There are many challenges in any relationship. However, being in a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely toxic and destructive. In some types of relationships, simply leaving and disengaging from the narcissist is the best solution.
Some relationships are very difficult to leave. Relationships with the parent of your child or children or narcissist parents, siblings, or family members can be entanglements that are difficult to end.
In these situations, changing your behavior is critical to limit the damage of being around the narcissist. Recognizing when you are falling into the trap of having to defend your decisions and explain your choices is a critical skill to develop to maintain effective boundaries and protect yourself from emotional abuse in the relationships with narcissists.
Defending and Explaining
Most narcissists engage in some level of gaslighting and accusations. It is human nature to want to correct the record and defend yourself against accusations, but this only adds fuel to the fire.
Narcissists feed on emotion. The more they can stir up emotions in others, the more they feel in control and superior to those around them. They also have a distorted version of what is occurring, and they are not going to see how their actions contributed to the problem. In the same light, they assume everyone’s motives are negative, as their own emotions come from a place of deep insecurity and distrust.
Engaging in any type of explanation of your decisions or actions is not effective with the narcissist. He or she is not capable of trying to see any other perspective than the one they hold to be true. They are incapable of seeing their own bad behaviors, and it is simply easier to blame you. The more you try to convince them of the justification for your actions, decisions, or behaviors, the more they see your defense or explanation as a sign of guilt and wrongdoing.
Stop the Cycle
Narcissists will not change. They will not become compassionate or empathetic, and they rarely change their perspective to accept they are wrong. Continuing to argue, defend, or explain only creates a cycle that only benefits the narcissist.
To stop this cycle, you must be the one to act. The following tips and strategies can be used to help to stop the cycle and to allow you to gain confidence when interacting with a narcissist:
- Learn to ignore – when accusations or statements are made that are false or misleading, learn to ignore them. Recognize this is their misguided perception and that trying to defend yourself or explain why you did what you did only puts fuel on the fire.
- Stick to the topic – narcissists often use blame and accusations to avoid difficult conversations. Knowing what you need to say and getting that message across without being distracted is critical.
- Know your boundaries – knowing what you will and will not accept in behavior is critical. Set your boundaries and communicate them to the other person in times when they are able to focus.
- Walk away – knowing when to simply end the conversation and hang up or walk away is essential. This comes from having clearly defined boundaries and also having a plan.
Managing interactions with a narcissist will always be a challenge. Working with a therapist or counselor helps build your skills and allows you to develop a plan on how to interact in a way that protects your emotional well-being.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love and Wake Up Recovery for Codependents