If you’re in a relationship with a toxic narcissist (or have ever been in one), you might have a few boundary issues, am I right? One of the hardest parts about being involved with a narcissist is learning to set firm boundaries with them. Narcissists tend to have poor boundaries themselves. Not only do they feel they need to win and to maintain power, but they most certainly do not like others setting boundaries with them.
To establish healthy boundaries, you need to be clear with your partner who you are, what you want, your beliefs and values, and specifically what your limits are. Narcissists do not allow this. They are known for pushing and stepping on boundaries in order to manipulate and control you more easily.
Some narcissists even feel that they’re not bound by the law, so they won’t even follow court orders. When you think about that, you can easily see why they find personal boundaries so easy to step all over and ignore.
That’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why it’s so hard to set boundaries with narcissists and specifically how you can overcome this and successfully do exactly that.
The Codependent’s Guide to Setting Healthy Boundaries After a Toxic Relationship
Worth noting: If you can’t go “No Contact” with a Narcissist because you have children with them, or you are somehow unable to get them out of your life for whatever reason, you can implement a technique called “Gray Rock”. Gray Rock is where you become as exciting and interesting as, well, a gray rock.
Ever been stuck in the middle of an argument between two people? If so, you know exactly how gut-wrenching it can be – and that could not be more true when one or more of these people is a toxic narcissist. That’s because toxic people have a tendency to use triangulation, which is a manipulation tactic often employed by narcissists.
What is narcissistic triangulation?
More specifically, triangulation is what we call it when the narcissist communicates as a third party between two people but prevents the two from communicating directly through either manipulating or controlling at least one of them.
What does this mean exactly? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today at QueenBeeing – how to identify and deal with triangulation in a toxic relationship – how and why narcissists put you in the middle of their arguments and conflicts with others; plus, how you can end that, fast.
So, there’s a woman I know, let’s call her Sally, who’s best friend Molly always seems to put her romantic conquests above Sally. At first, it didn’t bother Sally much, because while it could be frustrating to watch, she knew that Molly was looking for Mr. Right pretty actively – and she totally supported that.
But recently, Sally finds herself feeling angry that Molly keeps canceling their plans in favor of a guy who she swears is “the one” – and it doesn’t seem to matter how important the plans are or how long they’ve been in place – if this guy calls, Molly drops everything.
Rather than just talking to Molly and explaining how she’s feeling – how she feels like she doesn’t matter to Molly when she blows her off, Sally goes toxic.
See, Sally works with the guy’s sister – let’s call her Becky – and one day, while they are on break together, Sally spills the tea.
She tells Becky that Molly is obsessed with her brother, and how she is worried that the relationship is going too fast. She might even hint around that Molly has a history of being obsessive with her boyfriends in the past, and halfway “warn” Becky to keep a close eye on the situation.
Then, Sally asks Becky to keep it to herself – to not say a word to her brother because she’s not trying to interfere in their relationship.
On her end, Becky feels worried and protective of her brother. She doesn’t want to break Sally’s trust, but she also worries that her brother has a right to know. So she begins to obsessively spend time with the new couple and before long, her brother feels like she’s smothering him and asks her to back off.
While all of this is going on, Molly begins to feel more distant from Sally and mentions to her boyfriend that Sally seems more distant recently.
Molly asks her boyfriend not to say anything to anyone because she doesn’t want to cause any trobule. She assures him she’s just venting.
So, rather than just dealing with each other, Sally and Molly end up complaining to other people, and then end up never addressing the actual issue that is causing the problem – the fact that Molly always puts her boyfriend above Sally, even when they already had plans made.
Meanwhile, Molly continues to ignore Sally for her boyfriend, and while she feels stuck in the middle of Sally and her boyfriend, she can’t help but feel some resentment toward both Becky (her boyfriend’s “smothering” sister), who has started to behave this way as a result of Sally bringing her into a situation that had nothing to do with either of them.
Narcissists and Triangulation
This kind of stuff happens between people all the time, and the pattern of triangulation can become the very reason that many people find themselves feeling heartache – not to mention ending their relationships.
