5 Tips On How To Live With A Narcissist
By Kathleen Brizendine, M.A.
A narcissist's emotional growth stops maturing at the age of 2 1/2 or 3 years of age. This may be due to a trauma, which was more than their young psyche could withstand. Emotional growth was shut down, while intellectual and physical growth continued into adulthood.
Those who live with a narcissist usually begin to dance to the whimsical tune of a toddler in an adult body. This can be overwhelming and sometimes cripples family members emotionally until they understand the narcissist's game plan.
Children of narcissists, often choose a narcissist for a mate. At first, it may feel cozy and homelike to be manipulated by a handsome, charming, tyrannical lover, along with making them feel crazy and hurt. When a person becomes aware they have married a narcissist, they have several options. If they choose to remain married to and emotionally vulnerable to a narcissist, several basic rules are required to nurture equilibrium and mental/emotional health.
* SUPPORT SYSTEM: Develop a support system of 3 or more healthy adults who are in no way charmed by narcissistic behavior. They may have narcissistic family members of their own, but they must distinguish between genuine and manipulative behavior styles. Every week, confidentially and respectfully share healthy adult viewpoints among support system members to counterbalance those of loved ones who function emotionally at the level of a toddler.
* PERSONAL BOUNDARIES: Become aware of personal limits, needs, desires, irritants, and aspirations. State these clearly to the narcissist. Actively promote self-care in all interactions with the narcissist. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable just because the narcissist tries to get you to do it. Only do things you feel comfortable doing. Let the narcissist deal with his or her own disappointment when this happens. Return to active interaction with the narcissist only after the manipulative behavior stops. Trust your own judgment.
* LIST 3 BEHAVIORS NEITHER PERSON WILL TOLERATE: When the list has been agreed upon, make a sign and put it up where you both can see it. When either person breaks a rule, the other partner must point it out in private, calmly and with respectfully chosen words. The partner who acted out must clearly apologize and state clearly the plan they have in place for making certain this does not become a pattern in the future. If one partner ignores the agreement more than three times in any three month period, the relationship should be renegotiated with a trained professional present.
* WIN-WIN VS. NO-WIN: Another term for "no-win" behavior is "crazy-making". Narcissists may ask their loved ones to perform mutually exclusive tasks or behaviors simultaneously. They may then become angry when their demands are not met. Create a simple format for developing win-win solutions and apply this repeatedly as needed. At some point, the narcissist will become bored with crazy-making tactics and abandon them for another way to get his or her way. Consult Conflict-Resolution websites for basic win-win rules.
* TOOLS FOR MANAGING EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS: Neither partner should be allowed to treat the other with disrespect. This includes words, tone, body-language, and innuendo. Everyone needs to let off steam. If someone needs to vent feelings, that person must take responsibility for those feelings, not blaming someone else for "making" him or her feel it. Any person who is being treated with disrespect, according to his or her own perception, has the right to take time alone, or with other friends until the disrespectful behavior ends. Accept the required apology gracefully and move on.