You can’t choose who you love, and because someone is a narcissist doesn’t mean they are devoid of any good qualities. It’s not easy to have a relationship with a narcissist, but it’s also not impossible.
Narcissists are usually damaged people who have erected a kind of fortress around their feelings. They don’t have a strong sense of self-esteem, and so, they must look outward for validation. To feel good about themselves, they attempt to manipulate the people and situations in their life.
It’s tragic in many ways, but narcissists also have good qualities. They may be intelligent and charming when they want to be, and they can be quite attractive when you recognize their vulnerability. In fact, it’s their inner vulnerability that can make them very attractive to empaths.
Narcissists are particularly charming during the initial stages of a relationship, and that’s how you might easily fall in love with them before you even realize they have a problem. So, what do you do when you love a narcissist and don’t want to end the relationship? Read on for practical advice on what to do if you love a narcissist.
Making It Work
There are a number of coping strategies you can use to make your relationship with a narcissist work. It will be challenging, and you’ll need to accept that reality. You’ll also need to have a strong sense of your own self-worth so that you don’t succumb to their manipulative tactics. Here are several tips to help you if you choose to stay in a relationship with a narcissist.
Acknowledge How You Feel
Narcissists are usually very emotional, and they react strongly when triggered. The same is probably true for you. There may be times when both of you feel angry, disgusted, sad or frustrated. Neither of you should attempt to suppress your emotions.
Instead of ignoring them, the important thing to do is channel them properly. Encourage your romantic partner to voice their feelings without shouting or otherwise acting out. You’ll have to strive to do the same as you express your emotions.
You’ll also need to be extra vigilant for signs of manipulation as this is a common technique for narcissists to employ. Because communication is vital — as it is for any relationship — if your partner is unable or unwilling to have a serious, calm discussion about the problem, inform them that you will have that conversation when they are able to control themselves. This will deny them the emotional reaction they are likely wanting to get from you.
Understand What You’re Dealing With
It’s important that when you realize you’re in a romantic partnership with a narcissist you learn all you can about the problem. Narcissism is a complicated mental illness, and there are many nuances to consider.
Narcissists lack empathy and have an inflated sense of self-importance that’s masking a vulnerable self-esteem. For that reason, they require external validation and feel they must manipulate the people and situations in their life to get it.
They are often easily triggered by people and situations that threaten their fragile sense of self and cause them to feel doubt or shame. They experience that doubt and shame as a real threat to their self-worth, and as a result, they often respond in an exaggerated manner.
Once you understand more about the condition, it will help you see the person you love as a vulnerable human being rather than simply a narcissist.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
There will likely be many slights you’ll experience from your narcissistic partner, but you don’t have to fight about each and every one. The narcissist will frequently make snide comments and veiled — or not so veiled — insults. They also will engage in thoughtless actions. It’s part of their condition.
While this is very frustrating and you don’t deserve that treatment, you’ll make more headway with your narcissistic partner if you choose your battles wisely. You’ll have to decide what to respond to and what to let go, but once you know what you cannot tolerate, you can set strong boundaries with clear consequences.
Once you have defined and discussed your boundaries with your partner, then be sure to follow through on consequences when a boundary is violated. The boundaries you set will guide you in what to respond to and what to let go, and by fighting only those fights that really matter, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief along the way.
Spend Time Apart
Living and coping with mental illness is exhausting for you and your partner, and that’s why you both need time to yourself. This is particularly true if your partner’s symptoms are escalating. You can physically remove yourself from their presence and take time to reflect on your priorities and restore your energy.
It’s also really important to spend time with friends who can help you maintain a proper perspective on what your partner might be saying or doing to attempt to manipulate you. Venting your frustrations can really help you to re-engage with your partner in a refreshed way. Watch out for attempts to make you feel guilty for taking that time, though, and be strong in establishing your need for time away as good for you both.
Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for narcissism, but it’s not easy to get a narcissist to agree to do it. Remember that part of the disorder is an exaggerated sense of self-importance and superiority, and agreeing to engage in therapy is fundamentally at odds with that perspective.
Still, it helps if you encourage them to seek therapy and agree to go with them. You may have to insist on it, and if they still refuse, you will have to make a decision about whether to stay or not. The truth is that the narcissist’s condition is unlikely to change without therapy. Even with therapy, it can take years to see real progress, but if your partner is willing, it’s worth the time and effort.
Loving a narcissist is probably one of the hardest things to do. Their constant efforts at manipulation and control make it hard to stay in a relationship with them. Sometimes, it’s to your best advantage to leave. When you love someone, however, it can be difficult to do that.
That’s why you’ll need to protect yourself if you’re going to stay in a relationship with a narcissist. You’ll need strong boundaries, a good support network and time away from the mental illness to maintain your own sanity. It won’t be easy, but it can be a very rewarding relationship in many ways.
If you’re in love with a narcissist, you might also be curious about the kinds of people who attract narcissists. Check out the post, “These Types Of People Magically Attract Narcissists.”
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