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The term “narcissist” has been gaining recent interest in the media. A narcissist is a relatively common term used to describe someone who appears self-centered or glib and lacks empathy toward others.

People with narcissistic traits generally attribute problems to others and have difficulty considering their role or responsibility across situations. It can make it extremely challenging to be in a close relationship with someone who displays these traits. More recently, people have begun using this term to describe partners’ unsavory behavior in relationships. 

What does it mean to be a narcissist and how do you know if someone in your life fits the criteria? We will walk through the what to look for and how to cope with someone who is.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a set of personality traits that generally involve a self-centered, arrogant presentation, an excessive need for attention and a lack of regard for others. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not especially common with only about seven percent of the US population meeting the criteria for it across the lifespan according to Mental Disorders DSM-5

Narcissistic traits or behaviors that do not rise to the level of a disorder are far more common. More often there are features of narcissism that appear within the context of our relationships as opposed to dealing with someone who is a true narcissist.

Common Traits of Narcissism Include: 

  • Excessive Focus on Personal Accomplishments 
  • Obsessed with Success
  • Money
  • Personal Appearance
  • Power or Status
  • A Sense of Entitlement

Additionally, people with narcissistic traits often exploit or violate the rights of others without feeling guilt. 

Narcissists tend to belittle those around them in an effort to make themselves appear superior. An example of narcissistic behavior would be someone who doesn’t really have special or high status friends but exaggerates and brags about all the celebrities they have on speed dial. Fancy cars, handbags or expensive gifts including the price details might also be frequent topics of conversation. 

People with NPD tend to dream big and expect favorable treatment. Another example would be a date who spends the entire time talking about their lavish vacations and comparisons to other wealthy or high-status individuals. They may talk about their unique qualities or special gifts. The conversation tends to be focused on them with little consideration for the back-and-forth dialogue between individuals that is more socially appropriate.

Relationships With Narcissists:

When you are dating someone with these behaviors, it’s not always easy to detect the telltale signs at first. This is because people with narcissistic traits often use charm and flattery to make initial connections before showing their true colors.

The narcissistic person may ask you a few questions about yourself on a first date but overtime, the intrigue will almost always fade and the focus will return back to their own experiences. There is a strong sense of entitlement about prioritizing their own needs.

Relationship-With-A-Narcissist

It can be extremely difficult to engage in a relationship with a narcissist due to their maladaptive behaviors that are often manipulative and confusing to partners. Spouses who fall for narcissists are often people-pleasing types who go the extra mile to keep their partner happy. They want the best for their partner and the narcissist capitalizes on this type of person. 

The person with narcissistic traits may initially make attempts to flatter you with compliments or gifts. The positive feedback is reinforcing to the person with narcissistic qualities and so they continue this pattern for a while. They enjoy being praised but have a difficult time congratulating peers for accomplishments when the reverse situation comes up. 

Gaslighting and emotional abuse may also be present during the relationship. Eventually, the charm wears off and the narcissist’s partner becomes disillusioned by the grandiosity or the endless need for attention that narcissists require.

A narcissist envies others deep down, but on the exterior, they attempt to make it appear as though they are the one to be envied. No matter how much attention is granted, it never seems to be enough to satisfy or reassure the individual. 

The lack of empathy and support becomes frustrating for those who have relationships with people who have narcissistic traits. The partner is left feeling as though their needs are not recognized or met. Eventually, the cycle becomes tiresome to the partner and at this point there is usually an increase in conflict within the relationship.

How and When It Starts

Narcissistic personality disorder is not diagnosed until adulthood however, the manifestation of narcissism typically starts during childhood or adolescence. Pathological narcissism is more commonly diagnosed in males and as a result of genetic and environmental factors. Women can also display narcissistic traits however it tends to be diagnosed more in men possibly due to gender stereotypes.

Risk Factors for Developing Narcissistic Traits Include:

When parents give excessive praise for positive outcomes coupled with harsh criticism for mistakes, this cycle can contribute to narcissism. Additionally, overemphasizing a child’s qualities without recognizing areas that may need improvement can lead to a child who does not have a realistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

