Of course you can stay, but watch out ...
“I love her. I know she loves me. She is under so much stress at work. I am sure that is why she rages so much when she is at home.”
“He doesn’t mean to be so self centered. He is super charismatic at work and gets a lot of attention. It just happens to him.”
Your partner is smart, funny, influential, successful, well-traveled and buys you expensive jewelry and gifts. They may belong to private golf clubs or yacht harbors. They may even hold a spot in the local, regional or national political scene.
So what’s the problem?
Being with a narcissistic partner can be a rough and sometimes dangerous road to travel. According to Psychology Today, “Narcissism is a spectrum disorder; someone with a high level or number of these traits can be a more damaging influence on you, and your children. The more traits, the closer to a full-blown personality disorder.”
However, the lifestyle benefits that sometime come with being in a relationship with someone who wields that kind of clout are undeniable. Look at Melania Trump, Sharon Osbourne or Kris Jenner. The material, financial and career benefits of being partnered with some narcissists makes leaving them seem starkly penalizing.
Even in your own small corner of the world, your narcissist may serve on the city council, school board or be super successful in his career. And even with the most optimistic of settlements, the loss of lifestyle, influence and living standard can be overwhelming to face.
The choice to leave a narcissistic partner is, needless to say, extraordinarily delicate. One thing that helps is to watch for signs of a serious personality disorder. According to Yahoo Finance, in these cases you would likely see: “Emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking or perception, impulsive behavior, intense but unstable relationships with others."
I once was considering leaving a partner and was talking about it with a friend.
I remember exactly where I was, walking up the fairway on the 5th hole of the country club I lost access to in my divorce.
“I could never do what you are doing,” my friend said.
Desperately unhappy in her own partnership with a wealthy narcissist, she went on to tell me, “I can’t give up the lifestyle. I haven’t worked in years and have no marketable skills. I have no options.”
I still think about her after all these years and wonder how she is doing living in her gilded cage.
I share the conviction of Dr. Craig Malkin, who warns, "Nothing I'll suggest below is likely to help if the person you love is physically or emotionally abusive. Not all narcissists, even those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), resort to abuse. But some do — and if you're on the receiving end, your first step should be to explore what makes it hard for you to leave."
That said, if you do decide you have to stay with a narcissist because of life circumstances, or if you want to stay with one because the lifestyle is too alluring to leave, you might as well do it right!
Being conscious of your partner's narcissistic ways and making a plan for how to cope will make it much easier to bear.
Here are 5 Super Powers you will need in order to flourish behind the scenes of your relationship with a narcissist.
1. The power to understand just how narcissistic your narcissist is.
Everything being relative, there is no question that some narcies (pronounced narssies) are just more extreme than others. If your partner has a true personality disorder, it may not be possible to detach enough to frame a workable lifestyle.
Here is a way to evaluate your personal situation. On a scale of 1-10, determine how narcissistic your partner is. Anything higher than 7 is a problem.
According to Dr. Paul Bretherton, “Most importantly, a Narcissist is a human being acting in a particular way and, as emotion provoking as they can sometimes be, is not a monster.” Some narcies are worth staying with even though it demands Super Powers. A solid 10 will demand that you choose your path wisely so that you stay safe and able to make an exit if you need to.
Key stay-with-your-narcissist tip: Many highly successful business men, politicians, actors, pop culture icons and medical professionals are natural narcissists. The very self oriented focus that is so hard to live with drives them to the top of their professions. Accepting this in them is the first step in being able to stay.
2. The power to choose self development.
Narcies tend to choose empathetic, kind, giving and loving partners. If you are smart, talented and a bit insecure, it is easier for them to expand their life around you. It can be fun for sure to be swept away by the attention and to see your partner get his way wherever he goes.
Dr. Athena Stalk recommends that you "Give yourself the gift of looking into, and getting help, for likely codependency tendencies."
Checking out popular personal development authors are a great first step. YouTube is a good friend here. Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and other fabulous thought leaders have videos that teach personal empowerment.
Key stay-with-your-narcissist tip: The more you love your narcie, the more you owe it to yourself to develop the skills to make this unusual partnership work. Living with a self centered person is not for everyone. Get the tools you need to take care of yourself.
3. The power to be detached.
I think this is the best Super Power there is. It is hard for narcies when you detach — they crave your attention and admiration after all. The irony is that it is when you detach, you build strength and strategies for how to stay with them. You can choose how much of their behavior you allow to bug you.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier says, “Emotional detachment is the conscious choice to not allow another person push your buttons and hurt, anger, frustrate or annoy you. The easiest way to do this is to develop indifference.” This is not an easy task at first, but once mastered can definitely work.
Key stay-with-your-narcissist-tip: A fast and reliable way to start learning this super power is to go to an area Al-Anon or Narcissistic Support Group meeting. Even if there is no alcohol in your situation, the skills taught there about independence and codependence will equip you with real tools. Plus they are very warm and friendly, and it feels good to be in loving company.
4. The power of self love.
I used to say, “What was I thinking to sign up for this?” While in my latest long-term living situation with a narcie, I didn’t understand how I kept attracting the same type of person into my life.
In The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout reports, “Unlike sociopaths, narcissists often are in psychological pain, and may sometimes seek psychotherapy. When a narcissist looks for help, one of the underlying issues is usually that, unbeknownst to him, he is alienating his relationships on account of his lack of empathy with others, and is feeling confused, abandoned, and lonely.”
This piece of info helped me be more compassionate to my narcie. I learned the value of self-partnering and began actively pursuing self loving experiences. The less emotional support I needed from my narcie because I was getting it else where, the more peace there was in my household.
Key stay-with-your-narcissist tip: A secret you can learn from the rich and famous is to find a cause to devote yourself to that is separate from your partner. Whether it is the Humane Society, a hospice or homeless kids, all of them need your love and engagement. Your contribution will bring to you much of what you THINK you need from your partner — love, appreciation, connection, compliments, support and affection. When your tank is full, you will truly thrive in your situation.
5. The power of compassion.
According to Martha Stout, “The poor narcissist cannot see past his own nose, emotionally speaking, and as with the Pillsbury Doughboy, any input from the outside will spring back as if nothing had happened.“
Living with a narcie who truly doesn’t see how they bring such misery on themselves with an objective eye can help make it manageable. Stout goes on to say, "True sociopathic narcissists have no trace of empathy and no genuine interest in bonding emotionally with a mate and once the surface charm is scraped off, the partnerships end up being loveless, one-sided, and almost always short-term.”
When you sense that your narcie wants an emotional connection and yet blindly shoots him or herself in the foot trying to get there, compassion for both of you is indeed a Super Power.
Remember, narcissistic partners usually have difficulty loving someone else because they don’t truly love themselves.
They are so focused on themselves they cannot really “see” their partner as a separate person. As you develop your self compassion, you will reap the reward of this skill.
Key stay-with-your-narcissist tip: Here are three magic words that will turn you into a compassion super star — “Just Like Me.” Yep, it's that simple. Write down a list of all the ways you want to be treated by your partner. For example, In my partnership I want to feel loved, respected, honored, supported, connected, heard, cared about, listened to, adored, pleasured, etc, etc. Next, go through this list and repeat these thoughts every day for a week in this fashion: “Just like me, my partner wants to feel _________."
Simply affirming what you want — and recognizing your partner wants the same — you will ignite a new spirit of connection with your narcie.
If you are in love with a narcissist and want to develop the skills you need to thrive in the midst of the drama, contact Catherine Behan for more information on her website: http://BreakupCandy.com.