What can I do if I’m living with a Narcissist?


If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, in his/her mind, you are an extension of him/her and he/she must always win, so his/her eruptions of temper and ego and devaluations and guilt are sharp and designed to cut you to the core, leaving you wounded.

So, in an overall sense, you will experience problems with his/her lack of honesty, humility and empathy for your feelings.

Also, he/she will have difficulties with intimacy with you. Honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings and desires with each other makes the Narcissist very scared and vulnerable, so he/she will avoid it.

He/she is unable to relate to other people other than in terms of his own inflated self-image and his unrealistic projections of himself/herself onto others, so as his/her partner you are expected to provide adulation and perfect responsiveness. When you fail to do this, you can expect to be devalued, by raging, blaming or the silent treatment.

These rapid vacillations between absolutely overvaluing (and idealising) you, and then completely devaluing you make a healthy relationship almost impossible to sustain.

The best advice is to be aware of and recognise what is happening and stand up for yourself on each occasion. How effective this strategy will be will dependent on your commitment to not back down, and his/her degree of Narcissism.

Most partners find that standing up for themselves in the relationship is fraught with difficulties, as often the Narcissist will double and treble his/her defensive responses when you start to do so, in order for you to retreat to the way you were, so realistically, most partners find that the support of a good counsellor/Psychologist who understands these challenges is usually needed.


Can your relationship be helped?

If both you and your partner are committed to make your relationship a healthy and happy one, then I believe this is worth working on.

Finding a Psychologist who is familiar and experienced with these conditions is important as Narcissism can be notoriously difficult to pick up in a few sessions if the Psychologist is not trained in this. (Education on Narcissism is taught in Psychology courses but does not fully explain the widespread occurrence of this condition, and also the full ramifications of this, particularly to the partner.

We at the Hart Centre are committed to ongoing education and training in these areas and in supporting you in managing yourself and your relationships.)

The success of relationship and marriage counselling depends on many factors, but is largely due to the commitment of both partners to see their patterns and contributions, and be willing to change. Your partner’s ability to do this will depend on his level of Narcissism.

You will often not know how willing you and your partner are to do this until you attempt to do so.  You will be able to see for yourselves over 3 to 6 sessions what real effort each of you are putting in to see the problems, own your contributions and make changes.

If, after reading the information here, you feel you are definitely living with a Narcissist, I suggest you come to the first session (or book a Skype session) on your own.

If you feel your first choice is to work on your relationship, then we can then follow this first session with a session with your partner individually, then commence couples sessions with both of you.


Plan B

I also suggest that there is a Plan B in place, so that after an agreed on number of couples sessions, if you feel you are not achieving the changes and results you want, then you continue coming to sessions on your own to look at your options and be supported in doing your own work of rebuilding your Identity, boundaries and possibly new life.

Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Can the Narcissist be helped?

Narcissists are usually extremely satisfied with themselves, therefore it follows that they see no reason to come for counselling or help when they ‘do not need any’. The fact that they are causing huge problems for others around them does not tend to enter their consciousness.

Here again, it really depends on how severe their narcissism is. The more defended a Narcissist, the less likely he/she will see himself with a problem, and the less likely he/she will stick to therapy.

A severe Narcissist will usually only admit to a problem when he/she has been abandoned, and feels destitute and devastated, when he/she feels he/she doesn’t want to feel any more of this pain.

Even when h/she does attend therapy, either as couples counselling or on his/her own, there can be a lack of follow through and continuation beyond a few initial sessions, and his/her behaviour can revert easily.

Having said that, therapy is really the only way a Narcissist has to help himself/herself lose his/her over inflated Grandiose self, his/her underlying anxiety and develop a true self with the resulting contentment and happiness that this delivers.

This needs to be initiated (and acknowledged) by the Narcissist and I believe is worth trying, even if results are mixed.


Individual Empowerment help for you as a Partner

You may choose to come for individual sessions on your own, if you prefer to continue to stay in the relationship and also work on your own self empowerment and assertiveness in your sessions with the Psychologist. If your partner’s degree of Narcissism is not severe and he/she is more benevolent, this can be worthwhile and helpful to develop your capacity to find your own strength and hold your ground with him/her.

If his/her degree of Narcissism is more severe and you would like help in breaking away from him/her, then we can assist and support you in doing so also. It can be a profound act of self love to accept who he/she is and to step away for your own well being.

As you leave a Narcissist, most partners go through the 5 phases of grief: Denial, rage, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.

Without the support of a helping knowledgeable Professional, many  partners  find it  very difficult to get past the denial stage, or repeatedly go back to their partner (in the bargaining stage), or can become stuck in rage against their partner.

Additionally, it is very easy to unwittingly “attract” another Narcissist into your life in your next relationship if you haven’t been able to look at your own patterns of why you have attracted, accommodated and tolerated this kind of behaviour.

Therefore it is important to understand, process and learn from this painful experience, so that you are rewarded with a stronger sense of self, compassion for yourself, and are able to move on to a mutually beneficial  real loving relationship in the future.


