Post-fight reality: The next morning Al woke up in a better mood and went to give Rosie a hug. He was shocked when she rejected his physical advances. “What’s the matter with her?” he wondered. Of course, last night’s fight was totally out of his consciousness because now he felt good. Rosie, however, blamed him for starting an unnecessary and ridiculous fight that had ruined their evening and said so.
Rosie wanted Al to take responsibility for the fight. Al, being a narcissist interpreted this as Rosie wanting him to feel humiliated, and instead of accepting his share of the blame, he shifted total responsibility for the fight to her. “If you hadn’t suddenly decided to get up and leave, everything would have been fine.” Now they were back fighting again.
b) Narcissists do not apologize
Because narcissists find it too humiliating to accept blame, they are unlikely to ever be willing to apologize—even when they clearly know that they were wrong. It is therefore highly unrealistic to expect a narcissistic mate to apologize.
The reparative gesture: Narcissists will often later make sweet little gestures that are equivalent to an apology, like buying you a present or letting you pick where to go out to dinner. If you want the relationship to continue on a better note, accept their reparative gesture without demanding an apology.
Al’s gift to Rosie: On some level, Al knew he had contributed to their fight and had overreacted to Rosie’s behavior. He decided to buy her a pretty gold bracelet that he knew she would like. That night over dinner, he took out the box with the bracelet and said, “Here, I saw this and thought of you.” Rosie fussed over the gift, immediately kissed and thanked Al and never mentioned the fight again. She understood that the gift was the apology that he was unable to put into words and that it was now time to move on.
Rosie also had a comforting thought that she did not share with Al: “I think that, given how things have been going, I am going to get a lot of jewelry in this relationship and very few apologies. I will have to remind myself of that when he starts our next fight.”
c) Pick your battles
You need to be prepared to let minor, unintended insults go. It is best to carefully pick your battles. If you tell your narcissistic mate every single time he or she hurts your feelings, the relationship will sour, you will find yourself in a continuous state of war, and nothing will be gained. Save those fights for serious and intentional insults that cross certain boundaries that you are prepared to defend by leaving the relationship. And, you must be prepared to leave the relationship, if your narcissist refuses to respect those boundaries. Most narcissists will say and do anything that they feel like if you let them.
d) Narcissists are unwilling to process past fights
After a fight with your mate, you may want to go back and discuss what went wrong and how to do it better next time. Narcissists will usually refuse to do this because it feels as if you are rubbing their nose in their past mistakes.
Use “we” language: It will work better if you use “we” language and talk about how the two of you want things to go forward in the future.
Example: “I know we both love each other and want things to go well. I think that we can both agree that in the future we both need to be extra kind to each other and a bit more mindful about how we phrase things.”
(3) Decide Where Your Boundaries Are And Defend Them
This means that you need to be clear about what sort of narcissistic bad behavior is tolerable and which is intolerable. Left to their own devices, narcissists will cross most lines that other people automatically respect.
a) Narcissists do not respect (or even notice) other people’s boundaries
For example, many narcissists think nothing about criticizing your taste in clothes, your relatives, or your most dearly held beliefs. Many will hit below the belt (what belt?) in a fight and say ugly and disgusting things to you and afterward act as if nothing happened.
Example—Betty and David and cheating
Betty’s boyfriend David found evidence that while he was away on a trip, she had reconnected with an old boyfriend. When he confronted her, she said, “You are a fat, ugly pig. I am doing you a favor by having sex with you. You should be grateful and shut up!”
Betty was surprised when David said that she had crossed a boundary and that he never wanted to see her again. When she realized that he meant it, she begged him to stay and give her another chance.