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What To Expect When Living With A Narcissist

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

People that have Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) are actually pretty common and can be found in all different paths throughout your life. There will more than likely come a time when you find yourself working with or living with a narcissist.

Whether it is a sibling, parent, or spouse you many not have the ability to avoid them all together so you must face the odd and learn to cope with living with a narcissistic personality.

At times a narcissist will be charming, funny, caring, and even romantic…… and with a flip of a switch they will be angry, arrogant, hurtful, and deceitful.

While you may not be physically hit or physically abused in this relationship, your heart will be broken 10,000 times. Even if you think you are a “strong” person and can handle it; your strength is not really strength, but rather, denial. The following list is just a taste of what you can expect when living with a narcissist.

surviving narcissism

50 Things To Expect When Living With A Narcissist

1. He will always define the terms.

2. You will live by a set of double standards.

3. You will not be truly listened to.

4. He will never resolve a conflict, as a result, they will continue to repeat.

5. He will rarely consider your feelings; and will only do so if it serves him somehow.

6. He will never apologize in an authentic way that acknowledges his behavior or your suffering.

7. What will matter most to him is how he appears to others.

8. He will ruin all of your birthdays and holidays (unless he can somehow make it about him, i.e., HIS favorite band will play at your birthday party, a trip planned “with/for” you will be to a location that HE wants/needs to visit, etc….).

9. He will be sullen during (or cause a fight before) events that are important to you because they are not about him.

10. He will NOT show up for you at times when you need a partner the most and will be rageful if you are upset about it. (The more distressed you are the more delight in abandoning you).

11. He will demand forgiveness for his bad behavior yet do nothing to earn back your trust or change his behavior.

12. Your expectations will be managed down to mere crumbs; to the point where you will be happy just because he isn’t giving you the silent treatment, yelling at you, or cheating on you.

13. You will never win.

14. He will be dismissive and, at times, cruel to your pets.

15. Beyond the initial stages of dating, he will make NO effort to befriend your friends or family unless knowing them benefits him in some way.

16. He will tend to make you his scapegoat.

17. He will dump his shame and rage on to you.

18. Simple conversations will become crazy-making endeavors.

19. You will find yourself walking on eggshells.

20. You will lose yourself because you will be trained to focus only on his feelings and reactions; never mind yours.

21. You will experience the silent treatment.

22. You will experience cognitive dissonance, confabulation, and gas lighting.

23. You will find yourself telling a grown adult how to have normal interactions with others.

24. Your relationship will revolve on a cycle: waiting — hoping — hurting — being angry — being punished — forgiving — forgetting — again.

25. He will isolate you from your friends, family or financial support and then blame you for depending on him.

26. He will say cruel and judgemental things about the friends closest to him while being nice to their faces.

27. He will blame you for all of the problems in the relationship.

28. You will blame yourself.

29. He will use your weaknesses, traumas and intimate secrets against you.

30. You will experience many dramatic exits, followed by a reappearance of the N acting as if nothing unusual had ever happened.

31. He will act like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

32. He will not do his fair share of household responsibilities and will criticize your efforts.

33. He will come and go as he pleases.

34. When you try to hold him accountable he will fly into a rage.

35. He will not answer questions directly.

36. He will never ask you about your day and wish you to “have a good day.” He will never show genuine concern for things that you care about (unless it’s something he cares about.)

37. You will feel stuck and unable to leave him.

38. You will miss him and wait for him all the time.

39. He will project his bad behaviors onto you and you will project your good intentions onto him — neither is accurate.

40. When you finally break because of his crazy-making behaviors and the insanity of the relationship, he will call you a lunatic, others will think you are a lunatic, and you, yourself, will believe that you are just as bad as him (realize, there is no moral equivalence between expressing frustration and intentional abuse.)

41. No one else will see it. This will cause you to question your reality.

42. The entire experience will result in trauma for you because it is interpersonal violence.

43. He will compare you unfavorably to other women, especially his ex.

44. You will begin to feel crazy; then, over time, you will begin to feel numb.

45. If you go to couples counseling it will not work, and will most likely backfire on you. (Please realize you do not have a marriage problem, your partner has a mental illness.)

