind of narcissist. After all, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have when dealing with a narcissist, the better.

What are the signs of malignant narcissism, anyway?

They Have Little Or No Empathy

According to a 2011 study reported by Psychology Today, those with narcissistic personality disorder tend “to have problems associated with the right anterior insular cortex — a region of the brain suspected to be associated with empathy.” Minimal empathy can look like having no remorse for hurting others and rarely apologizing (unless it benefits them in some way) and aren’t afraid to exploit or harm others if it means they have something to gain.

They Have an Enhanced Sense of Self

This is basically a fancy way of saying: they really do believe they’re the best thing in the world since sliced bread. Someone with malignant narcissism is not only preoccupied with their physical appearance and how they’re perceived by others but they also exaggerate their achievements and talents. They might even lie about something if it makes them sound and look better than you or anyone else. Example: “I was the smartest person who ever went to that college” or “I know better than most people. I am superiorly intelligent.”

They Aren’t Able to Handle Criticism or Being Wrong

Being wrong isn’t a reality that a malignant narcissist wants to live in. Even at the slightest criticism, the narcissist will become defensive and go in full-attack mode. If there is any evidence of their error or wrongdoing, the narcissist will insist that the facts and evidence are wrong, and that they are indeed correct. For example, if the narcissist takes a test and they flunk it, they will blame the test or even the test taker. They might say something like, “The test was wrong! The test taker doesn’t even know what they’re doing. I could’ve written a better test than that!”

They Aren’t Able to Self-Regulate Their Self-Esteem

Narcissists, for all of their boasting and bragging, are secretly insecure and have a weak sense of self. This causes them to seek external validation for their self-esteem. Psychology Today reports the narcissist requires “regulation from the outside world to maintain many facets of the self. Therefore, they often use people to stabilize their emotions and the feelings they have regarding who they are and what they want to do or be.”

They Lash Out Easily

Malignant narcissists have no qualms about lashing out or humiliating others for the smallest of errors, or for anything at all. This could range from you correcting them on a mistake they made, telling a joke they didn’t like, or coming across as “better” than them in any way. This causes those closest to the malignant narcissist to walk on egg shells in fear of poking the bear.

They’re Extremely Aggressive

In response to anger or embarrassment, or any other emotion, the malignant narcissist will become aggressive and increasingly hostile, even over the slightest infraction. This can range from verbally abusing someone to physically punching a wall. Essentially, says Healthline, a malignant narcissist will engage in behavior that is specifically aimed at injuring or destroying someone or something — and will gain pleasure from it, too.

How to cope with being a narcissist

So you are finally divorced from your narcissist, and no longer do you have to endure the day-to-day abuse, the passive aggressive manipulation, or his constant attempts to make you look like the bad person. Or do you? Just because he is your ex, doesn’t mean his behavior ever stops.

There will be times you need to communicate with your ex, especially if you must co-parent. But because he is a narcissist, the simple act of communicating seems close to impossible. He may not respond to you at all, or play games with you via text or email, making you want to pull your hair out. Or the simple request of having him take your child to a sports function ends up in a full blown argument.

Beware of the narcissistic vortex. It’s his attempt to suck you in to his narcissistic fantasy world, where he is always the victim/martyr, and you are his aggressor. It’s his need for narcissistic supply — the gasoline that provides fuel to his ego. He needs to remind himself (and others) that he is still truly special, but because you are now divorced, he knows you no longer consider him the prince he is trying to be. And for that, he resents you greatly.

So how can you communicate with someone who feels constantly threatened by you? While it’s not ideal, it is possible, as long as you never get trapped in his vortex. It just takes a little bit of work and focus on your part.

1. Do not engage: While you may have to discuss logistics about joint assets or your children, it doesn’t mean you must engage in every comment he makes. Should he insult you, or jab at your self-esteem, do NOT engage. This means do not defend yourself, insult him back, or threaten to take away the said assets or children. Stick with the goal at hand. Repeat the question and wait for your answer. If the behavior continues, walk away, hang up, or do not reply if it’s via text or email. By engaging him, he has won another round of supply, no matter how negative. It makes you look like the crazy person, and he the victim. Mission accomplished.

2. Reply with “yes” or “no” answers: Unfortunately with narcissists, they can never write an email or text without passive aggressively knocking your ability to function as an adult. The true is secret to communicating is, ironically, little to no response. Reply with “yes” or “no” answers, or merely factual replies like, “Yes, I am picking kids up at 5 pm today.” Ignore all other stabs or attempts of getting a heated reaction from you.

