One of the most important things you can do when interacting with a narcissist is to set and maintain strong boundaries. To stop narcissistic abuse requires boundaries that the narcissist has no chance of crossing. If you have even one weak spot, they will use it to violate your boundaries and abuse you. But how does a narcissist react when you try to set strong boundaries?
When you set boundaries with a narcissist, get ready for them to argue about it, blame you for the problems, minimize how you feel, play the victim, and call you sensitive. They may also erupt in their characteristic rage. It will be unpleasant and difficult to endure, but if you don’t, it’s worse.
Narcissists don’t like to be told they can’t do something, and since they aren’t able to understand your feelings, they don’t care how their behavior affects you. If you must remain in contact with a narcissist, however, you have to set and consistently maintain strong boundaries. Let’s explore just exactly what you can expect when you try to do that with a narcissist.
What Happens When You Set Boundaries with a Narcissist?
Psychologist, author, and lecturer Elinor Greenberg summarizes it nicely when she writes, “Narcissists are very self-centered and, with the exception of those with the Closet Narcissistic subtype, prefer to be in control. They are likely to turn the situation into a fight in which they try to convince you that: You are wrong. You are being unfair and unreasonable. Something terrible will happen if you have your way.”
They want to make it look like you’re the one who has the problem. They also want to distract you. They will try to get you off-topic. This is why it is important to write it down. Write down your boundaries and their consequences so that, if nothing else, you can give the narcissist a copy and tell them to read it.
The narcissist will also blame shift as you try to set boundaries. They will claim that you do what you’re saying they do. Along with minimizing your feelings and saying that you’re overreacting, the narcissist will play the victim. They will try to claim that you abuse them, and they have been putting up with it because of their love for you.
Finally, they may erupt in their characteristic rage. This is a simple distraction tactic to get you off-topic. The topic is about your boundary list, and when this happens, immediately end the conversation and walk away.
It can help to talk about these boundaries without using specific examples of times when the narcissist has violated them. That way you can let them know that you are doing this for your own well-being. It’s not about them, it’s about you, and you’re presenting it to them in as non-threatening a manner as possible.
What Can You Do When the Narcissist Reacts in These Ways?
When the narcissist starts trying to distract you by bringing up things you do that they don’t like, you have to bring the conversation back to the topic at hand. They will use many distraction tactics, and you will likely have to do this several times.
Writing down your boundaries, examples of the narcissist’s behavior that violates those boundaries, and the consequences for boundary violations gives you a way to make sure the narcissist understands what you will do going forward. It’s a great way to hold them accountable because they can’t claim you didn’t say anything about it.
Don’t let them distract you when you’re having the conversation. Bring it back to the topic of your boundaries. When they try to shift blame onto you for various problems in the relationship, tell them that this is not the conversation you’re having right now.
They have a right to set and maintain their own boundaries, but that’s not what this discussion is about. This discussion is about your needs. If they erupt in rage, you can simply hand them their copy of your boundary list and ask them to read it, then walk away.
You don’t want to tolerate their rage in any way since it can escalate and it’s singularly unproductive. The narcissist uses it to intimidate their victims and distract them. Don’t let them do that here.
What are the Most Important Boundaries to Set with a Narcissist?
When setting boundaries with a narcissist, there are some very common things you want to think about. The nature of narcissism is such that narcissists tend to abuse their victims in specific ways. The following boundaries address those common abusive tactics.
Talk to Me with Respect
Narcissists say some very demeaning things to their victims, and they are well-known to be bullies. It’s important to set a boundary around the way the narcissist talks to you.
You should not tolerate name-calling and insults. If they cannot make their point without resorting to that kind of behavior, then they don’t have a very strong point to make. Let them know that if they don’t talk to you with respect, you will end the conversation and leave the room.
Don’t Treat Me in a Disrespectful Manner
Talking to you disrespectfully is bad, treating you that way is worse. You shouldn’t have to tolerate their manipulative tactics like gaslighting, lying, or infidelity. It’s also not okay that they share your personal information. That’s yours to share or not.
Let them know what the consequences of this kind of disrespectful behavior will be. Be specific and firm. It’s important to remember that your consequences for their boundary violations always include the possibility of going no contact.
Respect My Opinions
They don’t have to agree with you, but they should respect your opinions. You have a right to have your own ideas and opinions, and they should be willing to listen respectfully even if they disagree.
No Means No
Narcissists will frequently ignore you when you tell them no. If you don’t want to be touched or if you don’t want to have a conversation and you say so, they should respect that and give you your space.
Remember that your feelings, needs, and desires are valid and if you don’t want something, the narcissist needs to respect that.
Our Financial Relationship Needs to be Acceptable and Equitable
Finances are often part of your relationship that you ignore. It’s common for a narcissist who is the principal provider for the family to try and isolate their spouse by controlling the finances. Even if you are a stay-at-home partner, insist that you have your own nest egg.
By not giving you access to money, the narcissist is using money as a source of power. It’s not acceptable, and it needs to be on your boundary list.
Setting boundaries with a narcissist is unpleasant, but it’s absolutely necessary. They will take advantage of you every chance they get. It’s up to you to stand up for yourself and let them know that you won’t tolerate that kind of behavior anymore. You’ll be glad you did.
One way a narcissist is able to manipulate you is by using your emotional triggers against you. That’s why you need to put a stop to it by getting your own triggers under your control. My 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you identify and heal your emotional triggers so that no one can use them against you now or in the future. Just click on this link and I’ll send you a free copy of this handy guide.
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