Narcissitic Relationships: How to Deal With A Narcissist In Your Life

How To Deal With A Narcissist Without Completely Losing Your Sh*t

January 29, 2020 Updated February 26, 2020

how to deal with a narcassist
10'000 Hours/ Getty
Are you dealing with a narcissist in your life? Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re dating someone who’s just a little self-absorbed with some childhood trauma issues, or whether you’re involved with a full-blown narcissist. Of course narcissistic relationships are not solely restricted to the romantic kind. Narcissistic personality disorder relationships can show up in our friendships, workplace, and even family. Which is why it’s important to note that real narcissists aren’t just people who take a lot of selfies or who like to talk about themselves constantly. Their issues go much deeper than that.
Another key thing to remember about narcissism is that it falls on a spectrum, which means it can range from people having narcissistic-like traits, like an inflated sense of importance, to something more severe and pathological, like malignant narcissism. So how do you know you’re dealing with a narcissist and what can you do about it? Below are some tried-and-true tips for how to deal with all kinds of narcissists in your life, whether it’s friends, bosses, partners, or even your children.

What does narcissism look like?

Narcissism personality disorder (NPD) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders there is a list of nine criteria for NPD but it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a narcissist.
There nine criteria are:
  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • lack of empathy
  • envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

What to do if you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist?

If you’re in love with a narcissist who fulfills you most of the time, then, according to Psychology Today, it doesn’t really matter whether your parents or friends disapprove. If it works for you, it works. However, if you find yourself unsatisfied within your relationship, but still want to work through it, then it’s time for a self-check in. Understanding your role in the relationship and why you’re attracted to this person is a good place to start. PsychAlive suggests asking yourself questions, like: Did you have a self-centered parent? Are you more comfortable with your partner being in control, so you can then be more passive? Do you get a sense of worth from being attached to someone who is in the spotlight?  Does the negative image of yourself they foster with their criticisms and superior attitudes resonate with your own critical thoughts about yourself?

By understanding yourself better, you’re then able to challenge the dynamic of the relationship from a more self-aware and functional place. Other important questions to ask, according to Psychology Today: 1) Do the things you love in this relationship make up for what is missing? and 2) Can you live with the things you don’t like? Shifting expectations, reinforcing positive behavior, and fostering compassion, both for yourself and for your partner, are effective ways to help nurture the relationship moving forward. And, of course, seeking professional therapy is also an effective tool.

Related: How To Tell If You’re In A Toxic Friendship, And What To Do About It, According To Experts

What to do if a family member is a narcissist?

Having trouble seeing eye-to-eye with a family member who you swear is a narcissist? Psychology Today recommends not calling them out on being a narcissist no matter how much you’d like to (it will only fuel the fire). Resist arguing with them, too, because they will almost never concede to your point or give you the feedback that you seek, and it will only aggravate you. Perhaps the most crucial tip of all: know your limits and understand you have choices. If you don’t want to speak with a certain family member, you can walk away or set boundaries to how long you will engage with them. Speak your mind about their treatment of you. For example, “If you’re going to continue to speak with me like that, I am not having this conversation with you.” More importantly, don’t be afraid to seek out support or consultation with a professional, especially if it’s a parent, sibling, or child that you have frequent contact with.

What to do if your boss is a narcissist?

While you might feel like quitting on the daily, this isn’t a practical option for many. Instead, according to an article in Forbes, it’s important to focus on what makes you feel safe and capable in your work environment. Pep yourself up with some positive self-talk, take breaks, and set your boundaries. If they’re doing anything illegal or abusive, you have the right to go to HR. When in doubt, stay focused on your goals. Why are you working at your job? What can you do to move your career forward in the most positive way? By focusing on the positive attributes of your job, you can make your work experience more satisfying than not.