A narcissist can be very difficult to deal with, and it’s even more challenging when you are living under the same roof.
What’s the best way to address the situation?
We rounded up 9 experts and their best advice on how to live with a narcissist:
Table of Contents
- The best thing you can do is create and maintain clear boundaries
- Narcissists are often extremely sensitive to criticism
- Educate yourself
- Know what gaslighting really means
- Don’t doubt yourself
- Do not turn a blind eye to their masterful manipulation
- Fill up your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual tank to the brim
- Show them how to stay in the lane with the “Never Rule”
- Avoid losing your mind when they trap you between two disturbing behaviors
- Be in-tune with your emotional state
- Don’t expect empathy
- Don’t let them get to you
- Don’t tolerate outbursts
- Praise when deserved
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Author, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew
Living with a narcissist is very challenging because your needs are consistently second to theirs. Narcissists can be very charismatic and interesting—pulling people into their dynamic personalities. They can be caring and loving towards people who matter then or who reflect well on them.
However, regardless of what they may say to the contrary, narcissists put themselves first—in conversations, activities, negotiations, or priorities. They are primarily concerned with what serves them, comforts them, or makes them feel important.
This may or may not be put forward in a mean or demanding way. Sometimes people are so clearly self-centered; it is almost comical. Sometimes they are simply walking around with a high opinion of themselves. Sometimes they put others down as a way to elevate themselves. At other times they try to lift others up in ways that are benevolent but ultimately make them look good too.
Generally, you can’t change this personality type, but some people are more open to feedback and wanting to be better than others.
The best thing you can do is create and maintain clear boundaries
Think about what behaviors bother you the most and prepare your responses in advance. No matter how much a narcissist tries to make something about you, set a limit, and don’t buy into it.
For example, If you ask your narcissistic older sister to go shopping with you for your honeymoon, you can expect that she will inevitably shop for herself and make the trip about her in some way. Rather than get angry that she’s selfish, expect this to happen, and plan for this.
Set aside some of the shopping time explicitly for her. When she is not paying attention to you or listening to what you’re saying, redirect her rather than criticize her.
Narcissists are often extremely sensitive to criticism
Try saying something neutral like, “Hey, I was asking your opinion about this skirt right now? Can we talk about your bridesmaid dress later?” Gently remind her of the goal of the excursion if necessary.
Related: How to Talk to a Narcissist
Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2, NCC
Licensed Therapist | CVO, Thrive: Mind/Body
If you find yourself living with a narcissist, take the following three precautions:
Narcissists mirror the behavior of others to create superficial connections. They can be very romantic and passionate at the beginning of a relationship. Eventually, they blame you for things that go wrong on bad days and sometimes even good days too.
The line between your reality and their reality can quickly blur. If you train yourself to recognize their dysfunctional patterns of behavior, you will be better able to shield yourself from the jarring impact of gaslighting.
Know what gaslighting really means
Do you question your reality? Are you starting to believe that everything is your fault, and if you could just be better, they’d accept you or love you or respect you (or all three)?
Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and will cause you to doubt yourself and be at risk of losing your identity.
Don’t doubt yourself
Design and follow a moral compass to make this task achievable. We have to believe in ourselves and in our actions, trusting that what we say and do is right. Come up with morals, values, principles, and beliefs that resonate with you.
Create a code. For example, if you choose to be honest, humble, and to have integrity, you will have created the foundation of a moral compass. Commit to the pursuit of these values. Choose to be honest all of the time. Choose to have integrity all of the time. If you stumble, be kind to yourself.
This is not an easy task. Take a break or go for a walk. Get right back at it. All good things come with practice.
Life and Relationship Coach
May I say, I’m not sure why one would want to learn how to live with a narcissist.
Unless the reason is you are not aware of the role a narcissist plays in a relationship. However, anyone who understands these self-absorbed, troubled individuals realize they are best known for destroying souls — that is, if they possess genuinely narcissistic traits.
True narcissists are emotional vampires. They grab hold of your mind, heart, and eventually your body and spirit the further entangled you become with them.
Nonetheless, if you’d like to know how to live with a narcissist, I will tell you the most necessary details to help you with this insane request, said with love.
The primary point you need to grasp, so you avoid becoming an “emotional Starvin Marvin “( if you are not one already and wish to live with a narcissist) is to practice the next four necessary steps.
Do not turn a blind eye to their masterful manipulation
The first step to learn how to live with a narcissist is to understand what manipulation tactics they have up their sleeves.
One manipulation tactic narcissist use is gaslighting. When they gaslight you, they invalidate every thought you think, feeling you experience, or comment you say.
For instance, they might reply after a disagreement, “You’re crazy; you are sensitive, or you need help.” Additional responses they may make when you express your feelings is “you have issues; you have nothing to be upset about, or I never said that.”
One gaslighting remark that use to get under my skin is, “here you go again.” In sum, you will always be wrong, and they will never take personal accountability.
However, if you realize when they are gaslighting you, you avoid engaging in the bickering about who is right or wrong. You stop defending and trying to prove yourself. Still, not fighting back, not participating in debates, or not proving yourself takes you possessing high levels of self-confidence and self-trust not to do so.
The main point is if you wish to learn to live with a narcissist, you must recognize when the narcissist is gaslighting you or using other manipulation tactics against you. Again, you do not want to participate in a debate or try to prove yourself.
Fill up your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual tank to the brim
After a few months, let alone a few years, I am sure the emotional and mental exhaustion you feel goes without say. You feel emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually drained within. The not too distant past of who you were is gone.
