13 Survival Tips For Living With A Narcissist When Leaving Isn’t An Option

Sometimes, leaving a narcissist isn't possible.

Maybe they're your parent, spouse, or even a beloved child.

Perhaps it's more complicated.

Regardless of the whys, the bottom line is that you're domestically attached to a narcissist for the foreseeable future and looking for actionable solutions to make your life easier.

So today, for you, we're breaking down 13 survival tips for living with a narcissist when leaving isn't an option.

Can You Live Peacefully With a Narcissist?

Is it possible to live with a narcissist and be happy? It's one of those questions that's impossible to address broadly because the answer is situational. It's workable for some folks; for others, not so much.

Arguably, your ability to live peacefully with a narcissist depends on setting realistic expectations and consistent boundaries in order to maintain your own mental and emotional well-being.

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Living With a Narcissist When Leaving Is Not an Option: 13 Survival Tips

Living with a narcissist you can't leave takes practice and patience.

But implementing these 13 survival tips can make the experience (and your life) much more manageable.

1. Understand the Disorder

Knowledge is power, and understanding fosters a healthy sense of clinical detachment, which helps when living with a narcissist. 

You don't need to become an unfeeling android, but you also don't need to be an emotional sponge who carries someone else's personality disorder on your back — and psyche!

2. Build Your Self-Confidence

Narcissists feast on insecurity — both their own and other people's. 

So a key component of surviving a narcissist is building and fortifying self-confidence. People who know and like themselves don't easily fall prey to emotional projection.

3. Understand the Cycle

People struggling with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) typically cycle through a four-step episodic pattern. When triggered, they:

  1. Feel threatened
  2. Act out and abuse others
  3. Shift into victimhood mode
  4. Feel empowered

Recognizing the cycle and identifying the stages allows you to quickly pull the appropriate arrow from your narcissist survival quiver.

4. Set Boundaries

Boundary setting is vital. When lines are crossed, remove yourself from the situation. Calmly explain to the person that they've overstepped your emotional Rubicon and then leave the room. 

If they follow, ignore them. Eventually, like a rowdy pup, they'll slink away and lick their wounds privately.

5. Create a Support System

Venting is a healthy and helpful way to release stress. Life is more manageable when support systems afford us a safe space to gripe.

Some people rely on close friends; others see a therapist or join an online support group. The choice is yours. 

But if you do lean on friends, remember that every life has its stresses. Be sensitive and thoughtful to other people's circumstances, and try not to morph into the narcissist of your friend group who always expects to hold the vent conch.

6. Visualize

Visualization can be a powerful narcissist survival aide. When correctly leveraged, it serves as an effective emotional shield.

How does it work?

When the narcissist in your life starts to act out, picture them as a child having a temper tantrum. The subtle shift in mindset can temper your frustration. After all, a childish fit feels a lot less threatening than a grown adult's scorn.

Many people are skeptical of this tactic and doubt it will work for them. But then they give it a shot and never look back, discovering it's one of the most helpful tips for surviving a narcissist.

7. Feed the Ego

Living with a narcissist is more “roller coaster” than “calm sailing.” There are good times and bad, highs and lows.

One way to keep things on as even a keel as possible is by feeding the narcissist's ego. But don't overdo it. 

Even pathologically self-centered people can sniff out obsequious sniveling. But throw them a bone every day. Tell them they look nice or smell good. Make them feel clever and valuable.

Fueling a narcissist's ego mitigates behavioral breakdowns. So feed the dragon! Your sanity will thank you.

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8. Learn and Avoid Their Triggers

There's nothing wrong with adopting a defensive strategy when dealing with a narcissistic husband, wife, or family member. 

People with the disorder are vulnerable to triggers. As such, it's helpful to learn what they are and how to avoid them. When navigating NPD, strategic avoidance begets calm.

9. Don’t Internalize

Narcissists can hurl exceptionally hurtful nonsense around when they're angry or threatened. You, the innocent bystander, should not care a wit about their babble. Why? Because it has nothing to do with you.

Fundamentally, most NPD cases are rooted in deep-seated insecurities. When spewing their wrath, they're actually berating parts of themselves that they see as inadequate. So don't absorb their anxieties.

10. Establish a Mindfulness Routine

The results are in: practicing mindfulness is beneficial in a myriad of ways. Meditating is the most common path to mindfulness, but that looks different for each individual. 

Some people do awareness-walk meditations, and others pray; some lie on their backs for ten minutes and focus on Mozart, while others stare at a candle flame and chant a mantra.

Whatever the method, find something that trains your parasympathetic nervous system to relax and rejuvenate. 

At first, it's not easy to calm the “monkey mind,” but once you get the hang of it, mindfulness practice can significantly improve your mental well-being and give you the fortitude to deal with a narcissist.

11. Stick Up for Yourself

People sometimes assume you can never talk back to someone with NPD. But in reality, it often works. Stay calm but firm and assert a sense of self-respect when they throw unacceptable trash at your feet.

Self-preservation is the goal. So say your piece and walk away.

12. Mourn the Loss

Everyone dreams — but they usually don't involve shaping your life around someone else's personality disorder. Alas, fate always has its own plans.

So mourn the loss of your expectations. Make peace with the fact that NPD plays a role in your journey — and always remember that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

13. Practice Grace

Compassion is a steadfast guide — especially in challenging situations. So if you find yourself at wit's end thanks to the narcissist in your life, take a deep breath and let kindness clear a path for your thoughts.

Try to remember that people don't consciously choose to have personality disorders. In many ways, it all comes down to the luck of the draw. Like any medical disease or physical injury, most humans don't want to be saddled with a mental health difference.

Replacing frustration with grace dials down the noise, inside and out.

What Does a Narcissist Do When You Try To Leave Them?

Narcissists need an audience, and they don't take kindly to losing one. So if you are considering leaving, you need to know what to expect. If you walk, they'll likely:

  • Promise to do better but rarely succeed.
  • Relentlessly pout in a bid to earn your sympathy.
  • Insist that you won't “find anyone else” as good as them.
  • Make a grandiose gesture in an attempt to manipulate the situation.
  • Talk badly about you to anyone who will listen.

Staying with a narcissist isn't easy. But if you build a toolbox of techniques to protect your heart, mind, and self-confidence, it's possible to weather the egocentric storm.

Remember, though, that physical abuse is never acceptable. If a domestic partner or relative is physically harming you, avail yourself of public and private resources that will help extricate you from the relationship.

It’s not easy, but living with a narcissist is feasible if you implement the above techniques. Good luck!