Your boyfriend is attractive, intelligent, and charming — and he makes sure everyone knows it. If you can relate to that statement, your sweetheart might be a narcissist.
Nearly 8% of American males have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a condition that's been getting lots of press lately. Narcissists often appear outgoing, confident, and fun, but feelings of shame or inadequacy lurk beneath their charismatic exterior.
A narcissist keeps his dark side under wraps, at least initially. You may not realize your boyfriend is treating you badly until you're on the verge of an emotional breakdown. It’s extremely stressful to maintain a romantic relationship with someone who has NPD because it involves a neverending roller coaster of extreme highs and lows.
You may desperately cling to the few crumbs of love that your narcissist scatters your way, praying that the worst times are behind you. You might distance yourself from your friends and family members and start to doubt your own sanity. You may even start to feel like you deserve your narcissist boyfriend's criticism and hateful comments, especially since he’s so sweet toward everyone else.
It's unfortunate that you have to deal with someone like this, but you’ll leave the relationship if and when you’re ready. In the meantime, these tips will help you survive a romantic relationship with a narcissist.
1) Accept that this is him
Your boyfriend is not behaving appropriately if he gaslights you or treats you badly after love bombing you, but you can’t change him. Accept that this is who he is right now, and find ways to preserve your own sanity while dating your boyfriend.
If your boyfriend always acts like a jerk during the holiday season, he's unlikely to stop no matter how politely you ask. If he forgets your birthday each year, he probably won't remember it this year either. You deserve someone who treats you well, but you can't force someone to be a boyfriend who is worthy of your time.
2) Know you aren’t at fault
Narcissists blame everyone but themselves when something goes wrong. It’s important to remember that it's not your fault your boyfriend has NPD. Narcissism can be genetic, and it can also stem from childhood trauma.
It’s not your fault your boyfriend screwed up that presentation at work or overslept and missed a big meeting. You didn't create a traffic jam or intentionally choose a doctor your partner hates. You may get blamed for everything bad in your boyfriend's life, including his own actions, but he's responsible for the choices he makes.
3) Establish boundaries
All relationships need healthy boundaires, but they're especially important when you're dating a narcissist. Set boundaries about intimate activities, arguments, communication styles, and whatever else you deem essential.
Narcissists are manipulators and will try to overstep these boundaries, but don't cave.
4) Don’t be an enabler
Don’t engage your narcissist or encourage his grandiose plans. When he's being ridiculous, use the gray rock or yellow rock method of communication. These both involve keeping responses short and business-like.
Don't buy your boyfriend whiskey if he's an alcoholic. Keep your money hidden if he gambles it away at the casino or buys drugs. Sure, he may find another way to get the funds he needs, but at least you won't be enabling his bad habits.
5) Stay true to yourself
It's easy to lose yourself in an unhealthy relationship. Don’t let your narcissist boyfriend drain your spirit or pressure you to give up on your goals. Spend time with friends and family regularly, and make sure your life doesn't revolve around him.
You matter, and so does your happiness. Narcissists love devaluing their victims, so cling tightly to your goals and beliefs even if your boyfriend thinks they're stupid.
6) Get help
In an ideal world, your NPD partner would also get help for his mental health problems...but that probably won’t happen. It’s best to nurture yourself in a therapeutic environment so you understand your worth and can tackle any issues that stem from narcissistic abuse.
Many women stick with narcissists because of codependency or low self esteem. You may also be overly optimistic or believe you can change your narc lover. Unfortunately, narcissists rarely change because they don't feel it's necessary. You can only change yourself and how you react to your partner's choices.
7) Have an escape plan
Decide where you will go if you leave the relationship, and figure out the exact procedure so that you don’t feel trapped. This may involve stashing cash or getting a prepaid debit card delivered to a trusted friend's house. You should also keep essential documents, such as your Social Security card or birth certificate, in an easy-to-access spot in case you're forced to flee quickly.
Dating a narcissist is difficult, but you may not be ready to leave just yet. Use these tips above to stay sane while you plan your next move, but remember that narcissistic abuse rarely ends in a relationship.