3. Ignore his “love bombs”: Perhaps for years you hoped for just an ounce of empathy from him, or anything that shows he truly loves you, but to no avail. But now that you are divorced, he may send you “love bombs,” which are texts or emails that say, “Whatever happened to us?” or “If only you knew how much I truly loved you.” They can come out of the blue, when you least expect them, and if you have any hope of reconciliation, these love bombs are dangerous. Don’t fall for them! A narcissist will never, ever change, so don’t think he has somehow had a divine intervention. He is likely low on supply, and because you have always been that one consistent supplier, he comes chasing after you. Ignore them and do not respond. If you do, you’ll be sucked right into his vortex.

4. Manipulate the manipulator: What do narcissists want more than anything? Approval and adulation from others. So if you really need something from him, you may have to compliment him. Think of this like a communication strategy, as if he is your potential customer. If you want your customer to buy, you must use persuasive language and make it about them. The same goes for your narcissist. Should you want him to drive Sally to soccer practice because you are stuck at work, simply asking him may not cut it.

Rather, try this approach: “Sally asked me if you could take her to soccer because she loves spending time with you. I know how good you are with her and thought that extra time would make her feel so special. Would you mind taking her today?” Yes, this may feel nauseating, but it really does work.

5. Set firm boundaries: When you first met your narcissist, you likely had few boundaries, and continued to ignore the red flags because you wanted to please him. Narcissists hate people with boundaries. They take and take from people who give and give. So if you stop giving, he will have nothing to take. This means stop doing him favors, even if it benefits your child. He may ask for an extra day with your child, despite the custody agreement stating set days. Or he may ask you to have the kids on a weekend you weren’t expecting, so you cancel your plans just to be nice (after all, that means more kid time, right?). Doing favors for healthy functioning people means a favor in return. But not with a narcissist. You will likely get burned because a narcissist is never thinking about you or your well-being. Stick to the plan. Do not tolerate him being late or adjusting his schedule. Always have the saying, “That’s not okay with me” ready to fire off. If it isn’t okay with you, then say so.

No matter the form of communication with your ex, ask yourself, “Does this require a reply?” He will never behave the way you want, and you will never change him. Once you are aware of his inabilities, it will free you from the exhaustion of ever trying or hoping he will be different. Above all, try to remember tip #1, “Do not engage.” it will save you a lifetime of stress and headache.

Lindsey Ellison is founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps women navigate their divorce or breakups. She specializes in helping women with narcissistic abuse, and coaches them on how to break free from their narcissistic partners.

October 21, 2019 Updated July 16, 2020

We’re all familiar with the selfie-loving form of narcissism. These are the people who believe the world revolves around them and have an exaggerated form of, shall we say, self-love. However, malignant narcissism is an extreme form of narcissism that, according to Healthline, also includes antisocial behavior, paranoia, aggression, and sadism, either against the self or others. Healthline notes that because malignant narcissism can present itself in many ways, it can be difficult to lock down a certain set of traits associated with it. Still, there are some distinguishable symptoms that might make it easier for you to recognize whether you’re dealing with this kind of narcissist. After all, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have when dealing with a narcissist, the better.

What are the signs of malignant narcissism, anyway?

They Have Little Or No Empathy

According to a 2011 study reported by Psychology Today, those with narcissistic personality disorder tend “to have problems associated with the right anterior insular cortex — a region of the brain suspected to be associated with empathy.” Minimal empathy can look like having no remorse for hurting others and rarely apologizing (unless it benefits them in some way) and aren’t afraid to exploit or harm others if it means they have something to gain.

They Have an Enhanced Sense of Self

This is basically a fancy way of saying: they really do believe they’re the best thing in the world since sliced bread. Someone with malignant narcissism is not only preoccupied with their physical appearance and how they’re perceived by others but they also exaggerate their achievements and talents. They might even lie about something if it makes them sound and look better than you or anyone else. Example: “I was the smartest person who ever went to that college” or “I know better than most people. I am superiorly intelligent.”

They Aren’t Able to Handle Criticism or Being Wrong

Being wrong isn’t a reality that a malignant narcissist wants to live in. Even at the slightest criticism, the narcissist will become defensive and go in full-attack mode. If there is any evidence of their error or wrongdoing, the narcissist will insist that the facts and evidence are wrong, and that they are indeed correct. For example, if the narcissist takes a test and they flunk it, they will blame the test or even the test taker. They might say something like, “The test was wrong! The test taker doesn’t even know what they’re doing. I could’ve written a better test than that!”

They Aren’t Able to Self-Regulate Their Self-Esteem

Narcissists, for all of their boasting and bragging, are secretly insecure and have a weak sense of self. This causes them to seek external validation for their self-esteem. Psychology Today reports the narcissist requires “regulation from the outside world to maintain many facets of the self. Therefore, they often use people to stabilize their emotions and the feelings they have regarding who they are and what they want to do or be.”

