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SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH A NARCISSIST

Updated: Nov 21, 2021


We tend to allow the narcissist to define us. They become the almighty dictators of our lives and as master manipulators they twist our thinking and damage our self-esteem. They view themselves as entitled and special. They will project their own insecurities and damaged selves on to us. Rather than accepting any responsibility or being accountable, they call us demanding, crazy, or argumentative.


Slowly, we give away our power and allow the narcissist to dictate terms. Using empty threats, intimidation and abusive comments, we are filled with fear. The narcissist always seeks control and will say and do whatever they need to ensure they have it. It's difficult to stand firm in the face of a narcissist who threatens us with the things we hold dear, our children, our friends, family, our careers and the things we've worked hard to achieve. We lose our sense of self and begin to believe what the narcissist tells us. We begin to believe that we are unreasonable and selfish and are the cause of tension in the relationship, when in reality it’s the narcissist.


Three main types of boundaries you need to set with the narcissist: physical, emotional and psychological. Narcissists will feed on our dependence on them which will further fuel they desire to control us.


Setting boundaries with a narcissist is essential. Good boundaries include consequences. Part of setting boundaries is knowing what you are prepared to do if your boundaries are ignored. Consequences are best when they are clear in your mind ahead of time. Then, when a boundary is violated, act on your chosen consequence immediately, decisively, every single time. Otherwise, you may lose credibility.


EXIT PLAN

When you find yourself being drawn into an unhealthy interaction with the narcissist, have a clear exit plan. You do not need to give an explanation, but rather respond by explaining you remembered you need to make a call, use the bathroom, or collect something from the car. This gives you a technique for exiting a toxic circular conversation that is harmful to you and excitement for the narcissist.


HAVE AN AGENDA

Ensure that communication with the narcissist has a clear agenda. They will endeavour to sabotage the conversation. Stick to your agenda and take the narcissist back to what you were discussing. Be aware of the shift in conversation and re focus on the topic. Refuse to take their bait and argue points that are irrelevant. Simply remind them that you were discussing the children being collected from school- so that needs to be resolved first. Be firm and calm.


ATTENTION SEEKING BEHAVIOUR

The narcissist loves the attention being on them and expects you to give them what they want. Be aware of their performance and refuse to acknowledge or participate. If they become unreasonable and troublesome, leave the room.


DON’T OVERSHARE

The less you share with him the better. If they try to commit or interrogate you about decisions you make, have a good response such as, I feel comfortable with my decision or thank you for your feedback, I’ll keep that in mind. You will never be privy to details about what the narcissist is up to and in many cases, you will be the last to find out that he’s bought a new car or been having coffee with a female from his workplace.


NO JUSTIFICATION

You do not have to explain yourself to a narcissist as they will never give you the same respect. Refrain from being drawn in to explaining what you need or why you do something. The narcissist will demand to know why you stack the dishwasher in a certain way or why you decided to have your hair cut shorter. Simply say, I like it this way or that’s your choice, not mine.


CLEVER RESPONSES

When the narcissist begins forcing their views and opinions on you about issues you are trying to resolve, have your responses ready. A simple question or comment about a remark you make can quickly escalate into a rage fueled rant. Observe the behaviour and do not attempt to have yourself heard. Simply observe and make an observation, commenting, “Hmm, it’s a shame we can’t have a healthy conversation or resolve problems together." Leave the conversation there.



LEARN TO PREDICT

Narcissists are highly predictable as is their inability for taking personal responsibility for any problems. Do not expect the narcissist to change or become reasonable. They have clear manipulative and dysfunctional patterns of communication. When setting boundaries don't expect or look for the narcissist to agree or concede. Simply decide what you will accept and what is appropriate for you. Watch for situations that may escalate and place you in a stressful position. Direct confrontation with the narcissist will result in further manipulation and narcissistic rage, which can cause you to remain entrenched in the cycle of abuse.



DETACH

This is a state of being objective and aloof. When you identify that the narcissist’s manipulation and communication is toxic, be aware of your own capacity to display indifference and disinterest in them. By recognising your own feelings of discomfort and situations that are triggering, remind yourself of what is happening. Breathe deeply and detach. These are your boundaries and restrictions to protect yourself from the narcissist’s emotional and mental abuse. You may choose a nonverbal signal of raising your hand to stop and leave the room. You might tell the narcissist; I just need some space right now and remove yourself from him. It is important to stay calm when faced with a narcissist’s provocations through text, phone calls or e-mails. Always appear stoic and nonplussed. Forget any type of revenge or action you may be planning; narcissists feed off your emotional responses to them (whether positive or negative) as attention, and they live for this drama.



Refocus on yourself and on rebuilding a better life. Stop giving the narcissist your energy. It’s exhausting and futile. It won’t be long until you’re moving forward, living an amazing life and thinking less and less of the person who once frightened you with their cruel demands and difficult and unmanageable behaviours.


Want to learn more?

One on one coaching and counselling is available now via ZOOM, Facetime or telephone.


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