It's no secret that TikTok has taken off as perhaps the most popular social media platform. One of the benefits of TikTok is that it has become a forum for social activism. In fact, a recent study found that TikTok is full of communities that provide a safe place for discussion surrounding various social problems, and people are quickly able to spread their messages using this platform. What's even more encouraging is the fact that many videos that call attention to social issues follow TikTok's rules for video creation, suggesting that users are able to engage in social activism while remaining respectful.
One area of social activism that has come to the forefront on TikTok is the topic of narcissistic abuse. Numerous creators provide education on narcissism, including signs that suggest your partner is a narcissist, as well as strategies for coping. Some users simply provide informational videos that remind others they are not alone if struggling with an abusive relationship with a narcissistic partner.
One common theme that appears in many narcissistic abuse communities is advice that encourages victims to leave the relationship and find better for themselves. While this might be the most common approach, sometimes, victims aren't looking for support in leaving. In some instances, the partner of a narcissist wonders whether it's possible to be happy in the relationship, and how to achieve happiness with a narcissist.
Is it even possible to be happy when your partner is a narcissist? The answer to the question varies based upon the severity of the abuse in the relationship. Of course, if your partner is physically violent or places you or other family members, such as children, in danger, it is essential that you do whatever is necessary to keep yourself safe, including ending the relationship or seeking safety outside of the home.
If you feel safe in your relationship, love your narcissistic partner, and are committed to making the relationship work, while still maintaining some semblance of peace and happiness, the following strategies may be helpful:
1. Recognize Where the Abusive Behavior Originates
Abuse in a relationship is never excusable, but sometimes, recognizing where your partner's narcissistic abuse originates from can help you to have some compassion and be more effective with helping them correct abusive behaviors. Consider the fact that a study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that adverse childhood experiences, like abuse and neglect, were linked to the development of narcissistic personality disorder. What this means is that a partner who engages in narcissistic abuse may be utilizing abusive tactics as a defense mechanism or because they grew up in an environment where love and abuse went hand in hand. This can make it difficult to have healthy, loving adult relationships, since what we witness as a child sets a blueprint for future relationships. Again, this fact does not excuse narcissistic abuse in relationships, but it provides a context for the abuse and may help you to understand that your partner is not a monster but instead someone in need of healing.
2. Understand That the Abuse Has Nothing to Do With You
A narcissistic partner is likely to engage in tactics like name-calling, putting you down, and convincing you that you are to blame for all the problems in the relationship. They use these strategies to make you believe that you are terribly flawed and somehow deserving of their abuse. Over time, the narcissist's strategies destroy your self-esteem, so you feel you have no choice but to stay in the relationship, since no one else will want someone as damaged as you. As the relationship carries on, the narcissist's partner can begin to feel hopeless and quite frankly worthless, which can make it difficult to function. While this is often the case, the reality is that life with a narcissistic spouse or significant other becomes much easier when you realize that their degrading and cruel behavior has nothing to do with you, and instead is an outward projection of their own internal wounds. It may be easier said than done, but it is critical, if you want to remain in a relationship with a narcissist, that you find ways to develop your confidence and recognize that you are worthy of love, despite what your partner might do to try to convince you of otherwise.
3. Learn to Set Boundaries
In most relationships between a narcissistic and non-narcissist, the narcissist holds the power in the relationship and violates their partner's boundaries. This means the partner is left with no sense of privacy and will often sacrifice their own needs to keep the narcissist happy. Eventually, the victim in the relationship becomes a doormat who does not stand up for their own needs and has allowed to narcissist to get away with repeatedly violating boundaries. If you want to maintain your sense of independence, it's critical that you set boundaries with the narcissist. This means you may have to walk away from conversations that become abusive, or set ground rules about what behavior you won't accept. The narcissist may become angry when you attempt to set boundaries, but whatever behavior you allow will continue. The power dynamic in the relationship changes when you set boundaries to protect yourself and hold your partner to these boundaries. You may be fearful that the narcissist will leave the relationship if you do not continue to be a doormat for them, but staying in a relationship in which you have no sense of self and are not able to set reasonable boundaries is not worth the pain.
4. Practice Self-Care
Even when things are going well, relationships with a narcissistic partner are challenging. The process of setting boundaries and taking insults with a grain of salt can take its toll. The behaviors that come alongside narcissistic personality disorder, which is a diagnosable mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, can make it difficult to stay happy. For example, some diagnostic criteria for narcissism include arrogant or haughty behavior, inability to show empathy for others, and a need for constant admiration. Being exposed to these behaviors can make life rather stressful, which means it is helpful to find outlets. Practicing self-care, whether through exercise, meditation, or doing a hobby you enjoy, can be essential for your wellbeing. You can also care for yourself by getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and taking time to take care of your physical appearance so you feel your best. It can also be helpful to reach out to supportive friends and family members, even just for a quick phone call. When you care for yourself and have outlets outside of the relationship, you will be better prepared to cope with the stressors of living with a narcissist.
5. Focus on the Positive Qualities Your Partner Has
When stuck in the middle of an abusive relationship with a narcissist, it can be hard not to focus on all of your partner's negative qualities, but it can change your mindset and uplift your spirits if you remember your partner does have redeeming qualities. After all, there was something that attracted you to your partner in the initial stages of the relationship. Narcissists tend to be charming, attractive, and outgoing, and at times, they can even be intoxicating. These same qualities probably keep you hooked on the relationship. Narcissists are often described as also being passionate in bed, which can keep a relationship exciting. In addition, narcissists want the best of everything, and they hold people to high standards. While this can be framed as a negative attribute, in some cases, people report that their narcissistic partners actually drive them to achieve their goals and become the best versions of themselves. When you're having a bad day with your partner, remember these high points of the relationship.
6. Seek Professional Intervention
People who are in love with narcissists often daydream that their partners will magically be healed of their narcissism if only the partner loves them harder or does a better job meeting their needs. Unfortunately, this is not reality; if it were, TikTok would not have an entire community devoted to helping people recover from narcissistic abuse. In order to heal from childhood trauma and correct the behavioral patterns that have served as a defense mechanism for long-lasting wounds, narcissists must attend therapy. In many cases, it can be difficult to convince a narcissist to seek treatment, because they have convinced themselves that everyone else is the problem. If you cannot persuade your partner to seek treatment, at the very least, you would benefit from working with a therapist to learn strategies for coping with stress and elevating your own self-esteem.
7. Finally, Remember That the Narcissist Was Attracted to You For a Reason
Keep in mind that narcissists think they are special and deserving of only the best. This means they only want to associate with and be seen with successful, wealthy, attractive people. The fact that they pursued a relationship with you means that the narcissist sees you as valuable and knows that you are a worthy partner, even if they do not admit to this fact. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for catching the attention of someone who is not easy to please.
While the above strategies can make life with your narcissistic partner easier, they do not guarantee a successful relationship. You may have to give these strategies time to work before you begin to notice positive changes in your relationship, and in some instances, even your best efforts may not make the relationship tolerable. Ultimately, you must decide if the good times in your relationship are enough to outweigh the challenges of being with a narcissist. If at any time, you are not safe with the narcissist, it is critical to seek help, especially if physical violence has become a part of your relationship.