Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

“I stood up as best I could to their disgusting stupidity and brutality, but I did not, of course, manage to beat them at their own game. It was a fight to the bitter end, one in which I was not defending ideals or beliefs but simply my own self.” ~George Grosz

This is how you beat the narcissist at his own game

So, you are involved in a relationship with a narcissist, and life is kind of difficult, to say the least.

Are you tired of the insults, the mean looks and the general gaslighting? Is someone’s narcissistic behavior giving you a really good reason to finally say you’ve had enough?

Do you want to learn how to play the narcissist’s game so that you can beat him at it?

We’ll get to that…but before we do, let me ask you something.

Would you agree that the narcissist cares just as much about how he’s perceived as he does about how YOU behave inside your relationship? Is he or she always the one who calls the shots – whether directly or indirectly?

When I say directly, I mean by literally setting the rules; or indirectly, by manipulating every situation to his or her advantage. So, inside the relationship, the narcissist is controlling, often of every single aspect, to say the very least.

In short: would you agree that it’s always ABOUT the NARCISSIST?

Assuming you would, let me ask you another question: would you agree that people who don’t know the narcissist as well as you do may see him or her as a very generous, selfless or fun-to-be-around type of person?

That’s what you call the narcissistic conundrum – sort of his secret sauce – the “duel personality” thing.

He’s one person at home (or in private) and another person in public or around “outsiders.” He’s one of those guys who’s nicer to strangers than he is to the people he loves.

(But as one of his favorite forms of narcissistic supply, you already know that his “generosity” is always equipped with proper strings.)

Oh, and then there’s the fact that you can’t always count on a narcissist to explode when something’s wrong in his little world – you’ll also have the covert narcissist types who will often just shut down and force you to figure out what you did wrong this time. And this one may not speak to you for days or weeks, even.

Playing the Game: The Rules of Toxic Narcissism

The apparent objective of the game is self-preservation – but there’s a twist! (Isn’t there always?)

The twist is that you’ve got to discover the tipping point between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to this game.

If you focus too much on self-preservation, you may find yourself exhibiting certain classic narcissistic behaviors. But if you focus too little on it, you find yourself being a typical “narcissistic abuse victim.” (See how I didn’t say “SURVIVOR” there?)

During the course of a relationship with a narcissist, especially a toxic one, you’re going to find yourself sliding back and forth on a sort of track betweeen the two extremes.

So, the actual objective of the game is to simply keep spinning, stay on that sliding track and inside of the narcissist’s so-called harem. To just simply KEEP THE GAME GOING.

Another super-fun fact about narcissists?

They like to play both sides; that is, one day, they might play a victim who needs rescuing (damsel in distress, anyone?) while the next day, they’ll find center stage by becoming someone’s savior.

The Players

Your role as a player in the narcissistic game is fluid – sometimes, you’ll be the victim who needs to be rescued. And when the narcissist wants to be rescued? You’ll be the hero.

Either way, don’t try to steal his spotlight. He won’t like that one bit.

But then again, sometimes, the narcissist will need to crush someone’s soul – and guess what friend? That’d be your role, too – the crushee, of course.

The Rule That Overpowers All Rules

No matter what, you must keep the game going. It’s absolutely necessary for both parties to participate if one of you (the narcissist) is going to win in the end.

Oh yes, that’s the last rule: you WILL NOT win. You can’t, because even if by all logical standards and opinions, you are the clear-cut winner, the narcissist will never, ever acknowledge, admit or encourage you to discuss it. He will instead find literally any reason to place the fault on someone else and to artificially elevate his own fragile ego.

So, in short:

1. The object of the game is to keep the game going.
2. The biggest rule of the game is that both parties must participate in the game.
3. The other rule of note is that you cannot win the game.

Okay, so let me ask you: why are you playing this game again?

Here is how you win that game – the ONLY move that will save you: you get the hell out of it. You leave, you quit, you end it. GAME OVER.

That is how you beat the narcissist at his game. You leave.

That’s it.

This video will offer you more actionable strategies on how to play the narcissist’s game and beat them at it.

Need help getting back your power after a narcissist’s abuse? Sign up for my free e-course. 