46. He will triangulate you with the other women in his life, causing tension and drama between them and you, while he remains unscathed.

47. Once you start to wise up and pull away he will begin to smear your character behind your back in an attempt to turn people against you. In fact, he was probably doing this throughout your entire relationship.

48. The negativity and cruelty with which he speaks about his former relationships will befall you as well should you find the strength to leave him. Brace yourself.

49. Most people will never fully believe your account of the relationship and the psychological trauma can take years to understand and recover from.

50. Your value will be diminished to the point of nothingness in his eyes. In fact, mere strangers will hold more weight in his eyes than you will.

living with a narcissist

No human being is a match for these tactics, and if you do try to match the narcissist’s game with any of the narcissit’s tactics — the narcissist immediately pounces on your lack of integrity, which throws you into the despair: The narcissist doesn’t believe I am a decent person (this destroys your soul and mission to ‘change’ the narcissist …) or you will feel the incensed mind-bending rage of: Who are you to accuse me of lack of integrity?

Whichever way it goes, you end up battered and distraught, and the narcissist obtained narcissistic supply and the omniponent knowing that he or she can have this effect on you…

You can’t shrug off allegations like the narcissist can. The narcissist, once securing you in their life, actually doesn’t care whether or not you think the narcissist is a good person.

The narcissist is simply in the game for the two reasons that narcissists interact with anyone:

  1. To secure narcissistic supply, and
  2. Having a person to hurt in order to offload their tormented inner self.

You have to accept that the narcissist simply does not hold or even care about the model of love and relationships that you do. His or her values, needs and neuron brain pathways are miles apart from yours.

Remember that this is just a taste of what to expect when living with a narcissist. There is even more pain and suffering that will accompany you in you time with them.

If you choose to remain in a relationship with a narcissist here are a few simple coping skills that will be useful in surviving and maintaining your own mental health.

Coping Skills to Survive Living With A Narcissist

Set and Enforce Boundaries

Become aware of personal limits, needs, desires, irritants, and aspirations. State these clearly to the narcissist. Actively promote self-care in all interactions with the narcissist. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable just because the narcissist tries to get you to do it. Only do things you feel comfortable doing.

Let the narcissist deal with his or her own disappointment when this happens. Return to active interaction with the narcissist only after the manipulative behavior stops. Trust your own judgment.

Maintain A Support System

Develop a support system of 3 or more healthy adults who are in no way charmed by narcissistic behavior.

They may have narcissistic family members of their own, but they must distinguish between genuine and manipulative behavior styles.

Every week, confidentially and respectfully share healthy adult viewpoints among support system members to counterbalance those of loved ones who function emotionally at the level of a toddler.

Spend time with people who give you an honest reflection of who you are. 

In order to maintain perspective and avoid buying into the narcissist’s distortions, it’s important to spend time with people who know you as you really are and validate your thoughts and feelings.

Draw A Line In The Sand

Make a list of at least three behaviors neither person in the relationship will tolerate. When the list has been agreed upon, make a sign and put it up where you both can see it.

When either person breaks a rule, the other partner must point it out in private, calmly and with respectfully chosen words.

The partner who acted out must clearly apologize and state clearly the plan they have in place for making certain this does not become a pattern in the future.

If one partner ignores the agreement more than three times in any three month period, the relationship should be renegotiated with a trained professional present.

Identify Escalating Behaviors

Although not all narcissists are prone to physical violence, there are enough that are to warrant watching for this trait if the narcissist displays some of the warning signs.

Potential signs of escalating behaviors that might forewarn of physical violence could include:

  • Possessive or controlling behavior
  • Verbal abuse
  • Constant criticism
  • Undue control of family finances
  • Isolation from family and friends
Living with a narcissist

Living with a narcissist is never easy.

Accept that you cannot change their personality. Nor should you want to. 

If it’s that bad, consider leaving the relationship or limiting contact. But if you want to continue living with a narcissist, do your best to put these protect yourself with these strategies.