10 Ways To Deal With Narcissists:

Video Transcript

Video Transcript
We've all dealt with narcissism at one point or another in our lives whether from a co-worker, family member, friend, or lover it's a draining experience leaving you emotionally fatigued and sapped of your energy. Sometimes it's easy to notice the signs and leave before getting hurt but sometimes, there is a cost to leaving that we cannot or do not want to pay. This is most common with parents and job opportunities. It takes a whole lot of courage to make these different relationships work despite urgent feelings of needing to run so you don't get hurt however there are steps you can take to help you cope with the narcissists in your life and keep your relationships in as much ease as possible. Identify the type of narcissist you're dealing with. Researchers have categorized narcissists into two different categories: Grandiose Vulnerable Grandiose narcissists have incredibly high self esteem believing themselves to be superior to everyone else. They are the stereotypical narcissists that people think of when they hear the word narcissist. Vulnerable narcissists have low levels of self-esteem, high levels of insecurity, and tend to compensate by focusing only on themselves. This means they have self-absorption and self-centered tendencies. Once you know what kind of narcissist they are you can change your interactions with them to keep your relationships healthy?Grandiose narcissists are wonderful helpers with your goals if you give them an important job and praise their work often. Vulnerable narcissists need constant reassurance that they're doing a good job and you'll need to be sure not to accidentally offend them in the heat of the moment. While it can be difficult or frustrating to think about where people are coming from or why they are the way they are it is key to helping you feel for them. There are always more events in a person's history that has affected them more than they let on figuring out someone's backstory And why they lash out the way they do can also help you handle their angry outbursts and regain patience and tolerance. While it is important to find out what the person is coming from it's equally as important to listen to your own feelings and thoughts.What actions and behaviors of theirs bothers triggers or hurts you what goals do you have pertaining your relationship and how are you willing to push your past feelings to maintain it? After you take a look inside yourself and evaluate how you feel you can figure out where to draw the line and form boundaries and where to push forward and cope with your feelings. In the end this experience will teach you a lesson about yourself and how to handle yourself in times of distress. Not like any other person, a narcissus requires a gentle touch when communicating with them. It won't be as honest and open as with others nor will it be as straightforward. They may get defensive quickly but this is because of insecurities, sensitivities, or lack of empathy they might have. Be careful not to let things backfire on you as you'll end up in a direct conflict, which is never fun and was never your intention. Communicate as gently as possible without compromising your own values and recognize if and when you should gently step back or put your foot down as long as it is done respectfully. If and when you put your foot down to draw some boundaries between you two be prepared to face the consequences. No matter how gentle you were in laying down the law they will take it as a direct attack and treat it as such. Depending on the person and situation they may or may not end up resenting you it is important to remember in this time that this is part of the process and you may not be being treated well enough by them when you are not someone who obeys them all the time, but it is better to recognize your own needs values and limits than to compromise them for someone else. While humor isn't called for in some situations it might just be your saving grace. Finding humor in a narcissist's behavior may help you cope. You can also call out their behaviors with a smile or a light joke. Remember to choose your time and carefully so as to not accidentally offend them and make the situation worse. Choose to keep humor to a minimum in moments of high stress, anger, or distress however when a narcissist does something naturally and without thinking if you point it out in a light-hearted manner it is more likely to be well received, listened to and potentially corrected. Depending on how close you are to the narcissist you may have to decide if they need more help than you can provide in order to maintain or regain a healthy relationship with people who are close to you, your best friend, lover, or family member. Keeping a distance doesn't always feel like an option. Many psychotherapists are trained to help with this disorder and can help them and you remain healthy and happy. Remember that loving them sometimes is not enough and needing professional help is okay. Remember to see the positives. This person obviously has positive qualities, or else you wouldn't be trying to maintain your relationship. Focus on the good qualities and the reasons why you want to make things work when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Integrate this into your plan so you can enjoy the most out of your relationship. For instance, if you know a certain place or situation that may trigger them avoid them to the best of your ability. The same goes for conversation topics if you know of a subject that gets them going steer clear of them and talk about something else. Go out to places you can both enjoy yourselves and talk about things you both like talking about. Always remind yourself of why this person holds great value to you and that no one is just their disorder. Lastly it is most important to accept them while it may feel like you're walking on eggshells at times. It is important to remember that nothing they are doing that hurts you is intentional. It is not that they do not want to see things from your point of view but it is that they are unable to. You must accept that you will never have an equal relationship with this person if you choose to maintain your relationship with them. This is all up to you as no one can tell you what to do but you cannot expect them to change just for you and instead you must change your outlook and strategies to keep them in your life if you choose to remember that they are more than their disorder.
Video Transcript