They Lash Out Easily

Malignant narcissists have no qualms about lashing out or humiliating others for the smallest of errors, or for anything at all. This could range from you correcting them on a mistake they made, telling a joke they didn’t like, or coming across as “better” than them in any way. This causes those closest to the malignant narcissist to walk on egg shells in fear of poking the bear.

They’re Extremely Aggressive

In response to anger or embarrassment, or any other emotion, the malignant narcissist will become aggressive and increasingly hostile, even over the slightest infraction. This can range from verbally abusing someone to physically punching a wall. Essentially, says Healthline, a malignant narcissist will engage in behavior that is specifically aimed at injuring or destroying someone or something — and will gain pleasure from it, too.

Relationships can be confusing. First, there is everything you are thinking. Then, there is everything your partner is thinking. There is also what you think your partner thinks about you, and vise versa. Given the level of confusion, it is amazing that relationships work out. However, with two individuals who love and trust one another, relationships not only work out, but flourish as well.

So what happens when both partners aren’t working both for themselves and their partner? Trouble. Lets take a quick look at Narcissism. A Narcissistic relationship can be quite damaging and difficult to recover from. Sometimes, you will not even realize it until after the relationship is over. Lets take a quick moment to cover everything you need to know about being dumped by a Narcissist.

What Does Being A Narcissist Mean?

Narcissism is a word created by Sigmund Freud in his work “On Narcissism.” It originated from Greek Mythology, named after a young man named Narcissus, who managed to fall in love with his own reflection in the water. Narcissism is when a person pursues gratification through their own egotism or vanity. It is considered a less then desirable personality trait, and is included in most models that aim to understand human emotion and interaction. Where as every person has a healthy level of Narcissism (in that it is perfectly common for people to view themselves as positive,) Narcissism becomes a problem when it begins effecting interactions and relationships.

There are a number of different kinds of narcissism documented. These include positive Narcissism where the person thinks he/she is better then other people, inflated Narcissism where the person’s views about themselves is contrary to reality, agenetic Narcissism where the person believes that are divinely better then others, special Narcissism where the person themself to be unique and wholly different then others, and success Narcissism where the individual is oriented towards success.

What Is Being In a Relationship With a Narcissist Like?

A relationship with a Narcissist often have incredible beginnings. The Narcissist will make their partner feel incredible, and have answers to seemingly everything. Reasons and purpose will be given and the person in the relationship with the Narcissist will see the Narcissist through rose tinted goggles. More often then not, Narcissists are described by their partners as the “perfect man/woman.”

The trouble is that this does not last. While the non-Narcissist sees the Narcissist as being incredible and awesome, the Narcissist sees the partner as an object that can be thrown around and discarded. This often times leads to the partner of a Narcissist being hurt repeatedly, while trying to retain a positive outlook on their partner. From covering the Narcissist’s tracks to coming up with excuses for his/her behavior, the partner will often get trapped in an emotional cage crafted through the Narcissist’s personality.

What Should I Expect After Being Dumped By a Narcissist?

Being dumped by anyone is tragic. Being dumped by a Narcissist is worse. It is as if the entire world is throwing you away. From having to come to the realization that the Narcissist is at fault, to picking up the pieces, it can be a real challenge. Slowly, you will begin to realize how crazy your ex was, and how much better you are for not having anything to do with them.

What Can I Do For Me?

The single most powerful truth in the universe is that you deserve to be treated well. No matter what your Narcissist ex said or what you think about yourself, you do not deserve to be hurt or harmed in this way. One of the biggest problems that people face when being dumped by a Narcissist is breaking the circle. It is common for people to leave one relationship with a Narcissist only to enter another one with a Narcissist. Breaking this cycle requires taking time to better understand yourself, and what aspects of the Narcissist appeal to you.

Individuals who fall for Narcissists often have a lower then average self-esteem. It is important to work on this, as how you view yourself is key to your personal success and ability to move on. Though family members may say things like “he didn’t deserve you,” and “you are better then him,” you may not feel it. You may know it to be logically true, but still not feel it in your heart. This is why it is important to work on yourself.

See a counselor, pursue your hobbies, and give yourself permission to be loved by you. Evaluate the people you spend time with, and make sure they are helping you. If they are taking away from your own personal growth, then dump them. This time is for you to recognize how amazing you are, and how you do not deserve the narcissist. Where as their self obsession was destructive, you loving yourself is not and does not mean that you are also a Narcissist.