Here's How to Deal With a Narcissist Without Losing Your Cool

Don't get sucked into their "Narcissistic Vortex."
Publish date:
March 3, 2015
marriage, love, divorce, Narcissm

If you are related to, married to, or divorced from a narcissist, then you know how difficult it is reason with them.

Narcissists are masters at manipulation. They are often intelligent and charming when you first meet them. In the beginning, you hold them to high esteem. They're fully aware of this, of course, and they love to bask in your adulation. But once you catch on to their tactics and question behavior that is the opposite of their once-charming selves, they become deeply threatened. A narcissist will paint himself as a victim and you as his aggressor, expertly blaming you for the relationship's demise and all of the other misfortunes in his life.

You, as the codependent, try to reason with him, change his mind, or challenge every verbal assault point-by-point with the hope that the narcissist will snap out of his irrational behavior.

Maybe this time he will understand, you think.

If I explain it to him this way, he will get it. He can't be THAT close-minded; I'm going to tell him once more.

But the more you explain, the colder and more manipulative he becomes. He may talk to you like a child, as if you're stupid. And you can't even believe how a person can lack such empathy, so you explain more, trying harder and harder to make him "get it" — and the more you do that, the more it supports his narcissistic fantasies that he is better and smarter than anyone.

The constant attempts to explain or get some kind of emotional response with no return is what I call the "Narcissistic Vortex." It's a deep black hole that sucks you in, with no way out. And until you understand this, you are going to think you're crazy and unloved — or worse, that you aren't worthy of anyone else's love, so you end up staying with this person or being alone forever.

If you are not married and are trying to end a relationship with a narcissist, then my expert advice is to have no contact with him. End the relationship cold turkey, as if giving up a very bad addiction.

But what if you are divorcing a narcissist, or you must endure a co-parenting relationship long term? How do you manage the constant manipulation, even as you try to get on with your life? He might blame you for the smallest mistakes (thereby raising his own self-worth), or criticize you for everything you do with the kids. And because he is SO grossly mistaken, you write him a long email explaining your actions, or you become engaged in a long texting battle.

And thus, you enter the Narcissistic Vortex.

You must remember, this vortex is a trap. By replying to him (no matter how negatively), it feeds his narcissistic supply — his false sense of self that he is better than you (or anyone else, for that matter).

So if the manipulation happens via email, for example, you must first ask yourself: Does it require a reply? Are there any crucial issues that really require your response, like financial matters during divorce or logistics with the children?

Unfortunately, narcissists can never write an email without making themselves look like a victim/martyr or passive-aggressively knocking your ability to function as an adult. The true secret to engaging with a narcissist is to give him little to no response. Reply with "yes" or "no," or merely factual replies like, "Yes, I am picking the kids up at 5 pm today." Ignore all other jabs or attempts to get a heated reaction from you.

If your narcissist wants to speak with you over the phone about certain matters, let him ask you questions for which a yes or no answer is required. If the conversation results in accusations or manipulation, simply say to him, "If you have anything to discuss with me, please put it in an email," and then hang up.

You will never change his mind. You will never get him to see your side of things. As long as you attempt to do so, you will forever be stuck in his vortex and unable to move on.

Reprinted with permission from YourTango. Want more? Check out these related stories:

I Turned My Crazy, Possessive Jealousy Into Crazy, Deep Intimacy

My (Ex) Best Friend Married My First Love

8 Toxic Phrases That Destroy Relationships