We've all dealt with narcissism at one point or another in our lives whether from a co-worker, family member, friend, or lover it's a draining experience leaving you emotionally fatigued and sapped of your energy. Sometimes it's easy to notice the signs and leave before getting hurt but sometimes, there is a cost to leaving that we cannot or do not want to pay. This is most common with parents and job opportunities. It takes a whole lot of courage to make these different relationships work despite urgent feelings of needing to run so you don't get hurt however there are steps you can take to help you cope with the narcissists in your life and keep your relationships in as much ease as possible. Identify the type of narcissist you're dealing with. Researchers have categorized narcissists into two different categories: Grandiose Vulnerable Grandiose narcissists have incredibly high self esteem believing themselves to be superior to everyone else. They are the stereotypical narcissists that people think of when they hear the word narcissist. Vulnerable narcissists have low levels of self-esteem, high levels of insecurity, and tend to compensate by focusing only on themselves. This means they have self-absorption and self-centered tendencies. Once you know what kind of narcissist they are you can change your interactions with them to keep your relationships healthy?Grandiose narcissists are wonderful helpers with your goals if you give them an important job and praise their work often. Vulnerable narcissists need constant reassurance that they're doing a good job and you'll need to be sure not to accidentally offend them in the heat of the moment. While it can be difficult or frustrating to think about where people are coming from or why they are the way they are it is key to helping you feel for them. There are always more events in a person's history that has affected them more than they let on figuring out someone's backstory And why they lash out the way they do can also help you handle their angry outbursts and regain patience and tolerance. While it is important to find out what the person is coming from it's equally as important to listen to your own feelings and thoughts.What actions and behaviors of theirs bothers triggers or hurts you what goals do you have pertaining your relationship and how are you willing to push your past feelings to maintain it? After you take a look inside yourself and evaluate how you feel you can figure out where to draw the line and form boundaries and where to push forward and cope with your feelings. In the end this experience will teach you a lesson about yourself and how to handle yourself in times of distress. Not like any other person, a narcissus requires a gentle touch when communicating with them. It won't be as honest and open as with others nor will it be as straightforward. They may get defensive quickly but this is because of insecurities, sensitivities, or lack of empathy they might have. Be careful not to let things backfire on you as you'll end up in a direct conflict, which is never fun and was never your intention. Communicate as gently as possible without compromising your own values and recognize if and when you should gently step back or put your foot down as long as it is done respectfully. If and when you put your foot down to draw some boundaries between you two be prepared to face the consequences. No matter how gentle you were in laying down the law they will take it as a direct attack and treat it as such. Depending on the person and situation they may or may not end up resenting you it is important to remember in this time that this is part of the process and you may not be being treated well enough by them when you are not someone who obeys them all the time, but it is better to recognize your own needs values and limits than to compromise them for someone else. While humor isn't called for in some situations it might just be your saving grace. Finding humor in a narcissist's behavior may help you cope. You can also call out their behaviors with a smile or a light joke. Remember to choose your time and carefully so as to not accidentally offend them and make the situation worse. Choose to keep humor to a minimum in moments of high stress, anger, or distress however when a narcissist does something naturally and without thinking if you point it out in a light-hearted manner it is more likely to be well received, listened to and potentially corrected. Depending on how close you are to the narcissist you may have to decide if they need more help than you can provide in order to maintain or regain a healthy relationship with people who are close to you, your best friend, lover, or family member. Keeping a distance doesn't always feel like an option. Many psychotherapists are trained to help with this disorder and can help them and you remain healthy and happy. Remember that loving them sometimes is not enough and needing professional help is okay. Remember to see the positives. This person obviously has positive qualities, or else you wouldn't be trying to maintain your relationship. Focus on the good qualities and the reasons why you want to make things work when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Integrate this into your plan so you can enjoy the most out of your relationship. For instance, if you know a certain place or situation that may trigger them avoid them to the best of your ability. The same goes for conversation topics if you know of a subject that gets them going steer clear of them and talk about something else. Go out to places you can both enjoy yourselves and talk about things you both like talking about. Always remind yourself of why this person holds great value to you and that no one is just their disorder. Lastly it is most important to accept them while it may feel like you're walking on eggshells at times. It is important to remember that nothing they are doing that hurts you is intentional. It is not that they do not want to see things from your point of view but it is that they are unable to. You must accept that you will never have an equal relationship with this person if you choose to maintain your relationship with them. This is all up to you as no one can tell you what to do but you cannot expect them to change just for you and instead you must change your outlook and strategies to keep them in your life if you choose to remember that they are more than their disorder.

 

3 Tips on How to Cope:

If you are wondering how to deal with a person or a spouse with narcissistic personality disorder, here are three key tips to consider:

First, set clear boundaries for what you are willing to tolerate. Name-calling, dishonesty, and insults are violations of what should be acceptable in a relationship. This should be a clearly established guideline from the beginning. Boundaries become more difficult to enforce when they are inconsistent or set after a period of time without consequences. Realistically, look at the pros and cons of your relationship. Do you feel like you give a lot more to a relationship of yours than you receive?

Second, narcissistic behavior usually begins from problems that started in childhood so realistically, making significant changes to improve the relationship is going to take a commitment from both partners. The changes can be difficult to make, and it can feel exhausting when the work is limited to one partner. Restrict the amount of time you are willing to engage in grandiose topics of conversation. Paying attention to exaggerated tales only reinforces the behavior. Most of us do not really enjoy negative attention but for a person with NPD, both positive and negative attention are welcomed. 

Third, and finally, consider talking to a therapist, marriage counselor, or mental health professional to help establish new boundaries an3d accountability. Do not feel as though you have to take on all these challenges alone, especially if the relationship is causing you constant distress. Seeking professional mental health help can provide support for those of us who may be struggling to manage life with a narcissist.