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27 Responses to How to Play the Narcissist’s Game (And Beat Him At It)

  1. Thank you! A million times thank you. I read this article with a certain fascination. I recently cut ties with my narcissistic mother and am left feeling a little deflated…she always seemed to have the upper hand and I was never able to gain a foothold. No matter how calm and logical I was she always manipulated the rules of the game to suit her needs. When I saw your article I thought “damn it’s too late!”. It’s interesting how the narcissist has a way of infecting those around them with a worldview that is just as divorced from reality as theirs. I was relieved when your article affirmed what I’ve already come to suspect: you can’t win. You can only hope to save yourself by cutting all ties. And in this way you receive what matters most, the very thing that no narcissist will ever allow you to have: your sanity. Thank you!

    • Steve, so happy you found this helpful. I can definitely relate to where you’re coming from – and you are exactly right. Cutting all ties is the only true solution to narcissistic abuse in any form. Hugs to you! <3

  2. Um…. Why is the narsissist a man in the story??

    I was with a sociopathic narsissist for 2 years and she accudentally destroyed my airline pilot career with her lies.

    Can you stop being sexist please??

    • Dear Tom, you are correct in that there ads plenty of female narcs. In fact my first narc was a female. I didn’t mean to be sexist, but the fact is that statistically speaking, more men are narcs. Plus, the majority of my readers are female. With that being said, if you take a look around the site, you’ll see that I’m usually a bit more careful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I would LOVE to do this. However, we have a young kid, and nearly every single impossible-to-avoid interaction/text/email/issue/decision we have to make is made a million times harder by his BULLSHIZZ!!! And being forced to be in his presence (along with his literal whore girlfriend – a prostitute who willingly and knowingly slept with married men besides him and coached him to make my life an even deeper level of hell throughout this divorce) is giving me the most intense anxiety and anger I’ve ever felt. The betrayal included him smearing me to his family and friends, and mutual friends. I feel that devastation we all know too well. So, how do you stop playing a game you can’t win but are forced to continue playing…for a decade or more?

  4. Hi I am a narcissist but I cant help it. I would like to protect my wife and children. What can I do to change? I know what I am doing wrong but when I find my self at certain situation I just cant help it.

    • Your being an ass . Are you really that concerned if he is talking about a man or a woman ? Or are you concerned that he is talking about you?

  5. Like the narcissist is just going to let you leave. You probably have no excess to money , you don’t have any friends or family left, maybe not even a passport etc. It is easy to say you should leave but the question is how?.

  6. I have kids with my ex- the narcissist. He must win or he will stop paying child support. There is a legal loophole he can use, so the law can’t force him to pay up. What can I do? If I stand up for myself, I lose lots of money. Is it worth it?

  7. I have had to do just this, leave. But unfortunately it meant leaving my two children behind, for survival sake. Now I feel I cannot breathe without my children, but I will not survive in his world anymore. I have walked away and moved home to my family across the world. There will never be a “win” for me. He wins. He always wins.

    • Karin, just saw your post and wanted to commend you on finding the strength to get out of a terrible situation. I’m going through something similar. But I’m too scared to leave the kids. I respect your story and pray everything goes well for you and youre able to get to a point where you can get the kids away from there. And back with the sane parent (you)

  8. I previously left my ex four times and every time he pulled me back into his warped world and somehow convinced me I need him. I’ve now finally realised that I am the reason he hooked me in the first place and kept pulling me back in every time I tried to leave. Once the realisation dawned I found it easy to leave even though, materially, I had nothing. I was broke, emotionally drained and traumatised but somehow found the strength to save myself. I am finally single and working on my issues of self love deficit and will be a better person for the experience. If it wasn’t for him I would never have realised the parts inside me that I need to heal. If I didn’t have those wounds he would never have targeted me. I am not a victim I am a survivor. To anyone who thinks they can’t leave you can and you must. It’s the only way to save yourself and YOU are more important than any narcissist.

  9. The narcissist in my life is my 31 year old son. He is constantly gas lighting. He has been told to move out but he won`t go. Had to contact police last night because he was drunk and assaulted his girlfriend. Police just warned him and then let him stay to further verbally and psychologically abuse me, my partner, 24 year old son and 22 year old daughter-in-law. My house so I am not leaving. Any suggestions on what to do. He has been in and out of my life doing this since he was 18. He assured me 6 months ago he had changed after we hadn`t seen each other for 4 years and his marriage broke down so he moved back home. Have tried to help him to no end but he doesn`t believe he has any problems.