Being stuck between two people in an argument, conflict or general disagreement is really difficult on an emotional and psychological level, especially for those of us who are or have been codependent with a toxic person. And while you may be tempted to take sides or offer advice to one or more of the parties involved, it’s best to steer clear and remain neutral when a narcissist is involved.
Sure, there are times when a well-placed nugget of wisdom can literally fix a problem someone’s having with another person. That’s when it helps to offer insight and advice when you see what could help (as is often the case when you’re connected but not directly involved, a third-party perspective can often be useful). But sometimes, especially with smart, stubborn people like narcissists, you have to stay out of a situation and let people deal with it on their own.
Don’t Waste Your Breath! Narcissists Don’t Take Your Advice
See, in general, most narcissists just aren’t receptive to advice unless they choose to be. You might say they work on pure energy and emotion, so when the energy and emotion aren’t entirely positive, they cannot focus on what’s really happening and everything becomes clouded, distorting their thoughts and sense of being present.
Their every interaction becomes tinged by the negativity and they begin to see it spill into other parts of their lives – most notably, their relationships. So if you push them to fix their issues, you’ll simply become part of that negative energy they feel and they’ll direct it to you as well.
And you know what happens then, right?
Triangulation – the narcissist begins to play you and the other person off each other and then it gets even worse: you become a source of narcissistic supply. But if you take a different road and literally refuse to get involved, you actually do the narcissist and his current victim a favor.
If the issue is resolvable and if resolving it matters to the narcissist, they’ll get through it, one way or another. This is even more probable if the relationship is important for him or her.
It might be painful to watch but you’ve got to just look away while they work through it – even if you are certain that your advice could really change things. By choosing to let go of stuff and work through it on their own, their relationship remains their own, and your own nose stays clean. I don’t know – that sounds like a win-win to me. How about you?
Are you struggling to break away or recover from a toxic relationship with a narcissist? Here are some helpful resources for you.
Are you dealing with someone in your life who is spreading rumors and lies about you? Are you feeling like everyone’s against you because of these lies? Is someone exaggerating the truth or just plain making up stories about you in order to make people think you’ve done something to hurt them, or that you deserve to be punished or ignored?
Are you dealing with a narcissist’s smear campaign?
Narcissists have a funny way of doing anything they can to maintain appearances to people who aren’t really very important in their lives, while at the same time, caring very little about how they’re perceived by the people closest to them. One way they show this is through the liberal use of smear campaigns used against loved ones as part of their relationship cycles. The worst part is that people often believe the lies the narcissist spreads and this can lead to the complete destruction of your life as you know it.
What is a smear campaign?
A smear campaign is a manipulation tactic in which the narcissist spreads rumors and lies about you in order to socially or otherwise isolate you, as well as to get additional narcissistic supply in the form of support or pity from those who are hearing their latest “sob story.” Smear campaigns are most often used by the narcissist when you have discarded them (or they have discarded you).
For instance, if you cut your narcissistic mother out of your life, then she will go around telling the extended family and others in the community what a terrible person you are. She might say that you had stolen from her (which you never have done), and did everything you could to cause damage (which you never did).
They will tell plenty of lies about you (which the narcissist actually might see as “truth,” as they can be quite delusional).
They will ruin you in order to protect their image, hide their insecurities, and they never hold themselves accountable for anything they do. Any victim of a narcissist will be a scapegoat.
Why do people fall for the narcissist’s smear campaign?
There is one basic reason that people will fall for a narcissist’s smear campaign. That is due to the fact that narcissists are extremely manipulative and convincing to the point that they are excellent liars. Narcissists know exactly how to make you look like the bad one and will get others to believe their lies about you.
For many, you will look like the bad one that the narcissist successfully portrayed you to be. Some people may always believe them. However, eventually, the narcissist’s true colors will shine right through. Some people will see that the narcissist is just that, a narcissist which will make them think twice about what they had said about you.
So, if you are planning to cut a narcissistic parent out of your life, or separate from a narcissistic partner or friend – be prepared. Know that they will create a smear campaign about you that can easily ruin your reputation. However, the decent people who may believe them at first will eventually see the truth once they see the narcissist’s true colors.
