Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Relationships

Narcissism is a necessary trait when it applies to prioritizing one’s well-being, pursuing academic and professional goals, and maintaining clear boundaries in relationships.  However, narcissism becomes problematic when someone persistently seeks appreciation or admiration, must always be the center of attention, and must always appear as the superior problem-solver due to one’s perceived exceptional skills and intelligence.  Narcissists tend to expect special treatment from everybody with whom they interact, and they must always “be right” in any discussion.  They also lack empathy, have a tendency toward mood swings, relationship problems, and are self-absorbed in their persona, which is actually a defense mechanism protecting their fragmented sense of self and their unresolved issues and insecurities.  When narcissism becomes damaging to one’s romantic, familial, or professional relationships, it may be Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

     Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is classified as one of the 10 personality disorders in the DSM-5.  This disorder is characterized by an inflated sense of one’s own importance, a deep need for excessive validation of one’s superior status in all areas of one’s life, and a lack of empathy for others. Additionally, a person with narcissisim has very fragile self-esteem and hidden insecurities, which causes this person to be extremely vulnerable to the slightest criticism.  A person with severe symptoms of NPD may make threats to those who confront one’s controlling behaviors and may become angry and disappointed when others do not adhere to one’s wishes and needs.  When a person with NPD experiences relationship problems, the partner is always blamed.

     Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has a poor prognosis for treatment, because the person  does not consciously believe that he or she has a problem.  Rather, a person with NPD firmly believes that one’s romantic partners, friends, coworkers, and family members are the cause of one’s problems.  A person with NPD has zero insight about what lies beneath the superior facade.  Typically, NPD is recognized by others, not the person with this disorder.  The problem is that those who are closest to the person with NPD get caught up in the roller coaster of the NPD person’s relentless demands, gaslighting, mood swings, inconsistent behaviors, and lack of compassion.  Others can feel like prisoners who cannot escape the NPD person’s domination of conversations, selfish demands, and withholding of love and support when one cannot get what he or she wants leading to further relationship problems. 

narcissistic personality disorder, narcissism, mood swings, relationship problems

Romanic Relationships and Nacrissistic Personality Disorder

If you can relate to many of the experiences, thoughts, and feelings described in the following paragraphs, then your partner may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). 

     Relationship problems develop as your life is all about the NPD partner’s happiness and approval.  Your own dreams and goals may slowly disappear or lose priority, because your life revolves around your partner’s goals.  Your NPD partner will never admit that he or she is wrong and will never apologize.  Mood swings along with any argument or confrontation will likely end up with you taking the blame for it.  Everything is your fault, even if the situation is out of your control.  You are continually told by your NPD partner that, if you would only change, things would be OK in your relationship.  You waste so much energy explaining yourself, and your NPD partner may threaten to leave you exhibit mood swings or may give you the “silent treatment” as a means of control and protecting his or her fragile ego.

     People with NPD thrive on their superiority and may often tell you that you are “crazy” or that you are “always doing the wrong thing.”  The NPD partner’s sense of entitlement may cause you to question your own judgment, especially when it comes to leaving the relationship.  You may believe that you are unworthy of having another relationship, because your self-esteem has become so low.   Also, all of the gaslighting from the NPD partner makes you believe that the relationship problems are all your fault.  To maintain superiority and control, your NPD partner may isolate you from friends and family members and may threaten to expose your “flaws” and “mental instability” to your coworkers, supervisor, or parents. 

     You may lose your concept of healthy boundaries, largely resulting from the transitory moments of love and charm given to you by your NPD partner when he or she is in a good mood.  These happy moments, although dysfunctional, sustain your belief that you can still please or change your NPD partner and cause you to minimize the severity of the emotional abuse  and mood swings inherent in this type of relationship.  You may truly believe that it is your responsibility to “fix” your partner.       

     You are caught in this person’s daily, even hourly, rigid and controlling routine.  You may feel uncomfortable much of the time and have a continual pressure to “not talk about anything” which conflicts with this person’s wants and needs, to the point of feeling suffocated.  Your NPD partner’s mood swings can be contagious and full of toxic energy.  You have a high risk of developing an anxiety disorder, a depressive disorder, and a substance abuse problem as an escape from your NPD partner’s emotional and mental abuse.

narcissistic personality disorder, narcissism, mood swings, relationship problems

Coping with a Romanic Partner with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

   You can google this disorder and find that every website about narcissism advises the partner to leave the relationship if therapy is not utilized.  So, if you choose to remain with your NPD partner, please read the following paragraphs which describe how to survive in a relationship with your NPD partner. 

     Most significantly, you must firmly commit to your own spiritual and personal path with the knowledge that you cannot change a person with NPD.  You must learn and practice inspirational and empowering thoughts and actions, perhaps with the help of a Mental Health Therapist, a support group, or informational websites focused on mindfulness, cognitive behavioral techniques, and well-being.  You can use your calming and empowering energy, which you have created by practicing mindfulness and cognitive behavioral techniques, as a buffer from your NPD partner’s criticisms and demands.  No matter what the source of support and education is, you must learn to relax and to mentally separate yourself from the emotional chaos of your NPD partner. 

     Moreover, you must acknowledge your own feelings of frustration, sadness, and loneliness as largely created by your NPD partner’s false world.  By doing this, you can gradually replace these toxic feelings with joy, satisfaction, and hope by focusing on your own cherished life goals, values, skills, spiritual beliefs, and positive people in your life.  You can also reduce these toxic feelings by learning to walk away from your NPD partner’s temper tantrums and to deflect his or her critical words by not verbally responding to them.  You must remember that people with narcissism are extremely insecure and in denial of many unresolved emotional issues.  However, you can disarm a narcissist by not reacting, not apologizing, not explaining your actions, and not getting lost in the gaslighting.  This is his or her battle, not yours. 

     In sum, when living with your partner with narcissism, you must try very hard every minute of every day to stay focused on your own life goals and values.  You must remember that you cannot ever truly please or satisfy this person’s irrational needs and that you must utilize a support system, educate yourself about narcissism, seek therapy, and keep your daily routine as intact as possible.  Furthermore, do not waste your energy in arguing with your partner with narcissism, because you are fighting a continual losing battle.  Deflect and ignore the negativity, rather than feed into it.  Stay on track.  Do not take personally any of your NPD partner’s criticisms or judgments leading to further relationship problems.  Instead, use your energy in the direction of living as your true self, practicing compassion for yourself, and maintaining gratitude for your independence and all of your personal strengths.

Written by New Age Psychiatry’s Compassionate Therapist: Rebecca Wang-Harris PhD 
 

If you or a loved one is concerned about living with a partner with narcissism. Contact us on the web for a virtual appointment for medication management or counseling available for a wide range of psychiatric conditions throughout the state of Florida. If you would instead prefer email, you can reach us at info@newagepsychiatry.com or call us today at (877) 769-5206 for more information. 

Want to learn more? Read on here to learn about Imposter Syndrome. 

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