Personal Empowerment/ Recovery Program

Our Personal Empowerment/ Recovery program involves 12 steps:

  1. Insight and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of what has been happening in your relationships.
  2. Uncover and express your feelings and have these feelings and experiences validated by someone who understands what you have been experiencing.
  3. Process these emotions and recognise these patterns from past relationships, including your parents, in order to clear them from your subconscious patterns.
  4. Discovering your genuine needs and wants as an individual and in a relationship.
  5. Be aware of your feelings and manage your emotional self on a daily basis.
  6. Learn to build healthy boundaries with others, where you care for but don’t take on emotional responsibility for anyone other than yourself.
  7. Rediscover your own intuition and trust it again, rather than your partner’s negative views of you.
  8. Encouragement to believe in yourself again and recognise your magnificence.
  9. Recognising and managing the desire to go back to the unhealthy Narcissist.
  10. Help redesign your life from the inside out, trusting in yourself and who you really are.
  11. Find the Giftin this relationship for you. How have you grown in yourself as a result of these experiences?
  12. Moving onto a new equal relationship ensuring a healthy love. Narcissist screening test, and learn the ability to recognise the difference between real love and fake or controlling love.


This Individual Program is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins. This program will take from 2 to 6 sessions, depending on your needs and circumstances.


Why can it be so difficult to leave a Narcissist?

Anyone who has left a relationship with a Narcissist knows that it can be a very challenging process. Here are a few reasons why this kind of breaking up presents extra difficulties over and above leaving an ordinary relationship:

It is difficult to understand what has happened and who he/she really is. Without the inside knowledge of what Narcissism is, it is almost impossible to understand why there appears to be 2 completely different people inside him/her, how he/she can have changed so dramatically, why he/she is so nice at times and then so nasty at others, and what causes that change. Also he/she has talked about love and higher values in the beginning, but his/her real behaviour has mostly reflected selfishness and self interest.

You can keep waiting for the initial person you fell in love with to re-emerge. He/she did such an effective job of his “Sales Presentation” to you in the courting phase, seeming to be all you could have wanted in a partner, and he/she was so believable, that you just want that version of him/her to re-appear again, so you can have the relationship you thought you were going to have and have committed to, and just be able to continue with that.

But, unfortunately, the initial version of him/her that you fell in love with, is NOT REAL. The feelings, passion and intensity he/she first showered you with were all part of his/her sales presentation. This version of him/her will not come back, because there is no substance to it. It is not real. It was the lure to get you in. He/she will only use it again if he/she decides he/she wants to re-lure you back in.

It may feel unfinished in that there seemed to be so much promise that hasn’t really happened yet. He/she may well have promised you the world, and you have been left with crumbs. He/she is very capable of a great seduction and pretence when courting you, but not at all interested, nor is he/she capable, of being a real partner in any real way, with empathy and compromise from each other.

You may feel if only he/she understood how hurt you have been then it would change him/her. It can be difficult to accept that he/she really doesn’t care about how hurt you are as a result of his/her behaviour. He/she may have pretended to care initially, so you want to believe that he/she does really, but in reality he/she doesn’t, and it can be difficult to accept that you have given your love and commitment to someone who just doesn’t care how hurt you are feeling.


You can take on some of the blame your partner has thrown at you,(and continues to project onto you) and blame yourself. By the time you have decided to leave, you will have experienced your share of put downs, belittling, judgements and criticisms, both subtle and very obvious. While these constitute his/her projections of his/her own characteristics only, it is difficult not to take on some of them, particularly when he/she has repeatedly blamed you. This may leave you thinking that some of this has actually been your fault and perhaps if you tried harder, you could make it work.

Please know that while you have participated in this dance with the Narcissist, you have NOT contributed in the way you are blaming yourself. In fact you have probably tried too hard in the relationship already, and not seen that he/she has not been willing to take responsibility for his/her part in it. It is now time to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness.

There is no closure with the Narcissist. He/she will not be interested in acknowledging his/her part in the relationship ending, so you will not be able to have any shared closure with him/her. He/she may, more likely, be projecting and blaming you for everything, while keeping himself/herself squeaky clean in his/her fantasy world. He/she may also want to involve others close by, sharing his/her fantasy version of how wonderful he/she has been and how badly you have. He/she may even pathologize you to keep his/her grandiose version of himself/herself inflated.

Remind yourself that in actuality, he/she is covering his/her terror and worthlessness with a fantasy based on rationalisations and lies, and that you know in your own truth what efforts you have made.

It may be difficult to understand why he/she doesn’t really try to work on the relationship. To be willing to work on your relationship, you need to be honest and accountable, two things a true narcissist can’t tolerate. In reality, he/she doesn’t see he/she has a problem and doesn’t want the relationship to be any different from what it is. He/she has created the fantasy this way, and he/she wants it to stay this way as it is serving his/her narcissistic needs. This is usually more important than any relationship to him/her.

You may question just what in the relationship was real at all. It can be extremely mindbogglingly painful to realise that you have been taken in by a clever conman/woman and have trusted this person when he/she was far from trust worthy, and for as long as you have. Also, that his/her motives have not been to love you, as stated, but simply to gain his/her Narcissistic supply from you, a mere source for him/her.

It takes time, processing, deep soul searching, and usually assistance from a therapist experienced in Narcissism to come to the full realisation of the reality of the relationship you have been living in, and to be able to fully heal, have closure and move on to a healthier relationship. 


Check out our other videos on Narcissism:

How do I know if I’m with a Narcissist?

Why am I with a Narcissist?

What happens a Narcissist’s mind?


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)

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