How to Deal with a Narcissist: Living With Someone with NPD
Chances are if you are reading this article, you may believe that you are married to a narcissist, a person with the classified mental disorder Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD. Your spouse may have been diagnosed by a mental health professional or you’ve come to this conclusion based on their lack of desire to see a therapist and their extremely selfish, inconsiderate, vain, and self-centered ways. Learning how to deal with a narcissist is not easy. Often, narcissists do not have long term friends. They can turn every conversation into a self-centered lecture. They can be charming, but they also consider themselves incapable of doing anything wrong. They are attention seekers and love to take control of all conversations.
How can you cope? What can you do? Let’s consider some of the ways you can deal with your spouse.
Realize that NPD is a disorder
While the term “narcissist” is thrown around readily to describe selfish behavior much in the same way that the term “ADD” is sometimes used to describe distracted behavior, it is in fact a clinical diagnosis. If your spouse truly is living with NPD, there is not a medication they can take; there is no quick cure, and for some, there is none at all. If you want to stay married, you must accept your spouse as he or she is. You are not going to change your spouse, but you can change how you react to him or her.
This is not ideal for many people and you should think deeply about this before deciding if you want to continue to live with someone like this. There is no shame in deciding you cannot work together with someone who behaves this way. However, if you love them exactly as they are and you believe you can live your life beside them without creating a detriment to yourself, then you should feel empowered to do so.
Give your spouse praise
Narcissists require regular praise, so give it freely. Remember – they NEED constant validation. Even though we may think of narcissists as conceited persons, they suffer from very low self-esteem and typically act high and mighty as a way to raise themselves up. Focus on encouraging their good qualities that benefit you and others rather than constantly scolding or challenging their bad ones. Some behavior may be so unacceptable to you that you feel the need to stand up to them, but don’t be surprised when they get defensive and try to shut you down entirely instead of hearing you out.
Accept that couples’ therapy is not (typically) an option
Narcissists are perfect in their minds; they do not need to engage in any therapy where they might be a target. They think that they do no wrong and as such often don’t believe that therapy will be helpful to them in anyway. Remember, they need constant validation, so no subtle suggestions from a counselor as to how they might or could improve in some area will work. Individual therapy for you would likely be a better choice and, if at all possible, can be compounded if your spouse agrees to see a therapist on their own as well.
Protect yourself and seek out your own self-care
You need friends and family on your side. You need to get your support and empathy from someone other than your spouse. If you want to stay in the marriage, this is your reality. Be sure to take time for yourself, your hobbies, and interests. A narcissistic spouse is not going to give you emotional support. And, if you ask yourself, will my spouse be jealous if I spend time with others, the answer is a very likely yes! You will need to be in charge of boosting your own self-esteem.
Dealing with a Narcissist is exhausting. You will need to realize that you will need to spend a lot of time supporting them with praise and adoration. Reciprocal treatment from your narcissist will likely not occur. They like talking about themselves. They like loyalty, but they will not likely display or give it back. They do not have much compassion for others and their feelings. Staying in any relationship takes much work and dedication; dealing with a narcissist means you will need to shoulder much of that work on your own.