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

8 thoughts on “What To Expect When Living With A Narcissist”

  1. I am going through the trauma of being married to a narcissist for 27 years. He has even turned my children against me and into believing him. My own mother doesn’t believe me anymore. He has convinced everyone that I’m mad and wants to put me in a mental hospital. He wants to change my doctor because my doctor sees right through him. Your article has opened my eyes. Thank you. God bless.

  2. Except for 43 & 46, I experienced these traits on about a two week cycle for 16 years. We broke up and it took me a whole year to get him out of the house. That was two years ago. I still experience some of these behaviours because he tells me that I kicked him out with nothing, withholds child support and neglects his children. He moved in to a family friends home. I genuinely don’t know what happened but that couple is now broken up and the woman and he are now in a relationship. I’ve never done a stock take on this because I didn’t honestly view him as a narcissist. He totally is! Now all three of my children display narcissism (which I read is fairly typical – as they grow out of it as they age);however, my daughter is getting worse. Her behaviour triggers me and there is often conflict. In trying to determine if my child is a narcissist I found out I was trapped in a relationship with one for a long time.

    I’ve got some healing to do and boundaries to set.

  3. This was so good. I have been experiencing hypermnesia and then a huge burden of shame for my past as I dated a Narc from 18 till 23. I didn’t know it could be considered as trauma so I always tried to down talk it but this has stopped serving me because these depressive cycles keep coming back and this time during corona with so much uncertainty going on, the trigger has hit harder and longer! I am so happy for this blog post and others. It answered my question that trauma can also happen from narcissistic abuse even if it didn’t happen during childhood. Too little talk about it

  4. I am currently as I type dealing with this all and packing and moving out ending the 3 year relationship. He has made up lies to his family about me saying I’m a alcoholic and do drugs, don’t pay any of the bills and don’t work sponging off him and so forth so he gets the sympathy and the your such a good guy and saint to keep putting up with her from his family. When he tells me he doesn’t want me to work and he makes enough to take care of me and wants me with him to take care of his huge 4 bedroom house and animals . Then tells me I’m too stupid and lazy to get a job when i go to get one he says no he doesn’t like the hours i would work that we would not see each other enough. Then gets in a rage about something such as i was not downstairs to greet him when he walked through the door from work with a drink waiting for him and the yelling , accusing , threats, start with him wanting me out of his house now now now. With no money or anywhere to go and when i start to leave pulls me back in with false promises and fake apologies to do it all over again 2 or. 3 weeks later. Then to tell everyone he cant get rid of me. Three years of this hell and thats not the half of it, I’m exhausted, beat down, and have forgotten what its like to have normal in my life.

  5. I’m 36, and have been with my wife for over 20 years, married for 7. Two beautiful children 6, and 3.
    Our entire (very long) relationship is that of a rollercoaster. As years pass I slowly recognized patterns of great love and happiness and then gloom and doom. Like clockwork. I must be the perfect victim because I here I am still!! We have changed our lives repeatedly in favor of my wife’s direction, or more accurately to improve our lives from My unsuccessful attempts to make her happy. Never has she been able to view the good that is, but only the things that ain’t! And believe me! I am made sure to know I am the reason for all and any unhappiness because she is without. Oh, and it’s constant! I can guarantee that in any and all scenarios what she has not, or what wrong I have done, or what I have not done, or never do, or cannot preform, and should have done, or always do will be announced. Announced in an extremely aggressive manner along with fiery arrows doused with heavy heavy guilt.
    I can go on and on and on. It was only till very recently I finally realized that I have been ground down to a stump. Progressively trained to avoid heavy conflict, questioning my everything thought, becoming so small and unsure of myself as if I have never left childhood. All by my wife’s hand! Only to be disgusted of, for becoming the person she has created me to be. Her professional level of guilting is astonishing! All friends and family that have ever disliked what I’ve become have been slowly pushed away, and I’m constantly reminded of there terribleness (not even real). I’ve lived so many years completely confused, with no real understanding of what and why. I’ve never understood why she would say that, do that, being that up, push push push and then hit heavy when I’ve reacted to being pushed. Ugh! Any good event, or even improvement of my own self was always accompanied by heavy harsh unnecessary arguments and fighting!
    I stumbled across “Narcissism” and there traits ( tactics) and it was as if I was reading my life’s story to a frigin T! I have to say, standing my ground, exposing her and these tactics has only made things absolutely devastatingly worse. I cannot fathom the lengths and depth of how far she will go to avoid fault! It’s evil!
    Oh, and I have a new leather shop making dope ass shit, and have never had a moment without dread being forced on me, phone calls every minute, accusations of psh you name it, and every single encounter with an uplifting person has been immediately smashed down with disapproval. After 1.5 years in business I am failing hard and will most likely shut it down. She hates what I make (all of it!) and I’m one hell of a maker (@alanjamescompany on Instagram) she resents my every moment working. She has disconnected herself from the shop, and blames me for casting her out! So in short she has successfully withered me down to an absolutely nothingness of a man! My children are my everything (although I’m told I don’t care for them or her), and I can’t stand the thought of not being a part of there home. I’m tired! I’m confused, I’ve even been pushed into failing my very own dream! I’ve nothing to call my own. I’ve supported her/us financially from the start, never resented her for one second. Now, over a year of struggling (by her own hand) she has been covering us financially. Mamma Mia is this her biggest weapon yet. How is there any joy in crushing your loved one. She hates her life, and I am at fault for it!
    What the fuk do I do? I’ve lost me.
    Oh, and BTW every thing will be hunky dory in a day or so, then strait into the first pits of guilt driven depression created from nothing more than a sock on the floor. (I know now it was never because of the sock)

