Step 1. Disengage.
Don’t be taken aback by the narcissist’s angry indignation. Don’t engage with him about it, don’t try to reason. Only consider what you yourself can control and do that, every time.
The only way a narcissist comprehends that he has done something wrong is when you refuse to accept it. It can feel like you are treading water as he shifts from his charming self to snake to get whatever he’s after, but if you know it’s wrong, don’t fall for it. Take a pause every chance you get to buy yourself time to think. Do not engage. Do not take the bait.
Step 2. Boundaries.
In my situation, my ex-husband didn’t understand boundaries until the police showed up on his doorstep. So yes, set boundaries, whatever yours are, clearly communicate them to the narcissist in writing, and keep a copy posted on your wall for yourself.
When (not if) he crosses those boundaries, immediately send a warning, in writing, and outline your next steps should the boundary continue to be crossed. The next time he crosses it, send no warning and execute the steps you outlined.
Never suggest something you are not actually willing to do. This is another key aspect of what differentiates a person with a narcissistic personality disorder: they will bluff and bluff until their house of cards falls down. Your strength is in your adherence to the boundaries you set and in the swiftness of your actions, not against the narcissist, but to protect yourself from the narcissist.
Step 3. Eliminate “fair” and “I’m sorry” from your vocabulary.
Life is not fair, so we have been told. I struggle to maintain my composure with this one, but in the eyes of a narcissist, fair isn’t a real concept. “Fair” means getting what they want. That’s fair. Anything else is unfair and thrown back on you. It’s not rational, so don’t even try to make sense of it from your own perspective and instead accept that it sucks.
Stop apologizing. Here’s why: what a narcissist hears when you apologize is that you are wrong and he is perfect. Do not apologize to a narcissist as an attempt to reason or get on the same page. It will backfire.
Step 4. Accept it.
By acceptance, I do not mean accepting the narcissist’s bullsh*t, but the sooner you accept that you cannot change someone with this type of personality disorder, the easier it will be for you. And whatever you do, don’t try to win at their game or outsmart them — you will only fuel the fire. They are stuck living with their self and imperfections forever. Lucky you.
When you have to maintain a relationship after divorce, when you’re forced to communicate together and co-parent children together, it can be easy to fall into old patterns of behavior, enabling, making excuses for, and bending just to reach a compromise. But if you do that, it will never end.
The only way to deal with this bully is to know what you need to accomplish before going in and not wavering based on their whims, lies, and attempts at manipulation. You have to work with this person despite their short-comings, but it does not mean you have to circumvent your own needs or boundaries to achieve it.
Easier said than done. I get it — I live it.
Step 5. Learn how to move on.
Behavior we refuse to accept, by its very nature, should be quicker to extinguish than behavior we intermittently reinforce or allow. In other words, if you want the narcissist’s behavior to stop, you must figure out in advance what you will accept and what you won’t. Then respond (or not respond) the same way every single time, until he gets so bored with you that he moves on.