  10. I am currently supposed to be having a once in a lifetime oppprtunity travelling the world. I’ve been away from home for 3 months now and my now ex boyfriend (the narcissist) booked a flight to meet me during my travels unknowingly. He drinks a lot, spends a lot of money to the point where he’s spent mine and I now cannot do the things I came out here to do. He’s also addicted to sleeping pills as that’s the only fix he can get out here. Tomorrow I am telling him for the 100th time that I want to finish my trip without him ruining it for me. Last time he took my phone and my bank card in an aim to break it. I am scared that when I speak to him tomorrow he will attempt the same. How do I avoid things escalating? I just want to leave, he’s drained me, emotionally, mentally and physically.

  11. the scapegoat here. our mother is the narc in the family. life is like hell with her. she has a totally different attitude and is a chronic liar.and if there is something that she wants, and never gets it, she would gossip, accuse and exaggerate time, she caused me and my siblings to fight against each other. one time i caught her lying to our sister, and she didn’t know i was behind her, and i asked her about it, she was very shocked and she never responded. she would get the credit for things she hasn’t done. she would tell a different story, and play the victim, in order to make the people around me hate me. but if you got the money, well, of course, she’ll favor you.

  12. Angela, you were spot on with this article. It is excellent and I am going to keep a copy at home and at work to remind me that it’s NOT me!!!!!!!! Been dating a narcissist for 6 months and we break up every other week and then he doesn’t speak to me nor answer any calls of texts UNTIL HE deems it is something HE wants to do. I am always “under punishment” if I say or do any little thing that his mind perceives as “against him.” He is so insecure, but of course, that’s really ME that’s insecure, right? WRONG. I listen to you 24/7 on my headphones whenever I need a boost of courage and to remind myself that It’s NOT ME!!!! I found the will power last night to block him forever after he told me he only loved me, only wanted me, was in a relationship with me, but wait! There is the girl on Facebook (don’t worry, she lives at least 5 hours away) who keeps posting on his page “CALL ME” in all caps. He said, “Have you seen this? She keeps sending me this message in all caps.” So I said, “Why don’t you just sent her something back saying you’re in a relationship.” Well, he was like a balloon that I had just stuck a needle in. I could see him withdrawing into himself. “Oh No. I haven’t done anything to lead her on. She’ll eventually quit. I don’t have to say anything to her.” When I got home, I looked at HER Facebook page. Got to hand it to him, he thought he was being slick. Nothing on his page from her but “CALL ME.” BUT, on HER page there was post after post of her sending him posts about 2 hearts beating as one, and him saying on her page, “Yes, yes it will happen, God willing.” And every post was him leading her on. Flirting. Doing what he told me wasn’t happening. I sent him a long text about what I saw. Said goodbye. Got a text back that I was drama and acting like I was in high school. Why he wasn’t leading anyone on, blah, blah, blah. I went back to her page to look again, and voila! He had “defriended” her so I could no longer see her posts and his posts on her page. Hmmmm. Now if everything was on the up and up, why defriend someone????? Right. My strength and courage from you Angela – I blocked his texts, phone calls and on Facebook. I am listening to your posts over and over to keep me strong. (After all, you know I am the one at FAULT here for “catching him.”) Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me realize what I was dealing with. Not a man, but a sickness. Well, I am on the way to recovery. Again, thank you.

  13. What happens when you can’t leave? When you have children together and went through a divorce and he and his family are all a like and you are battling all of them!! When they do it to your children and now he has built a house over looking our home! Does anyone have any advice, beside moving? I have worked to hard to keep my kids and I home and I can’t afford to move!