Thus, practicing “Me Time” is critical. Take the time by plunging into self-care and self-love to fill your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual tank. Fill that tank up by decluttering your mind, going for a walk, talking to God, and making new friends. Therefore, if you wish to live with a narcissist, then you must fill up that tank to the brim each time you deplete your tank.
Show them how to stay in the lane with the “Never Rule”
Put some iron-clad boundaries in place and teach the narcissist how to stay in their lane. Have what I call the “Never Rule.” Never allow them to belittle, criticize, and be cruel to you. The moment the narcissist treats you poorly, show them the consequences of such behavior, such as walking away for a while.
Never make excuses or rationalize their behavior. Mistreatment is mistreatment; there are no acceptable excuses or justifying sickening misconduct. In conclusion, these specific boundaries will help you accomplish your goal.
Avoid losing your mind when they trap you between two disturbing behaviors
The two behaviors are the “one minute I love you narcissistic behavior,” and the “one minute I will give you the silent treatment” narcissistic behavior. They trap you between the “I-Love-You-And-I Hate-You” psychological game.
Meaning, one minute they will move tall buildings for you, then the next minute you’re in 30-degree weather in the interiors of Alaska, them not wanting to know you consequently, leaving you bewildered.
One minute you wish to love them with all your heart, but then the next minute, you want someone to save you from your misery. Allowing yourself to not react to this mental manipulation is how you live with them.
Realize that these psychological games are a play for power.
There you have the steps, a double-edged sword I might add, on how to live with a narcissist. Practice these critical steps, and you might learn to live with a narcissist, but good luck because you will need it, said with lots of love.
Dr. Brian Wind Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, JourneyPure | Co-Chair, American Psychological Association
A narcissist will devalue you to feel better about themselves and never apologize. You have to be OK with that. You have to be able to forgive and move on even when the person you love shows no remorse.
Be in-tune with your emotional state
Notice and deal with any feelings of anger or disappointment. Don’t be too embarrassed to talk about things with friends or a therapist. Your happiness is going to take extra work living with a narcissist.
The more you stay focused on your own self-esteem and mental health, the better.
Choya Wise, LICSW, PIP
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Founder, Aspire Counseling and Consulting Service
Don’t expect empathy
If you are living with a Narcissist, you have to be willing to understand and adapt to the fact that empathy is not their strong point. Trying to get a narcissist to understand empathy is like trying to get a man to understand the pains of childbirth. It’s not an easy gig.
In every relationship, each partner has their strengths. Focusing on your narcissistic partner’s strengths will support you with compensating for their void of empathy.
Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D.
Clinical/Community Psychologist & Psychoanalyst | Co-Author, Relationship Sanity
One of the main issues—and problems—that we’ll face when living with a narcissist is that they tend to demand and draw and find ways to receive an immense amount of attention from their environment.
When it comes to human relations:
1. We are the “environment” to, with, and for each other, and,
2. Attention is a need that we all have when it comes to feeling cared for and valued in relationships.
What this means is that narcissists wind up living in an off-putting state of entitlement where the constant demand for attention combined with an incessant focus and drive toward the fulfillment of their needs and desires interferes with and makes it difficult (or impossible) to recognize and acknowledge—much less satisfy—our own.
Therefore, living with a narcissist requires that we become aware of, do not deny, and commit to fulfilling our own narcissistic needs and desires.
Some psychoanalysts see narcissism as existing on a continuum where, on one end, exists the narcissist who feels better than everyone else and, at the extreme other, is the one who feels worse.
A so-called healthy narcissism exists somewhere near the middle—not better, not worse.
It deals with the insecurities that result in and drive narcissism with an also healthy entitlement to seek out, receive, take in, and make use of the things that allow us (all!) to feel cared for and respected in our homes and our own lives.
When we have access to those things that satisfy our needs and desires, we can temper our own narcissism, attain a sense of feeling “right-sized,” and live in some degree of harmony in our own homes, live, and skins.
Holistic Marriage & Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling
Living with a narcissist is tough.
For one, have your own hobbies so you can go to yoga classes and release. Also, don’t take anything personally. Narcissists will often say hurtful things on purpose with intentions to hurt you.
Don’t let them get to you
Be the bigger person and be kind. Don’t worry if the narcissist that you love with gets mean. This is just how they are with the world.
Know that narcissism is really a protective mechanism from childhood abuse or neglect. See the bigger picture and see the narcissist as someone in pain needing your support.
Dr. Tracy E. Hill
Educational Psychologist & Publisher | Director, Center Street Center
Narcissism is considered an Axis II disorder or personality disorder, as they are commonly referred to.
That being said, most people who are diagnosed with personality disorders often do not recognize or acknowledge that they have a disorder. Typically, it’s those around the narcissist that realize something is amiss; yet the narcissist will believe that the problem lies with everyone else and rarely gets help.
So how you do live with a narcissist?
The best answer is to never move in in the first place!
Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality
Don’t tolerate outbursts
Being spoken to in a demeaning way, and belittling should be intolerable, even if you live with a narcissist. Narcissists make others feel small to feel ‘big,’ but that doesn’t mean that you should welcome verbal abuse.
Refusing to engage in conversations where you’re being treated disrespectfully allows you to maintain integrity. This might mean walking away from conversations or simply not engaging at times.
Related: How to Shutdown a Narcissist
Praise when deserved
It’s important to realize that although narcissists thrive from praise, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard praise altogether to keep the narcissist ‘under control.’ Knowing when to praise a narcissist can be a fine line, but it can be crucial in helping them to see that when they do good, they get the recognition that they deserve and crave.
Validation is essential, and knowing when to validate and when to step back is a balance that needs to be achieved when living with a narcissist.