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Narcissism is a word that's now thrown around with ease and people often use (or misuse) it to explain someone who has selfish or cruel moments. True? Perhaps. However, we can all be considered narcissistic sometimes — it's part of the human condition and part of survival. We have to "put on our own oxygen masks first" to get most things done. Heck, a little narcissism can even be a positive thing to help you to achieve more, believe in yourself and have boundaries.
But when these traits start to wreak havoc on relationships across the board, there could be a problem brewing. If you're in a relationship with someone who exhibits narcissistic traits (without having a full-blown, diagnosed personality disorder), how can you cope if you're not ready to throw in the towel?
You may have a spouse or significant other who is difficult to deal with, but you're not ready to leave them. You may have a boss who is like this, but you're not able to (or willing to) quit. You may have children with these traits. Here's what to look out for:
- Charming to the outside world
- Has a significant sense of entitlement
- Needs constant compliments and accolades
- Possesses zero empathy
- Has fits of rage that are uncontrollable
- Casts blame and criticisms
- Believes others are envious of him/her
- Treats people "beneath" him with little respect
- Lies and gaslights (makes you doubt yourself and your sanity through manipulation)
If you believe you're in close quarters with one at home, work or in your circle of friends, here are some tips to help you stay sane:
1. Get your emotional needs met in other places.
Make friends with people who will let you talk and safely vent. Join a support group, hire a therapist or a coach who can help you.
2. Realize that you won't get your way too often.
If you want to stay in a relationship with this person, learn that it's going to be a lot of "my way or the highway," sadly. If they want to go out to eat at the same place every week, you may decide to just do it. The more you acquiesce, the less friction you'll experience.
3. Accept this isn't about you and you can't change them.
The only thing you can do is find tactics to deal with their behavior and know that you're not crazy, demented, idiotic or any of the things you're accused of. Protect your own self-esteem in every way possible and keep your expectations about their behavior leveled.
If their rage or anger ever turns into violence, get yourself to safety and consider ending the relationship. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has tips for planning ahead if the abuser shows signs of escalating.
4. Practice self-care.
Exercise, meditate, sleep and do things that make you happy (on your own or with your supportive friends).
5. Develop interests outside of your relationship.
Do you like art? Start painting or drawing. Maybe you've always wanted to learn French cooking. Go out and do new things — which will also help relieve the pressure you feel when you're at home with this person.
Finally, don't be afraid to leave the relationship or quit your job on the spot, if dealing with this person becomes too much to manage. You should always put yourself, and your general well being, first.