Who is Involved in the narcissist’s smear campaign?
You guessed it – narcissists don’t usually “go it alone” when it comes to smear campaigns. They have a special group of people who help them do their bidding. This can be a group of one or more – and we call them “flying monkeys.” Flying monkeys, for the record, are those people who willingly or otherwise do the narcissist’s bidding and support their agenda. They are essentially the enablers of the narcissist.
Truthfully, there is very little you can do once the smear campaign has already started. But don’t waste your breath trying to defend yourself. If the narcissist gets to someone who you trust, give them one chance to hear your side of the story – and if they don’t understand and/or believe it, you might want to back off for a short time (or longer) until this whole thing blows over. But those who know and trust you should stick with you. Those who don’t might not have been your people in the first place. This video offers a “don’t get mad, get even” technique for how to deal with the narcissist’s smear campaign.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Have you ever been upset with something someone did or said, and when you went to confront them, they turned the tables on you? Then suddenly you found yourself being the one begging for an apology? If so, stick with me, because this video is for you.
This behavior is an incredibly common manipulation tactic called “deflection,” and it is often used by narcissists to sort of get out of trouble – as in, to avoid taking any responsibility for their behavior.
The goal, of course, is to shift your attention from what they’ve done wrong to you and what you’ve done wrong, in their eyes.
It’s ugly, to say the least – and can make you feel completely lost.
Narcissistic deflection, one of the most common behaviors of toxic people.
Narcissists are becoming quite infamous these days for their honed manipulation tactics, the best-known of which is called gaslighting.
In case you’re new around here, gaslighting is a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
One of the most effective kinds of gaslighting is when a narcissist sort of “flips the script” on you during an argument.
So, if you’re coming to the narcissist with a problem or issue that is bothering you – or more specifically, something the toxic person has done or said, they will absolutely refuse to address it.
Rather than taking responsibility for this behavior, they deflect and immediately go into “attack” mode, where they throw the ball back in your court by bringing up something you may or may not have actually done – related or not.
This puts you on the defense, as you’re being accused of some horrible deed or something is being blown out of proportion – or, in some cases, they may actually even project their OWN behavior on to you.
I have dubbed this practice the “narcissistic flip,” and have found that it’s a regularly employed manipulation technique for many narcs.
The “flip” happens most often when you make a valid point about their behavior or have the nerve to question the narcissist about anything at all.
If you dare to address this little flip, you find yourself distracted from the original issue you came in with.
Then, of course, the conversation becomes confusing and overwhelming as you try to find clarity and address all of these accusations.
That’s about the time everything turns around and suddenly, you’re the one who’s sorry (mostly that you bothered engaging in yet another pointless argument).
Now, you’re dealing with someone who absolutely has no interest in understanding you. Rather, this person’s goal is to dominate you through extreme mischaracterization so they can win this now-pointless argument.
How does it happen? In this video, we will look at an example of how a narcissist will flip the script during an argument.
You might say that narcissists have their own personal harem dedicated to being dedicated sources of narcissistic supply.
In fact, when we are talking about a “narcissistic harem,” we are talking abt a group or “collection” of friends/admirers (AKA sources of narcissistic supply) that a narcissist gathers up to keep them topped up on their daily supply of love and admiration.
Since no single individual person could ever fill the void that is the hole inside a narcissist’s soul, they seek to fill it with whomever they can – and often these relationships are interchangeable.
How does “narcissistic recycling” work?
The narcissist has their group of “options” – AKA their little harem – and while there may be an occasional new addition or temporary member of the group, there are a few who remain in place for years or even decades.
But in any case, the “re-idealization” part is often facilitated by the hoover maneuver.
You might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.
What is hoovering?
Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.
What are the signs of a hoovering narcissist?
The first thing you need to remember here is that there is no level to which a narcissist won’t stoop – nothing is off-limits for them. Here are a few ways narcissists might engage in hoovering you. (Details on each are included in this video)
Finally saying that one thing you’ve been dying to hear.