Breaking Through Narcissistic Relationships

Narcissistic traits displayed on occasion don’t necessarily mean there is a disorder. Each of us may at times display several behaviors driven to one-up others or need validation. We may even manipulate another person to like our idea or support our decision.

However, narcissistic personality disorder is one identifiable by an inflated self importance and a constant, deep desire for admiration and praise. A true narcissist will employ harmful behavior such as aggression, gaslighting, public shaming, lying, and more, to bolster their perceived status.

Narcissists are addicted to and depend upon constant affirmation and special treatment. There’s even a need for constant appeasement over what angers them. Yet, underneath all the entitlement and conceit lie a shattered self-esteem and emptiness.

Normal, or, Narcissist?

Having a level of self-confidence or self-preservation is healthy. We all have had bad days and been unkind to those we love. There is a difference between displaying behavior on the spectrum of narcissism and having a pathological diagnosis. Accumulative red flags on the higher end of the spectrum, or abusive behavior, means it’s time to reach out to a local relationship therapist for individual or group therapy sessions and/or exit a relationship, depending on your situation.

Some narcissistic traits or signs that may accumulate in your observation include:

  • Being a know-it-all to the extent of constantly correcting or invalidating others and needing to be the one who drives conversation.

  • Dominating or having a savior complex to the point of constantly criticizing and marginalize a partner. This make the partner feel like they miss the mark or would be nothing without the narcissistic rescuer.

  • The constant need to be the best or well-received by the collection of merits or praise to the point of exhausting a romantic relationship.

  • Using charm, exploitation, or coercion to have the partner move their boundaries inch by inch until the narcissist wins.

  • Being deliberately confrontational, uncooperative, and unreasonable, causing others to dislike them, but at least notice them.

How to break the cycle

If you are naturally caring and nurturing, you may value pleasing and helping people, which is very attractive to narcissists. You care about them enough to have changed your boundaries, begged to appease them when they are upset, and change your habits to fit their script.

You are allowed to want reciprocated love, acceptance, affection and most importantly, respect. Feel free to give a little less of yourself if it depletes you and kindly ask for your needs to be met. Healthy relationships have give and take.

While diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder or any disorder is to be left to professionals, feel free to seek a professional is you are recognizing these harmful relationship dynamics. A couples counselor like, me, Dr. Corinne Scholtz, LMFT, is here to help with couples therapy and marriage counseling.