Surviving Toxic Relationships: How to Co-Exist with a Narcissist (If You Must)

Written by Angela Atkinson

So, you’re in a relationship with a toxic narcissist who is all about him or her self. By now, you likely understand your role of narcissistic supply quite well, am I right? You are the constant scapegoat, caregiver, cheerleader and general whipping boy/girl. Right?How to Co-Exist With a Narcissist
Of course, on the flip side, you also understand that the narcissist isn’t capable of offering genuine emotional support; in fact, he thrives on making your problem much worse – and on making it all about him or her.
(Example: your best friend dies and your spouse focuses on how upset he or she is, rather than on supporting you emotionally in any way, shape or form. And then he/she gets angry at you because YOU can’t support HIM/HER when your best friend just died.)
And often, you hear those little sticky phrases – the ones that are repeated over and over until they become unintentional guides of your own self-perception.
“These are the choices that you have made…”
(Implied: I told you so. And now you will be punished for disobeying me or ignoring my advice.)
This phrase stuck in my head for years. Every time I’d ask my narcissistic parent to support me emotionally (which I specifically and stupidly did, over and over again), that phrase would be repeated, and it would be the reason that I didn’t deserve to be comforted.
The fact that I didn’t take the “advice” or direct orders given me made me wrong and deserving of my pain.
It made me not worthy of comfort, and it made me worth less respect and concern.
The only way to prove myself worthy again would be months of following orders, doing as I was told, becoming the person I was “supposed” to be, according to the narcissist. It was a process, earning back a narcissist’s trust.
And under no circumstances could that process be sped up. It was all part of the narcissistic game. 
Living with a narcissist is like living with your own personal psychological terrorist. You feel me?

If you can’t leave, this is how you deal with living with a toxic narcissist.

Recently, we discussed what to do when the narcissist gives you the old silent treatment – but what about when their manipulation takes a whole new turn – what happens when the gaslighting and other sneaky tactics become a way of life rather than an occasional issue.
Is it possible to co-exist with a narcissist in the same house? What about one who is actively gaslighting and manipulating you? What do you do?
You already probably know what my first and preferred answer is: you go no contact if possible. But, since life is as it is, we know that isn’t always an option, at least not in the short-term. 
So, how do do you survive co-existing with a narcissist? Start here.
Remember that, just like a leopard, a narcissist never changes his spots.
So, you’ll need to focus on both educating yourself and using the facts that you know about narcissists to your advantage. And, while I may joke on occasion that it’s possible to control a narcissist or to beat the narcissist at his own game, the truth is that in the end, you’ll always be a loser if you stick around to find out the score. 
With that being said, understanding that narcissists are incredibly similar to one another by nature can help you to remember that not only is it NOT REALLY ABOUT YOU (the insults, gaslighting and other psyhological terror tactics), It’s really about something that is broken inside the narcissist – there’s NOTHING wrong with you.
Understand that any emotion you direct at or express near the narcissist must be either in praise of or defense of the narcissist’s thoughts, ideas, appearance, possessions and/or general existence. If you can’t figure out a way to express your thoughts and feelings in that fashion, it may be best to keep them to yourself, if you want to keep peace and your sanity in tact. The fact is that if you go outside of those boundaries, the narcissist will quickly make you wish you hadn’t – so save yourself the trouble and talk to someone else – even if it’s just a private journal.
If you don’t have anyone you can trust, join my free online support group and start talking – we are a confidential and close-knit group of actively engaged survivors.
If you absolutely need to express something to the narcissist that isn’t within his spectrum of tolerance, you need to do it in a way that makes him feel like he’s the one in control. So, if you need him to be at home to meet the plumber on a day you can’t, you have to tell him something like, “I’m just not as smart as you are about this stuff – you’d totally be my hero if you’d help me out on this one. Can you keep an eye on the plumber today and make sure he’s not screwing us over on his bill?”
This puts him in a position of both authority and control and lets him know that not only are you not “as good as” him, but that you are aware of it and willing to beg for his help (in his narcissistic perception). 

Quit Your Stressing and Take Back Control of Your Mind (And Your Life)

 So you’ve been stuck to the narcissist for awhile now, and maybe you’re becoming someone you don’t even recognize (much less like). From your perspective, you occasionally wonder if maybe the narcissist IS right and maybe you’re really a total screwup, after all. Maybe you are a little crazy, huh?
No, you’re not. If you’re dealing with a narcissist, you already know all his tricks – and he knows this. That just causes him to keep at it, always looking for new ways to fool you and/or control you into doing what he wants.
If you find yourself constantly complaining about what is happening TO YOU, thanks to your narcissistic relationship, that means that you must believe you have a real need to complain and your life isn’t where you would like it to be – and that means you have got t change your thinking if you want to change your situation.
So if you focus on what you don’t love about your life, you’ll just get more of it. Of course, if you focus on what you DO want, you’ll get more of that too.
Even if you don’t complain to anyone out loud, you probably know someone who does and it makes everyone feel uncomfortable. And there’s a reason that happens – most people are naturally pushed away by negative energy – and those who would be drawn in by it probably aren’t people you really want to be connected to anyway, you know?
So what can be done to correct it and get back to positive living that leads to the life you really want?
Complaining and focusing on things you don’t love can become a really a bad habit. A habit, whether good or bad, is an urge to adopt that action no matter what the consequences. The more you feed the habit the more it will take control of your life and the harder it is to kick.
Complaining typically stems from negative thoughts you’ve created. You realize you’re the cause of your thoughts so you blame yourself and vent it with complaining. Refuse to let those negative thoughts become you. We become what we think just like we become what we eat, drink or do. If we put good into our body and mind then good will come out. Of course, if we put bad things into our body and mind such as drugs and negative thoughts then bad will come out. It’s inevitable – and it’s up to you to correct.
Negative thinking and complaining can be just as addictive as a drug.
Whatever your mind is used to thinking that’s what it craves. Admit you have negative thoughts and that you are their creator. Realize too that these thoughts lead only to more negativity and more addiction. You know what you’re doing but can’t help yourself until you admit to your problem and let it go.
Relax and let your negative thoughts disappear. It may take a while but it can be done and when negative thinking is stopped so will your complaining.
You didn’t become what you are overnight and you can’t expect to become what you desire overnight either. If that were the case we would all be perfect in mind and body. It’s a fight that can be won with constant dedication and awareness.
Don’t doubt yourself.
Believe in yourself. We choose what we think and we choose what we are and can become.
Accept responsibility for your actions and let it go. Then take positive steps to accept what needs to be done to achieve your goal. Dedicate yourself to getting it done. This will disrupt your mind’s pattern of thinking and it will be easy to fall back into the old ways.
Surround yourself with positive energy, people and things and these will seep into your mind until they become you and your new habit is formed. Whatever was bad in your environment that caused you to complain get rid of it. Each step toward a positive emotion gives you confidence to continue.
We all tend to blame others for stuff that goes wrong in our lives. And even though you probably have some very legitimate complaints, thanks to your narcissist, the truth is that only politicians can do that and get away with playing the blame game.
If you don’t like the life your living or the thoughts you’re thinking then change it. Take responsibility and take control today and discover a new you tomorrow – feel me?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Let’s discuss it.


  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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