Should I stay in a narcissistic relationship?
Updated: May 22
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist, Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D
So you are living with a narcissist and everyone is telling you to get out. But say if you want to stay, then what? First of all, no one, including your therapist should be telling you to want to do with your life, even if you are choosing to live with a narcissist. If there is domestic violence in the relationship, I would encourage anyone reading this to get help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Know that you are not alone and that there is help out there for you.
For those of you that are dealing with a narcissist and are choosing to stay, Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., in the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist reiterates that a narcissist is never going to change. Do narcissists find it difficult to change? It is not that they cannot change, but because they choose not. Let’s face it, being a narcissist often works for them as they seek power, success, beauty, and money. The world celebrates narcissism such as Kim Kardashian, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Kanye West and many more who are on our social media feed, their stories being followed by millions of people. Why would they want to change?
Believe it or not, narcissists have patterns of behaviors, some of which, as a partner, you may find hard to live with. The book suggests that you do an exercise where you list the behaviors that you struggle with. The reason for doing this is it helps people to understand that under that chaos the person is quite predictable. Secondly, once you have identified the behaviors that you struggle with, you can find ways in which to deal with the behaviors.
What else can help? Ramani Durvasula Ph.D., has come up with a three part-rule as a way of managing expectations. Yes, those expectations that things will be different, the person’s behavior will change over time, and with your love, you can gain a deeper relationship. Honestly, this is never going to happen.
The three-part rule consists of The Good, The Bad and The Indifferent. Starting with The Good, you get an award at work, someone compliments you on your dress, or you are just having a wonderful day. The Rule: do not share any of your good experiences in your life with your narcissistic partner. I know that sounds very extreme, but in the book, the author encourages you to think about the last five times you have told your partner good news. What happened? If you do have a narcissistic partner then the probability is that they either mocked you, ignored or degraded you, yet you go back every time expecting a different response.
So why do you choose to share your good news with your partner when you know how they will react? Is it because you think they will change, that this time it will be different? The fix is that you make a list of people that you can share your good news with. Your friends and family, those people that are going to be your cheerleaders, the ones who believe in you. After you have told everyone you have two choices (1) do not tell your partner or (2) tell your partner after you have told everyone else.
the bad is bad news that you do not want to tell your partner but sometimes may have to. You have lost your job, the car is not working, you have argued with a friend, and the list can go on. The Rule: breaking the bad news down, it can be placed into three buckets: (1) bad news that just affects you such as difficulties in the workplace, an argument with friends, or a bad day (2) bad news that has implications for your family such as job loss, a broken down car, problems at school and (3) bad news that raises extremely vulnerability in you such as in a death in the family, illness or health issues.
For issues affecting you, The fix:
remember the last five times that you have bought the issue to your partner and they had no empathy for you, did not want to be inconvenienced by what was happening, and had no time for this negativity, especially if they were in a good mood. As with telling people the good things, again find people that can be empathetic with you when bad things happen and you need to talk about it.
For those issues that involve your partner, Ramani Durvasula Ph.D., recommends that you prepare yourself before telling them. Say the facts as they are, what you have done and what the result will be. For example, “the car was damaged by a pothole, I got it towed and the final estimate is $2000 but we have a deductible of $1000” and then “let the fireworks fly” states Ramani Durvasula Ph.D.
If you are going to stick this relationship out, then you need to take care of yourself, especially if you have bad news that raises extreme vulnerability in you. View this as a journey and engage in behaviors such as getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, and meditation. You need to look after yourself and be there for yourself as you are for your partner.
The Indifferent: talk about the minutiae in life such as the weather, the new shopping center that opened up in town or the bird that landed on your windowsill. The Rule is to pay attention to the small things that will become your topic of conversation or your go-to. Talking to your partner about these things will not hold an emotional charge for you if you are criticized, mocked or neglected. The fix is that you will start to pay attention to the things around you, essentially engaging in mindfulness. Remember we do not want to be in a silent relationship so having these discussions will hopefully avoid the negative feelings that you may feel when having any discussion with your partner.