    1. In reading your comment it was like hearing my life. Except in this case my husband is the narcissist. I’m 40 and I’ve been with my husband for 25 years. Married 16 of those. 2 kids as well. 16 year old daughter and an 8 year old boy. I totally understand how you feel. I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. Circles and circles. Never feeling appreciated. What’s worse is for the kids to be around it. And it’s hard because you love this person and have invested all this time and memories with them, to find out those feelings are shared.

      1. I’ve been married to a narcissist since 1987. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it until about 10 years ago when I started looking things up online. I am at the point now where I really don’t care if I stay married or not. My kids are grown now, but what I beat myself up about most is that I didn’t recognize what he was, nor was I strong enough back then to stand up for myself and my kids. As a result my oldest child didn’t graduate from high school, he still lives with us and has never been on his own nor has he had a job outside working for his father. His father tells him that he is building the business for him, but yet they get in vicious arguments on a weekly basis where he demeans him and tells him that the business would fall apart without him. Of course, I work for him too, and get the same treatment, and I just tell him when he starts on me that he better find the right person for the job because I’m obviously not able to do it. He has even had arguments in front of customers with us, I keep waiting for someone to give us a bad Google review over it, but so far it hasn’t happened. When we do end up with a bad review, I know it will be my fault because I drove him to act that way. I really don’t care anymore, I know he can’t help himself, and I now know what to expect, thanks to articles like this. Some days are better than others, I still think about leaving him, maybe I will someday. All I know is that I do not look forward to the future, and I don’t know whether or not I want to start over, after all, I will be 59 next month. The only thing I have in my future is working until I can’t anymore , and if I want to have any fun I will have to plan it for myself and by myself, or maybe with my kids, if they have the time.

  6. Diane reading your comment absolutely broke my heart… what’s left of it, after spending 11 years with a narcissist. I didn’t know he was one until after we had a child. I would be drowning in the responsibility of taking care and nursing a newborn, all while working full time in a stressful career (of course that pays 90% of the bills while he stashes his paycheck away for himself), keeping up with the housework, all while he goes out to play in a local cover band. I’m home alone with our child most of the time but when he is home, he’s usually just laying around playing a video game on his phone and acts like he’s done something heroic if he emptied the dishwasher. No arguments are ever resolved, he just goes round and round. Calls me horrible names, ignores me, calls me crazy, and uses my shortcomings and vulnerabilities as weapons against me. I still remember the day I was accepted into nursing school.. I was so excited to tell him but when I did, all he did was complain about his bad day at work and that he didn’t feel good. I know it’s time to leave, I just don’t know how to get started but I know I need to go before our daughter thinks this is normal. She’s almost two, so time is ticking.

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