  14. Hi, the best thing you can do with getting out of a relationship with a narcassist is what you’ve just read LEAVE that doesn’t mean to say that they’ve won if you want to get your bit tell them to fuck off just make sure you keep on laughing in thier face that will really piss them off think of a name for them and describe them in stupid ways and tell them fuck em all

  15. My narc is my 37 yr old father of three step son and his 35 yr old wife. Obviously, I didn’t raise him. He was raised by a woman who literally worships the ground he walks on. His mother once told me, when he was around 13 (the age I first met him) that he was special, that he was “better” than other people. Yes, she actually told me that her child was “better” than all of us mere mortals. She said I like it was cute, or some sort of compliment. I found it offensive, but I didn’t say anything to her. Anyway, fast forward 24 years later and the grown man is a entitled, emotionally immature person who is very passive aggresive and emotionally manipulative in order to get his way. Three years ago he brought his then five year old daughter to our house for us(me) to babysit (I’m recently retired) without calling to let me know. I just happened to not be feeling well at the time, and told him so. Seeing that he was on his way to work, I told him to leave his daughter anyway. He was upset with me and took his daughter. I called for him to not take his daughter, but he ignored me and got back in his car with his child, and did not call or visit again for two whole years. He and his wife finally popped up again exactly two years to the day he left abruptly, “hinting” about needing a babysitter. We are back on speaking terms but the relationship is strained. I have babysat before, but they seem to want it on thier terms or else! P.S. I don’t take kindly to threats of any kind.

  16. Hi am just out of a 4 year relationship with a narc,you will never win or be righ, for they are not willing to listen to you, for they are always right they will say and do anything,lie,bully,twist everything,be nice loose there temper,cry,silence treatment,change their mind so often you that you are confused and are always righ even when you know there wrong.walkaway run for they will destroy you.I waited till I was strong enough and left them think they had won she never saw it coming but I was left empty my emotions and my nerves were in bits had to change my number and where I lived for she would not let me in peace am still looking over my shoulder after a year with fear she is completely detached from reality and any form normally

  17. Yes, great article, but what if you really really can’t leave… like what if your narcissist is the, oh let’s say, the President of your country? How do you deal with THAT?
    I’m not joking here. Looking for real life advice. How do remain same for the next (God help us) 3-1/2 years?!

  18. I wrote something, but it hasn’t been posted, is there approval needed?

  19. How do you deal with a narcissistic father who is a gambler and has already lost 500k has access to another 500k and a house he wants to sell also… has no regard for his adult children or 6 grandkids. Doesnt want to give or pass on. Just wants to sell and gamble. Im struggling to have a meaningful relationship with a man that doesnt give a crap about his family, about wasting money and purposely doesnt want to give cos “he doesnt know how to”. Narssistic Pathalogical Gambler… help please.

    • Loisa,
      I feel confused. It’s his money. Why are you eying your Dad’s money? He can do with it whatever he wants, even if it’s wasting it or being stupid with it. If he was stealing your money that you worked hard to earn, or was wasting money that you worked hard to earn, that would be different. When you are focused on what he does with something he owns, that is control— you trying to control him. That is not good. Honoring another person is also about honoring their choices. I understand you may feel concerned about his choices, but when you talked about him not being concerned about leaving money to you, that changed the conversation. The conversation changed from being concerned about his well-being to being concerned about getting something from him as if you are entitled to it.

      My previously very wealthy father-in-law had a massive drinking and gambling problem. He lost everything by doing so, and eventually had a stroke which left him half paralyzed, and eventually died from the stroke. He was also a narcissist. I was concerned for his health, concerned for his thriving, but I was never concerned about getting his wealth.

      I think you need to reassess your priorities. It strikes me as narcissistic that your concern is not his well-being and that he would have enough to enjoy the rest of his life, but that you are thinking about what you will get when he dies.

  20. Thank you for the insight I prayed for clarity and then I come across one of your videos and my eyes were opened now I see I was blind but now I see thank you so much I’m wanting to get out of this relationship but he has all of his stuff he has tons of stuff whole garage just for my yard is full of lawnmowers and I just don’t know how to get him out of my house any suggestions would be helpful I’m not sure where to start

  21. So let me see if I got this…

    It’s a game
    With rules
    Unclear rules, but rules
    It requires sliding back and forth among two extremes.
    Keeping something going is crucial but what that actually “is” isn’t made very clear.
    You can’t win but you can if you leave.
    Sounds like an irrationally unreasonable conversation with my nacisstic gaslighting wife.
    I wonder if she wrote this

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