How You Can Survive Living With A Narcissist: Survival Tips That Nobody Tells

living with a narcissist

Without “whole object relations,” narcissists alternate between two extreme views of themselves and other people: either they are:

  • Special, perfect, omnipotent, and entitled (all-good), or
  • Unworthy, flawed, defective garbage (all-bad).

What this means for you, their mate is that they cannot see you in a realistic and stable manner. You, too, are either “special” or “worthless”. Narcissists can quickly switch back and forth between these two alternative views of you depending on how they feel in the moment.

This has little or nothing to do with you. Early in the relationship, they are likely to see you as perfect, flawless, and special (all-good). Then, as they get to know you and begin to see the imperfections that we all have and the ways that you differ from their ideal fantasy mate, they are likely to switch to seeing you as irredeemably flawed (all-bad).

Happiness is temporary: This lack of “whole object relations” plays itself out during the relationship on a moment-to-moment basis. This makes any happiness that the two of you ever feel together temporary and fragile. It is vulnerable to being disrupted unexpectedly because narcissists are so hypersensitive and unable to maintain a stable, positive image of you when they feel angry, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated by you.

Read: Relationship With A Vulnerable Narcissist

Narcissists lack “object constancy:” In essence, this means that the moment that your narcissistic mate feels something negative, it disrupts the positive connection between you, and everything positive flies out the window. Your whole positive history with them and everything nice that you have ever done for them is now totally out of their awareness. You are left wondering how this can happen: one minute your mate is totally loving and the two of you are so happy, the next minute your mate hates you.

The answer is that the lack of “object constancy” is a consequence of not having “whole object relations”.

Remember, if they cannot simultaneously see you as having both liked and disliked traits and behaviors and accept you as a whole person, they can only switch back and forth between loving and hating you. This switch is totally dependent on which aspect of you or which of your behaviors, the liked or the disliked, is foreground at the moment. Think of this like a camera that can only see what is immediately in front of it in the present. The past does not exist for a camera.

Example — Rosie and Al watching television

Rosie and Al were sitting on the sofa watching their favorite television show. They were happy and cuddling. Rosie got up to go to the kitchen for something and Al felt annoyed about her leaving. He thought: “How dare she interrupt our television watching like that.

She can’t really care very much for how I feel if she just gets up and leaves!” Al became more and more annoyed as he thought about it. By the time Rosie returned, he was furious and wanted to punish her. All the good feelings he had experienced a few minutes before were gone.

Rosie (still feeling all the warm feelings about Al) returned and sat back down next to him expecting to pick up where they left off. Instead, Al angrily said: “How dare you leave like that! You are so inconsiderate. Don’t you care at all about how I feel?” Needless to say, the rest of the evening did not go well and by bedtime, they were no longer speaking to each other.

If you are going to be in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to prepare yourself for situations like the above. They are inevitable. Because you and your narcissistic mate are two different people with vastly different sets of sensitivities, some comment or behavior that you see as innocuous may suddenly trigger your narcissistic mate’s underlying insecurity.

Now the good feelings disappear and he or she hates you and starts angrily devaluing you. It can be quite a shock to anyone normal. Ten minutes ago everything was fine, but now you find yourself in the middle of a nasty fight defending yourself against a host of unfair accusations. This leads us directly to the next point that you need to know.

(2) What Is Realistically Possible And What Is Not

a) Narcissists can never accept blame

How You Can Survive Living With A Narcissist: Survival Tips That Nobody Tells
How You Can Survive Living With A Narcissist: Survival Tips That Nobody Tells

Because narcissists see only two choices, they are either perfect or worthless, they are rarely willing to accept any responsibility for what they do wrong. They view accepting blame as admitting that they are flawed and worthless. If they do that, their self-esteem plummets and they are extremely vulnerable to self-hatred. They also unconsciously expect you to despise them and make them feel even worse.

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Dr. Elinor Greenberg PhD, CGP

Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP, is an internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer who specializes in teaching the diagnosis and treatment of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid adaptations in a lively and practical way. She has trained psychotherapists in her approach in the US, Norway, Sweden, Wales, England, Russia, and Mexico. Dr. Greenberg is the author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration and Safety.View Author posts